Friday, July 3, 2015

NYC Senior Trip

When my daughter's senior class trip to Disneyworld fell through, she wasn't terribly disappointed. We (Laurel, her boyfriend, his mom, and me) had a bigger and better back-up plan: New York City.

You know how sometimes, a trip just totally comes together perfectly? This was one of those trips.

Tamyra and I searched for hours and hours on Airbnb for the perfect place to stay. It was the first time that either of us had used Airbnb, and our experience was really excellent. We found several potential places and finally narrowed it down by getting some personal advice from friends on reasonable areas in which to stay. We made our reservations a couple of months in advance. We also decided which Broadway show we wanted to see (Les Miserables) and bought discounted tickets. Besides that, the only planning we really did was that the four of us sat down together and roughly sketched out our 4.5 days in the city.

It is so great to travel with people who have the same basic approach to life. We all love to do stuff, but not too much stuff. We like a schedule, but we like to be flexible enough to break the schedule. We don't mind spending a little money, but we don't want to spend tons of money. We get hungry, so we eat. It sounds so simple, but I know it's really quite amazing to have perfect traveling companions.

We arrived in New York on a Friday afternoon and promptly got lost. But we eventually got to our place in Brooklyn. The neighborhood looked sketchy, but the people were incredibly welcoming and friendly. It was a fabulous little two-bedroom apartment with a nice kitchen and a perfect table for having coffee and planning our days.

As soon as we got settled, we took the subway right to downtown. We spent a lot of time on subways, but it was always a fun experience. So many people to watch! Also, we discovered rather quickly that we are terribly at reading maps, but Daniel is quite good at it.

We wanted to go to MoMa first because it is free on Friday nights. It was quite crowded, but we got in without waiting in lines and spent about an hour there.

I actually got a clear view of Starry Night for about 1 full minute!

After MoMa, we had a surprise for the kids. We had read about Ellen's Stardust Diner in a guidebook. Weirdly, no one had ever mentioned this as a "must do" to either of us, nor had we encountered it while searching the internet. But WOW! Am I ever glad Tamyra ran across this in the book! This was the perfect beginning to our trip to New York!

Ellen's is a 1950s themed diner with singing waitstaff. Sounds corny, I know, but these performers were incredible! Basically, these are folks who are auditioning for Broadway and paying their bills by singing at the diner. We waited in line about 45 minutes to get in, but it was totally worth it. Every one of them sounded like they should be on Broadway. What a fun night!
Photo cred: Tamyra Parks

Saturday was our Central Park day. We spent most of the day just wandering around Central Park. Almost as soon as we got there, the rain began; but Tamyra saw this as a perfect opportunity for some awesome pictures. Did I mention she's a photographer?

Photo credit: Tamyra Parks

Photo credit: Tamyra Parks

Photo creds: Tamyra Parks

The rain only lasted a few minutes,  but it was enough for some fabulous pictures. A Saturday in Central Park is full of entertainment, from musicians to gymnasts to magic shows, and so much more.

We had our fill for the day and then headed over to the Chelsea High Line. This is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Somehow our family totally missed this last time we were in NYC, even though we stayed in Chelsea. We were really tired of walking by the time we got the The High Line, so we didn't stay on it for too long. But what we saw of it was gorgeous.

We were also hungry, and everything was outrageously expensive, even for New York. We ended up eating appetizers at an Italian restaurant. They were really fabulous! This was mine, although I can't really remember what it was.

Sunday was an exciting day: Broadway and Top of the Rock! I've been to NYC a few times before, but this was my first Broadway show. It was phenomenal. Spectacular. I could become addicted to seeing Broadway shows. We sometimes go to the traveling Broadway shows in Knoxville, and although those are good, they pale in comparison to the real thing.

After the show (we went to the 3 p.m. show) we headed over to Top of the Rock. Last time we were in NYC, sunset tours were a lot more expensive, but the ticket price is the same for any time now. The evening was perfect and the sunset was perfect. The enormous crowd of people taking selfies did make viewing difficult, however.

Photo credits: Tamyra Parks

Monday began with the Brooklyn Bridge. The morning was foggy and cool, but really it was perfect for pictures.

We did all the things people said we should do, including eating pizza at Grimaldi's (we were underwhelmed) and having ice cream under the Bridge.

From there we headed to the 9/11 Memorial. It looks so much different than when we were here 4 years ago. One World Trade Center is finished now and the museum is open, although we didn't want to pay the $25 to visit it. We just walked around the grounds and the memorials, as well as visiting St. Paul's Chapel.

The site of the attack is a sobering one but so important. This is part of our tangible history, the where-were-you-when-the-planes-hit moment, for them and us.

We walked from there through Battery Park to the Staten Island Ferry. I love the ferry. I love seeing the Statue of Liberty and the city of New York and thinking about the trip into the city I made when I was 20 with Randy, Adam, Robert, and Randy Landry, when we took the ferry in from New Jersey. And I think about how Adam bought a flannel shirt from Banana Republic and how a rat ran across our path in Central Park, and how Adam and Randy Landry have been gone for so many years now. I'm happy to have those memories, even though they are tinged with sadness.

After the ferry we headed to Central Park. Well, first Laurel and Daniel had to do a little more shopping. I haven't mentioned the shopping yet, but we did leave room for lots of shopping! There just happened to be a big Urban Outfitters right when we got off the subway, so they shopped while we found food. One of my friends who lives in NYC told us of a free concert in Central Park that evening. It was the perfect ending to our day—sitting on a bench listening to Tedeschi Trucks Band while eating our deli soup and sandwiches.

Tuesday was our free day. We didn't have a lot of plans, other than visiting the New York Public Library and Grand Central Station, and, of course, shopping. And we were determined to find Katz's Deli and have an incredible pastrami sandwich. We did, and we did. The experience was everything it was supposed to be, and I could really go for one of those pastrami sandwiches right now.

We discovered a great gift shop in the NY Public Library and bought cool posters for souvenirs instead of tacky t-shirts. I know we missed a lot of the displays in the library, but we did get to see Christopher Robin's stuffed animals in the children's department, which was what I really wanted to see. Aren't they precious?

We were hoping to see one more Broadway show, so we stopped in at the TKTS booth on Times Square. We were in luck! We bought discounted tickets to see Finding Neverland that evening. In the meantime, Tamyra and I sat in Times Square watching all the people while Daniel and Laurel shopped.

Finding Neverland was fantastic. It was the perfect way to end our trip to New York. We even stayed outside the theatre for an extra hour watching the performers come out and sign autographs. Kelsey Grammer never came out, but Matthew Morrison ("Will Schuester"!) did, and we got really close!

We left to drive all the way back to Tennessee on Wednesday morning. Tamyra and I both felt extremely accomplished, as she had driven into the city and I drove out of the city. We have conquered driving in New York!

It took us 14 hours to get home, but it was worth every minute for all the memories our kids will carry into their lives. We got home right before midnight on Wednesday and headed right into graduation on Friday. What a whirlwind of a month! I wouldn't trade it for anything. I am so grateful for a friend who was willing to be adventurous and for incredibly flexible, good-natured, relaxed, and really fun traveling companions.

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  1. What a fantastic trip. I've also wanted to visit New York,especially Central Park. If only it wasn't more than 14,500km away!

  2. The photos are proof that was a wonderful trip! Look at how much your daughter is smiling!! I am glad you got to enjoy it, and it looks as though you managed to get just the right amount of excitement without being overwhelmed.


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