New York City. Fast Lights, Big City. Me, with rusty suburban legs and a growing cold; my mom, a first time NYC tourist. Together we decided at the last minute to take on the Big Apple. Here's what we were able to do with just five hours before flying back to reality.
Not only was I recently so blessed as to have the opportunity to take my mom with me on an Anthem of the Seas media cruise, but we also had five hours after our cruise ended before our flight took off from Newark airport.
Five hours. Not a lot of time, but enough time to check into our flights, drop off our luggage, buy train tickets, and jet on over to Manhattan. I wasn't sure what the morning schedule would hold for us, so we didn't make any plans to go into the city. But when you have the opportunity, YOU TAKE IT.
Especially if, like my mom, you have never been to New York City.
I have been to New York a few times - a couple of times in college, and a couple of times after college for work and to visit friends and family. But my mom has never been, and I knew she would LOVE it. By the way, If I look tired in this photo, it's because I am. I am also on the verge of getting sick, but I love this because it's the first photo I took of me and my mom as soon as we got out of the subway & train station and stepped onto the streets of NYC.
And then we looked out, and there she was: beautiful, bustling, loud New York City.
Stop #1: Times Square
I started a Periscope as soon as we hit Madison Square Garden and kept it running until we got to Times Square (thanks to some Periscope pals for steering us in the right direction, by the way!). That was the most active live Periscope I had to date, with more than 200 people from all over the world tuning into the live feed!
Times Square is a weird and wonderful place. It's a neon-infested, and currently construction-congested, space with touristy opportunities for group selfies on larger than life screens on the sides of buildings, sidewalk artists, knock-off handbag peddlers, and throngs of tourists and New Yorkers trying to get around them.
I had to show the kids Times Square, so I FaceTimed Mr. Bliss and the Bliss Kids back home while we were there. During the FaceTime, a friendly NYC cop jumped in and just started chatting with the kids. It was fun, hilarious, and sort of nuts, but I'm pretty sure these things just happen to everyone in Times Square, because it's Times Square, right? Or do these things just happen to me?
There were a few times during the Periscope when I also almost lost my mom in the crowds. I kept walking, talking, Periscoping, and taking photos, but my mom would stop -literally stop walking- and take photos. I love you, mom! :) But put me back in a city and my Boston legs come right back and I can't slow down.
I miss living in a bigger city. I miss it a lot. But, onward...
Stop #2: The M & M store
What the WHAT? I know: this is TOTALLY random. But, I needed some souvenirs to bring home to the family, and the abundance of typical souvenir shops with t-shirts and shot glasses is a little dizzying in NYC. If you have kids, and you don't have an M & M store near you, the M & M store is a great place to pop into quickly for souvenirs. It's right next to Times Square, is three floors packed with M & M custom items, and you can grab a NYC souvenir that is more fun, personal, and functional than a keychain in the shape of the Statue of Liberty or pen in the shape of the Empire State Building.
I made custom M & Ms with my kids names on them, plus my husband's and my initials, and one of the I heart NY clip art options. They all made it back with me safely and unbroken!
Stop #3: Bryant Park
While walking toward the Empire State Building, we came across a cool little park with lots of street vendors, food stands, and pop up shops. It reminded me so much of Portland, and my mom and I were hungry, so we decided to stop here to grab something to eat.
Turns out, it was Bryant Park. I loved this park the last time I was in NYC!
We were in town on such a gorgeous, sunny (but cold, very cold) day and were lucky that it also happened to be the time they had the skating rink open in Bryant Park.
So we checked out the different food options, from soups to sandwiches to crazy waffle concoctions to empanadas, and then settled back down at a table by the ice skating rink to enjoy our lunch in the rare warmth of the sunshine in the middle of a cold NY day.
This was a nice break from our fast walking for about half an hour. While sitting there, enjoying our food and watching the ice skaters, we heard so many different languages, saw people of all different ages, races, clothing styles, you name it. I love this so much about NYC. Portland is a medium-sized city with not a lot of diversity, in any sense of the word, and I so often miss being surrounded by people with so many different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences. It's one reason why I feel it's so important for my family and I to travel so much.
I'm so glad we came across Bryant Park when we did. I'm convinced our hunger guided us in the right direction.
Stop #4: Broadway Bites
After we left there, we also stumbled upon another cute set of food pods: UrbanSpace's Broadway Bites. This was another great spot to grab a bite! Oh how I wish we had more than 5 hours there so we could sample more NYC food... but we had to press on.
Stop #5: Celebrity Sightings
This is totally random too, but I feel like it needs to be included. There are tons of random celebrity sightings in New York because they're everywhere. Giants walking among us in their fresh-faced normal-looking selves donning sunglasses, scarves and jeans like the rest of us (albeit, designer jeans). Just getting coffee or pizza, like it ain't no big thing. I love this about NYC.
But there are also weird rando moments like when we came across a large crowd waiting outside of a hotel and we stopped to see what the big deal was. Turned out, the Lakers were staying at that hotel and were reportedly heading out soon. So we stopped and waited for a few minutes. Remember: my mom LOVES basketball.
We saw this dude, power forward Ryan Kelly. I only knew his name because everybody around me was saying his name asking for a photo with them. He complied and took a few selfies. We saw a couple of other guys whose names I can't remember, except that none of them were Kobi, and we were on a tight timeline, so... onward!
Stop #6: Empire State Building
The mac daddy of all stops on our whirlwind 5-hour tour of NYC was the cheesiest, most touristy thing we could do that took the longest amount of time...and, it was SO WORTH IT!
Look, Ma! I'm at the top of the Empire State Building!
Oh wait... you don't have to look far, because...you are RIGHT NEXT TO ME!
That's me and my awesome mom, on top of the world. It totally felt like we were, anyway.
We were told that the total time it would take to snake through the long lines to the first set of elevators, then to spend on the first observation deck on the 88th floor, then to wait and snake through lines to the 102nd floor, and then to slowly make your way back down, would take about two hours total. That's just about all the time we had; we were going to cut it close.
But, we did it. And I am so very glad we did. It was the absolute PERFECT day to view the New York City skyline, which is just ridiculously beautiful. Here are just a few of the dozens of skyline photos I took.
It was fairly quiet at the tippy top of the ESB; it was the kind of quiet that held a heavy amount of respect, awe, gratitude, sadness, fear, bravery, and pride all at once. It was the kind of quiet that somehow set us strangers all on the same wave length as we remembered what happened not too far out in the distance not too far back in our history (how could any of us not, no matter where we came from?), and paid respects.
It was a collective quiet in which you could feel the love pouring out from that 102nd floor to the world. It's a quiet that I still feel in my heart to this day.
Experiencing the Empire State Building with my mom, and seeing New York through her eyes for the first time: PRICELESS.
I've always loved New York City, but I loved it even more on this day. This frenetic, fast-paced, day of traveling and touristing. The sun was shining, and I swear the American flags were all waving a warm and welcoming hello. New Yorkers, by the way, are some of the absolute best, friendliest people on earth. I remember thinking this the first time I stepped foot in Manhattan, and felt the love on this day, too.
This special day marked our journey back home after a jam-packed weekend at sea on the opposite coast. For having just decided that morning that we were headed into the city, and for the brief time we had and being totally unfamiliar with the place (and without really following a map, I might add; we just sort of kept walking), I am pretty proud of my mom and I for being able to see as much as we did.
I love that I got to show my mom at least a little bit of New York City. I am so grateful that we got to spend that time together, and so thankful to her for putting up with my fast walking and fast talking. I'm truly proud of my mom for embarking on that last minute adventure with me, and who really went with the flow the whole time.
We somehow navigated our way back to the train station, quickly figured out the train situation and (hallelujah!) hopped on the right train, then headed back to Newark airport where we experienced some interesting delays but made it back home to beautiful Portland, Oregon safely. We were both exhausted, but happy after traveling and touristing for a busy four days – the last of which was truly on-our-feet non-stop.
So that was what we did with five hours to spend between the time we left Newark Station to go to NYC and back. I think we did okay. ;)
Have you ever taken a spontaneous detour while on vacation before? Where was it and what did you do?