So...I have to be true to form and start from the beginning. And the beginning started at approximately 5:34am Thursday morning when we were standing at the kiosk at US Airways trying to check bags, to then grab our boarding passes, to then fly like hell through security, and hopefully land in our seats on a flight that was to take off at 6:00am. Yeah...none of that happened. Because the minute we typed in our confirmation number, the screen showed up saying we were too late and could not check bags...which basically meant we could not get on the flight. (Side note--I have never had this happen before. I have never really had flying issues, so when she said we weren't on the flight--I was not really comprehending what she was saying) We were then put on a stand-by for a 10:55am flight for Phoenix that would then put us on a 6:30ishpm flight for NY, getting us there around midnight. And truth be told, it would have been okay--even though Noelle was due in at JFK around 6:00pm, but midnight was midnight and we would still make our check in time for our tour at 7:15am Friday morning at the Empire State Building. But...the more we sat there, the more nervous my mom was getting, (because she is a professional at this flying stuff and has had many experiences with these sorts of things) and told me to start checking other flights to somehow get us to NYC faster. She knows stand-by is not a sure thing, so if we don't get on the Phoenix flight, we don't do our entire tour the next day that we have already paid for. So, to Expedia I go. I find a flight, on a different airline, leaving SF at 10:51am, direct to NYC. Long story short---we book it assuring our arrival that day. Upon us doing this, the ticket agent tells us to go back to our original airlines and secure our flight back because if we show up as "no-shows", they will cancel our return flight. We do that immediately and get the correct paperwork processed (This will become important later). Finally...FINALLY feeling like we could breathe again, we went and camped out at our gate to ensure we would be on the plane no matter what. I owe everything to my mom who just followed her gut and knew that too much was at risk and just stepped up and made things happen. We successfully met Noelle at the airport and grabbed a taxi to officially start our trip!!!
When we got to the hotel, we realized that it was DIRECTLY centered in Times Square. I knew we were close, I didn't know we were basically smack dab in the middle of it. Funny thing about Times Square, it could be 11:00pm at night and it looks like it is daytime outside because the lights are so bright and enormous. We learned that in order to be a store in the area, 18% of the front of your building has to be lit up with some type of display or advertisement.
After we checked in and got settled we went and had later dinner. My mom and I had had breakfast at 8:30am in SF, and nothing again until 9:30pm NY time. To say we were starved was an understatement. We quickly grabbed a quick bite of dinner and then settled in for out big next day.
This was the restaurant at our hotel that we ate at. I loved the fact that we were in NY watching the Yankees and Knicks simultaneously with New Yorkers.
After everything that had happened the morning before, it was no surprise that we showed respectfully early for our tour the next day. We got to the Empire State Build promptly at 6:45am, and really saw no one else, not even our guide, for at least a half hour. We didn't care...we were bound and determined to make time our best friend again. The best part about our "VIP" tour was the fact that we didn't have to wait in any lines. We were able to cut the the front of every line and just walk in. I'm not going to lie...that was nice.
Noelle, because our guide knew we were celebrating her 40th, was the first one out on the observation deck that morning. We were giddy. Stupid giddy. Everything that had happened the day before was done and over, months of us waiting for this trip were finally over and here we were on top of the Empire State Building looking out on the most beautiful city in the world...we were just giddy. Laughing, pointing, taking picture after picture. Quoting movie lines from Sleepless in Seattle because that is what we have done for the last twenty years in hopes that one day we would actually be there. And while we are on the Sleepless in Seattle subject, I had texted Noelle that it was only fitting that we were flying in on United, instead of US Airways (movie fans will know why) and that when I went to watch a movie on the plane over---Sleepless in Seattle just happened to be one of the choices, so I watched it. Again, as fans will know...it was a sign.
Observation deck looking up.
The Chrysler Building...one of my favorites.
Times Square ball that drops.
A little peek of Madison Square Garden.
This replica is in the lobby and shows what color the top will be lit up at night. The lights change daily depending on what is going on. When we arrived Thursday night, it was blue for Autism Awareness.
After the ESB, we headed out for the next stop on our tour. Even though it was freezing cold, it was so worth it to sit on top of the second level of the bus because it was open and we could get some great pictures going through the city. The other great thing about our tour was that there was only four of us total. Our guide said that usually it could be as much as 20-30 people, but only four of us showed up that day...us three and this really nice guy from Sweden who had come over for Wrestle Mania. Yeah...I wish I was joking. And I felt a little bad at one point when we looked at him and said, "Wait, wait, wait. You came to NY to watch Wrestle Mania???"
Here are some shots that I took from the bus.
The NYC Public Library. Remember that movie about the man who lived in the library at Harvard??? I could probably spend some time in here and do a little damage myself.
A closer picture of the Time Square ball.
The busiest McDonald's in the USA.
The next leg of our tour was the Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier. Because I am sick and deranged, I found myself quoting Top Gun during this entire tour. Why does everything always come back to a movie with me? "Any of you boys see an aircraft carrier around here?"
There was a submarine stationed there as well. We were the first on it and the first off. I am not a fan of small, enclosed areas. I have a bit of a claustrophobia thing and so putting myself on this was not comfortable. Again, because we skipped to the front of the line, I didn't have to wait behind anyone. I'm pretty sure we went through at record pace.
Up top on the flight deck.
The shuttle Enterprise was on top of the Intrepid. Apparently it used to be surrounded by this huge gray plastic bubble and people had to walk inside the bubble to even see it. When Hurricane Sandy came, the force of the winds destroyed the "bubble" and now everyone can see it. The only bad part was this is as close as you can get now. When the bubble was there, people could walk right up to it.
After the Intrepid, we took a water taxi to Battery Park. The next part of our tour was the only request I had of the trip. I was not leaving without going to the 9/11 Memorial. My mom and sister felt the same way and this was very something we all had been looking forward to.
Our water taxi.
This is the driving range.
Old train station I believe.
Once we got to Battery Park, we took a mini tour through the financial district.
Eternal flame for those who lost their lives on 9/11.
National Museum of Indian History.
Oldest Park in the United States. This park dates back to 1771 and the fence is the original.
Charging Bull...people rubbing a certain place for good luck.
Old cemetery in middle of the city.
This is when I know I have been a teacher too long. Half of all pictures I took were to take back to my class and show them. For instance this tombstone dates back to 1762. I just feel like they should see this.
I have never felt safer...there are NYPD EVERYWHERE.
Here is the park where the first Occupy Wall Street protesters started. I'm guessing the vendors are all a little wealthier because of it.
Tower 4. When all towers are done, there will be a total of seven.
My love for NY grew every time I saw a flower bed of tulips....there were tulips EVERYWHERE throughout the city.
The survivor tree. This tree was found at the wreckage of 9/11. A man took it home to Brooklyn and basically cared for it. It survived being struck by lightening while carefully being nursed back to being healthy. It is now back at ground zero.
The most amazing site... There are no words.
All of this is still inside the memorial.
After we spent some time at the memorial we headed to an early lunch/dinner at Carmines. This place gave new meaning to the phrase family style. We needed five more people with us for dinner.
That is an appetizer of fried zucchini. Is this a joke???
The best shrimp scampi EVER!
After our dinner/lunch...we rushed back to the hotel to get ready for our theater date---WICKED!!!!
SO GOOD!!!! SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And what was even cooler, it was VERY evident that we were one of the few groups that were seeing this for the first time. Everyone seemed to know what was coming and nothing...NOTHING beats a NY theater crowd!
Saturday morning started out at Rockefeller Center. We went up to the Top of the Rock and had gorgeous sights of the city and Central Park.
Today Show studios.
My absolute favorite purchase of the trip. My love for the show Friday Night Lights is well known. I told my sister, "What are the chances they have something with FNL in the NBC store???" SCORE!!!!
Skating rink at Rockefeller Center.
A little Spring display.
On the top of my mom's must see list was St. Patrick Cathedral. It is right down in the heart of the city and known to be stunning in person. When we found it...this is what we saw.
Scaffolding for days!!!! Apparently they are giving it a full face lift!!!
Even the inside was under renovation. Luckily we were still able to go in because it is unbelievable.
A touching tribute to Cardinal O'Connor
We spent the rest of the day shopping on Fifth Avenue. Yeah...this didn't suck.
And let's just take some time to talk about the American Girl Place. It was our first time to visit. My sister had planned on getting Natalie a doll before we even got there. We walked in and clearly we had rookies written all over our faces. You know that friends episode where the girls are looking for a certain wedding dress for Monica and they find Rachel hiding in a rack of dresses blowing a whistle because she can't handle the chaos anymore. That was me...I wanted a whistle to blow and a hiding spot. After much consideration we left with no doll. During lunch Noelle brought it up again about having second thoughts and I said, "That's it, we are going back to get it!" And so we did. And very quickly, we turned into those people I had been making fun of thirty minutes earlier. Not only did she get a doll and a new outfit, my mom bought Natalie a matching outfit so her and her new doll would match. Yep...it took nothing for us to join the cult. We are suckers!
We hit a couple of other stores after and did some retail damage. This is the Apple Store that is completely underground. There were a few thousand people in there and my claustrophobia kicked right back in.
And this is how you spell Heather in NY.
That night we went to Cafe Lalo. That means nothing to most people and everything to us. Cafe Lalo is the cafe in You've got Mail when Tom Hanks goes to meet "shopgirl" and finds out that it is Meg Ryan. Coolest restaurant ever!!!
Sunday hit us like a freight train. The lack of sleep combined with our motto of how many places and things can we see in one day basically caught up with us and hit us over the head. We started our day being the most adventurous and tried our the New York Subway System....NEVER AGAIN. 1. This is not easy to figure out. 2. I will never get over that smell. The smell on the subway and in the terminal. 3. I would rather just pay for a cab. A pat on the back to us for not only trying it, but successfully getting back to where we started from at the beginning of the day. Kudos to us.
First stop of the day...Metropolitan Museum of Art. I read a novel with my class that takes place in the Met, so I loved being able to take some pictures for my class. They are going to love seeing these!! Soooo huge!
And if I was a sixth grade teacher...I would have documented ALL of this.
They were having a Impressionism special showing and this is the second time I have seen both of this works of art. The first time was in the Louvre in Paris.
It was just about this time when we all looked at each other and realized that we were all about to collapse from exhaustion. So, we cut the Met short. Got on a subway and headed to Grand Central Terminal and then proceeded to head back to our hotel and pass out for an afternoon nap.
On Sunday night, our final night, I feel we saved the best for last. We booked a three hour dinner cruise down the Hudson. It was the absolute best way to end our trip. The views were out of this world, but not only that, it was so relaxing to be in one place and not have to hurry around and still be able to see so much and enjoy it. Perfect way to end a perfect trip.
Looking over our tasting menus.
Sunset look at New Jersey.
It's blue again!!! :)
Pulling back in...great night!
We were in such denial that morning getting up and having to pack. We decided to go out for one last breakfast before coming back and heading back to reality. We went to this little place right by our hotel called Bluefin---it was delicious. When we got back to the hotel, my mom decided to just check our flights to make sure nothing had changed and that they were still on time. And that is when she saw it. I was in the bathroom packing up my make-up when I heard her gasp. When she typed in the confirmation code for both of us, only she registered as having a flight. I did not show up on any flight and my flight home on the confirmation code I had showed it was voided. So yeah...I had no way home. Remember when I had said that we had taken care of everything we needed to in order to secure our flight??? We had documentation and everything. It still showed nothing. Immediately she got on the phone with someone with the airlines and it did not go well. After the words, "I just don't accept that. Is there someone else I can speak to? Your supervisor?" were spoken, I started to feel a little better. We secured me on a flight over the phone, but took no chances and headed to the airport four hours before our actual flight just to be safe. When we got there, the nicest guy helped us out and after my two boarding passes were in my hand I started to breathe again. It was a crappy way to end a great vacation. I told my mom if we could erase the first twelve hours of the trip and the last twelve hours of the trip...it would have been perfect.
And finally...a NYC food crawl. Because you know me...I always take pictures of my meals :).
Chicken Nachos from our hotel the first night.
French Dip from a Pub off Fifth Avenue.
Mozzarella and Basil toasted on a croissant at Cafe Lalo.
Some ridiculous chocolate dessert.
A mushroom steak burger from Juniors at Grand Central Terminal.
Start of our tasting menu on dinner cruise.
Those are scallops in a lobster wine sauce. Yep....
Dessert was white chocolate cheesecake with a raspberry sauce.
And finally breakfast on the last day...banana pancakes with toasted candied macadamia nuts. Yeah...this wasn't horrible.