Sunday, October 5, 2014

New York City

Disclaimer:  this is going to be a super long post, but I don't want to forget anything about our trip, so I'll put a page jump at the bottom for you to click on if you want to read the whole thing and see the zillion pictures! Also, I left my camera at home!!! I know, I was sick about it for about 10 minutes and the bucked up and counted my blessings.  All photos from the trip are iphone photos.

Jack and I take a trip every spring.  We love to travel and it's something we save money for every year and have made one of our priorities.  I know we may not be able to take off so easily the more kids we have, so we have really made it a priority these first few years of our marriage.  Our first year we took three trips: Disney World on our honeymoon, Seattle, and Europe.  Second year was California with his whole family (I was pregnant with Olivia), the third year we took Olivia to San Francisco, and last year we left her with my mom and went to Hawaii (I was pregnant with Berlin). We've taken a few other, smaller, trips but those have been our big Spring ones. This year we really wanted to go to New York and Washington DC, but we knew it would be a trip we wouldn't want to take the girls on.  Most of the landmarks we were excited about are not very kid-friendly.  In the spring I felt like it was too soon to leave Berlin so we booked it for fall and left the girls at our house where my Mom, sister, Daryl's sister, and his mom all pitched in and helped take care of our kids.

Jack and I took a redeye Friday night out of SLC and landed at JFK at about 5:30 in the morning (with the time change).  I have a super hard time sleeping anywhere but a bed, so redeyes are hard for me, but we just bit the bullet and geared up for a night of missed sleep before taking a taxi to our hotel, dropping our bags off, and getting out into the city until the 4pm check-in time.  We stayed at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square, which had an AMAZING location right in the middle of Times Square.  The elevators were so cool, made of glass and right in the middle of the hotel (which was 64 stories high).  We checked in and were ready to just hand off our bags, when the clerk gave us our room keys! At 6am! Without paying for the additional day! I was ecstatic to say the least.  I think we received special treatment because Jack's dad had booked the hotel on his points to save us money (and then we just gave him the money), and he is like super, ultra preferred, gold star, white unicorn status.  Either way, the stars had smiled down on us and we went up and SLEPT for two hours and then were able to freshen up before heading out.  It made all the difference.

We started by walking to the Empire State Building.  I've heard that you can wait up to 5 hours in line here on a super busy day, but since we were there by about 8:30 or so we had minimal wait times.  I'd guess about 40 minutes.  Also, it's not all one line, there are a series of check points and elevators and such, so that broke it up.  The building is pretty amazing.  We went to the 86th floor and, since it was a clear morning, were able to see all of Manhatten, and also Brooklyn and Queens in the distance.  It was a great first thing to do because we saw a lot of the other landmarks we were planning to hit on our trip and it made us super excited.

To say we walked a lot in New York would be quite an understatement.  NY is a walking city.  You can't own a car there really because there are so many people and taxis on the streets that getting anywhere would be a joke and parking is very scarce and expensive.  We brought good shoes though and really had fun spending time navigating the city.  I was the designated captain of the map and only made two direction errors the entire time.  We rode the Subway quite a bit too, so that was nice.  From the Empire State Building we walked to the New York Public Library.  It was beautiful and soooo big.  I could spend days in there.  We then walked to Grand Central Station.  It's a crazy place because it's surreal to see a building so obviously old, teeming with modern people, trains, and ticket kiosks.  The ceiling is painted a light blue with gold constellations on it.  We were the only people looking up among the throngs of rushing people....I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere ;)

We ate lunch at Bubba Gump's right next to our hotel, took the Subway out to the UN building (where there was a big convention going on, Pres Obama got there right after we left the city), saw Trump Towers, the grate where Marilyn Monroe's skirts blew up in the iconic photo, got a few cupcakes to-go from Sprinkles, and headed back to our hotel to rest.  I'm just going to go ahead now and tell you that we ate at Sprinkles about 63 times on our trip.  Best. Cupcakes. Ever.  Totally lives up to the hype.  Our hotel was right around the corner from John's pizza, so we grabbed one of those and stayed up in bed eating authentic NY pizza and cupcakes and watching Friends.

Day two was Central Park Day.  This day was just nothing but magical.  It was a cool, cloudy day with a mist hanging in the air, and it was Sunday so most people were sleeping in when we went out...except for the bit protest about a greener earth or something.  We saw it on the news afterward.  There was a huge march through the city.  I also saw a photo yesterday of Leonardo DiCaprio heading one of the marches and I'm sure Jack was pretty glad I didn't know that at the time because I would have spent the whole day searching for him.  We rented a couple of bikes and biked all through the park, went up on the lookout tower in Belvedere Castle, watched the artists along the paths sketch people and things, then ate lunch at the Loeb Boathouse in the park.  Jack decided it was his new dream to take a boat out on the lake we we rented one and paddled around for an hour.  I'm so glad we did, it was definitely a highlight.  There were little turtles swimming in the water and we drifted under bridges and enjoyed the nice weather.  Once we were done in the park we rode our bikes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (of course I had to take a pic sitting on the stair a la Gossip Girl).  The Met was amazing.  So many recognizable pieces displayed so beautifully.  Another place I could have spent allll day in.  We then went to Dylan's Candy Bar where we got Liv some Elsa jelly beans, went to Sprinkles, turned our bikes back in, and headed back to Times Square to eat dinner at Junior's.  I got a burger and the server recommended to Jack a dish with brisket flanked by two potato pancakes, covered with gravy.  It was sooo good.  And of course Junior's famous New York cheesecake.  We finished the night by walking to a few stores around Times Square.  We bought Olivia some princess slippers at the Disney store.

Monday was ferry day.  We took the Subway down to Battery Park and the ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.  She really is an amazing monument and so neat to see the view that so many immigrants saw upon coming to their new lives in America.  From Liberty Island we cruised to Ellis Island.  I've wanted to go to Ellis Island since I was a little girl.  I did a report on it in Elementary School and it has been on my bucket list.  Sadly, most of the artifacts from the museum there had to be moved to a more controlled environment after Hurricane Sandy hit and still haven't been moved back.  It was still neat to walk around the old building though, see the great hall and the barracks, and read the stories.  After the islands we Subway'ed over to the financial district to see the 9/11 memorial and museum.  The museum was only opened a few weeks ago on Sept 11, so we were lucky to be able to see it finished!  I was surprised by how much I loved the museum.  What a wonderful tribute to the people who lost their lives that day.  The building and the waterfalls are really beautiful.  We stopped for some more New York pizza before heading back to our room to get ready for our show that night.  The Marriott Marquis has a restaurant on top called The View.  It's a big, circular dining room that rotates so you can see every angle around the hotel!  It was pretty neat, but I don't think we anticipated how expensive it would be.  $220 for the both of us.  Which would have been fine if the meal lived up to the cost, but it definitely did not. ...But that's okay because after dinner we got to go to the Majestic theatre and see Phantom of the Opera!  We had amazing seats and it was truly one of my favorite things I've ever done.  Phantom and Christine were terrific and they had a huuuge chandelier that rose and then swung over the audience and dropped on stage.  With the live orchestra, the music reverberated around the theatre.  Ugh I just cannot express how great it was.  The show got out late, but we were pretty amped up and a little hungry since our dinner wasn't all we had hoped so we stopped in at Shake Shack and grabbed some burgers and shakes to take back to the room.  BEST burger I've had. 

Tuesday we just did a lot of walking to clean up on a few of the sights we had missed.  We walked past where the Today Show employees were cleaning up from a concert.  We asked who had just performed and were told it was Kenny Chesney.  We then went to Rockafeller Center and sat in the Rock Cafe for breakfast.  Lo and behold, who is sitting a few tables away?  Kenny Chesney.  The whole place was abuzz, but no one bothered him.  As we were walking out, I rose my phone to snap a pic of him and he looked at me and smiled :)  We checked out the new Lego Store by Rockafeller Center, then Radio City Music Hall, the Love Sign, FAO Schwartz toy store, and Carnegie Hall.  We ate at the famous Carnegie Deli for lunch, they have sandwiches piled several inches high with the best deli meat and have the most authentic New York cheesecake, which is pretty much pure sweet cream cheese.  Yum.  Also, NY cheesecake doesn't have graham cracker crust! It's a thin, baked crust. I was ready to just call it a day and head to the airport for our 8:45 flight, but Jack convinced me to cross of the last thing on my list and see the Brooklyn Bridge.  So we took the Subway over to Brooklyn and walked along the bridge.  I'm so happy we did, it was awesome to see and I would have regretted not taking advantage of that extra hour and a half we had. We picked up our bags and took the Subway to JFK to fly to DC for the next 5 days.

And that is our trip to New York.  It was such a different city than I had anticipated.  I never pictured myself as a girl who would love living in a big city, but I really did enjoy being there.  I love how efficient everything/one is.  The people really are so helpful and not as cold or hurried as I thought they would be.  There were cops on every corner who were very kind and made the city feel so safe.  Also it was so great to be able to hop on public transportation to get anywhere.  Also, Sprinkles.

Our room at the Marriott Marquis and the view of Times Square from above out our window

 Top of the Empire State Building

 New York City Library

 ESB from the ground and Grand Central Station

 Lunch at Bubba Gump's (Jack's favorite restaurant)
 Trump Towers

 UN and the scandalous grate
 The reason Jack gained 9 pounds on this trip despite all the walking and biking (I myself didn't dare step on the scale when we got home so I can remain blissfully ignorant).  We tried nearly every flavor and decided Red Velvet was the clear winner (dark chocolate was second for me and german chocolate was Jack's second)

 Subway lovin'
 More cupcakes and John's pizza in the room
 On the boat in Central Park

 Belvedere Castle lookout

 I love all of the musicians performing on the streets of NY.  This talented duo was right outside the boathouse in Central Park.

 On the steps of the Met
 Van Gogh's self-portrait
 My mom gave me a smsall replica of this ballerina statue when I was a girl.  I was stoked to see the original by Degas. Her skirt is real cloth and her ribbon is silk
 Benjamin Franklin and Washington Crossing the Delaware.  This pic doesn't show how enormous Washington's picture was!  It was about 12.5 feet by 22 feet!

 Dylan's Candy Bar
 Junior's (we like to take pics of our food...)  and the Disney store at Times Square
 TS at night
 Battery Park where the ferries leave for Liberty and Ellis Island.  There was a really neat bronze sculpture called the Merchant Mariner's Memorial, in remembrance of the mariners lost or killed at sea during WWII by Uboats and subs

 Manhatten skyline from Liberty Island

 A young girl who came to American through Ellis Island when she was 13 and later became a journalist wrote this famous poem
 Lady Liberty was gifted to us from France (designed by Mr Eiffel) and is comprised of many layers of copper, each as thin as a couple of coins, that had to be fitted together.  She was originally the color of a penny, but has oxidized to a green hue over the years.  Her original torch had many portholes and could light up, but somehow kept killing birds.  I read that when they took it down there were something like 1300 dead birds on it :/  Her new one is much safer and is plated in 24 carat gold to reflect the sun

 Ellis Island
 The main hall where everyone was sorted

 9/11 memorial fountain.  There are two.

 Inside the museum.  There was so much of the original structure inside!

 A fire truck that had been mangled when part of the structure fell
 Dinner at The View restaurant
 The Majestic Theatre!

 The stage was amazing!  In the middle you can see the great lump of the chandelier before it is uncovered, lights up, and rises into the air amidst the booming organ music.  The sheets on top are pulled down to reveal gilded angels that decorate the frame of the stage.  When Phantom took Christine down to the depths of the theatre they walked on moving walkways up in the air and then he paddled her on a boat, drifting through mist that looked just like water. 

 Rockafeller Center

Our new buddy, Kenny
 Radio City Music Hall
 FAO Schwartz, they had some amazing Lego structures!

 Carnegie Hall and Deli

 Brooklyn Bridge.  As we were walking from the Subway stop to the bridge I thought Brooklyn actually reminded me a lot of downtown Salt Lake

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