Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Last Day in New York

On our last full day in New York, we ran into some old friends from Texas, Wade and Priscilla. Well, we didn't actually run into them; we knew they were flying up to start their holiday. We met up at Chelsea Market in the Chelsea neighborhood. This is a very hip and urban food court including some shops.

{Inside Chelsea Market. Photo by Sara}

{Are we in Gotham City? Photo by Sara}

We picked a restaurant called The Green Table. They use the freshest ingredients from local farms, including their own farm in Washington County, NY. We all ordered something different, and it was all very delicious. I had the mac and cheese because it was calling my name, while Elsa got the chicken pot pie which was equally just as good! After lunch, we walked around and visited some of the shops.

We parted ways with Wade and Priscilla and headed back to the hotel. After a quick rest, we made plans to meet up with them again, this time at Grand Central Station. Having only seen this place in movies, it was so beautiful to see it with my own eyes! I couldn't help but raise my head and stare at the constellation ceiling. We had dinner at Johnny Rockets in the food court, but Elsa and Deli got dessert first because they wanted a hot dog from Times Square.

After our lovely visit at Grand Central, we walked to Times Square in the drizzling rain . . . and it was freezing. Elsa and Deli got their hot dogs, and we stopped by a Hard Rock for some gifts to take back home.

We said adios to Wade and Priscilla and headed back to our hotel. We had quite a ways to go, and because the ridiculous construction changed up all the subway routes, it dropped us off two stops before our hotel. We decided to brave the elements and walk in the cold rain, huddled with our arms interlocked to give us added warmth. We must have looked pretty silly, but it's bringing a smile to my face just writing about it! I wouldn't have changed a thing . . . well, the weather. I would have changed the weather.

The next morning, as we said our goodbyes and Sara, Deli, and Elsa left for the airport, I tried not to cry. I failed miserably as I walked back into the hotel, a group of ladies staring at me. I probably looked funny because I was in a raincoat, pajama pants, and rain boots. The girls were back in Texas before I had even gotten on my plane back to Europe. We have already discussed future trips! Can't wait to see what our next trip is!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Last night was a late night since we saw a show on Broadway and had dinner after 11 pm. Waking up at 7 am to catch the Statue of Liberty Ferry was early for us. It took us about ten minutes to walk from our hotel to the ferry terminal. We went through a security section and were quickly on the ferry. Elsa ordered our ferry tickets over the phone for the Statue of Liberty and for a hard-hat tour of Ellis Island. (If you purchase the tickets online, you could be charged double for the ferry cruises.) The tour was first on our agenda, so we headed to the iconic island, where immigrants many years ago had their first views of America.

The main building contains the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, but the two hour hard-hat tour  showed us the Ferry Building along with the hospital building and Contagious Disease Wards. On this tour, we learned that as men, women, and children climbed the stairs of the registration room, doctors were looking for any signs of sickness or troubles. According to the Nation Park Foundation, many were asked over thirty questions including their occupation and where they came from. Only about two percent were denied entry while twenty percent were held on Ellis Island for medical reasons.

You can't take this tour without a guide, as it's on the opposite side of the island and the main building.  There were about ten of us in our little group and our tour guide was excellent, answering any questions we may have had. Afterwards, we had lunch at the cafeteria and then got back on the ferry to take us to the Statue of Liberty. 

Four years ago when I was in New York, we didn't have time to visit the statue. Zach and I only saw it as we passed by on the Staten Island Ferry. I have to admit, I loved seeing it up close. We climbed quite a bit of stairs to get halfway up, which is interesting and has a lovely view, but visit the museum and then just look up from the ground floor. Quite magnificent! This is what the immigrants, fleeing famine and unemployment, saw as they sailed into New York harbor. After being weeks out on sea, it must have been such a welcoming sight!

For dinner we headed to Lombardi's Pizza, America's first pizzeria. We sat in the oldest part of the restaurant before they added on the new section. I ordered the Margarita pizza, and if you visit New York, I must insist you try it! The girls shared a boring pepperoni pizza. I'm kidding- it still looked amazing! After stuffing our faces with pizza, we found a cannoli place called Caffe Palermo. They had the yummiest cannolis and hot drinks available. Just stop by if you want a little piece of Italy! 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

{This is a guest post by Elsa Bearden.}


On my first trip to New York in 2010, the Freedom Tower was still under construction. Six years later on my second trip, I knew I had to visit this iconic monument as well as the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. I felt a little guilty though for wanting to visit these places; how could I enjoy visiting a place where hundreds of people died as if I was touring the Empire State Building or going to see a Broadway show? 

Our hotel was only two blocks or so from the Freedom Tower, but it wasn't until we walked upon the memorial fountains that I realized this visit would be completely unlike the others. Even with hundreds of visitors snapping their photos, there was a somber, quiet atmosphere which only thickened as we entered the museum. Two large beams, remnants of one of the towers greeted us as we entered the museum.

We spent hours making our way through the pictures, videos, and stories of that horrible day. We heard sniffles from other visitors and saw tears on a glass case which held the belongings of people whose stories we would never know.

Some content was disturbing and may not be suitable for younger children; some adults may not want to view these portions either. The notices for these areas in the museum were surprisingly small, so be sure to pay attention to any new sections or rooms you may be entering. If you're planning a visit, know that it will be an emotional one. I realized that our visit was a way to honor the memories of people like you and me, and I'm glad we had the chance to take this trip. 

After our visit to the museum, we bustled over to LadurĂ©e where we enjoyed lunch in an elegant setting. I felt like we had stepped into a scene on Downton Abbey, even if the restaurant is French. It was really nice to spend this time talking and catching up on faith, family, and the future. 


Later that day, we did go see a Broadway show, but that was only after Deli and I visited the TKTS Discount Booth in Times Square and purchased same-day tickets at a lower price. We dressed in our best outfits and hurried to the theater, since Abby and Sara decided to get lost taking the subway. We saw a new show based on the movie An American in Paris, which I've never seen. It was a fun, romantic drama with love triangles, ballet dancing, and even some history. It reminded me of the movie White Christmas, as the setting is after World War II and of course, there's singing and dancing.

Exhausted from our long day, we made our way back to the hotel and geared up for the next day's adventure: a trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We'll Always Have New York

Photo by Deli
I was recently in New York City for a couple of days with my sister, Elsa, and two lovely friends Deli and Sara. They flew up from Texas, which lucky for them was a straight flight! Unfortunately for me, I was coming from the EU. Flights out of Cyprus can be interesting...in my case, they have been crazy. Flights are either very early in the morning, or late in the evening with an overnight layover somewhere. But to me, it's all part of the adventures of traveling.

I flew out Wednesday and had an overnight layover in Vienna and wouldn't fly out Thursday morning until 10:45. I stayed at the NH Wien Airport for the night. I booked this hotel on Expedia because I was able to use points I had accumulated over the past few months. Being a VIP, I was upgraded to a nicer room and was able to help myself to the mini-bar, which included plenty of delicious snacks. You also can't go wrong with breakfast at the hotel! It had a very large spread of food and cappuccino machines everywhere.

I got pretty lucky on my Austrian Airlines flight. It wasn't full. I was in the very back of the plane and waited for everyone to board. Once boarding was complete, I snagged the 4-seat row next to me. After having another small lunch on board, I laid out and fell asleep. Traveling can take all the energy out of you!

Because my friends and I were arriving at different times, I chose to hire a car from Luxor and have a meet and greet when I came out of the terminal. My flight was two hours early though. By the time I went through customs and baggage claim, I still had about an hour to wait. I called the company to inform them, and the lady I was speaking to put me on hold to inform my chauffeur. The lady got back with me and said my ride was 5 min. away, which was nice. I waited by the curb and just a few minutes later he arrived, loaded up my luggage, and we were on our way. I was provided with water and mints, which I graciously took.

After about an hour and a half, I finally made it to the Financial District and pulled up to the NY Marriott Downtown. I went to the room and was welcomed to a king-size bed. I knew this would not do since there were four of us! I went downstairs and asked for two full-size beds. He assured me they had plenty of rooms and that it was just one floor up. I finally settled into the room, called everyone to let them know I had made it, and took some snapshots of our view. It was wonderful!

I had skipped the meal on the airplane and soon realized I was hungry. Connected to the hotel was Bill's Bar & Burger and I stopped in for a quick bite to eat. I still had many hours before the girls were supposed to arrive (they didn't arrive until almost 1...in the morning). It was a nice evening and hadn't yet cooled down, so I walked to Brookfield Place, which has a few shops. I walked by the 9/11 Memorial and the Freedom Tower. We bought tickets for the museum, which we will talk about in a few posts to come. At Brookfield, I visited Gucci to look for some espadrilles, but wasn't able to locate any, so I went back to the hotel.  

After a very long day, I snuggled into bed and turned the TV on. I dozed off several times before I got a message from Deli that they had landed. Less than an hour later, Elsa texted me that they were just a few minutes away from the hotel and to meet them in the lobby.  I sleepily (and grudgingly) changed and went downstairs. As soon as the elevator doors opened they were standing right in front of me! I quickly woke up and hugged everyone, and I just became so excited.

Our coats were all the same color, and we named ourselves the Trench Coat Mafia.

This was going to be a fun weekend!

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