Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Big Apple - Vacation 2010, Part 2

I am sorry that this blog has taken so long to write seeing as we've been back from vacation for 2 weeks! There are literally 150+ pictures in this post and it took forever to upload them all in chronological order but here it is!!!

Top 5 Things We Learned in New York City

1. Distance is a relative term.
2. You wait in line just about everywhere you go.
3. Public bathrooms are rare. Public clean ones are even rarer.
4. For a big city, most places are tiny.
5. New Yorkers are not as friendly as Texans.

We took a bus from Boston to New York and arrived about 5:30 PM, 45 minutes after we were supposed to arrive. We had made plans to meet Katie (our sweet friend who goes to NYU and who agreed to put us up while there so we wouldn't have to pay outrageous NYC hotel prices) and her friend at the Gershwin to lottery for Wicked tickets (The Gershwin theatre holds a "lottery" 2 1/2 hours before every performance where you show up, put your name in the drawing, and if you win, you can buy front row tickets to the next performance for $26.50 per person. Amazing. Especially since this trip happened sort of spur of the moment - we didn't have months in advance to buy our tickets. By the time we knew we were coming, all the tickets were CRAZY expensive. So we decided to lottery and hope for the best!). Since the bus dropped us off late, we were in a big hurry to make it to the Gershwin. We were running through Manhattan at rush hour pulling our luggage wearing dress clothes (we had dressed like we were going to win and go to the show that night...the power of positive thinking, right?!). People were yelling at us for bumping them or being too slow or too fast or whatever. My skirt was flying up in the wind. We were sweating profusely. The bag that I had sitting on top of my rolling luggage kept falling off. Then I would have to stop to put it back on and people would yell. It was awful. I hated New York when we first arrived. We tried to hail a cab more than once but they were all taken and since we were in a hurry, we kept walking/jogging. We walked about a dozen blocks. We finally found an off duty cab and he took us the next 6 blocks to the Gershwin. We ran up only to find that we had missed putting our names in by about 2 minutes. Sadness. I was even sadder after the drawing was over and Katie and her friend didn't win either. They helped us with our luggage and navigating the subway system and we eventually made it back to Katie's apartment. Where she had 6 flights of stairs. I thought my legs were going to fall off!

We then changed clothes and decided to walk over the Brooklyn bridge to Grimaldi's and eat dinner. Collin downloaded this app called Hop Stop. It's free and if you're going to NYC and have an iPhone, you need this app. You tell it where you are and where you want to go, and it tells you the nearest subway to take. Awesome. We subwayed it to the Manhattan side of the bottom of the Brooklyn Bridge. Here's my sweetie on the subway.

The subway was exactly what I thought it would be like.

Walking along the Brooklyn Bridge.

So, the Brooklyn Bridge is long. Like really long. And I was starting to get chilly.

We finally made it there and after a wrong turn, made our way to Grimaldi's. It was about 9:00 PM by this time and we were starving. And I was cold. Grimaldi's was a hole in the wall little place and the line was down the block, as you can see below.

As much as we wanted to eat there, we were too hungry to wait in a 1-2 hour line at 9:00 PM, so we opted for Pete's Downtown, a little Italian place on the corner. It was a cute atmosphere and Collin's shrimp scampi was good but that's about all it had going for it. Our server was terrible and my food wasn't great. And it was pricey. I would not recommend it. After a brief time spent lost in Brooklyn (can you say scary?!), we found our way to the nearest subway station and headed back towards Katie's part of town.

We met her at this fabulous place called Veniero's. It's a restaurant dedicated to desserts and seriously, it was amazing.

The menu was huge. And this is all desserts people! For a sweet tooth like me, this was GREAT.

They also had a double sided picture menu. My kind of place. I had the NY Cheesecake (pictured in the below menu, top left) and it was really good. Collin had red velvet cake, like a good southerner.

One thing that amazed us was while we were eating dessert at around 11:30 PM, some people at restaurants we walked by were just sitting down to dinner! After dessert, we walked back to Katie's and settled in for the night. We were tired and wanted to be rested for our big day the next day.

We had made plans to go to Clinton Street Baking Company for breakfast. When we got over there, it was going to be an hour and a half wait and we were starving. So, we opted for something a little quicker. We found a bagel shop around the corner and decided that we'd try Clinton St. the next morning.

After breakfast, we headed over to Battery Park.

The Statue of Liberty. We had decided before we got there that we wouldn't do the ferry over to Ellis Island. We just didn't have time and Collin did it 10 years earlier when he was in New York and said it really wasn't worth it.

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum

After we left Battery Park, we headed over to the Financial District.

Took Collin's picture by the bull.

And, of course, "grabbing" the bull - you're supposed to do this for good luck. We actually had to wait in line to get his picture doing this. Ha!

Wall Street & the New York Stock Exchange.

After we left the Financial District, we walked over to Ground Zero. After stopping for a few pictures, of course.

This is Our Lady of Victory Church. They talk about it on Law & Order: SVU quite a bit so we took a picture!

The Trump Building...well, one of them.

Below is where the twin towers used to be. They're making it a memorial & museum.

After that, we subwayed it (is that a word?) over to the upper west side. We saw some of the most interesting (for lack of a better word) people on the subway. There were the occasional performers trying to sing for money and that sort of thing. The funniest thing that happened while we were on the subway happened on Saturday. A man got on the subway, dressed in all black and holding his mp3 player, which was playing the Star Wars theme song, up in the air for all to hear. He then proceeded to say in a loud voice, "Attention everyone, the king is here. The king has arrived! King king kingy!!! Sponsored by M&M Peanuts." And then that was it. He stopped talking. It was hilariously strange. You could tell the real New Yorkers too because they didn't bat an eye at him!

We got off the subway in the upper west side and enjoyed the beautiful walk to the Shake Shack.

After waiting in line about twenty minutes, we grabbed some burgers and fries to go...

...and then took our food over to Central Park and had a nice little picnic.

Central Park was gorgeous and wonderful and I wish we could have spent more time there.

The below picture shows the famous fountain that is in countless movies, but they were doing maintenance on it so that's why it's covered with a giant black mesh deal.

Next, we walked over to the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) . The backside of it is in Central Park so it was relatively close to where we were.

The admittance fee is a "suggested $40" but they don't tell you that it's donation only. They conveniently leave that part out, thankfully Katie had told us. We did kind of get bullied into paying more than we intended but we didn't pay the full "suggested donation". So, word to the wise, if you're going, be prepared and don't let them bully you!!

I took a lot of pictures and won't bore you with most of them, but the below picture is cool because the item in the left end of the case were earrings worn by Mayans. Earrings...can you even imagine?!

The below painting was really cool. The tag thing in the upper left corner totally looks like it's on top of the painting but it's not!

This was painted with ash.

The picture below blew my mind. Totally looks like a photograph, right? It's a painting. The detail on it was amazing.

There were some silly things like the picture below. Some things that people call art just confuse me. I could have done this in grade school.

And there were some things like the below picture that totally looked like something that Pheobe from Friends would have done. Does anyone remember those paintings she did with the people coming out of them? Ha!

And then there was a 20 year old shark that was in formaldehyde. Weird and kind of cool.

But the absolute best thing about the Met was the view from the roof garden.

It overlooks Central Park and is surrounded by the city. It is beautiful.

They had another exhibit made of bamboo on the roof that you could actually go up inside (there were bamboo stairs) but we didn't do that.

After we left the Met, we took a cab over to 5th Street and hit up the Apple store and FAO Schwarz.

The famous piano from the movie Big. We totally wanted to play on it but it was kids only :(

They have giant stuffed animals for ridiculous amounts of money.

This guy was made of jelly beans.

After we left FAO Schwarz, we walked up 5th Avenue and checked out all the cool spots.
Remember in One Fine Day when Michelle Pfeiffer's mom is at the Elizabeth Arden spa...this is it! Ha!

There is beautiful architecture everywhere. And it was so weird to us because they would have these gorgeous elaborate cathedrals right next to McDonald's and a shopping center.

The NBA store.

Next we hit up Rockefeller Plaza. Down in this courtyard where the restaurant is currently is where they set the ice skating rink up in the winter. And the giant Christmas Tree.

30 Rock

Inside 30 Rock

The NBC giftshop.


After that, we headed over towards Times Square.

The closer we got to Times Square, the more crowded it got...

And the people got weirder and weirder...

This is the Naked Cowboy from Times Square. I had no idea who he was but apparantly he's pretty famous. Cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and tighty whities and the ladies are lining up for pictures.

After Times Square, we headed over to Gray's Papaya for a little recession special...2 hot dogs and a drink for $4.45! Cannot beat that!

After Gray's, we subwayed it over to Serendipity for dessert where we waited for almost an hour and a half.

We ate upstairs and it was a neat atmosphere - girlie, ecclectic and fun.

Collin had cheesecake and I had lemon icebox pie. Both were good.

Sorry about how dark these pics are. The lighting was bad.

After a long day and A LOT of walking, we were pooped. We subwayed it back to Katie's apartment and went to bed. On the walk back, we passed the original Katz's Deli. This was cool for us to see because in Houston they have a Katz's. And because this is where the big restaurant scene (if you've seen the movie, you know which one I'm talking about) from When Harry Met Sally was filmed.

We woke on Sunday morning and headed over to Clinton Street Baking Company. We got there at 8:30, 30 minutes before they opened and were some of the first people to put our names down. We got in the doors about 9:15 and had the best breakfast. I had blueberry pancakes that were so fluffy they almost melted in your mouth. Collin had eggs, cheese grits (he's normally not a fan of grits, but said these were good), fried green tomatoes, and bacon. Ohhh the bacon. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I could have eaten a plate full of bacon. It was sweet and a little salty, full of flavor....SO good. Hands down the best bacon either of us have ever eaten. If you're in NYC, you have to go here.

After breakfast, we waddled on down to Chinatown.
There were fish markets with all kinds of very fresh (aka eyes still attached) fish...

And cooked chickens with their heads left on. Neat.

After Chinatown, we headed over to Washington Square Park.

We took the below picture because in the movie I Am Legend, Will Smith lives somewhere down this street. If you've seen the movie, remember how he lives really close to Washington Square Park? We're silly, we know :)

After we left the park, we took the subway over to the Gershwin.

We wanted to get there at 12:30 PM, because that's the time that you can put your name in for the lottery. The drawing was at 1:00 PM.

We got there at 12:30 and got in line to put our names down. There were about 50 people already in front of us and we knew that it was a long shot but we were REALLY hopeful since this would be our last chance to see it on Broadway.

While we were standing in line, I saw a line forming inside the lobby of the theatre. I didn't know what was going on so I went inside to ask. God bless the sweet man that explained to me what was happening - it was the cancelled tickets line. Since Wicked is such a popular show, they allow ticket holders to call in if they're going to be unable to make it, and they can sell their tickets back to the theatre for original prices. Then the theatre reprints the tickets and sells them to people for the original price. So, people stand in the cancelled tickets line and can buy the tickets for original prices at some point before the show starts. So, here's what we did. I stood in the cancelled tickets line inside (since I was the sixth person in line and there were a lot of people already behind me), and Collin stayed outside to lottery. You can only do one or the other, not both. After Collin didn't win the lottery, I was able to buy tickets at original ticketmaster prices! And they were amazing seats! As much as it would have been awesome to win the lottery and pay only $53 for tickets to see Wicked on the front row, I actually think it worked out better. I heard from people that sitting on the front row makes your neck hurt. We were in the center orchestra section about 13 rows from the front. We paid a lot for the tickets but it was way cheaper than buying them from some online company. The seats that we had were going online for anywhere from $250-$400 per ticket and we bought both for less than $300!

After we got the tickets, we walked over to Carnegie Deli and grabbed a sandwich. We waited in line outside for about 20 minutes and once inside, we were seated at a 2 person table pushed together with about three other 2 person tables so we ended up eating lunch with 6 of our closest strangers. We saw our first and only celebrity while dining at Carnegie Deli. Actually, he's a quasi-celebrity, an author named Mitch Albom. Collin and I split a club sandwich because we had heard that they were huge. And they are. And it cost $3 extra to split a sandwich. Total rip off. Below is a picture of my half of the sandwich. How are you gracefully supposed to eat that? The answer is you cannot. After we finished eating and wiped the food off of our chins, we headed back over to the Gershwin.

Can you tell that I was so incredibly excited?!

The lobby of the Gershwin.

The below picture is one of the stage before the show started. The stage was amazing - I wish it came through in the photo. The dragon up above was functional, of course, and moved around with blood red eyes.

Without sounding cliche, Wicked was PHENOMENAL and is now my favorite musical of all time. Mandy Gonzalez, the-uber-talented-going-to-one-day-be-famous girl that plays Elphaba (The Wicked Witch), was nothing short of amazing. Everytime she sang, I got chills. Especially when she sang Defying Gravity. Oh. My. Word. Fabulous. Everyone in the play was great but Mandy really made it for me. Apparently she's only been playing this role for the past few months - I am so glad we got to see her!

We went into it not knowing much more than the fact that it was a prequal to The Wizard of Oz and I'm glad because it made it a new, fresh story and we weren't comparing it to anything. I would HIGHLY recommend seeing it! The storyline is cute and a little funny with some dramatic moments. I totally teared up in the end and had to pinch myself to keep it together! What a Broadway dork I am... Wicked was definitely my favorite thing about NYC and I am SO SO SO glad that we were able to get tickets!

After the show, we booked it over to Grimaldi's to wait in line for some pizza. At least this time we knew what to expect! And thankfully we got there early enough that we only had to stand in line for about an hour (spoken like a true New Yorker...ha!). We were SO glad that we did, too, because when we finally got in and they brought us our food...AMAZING. Seriously the best pizza either of us have ever eaten. It was a testimony to how good the pizza is too because most people in there were actual New Yorkers, not tourists like at so many of the other places we were eating.

This was the line that we were standing in.

After Grimaldi's, we walked over to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and got some ice cream. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory is the white building in the below picture that looks like a boat dock.

It was really good!

Behind the building is the dock and at night, the skyline is really pretty. We stood there and ate ice cream and had a sweet, romantic moment for about 5 minutes. And then we realized that we needed to book it back into the city to get in line to see the Empire State Building!

Here it is!

A man on the street talked us into doing this thing called the Skyride. It was $47 per person (total rip off) and we got to do this "ride" (this totally cheesy thing where Kevin Bacon narrorates and you "fly" around the city). The selling point for us was that you bypass the 1.5 hour line and go immediately to the top.

The observation deck. It was ridiculously windy which made it cold. And there was like a zillion people up there. Makes me chuckle when I think about how Hollywood has romanticized the top of the Empire State Building. The view is way cool - and seeing the lights of the city at night was beautiful, but not so much romantic.

I love how you can tell where Times Square is in the below picture. In person, the lights were changing constantly right there.

After we left the Empire State Building, we knew we were done with our sightseeing and headed home, and we started getting REALLY antsy to see the little face below. I did better than I thought I would as far as being sad about being separated from my little man. I missed him like crazy, don't get me wrong, but I think it helped a lot that we were non-stop busy the last half of the trip.

We took a cab to the airport Monday morning only to find out that ATC had delayed our flight due to fog. We finally boarded about 2.5 hours late and were off to Baltimore. When we arrived there, we learned that our connecting flight would be 45 minutes late. Thankfully it all worked out and we made it home around 8:30 that night.

When we got home, Cayden didn't know what to think - he looked at me like, "Are you really my mommy?!" and it totally broke my heart. I will never forget the look on his little face. One of confusion and surrealism. It didn't take him long at all to realize that we were back home for good and we spent the next several days making up for lost time. I don't think I have ever been so glad to see anyone in my entire life. We were pretty glad to see our bed, too.

We had a great time on this vacation and I am SO glad that we got to go, but honestly, I don't care to ever go back. Collin was surprised to hear me say that, but it's really how I feel. I would NOT do well living in a place like that. It was fun visiting, but I am definitely a suburban girl at heart! I was EXHAUSTED when we got home and I kept telling Collin that I needed a vacation from our vacation! The next big vacation we take, I want it to involve lying on a beach somewhere!!!


Ashley S. said...

Wow. You definitely win the award for Longest Post Ever. Looks like y'all had a great time!

Amy G said...

Wow, what a vacation. You did everything! I love serendipity. I love NY, I did a whole 3 month internship there and it looks like you saw more than I did. Hope ya'll enjoyed it!