Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New York City in 7 Days

I know it's hard to look past this handsome man,
but see the Brooklyn Bridge?
On the subway with trash.
I'm going to try my best to make this interesting and not too long-winded. But here's your warning: we did a LOT while we were in New York City, and I don't want to forget any of it. This could be a novel of a post.
In case you're wondering, you can click on the photos to see them better. 

Enjoying the aroma
We got there Thursday evening, so our first experience in NYC was dinner. Well, our first experience was taking the AirTrain to the subway platform where we boarded the A-train to SoHo, where our hotel was located. We stayed at a Holiday Inn, and it was perfect for what we needed: a comfy, clean place to sleep and shower. We settled in, then went to dinner. We went to La Mela, a ristorante recommended by one of Matt's co-workers. It was divine. I mean, I've had good Italian food before, but this place beats all. We walked around China Town and Little Italy for a bit and just enjoyed the fact that we were in New York City.

Jazz guitar and whatever
this kid is wearing
Our Favorite
Friday started at the Dunkin' Donuts across the street from the Holiday Inn where we were staying. It took going all the way to NYC before either of us tried Dunkin' Donuts. haha Then we went to Battery Park, the very south end of Manhattan. We walked around for a while, saw the Brooklyn Bridge, then took the Clipper City tall sail boat out to Liberty Island and sailed close to the Statue herself. One of the sailors totally fit the look of a sailor (not the military type, but the pirate type). He had long hair, a funky beard, was covered in tattoos, and walked around barefoot. He was our favorite.

Making out with Lady Liberty
Yay for Clipper City!

Birthday Rose
After our sail around the harbor, we walked to the 9-11 Memorial. We got a little lost as we walked through the city trying to find the location, which in turn made me a little frustrated. I was getting to the point of giving up when we finally figured out where we were and where we needed to be headed. As we got closer to the site, I started to feel my heart get smaller and my throat get tighter. I didn't expect to be emotional about being on the grounds where the Twin Towers stood and fell, but as we walked up to the South Pool, tears welled up in my eyes. Etched in bronze around the edges of the pools are the names of the people who were killed in the 9-11 attacks (including Flight 93 and the Pentagon) and those who were killed in the 1993 bombing in the parking garage at the World Trade Center. On their birthdays, a rose in placed in their names. We saw some roses, which only added to the heartache we felt being there. We bought tickets for the 9-11 Memorial Museum, but since they were sold out for the weekend, we had to wait until Monday. 

Discovery had a lego exhibit,  so we
took silly photos with the display.
Man riding a horse holding his
brain in his hand.
We then went up to Times Square to see the Body World exhibit at the Discovery Museum. We had both seen the exhibit when it was in Salt Lake City, but we wanted to see it again. Unfortunately, we're pretty sure the exhibit was better in Salt Lake. It was still cool to see it again. We went to Guy Fieri's American Kitchen and Bar for dinner. It was yummy, of course. Then we spent some time walking around Times Square. It was raining, so we didn't stay for very long. However, we were there long enough to have a street performer walk up to us with a huge smile on his face, saying "I know what y'all are looking for. You're looking for a black comedian to tell you some racist jokes." We laughed, so he went in to his routine. I wish I remembered the jokes, but they really weren't that funny. The situation was hilarious, though, so we gave him a five and went on our way. 

Matt's being Spider Man
Saturday started back at Times Square. Not really on purpose, but it was a good thing it did. It was a gorgeous morning and way less crowded, so we got to see it all a little better. Plus we ran into a guy selling tickets to a comedy show for later that night, so we bought those and continued to our first attraction of the day...

Don't I look like the
The tiger's gonna eat Matt's head.
...the American Museum of Natural History, which if I'm being quite honest was a bit of a let-down. I mean, it was still cool to see all of the stuff they have there, and we barely scratched the surface, but it wasn't as amazing as I wanted it to be. You can only look at so many clay pots and model animals. Just saying. 

The area we walked through to get there was gorgeous, though. The buildings were amazing, the tall houses stacked right next to each other, the trees providing shade to pedestrians. Very pretty.

After the museum, I saw my first Broadway show: If/Then, staring Idina Menzel (or as she's more affectionately known, Adele Dazeem). It's a new musical (the first performance was in 2013), and tells the story of a woman who moves back to New York to make a fresh start after a failed marriage. She meets two friends in the park, and when they each present her with a different option for how to spend her day, she wonders what would have happened if she had made the other choice. The rest of the show follows the two timelines. It's melancholy in places, funny through most of it, and enjoyable throughout.

Some of the horns on
display were super weird
and way cool
Ancient Art meets Matt
Next, we hit up the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Man, that place is HUGE! You could probably spend at least one whole day there and still not see everything. We got a little lost a couple of times, and we only saw a tiny fraction of the exhibits and displays, but it was awesome. We saw musical instruments from all over the world, arms and armor dating back to the mid-1500s, art by Van Gogh and Monet and Renoir, ancient eastern and Egyptian art, and some 17th-20th century American art. It was just amazing.

My Spinach Strudel
Matt's giant cut of meat
We had dinner at an authentic German restaurant called Heidelberg. Matt had this ginormous piece of pork meat wrapped in this crunchy crust that was just the most tender and at the same time crunchiest thing I've ever experienced. So yummy. I had a spinach strudel with this mushroom sauce that made my mouth very happy. 

Hailed this cab!
Then I hailed my first taxi (not my first taxi ride--that was in Orlando--but my first arm-in-the-air, eye-contact-with-a-cabby interaction). I did my best to avoid watching the road, as the drive made me nervous. The drivers in NYC, man. Let me tell you. It's funny on TV or in the movies. It's scary when you're actually experiencing it. We got to the comedy club a bit early. It's called the Stand. We saw some pretty funny people. I can't remember how many comedians we saw, actually (7 or 8, I think): Nikki Glaser, Big Jay Oakerson, and.... Judah Friedlander. That's right. "Frank" from 30Rock. Dude is funny. Because Matt and I were seated in the front row (which was about three feet from the stage, and the stage was raised only about six inches), we got "picked on" quite a bit. And we didn't mind at all. It was a lot of fun to be "part of the show" so to speak. Mostly we were asked if we were dating, how long, how we met, where we were from. And there was a lot to mine from these questions considering we're from Utah, we've only been dating for six months, and we met online... through Tinder.

(If you've made it this far, reward yourself by enjoying this song.)

Frustration... Exhaustion...
Wooster Street and a happy Matt!
Sunday. Ah, Sunday. It was the best day. It started out rocky, with me leading us astray as we searched for a specific bagel place that turned out to not be a bagel place at all. We ended up eating at a diner (fried egg and cheese on a bagel). We found Wooster Street while we were lost, and it made Matt happy.

My first up-close view
of the Empire State Building
Then we headed to the Empire State Building. The websites we looked at before the trip said to get there early, as the lines are long later in the day, so when we rounded the corner and saw that the line was out the door, we were a little disheartened. Matt suggested going to Central Park (which was on our to-do list for the day) and coming back later, but when I reminded him of the longer-lines-at-night thing, he kind of just sighed. "Well, I have a surprise," he said as he pulled some folded paper out of his camera bag. "Here." I stared at the paper for a full five seconds before I realized what I was seeing. "You didn't... You did?!" Yes, he did. He bought us tickets to see the Book of Mormon. We had talked about going to the show for months, and when it came time to decide and actually purchase tickets, the seats were too expensive for the likes of my little budget, so we went with If/Then instead, with the goal of going to see the Book of Mormon when it came to Salt Lake City in early 2015. Or so I thought. Sneaky Matthew went and bought us tickets. I was so excited, I jumped up and down, I laughed, I had tears in my eyes as I hugged and kissed my sweetheart, and just grinned the rest of the day. Turns out he had been keeping this secret for about a month and a half. *sigh* He told me that he wanted to surprise me with something big while we were on this trip. Well, it surely was a surprise, a very much appreciated one at that. 

So, we ditched the line and took a detour to Central Park. Again, the movies don't lie. It's HUGE. The lake is amazing. There were runners all over the place and people on bikes. We saw frisbees getting tossed and a dog walker. We saw families playing together and sunbathers. And to smell grass and touch trees and inhale clean air right there in the middle of the city... it was glorious. We took lots of photos and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine. I even had a conversation with one of the friendliest little girls I've ever met. AND we had hot dogs in the park. I mean, it was basically the perfect Central Park experience.

Sexy Me on the Stairs
Sexy Me with a Lamp Post
Sexy Lake in the Middle of the Park
Sexy Matt taking amazing photos
"Can I get a hotdog with mustard, please?"
"No, no ketchup. Just mustard."
"Ketchup and mustard?"
"No ketchup. Just mustard."
Matt's been wanting to see
this show for a long time.
We were both so excited!
Of course, we went to see the Book of Mormon after our play time in the park. Lest anyone get the wrong idea about this musical, let me set the record straight. It's funny. It's a "we're laughing with you, not at you" kind of thing, poking fun specifically at the LDS religion and culture, and at organized religion in general. The creators have said it's their love letter to religion. Sure it's crude. I won't try to defend that at all. But I will say I laughed my guts out, and I wasn't offended. For me, the overall message of the show is as follows: from the outside, organized religion is full of some crazy and hard-to-believe stuff; but if it makes you happy, if it helps you be a better human being, then not only should you continue to believe with all of your heart, but you have an obligation to share that message with the world. Here's a story you might find interesting.

After the awesomeness of the show, we headed back over to the Empire State Building. I think Someone was helping us out that day because though it was later, and right on the cusp of sunset, and a Sunday evening, the line was two hours shorter. We only waited an hour to get to the 86th floor, aka the Observation Deck. And guys, I have no words. The view is incredible. Here are some photos, though they won't do it justice. Imagine the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, as you look out over these amazing sites. Hands-down, this was my favorite part of the trip. I could have stayed up there for hours.

We ended the day with dinner and play at Dave and Busters. We had some great food and played lots of fun arcade games. We ended up with a lot of tickets for a prize, but we were both so wiped out from the events of the day, we didn't take the time to "buy" anything. And even though we were both totally exhausted, and our feet were beginning to feel like giant bruises and blisters more than feet, and my legs were so sore that after sitting for about 30 minutes while I ate, standing back up and walking made me feel like my legs were going to give way and I would have to crawl back to the hotel, Sunday was by-far my favorite day in NYC. 

(If you've made it this far, I'm extremely impressed. You get to listen to this song.)

This one's for you, Aunt Debbie. We didn't see the show, but
we saw where the show takes place. This is clean up from the
summer concert series.

Monday started with the Rockefeller Center Tour and Top of the Rock observation deck. Our tour guide Kim pointed out some of the architecture and art work found all over Rockefeller Plaza, as well as told us some great stories about the Rockefeller family, though if I'm being honest I don't remember a lot of it. haha I do have photos, though. And I remember some of the stuff about the art we saw. And I remember Kim saying he was good friends with Kurt Cobain and how much he misses him.
Matt was really there, too!

I was really there! See??
Making out with the
Empire State Building
Doing one of the things
he does best

Blue tiles for each person who died
and each tile was a different blue
Survivors' Stairs
Next, we went to the 9-11 Memorial Museum. I don't really have a lot that I want to share about this. I'm including some photos and descriptions of what you're seeing. You can imagine the kinds of feelings that were evoked. Suffice it to say, I ended up with tears on my cheeks more times than I can count, and I reflected on the memory of that morning. I will say that being on those grounds (at the Memorial and in the Museum), there is a reverence that can be compared to being in a church or on temple grounds, and there is a spirit there that is just as strong. I felt the presence of our fallen brothers and sisters, and I felt the love of their families and friends, and I felt the sorrow we all felt that day, and through it all, through all of the confusion and frustration and despair of the events of that day, I felt the gratitude of the dead for being remembered, and the love our Father has for them. It was a special experience. Very heavy, very hard, one that I don't care to repeat, but one I'm grateful to have had.

Slurry Wall and the
Last Column
(click to see the description)
Fliers posted by loved ones searching
for those who were missing
Steel beams bent completely
out of shape by the impact
of the planes.

Because the Memorial Museum was so heavy, we figured we should end the day with something silly: Madam Tussauds Wax Museum. There's not much to say about it, other than the fact that some of the wax figures seemed very real, to the point of excusing ourselves for standing in their way. hahaha

After the wax museum, we went to Buca di Beppo for dinner, then did some wandering around, you guessed it, Times Square. We wandered into the Hershey's store and bought some stuff (Matt bought the giant Reese's cups which were a half pound each, and I got the Reese's peanut butter which unfortunately tastes like regular peanut butter... wa-wahhhh... but look at the size of that Hershey's bar), then we did some people-watching before we headed "home."

Tribeca Bagels

Tuesday started with a bagel. An actual bagel from an actual bagel place. Yum. Then a ferry ride out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. What can be said of these sites, other than the obvious? So I'll state the obvious: these were pretty freaking amazing places to see. Lady Liberty isn't quite as big as I thought, but she's still impressive. It was very cool to stand at her feet (kind of... we were on the island, but not actually on the statue grounds). There she was, lighting the way to the promise of freedom and work and health and glory. Despite whatever feelings might be had about our government, it was pretty awesome to know that immigrants looked to her for hope. Ellis Island was a bit different, to say the least. I mean, most people got through the immigration process without too much trouble, but for some it was hell. Mostly for those who were sick, poor, and/or (to be frank) stupid. There are rooms where those who were being detained could sleep, so at least they had beds and bathrooms. But I can't imagine being there for so long. Even still, it was really cool to be on the same grounds where so many people passed through on their way to the hope of something better.

Original graffiti uncovered
on some pillars
A nice stranger offered to take our
photo :)

This was SO yummy!
Waiting in line at Nathan's
We had planned other stuff for the day (another tour, another museum), but we skipped out on our plans in favor of a visit to Coney Island. Best decision ever. We ate at Nathan's, and though I don't love hot dogs, a Nathan's hot dog is yummy. So yummy. It's what you want a hot dog to be, but it never is. For real. Matt ordered the cheese fries, and I can't even tell you how good that cheese was. It wasn't nacho cheese and it wasn't melted American cheese, but some kind of in-between. Very tasty. We walked down to the beach and put our toes in the Atlantic. (I've touched two oceans now!) We carved our initials in the sand (awww). We walked along the beach and observed all of the amusement park stuff, most of which was closed unfortunately (or fortunately for our bank accounts). We went out on the pier and watched some fisherman catch a few fish.

Then we went back to...

Times Square! We found some yummy pizza and cool drinks to consume. We did some shopping, bought ourselves "I [heart] NY" t-shirts. Then we limped our way back to the hotel. We were sunburned and tired, but happy with our day.

Burial site for slaves
Toasting the Sons of the Revolution
Wednesday, our last day. We ate big pretzels for breakfast (because I had been lusting after one all week long), and then went on a tour called Slavery and Underground Railroad Tour. We had some pretty awesome stuff pointed out to us, heard some amazing and sad tales, and saw the oldest building in New York: Fraunces Tavern, where the Sons of the Revolution met to plan, you guessed it, the Revolution. Of course, after the tour, we went back to the tavern to check it out and had the best root beer of my life.

Then we headed back to the hotel to grab our bags, but not before stopping for one last slice of NY pizza. Then headed to the airport, where we barely made it in time... to wait to board the plane. haha

(You've made it to the end?! Good job! Here's another song.)

Bye Bye, Holiday Inn
The little green flags
that marked our
way "home"
Bye Bye, A-train. On our
way to the AirTrain and JFK

We're sad to say goodbye to NYC, but happy to be headed
back to Utah. You can see the conflict in our eyes.

Needless to say, the trip was amazing. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Big Apple, the Empire State, the concrete jungle. I think I'm finally recovered sleep-wise, but my heart is still longing for the city. It was such a wonderful experience. And I got to share it with this handsome fellow. How lucky am I?