We left home on a beautiful Saturday morning, swung by to pick up our friend Betty, and headed for New York with Liza Minnelli’s ode to the city playing on the radio. After twelve hours of driving, we stopped for the night at a lovely hotel. We were up early the next morning and arrived in the Big Apple shortly after noon. The traffic wasn’t too bad, even though our GPS routed us right through the heart of midtown to meet up with Betty’s daughter, Lisa, at the hotel.
We stayed at Affinia Gardens on W. 64th St., which is a fantastic little hotel in a great location. We quickly unpacked and headed out on foot to see Central Park and Rockefeller Center. We also visited the gorgeous St. Patrick’s Cathedral before heading back to the hotel for the evening.
Monday turned out to be quite warm, with the high near 90 degrees. We purchased bus passes from GrayLine which enabled us to hop on any of their tour buses for the next 48 hours. Our first trip took us downtown as far as Battery Park. We saw Macy’s, Ground Zero, Wall Street, the pier, the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the United Nations, and hundreds of other fascinating buildings.
After arriving back in Times Square, we headed to Rockefeller Center and rode the speedy elevator to the top of the building. Sixty-seven floors might not be the tallest rooftop in Manhattan, but it certainly provides one of the best vantage points. Central Park stretched out on one side of the building, while the Empire State Building loomed on the other side. We could even make out the Statue of Liberty in the distance!
We wound up walking everywhere the first couple of days until Lisa’s daughter, Lauren (who is attending school in NYC), showed us the ins-and-outs of the subway system. Armed with the HopStop app on my cell phone, we were able to take advantage of New York’s amazing public transportation over the remainder of our stay.
Tuesday morning started with a trip to Battery Park for a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The statue is closed for repairs, so we didn’t stick around very long. Once we arrived back in Manhattan and grabbed a bite to eat, we headed for the 9/11 Memorial.
I knew visiting the memorial would be an emotional experience, but I don’t think I realized how much it would hit me. I was actually shedding tears before I ever even got through security. Walking into the open space surrounding the two pools was akin to entering a sanctuary. Everyone was quiet and respectful. The thousands of names engraved around the outside lip of each pool were overwhelming, especially when you encountered one that listed the name of a particular woman and her unborn child. More tears.
The new building going up at Ground Zero, One World Trade Center, has already reached 100 floors. Its beauty and size was a reminder of the continuation of life. The sounds of ongoing construction were the only distraction in an otherwise peaceful setting.
Honey and I took another bus ride that evening which started in Times Square and drove across the Manhattan Bridge before circling through Brooklyn and back. Seeing the city light up was such a treat, but nothing compared to the view from across the river. We could see from the Statue of Liberty all the way past the Empire State Building (which was lit up in red, white, and blue).
We rose early the next morning to take yet another bus tour – this time around Central Park and through Harlem. Our bus stopped in front of Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment, and our tour guide recognized him standing outside the front door with his wife. He was courteous enough to wave and smile as we all snapped photos like the paparazzi.
Wednesday night was the first time either of us had seen a Broadway show. Wicked was certainly a good way to start. Our seats were great, the acting and singing was phenomenal, and I loved the way they tied everything in with The Wizard of Oz.
Thursday morning, Honey and I went to see an exhibit titled Bodies. The displays were real human bodies that had been donated to science and were in various stages of dissection. Some bodies were intact, but stripped of flesh so that the muscles were revealed. Others contained only bones, or sections of muscle pulled back to reveal implanted medical devices. Body parts were labeled to explain various cancers and diseases. We could see the difference between healthy lungs and those of someone who smoked.
One of the most fascinating parts of the exhibit was fetal development. They actually had a sign up warning people to consider whether they wanted to go through the room, and reminding us that all the fetuses had died in utero. It was amazing to see a blob of white matter no larger than one-half inch and learn that it already had a heartbeat.
After leaving the exhibit, Honey and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a beautiful day, and the city looked absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t have my camera with me, but did manage to capture a few shots with my cell phone.
Speaking of cameras, I took around 800 photos while we were in New York City. Honey’s mother gave me a zoom lens for my Nikon that enabled some amazing shots from the top of Rockefeller Center and from the ferry that carried us to the Statue of Liberty.
After making our way to Times Square one last time, we ventured through Central Park and made our way back to the room to get ready for Lauren’s dance recital. She was fabulous, and her performance was the only breath of fresh air in an otherwise dark and depressing program.
We left Friday morning to drive home, and decided to whiz through Washington, D.C. on our way since neither Betty or Honey had ever been there. It seems one is unable to do anything quickly in D.C. (we should have known, right?), so we wound up getting stuck in traffic for around two hours. We did get to see portions of the Capitol building, the White House, and the Washington Monument as we drove through, but we were very surprised at how “locked down” the city was in terms of it being almost impossible to get anywhere near the White House due to barricaded streets and police cars. Most of the public parking lots were even blocked off by police cruisers.
Needless to say, New York City is one of my favorite places on earth. Actually being there on 9/11/01 made it hold an extra-special place in my heart, but this trip enabled me to really fall in love with the city. It might sound a little cheesy, but I actually felt like I was home while we were there. It felt like being at the center of the universe.
And I miss it already.