Tuesday, July 12, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

YAYA SISTERS IN NY, Chapter 1:  

When the teen Yayas bailed out of our planned trip to New York for cheerleading camp(?!), there was only one thing to do... round up some Yaya sisters to help take a bite out of the Big Apple.  Yesterday we gathered in Manhattan to begin our exploration of this global center of finance and culture, art and entertainment, fashion and commerce.  My cousin Pam, niece Heather, sister-in-law Marion, sister Jeanne, and I were ready for some Yaya sister fun, and we chose a great place to search for it.
After a delicious dinner at Thalia's on 8th Avenue last night, Times Square was our first destination.  Just a few blocks south of our hotel, this iconic New York landmark has often been called the "crossroads of the world."
Times Square
No matter when you visit this busiest of intersections, it is teeming with people, most of whom seem to be just enjoying the people watching as we were.  The dominant attractions are the multitude of illuminated signs, which zoning ordinances require Times Square building owners to display.  The signs are called "spectaculars" and the largest boast the name "jumbotron."

Shopping opportunities abound in Times Square and stores selling whimsical products are everywhere.  A mega Toys R Us store with an indoor ferris wheel, an elaborate Disney store, and rivaling Hershey's and M & M's stores all compete for the attention and spending of kids of all ages.

The TKTS ticket booth is a popular feature of the square, not only for its deeply discounted theater tickets but also the illuminated, stepped roof, which provides seating for events and for just hanging out in this energized spot.

After a good night's rest, it was time for us to hit the streets of New York in earnest, seeking out those other icons the city is so famous for.  With lots of ground to cover, we took advantage of the excellent New York subway system.

Ready to take on the city
On the R train
It was a full-blown initiation for the Yaya sisters as we boarded the subway during rush hour.  Some of the natives seemed to get a kick out of our banter, and we were happy to provide some entertainment of our own in return for all we were finding.

Jeanne & Pam & the lady
From Battery Park, we boarded a ferry to Liberty Island to visit that most recognized of New York and American symbols, the Statue of Liberty.  Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the statue's architect, built the statue in France and shipped her in crates to the United States, where she was assembled and placed on her pedestal.  Upon the completion, the statue was dedicated in 1886 by President Grover Cleveland and inspired New York's first ticker-tape parade.

After paying our respects to the Lady, we rode the ferry to Ellis Island, the busiest immigration processing center for the United States from 1892 to 1954.  More than 100 million Americans today are descended from the 12 million immigrants who passed through this gateway.  Excellent exhibits tell the story of the hopefuls who arrived there and the government officials who conducted the inspection and registration processes that helped the immigrants begin the transition to American citizenship.

Strolling downtown
For an authentic ethnic lunch in New York, we tracked down Alfanoose, a Syrian/Lebanese restaurant just east of the site of the World Trade Center.  With a reputation for making the best falafel in New York, Alfanoose has long been a popular downtown lunch spot.  Like many business owners in the area, the owner suffered financial setbacks after 9/11 but stuck it out in his financial district location until a rent increase forced him out of his original storefront.  Loyal fans of his award-winning Middle Eastern cuisine pitched in to help the owner find a new, and bigger, facility and helped him get back on his feet.

Since the National September 11 Memorial Plaza won't open until the tenth anniversary of that horrific event this fall, we just walked around the Ground Zero area, still stunned by the destruction that occurred there and inspired by the rebuilding that progresses day by day.  In addition to the memorial and museum, six new towers are planned for the 16-acre site, one of which has opened with another to be completed in 2013.

Though we'd had a busy day, New York theater was still on our agenda.  Since we were downtown, we decided to avoid the lengthy queues at the Times Square TKTS booth and try their location at South Street Seaport.  What a stroke of luck!  There was no line whatsoever and we scored five tickets to our first-choice Broadway musical, Sister Act, playing at the Broadway Theatre.
Broadway bound
Not only was this the perfect show for a group of Yaya sisters, it definitely lived up to the rave reviews it has received from theatre-goers.  Based on the 1992 movie of the same name, the musical opened in April of this year, produced by the movie's star, Whoopi Goldberg.  Though we all had doubts about any actress measuring up to her stellar performance, Patina Miller more than filled the bill.  
Sister Act cast  (Photo by New York Times)
The rousing gospel numbers by Miller and her choir of increasingly sequined nuns had the audience clapping in rhythm and cheering at the end of most numbers.  Just as impressive were the impossibly elaborate and ever-changing sets that rotated off and on stage flawlessly.  Brilliant lighting in rhythm with the music and energetic choreography completed the full picture of a rollicking and entertaining night of theater.
Celebrating sisterhood
As we toasted our fabulous day with a little Yaya nectar, we were unanimous in our assessment that the best song of the show was "Sister Act," a tribute to the friendship and loyalty that the character of Deloris shared with the nuns, a new song to add to our Yaya songbook.

As a sister and a friend,
I'll be a sister till the end,
and no one on this earth can change that fact.
I'm part of one terrific sister act.