Cruise 10, New York, Vacations

Vacation 2010: New York (Part Three)

(You can read parts one and two here).

If you’re just tuning in, my husband was in a motorcycle accident back in April – a pretty serious accident. He crushed his pelvis, had to have three surgeries and when we went to New York? He had only been up and walking for three weeks. (I know!)

The first day we spent the day riding the New York subways and walking all over New York (okay, not really, but it felt like it), the second day I meant to take it easy on him. I had every intention of letting the man rest.

Honest.

Only, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Now before you go and think I was a cruel and heartless task master and wielded a whip over the man’s head, I didn’t. In fact, I begged him to stay around the hotel and just take it easy. The boys and I would go around the city, take pictures and show him later.

But he refused (just one of the reasons I love him so much – his stubborn streak) and he insisted on coming with us. Since we were only planning on going to Rockefeller Center and Central Park later, I thought, what could it hurt?

Famous last words.

Look at those geniune, relaxed smiles!
We headed out to Rockefeller Center. The highlight of our New York trip, for the boys, was our trip to Nintendo World.

The boys are big-time gamers. BIG TIME. They live for games. They talk, eat, sleep, breathe games. So getting a chance to visit the Nintendo World Store in New York City was a dream come true.

When we finally located the store (we got a bit turned around trying to find it), the boys actually broke out into smiles. Even Kevin got into the excitement and we spent an hour roaming around the store and looking at all the Nintendo goodies. (I confess, I was a bit disappointed with the store. I was expecting something bigger and flashier, but the boys really seemed to enjoy themselves while we were there so …)

I told the boys that they could pick out one souvenir; I’ve never seen them put so much thought into shopping before.

What to buy ... what to buy ...

Dude ended up picking this character and Jazz picked this thing. I don’t know man, I don’t even pretend to know who these characters are or try to understand the appeal, but *shrug* to each his own, I suppose.

One good thing about hanging out at the Nintendo store though, it gave Kevin a chance to catch his breath and relax for a bit.

"Pa-PER" (Inside joke)

A dragon made out of Legos hanging from the ceiling at the Lego store. Cool.
We walked across the square and went into the Lego store. Again, I was a little disappointed – I was expecting something BIGGER and FLASHIER! I mean, we were in New York, everything was bigger and flashier. But it was a nice, two-story store with a bunch of Lego sets for sale along with a tower filled with an assortment of various Legos of every shape and color that kids could buy by filling up a cup for such-and-such price.

Can you imagine trying to get that cup of odd Legos home?

We headed back to the Subway after the Lego store. I think now, we should have just stuck around Rockefeller Center and hung out for a while. But instead, we spent our time trying to find somewhere to eat (we ended up at some Chinese joint), and navigating an indoor mall.

Since we didn’t spend that much time at Rockefeller Center and had some time to spare, I made the stupid brilliant suggestion of going to Grand Central Station. I had read about it in the tour book and they recommended going if for no other reason than to appreciate the architecture.

Standing at the heart of Rockefeller Center.

Again, I was thinking about Kevin. I knew he was getting tired (he was also sweating profusely – not only because it was hot outside, but because his body was working overtime trying to keep up) and I figured, “HEY! We’ll get to Grand Central Station, sit down, people watch for a bit and then head back to the hotel.”

Sounds like such a simple plan, doesn’t it?

Erhm … no.

Here’s why …

We found our way back out to the Subway platform from Rockefeller Center. We got on our train, then got off on the stop we needed to transfer trains – the “F” train. The “F” train platform is two floors down, this meant stairs, a lot of stairs. Not so bad going down, but hell for Kevin going back up.

Once we got off the “F” train and up the stairs from hell, we then had to walk another 1/2 mile before actually getting to Grand Central Station.

True. It was impressive.

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Yes. The building was magnificent.

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But until I could find someplace for poor Kevin to sit down, I didn’t really pay attention to the beauty or appreciate the magnificence because my poor husband was now a puddle of sweaty goo.

To my horror, and EXTREME annoyance, there was no place to sit down unless you wanted to go into a restaurant and buy something.

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Now I ask you, what sort of station doesn’t have places to sit?? (Though I’m sure it’s because New York doesn’t want to encourage homeless people from sleeping in the station – I get that, but STILL).

Now normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem. However, Kevin really needed to sit down and rest and since we couldn’t find any place to sit down, we did a “National Lampoon’s Vacation” moment: we looked around Grand Central Station, nodded, said, “Yep. Here we are. It’s quite grand” and then left.

We were there probably about five minutes, tops.

We walked the 1/2 mile BACK to the “F” train and were able to snag a bench for Kevin. He sat to catch his breath. Only, it was super hot (there is absolutely no air in the Subways until the cars whizzed by) so I know he couldn’t have been very comfortable.

We walked the two flights back down to the “F” train and back up two flights of stairs to reach our street. We made it back to the hotel and Kevin just collapsed onto the bed from sheer exhaustion.

Keep in mind that this whole trip? He was ONLY using his cane. He had nothing to lean on and help support him.

I felt terrible. I mean, really awful. I thought it would be such a simple trip out to Grand Central Station, that he would have a chance to catch his breath before we started back and … no. If I had had any inkling that there would be so much walking and then no place to sit down, I never would have suggested it.

Trust me when I say, Grand Central Station was Kevin’s least favorite part of this entire trip. 😦

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the hotel so Kevin could rest. We ate dinner at the Green Cafe

Then we headed to Central Park.

With his walker.

We hadn’t used his walker up to this point, but after our afternoon fiasco, well, I’m really glad we had it because it really helped him get around a lot easier.

Central Park was gorgeous.

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It’s so amazing that the city planners put this gorgeous, wooded piece of land in the middle of the madness that is New York City.

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Central Park is literally a breath of fresh air after the noisy, crowded New York streets.

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A sweet haven from the madness.

I can see why New Yorkers love it so much.

There were runners, bikers, families with strollers, young lovers sprawled on the grass making out (that was uncomfortable) and even an amusement park for the kiddies.

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When we happened upon a clearing that had five baseball fields on it, we stopped to rest.

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Though it was still hot, it wasn’t AS hot and we savored the cool breeze while we watched a variety of different baseball games.

Many of the benches had small plaques that people had paid for with various messages on them. This one was my favorite.

The trip to Central Park was balm on our Grand Central Station wound.

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We didn’t get to explore Central Park very much. The evening was wearing on and we were ALL getting pretty tired by that time, but we saw enough to satisfy our curiosity.


(I apologize for the shakiness – Dude took this while we were walking through, but I thought you might be interested in watching it. You can see me helping Kevin at one point – I had my arm around him because we were walking up an incline and I was gently “pushing” him so it wouldn’t be quite so hard for him).

Even though we were only in New York two days, it felt like a week. We did a lot. We saw a lot, but not nearly enough. I’d like to go back someday. Maybe take in a Broadway show (if I can bring myself to cough up the money [expensive!]), visit the 911 Memorial, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Though New York fascinated me, I have to be honest, it simply wasn’t my bag of tea. I didn’t care for the noise, the sensory overload, the feeling I was being stuffed into a sardine can of humanity – I much prefer my soft, quiet, slow-paced town in the middle of nowhere.

But I’m glad we went. It was quite an experience.

Thanks for reading along. I’ll write about our cruise next.

Cruise 10, New York, Vacations

Vacation 2010: New York (Part Two)

See the boys' serious faces? I think it's safe to say they weren't exactly loving New York.

We slept well in New York, despite the fact that there is an infestation of bed bugs (and many other places, apparently). We were first clued in to the bed bug problem by all of the ads for getting rid of bed bugs on TV. Though we know what bed bugs are (sort of), it never dawned on us that it could become such a problem that an entire city had to advertise to get rid of them. They hang out in hotels and snuggle down into suitcases so that the unsuspecting traveler inadvertently takes them home with them.

You can imagine how that could quickly become a country-wide problem.

But so far, it looks like we left those critters back in New York – at least no one has come forward with tiny little bites all over their body.

One night, we were woken up at 3:00 in the morning by loud pounding. You’d be hard pressed to NOT find any sort of construction going on in New York and our street was no exception. In fact, a few doors down, they had imploded a building (not while we were there), and were working on building it back from the ground up. WHY they were working at 3:00 in the morning is beyond me, but it was very annoying to wake up to. Seven o’clock in the morning I can understand, but three o’clock in the morning?? Listen here New York, YOU may not like to sleep but WE do!

Other than that, Kevin and I slept fine. Dude and Jazz, on the other hand, didn’t get much sleep. One was always kicking the other or hogging covers so they spent the majority of the night trying to find comfortable positions or silently cursing each other.

Heading to the subway.
Because Kevin had only been walking for three weeks and really couldn’t physically handle a lot of activity, we purposefully kept our itinerary low key. I really wanted to see the Statue of Liberty and Central Park and Kevin really wanted to see Times Square, so we made plans to try and squeeze those things in.

We decided to go to the Staten Island Ferry first. (If I had known our cruise boat would sail right past The Statue of Liberty [in fact, it got a lot closer than the ferry did] we would have skipped this activity all together. Ah, for the gift of foresight).

But we needed to find a way there. I didn’t want to spend half our vacation budget on taxis, but I wasn’t sure if Kevin would be able to handle the subway, mainly the stairs down into the subway. So, we asked the front desk if there was a handicap accessible entrance anywhere close and luckily, there was one one block away. We used the elevator to get down into the subway, purchased our Metro cards and waited for our train to arrive.

Now, we have some experience with subways from our trip to Washington D.C. a few years back, so we knew what to expect. And to my surprise, the cars weren’t all that crowded (but filled up fast around rush hour). And we easily navigated the subway routes while we were there, though not all of our stations had an elevator for Kevin. So he ended up navigating way more stairs than we thought he would have to. But as usual, he handled his discomfort like a champ.

Standing in front of a forest-y looking divider at a subway station.

The ride out to Staten Island was quite long. We must have gone through close to ten stops before we reached the one we needed. As usual, there was a lot of construction going on, so it was noisy and a bit congested as people had to walk around it, but we entered the HUGE building. There weren’t that many people there (though it filled up close to the time another ferry was scheduled to arrive) and Kevin had a chance to sit down and take a load off while we waited for the ferry.

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We waited about thirty minutes, boarded the ferry and started making our way across the harbor.

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I actually ended up on the wrong side of the ferry (the Statue of Liberty was on the other side), and it was so crowded that I didn’t even try and make it – I would just make sure I was on that side on the way back. In the meantime, we spent a relaxing fifteen minutes or so admiring the New York skyline.

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We made it to Staten Island, read a little about it’s history, grabbed some hot dogs wrapped in pretzels and then caught another ferry on the way back to Manhattan.

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This time, I made sure I could see the Statue of Liberty.

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A myriad of emotions washed over me when I finally saw her: pride, freedom, accomplishment, strength, confidence, hope … it was amazing. There is just something … awe-inspiring about actually seeing the Statue of Liberty. She’s beautiful and it was interesting to watch people gaze at her. The boat got quiet as we passed her and you could almost reach out and touch American Patriotism.

It wasn’t nearly as crowded on the ride back and we sat back and enjoyed the cool breeze.

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We got back on the subway and rode uptown toward Times Square.

Though there were more people on the subway by this time, they were surprisingly quiet. I guess I was expecting there to be a lot of chatter, but there wasn’t, everyone kept to himself/herself. And it was interesting to see the number of people who offered Kevin a seat, which we thought was really nice (of course, I later found out that they are required to give up their seat if a disabled person is in the vicinity – it’s the law. So … even though I’m sure they were being nice, I’m also sure they were sort of forced to be nice).

How cool is it that the truck behind Kevin says "Inspire."
We arrived at the Times Square stop, walked up the stairs and out into pure chaos.

It was loud.

It was noisy.

It was crowded.

It was completely overwhelming.

I felt like I was in a movie – I turned around and kept being bombarded by over stimulation. There was so much to see, so much to hear, so many people pressing in on us from all sides – it was insane.

The boys almost immediately shut down. I’m pretty sure they frowned the whole time we were in Times Square. They didn’t care for it, at all. Kevin was fascinated.

We didn’t stick around Times Square too long, Kevin was starting to get really tired so we headed back to the blessed quiet of our hotel room.

We stuck around the hotel room and rested until rush hour was over, then we walked a few doors down from our hotel to a quaint cafe to eat dinner.

Even though Kevin didn’t complain, I could tell that our day had taken a lot out of him, poor guy. So, I told him the next day we would take it easy on him.

Unfortunately, I lied.

(… to be continued)

Cruise 10, New York, Vacations

Vacation 2010: New York (Part One)

Part Two
Part Three

There are currently 13,000 taxis in New York.
Though I’ve always wanted to go to New York, we hadn’t planned on going to New York quite so soon. All we really wanted to do was catch a boat out of the New York harbor and sail to Canada for a few days.

But, since we were planning on cashing in our frequent flyer miles (not a sponsored link – calm down) in on four free (well, we paid $10 bucks a piece for tax and then we paid $20 bucks a piece for our two bags) flights, our fly options were limited. Even though I understand why American Airlines does this (after all, they’re flying us for free – why would they reserve prime-time money-making flights for us?), it’s still a bit annoying that we only have a narrow window of opportunity to work around.

But hey, I’m grateful they even HAVE this program, let alone still running it after Obama’s “hope and change” crap he’s pulled since being in office, so I am not going to complain; the program has saved us boo-coo bucks over the years. (I mean, you’re going to buy/pay for stuff anyway [groceries, utilities, etc], why not earn points why you do it? Just be sure and pay it off at the end of the month so you’re not paying interest. If you can’t pay it off, then don’t charge it. Just sayin’.)

Check out the reflection in the building.
Anyway, since we were cashing in our points, our options were limited as far as when we could fly out to New York. I have learned, from our 10th anniversary cruise, that I will NEVER AGAIN fly out and try to catch a boat on the same day. It’s WAY too stressful. So, ever since then, we’ve made a point of flying out at least one day ahead of time so if there are any delays, we won’t miss the boat.

So to speak.

The closest time we could get to New York and still make our boat was two days. So, we thought, “hey, we’re going to be in New York anyway, let’s just splurge on a hotel room and hang out in New York for two days.”

And that’s what we did.

We started planning this trip back in January of this year. January has become our “vacation planning” month. We plan, book and by the time vacation time rolls around, it’s paid for. The only money we have to dish out is last minute expenses.

Only this year, Kevin had his accident in April and suddenly, we weren’t sure what to do about our pre-paid vacation. Though we had purchased insurance on our cruise (which sounds like a waste of money, but something you’re REALLY GLAD you have in case something comes up and you might not make it, like we did), we hesitated on canceling it. The accident happened in April, our vacation wasn’t until July – that’s a lot of time to heal and get back to normal. Since the doctors were confident that Kevin would walk again, we remained optimistic.

We oscillated between taking the vacation and canceling the vacation. I had doubts, but I left it up to Kevin on whether he wanted to cancel or not – it all depended on what he felt like doing and what he could handle.

Obviously, he decided to wait it out and we ended up going.

My guys at Times Square.

I was a little worried about getting him through security.

I needn’t have worried. Though he did indeed set off the alarms in the Springfield airport, that was largely because he was wearing his leg brace. Why do I know this? Because when we went through airport security in Newark, NJ, he wasn’t wearing his leg brace and the alarms didn’t go off; he sailed through without a second glance. (Though we did have to put his cane and his walker through the x-ray machine).

Our flight up to New York went off without a hitch. Everything was on time and we arrived in New York at 6:30.

Look at how thin the building on the left is.
We hailed a taxi. Though I had read a lot about New York taxi drivers and that was enough to make me nervous using them, I was so concerned about getting all of our luggage, Kevin’s walker and Kevin himself settled into the car that I didn’t give myself time to really BE nervous. We ended up having to put the walker in the backseat – me, Dude and Jazz had to hold it on our laps, which was uncomfortable and cramped, but we dealt with it.

Since I was sitting in the backseat, I couldn’t see. And it’s a good thing. Because every hair-raising story you’ve heard about New York taxi drivers weaving in and out of traffic and getting within inches of the surrounding cars are absolutely true. I would NEVER survive driving in New York. I’d be a bumbling basket case, even more so than I am now.

We arrived at The Salisbury. Since we had used Google maps at home and saw what it and the street looked like, there were no surprises; it was exactly what we expected.

The bellman took our luggage up to room 611. We had read reviews of the place on hotels.com (in fact, we booked our hotel through them – recommend them, by the way), and one of the complaints were the slow elevators.

They weren’t kidding. There were only two elevators for 15 floors and yes, they were slooooow. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t bother me, we would just take the stairs. But since Kevin doesn’t do stairs very well, we were forced to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

The hallways were also really, really hot and stuffy. I don’t know if the hotel was trying to save money on their utility bill or what, but it was unbearable, especially in the afternoon after the building had had a chance to bake all day. (New York in July is HOT and STIFLING).

How appropriate for my musicians to stand in front of Carnegie Hall.

However, that is the extent of anything bad I have to say about The Salisbury – everything else was great. We had our own window unit, so our room stayed nice and cool (in fact, I was amazed to see just how many buildings in New York had window air conditioners – I guess this is because most of the buildings in New York are so old they may not even HAVE central air installed). The hotel is indeed old, but it was clean and we loved the location!! There was an entrance to the Metro just one block away and Central Park was literally around the corner. There was a coal-oven pizza place next door (they have since outlawed coal ovens so it was cool that we were so close to one and could sample a coal-oven pizza), and a quaint cafe that we ended up going to several times while in New York.

We couldn’t have asked for a more centrally located hotel. (I’d recommend staying there – though I forgot to mention that though The Salisbury advertises a continental breakfast, you don’t figure out, until they drop off the voucher that you are required to give them if you want the breakfast, that the continental breakfast? Is $6.00 PER PERSON. Twenty-four bucks for doughnuts and bagels?! Yeah, we did that exactly ONCE).

(Side note: We had pizza the first night we were there and I took one bite and burned the ever-loving CRAP out of my lower lip because the cheese was so hot. My lip was numb throughout the rest of our trip. 😦 )

This truck in the background was stalled in the middle of the intersection and it was pure chaos.

We didn’t do much our first night in New York. We arrived, got settled, ate some famous New York pizza and crashed. But we had been in New York long enough for me to understand what people meant when they said NY was the city that never slept. The energy was nearly palpable. I felt small, insignificant, lost, overwhelmed, and naive.

But I was already hooked and couldn’t wait to see more.

(…to be continued)