"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Stiteses Take Manhattan, Part One

We promised John that if we didn't get him there before he graduated high school, we'd take him to New York City as a grad gift. John graduated, with honors, about a month ago, so grad gift it was.

We planned this thing like a Disney trip, and I really think our experience with Disney and our mindset when going there actaully helped us in a big way while planning this trip. I really took on the Disney mindset and tried to nail down the important things, the things we needed (like lodging and transportation) and the things we REALLY wanted (like show tickets and a trip to the One World Observatory) as far in advance as we could. That helped not only in peace of mind but in budgeting, as some of the highest-budget items were long paid for by the time we arrived in New York.

I'll stop right here and point out that the lovely and talented Lisa did her share of planning (booking the hotel and Phantom of the Opera tickets) and takinq quite a few of the photos I'll use in this blog. I can't remember who shot what and they are all mixed up on Amazon Prime Photo (do you use that? You should!), so I'm assigning dual credit to all of them off the bat.

We paired our trip with a visit to my parents' house both because we wanted to see them and my sister's family and some of Lisa's nearby family and because it made NYC an easy Amtrak ride away. New York is like Disney in another way in that it's silly to drive a car around there. The public transportation is great, we used the subway a bunch, and the stress of driving a car along with the expense of parking it would have been too much for me. As it turns out, there is a commuter Amtrak train running several times a day from Harrisburg, PA to New York City and it stops at the Downingtown station a few minutes from my parents' house.

Amtrak was great! From what I've heard, people shy away from it due to the cost, but I think the further in advance you purchase tickets the cheaper they are. I can't confirm that, but it makes sense. Our tickets were only about $220 round trip for all three of us together. Granted, that was non-rush hour times, but why would you travel then if you didn't have to anyhow? We went up on the 10:04 am train out of Downingtown and arrived at Penn Station by 12:30 pm. It was easy and hassle-free and actually kind of fun.

We emerged from Penn Station into the thick of things and seeing John's face as he took it all in was priceless. We only had a few blocks to walk to get to our hotel, but it was a great introduction to a crowded city, especially with our suitcases rolling along with us.

We stayed in a Comfort Inn near the intersection of 39th Street and 8th Avenue, technically the Garment District (there was a shop selling buttons and grommets across the street. Nothing else, just
The view from our room
buttons and grommets), but close enough to Times Square that we really felt in the thick of things. The hotel building was funny as it only had four rooms per floor, but 80 rooms total as it was 20 stories high. We were a few hours early for check-in (and they are very specific about check-in time), so we dropped our bags with a very friendly front desk staff and set off for Times Square.

We stopped for lunch in a brew pub connected to the huge bus terminal around the corner and then we were off! On the way up to Times Square I let a friend, the wonderful Alison from the awesome Disphilharpodcast, know we were in town and she arranged to sneak out of the office and meet up with us, as luck would have it, in the Times Square two-story Disney Store. We chatted, introduced all around and got some good advice about places to see and Alison's offer to be a phone-a-friend if we got lost in the big city.

My Main Man George
We made our way back to the Comfort Inn, checked into a room on the 8th floor that was JUST big enough to fit all thee of us inside, and set off again up Fifth Avenue towards the Rockefeller Center. On the way, we saw more of the Garment District, which, as it turns out, is more of a pre-garment district. This is the place to buy fabric and ribbons and such, not a place to buy actual, finished garments. We passed the beautiful New York Public Library and began checking out some of the high-end shops until we came upon Saks Fifth Avenue and took a look inside. Lisa was in heaven, as she proclaimed, as she was among "shiny things and purses." We only looked around the first floor, feeling like gypsies in the palace, before hitting the road again and visiting St. Patrick's Cathedral.
New York City Public Library

St. Patrick's is absolutely, mind-blowingly, ornately beautiful. The stone arches holding up the ceiling far above, the saints in the alcoves, the massive altar, the biggest pipe organ I've ever seen......it all blew me away. I told John he'd not see a church anything like this outside of Europe. We were all humbled by this place, and all a bit saddened by the security check on the way in. But New York post-9/11 is a different place. We'd seen police with assault rifles and shotguns in Times Square and would see the NYPD Counter-Terrorism team the next day at Ground Zero. We felt safe the entire time we were in the city, but we were very aware of the efforts to make that happen.

We Love Public Art. This is possibly the largest Inflatable Woman ever.
Rockefeller Center was the next stop and we thought about grabbing a drink in the little outside cafe in the square, but after being seated directly under some equipment blowing hot air we wandered off. We looked around the inside of the Center but didn't even try heading up top as we were getting to be in a dinner-thinking kinda way.
Night Time Times Square

I might have loved looking out the window.

We headed back towards the hotel by way of Times Square and spotted a Scottish restaurant and pub that looked promising until we discovered it was closed up. Luckily, there was a Cuban place across the street that turned out to be spectacular. We had a delicious meal, walked though Times Square as the last of the light left the sky and the electric lights took over, and tucked ourselves into our cozy quarters to rest up for an exciting first full day in The Big Apple.

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