Rising to the Top

Thursday, July 14, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

YAYA SISTERS IN NY, Chapter 3:  
By Day #4 of our 'Yayas Take New York' adventure, we were ready to rise to the top. So we headed for... what else? The Empire State Building. Along the way, we took time to enjoy our five seconds of fame at Forever 21's interactive Times Square billboard.
Finding a way to stand out in the jungle of giant plasma-screen billboards in Times Square is no small feat, but that's just what the Forever 21 store did last summer when it debuted its interactive video billboard above the store's entrance.  What better way to get people to look at this new monster screen than to put them on it?  From time to time, a model walks in front of the image of the crowd in Times Square and makes things more interesting by magnifying, drawing hearts around, or taking a photo of parts of the crowd.  Brilliant!  (We're the tiny ones in the circle on the photo above.)

As we continued on our way to the top, we made a stop at the 34th Street flagship location of Marion's favorite department store, Macy's.  No way could we let her miss an opportunity to visit this retail behemoth, often billed as the largest store in the world (though a Chinese store has since claimed that record).  At nearly 3 million square feet, the store was a bit large for us to see everything, but we did locate some lovely hats.
Hat chance at Macy's
After evading the Macy's executive who wanted to hire us as models, we escaped from the store and finally made our way to the Empire State Building.  Ticket hawkers on the street offered dire warnings of hour-long waits, but they were willing to sell us a pass which would propel us to the front of the line.  We declined their expensive offers and made it through the security, ticket, and elevator lines and to the 86th floor observatory within about 20 minutes.
Empire State view from the top
Immortalized in films such as King Kong and Sleepless in Seattle, the 1,453-foot Empire State Building, the most famous of New York's skyscrapers, provided amazing views of Manhattan and beyond.  The remarkable structure reigned as the world's tallest building for more than 40 years— from the time of its completion in 1931 until the North Tower of the World Trade Center was opened in 1972.  After the tragic destruction of the WTC towers in 2001, the Empire State once again became the tallest building in New York and second tallest in the Americas behind only Chicago's Sears Tower.

Since none of us was eager to perform a rendition of "Danny Boy," we felt safe going for lunch at Foley's Pub and Restaurant across 33rd Street from the Empire State.  After listening to too many drunken renditions of the legendary Irish ballad over the years, the pub's owner famously banned the song from his pub in 2008, declaring it too depressing.
Chilling at Foley's, just before the transformation
A hybrid Irish pub-sports memorabilia showcase, Foley's occupies a space which has housed some type of public house for 100 years.  Our server, a friendly Irish lass named Deirdre, contributed to the old sod atmosphere.  We lingered at Foley's undisturbed for upwards of two hours as we went through a secret and unexpected Yaya transformation which had a dramatic effect on the remainder of our day and on the city of New York.

Where do you go from an Irish pub except to visit St. Patrick, or at least his cathedral on Fifth Avenue?  The seat of the archbishop of New York, the Neo-Gothic Cathedral of St. Patrick was completed in 1878.  At the time, its massive spires dominated the neighborhood.  Today it is dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers, but the hush inside once you enter the massive doors provides a calming respite to the bustle of the streets.
St Patrick's interior
Following our theme of rising to the top, we continued our stroll up Fifth Avenue.  Originally a residential street for the city's ultra-wealthy, Fifth Avenue is now home to some of New York's priciest retailers and often cited as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world.  Cartier sells its fabulous jewelry from one of the greatest Renaissance mansions on Fifth Avenue.  Next door, Versace occupies an elegant building which formerly housed the Vanderbilt family.
Cartier (Photo from Wikipedia)
Even dolls can enjoy the pampered life on Fifth Avenue.  At the American Girls doll store, we were stunned to discover a doll hair salon.  According to the promotional ad, this is "where dolls get the special attention they deserve."  What about the moms who are paying for all this attention to be lavished on a $100 doll?  They deserve some special attention also, like maybe some advice on sound economic training for your daughter.
American Girl salon (not kidding!)
For a mere $20, your doll can have her hair styled by one of these talented hairdressers.  Throw in another $5 for dolly to have a facial, and, of course, tiny Miss Adorable would like her ears pierced for only $14 more.  And don't forget to budget a nice tip for the stylist.  The budget will also need to cover some new clothes for your special doll ($30 per outfit) and a matching set for dolly's 'mommy' at $75 per outfit.  A meal at the American Girls Cafe in the store will set you back another $150 or so for mother, daughter and doll.  Well, we could go on, but then it is Fifth Avenue and why shouldn't your doll get the royal treatment?  Now that we're pampering inanimate objects, we should find a massage therapist for our shoes.

Channeling our inner Rockettes
Tiffany, Diesel, Lego, and numerous other over the top Fifth Avenue retailers provided more than enough free entertainment, most with jaw-dropping prices, as we made our way to Rockefeller Center for an audition as Rockettes.  The powers that be recognized our talents immediately and wanted to sign us on the spot, but we never could reach an agreement on salary and benefits, so we had to walk dance away from their offer and head back to the hotel and our last dinner in the Big Apple on this trip.

For our 'last meal' together, we returned to Thalia on Eighth Avenue near our hotel.  The food was excellent as it had been before, but this time we found the service disappointing.

One last visit to Times Square and we were ready to wrap up our final big day in New York.  Pam had an early train back home the next day and everyone else was scattering later in the day.  Based on the reactions we had experienced, we had to agree when Jeanne assessed our visit:  "We touched this town."
Our last visit to Times Square together
Sorry, New York.  We'll miss you, too, but we'll be back.