Wednesday, May 9, 2012

new york, new york: part I

here it is, nearly a month later... and i finally get around to posting about new york!

these posts will be in three parts:
part I: thursday the 12th through friday the 13th
part II: saturday the 14th through tuesday the 17th
part III: then & now - comparing my two new york trips from 2008 to 2012.

new york, new york: part I

it begins thursday, april 12th around 6pm with all the packing. we ended up taking one carry on and one check back each. our train departed from the staples mill amtrak station at 6:55 instead of 6:35, but we made up the time... even had an hour layover in DC. this train trip was enjoyable; i would have enjoyed it more had i been able to sleep like my husband did [completely out... completely]. i didn't get a wink of shut-eye, even though i was trying so hard!
we arrived in penn station at 2am. this is where the fun begins [hah!].
we ride up the escalator with the masses, and we're trying to figure out where to pick up our check bags, so we ask an officer behind a large podium/desk structure. he tells us, "down the stairs and to the right". so, we head downstairs, where we just were. i hadn't noticed before [probably because of the mass exodus], but there were homeless folks sleeping all over the place. and no one seemed to notice nor care. also, there was no signage saying anything about check bags. so we meander around until we find our train conductor, she tells us it's, "up the stairs and to the right"... directly behind where that cop was. thank you, thank you very much, officer -_-

we wait for our check bags for half an hour, then we try and figure out where the heck to go for the subway, finally find it [and purchase our week-long unlimited subway passes which pay for themselves completely after riding 13 times... we rode much more than that!] to only realize that the line we're supposed to get on is closed for the night.
so we ask where we're supposed to go... we're told. then we have to figure out how to get there. more homeless sleeping all over the place. and people eating and reading newspapers at 2:45am as if it's 2:45pm... truly, this city never sleeps.
we finally get to where we need to be thanks only to the helpful janitorial staff of penn station... wish they had stayed with us, because as soon as we got to the proper platform, a woman about 7 feet away from us vomits a substantial amount... at this point i thought i was hallucinating from lack of sleep. in fact, i was not. 
this is when i start mildly panicking, wondering if we are actually at the right platform, if we're going to know the right stop to get off at, if i will ever be able to get in touch with our hosts since we've been underground this whole time. thank God jason was there, he keeps me calm and cool and helps stabilize my faith that God will take care of us no matter where we end up... and, we will in fact sleep this night!

we get to where we're supposed to be, and we finally get above ground. this helps soothe my panic quite a bit. then we try using our cell phones for walking directions... not as easy as you'd think. the phone only has a general idea of where you are and cannot actually tell you where you are... so, we get slightly turned around. but we get to our destination!
we were staying with a lovely family, the chen's, for this weekend. we insisted that we stay in a hotel the first night as to not bother them by coming in at the wee hours of the morn... but cathy insisted that we not waste our money on a hotel. their hospitality was unfathomable.
we get cleaned up and collapse into bed. our bed was in their 1yr old daughter's bedroom [they moved her into their room for us] - a simple foam and down cushion on the floor, but it worked for me. 

i slept amazing the entire trip. jason didn't... and usually it's the other way around. usually it's impossible for me to sleep on the floor, but the floor has always been the easiest place for him to sleep. also, on this trip he ended up out-eating me a lot... or just being hungrier than i was in general. this is also unheard of in our marriage. i'm always the food disposal.

so, friday we took it easy. slept in a bit, had a slightly lazy morning. 
then we walked across the brooklyn bridge.
we enjoyed the view from the new brooklyn bridge park.
then took the subway back to manhattan and picked up our tickets to view the world trade center memorial, which wasn't til that evening. so we meandered through various areas of the city.

the wtc memorial was quite sobering. a bit surreal. you walk through this long maze... it seems like you're filing in like cattle... i don't know, it was weird. very fluorescent and strange. you then get checked thoroughly for weapons. then you're released to view any area of the memorial. 
i've been to the vietnam memorial, i've been to arlington national cemetery and the tomb of the unknown soldier, i've been to the WW2 memorial... those didn't make as much of an impact as this one. probably because i wasn't alive during vietnam or WW2, so it wasn't as palpable.
the water flowing throughout is somewhat soothing, but also sobering. transporting you back to that day with those horrifying images replaying through your mind.
so many names.
for some reason i thought there was only one pool, i'm not sure why. then we rounded the corner of the in-construction museum... and there was another pool.
that's when i legit lost it.
there were so many names on the first pool, how was there another one filled with that many more names?
the most eerie aspect was also the fact that there were a lot of low-flying planes taking off from the airport... always headed in the direction of the new, tallest tower. extremely chilling.
but the worst part about it all was that it seemed that only a handful were impacted the way we were. it seemed there were a lot of people who were seemingly... hanging out? kids running a muck... in a memorial site? laughing and joking and having a good time... in the world trade center memorial? this is what really disturbed both jason and myself.
view of the inside of the in-construction museum. that is one of the steel beams from the original WTC.
when you're feeling ready to leave, you exit through another end of the maze. at the end is the visitors center. this is actually where the most emotion was felt throughout the crowd. there was a motorcycle memorial made paul jr of american choppers... quite a stunning piece of art. there was also a huge timeline on the walls... what happened when. and there were videos playing. the survivors and the widows discussing their feelings... how one wife feels she can never clean out her husband's closet, a child talking about how he'll never meet his father, but he knows he was a hero who helped people get out of those buildings on that day.
we watched it once all the way through, but that's all we could handle.

something really nice was how cheerful the security guards were. it's like it was their honor to have this job, to serve at this memorial. there was one guy in particular who treated us like we had met years ago, and his smile and laughter cheered us up after reliving september 11th in one hour. i really appreciated that.

then we walked and found a pizza place for dinner. walked some more and found an ice cream place. so i didn't have cake on my birthday. but i did have soft-serve ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. even better.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 


a slightly lazy morning. basically trying to recover our feet from the first day of walking. i'd have to say that was the worst part of this trip. S O  M U C H   W A L K I N G  ! callouses, aches, pains. and we're so young and spry, you'd think that wouldn't be an issue...

SO on the weekends... half of the subway system essentially shuts down. and if you don't have the app that you have to pay $4 for [we would if we lived there] you don't really know which ones are shut down until you're there.

so getting from downtown to midtown was a challenge. but we got there. met our friend mike up there. we went to the metropolitan museum.
then went to shake shack for lunch. so many folks told us to go to this place... and so we did. i'd have to say, i was impressed with the burgers but not the fries. it's hard to top cook-out's fries. but shake shack is essentially a classier "grass fed" version of cook-out... with a lot less shake flavors [but they still have a lot]. we really enjoyed being with mike. he's probably on our list of our top 10 favorite people that we know. haha.
then, we parted ways with him and decided to go to central park on the spur of the moment.
we visited the belvedere castle.

then we tried to get to the main "hub" of the park [where the mall and bethesda terrace are]... but none of the trails are labeled. not on the map or in person. . .  so we got lost.
jason isn't a happy camper when we get lost. i was happy as a clam cuz we were lost IN CENTRAL PARK [aka one of my favorite places i've ever been to]... so he's trying to use his army land navigation skills and i'm just snapping pictures... not really caring that we're lost. haha.
we finally made it to bow bridge, bethesda terrace, and the mall.

then we had to scoot back to the apartment to get ready for our fancy shmancy date that night at union square cafe. a friend gave us a gift card there :)
it was delish. had calamari as our appetizer. and our entree, we both got basically the same thing. steak, potatoes au gratin, and spinach. dessert we both got chocolate cake with ice cream [jason got espresso ice cream, i got vanilla], and jason sipped on coffee.
the service was wonderful. the staff is... intuitive. more intuitive than i've ever experienced in a restaurant. and just really making a huge effort to make sure everything about your meal is perfect and pristine. and it was so lovely.
thus ends part I.
tune in next time where we go to one of the highest points in the city as well as gazing on lady liberty!

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