Just a quick post to say that I am on vacation this week and likely won’t be blogging. I was in Miami all last week for work, which was nice considering it was one of the few hot places in the United States, and now I am in New York with Sharon. We’ll be back in Edmonton for Christmas.
Leading up to the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks I have been thinking about what I remember about that day. It has often been said that 9/11 is among a handful of major events that divide time into “before” and “after”, an event for which everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when it happened. But already the details are becoming fuzzy for me.
September 2001 was the start of my first year at the University of Alberta. I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea, but I had a lot of early classes that year. On that particular Tuesday, I had a computer lab at 8am. I had arranged to get a ride to campus with my girlfriend at the time. My Grandma, who I lived with, would drop me off at my girlfriend’s house and her mom would drop us off at the university on her way to work. I remember we were heading north on 50th street just past Whitemud Drive when we first heard on the radio about the two planes crashing into the World Trade Center. I don’t remember the exact time, but it couldn’t have been long after the second plane crashed into the south tower. For some reason, I seem to recall the person on the radio talking about “two small planes”.
By the time I got to my computer lab, it was obvious that they were not small planes and that something big was happening. I don’t remember doing any work in that particular lab, but I do remember sitting toward the back of the room, trying to find out more online. I distinctly remember thinking that the Internet seemed unusually slow that morning. I was probably trying to load CNN or the New York Times – it’s funny to think about it now and realize that Google News didn’t yet exist, not to mention Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other places I frequent for news today.
Not long after that lab, I met up with my girlfriend and we went back to her house. We pretty much sat in front of the TV for the rest of the day, like most people I suspect. I went back to my Grandma’s house around dinner time, and I remember she was doing some painting. I remember thinking it was odd that she wasn’t watching TV, but I suppose by that time the news was starting to get repetitive. It would take days, weeks, and months before we learned more about what happened.
And that’s about all I remember. It’s more than I remember about most other days ten years ago, but somehow less than I think I should remember, if that makes sense. I often wonder if I’d remember more or less if I had tweeted and blogged about it like I would today (passive vs. active media use).
Two years ago, Sharon and I went to Washington, DC on vacation. One of our stops was Newseum. They had a 9/11 exhibit featuring the September 12, 2001 front pages of newspapers from all around the world. They have a similar collection from today.
During my trip to New York in December, I became quite familiar with Zagat. As a foodie, Sharon assured me that Zagat was the final word on restaurants in NYC. And walking around certainly convinced me – tons of restaurants proudly display their Zagat rating or review in the window. If I had to guess, I’d say Zagat makes quite a bit of money, so I was surprised to see this in today’s Times:
Zagat Survey, the guide empire that started as a hobby for Tim and Nina Zagat in 1979 as a two-page typed list of New York restaurants compiled from reviews from friends, has been put up for sale, according to people briefed on the decision.
It is unclear how large a price Zagat will attract. While the company is a worldwide brand, its actual business is much smaller. People briefed on the company’s finances suggest the company could be valued at more than $200 million, which would still be a drop in the bucket for an Internet company or a wealthy executive.
The article hints that the reason for the sale is getting to the next level. Despite tons of success over the last three decades, more capital is necessary to move beyond organic growth. Potential suitors (as mentioned in the article) include just about every company with some cash, including IAC/InterActiveCorp, News Corporation, American Express, AT&T, and others. Heck, why not Facebook? The two companies have a partnership apparently.
I had no idea that Zagat had so many tech investors. The extremely well known Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers is one, as are former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold and Nicholas Negroponte, director of the media laboratory at MIT.
It depends who the buyer is, but I suspect the Zagat brand will lose some clout after a sale goes through.
One of the first places I went in New York after checking into the hotel was the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. I had been looking forward to it for a very long time, and as I wrote that night, I was not disappointed. Sharon and I spent some time wandering around before I bought my iPod touch. The whole experience was really good, save for the cashier not knowing what to do with my Canadian debit card.
I’m not the only one who has been impressed with Apple’s retail experience this year.
Apple now derives 20 percent of its revenue from its physical stores. And the number is growing. In the fourth quarter in 2007, which ended Sept. 30, Apple reported that the retail stores accounted for $1.25 billion of Apple’s $6.2 billion in revenues, a 42 percent increase over the fourth quarter in 2006.
Not only has the company made many of its stores feel like gathering places, but the bright lights and equally bright acoustics create a buzz that makes customers feel more like they are at an event than a retail store.
In a way, I think Apple is "Starbucking" the technology retail experience. More than coffee, Starbucks offers a place to be. By allowing customers to sit and play with iPods and MacBooks, Apple is doing the same thing – selling community. The key phrase from above is "feel like gathering places".
Trust me, once you’ve been to an Apple store you’ll start wishing every retail experience could be so good.
It’s just too bad there aren’t more of them.
I’m in Yellowknife now, where it is currently minus 22. A little colder than New York, or even Edmonton for that matter! Yesterday was our last day in the big city, though we really only had half a day.
After packing we stopped at Starbucks on our way to Bar Americain, the Bobby Flay restaurant that Sharon had been hyping for weeks. We arrived right at 11:30 for brunch and were seated right away. Bar Americain is pretty fancy, but perhaps not so much as Gramercy. The food was pretty good, but I am not sure it lived up to the high expectations we had for it. I’d probably go back again, but I wouldn’t order orange juice! It was $4.50 per glass!
We took our time getting back to the hotel, stopping at yet another shoe store! Still no shoes were purchased heh. Eventually we made our way to LaGuardia and had a relatively uneventful trip home, minus a slight delay in Ottawa. We were kinda sad to be back in Canada, but happy we had such a great trip.
I’d definitely go back to Manhattan – it’s my kind of place! All the photos from our trip are here. I have a few more to upload but they’ll have to wait until after Xmas so they don’t give anything away!
Don’t have much time this morning, so I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet. We’re leaving soon for Bobby Flay’s restaurant Bar Americain. After that, off to the airport 😦
Yesterday we went to Clinton Street Bakery for breakfast. Took us a while to get there, but it was definitely worth it. The blueberry pancakes that Sharon ordered were awesome! After breakfast we basically shopped until late afternoon. We were on fifth avenue during what Sharon claims is the busiest shopping time of the year (2-3 PM on Dec 21st). It was pretty insane.
After dropping all our stuff off at the hotel, we ventured out for a hot dog! Had to order something from a street vendor! We ate them on the way to Wollman skating rink in Central Park. Sharon was pretty terrified, but she did really, really well! It wasn’t too cold, and our timing was perfect (arriving to skate just as the Zamboni was finishing up). I really enjoyed it, and I think Sharon is happy she conquered a fear! Heh.
While skating, I asked Sharon where we were gonna go for dinner. She said Gramercy Tavern, as she had read online that it was good. Cool, I asked her what kind of food they had. She said American, like burgers and stuff, but not like Denny’s. So off we go. And we arrive…at the fanciest restaurant we’ve been to. Turns out Gramercy Tavern is the kind of place where they don’t clear dishes until everyone is done. The kind of place where you tip the person who takes your coat. The kind of place where they serve on the left, clean on the right, and never give you utensils you won’t be using!
Heh, it was actually really very good. I had Bacon Wrapped Trout, and Sharon had the Stuffed Meatball. We did feel somewhat underdressed though. I mean there were other people in jeans, but I still think we looked out of place. Oddly enough, they seated us right by the front of the restaurant, so I guess they didn’t mind that much.
Today is our last half day in NY. I have been seeing Kim’s Facebook updates about YK being -35 degrees, and I’m really not looking forward to that kind of weather! It’s been cold enough as it is here! Heh…okay, gotta go!
More photos uploaded from today, 41 to be exact! There would have been more but some of them turned out kinda blurry. I guess we miss the image stabilizer from my camera. Our day kinda started and ended with interesting Subway stories.
We walked to Grand Central this morning, stopping at McDonald’s on the way (which, again, was really fast). We were planning to go to Times Square to pickup our ferry tickets for the Statue of Liberty from Madame Tussauds. Instead, we ended up across the river in Queens! Heh, wasn’t a big deal, just took the train back again, but it illustrates how confusing the metro can be, at least compared to London’s tube. Either that, or we’re really daft.
We eventually made it, and I snagged a picture with Samuel L. Jackson. Pretty cool! We hopped back on the train to head to Wall Street. We made it just in time for the free walking tour, which was kind of interesting. We didn’t actually walk very far at all, but the tour guide sure knew her stuff. And she liked to talk. After a quick lunch at Au Bon Pain, we headed for the ferry.
I have lost count of how many security checkpoints we’ve been through here in NY, but enough that it’s no longer annoying. It’s almost expected…sad isn’t it? We finally got through and on the ferry to Liberty Island. It was freezing! Wimpy Canadians huh? We walked around the island a bit, took some photos, and considered going up to the observation platform of the statue, until we found out that you needed to book that two days in advance! Again, blame the planner 😉 I’m glad we went to see the Statue of Liberty, but on the whole, it was kind of underwhelming.
Once back on Manhattan, we walked around the World Trade Center site. It was completely fenced off, with active construction behind the walls. We did a bit of shopping, and then got back on the train to go to Union Square (by this time we had it all figured out). Again, did some shopping and then walked to a restaurant called S’Mac. All they serve is macaroni and cheese! It was pretty tasty, and very filling.
While waiting for the train to come back to the hotel tonight, we spotted two rats on the track. I figure no trip to NY is complete without seeing a rat, so I was somewhat excited. Sharon…not so much! We watched them until the train came, expecting them to scurry away as it approached. Except they didn’t. I’m not sure if they got squished, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did!
Tomorrow is a shopping day, with not much else planned. Should be good, after I get some rest!
First, some sad news. My camera took a bit of a tumble at the Gershwin Theatre and isn’t working correctly anymore 😦 Something with the lens. Kinda sucks. Only uploaded 36 pictures today, but we still did quite a bit!
We got a late start this morning, mostly because we didn’t get to sleep early yesterday as planned. We discovered that the walls are quite thin, and our neighbour liked to chat on his phone. We learned his name, his job, his recent travel history, and that he apparently has pink eye (eewwwww!). He said some stuff that was just too funny and I couldn’t stop laughing! Anyway, we didn’t get to sleep very early.
We started this morning by walking to the UN Headquarters which is about five minutes from our hotel. We didn’t do the tour or anything, just walked around the building and checked out the gift shops. Kind of a neat place, but I think you need to do the tour to really see it. After that it was back to Times Square to kill a few minutes before Wicked! Sharon thinks we’ve been to Times Square too often heh.
I really, really enjoyed the show. It was, um, wicked! Very entertaining, with really amazing sets and sounds. It was actually quite funny in places too, thanks to some clever dialogue. When Sharon told me how much the tickets were a month or so ago ($130/each) I was a little worried, but I can safely say now that it was worth it. I’d definitely recommend Wicked, even for those of you who aren’t into theatre.
After Wicked we did a bit of shopping on the way to a restaurant called Becco. We had reservations and got in right away. Dinner was excellent, even in very tight quarters. The place was packed, and the tables weren’t very big. That’s pretty much the only negative to the whole experience though! I was just amazed by the bus boy in our section – he was a machine! So efficient, doing just about everything. I had the all-you-can-eat pasta they are famous for, and was not disappointed.
We then walked quite a distance to Serendipity 3, for a second dinner! Heh, we had a reservation there too, and it just so happened that we had to do it on the same day (blame the planner…kidding Sharon). There was a crazy line for the place, and we had to wait a few minutes (even with the reservation), but not too long. I really wanted to go there as it is one of the key locations in Serendipity, one of my favorite movies with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. We had french toast, followed by the main event, Frrrozen Hot Chocolate (like a giant bowl of ice cream, hot chocolate, and cream with four straws and two spoons). It was quite tasty.
Needless to say, I am stuffed. I think eating today made up for our smaller meals the last two days! Tomorrow we’re off to the southern part of Manhattan to see the WTC site, among other things.
I don’t think we did as much today as we did yesterday, but for some reason we’re both far more tired. I think all the walking is catching up to us! Not as many photos today…just added 47 to the set.
We decided to do the Top of the Rock in the morning, and that turned out to be a really good decision as the weather was wonderful. A little nippy, but sunny and mostly clear. Made for some excellent photos. I think given the choice I’d prefer to go to the top of Rockefeller Center again instead of the Empire State Building. It was really great to see NY from above.
Our next stop was the NBC Studio tour, but since we had a little bit of time in between, we stopped at McDonalds for a quick lunch. And my goodness was it ever quick. Honestly, I ordered, and barely had the change in my pocket by the time someone brought the food to the counter. It was insane. The place was also overrun with kids. Seems like there’s tons of field trips going on. The studio tour itself was kinda neat, but we couldn’t take any photos. We got to see Conan O’Brien’s studio, as well as the SNL studio. My first and lasting impression of Conan’s studio is that it is absolutely tiny. It looks ten times bigger on TV!
Our plan was then to go pickup tickets for the City Lights cruise. Which we attempted to do. The instructions on the marketing material are absolutely useless, and it took us forever to find the place. When we did, the ticket office was deserted. There wasn’t anyone in sight. This is despite the fact that it should have been open for another three hours or so. We gave up on that, and headed back to Macy’s for some shopping. I have never seen that many shoes in one place before! We also checked out the main Post Office building (to get stamps) before heading to Times Square for dinner at Ruby Tuesday. We checked out Bryant Park again, which had a special event going on tonight – something related to The Simpsons Movie.
Other than that we just wandered around a bit, saw the Rockefeller tree at night and the light show on the Saks building. We’re back at the hotel a bit earlier tonight, to get some rest for tomorrow – Broadway! We’re going to see Wicked.
I suck at coming up with titles for these kinds of posts, so I figure I’ll just go the boring route and number them (unless something really sticks out). I just uploaded 115 photos to my New York set on Flickr. I am kind of amazed at how much we accomplished today! I’m also ticked that none of my txt updates to Twitter worked. I know it’s not my phone, because other text messages were working. Stupid Twitter.
We started out by walking to Rockefeller Center to pick up our Explorer Passes. We saw the tree, and the skating rink, and stopped across the street at Dean & Deluca for coffee. We spent most of the rest of the morning wandering around Fifth Avenue, checking out some stores like Saks, FAO Schwarz, Barnes & Noble, and the Disney store. We also stopped to pickup tickets to the Sex and the City tour. Clearly, one of Sharon’s choices for activities! We went to Macy’s (which was a complete jungle) and stopped at Pax for lunch on the way back uptown.
I kind of wish we had something like Pax in Edmonton. London had the same kind of little places with fresh sandwiches and salads. Aside from Quizno’s and Subway, we don’t have anything really similar back home. Speaking of Canada, we stopped at Bryant Park where we found a giant glass dome advertising Ontario. Yes, Ontario. Inside were two people with snowboarding gear. Riiiight, because Jasper & Banff are in Ontario?!
Eventually we got on the bus for the SATC tour. It was a bit of a gong show at first, but once we got going it was alright. I actually wasn’t as bored as I thought I’d be, and there were clips of all the places we saw, so I could at least make sense of what our tour guide was saying. I think Sharon enjoyed the tour! Apparently our tour had an abnormally large amount of guys – seven out of fifty-five people or something like that.
The tour bus dropped us off at Grand Central Terminal, which was cool as we definitely wanted to check that out. The place is amazing! Lots of people bustling about, everywhere. We ate dinner at a pizza place called Two Boots on the “fast food” level of the station. Afterward, we finally used the subway to get to the Empire State Building. All the way up to the 86th floor observation deck we went, and it was quite a sight. Part of it was closed, unfortunately, but the views we had were still pretty amazing. A very touristy thing to do, but I’m glad we did.
Our final stop of the night was Times Square. It was everything I was expecting and more. Lights, buildings, people, excess all around. I loved it! We checked out a bunch of stores, including the really awesome Toys ‘R’ Us, the Virgin Megastore, and M&M’s World. Very, very cool places. We’ll be back there again for sure.
I’m pretty tired at the moment, no doubt from all the walking we did today. We spotted a souvenir shop at one point that had 18 postcards for $1. Thinking that was damn good, we bought them, only to find two blocks later another shop that was selling 30 postcards for $1!! I am determined to not get ripped off like that again! Heheh.
Though it seems like it’ll be hard to top today, I am looking forward to the rest of the week. I could spend months here and not run out of things to do!