Monday, December 9, 2013

Trip to New York City

After much planning and some management of expectations, my wife and I joined two other couples for a long-weekend trip to New York City.  Leaving from two cities, the plan was to meet in NYC on the Thursday afternoon and run through a few pre-planned suppers and shows with ample free time to do some shopping and generally just take in the city.  With all our children staying behind under the supervision of their grandparents, three sets of moms and dads blissfully recalled/relived life prior to becoming parents.

Fog and Delays:  The two other couples were lucky enough to leave and arrive prior to the fog getting really bad.  A spike in the temperature basically fogged in the airports at Newark, La Guardia and JFK, delaying a lot of flights and cancelling many others.  After three abortive attempts to reschedule into later flight (along with everyone else), we finally opted to catch the first flight the next day.  We got the last room in the hotel at the terminal.  After showering and relaxing a bit, we ended up getting drinks at the hotel bar and supper at the restaurant.  Needless to say copious amounts of alcohol finally settled the nerves; we really needed those drinks, at one point both my wife and I nearly pushing one of the American security officials a little too far with our attitude.  Travel Tip:  Call the cancellation service for your airline before you reserve at any hotel.  They can save you a fortune on the room rate, something they can’t or won’t do after you’ve checked into a room.  In our case, we could have saved over $200 on the room.

9/11 Memorial Tour:  We finally made it and hooked up with one couple at Macy’s, which was blissfully empty on Friday.  Collecting at the 9/11 Memorial site for noon, we took the tour.  Being a member of the CF, I can say this was a humbling experience, akin to visiting the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, the memorial at Thiepval or the MeninGate Memorial (Note 1).  The site security is just like entering an airport, something my wife and I were terribly familiar with at this point (bag in tray, empty pockets, remove shoes-belt-watch, display dog tags for scanning).  Once on the sight, memories of that tragedy take on a whole new meaning, particularly when you look up-up-up at the Freedom Tower and imagine two of those crumbling down around you.  Travel Tip:  Definitely pre-register for the walking tour, as you bypass the hundreds of people just looking to get in; prepare for some dagger-like stares as you walk down the express lane.  You also get the survivors’ experience and insight on the events that took place after the impacts.  In our case, we had a woman reduce the majority of our group to tears.  Bring tissue for the Memorial Exhibition – you’re gonna’ need ‘em.

Note 1:  During a Canadian Forces sponsored battlefield tour, I had the honour and the privilege to not only witness but participate in this daily ceremony.

FAO Schwarz:  Honestly and truly, I got nothing.  This place is so over the top of a toy store, yet in a good way.  Take the largest Walmart you can think of, divide in two and place one half on the other to make two storeys, replace **EVERYTHING** with toys and candy, and that may give you an indication of how overwhelming that experience could be.  So close to Christmas, it seemed obvious we should get our children and niece something.  The gargantuan problem was what to get and still have room in our bags for anything more than a toothbrush.

Club 21 / Nutcracker / Campbell’s Apartment:  Only the second time to NYC, we recommended Club 21 to our friends and the experience could not have turned out better.  The ambiance is amazing, the staff incredibly accommodating and easy-going.  Our sommelier was an absolute hit, recommending a few wines off the list we were looking at.  After asking what everyone ordered, he paired us with a white and red that sang with our food.  Travel Tip:  If you are visiting NYC and can meet the dress code, which isn’t anything extraneous, make yourself the time to eat here.

After a great meal and lots of liquor, my wife and I went our own way to see the Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet.  Our taxi driver got us to the Lincoln Center exactly three minutes prior to the show.  Once seated, we realized maybe enjoyed a smidge too much liquor; that said, the show was phenomenal!  The production, outfits, the dancing, all of it was top-notch.  Definitely something we will be taking our two girls to go see once they get a bit older.  Travel Tip:  Friday night traffic means long wait times to get a cab, and long drives.  We were lucky not to have to wait for the first scene to end and the lights to dim before we could go in.  By the way, don’t try to take pictures in the Lincoln Center; they politely but firmly remind you of their policy.
After our ballet, we met our friends at Campbell’s Apartment for a final couple of cocktails.  It was later at night on a Friday, so I was not too surprised to see it was well occupied.  We lucked out and got a table up in the balcony overlooking the bar proper, which meant we were both secluded from the throngs and somewhat muffled from the massive decibel output from below.  I tried a couple of single-malts I was looking at, quickly striking one from my 'Buy and Try' list; just not worth buying the bottle.

Last Day:  Our final day was largely relaxed, dropping by Macy’s (Travel Tip:  Macy’s on a Saturday near Christmas is simply foolish, with scenes resembling Black Friday) and then going through the Bryant Park Christmas Market.  We did a walking tour of 5th avenue and the Christmas decorations, the tree at Rockefeller, followed by a nice supper before retiring to the hotel bar for a bit.  Only thing left was packing for out return trip and ensuring the two alarms and wake-up call were set.

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