Saturday, November 29, 2008

4 States + 400 Dollars + No Detours = Priceless

We started our venture to NYC on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon. For those who don't know, getting to New York from Ohio is pretty much a straight shot. Given that fact we hoped to make good time, but that also depended on the traffic and weather. Thankfully we had easy going all the way. No problems...traffic, accidents, detours, or weather. Upon entering PA is there was some wet snow, but that was the extent of any "bad" weather. Something to note though, there's a stretch of the drive in central PA that lacks many exits, which includes gas, food, and restrooms. It seemed to take forever between exits. This didn't effect us, but we did make note of it, considering you never know what may happen.

We arrived in Newark, New Jersey at approximately 8pm. As expected, our hotel was immediately across the street from the Newark Penn Station. What we didn't expect was how nice it was. Not that it was a grand hotel by any means, but we expected just a typically travelling hotel. It was a small step up from what we would normally stay in, so we were thrilled. Upon arriving we flipped the tv on. That's when it was announced that there were "unsubstantiated claims of threats warning of possible attacks on the NYC transit system on Thanksgiving." These announcements were in lieu of what was going on in India. The crazy world we live in. We accepted the possibility of the risk, but settled in for the night. Threats come on a daily basis whether we know them or not so we weren't going to let that hinder our plans for the next day.

We woke up at 5:15am on Thanksgiving morning. We each put our minimum 2 layers on our bottom and 5 (yes 5) on top. We each had extra hats, gloves, and hand/feet warmers just in case. Our adventure started by stepping into the Newark Penn Station. It was full of hustle and bustle. We quickly found the ticket machines and made our way through purchasing the correct tickets and then headed toward Track 1. A packed train pulled up, we filed in, and headed to NYC. At that point we had our first "now what?" We never turned in our ticket so we were quite confused as what was going to happen. It was then that a conductor came through and was taking tickets. He hoped we had done the right thing, and thankfully we did. He took our ticket with no problem. Not a surprise but we did fumble our way through many experiences, from riding the subway, to finding bathrooms, etc. Let me tell you though, we were lucky. We happened to "fall into" situations and definitely took advantage of them. With the help of maps we made our way around and didn't have too many snafus. And if something happened we quickly got back on track.

We tried to make our way to Herald Square for the parade. We knew that it was a long shot, but wanted to try. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to get in there. At that point we had to decided whether to stick it out in that area or head up near Central Park. We decided to head north. The city was a buzz. At the same time it was controlled chaos. NYPD was everywhere. And all they had to do was have a presence. Most of the time they turned a blind eye. I can't tell how many times we crossed a barrier to get to the other side of the street. Heck, the majority of the time we were actually walking in the street. Yes, walking in the street in Times cool? They didn't care, as long as you just weren't standing there. After a bit of walking David and I were hot. All of those layers were kicking our butts. And we also needed to find a bathroom. Obviously, everywhere you went there was a line. We happened on a mall-type building and decided to try to go inside. Surprisingly it was open, which not too many people knew about. We quickly found the bathroom and were in and out. Who would've guessed that? After that we decided we wanted to get to the other side of the street. Unfortunately it wasn't so easy to cross the street as the crowds grew. After a small back track we were able to get to the other side of the street and made it into Central Park. It took us awhile but David was able to find an awesome spot, in Central Park, on the side of a hill, where we could see the parade. We knew all of those ventures out for Mardi Gras would come in handy again at some point. For pictures, we had branches in the way, but it was an awesome spot. This was our view

I'm glad we left so early so that we had the ability to find a decent spot and it wasn't long before the parade began. You could feel the energy rise as the parade drew closer. It was coming. I got chills. This has always been a dream of mine, to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in person. And it was about to come true. As the bands played and the balloons filled the air, I couldn't help but feel the tears coming down my cheeks. I know, I'm a geek, but this is something I never knew would happen, and it was right before my eyes. I absolutely love Mardi Gras and won't take anything from it. But although this was also a parade, it had a different sense. It was totally it's own. Trust me, both Mardi Gras and Macy's are totally worth trips. Just amazing. Absolutely loved it.

During the parade we had a couple local families around us along with a gentleman that watches the parade from the same spot every year. We kept conversation throughout the parade. Near the end he said that it was the longest parade he can remember to date. Let me tell you, our cold behinds and toes were feeling that. We had started to lose feeling in our extremities so although the parade was awesome we were glad to see it end.

We ventured through Central Park a bit but didn't come close to seeing it all. One thing I'd like to do next time is explore that area more. We headed toward Rockefeller Center but decided to grab a quick bite to eat. We happened on Ernest Klein & Co. International Supermarket. Our food was great, and we even got a Black and White Cookie.

We continued on to Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, and The Pond At Bryant Park. Then back to Times Square. All of this was unbelievable. It's hard to take it all in. I found myself sitting there, in awe, for a few moments. It's one of those things that you need to physically experience to be able to truly appreciate it. Even so, here's a short video.

Next up was the Statue Of Liberty. We didn't rush there that morning, due to the parade, so we made it there around 3-4pm. It was then that we found out we had made it on the last boat of the day. Whew! Once again, I found myself looking at the statue saying, "That's it! I'm really in NYC!" After our trip to Liberty it was time to go to the WTC site. We passed Wall Street/The New York Stock Exchange on the way. The WTC was interesting. I didn't know what to expect. You can see in, but for the most part there isn't much to see, with all of the construction and barricades around. In general southern Manhattan was quiet. Of course it was a holiday, so not too many people were around, but it was almost too quiet. Kind of weird.

We weren't sure what our plans were after that so we kept walking to see what we could find. It was then that we thought we'd check out Little Italy and get a bite to eat. Everyone's trying to get your business, so it's up to you to find the place you want to eat. After asking multiple restaurants if they charged for sharing a plate, we found one that didn't. In addition, our drinks for the meal were free, including sangria! Our dinner meal was cheaper than our lunch, was VERY good, and experience that we never had before. Another experience to add to our list.

Having already walked about 15 miles that day (I mapped it upon coming home...wish I would've had my Garmin) we decided to take the subway instead of walking all the way back to Times Square. We hung out there for a bit then decided it was time to head back to Newark. We hopped the train and called it a day.

Wow, did that all just happen? This was one of those experiences that I will never forget. Call me crazy, but one day in NYC was better than a week in Hawaii. We hardly did much planning, but it all came together. We didn't think that this would be possible on a multitude of levels. Everyone said we'd spend a ton of money. I guess it all depends on what you do or willing to give up. Our mindset was to experience NYC, and that we did. In the end we spent approximately $400 and that included gas, hotel, food, and transportation. We also saved by walking more than most people would. My final calculation came out to about 20 miles of walking. But that allowed us to see more, keep warm, save money, and burn calories. Not going to say I'm not sore. Yesterday I woke up with sore calves, shins, abs, shoulders, and back. And 2 days later I'm still feeling the effects.

But, it was worth the drive. It was worth the walking. And now that we've done it, it opens the door for many more experiences whether they're in NYC or somewhere else.

For more pictures check out our Flickr page.


Therese said...

Sounds like a really fun time! I'm glad you had such a great experience. I hope to get to NYC someday, too :)

Anonymous said...

Glad you guys had a great time. Your pictures are awesome (especially Lady Liberty).