Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Break in New York - Part 4

(Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 are below. By now, your feet are aching from all the walking and you need a vacation from your vacation, but this is NYC and there is still so much to do!)

This was our last day in NYC (my feet were happy, but the rest of me was sad). We stayed in Carlstadt, NJ the last two nights and discovered another wonder of public transportation called the bus. Of course we had ridden busses before, but after driving through NYC ourselves, we worried that we'd be stuck on a bus in gridlock traffic with no end in sight. That, my friends, is a surefire way for Dan to completely lose his mind.

Don't let the smile fool you, he is sweating. Only the fear of paying $50+ for parking in the city is greater.

But of course this is NYC public transportation, so we were very pleasantly surprised! From our hotel's bus stop, it was a 15-25 minute ride to Times Square depending on the number of stops along the way. We made a point to avoid rush hour, which also helped. It was more expensive ($8.50/round trip) than taking the train, but still much cheaper and probably faster than the alternative. Dan developed a greater appreciation for New Jersey than he's ever had before.

We had two ideas for how to spend the afternoon - either going to the New York Mets game or seeing another Broadway show. One of Dan's coworkers told us that "Newsies" was playing on Broadway, so we went to the theater to see if we could buy last-minute tickets for the matinee. It worked out, and we really enjoyed it! It's based on a true story of the 1899 NYC strike by the "Newsies" (the poor boys who sold newspapers for a penny) against the newspaper owner, Joseph Pulitzer. We had watched several seasons of "So You Think You Can Dance" on TV, and three of the guys from the show played characters in "Newsies." Recognizing some of the faces made it even more fun to watch!

"Look at me, I'm the King of New York..."

Afterwards, we visited the gorgeous NYC Public Library.

The building was so intricate from floor to ceiling.

There were beautiful paintings on the walls, like this depiction of Moses breaking the Ten Commandments when he discovers the Israelites worshipping a golden calf. Although those people don't look remotely Jewish, I'm just saying.

The Reading Room was a work of art in itself.

They also have the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals, owned by Christopher Robin Milne, the son of A.A. Milne, who wrote the books.

How cute are they??

Okay, since you asked nicely, here's one more of Pooh Bear.

That night, we went to our 4th and final hockey game to see the NY Rangers play at Madison Square Garden. Dan said he felt dirty just by being there, but the Rangers lost and made his day. They had personal flat screens in front of your seat where you could watch the video feed of the game. The funny thing was you could change the channel on the screens, so people were flipping to baseball, golf, etc. while watching a live hockey game. This confirmed my theory that Attention Deficit Disorder was invented by Americans.

A celebrity sighting on the Fan Cam!

Our last day of vacation was Easter Sunday. We were looking forward to attending church and spending the afternoon with our good friends Jenn and Eric, and their kids James and Sara. They moved from San Diego to New Jersey over a year ago and we really miss them!

As we got to the church and sat down with our friends, a lady got up to sing, and Dan almost fell out of his pew! It was Beth Fagerlund, his high school history teacher from Long Island over 25 years ago!

Dan went right up to her and her husband after the service to re-introduce himself. She was so surprised & excited to see him again! She's kept in touch with the Jesters over the years and it was nice for Dan to see her again.

We spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with Jenn, Eric, James, and Sara. They're still settling into New Jersey, but they like it so far.

It was a great way to end our trip!

Unfortunately, our flight crew was late for our flight out of Newark airport that evening, so we missed our connection in San Francisco. It was the last flight of the day, so we got 4 hours of sleep in a San Francisco hotel before catching a 6 am flight on Monday morning to San Diego. When we got home, we immediately went to bed for a couple more hours before I had to get up, shower, and work a half day. Dan's on his 2nd week of Spring Break, so he's getting that vacation from his vacation that we all dream of. :)

Spring Break in New York - Part 3

(You can read "Part 1" and "Part 2" below. By now you probably feel like you've spent a week in New York, too!)

This was my favorite day of our trip! Early in our marriage we visited NYC several times during Christmastime to visit Dan's folks, but our time was always limited and it was too cold to really enjoy sightseeing. I had a checklist of things I wanted to do if we vacationed there when the weather was nice, and on this day many of my wishes were fulfilled.

Confession: I have wanted to visit the American Museum of Natural History ever since I saw "Night at the Museum" in 2006. After driving back to NYC from Philadelphia that morning, this was our first stop. My inner child was ecstatic!

You can easily spend an entire day in this place! We read the floorplan, decided which exhibits we wanted to see, and spent a fast-paced 3 hours touring the museum. A cool model of the planets, although they removed Pluto since it has been demoted to a dwarf planet. Boo.

Wow, the "New York Bagel-Pizza-Deli Sandwich Diet" is really working for me!

That funny statue from "Night at the Museum"! "You bring me gum gum." Haha!

The animal exhibits were truly incredible. I could've spent much more time in this area, but we had to keep moving. Dan's being charged by a herd of elephants, no big deal.
The dinosaur exhibit was very impressive, too, although of course it's hard to know how accurate it all is.

I needed a snack after we left the museum, so we bought a soft pretzel with mustard off a truck in Central Park. It seemed like the New York thing to do. Strolling through Central Park with Dan was another longtime dream of mine. It's just as pretty & romantic as it looks in the movies, and the weather was perfect. Here's a shot of the Bethesda Fountain in the center of the park (named after the biblical pool where the first person who stepped in after the water was troubled would be healed of their affliction). It was nice to get away from the never-ending concrete of the city for a while. Yep, this is exactly how I pictured it in my mind. Perfection. :)

Every Friday night from 4-8 pm, the Museum of Modern Art opens its doors for free. We took advantage of it, along with 10,000 of our closest friends. It was really crowded!

I remembered Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" from my Art History class in college.

It's really big and kind of cool, but I just don't get it.

I get this one, though. :)

The highlight was seeing Van Gogh's "Starry Night." It's one of Dan's favorites!

We couldn't decide what we wanted for dinner, but Dan remembered that there's a food court downstairs in Grand Central Terminal. It's got surprisingly gourmet restaurant options, and we dined on tri-tip, garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted vegetables. Food=A+ Ambiance=D-

We walked to Rockefeller Center next, and I was curious to see what it looked like when it wasn't Christmastime. There was no giant Christmas tree, but otherwise it looked exactly the same. They even had the ice skating rink open!

We bought tickets to go to the Top of the Rock (at the Rockefeller Center building) to see the city at night. From what we read, the view is just as nice there as it is at the top of the Empire State Building. But of course if you're on the Empire State Building, you don't get to see it in the skyline, so we opted for the Top of the Rock instead.
There are 3 viewing levels at the Top of the Rock. The 2 lower levels are surrounded by glass to shelter you from the wind. But your pictures turn out like this after spending way too much time trying to figure out how to get the flash from reflecting in center of your picture. And then suddenly you realize that if you go to the very top level, there is no glass! Brilliant!!

And you get this breathtaking view. It looks like NYC covers the entire world!

Looking down on Manhattan at night magically transforms it from an overwhelmingly large, crowded, busy, noisy city into one of the most beautiful and serene places in the world. It's amazing what a single elevator ride can do! :)

And thus concludes my favorite day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Break in New York - Part 2

(You can check out "Part 1" below. I'm trying to keep these posts from getting too long by breaking them up, but I'm pretty sure I will fail because this trip was epic.)

After touring Long Island for 3 days, it was a bit shocking to hit New York City! At this point, we were just driving through the city to get to Newark, NJ, where our next hockey game awaited. But this proves to be a challenge when you have the incredible foresight to hit the heart of NYC during 5:00 rush hour. *palm slaps forehead*

In one section of town, we drove 4 blocks in 45 minutes, I kid you not.

All to the sweet, sweet sound of car horns blaring. Double awesome.

We finally made it to Newark just in time (okay, a few minutes late) for the New Jersey Devils game. They were playing the Islanders, so we got to cheer for Dan's team twice!

Dan took his life into his own hands and sported enemy colors at the Devil's arena. We got fewer rude comments than we expected when it was all said & done.

Since the hotels in NJ were much cheaper (by $150-$200/night!) than the hotels in NYC, we stayed in Newark for a couple of nights. I'm not going to lie, Newark is not a pretty place. But our hotel had free parking and was within walking distance of the Devils arena and Penn Station, where we could catch a train to NYC.

I broadened Dan's horizons - this was the first time he'd taken a train from NJ to NY. It was cheap ($4.50 round-trip) and only took 25 mins. each way. Much faster & cheaper than driving a car and parking for the day!

My brother Steve was spending a couple of weeks at the Hastings Center (a bioethics research institute) in Garrison, NY, so he drove the 1 1/2 hours to NYC to meet us! It was great to spend the afternoon with him.

The three of us walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and back, which gave us great views of the city.

Dan had been raving about the Sicilian pizza in New York, so Steve & I had to try it.

As we were walking towards Wall Street, we saw Alexander Hamilton's grave at Trinity Churchyard.

A famous Wall Street sight: The New York Stock Exchange

I recently read that George Washington took his oath in NYC as the first President of the United States, and we found the site where the moment took place! I guess this was considered the capital for a while before Washington D.C. was established.

Steve (being infinitely wiser than Dan & I) decided to head back to the Hastings Center before rush hour, so we said goodbye. Then Dan & I hopped on the Staten Island Ferry, which is a free commuter ferry that gives you great views of the city & the Statue of Liberty from the harbor.

Heading away from NYC!

It was about a half hour ride each way. We had to get off when we landed on Staten Island, but we immediately jumped back on the same boat to head back.

A view of Lady Liberty from the water

We stopped for a few moments in Battery Park, because when you see a bathroom in NYC that you don't have to pay for, you use it. Plus the park was pretty.

Castle Clinton at Battery Park

We had made reservations to view the 9/11 Memorial, so we headed there next. They built two identical fountains where the Twin Towers formerly stood.

The names of everyone who lost their lives were inscribed around the fountains. It was sad to see how many there were.

The new One World Trade Center is still under construction. It'll stand even taller than the Twin Towers.

We stopped again at Battery Park for the aforementioned free bathrooms, and also to call Mom Jester & wish her a happy birthday! :)

Then we were on the move again, seeing some classic NYC sights along the way - like the subway station at rush hour.

And men playing chess in Bryant Park

And the Chrysler Building

And Times Square!

We ended our evening by seeing a Broadway Musical, "Memphis." It's the true story of an interracial relationship in Memphis, TN during the 50s or 60s. The white man was a radio personality who played R&B music on his station. He fell in love with a black lady who sang the style of music he loved. It wasn't a happily-ever-after kind of story, but the music & dancing were phenomenal! Clearly my hair was blown away. :)

The next day, we took a side trip to Philadelphia for our 3rd hockey game. It was a 1 1/2 hour drive, so not too far.

Dan met up with some old friends, Roy, Arthur, and Nathan on the way :) But we were waiting to get to Philadelphia to eat lunch, because we had to have Philly Cheesesteaks! They were sooo good and big enough that we wrapped up the leftovers & finished them off for dinner. Because there's no such thing as eating too many cheesesteaks when you're in Philadelphia!

We saw the Liberty Bell (and Independence Hall in the background)

And those famous Rocky Balboa steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (cue "Eye of the Tiger")

I don't know this guy, but he totally stole my cheesy pose with the Rocky statue!

At the Wells Fargo Arena to watch the Philadelphia Flyers play

We got famous on the Fan Cam that night! There was a cute little girl in front of us holding a poster that said "My first Flyers game...but not my last!" She got the camera man's attention, and Dan snapped a photo of us on the screen. I'm the one in the mint-colored sweater, and you can see Dan's bald head beside me.

After a fun day & night in Philadelphia, we headed back to NYC for my favorite day of the trip! (to be continued...)