Thursday, May 6, 2010

On Our First L.A. Day, We Went to Central Park

So, yeah. As you now know, our trip to Los Angeles didn't exactly start off the way we had planned.

See, here's what happened. Our flight was scheduled to leave JFK airport on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. We live a good solid 45-minute cab or bus ride from JFK, or an hour to an hour and a half by subway. We were planning to take the subway (cheapest option), so we wanted to leave pretty early in the morning. We decided on a 4:15 a.m. alarm time.

The problem was, we were both EXHAUSTED. We were up late packing and getting ready, and Eric has had a lot going on at work. I also had a very busy day on Friday - my friend Stephanie was in town, and I dragged that poor girl all over town. We met up in Times Square, had lunch in Rockeller Center, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and walked from City Hall in Manhattan to Ground Zero. I had a great time, but I was beat. (Do you realize it has been seven months since we last hosted out-of-town visitors? That is unheard of! I must be out of practice.)

With Stephanie by the Brooklyn Bridge

With our late bedtime, we were only looking at about four hours of sleep. For two very tired people, that apparently just won't work. We figure that Eric must have just turned off the alarm at 4:15 and went back to sleep without realizing what was going on. As for me, I was out cold and didn't even hear the alarm go off at all. That is very abnormal for me - usually when I know I have to be up early for something, I wake up numerous times hours in advance, worried that I'm oversleeping. But not this time!

I eventually woke up to Eric's state of panic as he jumped out of bed and said "oh my gosh, it's 7:00!!!!" I went through a whole progression of thoughts in just a few seconds - "Wait, why am I getting up this early? Is Eric late for work? Oh! Our flight! We're going to L.A. today! Oh no! If we hop in a cab THIS SECOND can we make it? I don't even have to get dressed, I'll go in my pajamas. But wait, I have to get more stuff packed up. And it's already too late to check our bag. It will take 45 minutes to get there. We can't make it. CRAP."

So, I got on the phone with JetBlue right away to see what could be done. I'm assuming that it's good that we actually woke up BEFORE our flight took off, because they were very accommodating to change the flight, but I don't know if that would have been the case if we had missed it altogether. Unfortunately, our options were pretty limited. They did have another flight leaving at 8:30 a.m., but once again, there was no way we would make it in time (or at least it would be VERY close). Our only real option was to take an evening flight, at 6:30 p.m. Better than nothing, sure, but much, much later than we had planned. We just lost a whole day in L.A.

But what can you do? We tried to chin up and make the most of it. The dog was already at the kennel, so we were free all day. Recently, we made a list of things we still want to do in NYC. We realize that our time in New York has an expiration date on it (it's just not sustainable to live here for very long), so we made a list of things we want to be sure to do before we leave, whenever that will be. Our goal is to refer to the list whenever we have a weekend day with nothing to do, in the hopes that we won't leave NYC with any regrets. We did NOT do this in D.C., and there are still a number of things I wish we had done while we lived there. Live and learn, I guess.

So we decided to refer to our list with our newly-found New York day and pick something to do. We decided to go to the Central Park Zoo. We stopped for breakfast at the Dunkin' Donuts on our block (our block rocks) then walked out to Central Park. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so even just the walk through the park to get there was really nice.

Pretty view of the Plaza from the park

The zoo itself was great. Sure, it's much smaller than a regular zoo. If you're looking for a full, varied animal experience in New York City, you would probably prefer the Bronx Zoo. But for me, the Central Park Zoo was perfect. It was small and contained most of the best animals: sea lions, penguins, polar bears, snow leopards, some monkeys and some birds, and that's about it.

When we got into the zoo, we made a quick stop by the sea lions, just because they're right in the middle of everything and I love them, so how could we not? Then we made our way over to the penguin display to catch the penguin feeding at 10:30. They were so cute! We watched them swimming and hopping around for a while, and watched a bit of the feeding.

Penguins in Central Park

Hi, penguin!

VIDEO: Penguins at the Central Park Zoo

After the penguins, we explored most of the rest of the zoo. The polar bears were a fan favorite - one of them was swimming all around, and doing back flips! Very cute. We also saw a red panda, some turtles, and a little duck family complete with really fluffy babies.

Polar bear having a swim

Hi, turtle!

Red panda having a nap in a tree

By that time it was nearly 11:30, which was sea lion feeding time! The sea lions are my favorite. These were California sea lions, which were smaller than the South American sea lions I swam with in St. Thomas, and didn't have the same mane. They were so cute! They were playing together a bit, and as feeding time approached they started standing up on the sides of the tank, watching for the trainers. When the trainers finally brought their food, they had the sea lions do all sorts of tricks and they really put on a nice little show. I just loved them!

I'm a pro at taking pictures with sea lions.

Sea lion waiting for her food

Doing a handstand!

About to catch a fish!

VIDEO: Central Park sea lions. Watch them, they're cute!

After the sea lions we just wandered through the Tropic Zone, which was mostly birds and then some gross things like bats and ants. The birds were nice, but I don't do ants.

A bird and me, showing off our profiles

And then we were done with the zoo. On our way out, we had some fun with statues and watched the Delacorte Music Clock. We were just in time to see it chime at noon, so we stayed to watch it play its song ("What the World Needs Now is Love"). So cute!

Fun with statues

Eric and the clock

VIDEO: The Delacorte Music Clock
(Unfortunately, it WAS noon, so about the first minute of this video is the clock chiming twelve times. Skip ahead to hear the music!)

From there we stopped for some lunch, then headed home to get ready to FINALLY leave. We left around 3:45 p.m. and took a looooong subway ride to the airport (thanks to no express train on the weekend, it took quite a bit longer than usual). Getting through everything at the airport was a breeze - that is the time to fly, apparently. There was no line to check our bag, no line at security, etc. We boarded our flight on time and were ready to take off, but thanks to runway work at JFK keeping them limited to one runway only, we took off a bit late.

The flight was relatively smooth, with the exception of some anxiety-inducing turbulence towards the end. We flew JetBlue, which meant we were able to watch TV the whole time. We actually spent some of the time watching coverage of the failed bomb in Times Square. I immediately thought of my friend Stephanie, because she was staying in the hotel right in that area. It's just crazy.

The TV kept us entertained, and we had brought sandwiches to eat along with our JetBlue snacks. I wish they served a meal on such a long flight, but what can you do, I guess.

We landed in L.A. around 10:00 PST, got our luggage, and took a cab to our hotel. We stayed at the Beverly Gardland Holiday Inn in Burbank, which ended up being great. The rooms were pretty standard, but they had a great heated pool/spa area with an outdoor fireplace, and the hotel was walking distance (for us New Yorkers) to a metro station. They also offered a free shuttle if you didn't want to walk. Really, we were walking distance from Universal Studios, too. The hotel staff was also really friendly and helpful.

The exterior of our hotel

Heated pool with outdoor fireplace

When we got in, we got ourselves settled and basically just tried to come up with a plan of action for the next day. Luckily, missing a day of our trip due to sleepiness didn't seem like it would impact us all that much. We had pretty leisurely sightseeing days planned for both Saturday and Sunday, so we were able to revise our plan by just combining the two into one Mega Sightseeing Day. With a plan in place, it was time for bed at last. We needed our rest for Sunday!

Up next: sightseeing in Hollywood!