Sunday, November 30, 2008

An Action-Packed Visit

As promised, my Thanksgiving-related posts are continuing today with a recap of my time with my dad before all the Parade fun. I was really glad that we were able to spend some time together and do some sightseeing. Unfortunately, my dad was never able to get up to DC to visit when we lived there, so I was glad he was able to see our New York home so soon!

Dad arrived at Port Authority after taking the bus from the airport around 9:00pm on Monday. Eric, Achilles and I met him out there to escort him back to our apartment. Achilles was beside himself - he gave my dad quite a vocal welcoming. He then continued to bark his way down the streets of New York as we continued on. It was very strange. It was raining (which seems to happen every time we have visitors), but we decided to walk Dad home through Times Square anyway, since it's only about a block out of the way. Times Square is just a nice way to start your NY vacation!

Tuesday morning we got up and left the house shortly after 9:00 a.m. We headed straight down to Battery Park on the very crowded subway, then took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It was still raining and cold, so it was exceptionally unpleasant by the Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island was okay of course, as it is indoors. We wandered through the exhibits and checked everything out before getting back in line for the ferry back to Manhattan. While we waited for the ferry my dad struck up a conversation with some members/chaperones of a high school band from Arkansas also in town for the parade. Band folks were EVERYWHERE as we walked around on Tuesday!

Dad doing his very best not to look cold at the Statue of Liberty. Doesn't this picture make you feel cold just looking at it?

Lady Liberty

Ellis Island

When we got back to Battery Park, we began our trek north to see Wall Street/The Bull/The Stock Exchange. I was surprised to see the Stock Exchange decked out for Christmas - there was a huge Christmas tree in front of it, and they had removed the big flag that usually covers the columns, and it has been replaced with Christmas lights that will make a flag when lit up! We might have to head down there at night to see that lit up one of these days. There also were a bunch of people in colonial dress in front of Federal Hall (the sight of George Washington's first inauguration), but we didn't ask them why, so I wonder what was going on. We also stepped inside Trinity Church (as seen in the movie "National Treasure"), which I had never done before. It was very pretty inside, as you might expect.

The New York Stock Exchange Christmas tree

More Christmasy Stock Exchange

Colonial peoples in front of Federal Hall

Inside Trinity Church

From there we walked through Chinatown up to Little Italy and had a delicious lunch there, complete with cheesecake for dessert. I just cannot resist NY cheesecake! Then we hopped back on the subway up to 34th Street, where we checked out the Macy's Christmas decor and New Year's Eve ball.

The front of Macy's, decorated for Christmas

Dad testing out his Parade performance spot in Herald Square

Dad and the New Year's Eve ball

One of the window displays at Macy's - a mini replica of itself!
They also had a series of window displays that recreated scenes from "Miracle on 34th Street," that were very cool.

After Macy's we went back to the apartment to rest up before heading out to Radio City Music Hall to see the "Christmas Spectacular" show, featuring the Rockettes! Eric met us there after work, and the show was fantastic. We all really enjoyed it. Plus, I had never been inside Radio City before, and it was gorgeous. So it was a very cool experience all around.

Radio City Music Hall

Inside Radio City. What a tiny chandelier, no?

Before the show

Part of the show required 3-D glasses!


The Rockettes

Parade of the Wooden Soldiers

More show fun

Nativity scene

With Dad after the show

After the show, we walked over to Rockefeller Center to see some of the Christmas decorations. The Christmas tree still isn't lit yet (that will happen this Wednesday), but there were some pretty decorations on the outside of Saks 5th Avenue, and their window displays were set up and very cool! They tell the story of a snowflake named Mike. See, back when your parents were young, snowflakes were all alike and fell in one big clump. Then Mike came along and wanted to be himself. He inspired the rest of the snowflakes to also be themselves, and now snowflakes are all unique and fall individually. Very cute! So we admired that a bit before walking home.

Snowflakes on the Saks 5th Avenue building

There's Mike, the first individual snowflake

Now all the other snowflakes are being themselves, too!

On Wednesday, we got going fairly early again to get some sightseeing done before Dad had to leave for band rehearsal in New Jersey. We walked through Times Square (so Dad could see it in the daylight and clear weather), then went to Rockefeller Center again - this time to go all the way to the Top of the Rock! Heather and I had just gone to the top of the Empire State Building, so I decided to try something new with my dad and do the Top of the Rock instead. It was so much better than the Empire State Building, I must say. It was much less crowded, and even if there had been more people, it has three floors of observation decks that you can go on, so there's more space to spread out. There was a lot more room to wander around, and it was nice that it was enclosed with glass instead of big iron bars. Plus, there was a neat little exhibit and video theater you could go through before going up, which showed the history of Rockefeller Center. Even the elevator put on a cool little show on your way up. It was all just really nice, and something we'll definitely add to our list of things to do with future visitors.

With dad at the Top of the Rock
Looking down at one of the lower observation decks

Looking north

After Rockefeller Center we checked out St. Patrick's Cathedral, then walked up Fifth Avenue and into FAO Schwartz. It was so nice to see everything decorated for Christmas! I could (and very well might) do an entire post about Christmas decorations around the city one of these days.

Atlas statue at Rockefeller Center

Fifth Avenue - check out the giant snowflake suspended above the street!

From there, we headed back to the apartment and stopped for some soup along the way. Then we just rested up a bit before Dad had to be on his way. It was a great visit! We really jammed a lot of stuff into a short amount of time. Dad was a trooper for putting up with all the walking in the cold, and sometimes in the rain. Yuck. Hopefully our next visitors will have better weather!

And that officially ends my posts about our Thanksgiving week! I really had a wonderful time. This week promises to be fun, too! Today Eric and I are staying in and decorating our apartment for Christmas. Then tomorrow Eric turns 26 years old! Tuesday we have tickets to "The Daily Show," and Wednesday is the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting. So stay tuned - I'll have lots more to share with you this week!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Big Apple Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! We had a great Thanksgiving, and I had a great visit with my dad. We did so many fun things and I took nearly 200 pictures over the last week, so I'm going to split my recaps into two separate blog posts. Today I'll tell you about our Thanksgiving, and later this weekend I'll recap the rest of the visit with my dad.

Our Thanksgiving celebration really got started on Wednesday night. My dad had to spend the night in New Jersey for rehearsal with the marching band, and then he just stayed in a hotel there with everyone else because they had to leave at 2:15 a.m. to rehearse in front of Macy's. So, Eric and I had the night to ourselves to prepare for Thursday. When Eric got home from work, we had dinner then I made a sign for the parade on Thursday, so that my dad would be able to see us in the crowd:

My sign: "NY Hearts the Rounders!"

Then, we went out to see the balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade being inflated! It was amazingly crowded, but we're glad to have done it. I had pictured it as being sort of a free-for-all, where you just wander around and see the balloons, but it was very structured. There was a certain entrance and exit point, and they just shuffled everyone along that path very quickly. And really, there were just so many people. For you St. Pete people, it felt like walking through Ybor at Gasparilla or Guavaween. But we're glad we went!

Me with one of the Macy's star balloons

Eric with the Snoopy balloon, his favorite! Unfortunately, Snoopy's face was turned away from us.


A sampling of the balloons we saw

After the balloons we walked back home and did some prep for dinner on Thursday. I made the pumpkin pie, we came up with a turkey plan of attack, and we set up the Christmas tree (it's tradition in my family to trim the tree after Thanksgiving dinner...sadly, we were too tired to get it trimmed on Thanksgiving this year, but there was a lot going on so I think it's okay to make an exception! We'll get it done this weekend). Then we went to bed to sleep for a few hours before getting up early to go to the parade.

We left our apartment at 7:15 a.m. on Thanksgiving to find a spot to watch the parade. Already, we couldn't get any closer to the street than at least 6 people back. It was amazing how early people get there! But, we found a pretty decent spot in Columbus Circle and then stood there until the parade began. By the time the parade got down to where we were, it was about 9:30, and it finished up around 11:30. We had bundled up in our warmest coats but the longer we stood there, the colder we felt, which was kind of unpleasant. But once again, despite the crowds and cold temperatures, we had a great time and are so glad we went! Here are some pics of the parade action:

Camped out in our spot, waiting for the parade to begin

Here come the clowns! "Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: The Longest Running Show Down Broadway." Get it???

Pilgrims atop a turkey

A woodland creature Thanksgiving feast

Peanuts float, and on the left (on top of the red steps) is Uno the Beagle, of Westminster Dog Show fame
(the first beagle to win Best in Show in Westminster history!)

Sesame Street float

M&M's as notable Broadway figures, such as Elpheba from "Wicked" (the green M&M on top). And speaking of Elphaba, Idina Menzel was on this float!

David Archuleta! And the "Little Shop of Horrors" plant, apparently. I didn't really follow the theme of this float.

Statue of Liberty and Miss USA

Care Bears float and Kristin Chenoweth


A sampling of the many balloons of the Parade

Just past the half-way point in the parade, it was Second Time Arounders time! My dad was on the end of a row on our side of the street, so we were able to spot him with no trouble. And thanks to my trusty sign, he spotted me too! So I got to wave and cheer him on and he was able to see it, which was very cool. The whole group looked great and I was very proud to have a connection to them. Some people around us asked me about them when they saw me jumping up and down and cheering for them, so I explained who they are and the premise of their group - that they are made up of people ranging in age from 18 to 85 years old, who have marched in a high school or college band in the past and want to have another go at it. Frankly, I'd love to be a 'Rounder if we were still in St. Pete!

Picture my dad sent me from of the band marching down Central Park West

Back to our spot in Columbus Circle - here they come, we can see the blue coats and white hats!
This picture also gives you an idea of how far back in the crowd we were, despite getting there an hour and a half early.

Getting closer!

There he is!!!

Goooo Dad!

Hooray, 'Rounders!

Another photo courtesy of, of the 'Rounders performing their show in Herald Square. This is what you saw on TV!

And before we knew it, it was time for the Big Finale - Santa! He was rather jolly.

Reindeer, Christmas Tree People, and Santa!

Shaking his belly like a bowl full of jelly

Overall, our first Macy's Thanksgiving Parade experience was a success. And now, we can cross it off our list of must-do things, so if we never want to do it again, that's okay! Next year we can sit in our apartment and sip hot chocolate and watch the parade on TV if we so choose, without feeling like we need to get out there. So that's nice...and we'll see what we end up doing in the future!

Me at the end of the parade

Eric in the street as the parade continues on behind him

After the parade we hurried back to the apartment to check on the turkey (which had been cooking while we were gone) and get going on the rest of the food. Eric was in charge of the turkey, and I took care of the rest. My dad got back to the apartment not long after we got home, and we ate within an hour of his arrival. And not to toot my own horn, but my, was that a tasty dinner! We had all the traditional stuff: turkey, stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes, rolls, and green bean casserole. And pumpkin pie for dessert, of course. Yum, yum!

Peeling the potatoes

Stuffing, gravy, warm apple cider, and a big ol' pot o' potatoes!
The best part of being a grown-up and cooking your own Thanksgiving dinner: you can make as many mashed potatoes as you want. And I wanted A LOT.

It smelled so good, he could hardly wait to dig in

The W. family and our Thanksgiving spread

After dinner we watched football and tried not to fall asleep until my dad had to leave for the airport. Then we hailed him a cab, said our goodbyes, and the visit was over! It was great to have him here for Thanksgiving.

Eric and I spent the rest of the evening relaxing. Lots of turkey and physical fatigue make for a mellow evening. The most mellow of all of us was Achilles, who had eaten his fair share of turkey throughout the evening. He found himself a good spot to sleep on the couch and remained there, essentially comatose, all night long!

He was out cold. We had to keep checking to make sure he was breathing (he was, no worries).

And that was our Thanksgiving! It was really wonderful. I hope you all had an equally wonderful day. Stay tuned for more details about my visit with my dad later this weekend!