Thursday, March 26, 2009

One Last Trip Part III

Ok, let's see if we can't finish this up today and let everyone get on with their lives. I know you're all just clinging to the edge of your seats waiting to see how our trip finished, so I'll try to alleviate all your concerns and finish up today. This will probably be a long one, so bare with me.

On Saturday there were a few more sights we hadn't seen yet, so we attempted to get them all checked off. We started off back on the bus going to the south side of the island and our first stop was at the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked about half way across the bridge which was a lot of fun and we got lots of pictures. It's amazing to me that something that large and that old can still be standing with traffic going back and forth every day. Thanks to Becca's extra passenger, we did have to stop a few times and rest, but we got some great views of the bridge, the East river, and the city skyline with plenty of time to spare.

From there the bus took us down to the southern tip of the island where we would caught a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I mentioned in the first post that we didn't do any planning before this trip and things still worked out. The ferry was a perfect example since we arrived just in time to get in line, go through security, and make it on to the boat right as it was leaving. Any earlier and we have been standing around and any later and we would have missed the boat. Once we got to the Statue of Liberty we really enjoyed it. We never went up into the statue at all, but we walked all around it and took plenty of pictures. A lot of people before we left had told us that it isn't as big as they expected it. I don't know what they were expecting because I thought it was pretty big. After walking around a while we got back on the boat and headed over to Ellis Island. If anything Ellis Island was much bigger than I expected. They have a lot of really neat exhibits showing different things that immigrants brought over, the living conditions, the whole registration process, and a lot more. I don't really consider myself one of those die-hard patriots, but it does make you feel very proud of your country to see all that history. Behind the main building, they have a whole series of walls with the names of the immigrants that passed through the island. Becca and I had both extremes we were looking for with Murdaugh not being on there at all and Sanders being on there a few hundred times. It was really neat to look at all the names and get small glimpse into your own past. After that we hopped back on the ferry towards Manhattan.

Back on the mainland, we once again timed things perfectly by getting onto the last bus that was taking a tour of Brooklyn. The tour was really neat and the tour guide was great. He knew a ton about Brooklyn and was a self-proclaimed Brooklyn snob, so throughout the whole tour he told of all the reasons why Brooklyn was better than Manhattan and all the famous people from Brooklyn. I really enjoyed it, learned a lot, and it gave Becca some well deserved time off her feet. Once we got back in Manhattan we stayed on the bus which continued back towards the downtown area. We got off on the stop by Waldorf Astoria hotel because I wanted to take a look at Grand Central Station which was close by. Becca needed to go to the bathroom so we decided to go ahead and go into the Waldorf and try to find a bathroom. The lobby of the hotel was amazing and I told Becca that it even smelled fancy. Apprantely the women's restroom consisted of a bunch of individual rooms complete with vanity. As we left I told Becca that someday we'd save up the money to stay in there; she was skeptical. From there we walked over to Grand Central station, which was really neat, and then headed back to our own, much more basic but still great hotel.

That night we thought we'd venture into Hell's kitchen because several people had told us there were a lot of good restaurants in the area. It was only a block from our hotel, so we wandered around a while until we found a little Thai restaurant. For some reason there were three of the exact same restaurants literally right next to each other (Yum Yum, Yum Yum II, and Yum Yum III) so we picked the middle one and went in. The dinner was wonderful for anyone who likes Thai food. It came with an appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, and desert for less than $15. You can’t beat that in my book and it doesn’t hurt that it was really good. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a little café to pick up some coffee and a cinnamon pastry and then went back to our room to enjoy it. It was a very great day.

Sunday was our bad day for weather with it being much colder and a little dreary. Luckily we knew this when we got there so we set aside the day for museums. At this point our bus ticket had actually expired, but we had only been checked a couple of times the whole week so we thought we’d give it a shot. Fortunately, we were able to get on and it took us up to the Natural History Museum.

Given the fact that I am eternally a little boy, the museum had been one of the things I had been looking forward to the most the whole trip. Not only do they have animals from around the world, as well as more information than you could possibly ever sift through, most importantly they have DINOSAURS! From as long as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated with Dinosaurs and more than anything I’ve always wanted to see real Dinosaur bones. The Natural History Museum did not disappoint. We started out with the animals from around the world. The exhibits were all very neat and it’s not every day you see a herd of elephants or a giant blue whale indoors. Intermixed with the animals were a lot of exhibits on anthropology and geology which is much less interesting to me but still neat nonetheless. Ironically enough, Becca thought the exhibits on humans were the most interesting so I made sure we spent plenty of time looking at those as well since this was her trip too. There was also a really neat exhibit about space and the universe, which is subject matter that’s probably a close second for me behind dinosaurs. Lastly, we headed up to the dinosaur exhibit where all my childhood dreams were realized. I got to take pictures with a T-Rex and stand under the tail of some breed of large sauropod, the big four legged ones. I could have easily spent the entire day wandering around, absorbing all I could about the dinosaurs and been perfectly content. We did eventually leave, but it is not something I’ll soon forget.

From the Natural History Museum we tried our luck walking across Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The park is very confusing and doesn’t have any straight paths, so we got marginally lost a couple of times but did finally make it across. By this time Becca was getting pretty worn out, so our trip into the art museum was fairly short. We took a quick stroll through the European paintings exhibit on our way to the modern art exhibit. We walked around that area for a little while and then went through the Roman and Egyptian art exhibits before heading back out. While short, the art museum was still very neat and next time we go back to New York I think we’ll make a point to spend more time there. Outside the museum, we once again tried our luck with the bus with success and headed back to the hotel.

After a couple of hours of rest Becca and I finished off our last night in the Big Apple at a very nice Italian restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen. We had a very nice dinner and by the time we got out it had started to snow. Since it was our last night we wanted make one more stop in Times Square and we got some good pictures of all the billboards with it snowing. On our way back in we did some quick souvenir shopping where we got I Heart NY shirt for Becca and I along with a matching onesie for the baby. Afterwards we headed back in and enjoyed the rest of the night resting and keeping an eye on the weather: of course New York was expecting the biggest snow of the year the night before we were travelling.

Our last morning in NY we got up early enough to make it down to the Today show. It was cold and snowing pretty hard, but we made our way down there long enough to wave hi to the camera, receive our 1.5 seconds of fame on national TV, and head back. In the room we finished up packing while being continually reminded that the city was expecting to receive a total at 12-15 inches of snow and that hundreds of flights were being cancelled. I really thought we’d be spending another night away from home, but we decided to head to the airport anyways and try our luck. Out of all the flights of the day heading to Charlotte (our transfer point) at about 3:30, only an hour after it had originally been scheduled, our flight was the first one to take off. All the previous ones had been cancelled. We got to Charlotte with enough time to eat a pretty good dinner (for airport food) at Chilli’s and got onto our final flight to St. Louis just about an hour later than it was originally scheduled. By the time we got into St. Louis, got picked up by our friends Scott and Lindsey in St. Louis, and drove ourselves the rest of the way home to Springfield, we ended up arriving home at about 3:00 am. It had been a long day an even busier week, but a spectacular trip and one that we won’t be forgetting. For our one last trip as just a husband a wife I think we did pretty good and had a great time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

One Last Trip Part II

When I left off last time we had just finished our first full day in New York. I'd like to say that the rest of the time was a little less hectic, but it wasn't and we wanted to see everything we could. We started off Friday like we did most of our days there with a quick stop at Starbucks before heading to the bus stop. Our plan for today was to take the uptown loop and see the northern part of Manhattan. The bus drove up by Central Park and then around in front of the Lincoln Center before coming to the place where John Lennon was shot. The next stop after was the American Museum of Natural History where we jumped off. The weather was wonderful that day with a high near 60, so we opted to hold off on the museum until Sunday when the weather was supposed to be much colder. Instead we walked around Central Park for several minutes. The park is really neat and very big. After seeing so much concrete, steel, and glass it was nice to walk amongst grass and trees for a while. We took lots of pictures and even stopped by a memorial for Lennon before going back to one of the bus stops and getting back on.

We stayed on the bus a little longer as it went up through the upper west side and into Harlem. Around Harlem we made a stop we hadn't actually planned at a giant cathedral called the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Apparently it's the largest in the world and as we came upon it we just had to get out and take a look. We got lots of good pictures inside of some beautiful architecture including a giant domed room, huge columns, and ornate stained glass. It was really very neat and best of all admission was donation only so you can see it for very little.

After the cathedral and after waiting for a new bus (apparently the one we got off of broke down immediately after we left and was sitting empty in front of the church when we came out) we hopped back on and headed through Harlem. Harlem was a neat area and as we started heading back south our next stop was at a museum across from the east side of Central Park that we received free admission into with our bus passes. To be honest, the museum was kind of dull but I am glad we stopped there because we got an excellent lunch recomendation from one of the staff there. One Fish Two Fish was just a few block away and Becca and I both got a salad, a Tuna Salad sandwich, and fries for under $6 each. It was a lot of food and one of the best sandwiches I've ever had for a price you couldn't get in Springfield. I would highly recommend it.

Finishing off the trip we traveled on the bus along Central Park before arriving back in midtown near our hotel. At this point we were extremely exausted so we headed back to our hotel to rest a bit. One thing I had really wanted to do was take a tour of the NBC studios, so at the hotel I gave the reservation office a call and scheduled a tour for later in the day. We got some good time to relax a little bit and then headed down to the studios for a tour. The tour was a little shorter than I expected, but still neat. We got to see the Saturday Night Live studio and just happened to show up when Lorne Michaels was there for a photo shoot. For those of you who don't know Lorne Michaels he's the creater/producer of SNL along with several other very funny shows and movies. He's definately a very influential figure in show-business and was definately the highlight of the tour for me. From there we went onto the control room for the NBC networks and then to a mock news room where they had some people from the tour do a fake news cast. It was all very interesting but I was expecting more. If it hadn't have been for Lorne I probably would have been let down.

After leaving the studios we thought we'd stop by one more place before going back to our hotel. In Times Square there's a big set of red stairs and underneath they sell Broadway tickets for half off. By now it was almost 7:00 and the shows start at 8:00 so we didn't think there would be much of a selection but we gave it a shot anyways. To our suprise there actually were several good shows still available including Shrek the Musical which Becca and I both thought would be good. So we bought our tickets and rushed to the room to get ready. Becca made amazing time getting ready and we were able to make it to the show with time to spare. The show was really good with huge elaborate sets and a very good adaptation from the movie. The story was almost identical to the movie with a little more adult humor and we really enjoyed it a lot. I'm still amazed that they can have these huge moving sets that they're able to switch on and off stage so quickly. Because we had been in a rush before the show we didn't have a chance to eat dinner. So at intermission we went out and got a couple of hotdogs from a street vendor, something that I had wanted to do while I was in New York. After the show, the hotdog hadn't really held us over so we stopped by a little pizza place on the way back and picked up a strombolli to go. We ate it in our hotel room and it was excellent. We spent the rest of the night watching TV and getting ready for the next day.

I hadn't intended on doing this, but once again this is getting long so I'll stop here and pick up again later. I'll try this time to make the next post a little quicker than this one. Until then.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

One Last Trip

I apologize for not posting in such a long time. I've actually had several topics lately that I've wanted to talk about, but sometimes just finding 5 minutes to sit down can be a challenge. That being said, Becca and I just got back from a great trip this week so I thought I'd let everyone know about our fun in New York.

I hear on a daily basis that once the baby comes our lives are going to change forever. Most people will continue on by saying that for the most part it is a good change, but the regular theme is to be prepared for a completely different way of life. With that in mind, and knowing that we both love to travel, Becca and I decided we wanted to take one last trip with just the two us before June 11. After a lot of discussion on where to go and what to do we decided on our first trip to the Big Apple.

We arrived in the city Wednesday afternoon and after a taxi ride that almost resulted in Becca losing her lunch we got to our hotel. We stayed in the Milford Plaza and for anyone who is thinking about staying in New York I would highly recommend the hotel. It's not fancy at all, but it was safe, clean, had a good bed and shower and it's location was amazing. We were literally a block from Times Square and within walking distance of all the Broadway shows, Rockefeller plaza, NBC studios, hundreds of great restaurants, and so much more. And best of all it was one of the least expensive hotels I found. That first night we walked around Times Square admiring all the lights and billboards and then just wandered around a little bit where we ran into Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Plaza, and NBC studios. Pretty good for not having any idea where we were going. We then ate at one of New York's famous delicatessen's where I had a pastrami sandwich with a pound of meat. I could only eat half of it.

On every other trip we've taken Becca and I have pre-planned every last detail. However, this trip came up rather quickly leaving us with no time to plan and no idea what were going to do Thursday morning. We thought we'd give the Today show a shot so we went back to the NBC studios and stood outside with the mob of people waiting to get on camera. Unfortunately our timing was off so even though we did get to see some of the cast of the show, we didn't get on camera. We had been told by several people that the double-decker tour buses were good, so we decided that would be the best way to see the majority of the city in the short amount of time we were there. After a lot of time with me running through all the options we finally decided on a 3-day pass and hopped on the bus going to the downtown part of Manhattan. The buses were nice because you can get off and on at their different stops and we never had to wait long for the next one to come by.

Our first stop was the World Trade Center site. It was kind of hard to see because there's a lot of construction going on and everything is blocked off, but it was still good to go. We then walked through Chinatown and into Little Italy where we had a great authentic Italian lunch. After that we got back on the bus and rode around to Pier 17. It's a neat little area with shops and restaurants along with some old ships docked for a museum and some cool views of the Brooklyn bridge. We got back on the bus and rode back up to our hotel. While on the bus we got to see the United Nations, Empire State Building, Macy's, Waldorf Astoria hotel, and much more.

The bus passes came with a free cruise around Manhattan island, so since we had made it back in time we decided to give it a shot. It was a great trip with a tour guide talking about the history of New York, we got to see the city from a different point of view as well as the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and we even see the skyline at night.

Once we were back to our hotel we were ready for dinner, so we got ready and went to a great New York style pizza place called John's Pizza. From the outside it looked like a hole in the wall, but once we got in the whole place opened up and it was really very nice. The pizza was great. After dinner we decided that the Empire State Building would probably be neat at night, so we went ahead and walked there. I had heard stories about people waiting for hours in line to get into the Empire State Building, but since we went at night there wasn't hardly anybody. We got straight to the top and were knocked back by the view. From the top you could see the lights of the entire city and New Jersey. I've never been on top of the Empire State Building in the day, but I think at night has to be the best way to go. It was breathtaking.

It had now been a very long first day, so we headed back to the hotel and quickly passed out. I'm realizing that this entry is getting very long, so I'm going to stop here and pick up the rest of the trip later. I'd like to say that the remaining days were quite as busy, but I'd be lying. Hope you enjoy!