Thursday, September 01, 2005

My Summer Vacation

We're back and pretty exhausted. But no time to rest, it's back to work today. I will begin posting my summer vacation and will continue to post as I get time. This post is going to be very long and I will try to put pictures in when I get a chance.

For the record, on the last post, no I did not throw up on my shorts. Sometimes my hands type faster than my brain thinks.

Vacation Day 1:

Today we traveled to NYC. The plane ride was good and a lot shorter than expected. the van ride from the airport to our hotel was a different story. The driver had a short fuse and constantly laid on his horn and shouted at other drivers. One of his statements was, "wake up sleepy." He!

I must admit that when we first got here I was feeling quite overwhelmed. It is a big, big city and where we are staying is more in a residential area than a touristy area. But after a stroll through Central Park I began to calm down.

This evening we went to Lincoln Center for "Out of Doors." It's a series of free cultural events. This evening had different ethinic dances and all the dance troops were from Brooklyn. There was a step group, an African group, a Swedish group, a Panmanian group, and a few others. My favorite was the African group.

For dinner we went to a place called Vynll which was quite a hole in the wall, but we're discovering everything is here. The menus were inside of record albums. It was good food, good service, and not too expensive.

We walked down to Times Square to end the evening. Boy it was crowded with people. I'm glad we're staying off the beaten path aways.

Vacation Day 2:

Today we got up around 6:45 and went for a run in Central Park. We got totally lost as we followed these little paths that intersected. We came out around the Natural History Museum or whatever it's called (it's got dinosaurs). At this point a woman asked us how to find the running paths in Central Park and we pointed her in a different direction that we came from because we didn't want her to get lost. We rested for a minute and then went the same path we had shown her. We soon realized, however, that we had pointed her to a road that actually went under the park. Woops! We chased her down, turned us all around, and we all ran together to the south side of the park. It was fun; it was slow; and I'm calling it about 4-1/2 miles.

Much of the rest of the day was spent on a double-decker bus tour. The first part of the tour was downtown. We saw sites such as the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Wall Street, The Village, Chinatown, etc. It was an okay tour. Our tour guide didn't speak much English so she basically just pointed out things we could have gotten from a map. The second half of the tour went uptown where we saw the Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Harlem, and Central Park. Our tour guides were excellent and gave us a lot more information than just what the sites were. They told us all the juicy celebrity gossip, which I like.

This evening we went to dinner at Lindy's where we encountered our first bad service. Our waitress came by only three times--once to take our order, once to bring the check, and once to bring the check back. The food was alright but overpriced. We wanted the cheesecake, but didn't have time.

After dinner we hopped the subway (our first time of many times) out to Brooklyn to meet Monique and Pete for an off-off Broadway play. The play was called "World Gone Wrong" and Pete's brother was in it. The play was unusual because all the dialog was previously recorded and all the lines had come from different noir movies. It was good, but different, and I'm not realy sure I got it.

Vacation Day 3:

We started our Friday really early and were at the Today Show by 6:30 am. We got really good spots right along the railing where Matt Lauer and Ann Curry would be announcing the concert--Joss Stone. Let me say this, Ann Curry is my new best friend. She came over and said hello, shook my hand, and Dave got a picture of me and Ann Curry. It was awesome! The concert was awesome too. Unfortunately, being as short as I am, I wasn't able to actually see the performance, but I did watch it on the monitors.

Next we headed down to Ground Zero to check it out further than the bus tour. right now it's a construction site and there are posters of the new building going up there, but just the enormity of the space is enough to get the feeling of how big the building were. (I had been to the World Trade Center eleven years ago, but Dave had never seen them.) We went to the church next to Ground Zero which had housed many of the volunteers. It had a memorial and a museum.

Our next adventure tested my nature. I have a deep, dark fear of bridges and really flip out when I have to go across them. When I crossed the Cheasapeake Bay when I was a child, I sat on the floor of the car crying. Got the idea? So I conquered my fear today and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. We stopped halfway and took some pictures.

Me, from the Brooklyn Bridge Posted by Picasa

We had been told that right at the end of the bridge was this great pizza place called Grimaldi's. Well, we got to the end of the bridge and we couldn't find any of the roads supposedly by the pizza place. We walked around and around and then asked a traffic officer who had no idea what we were talking about. We then found a subway station and looked at the map to find the streets. After a lot more walking we finally found Grimaldi's which was right under the Brooklyn Bridge. We had lunch there and got some dessert at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

After Brooklyn we headed back to the hotel for some naps and cleaned up for dinner. We went to La Bonne Soupe which had decent service, good food, and pretty good prices.

After dinner we met Pete and Monique at Union Square to go on a walking tour of The Village to see some art displays. We did a lot of walking but didn't really see any art. We think we did see some movie stars, though. We think Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal walked right past us. Pete pointed them out but only after they had walked past. Our final destination for the evening was B's Bar and Grill where we had a little liquid dessert and then headed home around 1:00am.

Vacation Day 4:

We woke up kinda late for us today, which made me irritable that I had wasted the morning. It was a pretty nice day so we decided our first activity would be the Empire State Building. We went probably around 10:00am and the lines weren't bad, but just being around that many people started to make me antsy. I'm pretty closterphobic so it was a bit too much. We didn't spend much time at the Empire State Building but we did get to see the view of the city from each side.

For lunch we went to Grand Central Station and just ate at the food court. What a neat place. We don't have trains or subways in Columbus so being in a busy transportation hub was cool and the architecture was also cool.

After lunch we hopped the subway down to Chinatown and SoHo to do some shopping. I really wasn't planning on doing any shopping in NY since we have most of the stores here in Columbus. I really like vintage/thrift clothes so I was hoping to find some good deals. Again, what a mistake. First of all, the sidewalks were wall to wall people and being that I was already on edge I thought I was going to die. We had this list of different vintage shops that came from our 2005 Frommer's guide and none of the stores were there. I guess they had already gone out of business. I did find the Kate Spade store which was exciting because she's one of my favorite designers. We also saw a drug transaction go down just one street off of Broadway. Good times!

For dinner we met Monique and Pete and went to an authentic Italian restaurant in the West Village. I have no idea what I ordered but it was good. It was shell pasta with creamy sauce and Italian sausage. Yummy!

After dinner we went to a sketch comedy show that Pete's brother was in. It was extremely funny. We turned in pretty early in preparation for our race on Sunday.

Vacation Day 5:

We woke up at 5:30 this morning in preparation for our race at 7:00. I woke up not feeling 100%--I was super dizzy. So dizzy, in fact, that I fell into the wall in the bathroom as I was getting dressed. We hopped the subway up to the east side of Central Park. There were lots of runners on the trains and we barely got to the starting line in time. As we were waiting for the gun to go off the announcer said there were 8000 runners registered for the race. 8000!? That's twice as many as the Columbus Marathon. The race itself was pretty difficult. First it was really, really humid and already in the 80s at 7:00am. Secondly, it was a lot hillier than anything we run around here. It wasn't steep hills, just really long hils. And lastly because it was two loops of the park, mentally it was tough because you knew you could drop out and always make it back. I finished in 1:52 and Dave finished in 2:11. That's way off our personal bests.

After the race we cleaned up, rested a little, and then decided to go down to Times Square for lunch at a chain restaurant because we wanted to be able to get free refills and be in air conditioning. (If you've never been to NYC, most of the local places serve you sodas in cans or bottles and a lot of places don't have AC.) We had a super nice, super friendly waitress at Bubba Gumps. She talked to us for a long time about culture and tourists and how NYC differs from the midwest. It was an enjoyable lunch.

Next we hopped the subway down to South Ferry and cuaght the boat to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We had ridden the Staten Island Ferry earlier in the trip so we had already seen the Statue of Liberty but we wanted to see it up close. We took a lot of pictures and even got a stranger to take a picture of the two of us. It was the only picture we got of the two of us together the whole trip. We also went to Ellis Island and explored the immigrant museum there. It had beautiful black and white photographs. I really liked the museum.

For dinner we went to the Upper East Side to a pizza place called John's Pizza. The pizza was delicious, but again, no air conditioning.

We turned in pretty early as the day and the week were starting to wear on us.

Vacation Day 6:

Today was by far my favorite day of our vacation. Today was the day I have been waiting 14 years for. today was the day I got to go to the US Open. My whole reason for coming to NY was to see Andre Agassi play in what is probably his final US Open. Here's the sad part--I didn't get to see him play or practice, but I did get to see a lot of other great players. We first got to see Taylor Dent on one of the practice courts. It's amazing how close you can get to the players! Next we watched a small portion of the Ivan Ljubicic match. Then we went and wtached almost the whole Serena Williams first round match on Arthur Ashe stadium. After the Serena match we went back out to the practice courts and saw Tim Henman and Amelie Mauresmo. We also saw James Black and Xavier Malisse walk by. The next match we saw was Kim Clijsters. She's my favorite female player so this was an especially good treat. You have no idea how good she is until you've seen her play in person. We also got to see a small portion of the Jan-Michael Gambill/Nicolas Massu match before the Clijster's match. After the Clijster's romp we caught the tail end of Rafael Nadal and then watched the whole Venus Williams match. By this time it was late in the afternoon, we were sweaty and stinky and sunburnt and ready to go back to the hotel.

Dave had picked out three different restaurants on the Upper West Side to check out for dinner. One was Mexican, one was Italian, and one was Soul Food (sounds like the start of a joke). One thing that was different about restaurants in NY was that they were really authentic and most of the time the menus were not in English. First we went to the Mexican restaurant and I could not figure out the menu enough to figure out what to order. Then we walked a long way to the Italian restaurant where neither Dave nor I could figure out what the menu said. Finally we went to the Soul Food place where nothing sounded good. As we were walking back to the subway station we passed a coffee shop that was used in the movie "You've Got Mail." Being that this is my favorite movie, I got great joy out of this very long walk. Finally we decided to just go to the Olive Garden to get a familiar meal and headed back to the hotel to watch Agassi play on TV.

Vacation Day 7:

The final day. Today we only had time to be tourists in the morning and then hop our plan in the afternoon. This wasn't a day without adventure, though. We started the morning by going to St. Patrick's Cathedral, then to Rockefeller Plaza, to the NBC store for a little shopping, and finally got some brunch at a restaurant across from our hotel.

We then packed up and checked our travel arrangements. Remember how we had a van transport to and from the hotel? Well we took out the information sheet and it said to call 24 hours in advance. Woops! We called but they couldn't accommodate us so we needed to take a taxi to the airport. We asked the doorman to get us a taxi which we tipped him for but how stupid. The taxi moved from one sport on the curb up about 20 feet which was now in front of us. We could have done that ourselves.

Here's the funny part. On our way to the airport Dave leaned over to me and asked me if I had anything smaller than a $20. I didn't have any money. We got to the airport and our fare was $24.10. Dave handed the guy two $20s and was hoping to get some change back although we didn't actually ask for some change. So our cabbie got a 75% tip. I'm sure it made his day.

With the hurricane and all the rain now in the midwest our flight got delayed by about an hour. But, the airline actually switched airplanes so our flight was not going to leave on time. All the passengers had to board a bus that took us over to the hanger where the airplane was being prepared.

We made it home and it was pouring rain and a heck of a lot cooler than NY. It was an eventful vacation, but it's good to be home.


jeff said...

sounds like a jam packed vacation, so far. ny is a perfect walking vacation, since everything is geared toward pedestrians. how cool to walk across the bridge. can't wait to see photos from the middle.

welcome back!

Sarah said...

Great, detailed report! I definitely enjoyed reading it :-) I've been to NYC 4-5 times and I really enjoy it...though, I know what you mean about the lack of A/C and refills! There is SO much to do there...and so many restaurants I want to try, too! Welcome back :-)

Val said...

Maybe you should be a tour guide, Meredith. Sounds like you fit everything possible into a few days! I'm sure you could schedule vacations for people & squish more in than anyone else I know! Glad you're home safe. Hope to see you soonish, since we're returning to the Buckeye state and all! =D

Alicia said...

Welcome back! Sounds like a great vacation. I can't wait to see pictures!