Sunday, October 11, 2009

New York Trip


September, 2009

Warning: This post will be LONG!

Not that long ago - ok, ok, a month ago! - my mom and I took a trip we had been dreaming of for years. We both love musicals, and have seen many productions together, and had both always wanted to see a production (or two...or three) on Broadway. We had talked about making the trip for the past couple of years, but when you are both educators and slaves to the school calendar, and when you live 500 miles apart, it is a little difficult! So, mom's retirement this year, and my *cough, cough* 30th birthday made for perfect timing of our trip! Believe it or not, I have made a handful of trips with my dad, but not really any like this with my mom, so I was really excited about spending one-on-one time together. We decided what we wanted to do most, then booked the majority of our trip through (they were excellent, by the way, and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to go to NYC).

We left on a Wednesday, and came home on Sunday, so the challenge was to fit everything we wanted to do into those 5 days! I had been to New York once before, but mom hadn't, so we made a list of everything we wanted to see and do, then planned our trip from there. Luckily, I love planning and organizing, and I really love trip and event planning. We were able to see almost everything we wanted to see. I spent hours on the internet before we left figuring out the subway system, and studying the map of the city. I'm very visual, so once I see a map of something I can usually find my way around easily. I did tell mom before we left that we were probably going to get lost at least once, and that we would just turn it into an adventure. Well...I'm happy to report, we never got lost....and - we never had to take a cab!

We arrived in New York around lunch time Wednesday and took the shuttle from the airport to the hotel. Our room wasn't ready yet, and we were told that they booked us in a one-bed room, instead of a room that had two beds, but they would update us to a suite if we didn't mind it being a smoking suite. We decided to take the chance, as we were told we could always move rooms if it smelled too much like smoke. We lucked out - our room was big - and it didn't smell like smoke at all. It came with a kitchenette, and was two rooms. It was nice, not fancy, but nice for what little time we spent in there. Upon checking in, we promptly headed out the side door of the hotel and walked ten feet to the subway. We bought week long unlimited ride passes, then established the rules for the weekend - no matter who had the backpack with all of our stuff, the other person always had to carry their cell phone and subway card. It worked out well!

I wanted to spend our first day exploring the larger parts of the city, so we took the subway all the way to Brooklyn and walked the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan. It was cloudy and windy, but it didn't matter! This is the view from the beginning of the Brooklyn side of the bridge....

....and here we are at the entrance of the bridge. There was a sign on the ground that said "Welcome to Brooklyn" - that's why we were kneeling down, but the guy who took our picture omitted that part!

This is my favorite picture of the bridge. Randall said it looked like a post card! I loved the walk over the bridge because we were able to see the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. There were a lot of people walking over the bridge - tourists and locals - and it was neat to see so many different people.

From the Brooklyn Bridge, we walked through City Hall Park, and found a deli to get lunch. From there, we made our way to Canal Street. I have to say, I wasn't that impressed with Canal Street. It was everything I had heard about, but it just wasn't my style. I did find one purse that I loved - but it was $120! When the original is over $1,000, I guess it should be expected that a knock-off would be over $100, but I passed it up. From there, we couldn't decide if we wanted to walk through Little Italy or head back toward the hotel and Times Square. We decided to see if Little Italy was anything like Chinatown, and we were pleasantly surprised! We stumbled upon a street fair in Little Italy, and were so glad we did! They had all kinds of carnival games, and tons of food vendors everywhere you looked! All the restaurants had booths and tables lining the streets. It was really neat, and I wished we were hungry when we went, because all the food smelled amazing! We spent the rest of the day exploring, and made our way to Times Square that night. We found a little restaurant on Restaurant Row off of Times Square that had tapas, so I had muscles for the first time! I wanted to try to eat something different each meal, and this was a great start to that adventure!

That night we went up on top of the Empire State Building. It was beautiful! The weather was cold and cloudy, but we were able to see the city. The lights were amazing, and it's beauty had me in awe. I've had the opportunity to see some very beautiful places in the U.S., but cities and large buildings always leave me breathless. The picture on the left is of the Chrysler Building.

The next morning, we got up bright and early, and headed down to Rockefeller Plaza. Our first visit was to the Top of the Rock observation deck. We were able to see all of the same sights from the the night before, only in the daytime. It was cloudy and sprinkling, but we really lucked out that there weren't that many people up there. I walked around and took tons of pictures, while mom made friends with a security guard/guide up there. He was really friendly, and showed me where Yankee Stadium was, then he graciously took our picture with the Empire State Building in the background.

This was only a foreshadowing of the day to come! After the Top of the Rock, we explored the rest of Rockefeller Plaza, then headed to Macy's. The weather was much cooler than I expected it to be, so I just had to buy a new sweater at Macy's! We spent a couple of hours in the store, and were both in awe. It was huge!!! We had lunch on the 8th floor, the made our way - purchases in hand - to our next adventure of the day...Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We were very fortunate that the same week we were booking our trip, the National Park Service re-opened access to the Crown of the Statue, and we were able to get tickets. Despite having to walk close to 500 steps, it was worth it! We went through security then boarded the ferry to Liberty Island. As we were on the ferry, the clouds started to break, and it started warming up. We were blessed to spend time on both islands in beautiful weather.
Upon arriving at Liberty Island, we locked up the backpack, then got to go to the front of the line to get into the pedestal. Apparently, there is usually an elevator that takes people from the bottom of the pedestal to the museum, but just our luck, it was out of order that day. addition to the 300+ stairs we had to climb inside of the statue, we had to climb the pedestal as well! I didn't complain, thought, I was excited that we had the opportunity. Our group to the top only had two other people in it, so we were able to take our time climbing. I'm not gonna lie...I was nervous that despite my recent efforts I wouldn't be in good enough shape and I would cramp up or be exhausted by the time we got to the top. I underestimated myself. We took it slow, and stopped a couple of times, more so because the stairs were tiny, steep, and warm! However, once we got to the top, we were awarded with amazing views! The first guide at the top didn't really say much to us, but we were lucky enough that just when we started to leave to go down another guide came up and asked us if we had any questions. He started pointing out sights and telling us about Lady Liberty. The crown is the only place where you can touch her, and the only place you can see what is written on the tablet she carries. He even pointed out the IKEA in Brooklyn!!! He also gave us some history lessons that were interesting, pointing out where different forts were and how no ships could have entered the harbor without being in firing range of one of them. (I'm not good on history


The pictures at the left are - 1. Me & Mom at the top of the crown. 2. The knowledgeable tour guide. This picture also shows her 'hair'. Because the statue is copper, you can feel how hot or cold it is. 3. The tablet and pedestal from the crown, and people walking around Liberty Island. I had to stick the camera out the window to get this shot - good thing it had a strap on it!!!

Mom on the pedestal of the Statue. I think this is my favorite picture of her from the trip - even after all that climbing, she looks great!

This is the view of the statue from the pedestal - it was a l-o-n-g climb!!!!!

From Liberty Island, we took the ferry over to Ellis Island. I was skeptical about Ellis Island, but was honestly surprised and pleased. We had audio tours of the grounds, and it was neat to hear all of the stories and memories from people who had come to the US through Ellis Island. Mom's great grandmother entered the United States through Ellis Island, so it was that much more interesting to me to think of the personal history my family had there. I can't imagine what people went through to come to the states and make a new life for themselves. Suffice it to say, I was humbled.

This is another one of my favorite pictures from the trip. I took it as the ferry was leaving Ellis Island heading back to Manhattan. I love the American Flag and the Manhattan skyline in the background.

I think we could have stayed on Ellis Island a little longer, especially since the weather had turned out so beautiful, but we had a big night ahead of us! We had tickets to Lion King. Mom had seen it in Dallas, but I had never seen it, and it was my request for the trip. I had heard so much about it, and hoped that my expectations weren't set too high. First, however, we had to continue our quest for different food. We changed at the hotel, then started walking toward the theater, figuring we would find something to eat along the way. We ended up in a (cold) little pub where I had some fabulous crab cakes. Then, it was off to the theater. We booked our theater tickets through, so we didn't really know what to expect as far as our seats. I've become kind of spoiled because I have never had bad theater seats.....and this time was no exception! We were 3rd row, right in the center. Aside from the woman beside me who kept eating the most disgusting smelling candy ever, it was amazing. I was in awe the whole time! The costumes, the acting, the stage! I could see it over and over again! It was a perfect night to end a perfect day!

Friday morning was our only disappointment of the trip, but even that ended up working out to be good. We had booked a Ground Zero/Lower Manhattan Walking Tour, and I thought it was for Friday morning, but apparently it was for Thursday morning. Bummer. So...we took the train down there and did our own tour. I was a little disappointed at first, because I kept thinking it would be this silent, reverent place, but failed to realize that it would be an active construction site. Silly me! They are busy constructing the memorial and Freedom Tower. We walked around for a bit then found our way to the Ground Zero Museum. It was fabulous. There were artifacts from the rubble, quotes, a huge timeline, video and audio clips, and samples of the letters and postings people left on the fences following the attacks. It was very reverent and quiet in the museum, and I found myself teary eyed many times, so proud to be an American and to see such tangible examples of the American Spirit. We opted not to do a survivor/family member walking tour, but instead made our way to St. Paul's Church. The church was featured in a series of books mom brought me after my surgery, so it was fresh in my mind, and a place she really wanted to visit. I didn't realize it was the same church George Washington went to upon his inaugration. It has a very storied history. The church was the hub for volunteer care in the days after the attacks. Men and women working to clear the rubble would come to the church for a hot meal, first aid, chiropractors, and even a place to sleep. They also received many signs, posters, letters, banners, etc. from people all around the world. The one that struck me the most was from Oklahoma. It hit close to home.

After an emotinal morning, we decide to make good use of our 48-hour Double Decker Bus Tour. We rode through Central Park West, the upper West Side, saw Grant's Tomb (which was surprising beautiful inside the monument), went up into Harlem, saw the Appolo Theater, then went through the Upper East Side, along Central Park East, past the museums, and hopped off at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That place is HUGE! Luckily, mom and I have similar tastes in art, so we didn't have to waste time in the Medieval or Asian sections. They had a cool photography exhibit, and had a large selection of modern art. There was an awesome sculpture on the rooftop, then we ended up in the American Art wing, where they had displays of Tiffany Glass. We could have stayed there for at least another hour as well, but decided to hop back on the bus and head back to the hotel for our evening adventure. That night we had tickets to Billy Elliot. First, however, we set off toward the theatre district in search of dinner. We came across a Cuban restaurant, and we both fell in love! It was fabulous - the atmosphere, the food, the service - everything. Definately my favorite place that we ate. Then it was off to the theater. Neither of us had seen the movie or the musical, so we really had no expectations of Billy Elliot, except that it had won so many Tony's. We were blown away. It was so different from Lion King, yet so amazing in its own way. Lion King was all about the costumes and the singing was incredible. Billy Elliot was all about the dancing, and man, could they dance! The sets were basic, which was appropriate because that kept all the focus on the cast and dancing. It was incredible, and I'm glad we took the risk and added it to our list of things to see! After another long day, we headed back to the hotel and crashed!

Saturday morning we had tickets to do the NBC Studios Tour at 9:00am. On the way over, we were trying to figure out which shows we watched were on NBC, and couldn't really come up with many. I had done the tour when I went in high school, but they had completely re-done it this time. Despite not being able to name many NBC shows we watch, we loved the tour. We were able to see the MSNBC room, the set for the Jimmy Fallon show, and the Saturday Night Live set. All in all, it was very fun. From NBC, we treked to Central Park where we had brunch reservations at Tavern on the Green. was beautiful and the food was delicious. Basically, Tavern on the Green is like a tea party on steroids - but it was amazing. We were able to eat outside, as the weather was gorgeous, and they had paper lanterns strung in the trees. They also had topiaries shaped as animals - a unicorn, a rabbit, and a gorilla to name a few. Our brunch was three courses, and we took our time eating, because I was determined to eat as much as possible! For an appetizer, I had Greek yogurt drizzled with honey and topped with homemade granola and fresh berries. I had never tried Greek yogurt before, and I'm not the biggest yogurt fan, but I am now hooked on Greek yogurt! Second course was scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, and toast. The eggs were the best I think I have ever had, and that's saying a lot because I personally think I make amazing eggs! For dessert, I had homemade strawberry shortcake with fresh cream. Oh....I was stuffed for the rest of the day!!! I really don't remember everything mom had, because I was so enamoured with my own food, but her dessert was to die for! It was a peanut butter torte on an oatmeal crust. Words can not describe! After endulging ourselves, we decided walking was a good idea! We took a short stroll through Central Park and over to the 5th Avenue Shops. Of course we went into FAO Schwarz, then window shopped at Tiffany's, and went into Trump Tower....and what trip would be complete without NikeTown! I'm sure mom was thrilled but we went through all 5 floors of NikeTown!

At that point, we made the decision to try to get tickets to another musical that night. There is a place in Times Square that offers dicounted tickets starting at 3:00pm the day of, so we decided we would stand in line and take our chances. Well...our chances paid off, because we scored great tickets at a 50% discount to Mary Poppins for that night. With time to kill before the musical, we decided to hop on another tour bus and go through some parts of Manhattan we had not explored yet. Feeling brave, we set a time limit and told ourselves that wherever we were at that time, we would get off the bus and either find dinner or head back to the hotel to get ready for Mary Poppins. On the bus tour, we saw the Flat Iron Building, Macy's, and Madison Square Garden, so it was well worth it! Luck for us, our predetermined time came and we were in Greenwich Village. There were lots of sidewalk cafes and restaurants, but we decided instead to go to the hotel and clean up then find dinner. There was a sushi place right across from the hotel that we had come across a few times, so we tried it out that night. I never in a million years thought I would be eating sushi with my mom, but we did! Then it was off to musical #3.

Mary Poppins was very different on stage, in fact, they changed some of the music to fit a stage production. I have to say, again I was very impressed. The acting, singing, and dancing were great, and the sets were amazing. I'm really glad we choose to see a third musical. They were all so different, but equally incredible.

Sunday was our last day, and supposedly our shuttle was going to pick us up at the hotel at 1:30. So...we slept in a little, then picked up some souviners that we wanted, then took the train to the top of Central Park. Knowing that we would be traveling the rest of the day, we wanted to get as much walking in as we could. It was another beautiful day weather-wise, and we had a great walk through the park. It was neat because the bottom part of the park is very touristy, but the furthur north you get, the more locals you see. We saw tons of joggers and walkers, and lots of parents with strollers. We even came across a playground with a family setting up a birthday party. It was a very fitting end to our trip. We walked back to the hotel, finished packing, checked out, and waited for our ride to the airport.

All in all, it was an incredible trip that I will remember for a long time. Everything went smoothly, we both had a great time, and made many memories, and we saw as much as a person can see in 4 days!

I am so blessed to have such a great relationship with my mother and that we enjoy so many of the same things. I also reflected many times during the trip on how luck I am that my mother is healthy and able to take trips where she outlasts me! After her heart attack last year, I wasn't sure where we would be at this time this year. Look how far we've come!

We took over 400 pictures of trip, sharing her camera. If you know me, you know I like black and whites, and love landscape and architecture pictures, so the pictures below are just a few of the ones I took along the way. Enjoy!


  1. I loved reading this, babe!! It makes me think about trip #2 and what I want us to see next time! I love you sssssssssoooooooo much and had such an incredible time with you!!

  2. Your pictures are wonderful!! I'm digging the black and white. Sounds like you guys had so much fun!