East Side, West Side

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Two Times Square by day
Today, we had tickets to the Radio City Stage Door Tour at 11:00 a.m. and to the musical Billy Elliot at 8:00 p.m. So, our day would be built around those two events.

After breakfast, it was time to take the Line 320 bus to Manahttan. Morning traffic reports on TV had alerted drivers to a heavy volume at the Lincoln Tunnel. We allowed plenty of time, though by the time our bus arrived at the tunnel approach, rush hour was over. (The trip from Harmon Meadow to the Port Authorty via the Lincoln Tunnel can take from 25 to 60 minutes depending on traffic conditions.)

This time, we headed staight across on 42nd Street towards Avenue of the Americas. Rain had developed overnight, and we were glad we made the decision to vsit Top of the Rock the night before.

At the corner of 42nd and Avenue of the Americas, the American Standard Building stood out over Bryant Park.
Gothic roof of the American Standard Building (1924)
The black skyscraper with gold ornamentation reminded me of the old Richfield Building in Los Angeles, similarly decorated. (Though the Richfield was the shorter office tower.) Looming next to it was the Empire State Building.  From this corner, we could see Radio City Music Hall about eight blocks up the avenue.

Avenue of the Americas, or Sixth Avenue, in midtown presents a collection of various office towers. I took photos of three known collectively as the "XYZ Buildings". These International Style structures from the 1950s and early 1960s were the first expansion of Rockeller Center outside its original boundaries.

Susan and I reached Radio City Music Hall at 10:10 a.m., plenty of time to check in for the tour.
American Standard Buidling viewed thhrough Bryant Park
  In fact, we were so early there was no sign of any place to check in for it. Well, better to be early! That gave us a chance to look around. At the stage door, a mom was dropping off her young daughter. The girl, dance bag on her shoulder, confidently bounded up the steps and through the stage door. "So young and already a seasoned trouper," I thought. Definitely a New York dancer. (In fact, she turned out to be Clara in the Christmas Spectacular show's Nutcracker sequence.) But, the thing I wanted to see was the newly arrived Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. It was just around the corner in Rockefeller Center Plaza, still on its flatbed truck. (I'd been watching the Today Show at the hotel and saw the tree arrive on TV. Here was the unique opportunity to actually see it before it was set up!) Indeed, there was a clutch of passerby out to see it, too.
Empire State Building
But it wasn't mobbed. I was able to take photos as the crew prepared to lift up the tree and position it over the Ice Rink.

By 10:45 we thought we'd better check in for the Radio City tour. Now they had set up, we found. Rain had started, so they allowed tour members to wait inside. The Radio City Stage Door Tour began promptly at 11:00 a.m.  The first stop was the auditorium itself, which seats over 6,000. Our guide, a woman dressed in a classic 1940s usher costume, told us about the history of Radio City Music Hall, the first building constructed at Rockefeller Center and efforts to restore and peserve it, and of its unique stage machinery. The tour included backstage rehearsal and costume rooms, notable decorated public areas, and a meeting with a Rockette. The story of Radio City Music Hall is bound with the story of the Rockettes precision dance team.
"XYZ Buildings" along Avenue of the Americas
We'd see them perform the next evening as the major attraction of the Christmas Spectacular.

After the hour long tour, we returned to Rockefeller Center Plaza. The Christmas Tree had by this time been hoisted off the truck and was being set in place. More photos. Perfect timing! Now, time for lunch. We found lunch at 'wichcraft, a sandwich restaurant on the Concourse Level.

I had a "punch list" of significant buildings to see on the Midtown East Side. Susan was game for that, so off we wne to explore. First, we wanted to see St. Patrick's Cathedral, on Fifth Avenue across form Rockefeller Center.  We went in to St. Patrick's to see the sweeping Gothic interior. The 1:00 p.m. Mass was in progress, so the interior was illuminated. Just up Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street was the smaller, but Gothic, St.
Subway Sign at Rockefeller Center
Thomas Church
(Episcopal). St. Thomas is said to be very formal, though very beautiful inside. Now we struck out along East 53rd Street, a kind of open air gallery of 20th Century architecutre. A surprise was to encounter Paley Park, an urban "pocket park" tucked in among office buildings. The pleasant park offered a waterfall, trees, tables and chairs, and a surface of irregular stones to break up the sharp vertical and horizontal lines of the buildings. 

At Park Avenue stand two monuments of 20th Century architecture. Lever House, completed in 1952, was the first steel-and-glass International Style building in New York City. Its design, by Gordon Bunshaft, dispensed with a traditional masonry exterior in favor of glass walls supported by steel.
"XYZ Buildings" along Avenue of the Americas
It was the first in New York to rely entirely on climate-controlled air circulation and was noted for its windows that did not open. At 24 storys, it's short by New York standards and was preserved from possible demolition a few years ago. Catty-corner across the street is the Segram Building, completed in 1958. Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Segram Building literally took Lever House's International Style to new heights. A bit futher along is the newer "Lipstick Building" from 1986, so called because its curving design resembles a tube of lipstick. (The curves are supposed to give every windowed office the feel of being a "corner office".)

By this time it was after 2:30 p.m. Susan thought we had better head back to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the bus for our hotel in order to be ready to return to see Billy Elliot that evening.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree arrives in Rockefeller Center Plaza
So, we hopped on the subway at Lexington Avenue. At the Port Authority, we stopped at an Au Bon Pain for sandwiches and such to keep our room's refrigerator for later.

Indeed, we were back in Manhattan at 7:00 p.m. and heading towards the Imperial Theatre on 45th Street. Time for a stop to browse Broadway and theatre souvenirs near Shubert Alley. Curtain for the musical Billy Elliot was at 8:00 p.m. The show, with music by Elton John, is based on the film. There were some differences, adding dramatic situations for the stage.




kamja says:
I never had the urge to visit NY, but I DO want to go to see some musical there. Brodway or sth.
Anyway, thanks for sharing. Now my lack of urge is smaller ;>
Posted on: Dec 09, 2009
Koralifix says:
Congrats on having your blog featured today! Very well done!
Posted on: Nov 26, 2009
sylviandavid says:
Andy.... great blog... I really enjoyed the scenery and places you saw....
Posted on: Nov 25, 2009
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Two Times Square by day
Two Times Square by day
Gothic roof of the American Standa…
Gothic roof of the American Stand…
American Standard Buidling viewed …
American Standard Buidling viewed…
Empire State Building
Empire State Building
XYZ Buildings along Avenue of th…
"XYZ Buildings" along Avenue of t…
Subway Sign at Rockefeller Center
Subway Sign at Rockefeller Center
XYZ Buildings along Avenue of th…
"XYZ Buildings" along Avenue of t…
The Rockefeller Center Christmas t…
The Rockefeller Center Christmas …
Christmas Tree crew
Christmas Tree crew
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Inspecting the tree
Inspecting the tree
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
TV crews prepare to cover the rais…
TV crews prepare to cover the rai…
Raising the tree
Raising the tree
Setting the tree in place
Setting the tree in place
The 2009 Christmas Tree set in pla…
The 2009 Christmas Tree set in pl…
Spire of St. Patricks Cathedral o…
Spire of St. Patrick's Cathedral …
Atlas sculpture by Lee Lawrie
Atlas sculpture by Lee Lawrie
St. Patricks Cathedral (1879-1888)
St. Patrick's Cathedral (1879-1888)
St. Thomas Church
St. Thomas Church
Paley Park
Paley Park
Urban waterfall at Paley Park
Urban waterfall at Paley Park
E. 53rd Street streetscape
E. 53rd Street streetscape
Segram Building (1958)
Segram Building (1958)
Lever House (1952)
Lever House (1952)
Hello Kitty sculpture at Lever Hou…
Hello Kitty sculpture at Lever Ho…
Segram Building (1958)
Segram Building (1958)
Lipstick Building (1986)
Lipstick Building (1986)
Subway Shuttle over to Times Square
Subway Shuttle over to Times Square
Chrysler Building from 42nd Street
Chrysler Building from 42nd Street
Palace Theatre
Palace Theatre
Theatre Row along 45th Street
Theatre Row along 45th Street
Music Box Theatre marquee
Music Box Theatre marquee
Music Box Theatre marquee
Music Box Theatre marquee
Shubert Alley between 44th and 45th
Shubert Alley between 44th and 45th
Shubert Alley
Shubert Alley
Broadway show posters on Shubert A…
Broadway show posters on Shubert …
Imperial Theatre marquee with Bill…
Imperial Theatre marquee with Bil…
Imperial Theatre entrance
Imperial Theatre entrance
Program for Billy Elliot
Program for Billy Elliot
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photo by: herman_munster