Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back East Trip: Mertz's Take Manhattan

Our bus trip ended in the middle on Manhattan near a pile of trash that smelled like human feces. What a way to be welcomed to the big apple. We got our luggage and stood on the sidewalk as the bus drove away and the other passangers scattered. Then our first great New York City moment happened in what seemed like half a moment... Aaron raised his arm facing the street and a beautiful yellow cab came to a quick stop in front of us! Ok, that is a bit of a dramatic retelling, but we HAILED A CAB! We were so incredibly proud of ourselves and were basking in the glow of our triumph as we raced throught he city street, passed Trump Tower, Central Park, and then to our apartment.

We got an incredible steal through AirBnB on an apartment on the Upper East Side, just a 5 minute walk to the central park zoo. It was the guys first time renting out his apartment, so I don't think he knew what the right price for his place was, and we got to reap the benefits!

Day 1:
We slept well the night we arrived and then woke up with a full day of exploring ahead of us!

Park Avenue
The thing Aaron and I were most excited about was spending absolutely as much time as we could in Central Park! It was definitely warm in the city, but we didn't mind walking amidst all the trees. I had been to New York once before, but as a chaperone on my younger brother Tyler's Sr. Year choir tour, so my only experience with central park was on a guided walking tour in the snow. I hadn't gotten very deep into the park before, so Aaron and I were amazed at how you can get so deep in the middle that you don't see the city at all and it almost feels like you are in the country.
Central Park trees

glimpses of sky scrapers in the distance.
 In Central Park it is almost impossible to turn a corner and not run into a famous spot or place you have seen in a movie. That was the most fun, is trying to recount all the movies that had scenes in our favorite spots. I particularly loved the Alice in Wonderland statue.
The Alice in Wonderland Statue

me and the white rabbit

The Jabberwocky
 We also took our time strolling and got to enjoy lots of street peformers and live music all around the park. Even on a week day, there is plenty to enjoy in the park.
Central Park

Central Park 
Excited to be in New York
The below picture is probably my favorite spot in Central Park. It seemed to have snuck up on us. We were walking in the midst of a bunch of trees and we turned a corner and came upon a small bridge and a perfect vignette of sky scrapers above the water and framed by the trees.
Favorite spot in Central Park

Enjoying Belvedere Castle

View from Belvedere Castle.
After we had gotten our fill of all we wanted to see in the park and an authentic hot dog from a Central Park street cart, we decided to go to the Central Park Zoo! Aaron and I are pretty in love with zoos and we were so excited to check out this famous one! Armed with our ice cream treats, we walked in. Aaron was particularly sad that no balloons are allowed in the zoo. Haha!

What is a zoo without balloons?
The Central Park Zoo is not very large, but definitely full of fun animals. We were really excited to see the peguins and puffins in the arctic section!
I fell deeply in love with the sweet face of the Red Panda!
Red panda
Most people would think that after 3/4 of the day walking around the park and a zoo, that Aaron and I would be spent... and we were... but we were too anxious to see all we wanted to, so we kept at our tourist adventures! Right outside the gates of the Central Park Zoo is the edge of the park and the beginning of some awesome shopping along 5th Ave!
First stop is an obligatory stop at FAO Schwartz and a turn on the big piano for a movie moment!
The Big Piano, just like in the movie BIG!

FAO Schwartz guard!
We also went inside Tiffany's, walked passed Trump Tower, and many other fun shops!
Tiffany & Co. - Another movie moment a la Breakfast at Tiffany's

Trump Tower
One thing Aaron and I tend to fail at while on vacation is allowing ourselves to rest, sit down, and eat. We got to dinner time and went back to the apartment to regroup and my body was completely shutting down from all the walking and not enough food to sustain me. We search online for a spot to eat and found a pub style restaurant called Brinkley's. I have to rave about this place for a moment, because I ate probably the best burger in the entire world! It was a grass fed burger with sweet potato fries on the side. Now I was incredibly hungry and so anything would probably have tasted amazing, but Aaron also agrees that it was the best burger ever. We still dream about the food we had here.

The food in and of itself would have been a perfect ending to the day, but there was of course more awesome New York moments to be had. We got back to the apartment and went up to the roof to take in the skyline at night. We could see the Chrystler building from our roof and it was breathtaking! Now that is a perfect end to a perfect first day!

Day 2:
There is no rest for the tourist and after almost a week back east, we were not about to slow down! One of our top things about our trip were starting each day with an authentic New York bagel from the shop at the bottom of our building. Even rain couldn't deter us from see all that there was to see. Since it was raining in the morning, we opted for a trip to the American Museum of Natural History.
American Museum of Natural History

an elephant tusk
T-Rex in the Dinosaur exhibit

Good Ol' Teddy Roosevelt
It was fun to walk around and see all the famous artifacts! We left the museum just in time for lunch, and what was quickly becoming a theme with this vacation, we had a most amazingly delicious lunch! We actually just stumbled into a convenient store and ordered hot pastrami on rye and sat outside the museum on a park bench and watched deformed pigeons on the grass and it was a top New York moment!
This is the look of a truly happy man!
After lunch it was off to Central Park again. As we wandered through the park and over the bridge, we had to take cover from the downpour.
taking shelter from the rain in central park
 When it let up, we made it back to the apartment hoping to wait it out, but it didn't stop and we had places to be, so we grabbed umbrellas and went off to Time Square. I was fully expecting Aaron to not like Time Square because it is always busy, but he quickly declared it his favorite spot in New York! I stood in line to get tickets to a broadway show for that evening at TKTS and he went off exploring for a bit. Once the tickets were bought, we were off.
Radio City

NBC Studios
 I was super excited to see the view of the city from the Top of the Rock on top of the Rockefeller center. When I was in New York last time I only got to see it at night, which meant you couldn't see anything. However, the rain thwarted our first attempt and we had to wait in the food court of the Rockefeller center until the rain let up. I was super stressed about whether we would get to see the view, but low and behold the skies cleared and we had an awesome view of the city!
30 Rockefeller Plaza

Rockefeller Plaza
View of the city from the Top of the Rock

View of the city from the Top of the Rock
What is a trip to New York without a broadway show. We chose discount tickets to Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Even though I had been in the show, they had just a rewrite of the story, so I was excited to see the changes. Aaron wasn't super keen on a night at a musical, but he agreed it was a requirement and it turns out he LOVED it. It was such a great show and being his first professional production, he was amazed.
Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
After the show, we went down to Time Square to see it all lit up at night! It was even more exciting and Aaron couldn't get enough! We stood in the middle for a while enjoying all the energy and visual overload.
Time Square
We finished the night at a pub with a drink and then walked back home to the apartment. We discussed our amazement that we had yet to see a rat or cockroach, when we stumbled upon a HUGE cockroad on the side walk that charged us in what Aaron called a "defensive posture." We were quite frightened, but after we narrowly escaped we laughed all the way home.

Day 3:
This day was all about the south part of Manhattan. The docket included the Financial District, The 9/11 Memorial, and a Harbor Cruise.

The morning started with a quick subway ride to the Financial District. Upon walking out of the subway station it was pretty apparent that this would NOT be my favorite spot in Manhattan. In Aaron's words, it was "soulless". He gave it a definite thumbs down.
The Financial District
 After ending our visit to the financial district pretty quickly, we walked over to the 9/11 Memorial and got a glimpse of the new freedom tower.
The Freedom Tower
 The Memorial was really moving and beautiful. They had created fountains on the spots where the previous twin towers once stood and names of the victims who died. The main museum had not yet opened, so we walked around and just took it all in.

9/11 Memorial
 Next, we walked over to the Brooklyn Bridge and then took a Habor Cruise out to the Statue of Liberty. Victory of the day was that I did not get sea sick on the cruise boat.
Brooklyn Bridge

Skyscraper National Park

Lady Liberty herself

Statue of Liberty
It was so fun to take in the city from the water! After we were back on shore we met up with my friend Leonore for dinner at a Havana style restaurant. Sadly we did not get any pictures of our meet up, but it was so fun to see her again! We  hadn't seen each other since England. We also had super yummy grub! The street corn was spectacular.

After dinner we took in one last New York site for the day - Washington Square Park. There were a ton of street performers and artists. It was a super fun and lively place. Wish we would have had more time to hang out and enjoy the crowds.
Washington Square Park

Day 4:
For our last day in New York, we of course went back for a last walk through Central Park. We also were super excited to take a boat ride around the water. I know I have said it before, but this trip was full of so many classic New York moments and movie moments. It was amazing and so romantic! We floated on the water and talked about all our favorite moments of the trip.

Finally saw the Bethesda Fountain with the water running

Boat Ride in Central Park
Riding in a boat with my love

Boat Ride in Central Park
After a blissful boat ride, we were ready for lunch and a treat at Serendipity! Then onto more sweets at a candy shop nearby. 
Serendipity 3

delicious ice cream before the flight home!
We said one last goodbye to the city and then it was off to the airport for our flight home! To say the ride to the airport was smooth, would be a lie. Our driver was a big fan of riding the breaks as much as he could and so add to that the New York city traffic heading to JFK Airport and you have 2 very car sick passengers. And then while waiting in the line for checking our bags, my shoe broke.
poor shoe
Truly a sign your vaction is over when your footware gives out on you. It was truly a spectacular trip!