Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Day One of My Manhattan Fantasy Vacation

Scott and I just returned from our four days and three nights in Manhattan – my first trip there since my mother took me to see Santa at Macy’s when I was five – and I’m delighted to report that it was everything and more that I’d hoped.

Before we left Denver, I was shoe shopping until the last minute. I’m not a fashion maven by any stretch, but New York City is unlike anywhere else in the country when it comes to clothes. It’s intimidating. I travel quite a bit and never give a second thought to what I’ve packed, beyond whether or not it’s appropriate for the climate. I would never try to keep up with New Yorkers, but I also didn’t want to look like a bumpkin. Scott was mindful of his packing too and completed the same sentence earlier with the word “douche” – maybe more along the lines of how I didn’t want to feel.

We got into LaGuardia on Saturday at a little after five. When we arrived at the Hotel Surrey on E76th between Madison and 5th Avenues I was delighted to find that we were only steps away from Central Park off of 5th and we were diagonally across from the Carlyle Hotel on Madison. The Surrey Hotel was originally an apartment building and was converted to a hotel a couple of years ago, according to our accommodating bellman, Coco. Our one bedroom “superior suite” was on the 15th floor, just below the Penthouse and it was a corner unit, looking down on E76th and Madison. The suite had two large rooms, but the bathroom was a constant reminder that we were in an old building. It was tiny! The Surrey is also a very small hotel, so every time we left the room or returned, the people at the front desk and in the lobby knew exactly who we were. That helped me to imagine it was still an apartment building and we lived there, which was not hard to do since most of the other buildings on that small stretch of E76th are permanent residences.

I noticed two things about Manhattan right away that dispelled previous ideas I’d had.

It was much smaller than I’d imagined it to be, which was wonderful. No wonder people walk so much.

The cabdrivers were not stereotypically chatty. Without exception, they were all on cell phones throughout most, or the entire ride; no chance of running into any Mel Gibson-like conspiracy theorists this trip!

We had no scheduled plans Saturday night and I was dying to see Central Park. It was in the high sixties on Saturday and just gorgeous. We unpacked, walked outside and headed to the E76th Street entrance to Central Park. We were less than a minute into the park and we ran right into the Alice in Wonderland sculpture. Holy cow! If you haven’t figured this out by now, I am excited whenever I see something I’ve only seen in movies and books. The sun was still shining and tiny green leaves were floating down all around us like confetti. Moms with strollers, kids on rollerblades, young and old couples, and people just out for a stroll with their dogs were everywhere.

From there, we continued on and came to the model boathouse. I’m told that the recent release of the movie Stuart Little showed the scene with Stuart on one of the model boats out in the little pond. I’ve not seen the movie, but since I loved the book as a child, I remember the illustrations in E.B. White’s book. The remote controlled sailboats were zipping this way and that across the pond and children and adults alike were mesmerized – me included.

I didn’t expect to see the Loeb Boathouse the very first night, but after we left the model boathouse, we came to it immediately and Scott suggested we have dinner. Again, my out of town anxiety started to kick in and I worried about even asking if we could get a table on a Saturday with no reservation. My concerns were laughable since it wasn’t much after six and real New Yorkers wouldn’t be going to dinner for hours. We got a lovely table and were able to watch the couples in rented rowboats while the sun was just beginning to set.

A bottle of Riesling, a full meal and a port after dinner for Scott later and we were on our way back to the Surrey in the dark. Helen Keller surely had a better sense of direction than both Scott and I put together and several minutes later, as we headed toward the sound of traffic I was ready to claim victory. Ha! I had gotten us back to 76th – only it was W76th.

We hailed a cab in front of the Natural History Museum and found the Surrey once again. All in all, it was a wonderful first day in the mystical Upper East Side of Manhattan.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thanks for letting me travel to NYC vicariously. Your Saturday evening is one of my favorite ways to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with a city--wandering, seeing sites I've only seen in movies or read about, happening upon a restaurant that can seat me now, wine, good food, and then more wandering. And isn't getting lost part of the fun?

For a few minutes I was transported from my sofa in St. Louis. Thanks!

Scott Mattlin said...


I am always impressed at the enthusiasm that can be felt in the attention to the details, and your reactions in reporting them; whether in describing your feelings about a new book find, an exciting trip to virtually anywhere that you travel, or any subject that captures your imagination, and you are compelled to write about.

Your description of our first day in the City is no exception.
I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to share some of these experiences with you.........

I love you, -Scott

Larramie said...

So, The Surrey Hotel was "fantastic." I've heard/read about this converted hotel, always imagining that staying there would make "checking out" all but impossible.

I love your descriptive sharing as well, Lisa, and look forward to your post on what you did on Sunday. Hmm, perhaps a stroll in the park wiith George? ;o)

Lisa said...


Fortunately, getting lost is half the fun...we'd be in a lot of trouble if that wasn't the case!


It would have been just another trip if you hadn't been with me. Thank you for making it so wonderful and for not complaining about putting on a suit ;-) I love you too.


I loved it in large part because it isn't a typical modern hotel. The rooms were large, the bath was not, the elevators were small and there was an old fashioned US Mail drop next to the elevator -- the kind where your outgoing mail ends up someplace at the bottom of the building...it was great!

The Writers' Group said...

Lisa,next time, take me instead. If you really have to have that romantic time, maybe Larramie will go with me. I miss NYC.


Lisa said...

Amy and Larramie,

If, by the time I finish posting about my NYC vacation, anyone is willing to be seen anywhere with me, I think we all should go!

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