IT proved to be an eventful trip to New York, with a fair share of drama.
Our party of travellers had been up for almost 24 hours by the time the cast left the stage at the end of the Broadway production of Chicago.
But it was worth all the sleep deprivation to see former Cheers star Bebe Neuwirth as Roxie Hart.
She played emotionally repressed psychiatrist Lilith in the Boston bar comedy, later to become Frasier Crane’s wife.
Bebe also guest starred alongside Kelsey Grammer in 11 episodes of spin-off Fraiser.
She was a revelation on stage in the high energy musical, having previously won a Tony Award for playing Velma Kelly in the same show.
Sadly, at the same time there was drama of a very different kind unfolding just a short distance away in Greenwich Village.
Two unarmed auxiliary police officers – aged 19 and 28 – were shot dead by a gunman who had just shot and killed a bartender.
The gunman was later shot dead himself by police when he refused to drop his weapon.
After returning from the theatre, I sat up and watched local TV news coverage of the breaking story.
By the next day the New York Police Department has released CCTV footage of the volunteer officers being shot and killed.
Although unthinkable here, it was later played on TV news bulletins, with freeze frames published in the city newspapers. You can read more here.
Even though it was a shocking incident, New York still felt safer than walking around some parts of London.
I’ll be writing about the trip for the MEN at a later date, but here are a few highlights:
*Top of the Rock – the observation deck of the Rockefeller Centre supplied a spectacular view of New York City, including both the Empire State Building and Central Park. It’s also the building where the famous New York Christmas tree is located every year.
*Dinner and breakfast at Shula’s Steak House at the Westin Times Square.
*Lunch at Cipriani Dolci overlooking the main concourse inside Grand Central Station. And, yes, they were making yet another movie there at the time.
*Many thanks to blog reader Paul Sheehan for his recommendation of New York Public Library / Bryant Park.
*A walk through Central Park, past the outdoor ice rink to Strawberry Fields.
*Walking for miles around the city to catch the sights, the sounds and the shops.
*The Bateaux New York dinner cruise. Seeing Manhattan by night from the water, including a close up view of the Statue of Liberty.
It was 70F when we were on top of the Rockefeller Centre but early the next morning our group was almost stranded in New York by a winter snow storm.
Our Virgin Atlantic Airbus pushed away from the stand at JFK Airport but then had to be de-iced and subsequently sprayed with anti-freeze – a procedure that took some 45 minutes.
We taxied to the runway ready for take off when the control tower spotted new ice on the wings.
So it was back to the taxi way to have the de-ice / anti-freeze treatment a second, and later a third time – just like being in a giant car wash.
Other aircraft were also grounded with their passengers forced to disembark and go back into the terminal, as snow ploughs busied themselves across the airport.
At one stage the ice snow crystals were of the type which banned our aircraft from taking off under UK law.
Eventually, almost five hours after boarding the plane and with time running out for the crew, the pilot spotted a short break in the weather and we took off into a blizzard.
Full marks to the flight crew for their persistence, while keeping safety as their number one priority.
And top marks also for the cabin crew who smiled all the way through and worked their socks off over a period of some 11 hours, having been up themselves at 3:30am.