Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Love New York

Jason and I returned last Saturday morning at nearly 2 a.m. from helping to chaperone the senior trip.  Although I had been to New York five times previously, this time was equally amazing and filled with new experiences.  Adding to the fun were 52 outstanding students, some of my favorite colleagues, and my husband.  It is impossible to recap adequately all of the fun, laughs, and learning we experienced last week, but suffice to say it was a trip I will always treasure.  A big thanks is owed to Candice R., the senior trip organizer, for letting me help chaperone this year.

The only hurdle to overcome, since I love to travel and had no qualms about that, was being away from Connor for five days.  It was the longest time I've spent away from him, and while we stayed busy, I thought of him throughout each day.  I knew he was in good hands with my parents, expecially when he would rather play with a tractor than talk to me on the phone each night.  :)  Not to skip ahead, but I'll never forget the feeling of having him in my arms again after all those days.  There is just nothing like my little Bug. 

Below you will find a quick recap of the trip, along with photos from each day.  I earnestly hope that this is not my last trip to New York City.  I don't think I could ever tire of the Big Apple.

Day One: Monday
We spent Sunday night/Monday morning on the charter bus, making our way to Gettysburg, our first stop along the way to NYC.  Sleeping on the bus was nearly impossible, or maybe it was just the STAYING asleep that was difficult.  I try not to complain, but it was seriously uncomfortable for the first leg of the trip.  Finally, at about 3 a.m., I caved and took some Tylenol P.M., and then I was able to rest for a few hours, despite being groggy for half the day after that.  Next time I'll remember to take the Tylenol earlier in the night.

Once we arrived in Gettysburg, we went straight to the museum and then to tour the battlefield.  It was a gorgeous day, and Jason was, of course, enthralled with all of the history our tour guide provided.  For those who don't know, Jason and I spent part of our honeymoon in Gettysburg (so romantic, I know), so it was a nice reminder of our time there nearly eight years ago.

After a full day in Gettysburg, we headed to New Jersey, to our hotel accommodations for the remainder of the week.  Sleeping in a soft, comfy bed after nearly 24 straight hours on a bus was heavenly.

Day Two: Tuesday
Tuesday was our first trek into the city.  We immediately picked up our tour guide (who was with us each day in NYC), Jeff, and I knew right away that he looked very familiar.  Throughout the course of the day we uncovered that Jeff had been the tour guide for my first every trip to NYC, way back in 2000, a trip I took with Aunt Mary Beth and Gran.  I was pleasantly surprised at the irony of seeing Jeff after 11 years, and I have to say that he is one of the reasons our trip was so fantastic.  His knowledge and passion for the city were evident, and he constantly threw in historical, architectural, literary, and etymological references throughout each day.  Jason and I were both impressed.

The major highlights of Tuesday were the Empire State Building (Jason's first time seeing the city from above.), followed by some shopping (I love H&M!).  Jason and I (and Scottie and Kim) walked to a tiny pizza shop for lunch, and enjoyed a few minutes of people watching while Jason had some NY thin pizza (I do love NYC, but Chicago's deep dish is my fav, by far.) and I had a yummy, cheesy calzone.

After lunch, we headed to St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was breathtaking.  I know that the "church" is technically the believer and not the building, but it's difficult not to feel close to God in such a sacred, beautiful place.

Once we finished at St. Patrick's, we had another hour or so of shopping, this time on 5th Avenue.  Jason and I mainly window-shopped, seeing as most of the stores (Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., etc...) were out of our price range; however, we did venture to F.A.O. Schwarz.  Jason and I were both determined to find Connor a special toy to bring home, and we found the perfect stuffed "roggy" (frog).

The real highlight of F.A.O. Schwarz for me, though, was getting to play on the piano from "Big."  I have no clue why that was such a moment of excitment for me, but I loved every second of it.  :)  I attempted to play "Heart and Soul," and was fairly successful until a small child got in my way.  :)

After shopping, we headed to Times Square, had dinner at Planet Hollywood, and ended the night on a high note, by seeing "Wicked."  Jason and I had seen the play four years earlier, and it was just as good as the first time.  I have loved every muscial I've ever seen on Broadway (and off-Broadway), but "Wicked" and "Chicago" are a close first and second in my book.  I loved especially seeing the reactions of all of the students, as for most it was their first Broadway experience.

Exhausted but exhilerated, we headed back to New Jersey to rest up for another full day in the city.

Day Three: Wednesday
Once we drove into the city, the bulk of the morning was spent in Central Park, which was a welcome change from all the concrete.  The park was gorgeous, the weather was beautiful, the students group-danced along with a street performer, and Jason had his first NYC hot dog from a street vendor, so all in all it was a successful morning.  I was most amazed that once we stepped into the park, we could no longer see skyscrapers or hear traffic; it seemed secluded and nestled away, right in the middle of such a huge city.  I only wish we would have had more time to spend there.

While the beauty of Central Park was breathtaking, the most awe-inspiring building we saw by far was the place we next visited, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  The photos, with my less-than-professional camera, certainly do not do justice to this architectural masterpiece, which isn't even yet completed after over 100 years of work, and won't be fully completed until 2100.  On the way there, Jeff told us that the church was so tall that the Statue of Liberty would fit inside.  That was hard to fathom, until we were inside, and I felt miniscule.  My personal favorite part of the church was one of the alcoves, which was labeled as "The Poets' Corner." 

Lunch was spent in Grand Central Terminal.  Jason and I enjoyed a delicious lunch from The Oyster Bar in Grand Central, dessert from Magnolia Bakery, and then strolled around the station to check out the shops.

The evening was spent with more time in Times Square and dinner at Dallas BBQ.  Once I got back to the hotel and checked my pedometer, it registered that we had taken over 18,000 steps that day...I slept well.

Day Four: Thursday
Jason and I were both a little sad to spend our last day in the city before heading home early on Friday morning.  Our first stop for the day was Ground Zero, and I was amazed by the progress.  The first time I visited NYC was in 2000, and we actually visited the Twin Towers.  The second time I visited was in college, in 2002, and the site was still filled with emotion.  This time, however, was quite different.  Instead of sadness, there was a sense of hope, progress, and yet remembrance.

After lunch, the group took a boat tour on the East River, where we saw the Brooklyn Bridge, various parts of the NYC skyline, and the Statue of Liberty.  It was sunny and 73, and we all enjoyed soaking in the sun and the sights.

The remainder of the afternoon hours were spent at Chelsea Market (great handmade baskets, delicious bakeries, and an Anthropologie store), short stops in SoHo and Greenwich Village (Side note: NEVER attempt to use the restrooms in Columbus Park...ask Candice or myself.  It was horrifying.  I hurried out gagging, and was laughed at by a man on a bench.  Not my finest moment.). 

I loved being able to experience each of these subsections of the city, seeing what made each unique.  We also spent a couple of hours in Chinatown, which was honestly too much for me.  I had been before, and since I wasn't interested in buying any fake purses, it wasn't too appealing.  Jason, Candice, Abby, Brooklyn, and I did walk to Little Italy during that time, where we bought the most delicious mini chocolate cannolis...Jason ate it before I could snap a picture, though.

The best meal of the entire trip was had that night, right off Times Square, at an Italian, family-style restaurant called Carmine's.  I already did an entire post about the food in New York, so if you'd like to see all the mouth-watering photos of the fried calamari, penne alla vodka, shrimp scampi, and chicken parmigiana we scarfed, see here.

Back at the hotel, Jason and I lounged by the pool, while the students enjoyed our last night before heading home. 

Day Five: Friday
The trip home was fairly uneventful.  We left around 8:30 a.m., stopped only for two fast food meals and restroom breaks, and made it home by 1:30 a.m.  There were lots of laughs as we recapped our most memorable moments, and as glad as I was to get home, I was also already missing the city and all the fun we had. 

Jason and I crashed as soon as we got home, and I managed to sleep until 8 before my excitement to see Connor outweighed how tired I was.  This was the beautiful site that awaited me at Mimi and Pops' house:

New York City was an unbelievable experience, and I am anxious to visit again soon, but there is no place like home (with Connor)!

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