Five Days in New York City (Part 2)

Day 3

Mercy. Please. Have mercy on us, Colton! We had seen many of the things we wanted to see already and were glad to have a more sparse itinerary for the rest of the trip.  Colton said that he was going at a slow pace with us and that his usual pace keeps him from spending so much time in the bad smells and heat. Young people these days: so resilient and resourceful.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning with breakfast in the room and had a late morning start to the day.

Our guide came to our room and took us to Brooklyn.  We took some pictures of the bridges and headed to Colton's favorite burger joint Shake Shack.  We hit it just before the rush and managed to get a table.  Yummy!

The Empire State Building in New York framed by the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn. This area is called DUMBO: Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.  Without the Overpass, it would just be DUMB.

My photographer captured the city's reflection in the window behind me.

We took the train to Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown near Rockefeller Center. The architecture is stunning. We sat and took it in. We have a weakness for stained glass and had plenty to look at. The awe and reverence in a church like that is something missing from the structures we meet in today. We have the "relationship" idea down but we would do well to remember that He is GOD.

We walked down 5th Avenue and Colton took us into Ralph Lauren.  I asked him tongue-in-cheek if he wanted to do a little back-to-school shopping.  He looked at the $160 price tag on a pair of sweat pants and said that he didn't need anything today. We took the elevator to the women's section (?) and, tucked in the corner, was a beautiful little pristine coffee shop, little known and hidden from the crowds.  Sit. Air Conditioning. Liquids.

Time to put the adults down for their naps.

Another date night ensued. A little dressier this time.  We took a taxi to Azalea's which proved to be a romantic venue.  The restaurants near Broadway always ask when seating you if you are attending a show.  They have always brought our food promptly and gotten us on our way in plenty of time. 

I had an excellent view. Tip: if you are ever waiting tables and there's a bottle of sparkling water on the table, be aware that one of the diners may be drinking plain water before you top them both off.

We had a short walk around the corner to the Broadway Theatre, one of the few theatres that is actually ON Broadway.  Our show of choice was "Fiddler on the Roof" and it did not disappoint. There were a couple of dance numbers that were all men and they were incredible.  It was so athletic and energetic: it gave me extended moments of childlike delight. One number was of five guys dancing with bottles balanced on their heads.  It was amazing but I was relieved when it was done that no one had dropped his bottle. What a delightful end to a delightful day!

Day 4

Day 4 was Sunday and Colton's church meets in the afternoon.  We met late morning for bacon, egg, and cheese bagels at Brooklyn Bagel and then coffee at Bean and Bean which is on the corner up from the church. Colton instructed us to sit near the only window unit air conditioner at Manor Community Church.  He played the piano for the service which was the most thrilling and moving performance I had heard all week. The people were very friendly. Some come to receive the free food given after the service, meal, and prayer time so there were a variety of social statuses represented. New York is a collection of nationalities and it gives a true sense of being "the church" when you worship with a variety of races.  I was very blessed to sing, worship, and eat with the folks there.  The pastor was sick that day so the interns ran the service and did a fantastic job.  After the song service, Colton had to go change his clothes: he was drenched with sweat.

After church, we had a good chat over some Argo Tea a few blocks away and then parted ways for the day. Time for the old folks to rest again.

It was nearly 8pm when we decided we needed dinner. Jeff looked online for something within walking distance.  I didn't want anything spicy that late so we opted for the steakhouse around the corner.  We decided on Jack's Steakhouse without even looking at the menu. It sounded straightforward enough.  Looking at the menu is always a good idea in NYC because you may not realize that the least expensive item on the menu is $45 and that everything is à la carte.  Once we were there and saw the menu, we decided to stay and make a nice meal of it.  Plus we were too tired to walk anywhere else. Just kidding. The filet mignon was delicious and we followed up with cheesecake and apple strudel, beautifully presented.

Day 5

Our final day had arrived so we ate breakfast in the hotel and packed our bags.  Our flight was not until 8pm (so we thought) so the hotel stored our bags until we came back for them that evening.  We put things we wanted for the flight in the outside pockets of our suitcases so we could get them before checking our bags at the airport.

Jeff used an app to find our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is located on the east side of Central Park.  The subway we took got us to the west side and then we took a bus across the park. This museum is beyond huge and beyond amazing.  I already knew that we would only get a sampling of it this day.  I read a New Yorker's comment that she had been over 30 times and sees new things every time she goes. Jeff wanted most to see the modern art and I the impressionists.  That is a little insight into our personalities.  We each enjoyed all of it.  I saw a few things I wouldn't mind having for the house but I didn't see any price tags. We enjoyed a delightful déjeuner at one of the museum's restaurants.  The corn soup was delicious and the $18 chicken sandwich was plenty for two. 



We met Colton and walked to Eclair, a pastry shop. We took our purchase to a coffee shop near Grand Central called Ground Central. It was loud and crowded but a kind young lady gave up her couch so the three of us could sit together in the cozy, dimly lit back room decorated like a private library. I enjoyed my cheesecake eclair there. 

When we came out of the subway, it was raining so we stepped inside the Bank of America building until it subsided.  My husband felt we had the right since he works for the company and apparently owns the building. We finally made it to the NY Public Library and, after doing our thigh-burning stair climbers for the day, enjoyed sitting in a large air-conditioned room to look for dinner options now that we were getting notifications of our delayed flight due to storms in the area. We decided on a barbecue place that Colton liked near our hotel but it was pouring when we tried to leave Penn Station so we just went to their food court in the subway and ate pizza. 

The rain was down to a drizzle now so we enjoyed the cool mist as we walked to our hotel lobby.  We got our bags and hung out for a while in the beautiful lobby while listening to a mom absolutely yelling and swearing at her children.  It obviously was not worth it to take them to Queens from the Bronx at that hour and then have to go back and get them tonight so she wanted to take them tomorrow but they just didn't understand why that was better. This was pleasant. She finally stormed out. I had seen another short-tempered mom on the subway who snapped and jerked from the children when they were doing nothing wrong.  I saw many nannies with children who treated them well.  I know these were isolated incidents but I saw that maybe it is better for a nanny to be with the children all day if there are moms who would treat them cruelly.

Colton walked us down to the taxi stand in front of Penn Station and sent us off to the airport. We saw a complete rainbow beginning to end as we went and got more flight delay notifications along the way.  Our 8pm flight departed at 11:45pm.  Even after seeing how he is thriving there and knowing that he is a 22 year old man, my heart was tugged as we flew out of the city, farther and farther away from our son.  He will be home in three weeks.  That helps.

GertRUDE sat in front of me on the plane, making fun of the flight attendant with her friend. Grow up, Gertrude.

We drove our own van out of the airport garage at 2am on the empty, silent streets. The silence made me feel that my ears were clogged but they weren't.  We wisely had planned for the day after the trip to be a rest day. And it definitely was.

We knew we wanted to experience new things in New York this trip but also knew that there is no way to see it all in one visit. We will take little nibbles of that Big Apple each trip and do it at an enjoyable, unfrenzied pace, seeing new things each time and revisiting our favorites. We had other uses for the money we spent but sometimes it is just TIME TO GO. Travel matures you and opens your eyes and mind.  Things are very different in other places.  This can make you thankful for what you have and give you ideas on how to improve it. It is good to experience other cultures and flavors and sights. It is amazing to see the God-given abilities people have and what they have done with the raw materials God provided in the earth. It all leaves me in more awe of God than before. 

Long before I started blogging, I wrote of our 2010 trip in a Facebook note.  I read it this week and then managed to delete it 😳 but the ending was so poignant.  I wrote that we took Colton on the trip when he was sixteen to expose him to other places, to encourage him to follow his dreams, and to show him that he was big stuff with us and that we wanted to celebrate him in a big way.  I do not know if it is ironic or providential that he now wants to live in NYC. He IS following his dream and pursuing the direction of God's calling on his life. I've been viewing the tapestry from the back all his life and now am getting glimpses of the front.

New York City is an amazing place.  I saw many impressive scenes there but I was most impressed with my two men.  When I look to my left or right, that same man is always by my side wherever life takes me.  He's there with an outstretched hand to help me up and help me out and that hand is constantly reaching for mine so that we can go together. He's there to stand between me and any threat and is clearing the way and bearing the load.  He's mighty handy to have around and I think my identity as a lady comes largely from the fact that I am so well-treated by this true gentleman.  New York City was marvelous but it only served as another backdrop for watching this lifelong marvel that I observe daily in my husband. After the tea and lipstick are gone, he will be the souvenir from my trip that I get to 🐝keep.

The other marvel I observed in New York is a little boy whose legs have now grown long and whose hand no longer needs to reach for mine.  I recognize him simultaneously as child and man and simultaneously shudder and cheer to see him roaming freely around New York. This man's unending energy is a great partner to his unquenchable infatuation with the city that never sleeps.  He has a way of coming to right conclusions and seeing through to the heart of a matter.  He so quickly volunteers to serve, whether it is filling our hotel ice bucket or giving food to the poor. To see him respect and serve all people makes this mom mighty proud. He lives by faith believing that God will guide his steps to work out the purpose for which he was designed and willing to do today whatever the Lord has led him to at this point.

I enjoy many elements of my life including travel. However, nothing I saw in NYC trumps the consistent joy that results from being a Christian, a wife, and a mother. That goes with me everywhere. You may never see New York in person or be a wife or a mother, but we can all have Jesus and that is joy enough for this life and the next.

Five Days in New York City (Part 1)

Our son Colton is spending his second summer in New York City so, when our younger two children decided to go to camp for the same two weeks, we decided to go during that time to visit our eldest.  We wanted to be able to spend time with him and to also have some time as a couple while we were there.  He served as an excellent personal tour guide.  He has learned the subway system and has found lots of wonderful, air-conditioned coffee shops.  

We had taken him to NYC for his sixteenth birthday trip in January of 2010, so now we have been there together through the cold of winter and the heat of summer.  It gets much colder there in the winter than here in the south and nearly as hot in the summer but the great difference in impact is that you are out in it up there walking from place to place.  Here we walk from the car to the building or never even get out in the weather with a garage at home and at work.

We managed to buy my husband's airline ticket with Skymiles and mine with VISA points so our only cost for flying was the $25 baggage fee per checked bag per way.  We got direct flights and were slated to be in NYC by 9:15am. Our returning flight was to leave at 8pm so we would be getting our full money's worth out of the hotel for those days by having a full day on both ends of the trip. Our flight ended up being delayed so we arrived in NYC about noon. This confirmed the lesson I learned the last time we went there and that is to not have firm plans the day of your arrival--nothing you have tickets for or that starts at a certain time.  Between flight delays and travel exhaustion, your plans need to be flexible on arrival day.

First glimpse flying in

We walked to the baggage claim and my suitcase was the first one out and arrived just as we did.  My husband's followed soon after and we were out the door. Jeff had arranged for a driver to take us to our hotel.  Mario was polite to play his music softly but I do need to teach him some driving etiquette. All in all, a smooth trip...for NYC.

View from hotel rooftop

We checked in to the hotel and I became puzzled when Colton called and asked if we were almost to the hotel where he was waiting for us. It didn't take long for us to realize that we booked a different Fairfield Inn than the one we spent much time choosing on TripAdvisor.  Come to find out, there are three Fairfield Inns in midtown.  The front desk was gracious to allow us to spend just the first night there and then switch over to the hotel we had intended to book.  They actually made the arrangements for us.

Colton finally found us and showed us the way to Lemony, a Greek place he likes for their French-fry-laden yeeros (and, yes, that's how they spell it).  On our way there, I saw many flower shops. They put tons of plants and flowers out on the sidewalk every day and create walkways through them.  How I would love to live near such a place and make fresh arrangements with their unusual flowers! There were fabric shop windows that gave me similar longings. No sooner did I get past the wonderful smell of flowers than I saw a homeless couple fast asleep on the sidewalk.  That's how it is in the big city:  something wonderful followed by someone's horrible reality in constant sequence. For the next four days when we were walking the streets, I would breathe in a different smell with each breath: flowers, coffee, urine, laundry soap, B.O., perfume, trash, cinnamon, exhaust, etc. The same with sounds and sights. It trains you to expect anything next.

We then made our way to Stumptown Coffee.  I do not drink coffee but my men said that it was good stuff.  It was a very hipster hangout with a large back room where people were talking and working on laptops.

This may be where we took our first subway ride of the week. We each had a 7-day unlimited ride ticket that cost $32. We used it a lot while there and got our money's worth. Houston Street is pronounced House-ton.  Just so you know.

Off to Battery Park we went where we saw Lady Liberty in the distance.

We continued on around until we found a shady place to sit and talk.  We then made our way to the 9/11 Memorial where we saw the two fountains memorializing the victims of 9/11.  

They are waterfall fountains built in the footprints of the twin towers.  The sound of the constant water creates a peaceful, serene atmosphere.  People would talk but no one was being loud.  I wasn't prepared for the tears that came.  This was the WHERE. I know the WHAT, the HOW, the WHY, and the WHEN, but it was the overwhelming WHO that was too much to consider: the thousands that died undeservedly and unexpectedly and the families and friends who still mourn them. We all mourn them. It was beautiful to see every name carved in the memorial. Every life matters. The new One World Trade Center tower stands tall and represents resilience but the theme of respect rang loud and clear to me.  

The trees planted on the grounds are from the states that endured the attacks on 9/11 and it was neat to see the survivor tree--the only tree that withstood everything that went on in that place in 2001. 

We then went to see the Oculus, a new subway station still under construction that costs $4 billion.

It is massive.  It connects directly to Brookfield Place. This is a very beautiful, new, expensive mall (unless $1200 shoes is your norm). There is a gourmet food court on the second level where I shared a fantastic barbecue sandwich and Dirty Fries with Colton from Mighty Quinn's Barbecue.  We realized we never bought the phone charger we needed that day so Colton took off to SoHo to get one.  Jeff and I wandered around Le District downstairs, a French market.  There we found many wonderful pastries and chocolates.  I bought a variety box of teas. We enjoyed some of the pastries and graciously left a bite of each for Colton. We wandered outside and rested while watching people walk, jog, skateboard, and ride bikes along the battery. It was a beautiful evening.  

When Colton returned, he showed us the way by subway to go to Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson.  It was dark by then and we sat in the park and gazed at the beautiful city lights of New York. Colton pointed out the areas of town from top to bottom: uptown, midtown, the villages, and FiDi (the Financial District).  Times Square was recognized by how it lit up the sky above it. We made our way back to our hotel and slept hard after a day of over 13,000 steps in temperatures in the upper 90's.

Day 2

I awoke to construction noise and distant honking car horns. Mr. Wonderful got up and got dressed to go get the hotel breakfast for me.  I felt like I could rest a long while more.  Comfortable shoes are a must when pounding the pavement of a big city.  My lack of energy would require a slower pace today. Alternating indoor (air conditioned) and outdoor activities and sitting and standing activities is also a good idea.

Our first item of the day was to switch to the right hotel. We walked it, thankful for suitcases with wheels. The new hotel was a great improvement: beside Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, bigger, nicer, newer.  There was actually space to put our suitcases on the floor of our room!

Next we went to the original Joe's Pizza and ate it in Washington Square Park near the huge arch and watched children play in the fountain and listened to a bluegrass group.  Shade was high in demand. We made the mistake of ordering a smoothie from a food truck without asking the price first.  Our guide clued us in on how to do better next time.

We took the bus (which also used our metro card) to our next destination. It was an overall good experience to travel through town and see the sights seated and in air conditioning.  At one point the driver had to slam on brakes because a vendor's cart got away from him and went into the street.  My husband hurt his arm against the rail in front of him but it did not cause any ongoing problem. We walked through Little Italy and had some refreshing Greek yogurt at Greecologies.  There are lights strung between the buildings and, as in many cases throughout the week, I wish I could have seen it at night although I usually was longing to nest in my bed with a cup of tea in the evenings. Little Italy was quaint and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street! Colton had told me about a coffee shop called Maman he thought I would like. It was French and used blue and white china.  He took us there and he was right:  I loved it!  Their paper cups were printed in the pattern also. I'm going to try to replicate a quinoa dish I saw at a glance there.  

Next up was Grand Central Station.  The architecture is beautiful with thick mouldings and constellations painted on the ceiling.  Colton told us how valuable each of the four faces of the clock are and how amazing it is that they weren't stolen back when the station fell into disrepair. Grand Central is the station that takes trains to Connecticut while Penn Station takes trains to New Jersey.

My men indulged me to look in Sephora on 5th Avenue. I have been watching a small makeup company named Besamé and the Sephora in our mall at home carries only two of their lipsticks.  I was sure this NYC Sephora would carry the whole line but was disappointed to find that they carried the same two shades and nothing more.  I bought the Red Velvet with some of my birthday money. Thanks, Mom and Dad! 💋

Colton had plans with friends for the evening so he took us to our room and gave instructions for taking the subway to our evening plans.  We rested and freshened up, a little nervous to try the subway system without our guide. We learned quickly that it is not enough to know which train to take; you first have to know how to interpret the signs in the subway to FIND the train.  It is important to know that there are layers of trains.  There can be up to five levels of trains, over and below each other under the ground.  This requires taking stairs or elevators or escalators to the other levels.  After thinking hard and sending pictures of the signs to Colton, we finally got a "Yes" and got the right train on the first try. We had chosen a restaurant within walking distance from our event so we now could relax.

Rosa Mexicano had good reviews and turned out to be an excellent choice.  We had reservations and were seated immediately.  The two-story wall beside the stairs had water trickling down it and there must have been 200 little diving men mounted on it in varying stages of their dive. It was a large restaurant with a portable cart used to make guacamole tableside. I learned a new way to peel an avocado. The service was excellent and the food was very good. It was nice to have a little smaller portion so that we had room for dessert: warm churros (Mexican doughnuts) with chocolate and raspberry sauces. Yes, indeed!

Next we headed a few blocks over to the Lincoln Center for a free Mostly Mozart outdoor concert. We walked two sides of the block to get to the end of the line for admission (bag check) but it moved fairly quickly and we were in our seats in plenty of time. It was slightly sweltering but the sun was setting and there was an occasional welcome breeze. The violin concerto was remarkable and "Jupiter" was delightful as always.  A ten-year-old (I'm guessing) ballerina took it upon herself to dance throughout the entire concert up and down the side of our section.  Some of the older folks found her enchanting and some video-taped her. I wondered where her parents were.  We hadn't chosen an evening of amateur ballet but of music.  If everybody did.... That's the drawback of a free concert. Fortunately, I was at an angle to block her out and enjoy the orchestra. Now for the subway.

We did fine and met Colton at his favorite gelato shop called Amorino's.  He has taken many guests there including missions teams so the owner greets him and calls him the Boss when he comes in.  They even put a free macaroon on his gelato. That's good business.  That owner works it and it shows. When you order a cone, they use two flavors and arrange the slabs to make a rose. So pretty and refreshing.

And that is the end of a 15,000 step day. 

[See Part 2]