Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let's See How Many Sights We Can Cram Into One Weekend

This past weekend, we had a new set of visitors staying with us: my Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark, and cousin Sarah, visiting from Pittsburgh. They visited us in Washington, D.C., and we were happy they were able to make it to New York, too. We took them all over the city and gave them all our best tours - hopefully we didn't wear them out too much! That's an awful lot of walking.

They arrived by cab from JFK Airport around 10:00 on Thursday night. We spent some time chatting and developing a plan for the next day, then went to bed. We would need our rest!

Friday, Eric left for work and I prepared to take my guests on our Downtown Tour. Once we were all awake and ready, we took the subway down to High Street in Brooklyn for pizza at Grimaldi's and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. We actually arrived shortly before Grimaldi's was open, so we walked down to the water and checked out the newly completed Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is very nice. I had never explored it before, and it definitely is a beautiful park. New York, man. They know their parks.

Me, Sarah and Uncle Mark in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Because we were so early to Grimaldi's, we were able to get in with hardly any wait at all. However, we did wait quite some time for our pizza. You can't rush greatness, I suppose. As always, I found it to be well worth the wait. I hope my guests agreed with me!

Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark and Sarah waiting for a table at Grimaldi's

Sarah and me waiting for our pizza

After finishing our pizza, we made our way across the Brooklyn Bridge. That is one thing I just never get tired of doing, no matter how many times I make that walk. It's just so scenic and such a cool thing to do.

Walking across the bridge with Sarah and Uncle Mark

Our visitors on the bridge

Once we made our way back into Manhattan, the rest of our Downtown Tour could commence. We wandered through City Hall Park, then made our way over to Ground Zero and St. Paul's Chapel. We also stopped in to the temporary 9/11 Memorial, which I had never visited before. We spent a lot of time talking to Sarah about what happened on 9/11, since she was too young when it happened to really remember. The rest of us remember it vividly. It was hard for me to look at the pictures in that memorial.

Views in City Hall Park

Construction at Ground Zero

This helmet was in the 9/11 Memorial. It was worn by Lt. Mickey Kross of FDNY Engine 16 when he responded to the North Tour after Flight 11 struck. He and his company were inside the tower when it collapsed, but he and 13 others survived. Incredible.

Statue of Liberty figure in the 9/11 Memorial, covered in memorabilia

From there we continued on to Trinity Church, Wall Street, the Stock Exchange, and the Bull. We also strolled through Bowling Green and on to Battery Park, where we checked out The Sphere and The Immigrants statue. Of course, we also saw the Statue of Liberty from afar and the East Coast WWII Memorial.

The ladies in Bowling Green

Uncle Mark and Sara at The Immigrants statue

It was then time for the Grand Finale of our Downtown Tour: a roundtrip ride on the Staten Island Ferry for closer views of the Statue of Liberty. Both trips on the ferry were so nice - peaceful, relaxing, and with gorgeous views. It was enough to nearly lull us to sleep.

Aunt Rachel, Sarah and Uncle Mark on the Staten Island Ferry

Uncle Mark with the Statue of Liberty

By then we were beat, so we hopped back on the subway to head home, making a stop at Crumbs on the way (duh). We had considered going to Movie Night on the Intrepid that evening, but we were both A) exhausted and B) feeling bad for the poor dog who had been crated all day, so we scrapped that plan. Instead, we picked up dinner at Daisy May's BBQ and had a picnic by the river (and took Achilles with us!). I just love doing that! We watched the sunset and enjoyed the beautiful park.

Sunset over the Hudson River

Looking back towards the city, with the moon rising over the buildings

Fountain near the Intrepid

Intrepid at sunset

When we got home we played a little Rock Band - a first for Aunt Rachel and Uncle Mark! They really picked it up well. We played a little regular and a little Beatles Rock Band, then it was time for bed.

Sarah on guitar, Eric on vocals, Aunt Rachel on bass and Uncle Mark on drums

More Rock Band fun

Saturday was another busy day. I planned to take our guests on our Midtown Tour, and Eric was able to join us! We started off with our usual tour of the lower quarter of Central Park: The Dakota, Strawberry Fields/the Imagine Mosaic, Bethesda Fountain, the Conservatory Water, Hans Christian Andersen Statue, Naumburg Bandshell, Literary Walk, Wollman Rink, and the Bridge.

Bethesda Fountain

At the Bethesda Fountain. Hey, look! Eric's there, too!

At the Hans Christian Andersen statue

Bubbles at the Naumburg Bandshell!

Uncle Mark and Sarah walking along The Mall

Uncle Mark and Aunt Rachel by the Bridge

After exiting the park at the southeast corner, we started our "Midtown East" part of the tour: FAO Schwartz, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. At St. Patrick's, we actually saw a wedding procession! I never thought that weddings there would have to be subjected to tourist onlookers, but they didn't close off the church so we onlooked (is that a word?). And you know what I realized this weekend? I realized that one of the coolest things about this city is that no matter how many times I take guests on the same tours (which has been A LOT of times), I always end up seeing something I've never see before, or doing something I've never done. Just with this weekend's visitors, I saw Brooklyn Bridge Park, the 9/11 Memorial, and a wedding at St. Patrick's. These are all places I've been to tons of times, but still I am seeing new and different things. How cool is that?

See the bride coming down the aisle?

Bride and groom at the altar at St. Patrick's

VIDEO: Wedding procession in St. Patrick's Cathedral

Summer foliage at the Promenade at Rockefeller Center

A very tired group at Rockefeller Center

We took the team for lunch at Tri Tip Grill in Rockefeller Center, our favorite local french dip sandwich place. Then we walked briefly through a street festival on Sixth Avenue, then over to Times Square. We stopped in Toys 'R Us for a quick look at the ferris wheel, then spent some time shopping in Times Square's new Forever 21 store for Sarah while the boys relaxed on the chairs outside. Eric said they saw a number of different bridal parties (apparently mid August is an awesome time to get married, but DUH we already knew that), including one where each bridesmaid had a black dress with different colored shoes. Love that!

I am currently lusting over those blue shoes. Love this bridal party look!

While we were in Times Square, my guests also ran into friends of theirs from Pittsburgh who were also visiting NYC this weekend! What are the odds of that?!

After all that, we spent some time debating the evening's plans: Top of the Rock at dusk (which Sarah really wanted to do) vs. TKTS booth for tickets to West Side Story (Aunt Rachel's preference). We reached a compromise that everyone ended up being very happy with: Eric took Sarah and Uncle Mark to Top of the Rock, and Aunt Rachel and I went to West Side Story (that's another NYC To-Do List item for me!).

From what I hear, the Top of the Rock folks had a great time, although apparently they had a difficult time getting up to the edge for good pictures. They did discover that if you go to the far east side of the building and look down, you can see St. Patrick's Cathedral - another tidbit we didn't know! See? You always learn something new when you lead tours!

Uncle Mark and Sarah at Top of the Rock, looking north over Central Park

Southeast view from Top of the Rock

Dark, but Sarah and Uncle Mark with the Empire State Building

Sarah in "The Breezeway," which identifies visitors as they walk through the space and assigns each a color. She appears to be "red."

Meanwhile, Aunt Rachel and I had a wonderful time at West Side Story. It was so beautiful! I know the movie practically by heart, and there were some differences in the live performance, but I loved it. I had heard they added more Spanish to this version, which they did - when the Puerto Ricans were together, they mostly spoke in Spanish and many of their songs interspersed Spanish with English. I actually thought that was a really nice touch. Also, we had fantastic seats! We were technically in the 8th row at orchestra level, but we were actually on a little raised side platform which put us a little higher than orchestra level and we had only two seats in our whole row! We were so close, it was really great. I also just enjoyed spending time with Aunt Rachel. I'm not sure we've ever spent one-on-one time together like that before, and it was really nice! Thanks again for taking me to the show, Aunt Rachel!

West Side Story at the Palace Theater in Times Square

Aunt Rachel in our seats

View from our seats

At the show. (I really need to master how to do a self-taken picture without increasing my number of chins.)

By the time we got home we were absolutely exhausted, so we went to bed pretty quickly.

Sunday was a more leisurely day. We slept in a bit and took our time getting moving in the morning. We didn't really have anything planned, and the weather was pretty dreary so we considered hitting a museum. Ultimately we decided to do a little more sightseeing instead.

Achilles liked Sarah. Here he is practically sleeping on her head.

We went back to Times Square to hit the M&M Store we missed on Saturday, then walked south to Bryant Park, stopping at the Pop Tarts Store on the way. And guess what? I got my Pop Tarts Sushi! It was surprisingly not as disgusting as it sounds. It was several fruity flavors of Pop Tarts all minced up and wrapped in a Fruit Roll-Up. Altogether, not disgusting. Terrible for you? Yes, I'm sure. But not super gross. And now I can say I've had it!

The girls in the M&M Store

My first bite of Pop Tarts Sushi

Everyone inspecting the sushi. I don't think they were convinced.

After Bryant Park we tried to visit the New York Public Library, but it was closed. We continued on the Grand Central, where I showed them the Whispering Gallery and we had lunch. Then we got on the subway down to Chinatown and Little Italy, so Sarah could check out the discount shopping. She successfully haggled for some perfume (seriously, her negotiating skills left me wishing I had used her when booking wedding vendors - color me impressed), and I went off in search of a new hat. However, my plans were thwarted by the rain (which hasn't stopped since, actually) and a band in Little Italy that was just marching along with a big statue of Jesus covered in dollar bills. They would stop every few feet and play a short little tune, then continue on. It reminded me of the scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) gets married in Italy, and there's a little band that marches along (this band might have even played the same tune, but I'm not sure). Anyway, I had never seen this sort of thing in Little Italy before, so chalk that up to yet another new experience while tour-guiding.

Little parade in Little Italy

VIDEO: Band in Little Italy

As the rain started to come down, we hurried back to the subway and made our way home again. Our guests had tickets to see In the Heights that evening, so they got ready and went to that while Eric and I relaxed, had dinner, and I called my mom to chat for a bit (as I am apt to do on Sundays). Apparently they really enjoyed the show, and had even closer seats than we had for West Side Story! They also saw Jordin Sparks (the new "Nina") after the show, so I think they had a pretty good time.

Monday was their last day, and Aunt Rachel wanted to check out The Today Show. It was still raining, but we went out there anyway. The crowds were pretty light, so we actually had some great views. We saw Matt Lauer and Ann Curry come out onto the plaza, and we were able to see Martha Stewart filming inside. And, we got on TV! Well, Uncle Mark and I did, and only very briefly. But you know how I love to take pictures of myself on my TV (see here and here, for example), so it was good times.

Filming The Today Show in the rain

Martha Stewart and Matt Lauer sharing a laugh (while he gets his makeup touched up)

Aunt Rachel with the Today Show folks

Hi there, Uncle Mark!

There I am!

After we had our fill of Today Show fun (or more so, our fill of rain) we headed back home. We spent the rest of the morning relaxing at the apartment, then my guests packed up their things and I hailed them a cab to the airport.

Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark and Sarah - it was so great to have you all here! Please feel free to come visit any time. Actually, that goes for any of you out there! We love having guests and our door is always open.

(Note: In the next day or two, I'll be adding more pictures from this weekend to our photo share site, if you're interested!)


Anonymous said...

What a great job capturing our wonderful weekend with you guys! You have such a way with words......
Thanks again. Love, Aunt Rachel

Molly said...

That looks like an awesome time! You guys did A LOT!

Becky said...

What fun, and I am still so jealous about seeing West Side Story!