There are certain things one expects to do on a trip to New York: visit The Met; see Times Square; climb the Statue of Liberty. And then there are some – like meeting the legendary Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart – that are the most welcome of surprises.

Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (perhaps the only instance where I’ve ever had to use the plural of that word in a sentence) are currently starring on Broadway alongside Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley at the Cort Theatre. The gentleman are in repertory performances of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, of which we saw the latter.

Thanks to the advice of a friend who is a genuine New Yorker, we discovered the existence of rush tickets – where, if you’re willing to line up for the box office opening at 10am, some of the best seats in the house are available for $30 instead of the regular $137 (in very limited numbers). John wasn’t especially thrilled that I made him hop on a subway and sprint through Times Square on a freezing winter morning but – after we’d secured box tickets directly overlooking the stage (and stopped by a Starbucks) – he was able to see the bright side.

After a brief return to the hotel so that he could actually dry his hair, we made a decidedly more successful trip to the Guggenheim.

Unlike the previous day, we even made it through the front door.

Photography is only permitted on the ground floor, which is why I’m sadly unable to share the monumental array of Gauguins, Degas, Picassos, van Goghs and Dalis on display. This did not, however, stop one bint from using her flash on every light-sensitive artwork in the building until the same staff member who’d warned her twice already was forced to give her a bollocking. Her response: a huffy and victimised, “So-rry!”

The Lake in Central Park, aka Charlotte’s running path in Sex and the City. Which, conveniently enough, segues perfectly into…

…Carrie’s stoop in the West Village!

The apartment was scratched from the official SatC tour a few years back after residents complained – justifiably – that they were sick of having a hundred tourists arriving on the hour every hour to take pictures on their doorstep.

At present, the owner has a sign up asking visitors not to sit on the step, and a donation box asking those who do take pictures to help save the lives on stray cats and dogs in NYC. Since it was for an animal charity, I was happy to oblige.

Useless piece of trivia: the building next door was actually used for Carrie’s apartment in the earlier seasons, and – off-screen – was the one-time home of Project Runway‘s Tim Gunn.

There was a Japanese couple waiting alongside us to take photos, which meant that I could a) freak them out by letting them know I’d understood their conversation, and b) get a photo of John and myself sans self-timer.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the Manhattan gaybourhoods, and – apropos of one of John’s unofficial to-dos – ate at an American diner.

I had the three-bean turkey chilli, which I ended up splitting with John on account of that bowl being deceptively cavernous. Did you ever read The Magic Porridge Pot as a kid? Same deal.

John had the challah French toast…mostly so that we could find out what challah was.

(It’s a type of bread.)

Billymark’s – Wilfred’s and my business venture. Though I didn’t photograph them, we actually encountered our entire feline brood in business form: an Alfie’s, a Wilfie (& Nell)’s, a Café Minerva, and a Pip’s Place. What are the odds?!

The Garment District.

Token Project Runway shot! I’m not sure if we went on a bad day or during a sale, however, but that Macy’s in the background was infinitely dingier than we’d expected. We stayed just long enough to ask direction to Mood Fabrics (which, insult to injury, we didn’t end up finding on account of that fact that it’s on the second floor of a building and only accessible by elevator.)

And finally: Broadway time! We met Steph at the Cort Theatre, and soon discovered that we’d be sharing our box with a girl who’d been awake for 48 hours stalking the cast of Les Mis across the country. No joke. That aside, being 10-20ft away from those legendary men for the better part of two hours was quite the experience.

After the performance, we had the amazing good luck of being able to meet all four actors. First up: Shuler Hensley.

Billy Crudup.

Steph and Billy.

Sir Ian McKellen (who I’m still slightly in awe of meeting)! Ian was lovely enough to pose for this photo – perhaps my favourite of the entire trip.

It sounds ridiculous but I was immediately struck by how much the men sounded exactly like themselves.

Sir Patrick Stewart! Who was fantastically blunt in the politest, most British way possible to a fan trying to give him some artwork.

PS: “Thank you, but it’s not entirely my taste.”
Fan: “Can I just give it to you?”
PS: “Well the trouble is I don’t know what I’d do with it. You’d be better giving it to someone who’d appreciate it.”

Imagine it in Patrick Stewart’s voice. It was wonderful.

Fan: “Can I take a picture with you?”
PS [almost imperceptible head shake]: “You can take a picture of me, I can’t stop you.”

Gotta catch ’em all!

Earlier that day, John had asked his siblings if they’d like anything brought back for them, one of whom requested peanut butter M&M’s. “Do you know where we could get them?” he enquired of Steph.

…why, the multi-storey, open-til-midnight M&M’s World round the corner of course!

And, rounding out the evening, Mama Ru in a subway tunnel.

  1. Markus McD says:

    I was going to ask if you got to see some Broadway shows, but this answers that!
    Yes, the Lottery at the beginning of shows is an amazing way to see shows for cheap!! I think I saw 9 Broadway shows or so for like the price of 2 by doing that lotto!
    So awesome waiting by the stage door and spotting/getting pics/signatures of the stars. Clearly you got great shots; I’m not as camera ready nor talented.
    Ps. Nice jacket!

    • Mark Liddell says:

      Thanks on all fronts! You know, that jacket was surprisingly popular State-side. One of my absolute favourite things about New York was that people would genuinely just stop and pay you a compliment – which never happens here. It was nice to feel like I wasn’t just dressing for myself for once!

      • Markus McD says:

        Really? That’s awesome about the compliments! I’d like to say us Canadians might be rubbing off on them New Yorkers, but it’s a fashion city and you’re quite fashionable it seems, so it only makes sense!
        Them Brits need acknowledge awesomeness when they see it! Haha!

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