Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Back from the Big Apple

Well I got home Sunday night at 10:30 pm after a three day weekend in New York City. My daughter Lauren, my sis Rita and my nephew Jacob went with me. I won the airfare from an Orbitz instant win, and I won hotel accomodations from Hilton Hotels in an online sweepstakes. I took a few pics, which I am posting here today. Lauren has over 400 in her camera, but she is going to be staying with Rita for 2 weeks so I will be posting some of those later. Her pics are generally better than mine. Anyway, we arrived in New York at around 10 am Friday morning...at the airport I saw my first semi-celebrity as Joe Simpson, father of Jessica and Ashlee walked past us as we were making our way out of the airport. He looked tired and grumpy. We arrived at our hotel after a very long cab ride from JFK which cost us $50. The clerk at the hotel (Doubletree Times Square) gave me quite a scare as when I handed her my vouchers for two free nights stay at any Doubletree, she said I cannot accept these. I explained to her that when I made the reservations I was told to present them at check in and there would be no problems. She went into the back to contact the head office or something, meanwhile Rita and I were wondering how we would pay for this hotel if they would not honor the vouchers ($359 per night). Luckily she came back and say it was all ok and we got into our room, which was a suite with a king size bed and a pull out sofa. The hotel is right smack dab in the middle of Times Square, as you can see from the view from our room:

After a short period of rest we ventured out and took the subway to Central Park. Here are a few shots:

We took a carriage ride with a nice Irish fellow who showed us the locations of various movie scenes, from Serendipity, Home Alone 2, and Ghostbusters.

After our carriage ride we went to the Central Park zoo...where Lauren got a great video of a penguin shaking his butt. Alas my pics of penguins did not turn out so great. After walking all over Central Park and developing a blister on my heel, we hobbled over to the subway and managed to get back to our hotel where we all crashed and ordered room service. We also drank several $3.75 per can cokes out of our mini bar and Lauren pulled out a Toblerone candy bar only to discover it cost me $6.75, thank you for your purchase, indeed!
The next day we went on a tour with Grey Line which was called the Manhattan Comprehensive. It should be renamed "driving real fast by all the good stuff, with a crowded ferry ride out to Ellis Island where you spend an hour at the museum, followed by some more driving real fast by stuff and then some lunch"...we left early from the tour as we had the Lion King performance that night and we needed time to recuparate from all the walking...we weren't that keen on touring the UN building so we caught a cab back to our hotel at that point in the tour. Here are some pics from the tour:

This is the list of victims of 9/11.

Ground Zero.

After a substantial recuperation period we ventured out to do a bit of shopping before the Lion King. Macy's was disappointing, although the outside looks fantastic the inside of the store looked like a delapidated Belks. We left and headed to FAO Schwarz so I could pick something up for Alex.

Jacob, Lauren and Rita pose beside the giant teddy bear outside FAO Schwarz.

Lauren and Jacob pose next to the LIFESIZE STUFFED ELEPHANT that will set you back like $20,000.

At FAO Lauren purchased a monkey backpack, and I got Alex a teddy bear and a princess outfit, as modeled below:

After that we headed to McDonalds for a snack before the show, and we experienced our first NY thunderstorm which was scary and fun all at the same time. Then we headed to see the Lion King. We made our way to our seats which were balcony. Let me tell you, if you are large, tall, or normal sized DO NOT get balcony seating. My sister and I had NO Leg room whatsoever and I am only 5'6". I had indentions in my knees from where they were jammed into the seat in front of me. The show was excellent, especially the sets, which were breathtaking. The 2nd half was not quite as enthralling, or maybe it was because I was losing all feeling in the lower half of my body. After the show we managed to find our way back to our hotel where we ordered $98 worth of coke and cheesecake from room service.
Sunday we went to Olive Garden for brunch, which was the best food we had the whole time we were in NY. After that we walked around Times Square and went into a few shops. I got James an NYPD t-shirt and Lauren got a bunch of crap. They were having a HUGE parade on 5th avenue, for Puerto Rican day, which had blocked traffic all day, so we got our taxi early for the airport which was pointless as we ended up sitting in the airport for HOURS. They had oversold our flight and they kept offering money for 5 people to take a later flight. Since I had to drive 3 hours from the airport home, and I had to work the next day, I did not take them up on their offer. At one point they herded us up and put us on a bus to a different terminal. It was so screwed up. At least it was free. Our flight ended up departing about 45 minutes later than it was supposed to but we got to Raleigh at 7pm. We had a great time, and I wish we could have stayed longer and done more. We found most New Yorkers to be quite friendly which is in sharp contrast to my encounters on my previous trip to NY 20 years ago. I didn't see as many homeless people on the streets either, or perhaps I was in a better part of town. Anyway, I would love to go back...although Lauren says next year she wants to go to London.