Saturday, April 23, 2011

New York City, Day Two, Part One

Day Two!

We had originally set our alarms for 7am, but Stephen and I were both up before they actually went off. I guess we were just too excited to get the day going! The TV news promised us a sunny, warmer day and we wanted to take full advantage! We had plans for lots of outdoor time today.

We were quickly changed and ready to go! The walk to the PATH station was quick and simple, and before we knew it, we were at the 9th St. Station. There were sooooo many stairs though to street level...we were all out of breath and needed a tiny rest on a stoop. Seriously, there must have been 6 or 7 flights of stairs. We are so not used to stairs. haha.

We got our bearings straight and started heading towards Waverly Place, walking by the famous Gray's Papaya joint. I wish it had been later in the day;  I would have tried the "recession special: 2 hot dogs and a papaya drink for $2.99". Anyway, we spotted the Waverly Restaurant at Waverly Place across the street.

A is a TAD obsessed with Selena Gomez, star of Wizards of Waverly Place on the Disney Channel. The TV show is about a family in NYC running a restaurant at a sub station at Waverly Place. When he heard there was an actual Waverly Place that had a restaurant...well, we just had to go! No, it looks nothing like the TV show, but it was fun to pretend. We didn't see any wizards, but plenty of people! The place was very busy. It's a small restaurant, and there were no tables available this beautiful Saturday morning. We were allowed to sit at the counter though, and it actually made it a little more fun for us!

Our food was prepared fairly quick, especially considering how crowded the restaurant was that morning! A had chocolate milk and the breakfast fries. It's vacation...who doesn't want fries for breakfast? LOL He did say they were delicious, so that's all that matters. :) Stephen had a breakfast skillet, which included sausage, eggs and cheese. It also came with a side of toast. He happily ate his in a matter of minutes. Guess it was good! I had the eggs benedict with Canadian bacon. Can I just tell you that it was the most delicious eggs benedict I've ever tasted? Oh my word, it was beyond yummy. I highly recommend the Waverly Restaurant in the Village if you are ever down that way!

Right outside the restaurant is the subway train we needed to catch, and soon enough, we were headed uptown to Central Park! I had been dreaming of taking A here for so long, and it was finally coming true! I was so super excited, I could barely stand it! Within a few minutes we were at our stop, and we headed upstairs. This particular station sits directly below the Dakota, the former home of John Lennon where he was shot and killed.

There is an entrance to Central Park directly across from the Dakota, so we ventured in! There were a ton of pedi-cab drivers begging us to take a ride at the entrance. I guess the camera gave away the fact that we were tourists from a mile away! LOL We declined and walked into the park. Strawberry Fields is near this entrance (with a memorial to John Lennon) but we decided to skip it this trip. Stephen and I had both seen it in the past and knew A probably wouldn't be interested. Instead, we took a left down a pathway to see the Bow Bridge. You might have seen it in a bunch of different movies.

See, I was there!  (I hate my photo being taken)

It was still pretty chilly out, but the boy really wanted a drink because he was "so hot and sweaty." He was totally lying, but I wanted a drink too. We found a nearby cart at the Bethesda Fountain and grabbed a few drinks and snacks. 

From the fountain, it was a short walk to the Conservatory Water. A and I had read Stuart Little by E.B. White together a few years ago, and we've seen the movie a thousand times. If you aren't familiar with it, Stuart and his brother go to this pond to race model sailboats. One of the draws for coming to Central Park for A was being able to rent a boat just like the fantastic scene in the movie and book.

The Conservatory rents the boats for $11 for half an hour at the boathouse, and it was one of the best well spent $11 ever. A had a ball, and we had a great time watching him. A launched his sailboat #22 into the water and he quickly learned how to sail his boat. The remote controls the sail and the rudder of the boat.  It took a few minutes of getting used to, but he got the hang of it pretty easily. I could have sat there all day long watching him laugh and sail the boat on the pond.

While Stephen and A were sailing the boat, I was able to call home and check on Am. All was well in Florida, and Am seemed to be having a lot of fun with his grandparents. I missed him so much though, especially in Central Park. I could just see him having a blast at the playgrounds, the carousel and the zoo. Next time, Am! I promise!

After our time was up, we walked around for a bit  (A refused his picture being taken at the Alice In Wonderland Statue) and tried to find Pale Male...a red-tailed hawk that has been living near the Pond. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find him after looking for a few minutes. The walk was quick, though, to Literary Walk and the Mall. Again, I'm sure you've seen it before in movies.

Every time I visit here and see the beautiful elms, I think about Kramer Vs. Kramer, the movie starring Glenn Close and Dustin Hoffman. I picture the little boy running from his daddy's arms into his mother's after a long separation. Is there a movie that instantly pops into your head when you see this area?

We stopped to listen to a band, people watched and viewed the different street vendors' goods as we took in the sights of Central Park. It really was a dream come true of mine:  to take Ato Central Park. I'm not sure why I've always wanted to do this, but I'm glad I was able to make my dream come true. It's a day I'll always remember. The moment that will stay in my head forever? This.....

The views from the cliffs behind Wollman Rink are incredible!!!! We sat there, on the cliffs, for a long time watching the skaters below and taking in the beautiful sites of midtown Manhattan. Truly breathtaking.

The last thing we had to see in Central Park was the Gapstow Bridge at the Pond near 59th St. It was featured in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Does it look familiar? It's where Kevin meets the bird lady for the first time and at the end of the movie. It was really a beautiful, quiet spot with lots of ducks and geese.

From here, we exited Central Park at Fifth Ave. Up next: Top of the Rock, Conquering fears and a night in Manhattan.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Is......

Fun pastel colors

Decorating with cute bunnies

Tomatoes ready to be picked

Decorating with flowers

Spring Projects

And their end results.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New York City Trip Report, Day One, Part 3!

The train downtown wasn't too crowded and we exited right at Times Square. It was still slightly raining, but this made the crowds very low. We were able to walk the sidewalks (and blocked off streets) pretty easily. That would change the next day.

After wandering around for a few minutes, we headed for ToysRUs. It's a giant store, so big there is a ferris wheel on the inside! A didn't want to ride (bummer..I really wanted to get in the Cabbage Patch Kid car!), but we did grab a drink from the snack bar and people watched for a few minutes. After our little break, we shopped the Lego area with their giant NYC icon displays (with a couple special guests).

 The boys were in their element here. They must have looked at the same Lego displays a hundred times. I just wanted a break. So, I found a small quiet area near the dinosaur area and sat for a few minutes. I could people watch all day, especially in NYC. The boys had a good time looking at the Bakugan, Ben10, Star Wars and Transformers goods for what seemed like hours. I wandered over to the candy area and browsed the preschool toy area. I was missing Am pretty hard at this point and nearly cried when I spotted the Mickey's Clubhouse and Chuggington toys. I had to keep reminding myself how difficult this trip would have been with him (just thinking about lugging the stroller up and down the subway stations was enough), and realized he would pretty much be staring at the backs of people's knees and the ground the entire time in his stroller. Plus, I knew we would be back in a few years when he could really enjoy it. I'm all for bringing little kids on vacations (even if they will never remember) because they still have fun and the parents remember it. But NYC with our toddler, without any extra hands, could have been a nightmare. I know he'll love it though when he's 5 and A is 13. I can't believe I just typed out 13!?!

After A FINALLY picked out a bunch of Lego mini figures, we once again ventured out into the rain. We took our obligatory pics in Times Square.

When we go on vacations, we don't like eating at chain restaurants if we can help it. However, I knew how much A would love Dave and Buster's. Orlando is supposed to be getting one this summer, but A had never been to one. Stephen and I had gone on our honeymoon and had SO MUCH FUN, we knew that we wanted to bring him back here if we had the opportunity. Dave and Buster's is only about a block from Times Square, and we were so hungry at this point (not to mention exhausted). We travelled the long escalator to the second floor in the building and were seated immediately. I think there were only a few other patrons, as it wasn't dinnertime quite yet. While we were waiting, I called home to check on Am. He was already having a fun time with Grammy and Pop. I didn't have to worry. :)

A ordered a large fries (he said he wasn't that hungry), Stephen had the fried shrimp (I think) and I ordered the Island Grilled Trifecta. It was so good! It came with a skewer each of grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, and grilled steak with rice and veggies along with various dipping sauces like pineapple pico de gallo and mango citrus sauce. It was delicious! Both of our meals came with a $10 arcade card to be used after we ate in their humongous arcade. A was anxious to get in there (who wouldn't be?) and when we finished up, we headed right there. I'd say our $20 gave us about 1 hour playing time. A played most of the games you could win tickets with and accumulated a bunch. Instead of buying a huge prize or even a bunch of little prizes, A chose a small grabber toy. He wanted to save the rest for when D&B comes to Orlando. I think he was just really tired at this point and wanted to get back to the hotel.

We needed to find the 33rd St Station for the PATH train but had some difficulty finding it. We knew it was on Sixth Ave, but it was such a large area with a huge square, we couldn't find it (the rain wasn't helping). So, after talking to another woman searching for the train, we spotted it across the street and headed down the stairs. There was a large group of people standing around and we realized the train was shut down. It was shut down going in both directions actually. We waited a few minutes to see if it would start running again to no avail. They did make the announcement that PATH running out of the World Trade Center was still running to NJ. Good thing, I was starting to get worried. So, we had to get down to the WTC. Another check with the subway map (nothing says HEY I'M A TOURIST than staring at a subway map for 10 minutes), and we took the train downtown getting off at the Church St. Station. This gave us the unexpected opportunity to walk by and admire Trinity Church. It was really beautiful!

   Another good thing about being rerouted was the opportunity to show A the World Trade Center site. He was only 6 months old when the tragedy occurred, and I remember holding him so tightly that day. It was my first day of work, and thankfully, A was allowed to accompany me to work (and had everyday after that). One day, a few years ago, A saw the footage on TV of the towers falling. He has some severe anxiety issues (they are getting better, thankfully), but I felt it necessary to tell him what it all meant and why they fell. He seemed to take it well, and asked a lot of questions. At one point he was concerned about visiting NYC because he thought it would happen again. By this trip though, he was a little older and understood the magnitude of it all. (Unfortunately, his anxiety of this will come into play later).

As we walked by the World Trade Center site this trip, we talked a little bit more about what happened that terrible day. What was once a giant whole in the ground (what I remembered about a trip my brother and I took in late 2001) is now lots of concrete and the start of a building. It no longer resembles a devastating loss, but rather, rebirth and renewal. I was proud to be an American in 2001. And I felt that resurgent pride once again when I saw the site this time. A asked me why they were rebuilding the building. I told him because "Americans, New Yorkers especially, want to show the world that we were not defeated. That we will build bigger and better. And that we haven't forgotten." I used those words exactly as I have written here. They may sound rehearsed;  it's because they were. I anticipated him asking this question and wanted to answer in a way he would understand.  A looked up at me and smiled. I'm so glad we had that discussion. I really think he understood. He's growing up so fast!

We walked with, literally, hundreds of other train riders down Vesey Street towards the PATH station. You could tell everyone was just tired from their long workday and just wanted to get home. The train was full and we had to stand, but we were quickly back in New Jersey. The walk back to the hotel seemed to take forever, but in reality, it was only about 5 minutes. Stephen got the keys for our other room from the front desk and A and I checked out the lobby. It glows all purpley and blue. It's very pretty. Stephen also asked the front desk if there was a grocery store or convenience store nearby, and thankfully there was one right around the corner. A begrudgingly went along, he had walked a lot that day. At the grocery store we bought soda, chips, dip, pretzels and sushi (long story) to take back to the room. Again, I can't say how convenient the W is to everything.

Back at the hotel, we bypassed the lobby bar and headed up to our rooms. Our other room connected to the king room, only this one had 2 queen beds. The rooms were very similar, except our comfy chair at the window was smaller and the colors were a little different. We were soooo tired. Stephen and I unpacked while A watched a little TV. We all had a snack and then fell asleep quite quickly in our heavenly beds (as Starwood calls them). A and I left our curtains open so we could see the NYC skyline before drifting off to sleep and for in the morning when we wake up. This was our view:

Up next: The day I had been dreaming of for 5 years.

Monday, April 11, 2011

NYC Trip Report-Day One, Part 2

As I was saying, we rushed up to the room to see what our view would be like for the next few days. It was raining slightly and very foggy...but the view was still amazing! Not only did they upgrade us to a Manhattan view, it was of midtown and not downtown (not as exciting of a view).

I know it doesn't look that fabulous with the rain and fog...but I promise you, it gets better! Just wait for more pictures later in the day!

The king room was very modern and had the most comfy round chair I've ever sat in. Perfect for sitting in while looking at the beautiful skyline.

We had so much to do and wanted to see today, so we changed into our sneakers, put more layers on and we hit the pavement! It was only about 2 or 3 blocks to the Path train station into NYC. The walk was quick, even in the drizzly rain that was coming down. We were very cold though. It was only in the 40's, and we just aren't used to it living in Florida. Figuring out the Path train was easy and we purchased our Metrocard for our stay (can be used at the Path stations and subways in NYC). The train was waiting for us when we descended the stairs, so we quickly boarded and we on our way to 33rd St! I asked A what he thought of the train and the fact that we were under water. He seemed pretty impressed, but was a tad worried we'd be flooded.

Once in NYC, at the 33rd St. stop, we transferred to train going uptown. Again, this was quick and painless. This is where we witnessed our first subway rat. He was crawling quickly along the tracks. He was seriously disgusting. I hate rats! If he had been on the platform or in the train, I would have FREAKED out. I've seen those YouTube videos! YUCK.

The subway dropped us off directly at the American Museum of Natural History. You actually enter right from the subway. There was only a 2 minute line and we were quickly through with our donations. (You can donate whatever amount you would like, although there are extras such as IMAX..but we didn't have time for much more than the actual museum). Our first stop? The food court! We hadn't eaten alllllll day and were starving! A wanted a giant cupcake, and Stephen and I split a wrap and cup of soup. We also purchased a small soda. All this for the low low price of $25. Seriously. I thought Disney prices were bad!

Everything was tasty, if not a tad expensive. We were feeling at least a little satisfied so off we went to see some exhibits. Some of the animals and plant life on display were amazing! Our main goal of the day was to see the giant blue whale in the ocean life hall. A could NOT wait to see this. It was one of the things he's been most looking forward to. But like I sad, we first stopped to look at a few exhibits like this, a wall of animals.

The crowds weren't too bad. I suspect because it was Friday. Most of the school groups were, at this point, heading home so the Museum wasn't overrun with tons of kids. Perfect for lingering over whatever we wanted! Like I said, we were headed for the giant blue whale. And when A saw it, he gasped, "WOW." I can't even express how excited he was. He kept asking me how I thought they "hung" it from the ceiling. LOL

Notice is little video camera? I need to figure out how to get them on the computer..the trip was the first time using it.

Our next stop was to see all the dinosaurs. What kid doesn't love dinosaurs??? A has been obsessed with them for years. Plus, he's seen Night at The Museum so many times, it's crazy. He wanted to see the TRex!!! So, we went on a search!

We found him! We found TRex!

We saw many beautiful exhibits that day...but the ocean life and dinosaurs were our favorite. I wish we would have had more time for other parts of the Museum, but we just didn't have the time or energy. At this point we had been up for soooooo long and we were still hungry. We found a nice little area with giant windows overlooking Central Park. It was still dreary out, but it was a magnificent view!

There are two things A had been saying he wanted to purchase with his savings (piggy bank and his grandparents funding) was a fossil from the Museum and toys from ToysRUs. So, we walked over to the dinosaur shop in the Museum and he found a little kit with 10 different real fossils, including the one he REALLY wanted (an amenite..sp??). He was so excited, we opened it up in the dinosaur sitting area.

On a nicer day, we would have walked up to Times Square, but it was just rainy and cold for us to do it on foot. We exited the Museum at Central Park West and said hello to the Theodore Roosevelt statue out front. It only took a minute to find the subway stop and we were on our way to Times Square!!!

Next installment: Our first evening in NYC! ****More pictures from the day will be posted on my Facebook when the blog is completed!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New York City-Planning and Part 1

Every time we went to WDW in the past (before we moved here), I had written trip reports for a Disney message board site. I no longer frequent that message board for a variety of personal reasons, but I still enjoy writing trip reports! Here is the start of my report on New York City, April of 2011!


We decided to just take A on this trip to NYC. Little Am is just too young to really appreciate the City. I wanted to take him, but logistics really prevented me from taking him. Mom and Dad offered to watch Am for a long weekend if we were to visit without him. I didn't want to leave him behind, but I knew my parents would take really good care of him and make it an "Am Weekend." So, after making the decision to only take big brother, we let A know it was going to be a long weekend in NYC just for him. He was super excited about it!

We have several books at the house highlighting NYC and all it's glory. Our favorite "This is New York" by Maurice Sendak got A super pumped about the trip. He also read Fodor's NYC with Kids, Stuart Little and The Unofficial Guide to NYC with Kids. He's familiar with Home Alone 2, Elf, Stuart Little 1 and 2, and various other TV shows and movies that also got him super excited.

Next came picking the date and flights. We found an amazing rate out of Jetblue for a weekend in April, along with a great rate on a hotel just outside the city in Hoboken. We quickly booked both and waited for the big day. We did a lot of reading, lots of talking and dreaming up plans for a wonderful getaway. We were all set!

Day One. The Adventure Begins!

Our day started soooo early. 3am to be exact. We needed to be out the door by 3:30 to make it to the airport by 4:30 (in case of delays). Nobody really got any sleep. I think my husband got a few hours, Alex about 1 hour and I never did fall asleep. I was too excited. I was also very anxious about leaving my baby boy. While everyone else was sleeping, I wrote Am a long note just in case of an emergency. Yes, I'm paranoid. But if something should happen to me, at least he would have a detailed letter from myself telling him how much I love him and what I would want him to know. Call it morbid. Call it paranoid. But I call it being a Mom flying without one of her babies.

Anyway, 3am rolled around. Stephen and I got ourselves ready and packed up the car. I had to practically scream in A ears to get him up. Poor kid was wiped out. By the time we were in the car and headed for the airport though, he perked up and was ready for his flight!

Luckily we left very early in the morning, because Jetblue had the longest check in line I've ever seen. Skycab was not running so we were forced to stand in the line for well over an hour. This put us at about 5:15 with a flight at 6am. Finally, we were checked in and herded to security. Needless to say, it was also a very long line. It took us nearly 20 to 25 minutes to get through and by the time we reached the gate (after quickly stopping at Burger King for hashbrowns and drinks), they were already boarding.

A and I were seated together on the plane, with Stephen right in front of us. We had windows facing east, so we were able to watch the sun come up from the sky. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I didn't take any pictures because I was enjoying the moment so much I couldn't look away. Even A was in awe. Our flight was pretty much uneventful. I love Jetblue for their TV sets at each chair. Amostly watched Nickelodeon and I watched the Today Show and Full House. LOL I believe Stephen mostly listened to music.

Our flight was on time and we landed at approx 8am. We retrieved our bags and I called Dial7 for a town car pickup to Hoboken. While I was making the call, A filmed some of the airport with his videocamera. There was an older lady sitting on the bench next to him, listening to everything he had to say. She called me over and whispered to me, "Your son is going to really love this city. He's so cute." She then told A to have a wonderful time on his vacation. So, as you can imagine, our touristy excitement was evident to bystanders and strangers.

Our driver picked us up at the curb (we waited only about 5 minutes for him to arrive) and we were off!!! As you might know, JFK is in Brooklyn. Hoboken is in NJ. They are on opposite sides of Manhattan. Traffic was pretty crazy in Brooklyn, a cinch in Manhattan (Alex got his first views of the city and actually gasped out loud upon seeing the Empire State Building in the distance). We arrived at our destination approx 1 hour and 30 minutes after leaving JFK. It didn't seem that long, as there was a lot to see out the windows! Our driver was fantastic and very friendly. I would highly recommend Dial7 if you ever need a town car or limo in the city.

Our driver dropped us off at the W Hoboken and we were able to check into one of our rooms. We had booked two rooms because my husband is a REALLY bad snorer. There was no way any of us would get any sleep if we had to share a room. Plus we were only able to book king beds with our discount. So, we booked 2 king rooms facing Hoboken (rate of $89...holla!! It's normally a $300 room!). Anyway, I had written the general manager, Anna, an email prior to our stay requesting 2 connecting rooms in a quiet area. Anna had written back that our room category did not have connecting rooms but she would do our best to keep us together in a quiet area. Upon check in, we were surprised to learn we had been upgraded to 2 connecting rooms WITH VIEWS OF MANHATTAN!!!!! And one of the rooms had 2 queen beds instead of a king, which meant we would all get our own bed! LOL Only of the rooms was ready (the king room) so we rushed up to the room to check it out and drop off our luggage.