Archive for November 16th, 2006
Ok, so it was a real, traditional train, not a monorail – I did it for the poetry and alliteration of the word combination.
We were up early – around 4:30am, to put the finishing touched on our packing and to allow plent of time to stop by the bakery (previously visited on Saturday) before descending into Penn Station to wait for our train. We camped out in a corner to await the train departures, securing a spot in the quiet, early morning – it was about 5:30, the first trains didn’t start rolling until 6am, with ours not leaving until 7:15am. It was interesting to see the flow of people, swelling numbers that seemed to flow like waves to the gates as trains were called to board (the station was using gates on opposing sides, so it was like watching a miniature wave pool as passengers would swell to each side every few minutes, only to fade as they descended to their trains before swelling again a few mintes later).
We boarded our train and found seats that were together (on the trip up, we were split two in the front of the car and two in the back of the car), and also not near the front (no annoying drafts this time), where we settled in for some napping for the first part of the ride.
I spent most of the return trip connected to my iPod, switching between three different travel activities – napping, reading, or watching the miles go by. When we arived at our home station, we had a small group of family members waiting for us. We claimed our luggage (mine, it seems, was a bit overzealous and boarded an earlier train – it was waiting for me at the station when we arrived), and drove back to the house to begin the process of unpacking and unwinding. The next day was going to be busy at the house (cleaning and rearranging our living room) so we needed all of the rest we could get.
Post trip thoughts: There is never really enough time to do what you want when you are visiting New York over a weekend. I had a list of places I wanted to try and get to, but realistically only made it to 2-3 of those places. Things change quickly… during my previous trip, there was a large bear in front of FAO Schwartz – this time the bear was gone (along with an anticipated photo op for a Christmas picture), and some of the restaurants had changed hands (The World – a WWF/E themed location in Times Square was now a Hard Rock Cafe).
All told, however, the trip was a good one. Planning a few months in advance helps with getting better rates, but weather can always change. The weather gave us two great days in the city, with Sunday being overcast and cool but still a great morning.
You know, I just may try to make plans for a trip next year… hmmm…
Sunday. Again we were up around 8am for breakfast on the 39th floor, and we were hitting the streets by 9am. Today it was south-bound – we caught a taxi to Chinatown (where, amazingly enough, the city that never sleeps was asleep). We explored a little, but since most shops were closed we made our way to “ground zero” where we lingered, visiting the church across the street as well before going down to Battery Park. (Note: I have never seen the towers – my first trip to NYC was in 2002, after the towers were gone; my wife and sister-in-law were last there in 2000, so this was a weird moment for them.)
While walking to Battery Park (Note: the new home for the globe that used to be in front of the WTC), we only had a few calls lingering after us (“Watches, watches,” and “Handbags, Handbags”). Maybe it was the fact it was still pretty early on a Sunday, or maybe it was the fact the weather was overcast and supposed to bad later in the day… regardless, it was nice to not have all of the active peddlers around.
We hung out in Battery Park for a little while, waiting on the ferry to come back – we had decided to make a trip to Ellis Island. While I had an interest in exploring Liberty island (home of the Statue), we did have some time constraints to consider – it was just after 12 when we got to Ellis island, and our show was at 4pm.
We explored the island a little – mostly spending time finding the names of ancestors (my wife’s family had someone that came through Ellis… I may have too, but I’m not sure at which point or what their name would have been). I personally would have liked to explore the other side of the island and those buildings (instead of just the Welcome Center) – but I’m just weird like that, I like exploring buildings and wondering what things were like (hmmm… story idea seems to be there).
We caught a ferry back to the Battery and hailed a cab for Radio City. It was just a little past 2pm when we arrived by Radio City. Just after getting out of the cab, the rain began to fall. We ducked under some awnings and made our way to an underground plaza by the rink at Rockefeller for a meal before the show. Three of us went safe with personal pizzas, while the fourth went with a pasta dish. The pasta, which was supposed to be baked ziti, was dry and could only be eaten by adding ketchup to make it palletable (we eventually got a refund on that order). It was back up to street level and across the street to see the show. It was about twenty past three, and the show was scheduled for 4pm. We hung out in the lobby for a little while before making our way to the 3rd Floor (the only thing behind us was the wall – we were in the LAST row of seats).
The show was great – really helped to get ready for the Christmas season, and was followed by a dinner at a Mexican restaurant off of Times Square. While my wife and her grandmother took a taxi back to the hotel, my sister-in-law and I walked the rest of the way back, stopping in at Macey’s and a couple of other stores for some last chance shopping before returning to the hotel and packing for the return trip.
We called it a (relatively) early night, going to bed by 9pm (the other nights had been closer to 10pm), and braced to be up around 4:30 the next morning).
Then there was the “Monorail” Monday…
Saturday. We were up about 8am and went to the 39th floor (from our great corner room-with-a-view on the 33rd) for breakfast. By 9am we were on the street heading for a shoe store (my wife’s grandmother needed a pair of shoes that would be better for her two broken toes than the ones she had been wearing the previous day). While waiting for a shop to open, we encountered a group that was up from Washington, North Carolina on a day trip for shopping.
After a new set of tires, we took a taxi up to Central Park on a quest for the Central Park Carousel. After exploring the park we eventually found the carousel (ironically, when we had gotten to the “gift shop” we turned to our left and explored, eventually coming back to the shop after it had opened – if we had turned to our right and passed under a small bridge, we would have been at the carousel. Funny, eh?) While in the park, we hung out in the Zoo before going to lunch.
While walking down the street, we all got “Dirty Water Dogs” (hot dogs from the street carts) as our snack after watching the end of a Veteran’s Day parade. We hung out in front of FAO Schwartz while finishing our food, and I made the rounds in the Apple store before we entered FAO Schwartz (personal note… Now that the Apple platform has an OS Emulator [that happens to run Windows], and can be pretty well cross-compatable for files, I think I am more inclined to convert for a future computer purchase – and I used to be vehemently anti-Mac for personal use!).
I had a blast at FAO, and could have EASILY spent too much money there – between classic toys and some of my personal favorites (Legos are good for all ages – they had statues of Darth Vader, Hagrid and Batman all built with legos – cool!) Meanwhile, a crowd was massing outside and on the street – apparently the PM or other major political figure from Pakistan was in town and wanting to get a gift from a store across from FAO. (Here is the humor in the scenario – a major political figure from Pakistan [the second most populous Muslim country according to Wikipedia] was shopping in a Jewish owned store. Wonder if he knew that?)
We continued back towards the hotel, stopping at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a little while. We had dinner at another “Irish” pub (Irish in theme, but no one working there was Irish) that was just up the street from the hotel. We ordered some cheesecake for desert, but alas they had run out. So, someone ran across the street to buy another cheesecake from the bakery (only in New York can that happen).
After dinner, we went to that bakery and scouted out the goods. After finding out that they open at 4am, we planned to visit before catching the train on Monday (as it was just up from Penn Station), then returned to the hotel.
My wife’s grandmother wanted us to go see the Rockettes at Radio City, but tickets were being quoted at $89 per. Jenn and I went over to the Madison Square Garden box office to see about any other prices, and were able to get four tickets for $40 each for a Sunday show. We went back to the hotel, cleaned up after a long day of walking the island, and called it a night.
Then came Southbound Seafaring Sunday…
As I alluded to on Thursday – it was a long evening. We went to the house and finished cleaning and packing for the trip… trying to make sure that there would be a minimal amount of things to do upon our return.
We drove to the train station and arrived around midnight – allowing plenty of time in case we had trouble finding it – and commenced with the sitting (the original departure time was supposed to be 1:43am – the actual departure time was around 2:20am). I logged several pages of reading, but was too aggitated to try and write – consider it the Hollywood-instilled paranoia of strange things happening in train stations late at night.
We finally got on the train and my wife and I ended up at the front-most seats in the car, where our car later was treated as the bastard car – the porters would flip a switch to lock the front door open, allowing passengers to leave easier, but would inevitably leave the switch “off” so the door would be stuck open (letting all of the cold air come whipping into the front seats). Most of the trip up was filled with intermittent sleeping until about 8am, and then there was some moments of reading added to the rotation.
After our arrival at Penn Station, we claimed out checked luggage and went around the corner to the hotel. Still too early to check in (it was just after 11, and most hotels don’t start check-ins until 3pm), we checked our bags into their luggage storage room, and hit the town. We went to lunch at an Irish pub a few blocks from the hotel, and stopped by Macey’s for a little while before returning to the hotel. It was still a little early (only about 2pm) and our room was still not ready. however, the desk clerk did what most other good clerks would do – break a room block to get people into a room (my wife and I both worked in hotels, and we have done it many times). Despite some nice weather, we ended up going to the room and settling in for a nap (train sleep is like airplane sleep – it does ok, but doesn’t really recharge the way real sleep does). Later Friday night, we got a pizza from a place just down from the hotel (Italian owned, NY style pizza… good stuff), and planned our events for the next day before calling it a night. I stayed awake a bit longer, watching an episode of “Man vs. Wild” (the setting was Utah’s Moab desert) before calling it a night.
Saturday was a day of walking…