A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: stevencavalli07

Day 1, Thursday July 11 The Journey Begins

Off to The Big Apple

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The 4am alarm came way to soon. We were being picked up at 5:15 for a 7:30am flight from SFO to JFK. My brother Bob and his Barbara arrived the evening before and were house/dog sitting during our absence. We had business class seats and were pleasantly surprised to see that ours was one of the United fleet that had the first/business cabins totally revamped to a single class which now had the little pods that stretched out into beds with individual entertainment systems. Despite the recent tragic events at SFO, the plane was on time and arrived a little early in New York. We arrived at JFK about 4:30pm and I soon learned one occupation I would never want...the guy who drove us from the airport to the Andaz Wall Street Hotel. The origin of this trip was to attend the wedding of my partner Steve Brewer's son, Matt on Saturday evening. There were about 60 friends and relatives of the Brewers traveling east for the occasion. This spawned the idea to continue the journey after the wedding to Eastern Canada. It took two hours to get from the airport to the hotel. A lot of stopping and not much going. We finally checked in. The Andaz is the only hotel on Wall Street, and is a very modern Hyatt brand. We did some exploring in the neighborhood and the place was abuzz with 20/30 somethings with a number of outdoor bars/dining areas. On the recommendation of one of the concierge/check in folks, we walked to a neighborhood restaurant, Acqua, for some Italian. It was very hot and muggy and we opted to sit inside where the air conditioning was hard at work. The food was excellent and reasonably priced for NYC. A fairly uneventful day ended fairly early.

Posted by stevencavalli07 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 2, Friday, July 12 Wardrobe Malfeasance??

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Upon unpacking on arrival at The Andaz, Margaret realized that certain essential items had not found their way into her suitcase...these are unmentionable...sorry. So, instead of executing the sight seeing plan we had, she spent most of the day shopping for the...unmentionables. I went shopping for some Jameson and spent most of the day doing further research for the Canada leg of this trip. the highlight of the day was to be...and was...a party thrown by the Brewers for all of their out of town guests...about 60 of us...which was held at The River Cafe, a famous restaurant right on the water in Brooklyn, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. This restaurant had been devastated by hurricane Sandy a couple years before and had just re-opened for special parties, not dinner. We all took a five minute ferry to the restaurant where we were treated to cocktails and fabulous hors d'oeuvres and, ultimately, a toast by Mr. Brewer.

Following the party, Margaret and I went with Omar Habbas and his wife, Rio, to DeStefano's, a steakhouse in Brooklyn. Thus began the "who's going to pay the bill" contest. It was a wonderful time with great friends. I had bought for $3 on Travelzoo a coupon that was worth 25% off the entire dinner. The food and service were outstanding. When Omar ordered a bottle of Silver Oak, I became concerned about the bill. I excused myself to go to the restroom and accosted our waiter. I gave him my credit card and urged him to make sure that I got the bill. So, when the Silver Oak ended in the middle...or toward the end of the entrees, I ordered another bottle. Long story short, Omar had pre-empted me with the waiter and he ended up "winning" the bill. Thanks again, Omar. Oh and by the way, earlier in the day, Omar called me and invited Margaret and I to lunch the following day and we eagerly accepted. That night at the party he asked if I would be upset if I had to wear a jacket to lunch. I had no idea what was in store but, of course, I said no problem. Read on...

Posted by stevencavalli07 20:49 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 3, Saturday, July 13 Omar Does It Again & The Wedding

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The mystery of the reason for wearing a jacket to lunch unravelled when Omar told us that he was taking us to Per Se for lunch. Per Se is perhaps the most exclusive restaurant in New York, owned and operated by Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame. It is currently ranked 11th of the top 50 restaurants in the WORLD!! It normally takes several months to get a reservation, but in typical Omar fashion, he called yesterday and, of course, they had an opening. The five course meal of small bites is $195 per person. We opted out of the seven or nine course versions. I must admit, even for a non-foodie, it was the most interesting meal I have ever had. Hopefully there will be pictures...I'm working on getting some pictures other than the hockey Hall of Fame...if I can just figure out how I got those uploaded.

We made our way back to the hotel and rested up for the 8pm wedding start. Well, I rested up, Margaret went to get her hair blow dried!! That was a new one on me. I offered to do it but, surprisingly, that generous offer was met with nothing but sarcasm. There was a shuttle from the hotel to the wedding, but it left a little earlier than we wanted, so we took a cab, arriving around 7:45pm. The wedding was at Tribeca Rooftop. There were amazing 360 degree views of Manhattan. My best guesstimate is that there were about 250 attendees. The ceremony lasted about a half hour. What followed was a PARTEEE!! The bars opened, hors d'oeuvres were passed, the band played non-stop...stopping only for the toasts. My steak arrived around 12am when the dance floor was still packed. We did our best, but 12:45am was our limit. We headed outside only to find Omar and Rio waiting for a cab. We joined them and returned to the hotel. The next morning we learned that the party ended sometime after 2 am.

Posted by stevencavalli07 15:04 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 4, Sunday, July 14 Kinky Boots!!

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Sunday morning the Brewers graciously hosted a breakfast for the California contingent and others...there were a lot of bleary eyes. Everyone was in great spirits following such an incredible party...and the night before party...and others partied the night before that. I had purchased tickets to see the Broadway play, Kinky Boots...a 3pm matinee. We had rented the movie thru Netflix a few years ago and it was quite good...based on a true story that I will relate to you. It had been made into a musical which had premiered in Chicago and only had it's Broadway debut in March of this year...yet it managed to win the Tony for musical of the year. Cyndi Lauper did the music, her first effort at a musical. Now for the story...and you decide if this is something that would have grabbed you enough to order the movie or $100+ tickets to the Broadway musical. Seems that a fellow in Northhampton England had a very successful shoe manufacturing company. He died and his son, who had no intentions of succeeding to running the business, was suddenly thrust into that role. The business was failing. By chance, the son met a black drag queen who was complaining that no one made shoes for people who were doing what he (she) was doing...and so...Kinky Boots were born...and there was a story and music...and it was AMAZING!!!!! By the end, the entire crowd was standing, dancing, clapping to the music...it was an incredible experience. I would imagine the show will come to SF at some point. In the meantime, rent the movie.

After the movie we walked around the Theater District for a while and ultimately had a very nice dinner at La Rivage, a small French restaurant. The first leg of the trip was about to end. We headed back to the hotel to pack and head out on the rest of the adventure. I cannot emphasize what gracious hosts the Brewers were...what a fine young man Matt has become and how beautiful and special his wife, Sari, is...and how beautiful and grown up Sarah is. It was an incredible four days...never to be forgotten.

Posted by stevencavalli07 15:46 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 5, Monday, July 15...Oh Canada!!

Traveling Day...NYC to Toronto to Niagara Falls

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Awoke fairly early Monday morning to finish packing and had breakfast with the Brewers. Learned that the wedding had gone on past 2am. All of a sudden I was even more tired. After lots of yuks...there are always lots of yuks with the Brewers...we parted ways...they to their white stretch limo and a 12pm flight from JFK to SFO...and we in our little yellow taxi to LaGuardia for a 12pm flight to Toronto...Eh? The cab ride and the flight were uneventful. We landed in Toronto a little early. When arranging for a rent a car, I could not believe that the major rental agencies wanted more than $200/day for even a mid-size car. So I found "Ace Rental" which was a bus ride, then a shuttle ride from the airport. But it was $40/day. The shuttle ride was entertaining. I was joined by a woman from Rio de Janeiro and her two boys who was obviously fascinated by our Sikh driver and his turban. Without any hesitation or humility she said,"I am not from here, why do you have that on your head?" Haven't been to Rio but I assumed there are no turban wearers there. He was very polite and patient and stated that he was a Sikh and that his religion required the headdress. She chuckled as she reported in Spanish to her kids what he had said. She wasn't finished. "Don't women have to wear something similar?" "No", he repled politely. I thought she may have been a TV or newspaper reporter, because the inquisition continued until we arrived at Ace. I got my red Kia Forte while my friend from Rio was being denied a car because of some problem with her driver's license. I did not hear the end of the ruckus as I left to pick up Margaret and the luggage at the airport.

We loaded up and headed for Niagara Falls, barrel and all. I obtained a GPS at Ace because the app I downloaded that was supposed to work offline had not responded. The Tom Tom had a very stern, assertive male voice that we would largely learn to ignore. About an hour and 15 minutes later, with one minor detour, we arrived in Niagara Falls. I had done the research, but was immediately struck by the mini Las Vegas appearance. Large, high rise hotels and huge big screen TVs on the outside of buildings, one showing a naked couple together in a jacuzzi tub...well, I assumed they were naked...there were a lot of bubbles. We arrived at the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort, the top rated hotel on Tripadvisor, except for the Rex Motel (??? really...I never saw it). The Fallsview is a huge complex with many shops and restaurants. Our room was on the 14th floor and I hope to get pictures on here which show the amazing views of the falls. Suffice it to say, despite the glitter and the overdone touristiness, the Falls are SPECTACULAR in their beauty, majesty and power...and, at night, they light them up! And, during the day, they light themselves up with rainbows depending on the angle and location of the sun.

We embarked on a long walk around the area, pausing for photo opps that were many and everywhere. We made our 7:30 dinner reservation at The Keg in the Embassy Suites next door. The Keg is a Canadian chain of restaurants like Ruth's Chris. The attraction is the view. Virtually every table in the restaurant has a remarkable view of both the American and Canadian falls...lo and behold, the food was very good. We walked back to our hotel and descended upon the casino where I had visions of paying for the trip. Alas, I found that I had absolutely no interest in the tables. Oh well, back to the room with the multiple colors illuminating the falls. Spectacular.

Posted by stevencavalli07 17:00 Archived in Canada Tagged falls niagara Comments (0)

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