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Thursday, July 31, 2014

New York, Days 2 and 3

On Saturday we got up bright and early (no sleeping in when you're in the city that never sleeps!) to catch the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Originally I had thought that we didn't need to get off at either stop- surely seeing them from the boat would be enough. But we decided to get up close and personal and I'm so glad we did! The Statue of Liberty was especially neat. I loved learning about her history and how she was constructed. We walked up the base and saw her from a new perspective as well as some cool views of NYC and Ellis Island. 




This replica of the face shows how big the statue is as well as what she looked like before she turned green. Right before I took this picture two little boys were picking her nose.  Sheesh, boys.



Ellis island was beautiful. The main hall had so many stunning details and gorgeous windows letting in tons of light. I guess if you're going to be stuck waiting somewhere for awhile, this was as good a place as any.




Jon and MarKey proved they weren't idiots by taking this "idiot test" (required of certain immigrants back in the day). I would have failed.


We made our way over to the 9/11 memorial to see the fountains that now stand where the twin towers once were. It was very serene and humbling, and the new Freedom Tower stood nearby as a reminder of strength and perseverance. We did not have enough time to visit the museum right then, but decided to come back the next day.



Since we were so close, we headed over to the Brooklyn bridge for a leisurely stroll. It was pretty crowded and a looong bridge, so maybe leisurely isn't quite the right word. We were pushing 15 miles for the day (according to Jeff's pedometer) so about a third of the way across we turned around and walked back. I have always loved bridges and any chance to see one up close is a treat.



We made our way back to the hotel via Chinatown. What a funny city New York is! One minute we are walking around typical city streets, then the next minute everything is in Mandarin and there is a martial arts class in the park and Chinese music coming from the corner. It felt like we were in Disneyland and had just wandered from one land to the next, the transition was so abrupt and complete. I was determined to do some street shopping there, and a new watch was top of my list. I finally found one for $10 at a little booth in Chinatown. I guess you get what you pay for, though, because within a few days it started slowing down to the point where it was an hour or two off, and by week 3 it had completely died.

(Random subway picture on the way back from Chinatown.)

That night we went to our second round of shows. Jon and MarKey saw Wicked, and Jeff and I went to Once. This was a big gamble since neither of us had seen Once or really heard much about it, but I did know one of the songs and I LOVED it. It turned out to be one of the best gambles I've ever made. The show was phenomenal. There was no orchestra-- the actors all played instruments on stage. The show started even before we walked in. The cast was up on stage performing with members of the audience in a crazy sort of pre-show. During the intermission they served drinks from the stage (which happened to be set up as a bar for the show). And the music! Wow! That's all I can say about that.





Our last full day in New York was a Sunday, so we decided to visit the ward that meets in the same building as the Manhattan temple. Apparently every other tourist had the same idea, because more than half the congregation were visitors. We also ran into my cousin, Cinco, who lives in California, at church that day. Small, small Mormon world.



After church we ate brunch at Jacob's Pickles. I ordered the famous chicken and pancakes. The chicken was delicious, but I was kind of pancaked-out by that point. MarKey's meal won that day. I think she ordered chicken and biscuits, but it was the cheesy grits she couldn't stop talking about. I have to document this, you know, just in case we ever end up back there.

From breakfast we made our way back to the 9/11 memorial to tour the museum. If I said I loved this part of the trip, Jeff, Jon and MarKey will totally call my bluff. In all honesty, I kind of hated the museum. But don't let that stop anyone else from going. I am probably 1 in a million that didn't like it. And part of that stemmed from the fact it was cutting into my Central Park time. But truthfully, it made me relive a day that I never want to relive. The exhibits, with their video footage, answering machine messages, and gut wrenching artifacts were just too real. Too fresh. I sobbed audibly through most of it and was pretty grumpy for the rest of the afternoon. Sorry about that, travel buddies.

We did make it back to Central Park, though, and sped walked through the lower half to see as much as we could. We had such killer weather the whole time we were there. It was never too hot, never too cold. The rest of New York was loving it as much as we were. It was crazy to see so many sunbathers in the middle of a big city!



These turtles were unbelievable. There were so many and they were swimming all over each other. Jeff would tease them by splashing a little bit of water in the pond and they would all swim to it thinking it was food.


That night we ate at Max Brenner's Waffle House and Chocolate Bar. This was probably my favorite meal of the entire trip. An entire restaurant based on chocolate? Yes, please. Jeff and I split the mole burrito then we splurged on their fondue platter for two. It had everything you could think of to serve with chocolate fondue, including a separate flame to roast your marshmallow before dipping it. It also had a fruit topped waffle, a pitcher of chocolate ganache, choco-pops, banana tempura, and chocolate bark. Worth every penny.

We finished off the trip with a walk on the high-line, which was a little sketchy late at night since we were almost the only ones there, but totally beautiful and unique, too. The next morning we bid farewell and left the city of my dreams.

Such an awesome way to celebrate so many things-- my 30th birthday, our 10th anniversary, and reuniting with good friends. Thanks, Jeff, for making it happen and thank you, Maynes, for going along with my OCD travel planning!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

N.Y.C.

A few weeks ago Jeff and I took a fabulous, amazing, exciting, delicious, child free trip to New York City. After multiple passes I have finally narrowed down my top 50 pictures. That's probably still too many for one blog post so this one will have to come in multiple installments.

This trip really began back in January, when Jeff gifted me a trip to NYC for my 30th birthday. Due to scheduling and weather restrictions, we finally took the trip 6 months later. Conveniently, the delay put the trip pretty close to our 10 year anniversary next month, so we had no shortage of things to celebrate. Our trip officially started when our good friends and traveling buddies, the Maynes, met us at the airport in Newark. We took the ferry from New Jersey to New York and caught our first sight of the New York skyline from the deck. It was a bit windy up there, as you can tell.




Jeff realized during our layover that he had forgotten his sunglasses. I convinced him to buy these sweet shades at an airport kiosk. Thanks to a few Facebook posts during our trip and some comments from the peanut gallery, he will never live down the florescent yellow sunglasses. I think they are awesome.



From the ferry we hauled our luggage over to the subway and rode to Grand Central Station. We started to head out towards our hotel, but I made everyone wait while I oogled over the amazing architecture and transit beauty of Grand Central.




I spent weeks prior to this trip planning every detail of our itinerary. I read tons of reviews and got lots of recommendations. For the most part, my meticulous planning paid off and we managed to fit a TON into a few days. Although we didn't check into our hotel until early evening, we still managed to have a fun filled evening at Bloomingdales (where they were having some sort of special event with random models, food samples, and live music), FAO Schwartz (a little Heart and Soul, anyone?), some pizza and pasta at Patsy's Pizza, Dylan's Candy Bar, and dessert at Serendipity.



The next morning we headed out to Times Square to pick up some rush tickets to Newsies. We showed up just as the box office opened, and after a short wait walked away with our $30 "obstructed view" tickets. From there we headed to breakfast at Sarabeth's, where despite the long line, we sat right down. Gotta love OpenTable and their easy reservation service! I can't remember what everyone else ordered, but I got the lemon ricotta pancakes and they were amazing.

After breakfast we went to the Rockefeller center to catch the views from the top. I loved the fabulous view of the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock. We also had some killer Central Park views. We could see the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and just about everything in between.






My original plan had been to go spend the rest of the afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), but I'd found out during my pre-trip research that the museum would be free that evening from 4-8. So instead we had a few hours to kill. We started to walk towards Central Park but were intercepted by a guy on a taxi bike. We bartered for a bit before taking him up on his offer. He and his buddy took us all around Central Park on their bikes, telling us about the history of the park and pointing out where countless movies had been filmed. They were a riot and we had a good time talking to them, especially once Jon revealed he spoke Russian (they were from Moldova).







The trade off for going to the MoMA during a free night was wading through the crowds. It took us forever to check our backpacks just to get into the museum! Once we were in, we went straight to the floor with artists names we recognized. None of us consider ourselves art connoisseurs, but it seemed wrong to pass up the opportunity to see original Monets and Van Goghs. Although I know nothing about art and cannot comprehend the time and talent it took to produce these masterpieces, it was still pretty amazing to see them in person and appreciate their beauty as much as our non-artist minds could.



I can't remember who did these dot paintings but they were incredible. On one of them, even the frame was painted! I can't imagine how someone could paint individual tiny dots and somehow produce a recognizable picture from a distance.





That night we went to our most highly anticipated restaurant: Don's Bogum, a Korean barbecue. None of us had ever eaten Korean barbecue before, so we had no idea what to do, but we ordered what had been recommended to us and watched as the waiter brought dozens of dishes with mysterious condiments and fired up a grill right in the middle of the table. He began grilling up meat there in front of us, and when it was done, we would take it right off the grill and eat it. Every bite was piping hot and OH SO GOOD. Our favorite was the short ribs, but every meat we had was pretty darn amazing. My only regret is it was over too soon, but at $75 a couple, we couldn't afford another round.



After dinner we made our way to Broadway to see Newsies. Our rush seats put us on the very edge of a row, so it was a little difficult to see things happening on the side of the stage closest to us, but for the most part we didn't mind where we sat at all. I was a little disappointed by some of the main characters, but the ensemble was extremely talented with several contestants from So You Think You Can Dance. Their stunts and dancing were the highlight of the show, for sure. I also enjoyed the places where the show strayed from the movie. It was nice to have a surprise here and there and a few new songs, too.

Thus ended our first full day in New York. Days 2 and 3 coming soon.