Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I HEART NYC--14 years ago, yesterday, and today-PART 1

Who doesn't love a trip into the liveliest city in the world? There is something that attracts me to the nonstop, fast paced thriving metropolis and cultural melting pot. I can't always explain it but each trip is just as magical and unique in it's own way and I'm always left with a list of things to do for next time.

The first trip was 14 years ago--how things (and I) have changed! Yikes!
It was June of 2000 and I had just finished 7th grade =middle school=awkward. It was my first plane ride and my first trip out of the south. Culture shock to say the least but a great trip with my teacher Ms. Gilbreath (miss her so much) and Mom and my sister and a few others. We did ALL the major touristy things--Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Battery Park, Hard Rock Cafe, Jekyll & Hyde, Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Guggenheim, as well as the Empire State Building, and Central Park. I'm still kicking myself for having the option of touring the World Trade Centers but choosing to go shopping instead at Century 21! Ugh! #Regret! But I do covet this photo of the towers in the background as we were heading to the Statue of Liberty.
We stayed in New Jersey and were on a tour bus the whole time with a group of rowdy high school kids from Texas. We even kept in touch with a few of the guys from Texas for a couple of years afterwards, ha! Oh the days of AOL Instant Messenger..but back to the topic..New York! It was scary and overwhelming to my untraveled self but I knew I had to go back...

And so fast forward six years later when I was a sophomore year in college and Mom and I took a trip in December. It was very cold but so colorful with the Christmas lights and elaborate window displays! We discovered our love of Serendipity 3's fffrrrrozzzennn hot chocolate, watched "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway, and purchased some fabulous finds at Bloomingdale's. We were the absolute coldest we've ever been standing outside at 5:30 am in the 20 degree temps waiting to get inside Good Morning America! It was also this trip I got called out on my southern accent while in a store in Times Square! A man asked me what part of Tennessee I was from! HA!


And back again in the fall of 2010 with Mom and my sister. We had so much fun getting to explore different parts of the city, including Tribeca, SoHo, Washington Square, Wall Street, and navigating the subway, meeting up with some friends living in the city, Central Park, Top of the Rock, seeing "Wicked" on Broadway, and heading back to Ground Zero for an update on the Memorial plans.

So..the fever came again this year as Mom and I headed back..this time in the late spring/early summer! We came with a list of 25 things to see and do! I had researched so much ahead of time and had even crafted a Custom Google Travel Map. If you haven't made one of these for a trip before, it is an absolute must, especially for a big city! It will show you traffic, transit, street shots, and walking directions. You can save it and add to it and get really creative with the icons.
View Pam & Lindsey's NYC Vacay in a larger map

A highlight while sitting at the Birmingham Airport around 6:30 am on Thursday, my mom spotted Crimson Tide radio announcer Eli Gold! We were not awake enough, nor quick enough to go over and say hello, but I also assumed since he was close to our gate that he was going to be on our flight and planned to give him a big Roll Tide when I passed him boarding the plane, but he ended up boarding quickly for Detroit!  So I did what any star struck twenty something would do in this day and age and tweeted about it instantly. To my delight, he responded and we carried on a twitter conversation for a bit and I learned that he is actually from Brooklyn, NY! A good start to the trip! You never know who you'll see at an airport! Taking a nonstop flight  to NY, we were there in two hours, retrieved our luggage and got in the long line of people waiting to catch a taxi into the city. A man passing nearby joked "Gotcha limos, gotcha buses, gotcha taxis/whiplash!" So true to anyone who has ever had the pleasure of riding in a NYC taxi. You always say a prayer before entering and kiss the ground when you arrive safely! Or is that just me?
Feeling really good and high on excitement from the city, we walked around 13 blocks to Grand Central Terminal for 1) lunch 2) The Whispering Wall and 3) The "Grand" view of the hustle and bustle of people in every direction..all heading to their destinations. The food hall on the bottom had every kind of food you could imagine--including my favorite, Shake Shack. We halved the burger, fries, and shake, this one called the "black and white."
We found the Whispering Wall and tried it out...if you stand diagonally across from someone at the specific spot, you can whisper something softly and can be heard across the way! There are shops galore and even a whole floor overlooking the main lobby that is devoted to Apple/Mac products-such is the day we live. It was here on this that Mom and I stood for several minutes taking it all in-the sights of people scurrying every which way, hugging, crying, running, and wondering on the main floor, each for different reasons and directions. The architecture was breathtaking. Grand Central Depot opened in 1871 but the Grand Central Station opened in the early 1900's.
We headed literally one block to the New York Public Library, the second largest library in the U.S.! This was on my list for several reasons: 1) Never Been 2) Home of the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals given to the real Christopher Robin Milne in 1921 by his father, A.A. Milne who wrote the beloved series 3) Where Carrie Bradshaw was supposed to wed Big in the movie "Sex & the City" and most important 4) The Rose Main Reading Room featured in the movie "Ghostbusters" and one of the largest library reading rooms. It's iconic and majestic and it was also closed! I kept reading the sign on the door and felt very much like Clark Griswald in "National Lampoon's Vacation" while at Wallyworld! The Winnie the Pooh animals was worth it though.

Venturing outside, we stumbled upon Bryant Park. There was music, restaurants, a carousel, and hundreds of people just hanging out on a beautiful 65 degree Thursday afternoon! We got a drink and just took in all the sights, smells, and sounds of NYC.

After a walk back to the hotel, we got unpacked at Edison Hotel Times Square and changed for dinner. We ate at The Glass House Tavern and I had the best roasted corn and couscous risotto, spicy broccoli rabe, and garlic roasted potatoes.

We got lucky that our hotel was directly across the street from the Richard Rogers Theatre, where our Broadway play of the evening "If/Then" was. It is a new play staring Idina Menzel, who sings "Let It Go" from "Frozen." I was intrigued early on about the story of the chance/fate of one woman's life scenario of what would have happened if she had chosen one path versus another. The language and edgy themes took away from the overall performance for me personally, but the acting and music was enjoyable. After splitting a small cheesecake from Junior's (a tradition), we headed back and noticed a crowd of people back outside the theatre waiting for Idina to come out. We figured it was worth a shot. We did get to see her exit and hop in oddly enough the front passenger side of the black SUV and then darted off.

On Friday morning, we took the subway to the south end of the city and walked a few blocks to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We were amazed at the site.

We had visited in 2006 and 2010 and here is what it looked like then:

This is what the current Memorial and Museum site looks like. There is both a North and South Tower Memorial Fountain with all the names of the lives who were lost on 9/11. Flowers were even placed in the engraved spaces of some of the names. It is a very peaceful way to honor those victims for years to come.

We had purchased tickets earlier and walked in the Museum and began the tour after spending some reflection time outside at the Memorial fountains. The Museum houses thousands of artifacts and memorabilia from that tragic day.

Police cars, ambulances, firetrucks, blood covered shoes and clothing, airplane seat belts, engines, antennae towers, papers that had fallen, photos, telephones, a few original beams/structures of the towers, as well as the "survivor stairs" were all among some of the debris and artifacts recovered on display. Original recordings of conversations on the airplanes and in the towers can also be heard. It was a somber feeling inside, with many crying and remembering where they were, and reliving that fateful day all over. It took you minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day and year by year with the history and progress our country has made since then and to where we are now. One thing always resonated--America is strong, Americans are willing to serve when tragedy strikes, and in such instances, it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, we stand united as one and the lives lost are never forgotten. The wall of blue on the bottom left features a quote from Virgil that says" No day shall erase you from the memory of time." The letters are made from steel of the Twin Towers and the blue hues around it are different interpretations of what color the sky was on 9/11. It is something every American should see. It is moving and it is painful, but it is a part of our history and we owe it to every single person who lost their life because of this tragedy to pay our respects and honor them.

Mom and I took the subway through the Hudson into Brooklyn, which surprisingly only took about 7 minutes and was such a quiet ride--it felt weird knowing we were traveling underwater. Not having had breakfast, we sat out in search of lunch. Yes, believe it or not we do skip meals sometimes!
So the line at the famous Grimaldi's stretched for a block or so and it was just barely 12:00! They are credited with being America's first pizzeria, opening their doors and brick ovens back in 1905.

Directly next door was Juliana's, which was a much shorter line and we were inside eating some of the best pizza I've ever had in less than 15 minutes! We opted for the small Margherita pizza with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. The brick oven flavor is so spoiling in a pizza. A great place to stop in Brooklyn! We couldn't even make a dent in it! But we knew we would need our strength for what was coming next...

We headed on foot to cross the main bridge and up the stairs to the pedestrian walkway  and onto the iconic Brooklyn Bridge! It was overcast and breezy, with hundreds of people walking, bicycling, and selling artwork and sodas along the way. We had heard that the best way to walk the bridge was from Brooklyn and it did not dissappoint. One mile in length, it was an easy stroll across, being careful to avoid the zooming bikers to the right, and mindful of the constant flow of traffic directly below.

The Manhattan skyline was breathtaking. The view behind us in Brooklyn just couldn't compare. Brooklyn was still a neat city that I wish we would've had more time to explore places like Williamsburg and Dumbo.

Locks like the ones below were placed at random spots on the bridge and were carved with people's initals and messages to loved ones, etc.

So as of Friday afternoon, we had already seen and done so much in the City...but there was still much more to the plan of this trip! To be continued...
THANKS FOR READING! I'll be posting later this week about the remainder of our trip.