Monday, December 22, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - NYC

(Sorry this took so long to post!)

Day One - Monday 11/24 - Arrived via Amtrak/MTA from Springfield through New Haven to Grand Central Terminal just before lunch. We managed to find our way to friend Ben's apartment in Brooklyn, where we ended up staying for two nights, due to our other friends catching a nasty bug on their drive up - we didn't want to get sick too! Thank goodness for friends, and we are certainly very grateful that Ben and Annelies didn't mind us crashing at their place. Plus, we got to spend some quality time with them, see their cool new apartment, and meet the two new adorable kitties! We spent the afternoon wandering around Midtown - we just decided to start at Times Square and work our way around from there. David made a stop at Midtown Comics, and I wanted to see the Hoffman Auto Showroom by Frank Lloyd Wright at Park and 56th, which is now a Mercedes-Benz showroom. (I missed it last time.) On the way, we ran into the Lever House plaza, which contained several fountains (the water was drained out due to the cold) of Sanrio character bronze sculptures by Tom Sachs! That was an unexpected treat! Once we found the showroom, the salesman that greeted us at the door (like we looked like were going to buy a Mercedes?) was very friendly when I asked if it would be okay for us look around the interior (yes, we're architects - the easy, generic answer) and take some photos. I asked if he knew what had changed since they acquired the space. He pointed out the original features and even the original furniture that FLW designed that is still in use by the sales staff! I thought that was pretty cool. We finally headed back to Brooklyn to have pizza at Grimaldi's with Ben and Annelies, one of the few coal-burning pizzerias still around, and looked around the pier down the street near the end of the Brooklyn Bridge, overlooking the river and downtown Manhattan. It was a nice view and we got some good night shots.

Day Two - 11/25 - Tuesday morning we headed up to the Upper East Side to meet up with Val and Tim at the Met. They were feeling slightly better, so they wanted to attempt some museum time. It was crazy busy (although perhaps the Met is crazy busy every day?) and we managed to check our coats and start exploring. We hit the back wing first so we could grab a bite to eat for lunch in the cafeteria. Then we took Tim through the Egyptian area so we could get to the American section (most was closed off for renovations, including the FLW room), so we could show him what we could get to in the American wing. We were able to see Tiffany glass, Stickley pieces, and a few other Arts & Crafts items. V&T took off shortly thereafter as they were still regaining their energy back from being sick and were ready to crash for a bit. David and I continued through the Early Christian/Byzantine area in the center, then the Asian wing on the upper right side before calling it quits. We spent about the whole day there, so needless to say, my feet were hurting! Still haven't hit much of the left wing - maybe next time. We decided to try Carnegie Deli for dinner - WAY overrated. Although the corned beef sandwich was impressive in stature, I was not impressed by the taste. We should have gotten pizza...

Day Three - 11/26 - We decided to move to the hotel with V&T today, since the parade was going to be EARLY the next morning and we didn't want to have to commute in from Brooklyn at the crack of dawn. Once we moved our stuff over to the hotel, we headed out for the MoMA. It was still out in Queens last time we were in NYC, so this was going to be our first visit, and our first look at the new building. They had some pretty great pieces, and we also got to see the Van Gogh exhibit. The VG exhibit was okay, but I thought the exhibit at the High was better, with more space in the gallery to move around. It was very crowded with not much elbow room. The building itself was very nice, with a sculpture garden in the courtyard. We left for lunch and came back to finish the other half of the museum. Had a great diner-type lunch two blocks away at the Astro Restaurant. We headed back to the hotel to bum around and rest up a little, then headed out toward the American Museum of Natural History to see the parade balloon inflation start up for the next morning. I think they call it "Float Night". We had plans for a late dinner just around the corner at Ocean Grill, so it worked out perfectly. One of the architects at work has a daughter that waits tables there, so were were able to meet up with him and his daughter served our table! The seafood was excellent - I had to get the scallops, but next time I am going to try the sushi! We turned in right after dinner, as we had to get up early to stake out our spot for the parade!

Day Four - 11/27 - Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! We got up around 6:30 am and were able to get to our predetermined spot (as researched by Val) for good parade-watching at 51st and Broadway by around 7:15 am. (This is probably the absolute LATEST time to get out there and get a good spot - parade starts at 9 am.) We were at the SE corner, by the Stardust Diner, probably about 4 rows back. Luckily, we had a family with two small girls and another group with grandpa in a wheelchair in front of us, so it probably helped us short people see a little better than having all standing people in front of us. We made small talk with those around us, and had fun talking to the girls. One was sporting her Sponge Bob t-shirt, and was very excitedly anticipating seeing him in the parade. (In fact, she squealed the entire time Sponge Bob passed in front of us - it was very cute!) Finally the parade started, we saw the clowns, the floats, the balloons, the bands, and in particular, the Georgia Tech Marching Band! They were the second marching band to appear in the parade, just after the Snoopy balloon. We got video, Val got photos, we were able to see the drum majors and directors and call out their names since they were on our side of the street. They saw us and waved, so that was cool. And we got to hear them play Ramblin' Wreck as they passed us. What a treat! After Santa passed and the parade was over, we headed back to the hotel to rest and recover from standing for several hours in the cold, then headed back out to make a pilgrimage to B&H Photo and Video, where Val and I both got our Nikon cameras from. The store was a sight to behold! Each department was very organized, with its own help desk and number system for you to speak to a staff person. Once you decided to purchase something, you got a ticket to pay with downstairs, and your items are transported via an overhead conveyor belt system to behind the cash registers, where you pick up your package once you pay for it. I was told that this was the first time in 30 years that they were open on Thanksgiving, so lucky us! I hope they had good business! I highly recommend ordering any of your camera equipment from there - free shipping on a a lot of things, great service and fantastic prices. We then headed to Brooklyn to Val's Cousin Rick's for a nice, quiet Thanksgiving meal - delicious and a great ending for a great day!

Day 5 - 11/28 - This was our last morning in NYC. Since Val and Tim were feeling a lot better at this point, we wanted to hit a few more things for them before leaving town. The Travel Inn was reasonable and great, and they let us keep our car parked there (on-site, free parking all week!) up until 5 pm after checking out! We took V&T to see the windows at Macy's. The 34th Street side had scenes from Miracle on 34th Street, and the Broadway side had the theme "Believe" with a few interactive windows - heat sensors from putting your hand on the glass, I think. I loved the Believe windows - lots of neat imagery and ideas. We then headed to Little Italy/Chinatown for a quick walk-through and pizza at Lombardi's, another coal-burning pizzeria. I think this place is by far the best place we've been to in the city. (I'll take other suggestions for next time, but I think Lombardi's has officially made my "can't-miss" list.) We packed up the car and left the city after lunch, headed to Val's grandmother's in Winchester, VA, to spend the night.

Day 6 - 11/29 - We had a great but short visit with Val's grandmother and mom. We drove the rest of the way back to Atlanta on Saturday, huddled around the Sirius radio and Val's phone waiting for football updates, as our beloved Yellow Jackets were playing the dreaded uga (sic) in the annual Governor's Cup that afternoon. The ACC games are apparently broadcast on XM, so we could only get updates. Luckily, Val's mom was watching back in VA and calling with the updates. It was a bit of a nail-biter toward the end, when we could get a very static-y AM station passing through Charlotte, but in the end, we were victorious! Go Jackets! We made it home in the evening to a very meow-y but loving kitty that was glued to my hip for the next few days.

All in all, a great trip. Not enough time, as usual, but I guess that leaves more for next time!

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