Wednesday, September 25, 2019

2019 Global Tour - Part 5 - New York City

click here for part 4

Day 29 - 1st Day in New York City

We reluctantly bid farewell to the cruise ship this morning and headed out into New York City.  We took two Ubers to our hotel to drop off our suitcases.  There is a UN Conference today which includes the US president and leaders from around the world, so traffic is even worse than usual.  We only had to go a couple miles to our hotel, but it took at least half an hour.

We are staying at TRYP Hotel by Wyndham.  The hotel is in a good location in Midtown not too far from Times Square.  We booked here because they have a family room that holds all of us.  The room is kind of ugly and the bunk beds look like they belong in prison, but it is a nice big room and my bed seems pretty comfortable.


We weren't actually able to check into our room until the afternoon, but we left our bags with the front desk and headed to Times Square.  We had a good time going through some of the stores - M&M, Hershey's, and of course Disney.

Disney Store was our first destination after a ten day cruise and at least two other Disney Store visits in other countries too. We had a fun time looking around. There was lots of NYC specific merchandise. We still managed not to buy anything.

Like kids in a candy store!

The second stop was the M&M store. The kids really wanted to try some of the special flavors like pumpkin pie, candy corn, mint chocolate, butter toffee and coffee. We bought about 6 oz worth (maybe about 1 cup) for $6 and once we were outside the store we divided them up. It was fun, but we should have just stayed in the store to do this, it was tough to find a spot in the street that didn't smell too gross to want to eat m&m's. And this was right in Times Square which isn't quite as bad smelling as some other areas we've walked through.NYC is just smelly and dirty.

Next we went to Hershey World right across the street. It was kind of funny that the kids were trying to find a Lego store, which they saw a HUGE sign for, not realizing that's a billboard advertisement, not a sign. This got us twice. Me trusting they really saw a store. Anyway, at Hershey World not only is their candy not $1 per ounce, they actually hand you a free mini Hershey bar when you walk into the store. Is that because Milton Hershey is my kids' uncle like 16 times removed according to Marc's genealogy research? There is of course a ton of every kind of Hershey, Reeses, Twizzler, Jolly Rancher, etc. candy that they make, but the prices were actually less than or equal to sale prices you'd find in a typical store. Zoe asked for this big package of Twizzlers for her souvenir. It was $3. I said yes, if she shares. Zach got a bag of York peppermint patties, Ella got Take 5s-their favorite Halloween treat, and Max got mini Kit Kats. All of this cost $16 and will  last for months. I anticipate it will merge into their post Trick or Treating candy trading. Cheap "souvenirs."

By then it was lunchtime, so we ate nearby at John's Pizza - very good.

We decided to do the hop on hop off bus after that, but immediately regretted it.  We had trouble buying the tickets because of the overly aggressive sales people and then once we were on the top of the bus we drove one stop before sitting in the sun without moving for probably 20 minutes.  (Avoid TopView; try a different company.) We did finally get moving and after that the tour was fine.

The whole city is dotted with theses wooden water towers. 
Macy's and Empire State Building

Constructed 100 yrs after Washington's election
We hopped off at Washington Square to let the kids play at the playground.



We had dinner tonight at the Beer Authority.  It was good food, but incredibly noisy.  Definitely didn't need to worry about our kids being too loud. I'm sure they were loud, but we couldn't even hear them sitting right next to them!

This is my fourth time in NYC. It's been the most difficult time for sure- mostly due to seeing things differently when you're with your children. The beer/urine/garbage smell and filth isn't new. Drunk swearing homeless people have been there every time. Sales people trying to swindle visitors. The way many NYers yell at each other is so matter of fact that it's a stereotype. There are some good people here too, but compared to the European cities we just visited, today I'm a just a bit embarrassed to be an American. Chicago has much of this too, but at least it smells better.

Day 30 - More of New York City

This lady came an inch away from getting clunked in the head by a street light

We had a better day in New York today.  We continued our Hop on Hop off bus tour with the Uptown tour which goes to the north side of Manhattan.  There was quite a bit of interesting architecture along the way.

One of Trump's Towers
Cool architecture

Skyscraper built within an existing six story building

I noticed many areas have very diverse architecture all blended together
We hopped off at the Museum of Natural History mostly because Zach saw a sign for dinosaurs and just had to go.  I'd been wanting to go here anyway, so that worked out.  The museum was pretty good.  Somehow we missed the statue from Easter Island and never quite got to the section about space, but otherwise we saw everything we needed to see.  The dinosaur bones were interesting and the size of the Blue Whale in the ocean section was amazing.

No mention of this being the setting for the movie Night at the Museum? Picturing these exhibits coming alive made this museum cooler than it otherwise would have been! The other cool thing was how big many of these skeletons are. That Titanosaur pictured above took up a whole room and stuck out of both sides. 

Me, trying to find Scotland in the Paleozoic era

Zach's favorite part of every museum
After having some Nathan's Hot Dogs from the cart outside, we got back on the bus for more tour.

Soon we entered Harlem. It looks noticeably different than the areas we'd toured so far, so I took a few pictures for contrast.
Mosque that Malcolm X was reverend at

Before long, we were out of Harlem and suddenly passing by pristine residential buildings and mansions and up "Museum Row" past the Gugenheim and the Met most notably.

Our next stop was the Central Park Zoo.  The zoo was quite small, but it did have some interesting habitats.


 The sea lions really stole the show!

Ice Cream in Central Park

This was a very small zoo but it was enjoyable. We bought our tickets only 1 1/2 hours before it closed (an hour early) and were worried we wouldn't see everything. We saw everything in 45 minutes and enjoyed it. The children's zoo is free after 4pm or included with admission to the main zoo. It's cute and worth a walk around too.


We got back on the bus to head to the Chelsea neighborhood for dinner and to the Lego store, but it was raining a bit and the traffic was nearly stand still at this time, so we ended up getting off the bus near Macy's on 34th street instead and settled for dinner at TGI Friday's.

The bathrooms in this restaurant required a code to get in, are single bathrooms, and are so filthy that I'm surprised the restaurant can pass a health inspection. It wasn't just here, it was like this nearly everywhere we went. I recall John's Pizza like that for sure. When I mention these things, I'm not complaining, exactly. I'm just trying to paint a real picture to others who are reading to know what to expect if you visit NYC too.

My sunset picture tonight

Made of Crocs shoes
We checked out a few stores around the area and picked up some pastries for a quick breakfast tomorrow since our ride to the airport will pick us up at 6:40 a.m.

This example of scaffolding actually looks better than most.
Here are a couple of observations Marc hasn't mentioned yet. Every block of the city seems to have quite a bit of scaffolding. Some buildings are obviously undergoing some construction and are netted and everything. Particularly near our hotel and lots of other areas too, no construction is apparent but lots of scaffolding is present. I had been thinking that if it was permanent, something could be done to make it look better, then we drove by some wrapped in greenery outside a luxury hotel. I suppose that helps a little at least from below. One other thing... the smell of people smoking pot in this city was overwhelming. Particularly near construction sites. 

Clearly I not NYC's biggest fan. I think the six hour tour we took before flying home after our 2016 Transatlantic cruise was a much better plan. I'm glad we saw it together once. I'm sure the kids got something from the experience as well.

Day 31 - Going Home!

Friday, September 27th

Marc arranged a van to pick us up and take us to LaGuardia Airport. The pick up time was 6:40-7:00 am. The driver arrived a little early even. We were ready and hurried downstairs. The traffic was light at this hour and he avoided areas he knew were affected by the UN conference. As we got closer to the airport, we could see lots of traffic coming into Manhattan of course.

We had a bit of trouble with Max's ticket not noting his precheck status even though the rest of ours did. Marc had to stay back with Max as the rest of entered the security line. Marc chose to get Max's ticket re-printed rather than go through the lengthy and more cumbersome regular security line. 

Meanwhile, while I was a bit flustered from that and trying to get the rest of to a good place past security. I apparently set my backpack down, When I had everyone sit down near a food court well past security and close to our gate, Zach immediately asked, "Did you forget your backpack?  I know where you left it."

He and I ran back to get it, thankfully  just where he knew it would be. By then Marc texted me that they were through security and we were all together again with all of our bags and everything. Whew! Time for coffee!

Actually we had lots of time for coffee, and lunch, and playing UNO, and whatever we could find to occupy our time. Our flight was delayed about four hours due to storms in Chicago.

Never so happy to see Chicago!
Once we finally boarded at 2:30ish, we pushed back from the gate and the captain announced we were going to have to gate on the runway and wait for an update in an hour to see if we could take off for Chicago. The airport was too backed up. Thankfully, no sooner had he finished the announcement then he said we actually had the go ahead to take off in ten minutes. Maybe that was his way to make us feel happy about another ten minute delay. Just kidding, I heard that lots of flights were canceled.

Marc was busy grocery shopping, jumping my car after it sat there for a month, doing laundry etc., and I got impatient waiting to complete this blog. I hope he adds his final thoughts too.

My final summary: This was an awesome trip! I'm so grateful to have had this time and experience with my husband and children. The weather was actually mostly good, except that hurricane that rerouted our cruise and the storms today. With so many modes of transportation, tickets for various things, reservations for hotels and apartments, it's amazing that everything went as smoothly as it did. I'm sure we're all changed from this trip in a positive way. I'll be ready for another massive, life changing trip like this in about three years! 

Yes, it was an awesome trip.  Norway was just amazing and I look forward to seeing it again someday.  The castles around the UK were really cool - I'm glad we got to go through so many of them.  It was so fun being in these different cultures for a little while and seeing the little things that make each place different.  It was unnerving at times to be in an unfamiliar place not exactly knowing what to expect, but Kyrie did a great job of planning so that everything went smoothly.  Doing our homework ahead of time about each place saved us a lot of hassle, worry and money.  Our kids are really amazing.  They trooped through all of these cities non-stop and hardly ever complained.  They will never admit to learning anything or enjoying any of the more educational aspects of the trip, but we could really tell that they got something out of each place.  So glad that we get to share in these experiences with them!  Unfortunately, we haven't managed to get many of the kid's opinions or comments into the blog.  Usually during the trip I write most of the blog while everyone is sleeping because we're busy all day and then once we get home the  kids are busy with other things.  But, hopefully sometime soon I can review this blog with each of the kids and get their thoughts down too.

Well, I guess that's it for now.  Thanks for reading!