As a lady who likes to travel on the cheap, I’ve found that one of the best ways to reduce those massive international airfare costs is to book round-trip airfare from New York (if you’re headed to Europe or Africa, or Los Angeles if you’re headed to Asia or Australia; and CheapOAir.com is my airfare aggregator of choice) and then book the airfare from Austin to New York separately on a lower-cost carrier, like jetBlue or Southwest. If you’re lucky, you can find flight times that coordinate so you’ll have no trouble making the international flight that day, even if you’re, say, flying into JFK and out of Newark. But if you’re luckier, you’ll get to kill some time in the Big Apple before your international flight leaves the next day.
I did just that on a recent trip abroad, spending 22 hours in the city before my flight departed for France. With less than a full day to spend, you have to hit the ground running and hustle, and the best way to do that is by coming up with a focused itinerary in advance. As a Broadway fan, my goal was to fit two productions into that limited timeframe, so everything else we did built out from that.
After hitting the ground at JFK at 5:30 p.m., we took the AirTrain and then the subway into the city, checked into the hotel we’d landed on Priceline.com (if anyone has any tricks for finding cheap places to stay in New York, I’d love to hear them!) and hit the pavement to head out to our first show, the Tony Award-winning Once. I fell head over heels in love with Once and the music of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova when I saw the movie in the summer of 2007, and yes, I may have been skeptical going into the musical adaptation that it could match the magic of the film, but the musical won me over in its own right, without eclipsing the original film. The music, of course, is as wonderful as ever, but it was the innovative staging that made the musical so winning. With stage design that resembled an Irish pub and a group of supporting actors who played all the instruments and sang live on stage, the Once experience is at once intimate and awe-inspiring. While no one could be expected to best Glen Hansard in the role he originated, the current lead performer, Doctor Who veteran Arthur Darvill, acquitted himself quite handsomely (ahem) and proved what a talented musician he is with his take on the Guy role.
By the time the show got out, we were starving. We’d planned to grab a late-night dinner at the legendary Ukrainian diner Veselka in the East Village, but en route, we got so hungry that when we first saw the yellow Wafels and Dinges food truck emerge before us in Astor Place, we were sure it was an Austin-based trailer mirage. Thank carb-heaven, we were wrong, and so we indulged in a little pre-dinner dessert. You can get two different Belgian waffles at the Wafels and Dinges, the traditional Brussels waffle made from batter or the decadently chewy Liege waffle made from dough. We opted for the latter and went traditional with our dinge (topping) by choosing the magic cookie butter known as spekuloos spread, the truck offered a variety of savory (pulled pork, sour cream, chili) and sweet (maple syrup, whipped cream) topping choices and, best of all, an unlimited dinges option sure to put you in a sugar coma for life.
After our dessert, we ended up at Veselka, which provides an easy dinner option with its 24/7 hours and its vast vegetarian options. For vegetarians, I recommend ordering up the vegetarian borscht and a sampling of their pierogi (Ukranian dumplings) like potato, sweet potato and arugula and goat cheese.
The next day, with matinee theater tickets burning a hole in our pockets, we grabbed a quick lunch in the theater district, where crappy options are plentiful and good picks are few and far between. With time constraints necessitating a quick pick, we relied on Yelp and were rewarded with a couple great slices of pizza courtesy of Patzeria Perfect Pizza, where the food lived up to the name. After our quick meal, we headed over to the Booth Theatre to catch the matinee of The Glass Menagerie. This latest production of arguably Tennessee Williams’ saddest play stars stage and screen vet Cherry Jones as family matriarch Amanda and the erstwhile-Spock Zachary Quinto as Tom in his Broadway debut. The two other actors in the small enhsemble, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Laura and Brian J. Smith as the Gentleman Caller, stole the show, in my opinion.
As soon as the play got out, it was time to catch a train to Newark for our flight and say goodbye to New York for now, wishing, as always, that we had more time together.