The Coast News Group
Sometimes you have to look down to catch interesting slices of life in Manhattan. This sidewalk menagerie includes four cats, three guinea pigs (sitting in the elevated Frisbee), and a dog or two not shown. Amazingly, the cats did not wander. Photo by Doug Taylor.
Hit the Road

A few days in the ‘Big Apple’ requires a plan and flexibility

When you’re on the loose in the Big Apple for 72 hours, you need a plan but with flexibility. 

On Day One, I visit the temporary National September 11 Museum, take two tours at the Tenement Museum (Sept. 7 column), have lunch and dinner with a longtime friend, then attend the well reviewed play she is directing in a theater a few blocks north of the West Village.

I am off to a good start.

I’m headquartered at the Doubletree by Hilton at 51st and Lexington, a great Midtown location because it’s close to several subways. You can step out the front door and be just about anywhere in New York City within 30 minutes or less. This works well because my days end after midnight and when I emerge from the subway, it’s nice to see “home” a half-block away.

For Day Two and Day Three, I enact the plan-with-flexibility with two 48-hour tickets for me and my NYC friend, Doug on a Gray Line Sightseeing bus. The Downtown and Uptown loops allow passengers to hop on and off at multiple Manhattan destinations. (The nighttime and Brooklyn tours call for riders to remain on the bus.)

Day Two dawns and it’s a warm July morning. I walk 10 minutes from the Doubletree to meet Doug at the Gray Line office. We trundle to the top deck of the bright red bus, intending to take the Uptown Loop, but ooops; we are heading downtown.

No matter; we’re flexible.

From our upper-deck perch we can see it all and it’s sensory overload. Times Square is a mob of taxis; flashy electronic billboards competing for attention; sirens; jackhammers; music emanating from somewhere; pedestrians going every which way.

Doug, who knows all about Manhattan, provides supplemental narration in between the official narration as our bus pushes through Happening Central. I don’t want to miss a thing, but finally concede I can’t keep up. I decide to let it all take me along and see where we land.

Our bus passes Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, and the Flat Iron Building, and somewhere near Washington Square Park, which is surrounded by the New York University campus, we hop off. The park’s shade is a welcome break from the heat, and I wonder whether others here are some of the 8 million-plus residents or the 47 million annual visitors.

At some point, we wander into Doug’s neighborhood, the West Village. Yes, I could live here. The beautifully restored brick and stone buildings with ornately carved doors, hand-crafted wrought iron gates and mature, leafy trees make for an intimate, artsy community like I’ve seen in so many films. All I’d need is a sizable income, as a 650-square-foot apartment can rent for $4,200 a month, unless you’re lucky enough to have a rent-controlled place.

Doug says we have to visit Eataly, a food wonderland that inhabits 50,000 square feet of space at 200 Fifth Avenue. There is an emphasis on Italian food, but plenty of other cuisines are represented, too. It’s a died-and-gone-to-heaven experience to cruise the aisles and peruse the cases of perfect produce; exotically colored handmade pasta of every shape and size; fresh meats and fish that I can’t always identify; and desserts beyond-the-celestial, including an entire case of homemade gluten-free desserts.

For lunch, we grab a salad from a deli in Doug’s neighborhood and eat in his nearby West Village (rent-controlled) apartment. The break re-energizes us and we catch the Gray Line again. Before day’s end, we visit Battery Park with its view of the Statue of Liberty; the nearby American Indian Museum in the repurposed historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House (the murals are stunning); and Strawberry Fields (in memory of John Lennon) and Angel of the Waters Fountain at Bethesda Terrace, iconic destinations in Central Park. We stroll past Rockefeller Center and down Fifth Avenue with its tony shop windows and avant garde buildings. We stop to take in the Louis Vuitton flagship store festooned in polka dots.

As Doug says, “In New York, art is everywhere.”

Day Three in NYC to be covered in a future column.

If you go: Doubletree by Hilton – Stylishly renovated, efficient, comfortable and convenient to Park Avenue, Madison Avenue shopping, the UN, Museum Mile, Central Park and Grey Line; (212) 480-9100;

Gray Line Tours: (800) 669-0051;

E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at [email protected].