Hitting NYC running was the second part of our “big” family vacation recently. The first leg of our travels took us on The VIP Washington DC Trip. I hope you go back and read about our adventures in the Capitol and to the Congressional floor!
I considered this visit to NYC as my second. My first trip only being four years ago where I blogged about it here. This was our boys’ first trip.
Without anything really planned in the city except general areas to see, it was almost a social experiment at times to navigate with four adults. Sometimes I felt like the mom and at other times like the child or maybe I should say like the old person when it came to Uber and Yelp and the speed and aptitude my sons had when accessing both on their phones. They took the helm when finding interesting places to eat.
When we made our reservations to fly in from DC I knew we would be traveling on 9/11. A few weeks out from the flight I was feeling much less trepidation. Two days out not so much. I rationalized it must be the safest day to fly in and being on a relatively small commuter flight must add a layer of protection. Still.
Of course, we arrived safely and took Uber into the city across the Queensboro Bridge. Can you imagine maneuvering a Suburban through Manhattan? Our driver was a pro.
Have you tried Uber? It’s GREAT! We had such good experiences with it in DC that we used it again in NYC. If you’re not familiar with it it’s basically a private taxi service that you access on your phone. You see a photo and name of the person who will be picking you up, and where their location is en route. You can even specify a certain size car which we did when we had all our luggage. The drivers are rated as are the passengers. You sign up with a credit card and tip is automatically included so there is never any cash exchanged on site. All of the drivers we experienced in both cities were very friendly and knowledgeable. And on our maiden voyage from the airport into the city our fare was discounted $30! How great was that?
To get the lay of the land when we visited a few years back we really enjoyed the double decker bus tour. I know, I know, it’s the typical touristy thing to do but it gave us an excellent overview of the city’s terrain where we could get our baring and step off and on easily. And the history lessons the live guide narrates as you drive along is always fascinating.
We settled into the Parker Meridian. Naturally, I found the bar as the boys were checking us in but did not imbibe. But it’s always good to know “in case of emergency”. Be prepared, as they say. The Knave. Isn’t it gorgeous?
Our view of Central Park, well sort of.
What you don’t see is another building very close to ours. We were on the 31st floor and there was a working kitchen in the adjacent building as high up as we were. We couldn’t figure out why it was way up there. Any ideas?
Once we dropped off our luggage we had pizza across the street before heading over to Times Square to pick up our lower Manhattan bus tour. We had planned to see the 911 Memorial but thought to keep this visit for the next day, 9/12. We saw the new tower as we drove by on the bus and you could not help to think of the chaos that occurred here on this anniversary day. For hundreds of years lower Manhattan has been wrought with history and so it continues.
What was interesting about this tour that I hadn’t experienced before, is that we came up along the Hudson in Chelsea. It was pointed out were the two hotels the Titanic survivors resided upon their return, Pier 54 were Carpathia docked and Pier 59 where the Titanic was scheduled to dock. It was actually interesting to see these locations in passing.
We had some time before the night tour so we headed over to Rockefeller Center and the outdoor café. I found the humidity in NYC could suddenly appear and increase within minutes so my intention was only to have one margarita but it became hotter and more humid so I upped my game to a second. Besides they were killer, like the smoothest of snow. It was wonderful. I was happy. What blisters? Take me to that tacky m&m store in Times Square again!
And, uh, yes I did. A big ‘ol plastic apple full of ‘em! I make no apologizes for sustenance.
I was feeling pretty darn good on top of that bus waiting for our city lights tour to begin and although you might notice some of the photos look a little blurry it’s because we were in transit with my phone not because of the margaritas. Honest.
Here we go!
We had stopped at Bryant Park and the gorgeous jewel that the Chrysler Building is came alive just at this moment, at dusk.
The Empire State Building was lit up in tribute to 911.
Did you know a river runs under the building? I live for little factoids like this!
In lower Manhattan, we crossed over the East River via the Manhattan Bridge and ventured over to Brooklyn and hung a u-turn and crossed over again. Whaaat? I was disappointed. I thought we were going to see more of Brooklyn as this was the “Brooklyn Night” tour but I guess it was actually to show off the lights of the city looking over from Brooklyn which were spectacular.
Being 9/11 on this night, the memorial Twin Tower lights were lit in tribute and were to stay on for the week.
After the tour, my eldest epicurean son found an authentic Japanese restaurant in Chelsea via Yelp. I believe this is the first time I didn’t know what I was ordering. I was praised by my child for being a good sport and trying something new! Yay for mom!
After dinner we walked over to the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck around midnight. No waiting, no lines. Warm night. Live sax music. Doesn’t get better than this, my friends. Head over to the Hudson River side for a blast of air that will knock your earrings off. There’s something about visiting the deck late at night. It’s pure magic.
Each of the four side views are different. To the east, you could see 5 bridges crossing over the East River, looking uptown was a long, dark rectangle that’s Central Park, west is the dark Hudson and New Jersey and then there was this…
It was as if one could see collective prayers and thoughts being delivered straight to heaven. It was quieter on this side of the deck. Words were of little value.
If you looked up, the very top of the Empire State Building, art deco was wrapped up in beautiful blue.
The next morning we had brunch at the Carnegie Deli then walked over to Grand Central Terminal and hopped on a train to Wall St. to see the 911 Memorial. I wasn’t expecting this.
Hundreds of flowers tucked into the names. It was beautiful and poignant as the heat caused most of them to wilt and die so soon after being placed there the day before. Some names were without flowers. I wished everyone had one. I let my finger tips touch the water under the names. It was as if I had dipped them into a font’s holy water.
From here we walked on to Battery Park to take a harbor cruise where we literally missed the boat by 5 minutes. Ugh. The view of the Brooklyn Bridge was stunning even from the dock.
Next neighborhood – Mulberry Street in Little Italy where the Festival of San Gennaro was taking place.
And yes, we were all thinking of Robert de Niro hoping over the roof tops. Of course!
The street looked very different from the time we were there before, sans the festival. This was big doings. Big! Rows and rows of vendors selling sausage and peppers. Cannoli all over the place. Had to get one, you know. Hey, when in Rome or in Little Italy, right? I learned a valuable lesson though – one cannoli doesn’t go very far with four people and that was the first and last time I’m going last on the cannoli go around!
The aroma just walking up this street! Vendor booths. Loved this one of foodie magnets. Someone’s been a very busy crafter with polymer clay and did an outstanding job! Bellissimo!
One thing about NYC – objects and locations appear closer on a map than they really are!
Walked, walked, walked and whined (my feet talking) to Washington Square because it’s a must see. I could have spent a couple hours people watching and listening to all the music. There are over 20,000 bodies buried under Washington Square mostly from yellow fever in the early 1800’s. Even then it was location, location, location. Sorry.
And right across the street from the arch a row of homes like this…
“Catherine!” “Catherine!” I expected to see Montgomery Clift banging on the door for Olivia de Havilland. If you haven’t seen The Heiress with both these fine actors, you are in for a treat! It’s a film adaption of Henry James’ book, Washington Square. No one rocks a hoop skirt like Miss Olivia. No one!
Everyone had separate plans for the evening as both boys were meeting up with friends for dinner which meant date night for us. After dinner at a little uptown Italian joint where I put my extremely limited Italian to good use, we were invited to the Penthouse at the Parker Meridian where upon stepping outside on the terrace that was surrounded by a short glass wall, I leaned over a couple times to show my husband who was taking on New York.
After which I said this…
… because my blisters had called it a night. This was our door tag. How incredibly NY is this? I had to bring it home with me.
This next morning would be our last full day so it was “uptown” day. We found ourselves back on the tour bus so we could hop off to see Grant’s Tomb. The sheer scope of marble used was incredible. Seeing the old photos of the burial and the thousands who attended is always interesting to me. The location was chosen next to the river on higher ground so it could be seen from downtown. There was nothing else in the area at the time. This section of Manhattan is very hilly and as we learned on the tour, the native Americans called the entire island “man-a-hat-tan” which meant land of rolling hills. Turns out mid and lower Manhattan was leveled when the building began.
The area this far up on the west side is called Morningside Heights and the neighborhood is sprinkled with beautiful and ornate stone churches. We happened to go into the Riverside Church which John D. Rockefeller built in honor of his mother according to the plaque in the church.
On up to Harlem and a diversion over to Lexington instead of 5th because of an event going on. As luck would have it, this detour gave us yet another neighborhood to explore and to have lunch before walking back over to Central Park. We were caught in the rain but luckily we had our nifty touristy plastic ponchos we were given on the bus when it started to sprinkle. Laugh if you will but we were able to still walk around the park at our leisure while everyone was running for cover. We probably did look pretty silly though. Silly, dry and happy.
Our last vacation splurge for the evening was a choice of a Broadway musical or nice dinner. The guys chose the dinner. The younger epicurean son found a small plate restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called Kilo which also specialized in fine wines. This was a great little place and so narrow! We sampled unusual dishes which were fun to try. Two bottles of wine. Yes, please! So glad we talked and laughed the evening away. It was absolutely perfect.
Before catching our Uber ride back to the airport on Sunday morning, I went back over to the Carnegie Deli to bring home a few memories. The best black and white cookie I’ve ever tasted.
And one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken. I just love ending on a sweet note, don’t you?
If you’re a non-family member and have made it to the end of the travelogue, you deserve a medal. Thank you for riding along with us!