A Magical Week in New York City: Getting There and Day One

I'm not sure where to begin talking about this trip, because it was so amazing and I feel like writing it all down might really mean it's over, and I enjoy living in denial believing that maybe it's just a dream and I'll wake up and find myself back in the city. But, I know that's impossible (*sigh*) so here goes.

I went to New York City for a very quick trip in college, but it was really rushed and while I loved everything about it (including seeing Wicked at the Gershwin!), there just wasn't time to savor the entire experience. Ever since that trip, though, I've had the "bug" and have been determined to go back. We've always talked about getting up there, but it wasn't until around January of this year that we really started to look into it in earnest. 

We checked hotels and prices and all that and ended up getting such amazing deals on airline tickets (thank you, Southwest!) that it seemed crazy not to go. And then, to make it even better, we asked our best friends if they wanted to come (duh!) and to see about whether they could swing the tickets too (they could!). So what began as a fanciful, "someday" idea of a trip became a reality and we spent the next few months obsessing over what we would do and eat, where we'd shop, etc. (Oh, and the icing on the cake was buying tickets to see Newsies, which I'll gush about for several paragraphs later.) 

Anyway, last week we headed to Goldsboro, spent Monday celebrating my birthday (25... ancient!) and then slept fitfully (aka not at all) for a few hours that night before getting up at zero dark thirty to be at the airport for our flight at 6:05 A.M. After a relatively hassle-free security experience (luckily for Blake and his fear of scanners), we grabbed some breakfast (lemon pound from Starbucks for me... don't judge!) and then impatiently sat through our first flight to Nashville, where we had a mercifully short layover (didn't even change planes!) and then arrived at La Guardia around 10:00. (Travel observation: SkyMall magazine is simultaneously the dumbest stuff I've ever seen and strangely intriguing... "Why, yes, I DO need a built-to-scale garden T-rex statue! Also, a travel vest with 37 pockets to discreetly store all my important documents!") 

On our way!

Whew... all that and we just arrived? Oh, well; let's continue.

So, we arrived at La Guardia and waited for our bags and then hopped on the van from our hotel. Our driver was super nice and told us all about the area. He grew up Queens (where we were staying) so that was pretty cool. He probably could have told us more but since we were all a little in awe of our surroundings (and exhausted) (random observation: how in the world do graffiti artists paint on the sides of those skyscrapers? I must know!) we mostly just let him do the talking (and the blaring rap station filled in any awkward silence.) We dropped our bags off at the hotel and noticed immediately that things had a certain ethnic flavor, but it wasn't until we hit the streets to start exploring that we realized exactly what was going on.

Unlike "The Nanny" would lead you to believe, Flushing, Queens, is not a Jewish neighborhood. We were staying in the middle of what literally felt like Beijing, China. EVERYONE was Chinese, all the food was Chinese, all the signs were written in Chinese (or Mandarin? There's no way I can know for sure!). It was quite an experience, walking down the street where every single person is speaking a different language than yours. 

A shot of "our" neighborhood that doesn't even come close to doing it justice. That Popeye's, a Burger King, and a McDonald's were the only familiar restaurants on Main Street! (Although, surprisingly, the McDonald's had the best sweet I've ever had.) 

Anyway, we got out ready to start the day, but we didn't really have an idea of where to eat lunch, so we started walking Main Street and discovered, like I said, that EVERYTHING was Chinese. We actually saw a sign that said "Food Court" at a "Mall" but we rode down the escalator to find more... you guessed it... Chinese food with menus written entirely in Chinese (or Mandarin... I've heard it both ways.) So, yeah... we had to venture a little further out.

Hitting the streets for the first time! 

Fortunately, Blake (our resident Brazil expert since he lived there for eight weeks) knew of a Brazilian restaurant in nearby Astoria and we headed that way. 


Me and Brookie

I was a little skeptical because I don't really try new food, but I forced myself to branch out (you're in New York City, you dummy!) and I was not disappointed. This burger had ham and pineapple on it and it was soooo good... maybe my favorite thing I ate all week. 

Our next stop was the Museum of the Moving Image, which was right across the street from The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (founded by Tony Bennett... what?). When we walked in and saw that it was all very white and modern and... kind of empty, we were a little skeptical but it turned out to be extremely interesting and really fun. 

Oh, Bing...

One of Cliff Huxtable's sweaters on The Cosby Show.

In the mummy exhibit... it pulled open the coffin!

The museum had all kinds of  artifacts from different shows and movies and some really cool interactive exhibits (like the one where you could record your voice in place of the actor's in different movie scenes. I did "the rain in Spain" scene from My Fair Lady and it was totally embarrassing but super fun.) 

When we finished there, we headed back to the hotel to actually check in (a process which always seems to take faaaar longer than necessary), got cleaned up (you know, after being up for 12+ hours already) and headed back out, this time to find dinner (yay) and visit a few more places on our list that the very organized Brook diligently referred to to keep us on schedule. (Jonathan was our subway-memorizing, mapped-out leader and got us from point A to point B with very little trouble, thank goodness. I probably wouldn't have been able to lead us out of Macy's on 34th Street.) 

Day one, round two... love my sweet friend!

We went to the NYC Public Library (well, the main branch... there are over a dozen different branches throughout the city) and it was amazing. Huge, ornate, so quiet... and I felt pleasantly intellectual running my hands over early editions of Twain, Frost, and well, everyone else. It was SO BIG. My only regret is that I didn't get to visit the children's exhibit (it had already closed for the night.) I guess I have two regrets, since I'm also really sad that we didn't get to spend more time there. (Nerd alert... Jonathan and I were in heaven.) 

Somewhere (before or after the library... we visited Grand Central Station. Wow... so many people, so many destinations, so much to see... I loved it! (I'll have to dedicate an entire post about the decision I made this week... pretty sure the Lord revealed it to me... that I'm going to live in New York City at some point in my life.) Anyway, it was awesome. Also, they have a pretty sweet food court at GCS which is where we ate dinner Tuesday night and again on Thursday. There were tons of options but it was all pretty unique to the city (definitely not chains from home) so everyone got to pick what they wanted. 

Excuse me... it's not a food court. It's a "dining concourse." Big different.

During one of our planning meetings before the trip, we read about the "High Line," where you can walk along this path of some kind and get a good view of the city. It sounded cool so we decided to head there Tuesday night... not realizing that it was a lot farther than we had thought. So after walking (and nearly getting hit by a cab... Brook yelled and I jumped about a mile high out of the way) for what seemed like FOR-E-VER (Squints voice) we found it and fortunately, it was worth the trek. (Also, the weather on Tuesday was by far the mildest that week so it was perfect timing.) The High Line was practically empty, it was well-lit, and beautifully lined with all kinds of plants and flowers. Plus, it did have a great view. We walked for a while, took some pictures, sang a little on some empty theater-type bleachers (well, I did), and just enjoyed a leisurely stroll (not the much faster pace we'd kept up all day.) 

My love (thank goodness for his neon shirt... it made him easy to follow all day!)

The best best friends.

And to cap off our first day, we headed back down to 83rd Street to Cafe Lalo, which you may remember from You've Got Mail as the place where Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly meet and he figures out she's ShopGirl and then she's mean to him and all that. (Favorite!) Anyway, they have fantastic cheesecake and it only felt right to end the night with a slice. (FYI, though, that the quiet, "meeting-a-stranger-from-the-internet-first-date" setting from the movie is not the same in real life. I remember it being loud when I visited as a student, but it was SUPER loud, with live music that was a few decibels too deafening to be considered pleasant. However, the cheesecake was slammin' so I guess I can't complain.) 

"If you don't like Kathleen Kelly, I can tell you right now... you won't like this girl."
"And why not?"
"Because she is Kathleen Kelly."

Sometimes simple is best... plain cheesecake is my favorite!

After cheesecake, we headed back to the subway, staggered back to our hotel, and tumbled into bed. It was a long 20-hour day but TOTALLY worth every minute. I just kept smiling all day and thinking, "I can't believe we're here!" Our flights went well, the hotel was as nice as we'd hoped... Brook pointed out that we had a very smooth first day and I agree. It couldn't have gone better. And it was only the beginning...

Day two (spoiler alert: NEWSIES!) coming soon. =) 


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