Wednesday, February 21, 2007

First trip to New York

Friday morning began early at 6am with a short Metro ride to Reagan National airport where we awaited our direct flight to LaGaurdia. Unfortunately icy weather kept our plane grounded longer than expected and what was supposed to be a brief journey lasted quite a bit longer, thus delaying our arrival in Manhattan until early that afternoon. Once we dropped our bags off at the hotel though we were off. As it turns out, we were located less than a block away from the U.N. which was a source of unmitigated joy for me. Those of you who know my penchant for politics should understand my reaction.

The late arrival of our flight meant that both of us were absolutely famished. Fortunately her friends Becky and Elliott were there to take us to lunch, a small BBQ place called Duke's. Afterwards, Becky gave us an afternoon tour of Midtown including such highlights as Grand Central, Times Square and the New York Public Library. The early morning wake-up combined with all the afternoon's activities required a return to the hotel followed by a brief nap. We then met up with them again that evening in the Upper East side at a place named, coincidentally enough, Becky's Pub.

Saturday began in earnest for us with a trip to the American Museum of Natural History. We'd used the Subway briefly the night before, thus giving us a heightened confidence in its use. This morning's ride would prove a much different beast. To start off, the orange 'V' line we had planned on taking was out of service as was the blue 'C' line, our backup plan. The downtown blue 'A' line was the only option left to us, but when we attempted to transfer at the 50th St. station we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Apparently, and this is something known only to New Yorkers and adventurous tourists like us, some stations require you to actually leave the station and walk a few blocks to get to the uptown line. This is something we discovered only after a lengthy and frustrating walk around the rather sizable station.

The museum was fun albeit very crowded. We actually spent the majority of our time there in the Hayden Planetarium. After leaving the museum we headed for Central Park looking forward to a leisurely afternoon stroll. Lazily we made our way towards the Midtown entrance on the East side stopping to snap photos of particularly picturesque settings. Eventually we came out near the Central Park Zoo whereupon we quickly headed towards the hotel to prepare for that evening's activities. Nighttime saw us at a nearby French restaurant called "Deux Amis" followed by a showing of Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic theater. It was an incredible show, one that I've always wanted to see. We followed up with dessert at Junior's, a local restaurant known for their amazing cheesecakes.

Feeling a bit stung by the previous day's issues with the Subway, I approached our trip to Lower Manhattan Sunday with a bit of trepidation. As it turns out, I had nothing to fear. The No. 6 Green line was operating just fine and took us to Canal St. without any issues. Upon exiting the station, we stepped into what was truly a foreign world. Everywhere we looked signs covered in Chinese characters and decorations for the Chinese New Year dominated the view. We wandered through what seemed like endless blocks of this vastly larger Chinatown in comparison to our own D.C. version. Lunch was had at a small seafood restaurant while just outside revelers celebrated with drums and poppers.

Ground Zero was our next stop. We approached from Broadway so the first thing we saw was the large memorial photo display at the PATH station. To see those photos with the very hallowed ground behind them was truly moving. As we made our way around the perimeter of the site we stopped at various places such as the Ladder 10 and Engine 10 firehouse which lost five firefighters on 9/11. After making a complete circuit we hopped onto the blue 'E' line running back uptown to our hotel.

Monday was President's Day as well as our last day in New York city. We had hoped to tour the U.N. but it was closed on this seemingly average American holiday. Therefore we decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It was bitterly cold, much more so than it had been on any previous day of our trip. What were muddy slush puddles the previous day had frozen overnight to become well-camouflaged sheets of ice making walking all that much more precipitous. But the trip was well worth it as we were treated to such incredible pieces like Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans", Dali's "Persistence of Memory" and Van Gogh's "Starry Night".

That afternoon we had a wonderfully long lunch at a Greek restaurant called Meltemi located at 51st and 1st. I then hailed my last NYC taxi and we headed to LaGuardia airport. As I look back on our trip, it is the hectic pace of the city that stands out in my mind. This fast lifestyle that gives New York its motto as the "City that never sleeps" is what makes it so exciting and will keep people like myself coming back.

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