I’m on a plane somewhere around thirty thousand feet and really enjoying that wi-fi is available on airplanes now. Pretty cool.
The weekend belonged to NYC and I crammed in absolutely as much as possible while I was there.
Ready for a list? FYI. This is not usually a travel blog, but today it is.
Okay, the list turned out to be descriptions also so settle in. This post is longer than most of my usuals.
I arrived Friday night at La Guardia. My friend Katie from Long Island picked me up and we made merry until very late. She hasn’t changed one bit since high school. Still beautiful and says thinks like ‘pocketbook’ and ‘not-for-nothing’. Love her.
Drinks at the Terrace at the Top of the World and NY style pizza with a friend that I haven’t seen in twenty years. Our own private reunion. It was great to catch up. I had a Pomegranate Mojito Mocktail that was just perfect. And maybe some NY cheesecake. But don’t tell. Oh, also a hot chocolate. Yes, it’s official. I have a drinking problem. By that I mean, I drink WAY too many calories a day. Oh well, problem for another day.
Several trips through the midtown tunnel. That was an accident. And expensive.
Picked up another great friend, Lynette, at La Guardia (more trips through the midtown tunnel!) Lynette brought her own lemons to NYC because she wasn’t sure they had trees there. Bless her soul. We laughed for hours and hours about that one. This was the first time I’d seen her in 9 years and it was as though no time had passed at all. You should have seen us trying to do math together. It wasn’t pretty. And probably not right either. But her super-friendliness is, I’m sure, why the locals were so friendly. You can’t even resist her charm! We talked late into the night and had lots of laughs.
Saturday morning, we left our hotel – the World Center Hotel by Ground Zero. Amazing Views, by the way, at 10am and didn’t get back until 4am. We got a LOT done during that very long, but productive day.
Statue of Liberty.
Peering up at that symbol of freedom and hope was very moving for me. I recalled the words of poet Emma Lazarus who said in part,
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Those words are from Emma’s poem The Great Colossus which is inscribed on a plague at the foot of Lady Liberty. As I looked at her, I considered all those who were oppressed or downtrodden and came to this country seeking freedom and a new life. The joy they must have felt when they first saw the statue on the horizon as they entered New York harbor was surely overwhelming for them.
Also, I brought Flat Stanley along for my 7 year old son’s class project. In case you were wondering.
What can I say? The Registry room was, well, a piece of history. I sat in one of the benches and gazed at the fishbone tile on the ceiling, the leaded glass windows and the American flags with only 48 stars and soaked in what those immigrants from so long ago must have experienced. Out of the window I saw the view of the skyline of NYC and could imagine how different it must have looked so many years ago. My heart broke for those who were turned away (for illness or some other reason) and rejoiced for those who were allowed to pass through the clerks and into the hallway that led to America.
I could do a whole post just on this. Maybe I will. But for now, I’ll just tell you that everyone should experience this. Standing on this sacred ground, hallowed by those lost that September nearly 13 years ago, is life-affirming and the vibrant city that surrounds this area speaks to the resilience of Americans and New Yorkers. The people of Manhattan did NOT go quietly into the night. If you go to New York and have time for only this….do it.
9/11 Souvenir Shop. I bought the best little children’s book called “The Little Chapel that Stood” by A. B. Curtiss. Click on the book’s title to go to the 9/11 Memorial store to pick up your own copy. All proceeds go to keep the memorial running. Check Sunday’s schedule for more about that. There was never more reverence in a gift shop. I promise.
Another roof top dinner taking in the reflection of the sunset on the New York skyscrapers rounded out our lovely day and was segway into our night tour of the city.
Empire State Building. I’m afraid of heights, so that makes me not bright. But. Still amazing. The lights of the city were magnificent and the employees were fantastic. So, other than the nausea and mild panic attack – Great fun! (-:
First ever jaunt on a NY subway. So, picture this. All I’ve ever heard about NY subways is that you should be careful on them. Some trains are not so safe. Since we have no idea how to tell if one is safe or not, we just talked to locals and took a chance. We were on the subway for about .6 seconds when we saw a very angry white dude kicking the seats and walls and grunting. Fortunately for us, he got off at the very next stop but we were nervous for a minute. It might not have been so startling to us if it hadn’t been 11 at night and we were the only other two people in the car with this guy.
Times Square. (Pictures just don’t do this place justice. The lights are wild. There are food carts everywhere. It was cold, but great fun!
Sunday morning we slept until noon then visited in our hotel for a few hours.
We started off with pictures of a couple of lovely old churches and their attached cemeteries. For someone like me, that was just amazing.
First, was St. Paul’s Chapel. Just east of Ground Zero, this chapel (where George Washington is know to have attended) survived the attacks on 9/11. Remember that book I told you about, The Little Chapel that Stood? It documents the resiliency of the city and the heroism of those involved that day. If you are looking for a way to talk to your children about what happened that day in September, I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to get home and read it to my kids.
This photo shows the scuffs left behind on the pews from the firefighters and other rescue workers who took refuge here. And those chandeliers also survived the blast. (I’ll end up doing a whole separate post on the 9/11 Memorial including St. Paul’s Chapel and the book.)
The next church was the Trinity church and burial grounds of Alexander Hamilton. More amazing pictures. I love old buildings, cool architecture, and cemeteries so I was loving this part of our NYC self-guided tour. (These pics are on my other camera and the battery is dead…so I’ll put up more later.)
We found a Starbucks and got some warm drinks (and directions to the subway…because honestly…the subway maps made me feel like a moron. I pride myself on my sense of direction. I may need to rethink that. I brought home a subway system map so I can take some to figure it out.)
Took the Subway to Times Square and bought tickets for an off-broadway show. We learned something very important here. All along the way until this point, the locals had been very friendly and super helpful. At the ticket place at Times Square, it was different story. So, here’s the lesson. New Yorkers are awesome. Unless they are trying to sell you something. Then not so much. (I know, that’s a huge generalization. It’s just my experience THIS time. I’ll let you know next time I go if the people expecting money from you become more polite when you don’t buy what they are hustling.) Then we ate dinner at a pub. More pizza. Not my favorite, but whatever. The bigger problem was NO Dr Pepper. Tons of bars and no shortage of Guiness but NO Dr. Pepper. Gah.
Watched the show on Theater Row. Newsical the Musical. Pretty funny stuff, but not the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. Still fun to take in a show on our first trip.
Now it’s 9pm Sunday night and I still haven’t seen Central Park so that’s our next stop. With a detour to Starbucks. More directions. More warm drinks. Bless Starbucks.
Black and white raspberry hot chocolate. In case you forgot my favorite drink.
Oh, and when we asked the friendly local in Starbucks if it was safe to go in Central Park at night confirmed, “There’s only killing in Central Park in the summer. You’ll be alright.”
We skipped with joy towards the park, grateful that it wasn’t summer and our lives weren’t in danger.
We cruised down 7th Ave until we got to Columbus Circle. We stared at Trump Tower and took pictures in front of the massive globe out front and then set off into the park.
I have something to say about Central Park in NYC at night. Amazing. Quiet. Beautiful. Peaceful.
We stumbled across the Chess and Checker building and then we found an ice rink. It got me thinking about Serendipity with John Cusak, but by now I was so cold that there was no way I was going for ice cream. That’ll have to wait for another trip.
We exited the park (after gobs of pictures) at 5th Ave and just aimlessly wandered down the brightly lit yet practically deserted shopping mecca. Window shopping means something different here!
I was specifically looking for St. Patrick’s Cathedral because, well, it’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend! I found a presbyterian church that I though was it. Old and gorgeous. But not it.
Then I found another one a little further south down 5th. I was certain this was it. I even took a picture and posted it to Facebook and labeled it as St. Patrick’s Cathedral. But I was wrong. This one was St. Thomas. Episcopal maybe. Can’t remember.
By now it was after midnight and we were freezing. It was hard to think straight and I had just about given up finding the old cathedral. And then there it was. Amazing and old and beautiful. And sadly (for me anyway) covered in scaffolding. I know that means it will look better later, but I was a *little* disappointed. But at least I got to see it.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
At some point we turned off of 5th and headed west. We were looking for food and some place warm. We just walked until we found (accidentally) Rockefeller Center. We saw the skating rink and all the flags. We saw where they film the TODAY show. It was awesome.
And windy. Did I mention we were freezing by this point? We stumbled upon a 24 hour deli and ate and warmed up before deciding to face our fears and try to navigate the subway again in the middle of the night. We found our way to Times Square again and found took in the dazzling lights one more time before slipping underground to prove to ourselves that we smarter than this subway. Ha!
This time proved much easier than Saturday night/Sunday morning. We stayed on the West Side (the 1 train) instead of detouring to the East side via the green line.
My favorite part of the subway trip was a lovely girl from North Carolina that we visited with. She had moved to NYC three years ago and works at Old Navy. While talking with her, a man got on the subway at one of the stops. He had a hat, sunglasses and gloves on. The gloves might have been fine, but the sun glasses were definitely out of place at 1am.
Our friend from North Carolina said to us very matter-of-factly (and loud enough for our sunglasses man to hear), “That dude be looking suspect. Watch out for him.”
We clung to our purses and tried to look ‘not-like-a-tourist’. He got off at the next stop and we were spared.
She was awesome!
We fell into bed at 2am and got up at 11am to hit the streets again for whatever we could accomplish in the short hours we had left in the city.
Monday morning we crammed in shopping, more pizza, another Starbucks and then raced back to our hotel.
A wonderful Columbian woman waited at the hotel with a car to whisk us back to La Guardia. She has three kids, visits her family in Columbia every year and drives perfectly! Also, her accent was super-cool. I snapped a last minute shot of the Brooklyn Bridge on our way out of Manhattan.
Now, on the plane ride home I look back on the whirlwind weekend and am so grateful to have the opportunity to have these experiences. Most importantly, for my husband who willingly did solo kid duty and wishes only that I will have fun and return safely.
One final thought. The buildings and the stories and the food in NYC are amazing. But what makes it amazing are the people. Those same people that Emma talked about in her poem. We are all those people. Yearning to be free.
I hope you can go see these amazing sights yourself, but until then enjoy NYC vicariously!