Sunday, March 14, 2010

New York, New York!

Back in December, at Leah’s Adoption Finalization party my friend Andy I were discussing Stromboli and a place to go in New Jersey to get “real” Stromboli. This discussion quickly turned to “hey, we should take the train to NYC for the weekend and see a show.”  A few weeks later Andy turned our discussion into reality by posted the event to the Miscellaneous Mayhem Meetup group.  

The plan was that Andy and his mom would go up on Thursday morning so they could be there in time to see Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Met that night.  I knew that I couldn’t get away with taking 2 consecutive days off school without a lot of questions, so I opted to go to work on Thursday and then get a train that evening.  It turned out that I arrived just minutes after Andy and his mom got back from the opera! Perfect!

One of the great things about traveling with Andy is that he made all the arrangements!  He booked our room at Hotel Edison.  He found the cool NYC Passes. He got the tickets to see Stomp.  All I had to do was make my train reservations and reimburse him.  It was wonderful to have all those things done for me! :-)

Before anyone else asks (as a lot of people already have), Andy is a friend.  A good friend. One of my favorite friends.  A best friend. :-)  I’m not going to say “just a friend” because I feel that minimizes friendship and friendship should never be minimized. 

Thursday morning I was so excited about the trip.  As I was starting my day with my kids Andy was twittering about the beginnings of his and his mom’s train trip.  I couldn’t wait for the day to end!  Finally, the last kid boarded a bus and it was time to get moving!  I got my sub plans all ready and the classroom all prepared.  I changed in my comfy/PJ like clothes for the train.  I stopped at Subway for dinner to eat on the train.  I secured the last “overnight parking permitted” spot at the Franconia-Springfield Metro station.  I metroed to King Street and walked around to the Amtrak station.  I arrived at the train station an hour and a half early.  And then the train was an hour late.  Finally, I boarded the train and secured the last completely empty seat in the train car!  I had 2 seats to myself to stretch out!  I plugged in my iPod and dove into a good book – the 4 hours flew by and before I knew it I was arriving in Penn Station. 

It was midnight when I arrived in Penn Station.  This was the part of the trip that was making me very nervous.  Traveling alone and arriving in the middle of the night.  I had texted Andy from the train and again when I got off the train so he knew where I was.  Then I made my way out of the train station.  I had never been to Penn Station so I was at the mercy of the signs.  I just wanted to get to the street and hop in a cab.  When I did finally make my way to the street there was a cab waiting!  I hopped and told the driver where to go.  Then I texted Andy again.  The driver stopped at a stoplight and told me that my hotel was 1/2 a block and pointed in the direction of it – he asked if I wanted to get out there or if I wanted him to go around the block – I opted to go ahead and get out.  Despite it being midnight on a weeknight, there was TONS of traffic and people everywhere.  This was a smart move, even though at the time I didn’t realize it.  Where the cabbie let me out was a block from Times Square!  If he’d gone around the block it would have taken a long time!  So I started down the street in the direction the cabbie had pointed – I couldn’t see the hotel and it crossed my mind that he could have been wrong, it also crossed my mind that I might get mugged , but soon enough the hotel came into view and I dodged the hotel security who was asking for room keys as proof that you belonged there and went up to our room to meet Andy and his mom!  Scary part over! :-)

Friday morning we all woke up early and got started checking out the city!  Our 1st stop – Starbucks for Sherry.  2nd stop – Times Square McDonalds for breakfast!   The next stop was getting our New York Passes activated and catching the bus tour.    When we got settled on the bus (it was a double decker bus and we were sitting on the top – high above the street with a great view!) I pulled out the map we’d gotten and started checking out the lay of the land.  Growing up in North Tarrytown, now Sleepy Hollow, a suburb of NYC in Westchester county, we frequently came into NYC for different things, but I never really got a solid geographical understanding of the city, so the whole place remained very mysterious, until I sat on the bus and studied the map as we drove around downtown!  It was perfect!

After enjoying the 1st half of the tour (with the best tour guide we’d have all day!), we hopped off the bus at the South Street Seaport so we could check out the Bodies exhibit.  The Bodies thing is really cool.  They took real cadavers and preserved them somehow and it lets you see all the inner workings of your body up close.  They had all the bones and muscles and organs and everything.  It was very cool!  

After the exhibit it was time for lunch and then back on the bus for the 2nd half of the tour. We didn’t have as good luck with the tour guides this time.  We decided to get off the bus at Rockefeller Center.  We ended up spending the rest of the afternoon here there was so much to do! 

We started by going up to the Top of the Rock – an observation platform at the top of the main building.  It was very cool because you could see everything, including the Empire State building!  We took tons of pictures and spent a long time just enjoying the view!  When we came down we checked out the NBC Experience Store and then went up to get out tickets for the NBC Studio Tour.

The studio tour was pretty cool!  We saw the set for The Dr. Oz Show, the control room for all NBC operations, and a dress rehearsal for SNL! It was pretty cool see SNL stars that I recognized right there in real life! And of course I recognized the set and it was neat to see it in real life – all the rooms/stages are all jumbled together.  We saw them rehearsing a skit, that we were all anxious to see on SNL the next night!  We watched it, planned our whole evening about being back at the hotel for it, and we were very disappointed – it just wasn’t funny, either that or we didn’t get it!

After we finished the tour we got back on the bus and headed back to the hotel to regroup a bit before heading out to see Stomp!

The theater for Stomp was way down by NYU so we opted to take the subway there, and then decide how we wanted to get back – either the subway again or a cab.  Andy used google maps on his iPhone to figure out how to get there and we set out.  We went down into the subway – it was marked with the letter wanted, but when we got down there we discovered that the train was heading in the wrong direction and there was no way to get over to the other platform.  So we had to go back up the stairs to the street to figure it out.  (I think this is a good place to mention that Andy injured his knee a few weeks earlier in a roller skating accident and going up and down stairs was still rather painful, and the NYC subway system is NOT handicapped accessible).  When we discovered where we needed to go we stopped to double check the rest of the directions since we couldn’t connect to google maps in the subway. I got out my iPhone and wrote the directions Andy was saying in a note so we wouldn’t forget – I guess it takes 2 iPhones to ride the NYC subway! 

When we arrived at our stop there was a pizza place right there so we decided to stop and grab a slice before walking to the theater since it was getting late and we needed to eat.  We then made our way to the theater – walking through what looked to be a hip, bustling, nightlife neighborhood.  I was totally enjoying this trip through town with all it’s local color! 

The theater where Stomp was playing was very small and intimate.  It was also very old and had lots of character.  I thought it was pretty cool!  We we seated in the 2nd row, which I’d been a bit unsure of, but it turned out to be PERFFECT!  The show was great!  It was 8 people up on stage making music with all kinds of stuff – brooms, matchboxes, sinks, buckets.  It reminded me of what my kids do all day and I spend all day telling them to stop! On the way out I bought my kids the DVD so they could watch it!

We caught a cab to take us back to the hotel and then Andy I decided to go out and check out Times Square at night.  We hit the M&M World store and we both got a good supply of M&Ms.  I was able to make a master mix – plain, peanut and peanut butter all in the same bag!  We wandered around a bit more, checking out the stores and the people, before heading back to the hotel about midnight.  It had been a jam packed day and we were tired!

Saturday morning Andy and I headed out to go to the Statue of Liberty and Sherry headed out to Starbucks and to take the rest of the bus tour – the part that did Uptown and the Bronx.  Andy and I were going to take the subway to Battery Park, over breakfast at McDonalds we discovered several iPhone apps that would help us!  Andy got one that had all kinds of info and it worked when you didn’t have coverage!  We easily made our way to Battery Park and over to the ticket place for the Statue of Liberty.  The line to get on the boat was long, but it moved fast and soon we were passing though the tight, almost tighter than the airport, security.  They gave Andy a bit of a hard time, but after emptying everything from all his pockets and being wanded multiple times they finally let us board the boat. 

It was a quick trip out to the Statue and it was the perfect day for it – bright blue skies and sun!  The 1st stop of course was the visitor center to get my passport stamped!  That was the whole reason we went out there! We walked around the island a bit and took tons of pictures, both of us finding interesting angles and things to zoom in on!  When we were done we went back to the boat and because of Andy’s cane we were able to bypass the long line and were the 1st ones on the boat! Soon we were back in Battery Park ready to head back to the subway!

We took the subway all the way back to 5th Ave so we could go to Fao Schwarz.  We had to change trains at one point and the confusion of the NYC subway almost got the best of us.  It was lots of ups and downs and ups again to find the right train and the right platform (did I mention that Andy’s knee hurts when he goes up and down stairs?  And that the NYC subway system is NOT accessible!).  Eventually we made it to 5th Ave and met up with Sherry at Fao!  Sherry had already explored the giant toy store, but Andy I were just getting started! We spent the next couple of hours exploring every inch of the store!  They have a “build your own Muppet” station – kinda like Build a Bear, but with Muppets!  We found a cool pop-up Star Wars book that Andy had to have.  Leah made out pretty good too!  And the chocolate bars with pop rocks in them were awesome! 

After we finished up there it was time to eat!  The places we’d found close to Fao weren’t what we were looking for so we taxied back to Times Square to go to Olive Garden.  It was only 4pm, but there was a 40 minute wait! Wow!  After a yummy dinner, with dessert to go, we headed back to the hotel to regroup before heading out for the night bus tour. 

The night bus tour was ok.  It was more “something-to-do” rather than anything I’d want to do again.  The first part I enjoyed – I got some great shots of the Chrysler Building and enjoyed the lights.  We took the bridge over to Brooklyn and the bus stopped for about 20 mins to let people stretch their legs and take pictures.   On the way back though Andy moved across the aisle to sit with his mom and after that, without his body heat right next to me, I was freezing!  We were on the top deck of the double decker bus and there was no cover!  By the time we got back to Times Square I was huddled in my coat with my hood pulled over my eyes not looking at anything for trying to stay warm!

Times Square is much busier on Saturday night than Friday night! As we made our way through the crowds we had to hold on to each other so no one got lost! We went to the Swatch store to look for something for Andy’s sister, and then to McDonalds to get something to snack on before heading back to the hotel to catch SNL.

Sunday morning we had only a few hours before we had to catch the train home.  Andy had found a cool “whispering gallery” at Grand Central station so the 2 of us headed out there.  There were tons of people at the Subway station and only 2 kisoks were working, so rather than taking the time to buy 2 passes Andy got one with 4 trips on it.  He went through the turnstile and then handed the card back to me so I could go through! It worked great! :-)  We took the shuttle train to Grand Central and attempted to find the spot for the whispering! I had been to Grand Central Station tons of times, but never heard of the Whispering Gallery!  We made our way the main lobby where Andy was searching his phone for information, and I was just enjoying being in Grand Central Station and remembering all the times we came there when I was kid!  We eventually had to ask for help, but once we did we found the spot easily! It was VERY cool!  We took a bunch of pictures of each other using the whisper gallery, I grabbed a cup of coffee and we made our way back to the subway and back to Times Square.  Our last stop was the deli next to the hotel to pick up sandwiches for the train trip home, then we headed back to the room to get our things and check out. 

We had a bit of a wait in Penn Station for our train, but it was mostly on time.  We were able to secure a 4 seater seat so we could all sit together! Just like getting to NYC the train trip home went fast!  We ate our sandwiches, read/napped, played Uno on my iPhone, and before we knew it we were back in DC! Andy’s dad was coming home from work about the time that we were getting in so we arranged with him to pick us up at King Street, which was wonderful because I didn’t have to schlep my bag through the street to the metro and through the metro station to my car! 

It was a great weekend, with great friends!  I’m already thinking of where we could go next! :-)

Check out my pictures from the weekend on Picasa: