Monday, January 13, 2020

2019 Reflection: New York City Trip Day 1 of 3

If you know me, you know I love lists. As such, bucket lists (annual as well as before milestone birthdays) are one of my things. For as long as I can remember, seeing New York (and specifically Manhattan) was at the top of nearly every one of those lists. My husband had been telling me for a while he was going to make it happen and 2019 was the year!

To some, this isn't a huge deal...people plan and take vacations all the time! However, for the last two years since taking the church my husband pastors, we just haven't had the funds to do anything. However, some kind souls saw to it that we had the money for a getaway. The amount was just enough for lodging in NYC but wasn't enough to cover flights and food. One night while researching different flight options, I remembered that we had frequent flier accounts with one of the airlines. I checked and we both had enough points for 2 free flights! After doing plenty of research, we also discovered some pretty cheap ways to eat in the city. So, we picked a date in September, and off we went!

Our flight was really early in the morning and we ended up only getting a couple hours of sleep. Luckily, our excitement (and a little nap on the nonstop flight) propelled us for a long day of walking the streets of New York. Before landing, we enjoyed taking in the sights from the air and I spotted so many landmarks. It felt pretty surreal knowing that once we got off the plane, we'd have our run of the whole place! We had also been pretty strategic and each packed only a small backpack of things. This helped tremendously us considering we wouldn't be checking into our AirBnb until the afternoon.

My first glimpse at Manhattan from the plane!

All the staff at the airport were incredibly helpful pointing us in the direction we needed to go. However, once we got on the city bus to try to make it to the subway, we were seemingly left to our own devices. We spent a little time trying to figure out how to get to the subway we needed (even using the city mapper app we had already downloaded on my phone). Eventually, though, D figured it out and our first stop was Grand Central Station. It was breathtaking! We snapped a few pictures and then we took our first steps out onto the streets of Manhattan.

Grand Central Station bustling with people...

At first, I was really overwhelmed. People were everywhere! Fortunately, D has an incredible sense of direction, so even when I was all discombobulated, he was able to lead us to the next place. We made our way on foot down past Rockefeller Center and ended up in Time Square. It was so different than what I'd imagined just based on what I'd seen on television. I knew I had to see it after dark, so we made plans to come back again before we left the city to see the lights and glitz at night.

Time Square wasn't nearly as crazy as I expected during the day!

We then stopped for our first meal: a slice at Radio City Pizza. Pizza in NYC is cheap! A few dollars got us a couple slices of pizza the size of my head and some sodas. It was delicious and we sat inside to enjoy it and plan out our next steps. We also learned quickly that dining in usually meant getting a bathroom break which was golden considering not many places provided public restrooms. We also downloaded the "Sit or Squat" app on my phone to help us find restrooms a little easier which proved to be a lifesaver on more than a few occasions.

My first New York slice was bigger than life...

And definitely bigger than my head!
After that, we went just a few blocks back to Rockefeller Center and got to play [our version] of chopsticks on the big piano. It definitely made me feel nostalgic to watch Big (which I did on the plane ride back home). It was so neat to see and do things I'd only seen in the movies!

I would like to say we awed the crowd with our piano skills, but I couldn't do the splits. *shrug*

We struck back out into the city to see the beautiful architecture of Saint Patrick's Cathedral. It was breathtaking inside and out and a quiet retreat from the bustle of the city. We also discovered that we were there during the UN Conference and Trump was in town. We passed by Trump Tower to see a ton of media folks and the streets were lined in front of the building with city buses and garbage trucks to obstruct the view at the front door of the building. We waited around for a bit to see if we could get a glimpse of the President, but no such luck. It was interesting to see Secret Service all over the place and on more than a few occasions we saw bomb-sniffing dogs checking out vehicles before delegates emerged from hotels and got in them.

This was madness...

The President wasn't spotted, but we can definitely say we've been at his front door!
We then walked past the Plaza Hotel and into Central Park. It was amazing to see how the atmosphere changed from the city streets to park life. Things went from loud to quiet in just a block or two. We enjoyed walking through the area and eventually made our way to our AirBnb in the Upper East Side. It was a second-floor walkup. We got the key from the bartender at the bar on the ground floor and then entered the apartment to feel like true New Yorkers. The apartment was tiny, but wonderful fulfilling my every desire to know what it would feel like to live that kind of city life.

KEVIN!!!! (The Plaza Hote)

Having a park in the middle of a big city was really a genius idea!

Went from walking the streets to hiking a big ol' rock!

Our NYC Apartment

Me acting like I was buzzing someone up. 
We took a little time to rest our feet and unload our backpacks before venturing back out to see some more of the city. D and I are huge fans of the movie "Serendipity" and knew we couldn't leave NYC without stopping into Serendipity 3 for their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate. So we made reservations and headed out just a few blocks from the apartment.

We got to "that little patisserie" a bit early and decided to really relive the movie. So we made our way to Bloomingdale's around the corner where we argued over who should get the one pair of gloves we both found simultaneously (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, watch the movie). We then walked back to Serendipity and checked in for our reservation. After telling the hostess there that we were big fans of the movie and decided to come there as a celebration of our 5th wedding anniversary, she slid away and whispered something to the manager. He walked up to us and let us know that if we could wait a little longer, he would usher us upstairs to dine at THE table that John and Sarah sat at in the movie. We were blown away and willingly waited as long as we needed to before finally sitting down at the VIP table.

\The "scene of the crime" at Bloomingdale's!

Now my favorite place for dessert on the planet!
We were the only ones in the upstairs part of the restaurant which meant we got to have a lot of fun taking pictures and being giddy over the whole thing. We ordered our food which was delicious and then we ordered a Frozen Hot Chocolate to share. Let me tell you...that thing was DIVINE! We ate every bit even after carb loading all day. Once it was time to leave, the first-rate manager hooked us up with a goodie bag full of free souvenirs from the experience. We were just so blown away at their kindness and generosity and it made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.

Me sitting across from D at the VIP table (right where Kate Beckinsale sat in Serendipity)
In the movie...

And in real life!
The VIP table and the delicious and famous Frozen Hot Chocolate

This was so delicious!

We then went back to Central Park at the skating rink that was also in the movie. We sat for a while D connected the dots of the freckles of my arm and told me the story of Cassiopeia (again, a movie reference). We walked back to our apartment fully satisfied with the first day of our journey and looking forward to what else we could discover the next day. It's also fair to say my feet were hurting just a little bit...twelve miles into the trip and two more days to go!

The skating rink was under construction, but this was the view from the seats overlooking it.

Stay tuned for my reflection of day two...


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