Friday, April 29, 2011

New York City (Day 1)

This is our 4-day trip to NYC. Our primary goal was to see where Katie wants to go to school and get it all set up. Additionally, I wanted to take another trip with Michael before he leaves for the Peace Corps, and since the last NYC trip was primarily theatre-focused, to let him find more fun in New York. And, since Alyssa didn't make the first trip with us, I wanted her to have the experience as well.  But because my memory is terrible blogging seems to be the way to go.

Up at 4 a.m. Two cars to get us to the airport. With our boarding passes already printed, we got through with no problems. Actually, Alyssa found that she had gotten through with a tiny pocket knife in her purse! And they did want to check Michael and Josh's carry-on bags - they're such suspicious-looking characters!  But mainly, we slept on the airplanes. American airlines, connecting flight at O'Hare then on to LaGuardia.

Carmel Car Service - great service. With 5 people, it was cheaper and faster than the Super Shuttle (@$16/person). We had a minivan for $50, plus the $6 toll and the tip. We made it from LaGuardia to Times Square in under 30 minutes each way.

Marriott Marquis
2nd time at this hotel on Times Square. Didn't splurge on the Times Square view. Still, the 42nd floor let's you see pretty far - glimpses of the Hudson River, John's Pizzeria, Jersey Boys, American Idiot, and the Golden Hand at Madame Tussard's! Lovely room. Really convenient for tourist stuff.

Hell's Kitchen Flea Market
Not very big, so not too great. Josh found some great boots, but they were too small. Still it was a fabulous place for some NY people-watching. Many were all decked out in their VERY extravagant Easter "bonnets."

 It started raining and we ran across the street to Junior's for sandwiches. We were running late so we got them to go. Not that great for the money. Probably because we had to carry them a little ways before we ate.  Waiter comments from Bubba Gumps were that we should only get our cheesecake from Junior's and get our Pastrami Sandwiches from Katz.

Squeezed all 5 of us into a regular sized cab (after a little begging on my part), $5 to get us to The World Comedy Club on 53rd. Good news, we had a coupon for $10 each tickets. We knew we had to have a 2 drink minimum, but we were a little surprised when the bill came - $82!  Bottle water - $10, Beer $16-18, Soda $20. They let us bring in our sandwiches from Junior's, and the 90 minute show was funny. Good first night entertainment!

Found The Food Emporium on 49th & 8th on our walk home from the Comedy Club. Picked up fruit for next day breakfast....even though we ate most if it that night! The rain had stopped while we walked, storm rolled in again afterward.
Walking back toward hotel
A rainy night in Times Square
Still busy there, even if it rains!

Just back from the Comedy Club!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

NYC Day 2

Foggy Monday Morning....

CitySights NY bus - a hop-on hop-off bus tour. We bought the discounted price for 3 days through Priceline when we did the airfare. This was a good way to get off in different parts of town. Good for first timers, ESPECIALLY good if you get a good tour guide. Josh and Alyssa jumped on it one day and had a great older Bronx New Yorker who told them the good and the bad of everything he passed! One time we had a younger guy who told us only stuff about TV shoots, movie locations and celebrities. CitySights only has an upper deck, sometimes covered in plexiglass or partial plexiglass. The red busline has all open air top, which looked breezier. Also, ours stopped running at 6 p.m, and the red one seemed to keep running.

Paesano's on Mulberry Street in Little Italy  was delicious and not outrageously priced for lunch.  Outdoor dining was full, but indoors was quaint and old world feeling.

New York Film Academy (SoHo Campus); we walked there and met Barron, Katie's new counselor. Did a tour, sat in on an acting on stage class. Chaotic, but fun. It's going to be pricey, but Katie liked it.

The 1760. We hopped in a cab because we were trying to make the 3:30 tour of the dorm where the NYFA students have 2 floors. We had to get from SoHo to 97th street. We made it with 5 minutes to spare, and $20 cab fare. Really nice safe neighborhood. Typical dorm room, but it does come with TV, microwave, fridge. There's a doorman, weight room, study rooms, library, laundromat, mail room, community kitchen with convection oven and stove.

  Rockefeller Center Walked over from the Marriott.  Lots of people there for Easter.
 We had Top of the Rock tickets, but the line was really long on Sunday. So we decided we'd do it Monday or Tuesday night. That never happened because THICK fog rolled in on Monday night, then Tuesday night, we were just worn out! The idea of waiting in any lines for a great view of the tops of buildings didn't really appeal to us at that point. Another time. ;)

John's Pizza for dinner. Chris Romano's recommendation. They have 4 restaurants now, and Chris's fav was on Greenwich/Bleeker, we ate at the convenient one near Times Sqare. Viewable from our room. Really great pizza! Service was not so great, probably better in the original location. Still, we'd do that again. 

Hershey Store. Went over thinking there was a tour of some kind. But there wasn't. Just a lot of chocolate for sale, shirts with M & M, mugs, Reese's lunch boxes, etc. Not great.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NYC Day 3

Finally a morning with no fog! Our plans were a little up in the air, hinging on the weather. So we were off and running!

Harbor Cruise.
A 90 minute guided tour down the Hudson River, lots of explanations about the viewable buildings, history, skyline, bridges, and then up the East River. Up close to the Statue of Liberty. GREAT tour!! Booked it through Priceline with the Airline tickets. This might have been our favorite tourist attraction.

These two pictures are blurry because I haven't figured out the scanner yet. They were taken by the Harbor Cruise photographer as we boarded the boat.  Not to worry, we took a lot of pictures from the boat - pictures of each other, shots of the skyline and the bridges.  So I just created a slideshow for it. Seems a little dramatic, but I'm just learning how to do this.

If you click a picture, the video will open at the beginning in another tab/page. Otherwise, it starts rolling the minute you enter the blog. If you place the cursor over a photo, without clicking, it will show whatever comments we have about that particular photo. We're not really sure about the buildings and the bridges, sorry, we just took them when we were on the Harbor Cruise. The captain was wonderful, explaining everything...if only I could remember what he said!!

City Bus
The Harbor Cruise offers free shuttle back and forth to Times Square. But we wanted to go to SoHo to see the NY Fire Museum. We considered walking, but Michael and Josh spoke to the Cruise Captain who showed us where to just hop on the city bus for free and go to Bleeker Street. We stood at first, then rode a little past Bleeker. We did see Cydney's recommendation of Two Boots Pizzeria , but we got off and walked on to Spring Street.

NYC Fire Museum
Great museum. Operates on donation, so bring cash. Lots of photos, old equipment, engines, gear you can try on. Clearly a "school trip" kind of place, but we liked it a lot. Very moving videos about 9/11 taken by the firefighters there.
Michael took a bunch of pictures in there, so we'll probably add another slide show! lol

Union Square
My foot was hurting, so Alyssa, Josh and I took a cab to Union Square. When we got there, we found a great Chocolate Restaurant, Max Brenner's although we had a rather rude Russian waitress. Still, the restaurant smelled FABULOUS, and the desserts were totally decadent! Michael and Katie wanted to do some more exploring, so they took the subway to Union Square. They got on going the wrong direction, hopped off, then got back on going the other way. They ended up at TGIF, because it was familiar and we didn't know what street we had turned off the square to get to our restaurant. So when we finished, we met them at TGIF.

NYFA Union Square campus
We walked over to the campus where the behind-the-scenes classes are held, as well as the counselor's area and where Katie will have to go when she first "checks in" in September. We met Barron there and also met the Housing coordinator for The 1760. They let us sit in on an acting course. Katie felt like she'd be just fine in those kind of classes.

Since Michael and Katie had already ventured into the Subway, we decided we'd take it back to the hotel. We tried to use the credit card to purchase single pass metro tickets, but it wouldn't take it. So we put cash in one at a time, which took a little while, and I'm sure made it clear to one and all that we were tourists. Josh and Alyssa watched a drug deal, while local kids were clearly letting friends in and out the emergency exit. The alarms were being ignored and live music was being played around the corner. So everyone got there cards and we started through the turnstiles. I mistakenly pushed mine forward because I didn't want to have to squeeze into the smaller area. But unfortunately, I was then trapped in between, unable to go either way. So Alyssa ran her metro card and I went on through. That left her on the opposite side of all of us, unable to get through! So initially I handed her my credit card and told her to get in line for another card. Josh noticed that drug dealer was still watching us and this did not sit well with him. So he reached over and opened the Emergency exit we had seen people use, pulled Alyssa through, alarms sounding, and we were off to our train!  We were still a little unsure which train we needed, but we made our best guess and we were right.  Upon arriving in the midtown area, Michael found musicians to photograph. Then we headed up to the hotel. Quite an adventure!

Katie bought her own ticket to see this show. She played Alice when she was 13, so she feels she should see all things Alice in Wonderland -related! She liked the show and it was right in our hotel, so that was great! Her seats were in the 6th row!

Michael got tickets to the Discovery Museum which was also right off Times Square.  Great exhibit!!

Shopping on Times Square
Josh and Alyssa went shopping for a purse and phone cover from the street vendors. Success! The purse was huge, the phone cover was pink - all was right in the world. The streets were packed because all the shows were running on Tuesday night. (None on Monday, and only a few on Sunday night)

We decided to splurge on seafood in Times Square. Drinks, dessert - the works! Alyssa even got a glass that lights up!  Service there was great. Food was delicious. Desserts were HUGE!  Yes, it was fun. Yes, it was waaaay overpriced. But...New York...

Monday, April 25, 2011

NYC Day 4 (Last Day)

Preprinted the boarding passes in the Business Center at the Marriott. This is such a great time saver - plus you can change your seats around a little bit if you need to.
Starbucks in the hotel for coffee and croissants.
Carmel Car service back to pick us up. Got us to the airport in about 20 minutes.

LaGuardia Airport - hardly any lines. No extra security checks like there were on the way to NYC. I even forgot to pull out my liquids in my little quart bags, they just went on through. (Alyssa got through the Austin airport with a pocket knife in her purse, but both Josh and Michael had to let someone go through both their bags on the way TO New York.)  Funny flight attendant chatted with us all the way to Dallas. We were right near the galley. Then on the flight from DFW to Austin, there wasn't enough room for all the overhead baggage. Josh took his backpack out and let someone put their suitcase in his spot. He was wearing an Aggie hat, so everyone just attributed his kindness to that. ;) Then another man was pacing the aisles, getting angrier about not finding a place for his bag. He told the flight attendants to "shut up and do your job," along with a few more insulting comments. We were thinking he was about to pull down someone else's bag when he turned to the flight attendant and pounded his fist into his hand, as if to indicate he was about to punch her. Moments later, he was being escorted off the plane. Someone came back and got his wife and his other bags, and that was that. Very exciting though! lol

Last little surprise. We didn't pay attention to the prices for the parking garage. We were sleepy and Michael was parking the car after we were all dropped off on our way out of Austin. I realized he had parked in the covered parking and expected it to be expensive, like $40. Nope. Try $80! Probably won't do that one again.

Then Ron came to take Michael back to Texas State where he had to finish up a paper and start a take-home test. Katie had to be dropped off at Ballet Austin for dress rehearsal for her shows the next weekend. Alyssa, Josh and I came back to the house, unloaded and went out for some good ole Tex-Mex!

All in all a great trip!!!

Friends on facebook suggested a variety of things we never got around to. But we will in the future. Thanks! Here were the suggestions:
Art Student's League on 57th street; Mood fabrics, united nations tour, toysRus times square, life cafe (from Rent), NBC store, FAO Schwatrz, Union Square Cafe, Spirit for $10 flights, and