I have returned from my trip to the Big Apple and, if you've perused my pictures, you already know much of what we did. However, this will be the written version :). There is much that the pictures did not capture.
On Thursday, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for 4:30pm to come...that was the start of my weekend. Around 6pm, James and I got on the road out of Greenville (after a phone call from my mother telling me that Michael Jackson had died - what?!). It was later than we had planned to leave but we had already come to terms with the fact that we'd be getting to NYC late. The trip itself was pretty uneventful. James and I "fought" over who would be the navigator, each of us thinking that our directions were the right ones. I thought it was only fair that I navigate since he was driving (and I refused to drive) AND his iphone kept freezing when we needed it the most. Regardless, we made it without getting lost even once.
Entering the city was a bit of a laugh...mostly because we were delirious with exhaustion as it was nearly 5:30am when we arrived. For the last hour or so, we had been unsure if we were even going in the right direction. There were no signs indicating which highway we were on and nothing even mentioned New York. My worst fear was that we were badly lost somewhere in New Jersey and would have to spend the night there somewhere. I literally would have cried. But, to our surprise, we were suddenly driving right into NYC. It hit us like a ton of bricks. James and I are not city people. The lights, people walking down the sidewalk as if it were noon, and trying to navigate the one-way streets was almost too much for us country folk to handle. We found our hotel...just in time to pass it and, obviously, we couldn't just turn around. Eventually, after rounding the block a couple times, we stopped in front to inquire about the parking situation. We were directed to a parking garage around the corner that, as it turned out, charged $42 per night to park. After learning that the hotel charged $50, $42 didn't sound so bad. When we were parked and the keys had been turned over to the attendant, we made our way down a sketchy back alley carrying all of our stuff. That's right. We ventured down a New York alley at 5:30am with all of our belongings. Unfortunately, there was really no other choice. Finally, it was time to check in. James and I loaded all of our luggage onto a cart and he went to retrieve the keys. Twenty or so minutes passed before he returned (which we later realized was a relatively short amount of time to check in), and he informed me that the only way we could take a cart upstairs was if someone accompanied us. Whatever...not even worth it. So up we went with our things. Probably the funniest part of our arrival occurred once we got to our hotel room. James, who had really been looking forward to our magnificent view of New York, zealously threw back the curtains...just to see that our room was actually wedged between 2 walls and a building front. We just collapsed in laughter...it was all we could manage at that point. It was 7am before we finally fell asleep.We slept a few hours before getting ready for our first day in the city. By that time, we were starving and had lunch at a healthy little place called the Pita Grill. Afterward, we wanted to visit the Museum of Sex. I just knew this would be entertaining and it didn't disappoint. The first gallery, however, was a bit deceiving. It was all about the sex lives of animals. Sure, it was interesting...just not what I expected. I learned things about animals that I really never wanted to know. I also took an amusing picture of James with a statue of white-tailed deer who, apparently, engage in threesomes (see below). Again, something I never wanted to know. The next gallery was devoted to sex in movies and television. There were different screens covering the walls, showing clips of movies from various time periods, commercials, and even an instructional video :-P. It was an interesting experience to be seeing these things with tons of other people around. I have to admit that I probably blushed on more than one occasion. The third gallery was a hodge podge of different items related to sex...you can more or less use your imagination on this one...or just go visit it for yourself. I'm too sheepish to divuldge details. :)After leaving the Museum of Sex, we took a quick walk through Madison Square Park, grabbed a smoothie, snapped a few pictures of the Empire State Building (actually, we didn't even notice the Empire State Building until we saw a large tourist group across the street with cameras in hand, turned around, and there it was), and headed back for a nap (we were still pretty tuckered out). Feeling refreshed, we met up with James's high school friend, Eric, in the lobby of our hotel and he took us to Times Square, which we didn't even realize was so close to where we were staying. He and his wife, Mandy, just recently moved to New York but it was quickly obvious that he knew much more about the city than us. We grabbed a slice of pizza for dinner and began to explore Times Square. It absolutely blew me away. I couldn't even walk for looking around! The lights were mesmerizing...that's the only way I can describe it. I couldn't stop thinking about the many New Year's Eves when I watched the ball drop in Times Square and there I was. There was just so much to see. I noticed a few places that I wanted to return to later (i.e. the Hershey's store and M&M store - hey, I like chocolate) as we made our way to Rockefellar Center. It was very cool to see the place where the ice skating rink is in the winter...how many movies have featured that spot? Eventually, we felt it was time to get a drink, relax, and catch up (well, they would be catching up) and found ourselves at the Pig and Whistle Pub. I promise it was better than it sounds. Eric and James were able to really talk for the first time in a while and I was able to get to know Eric a little better. It was also fun to hear stories from their high school days. The day ended on such a positive note but we were so worn out when we returned to the hotel. I went to bed still in disbelief that I had finally been to Times Square.On Saturday, we once again met up with Eric and, this time, his wife Mandy was able to join us as well. We braved the New York subway (not too different from the London Underground) and our first destination was Ground Zero. Like Times Square, this was another surreal experience...probably even more so. I had to really stop and think about how that area looked on 9/11, how it must have felt to be there then. Because I had not been to New York when the World Trade Center was still standing, it was harder for me to appreciate the void that was left. But it was still a very somber moment for me. James and I toured the WTC Gallery and it was definitely worth the time. There was a history of the WTC, pictures of "missing" loved ones, written accounts from people who were there as well as family and friends, remnants of the building and belongings of those who worked there, pictures of those who died, children's artwork...there was just so much to take in. No one was really talking, just looking and absorbing. For me, it made the event so much more real. It also gave James's deployment a bit more meaning. I'm so glad that we made Ground Zero a stop on our trip.I was in the mood for something a bit more cheery after the WTC Gallery so we headed for Little Italy. Though we didn't stop, it was fun to observe. Next was Central Park, another essential when visiting NYC. I had never realized, though, how big it was. We definitely didn't cover much ground but how cool it was to just be there. After taking the subway back to our hotel, it was time to part ways with Eric and Mandy. Without them that day, I have no idea how we would have made it around the city. James and I were, again, very sleepy so we took a quick nap before getting ready for dinner. We didn't have any particular place in mind so we just ventured off for Times Square again and knew that we'd be sure to find something there. We also took a bit more time to browse some of the stores, both before and after dinner. The restaurant we chose was one I had noticed the night before (actually, it was right across from the Pig and Whistle) called Langan's. It ended up being just the right choice. The service was great, the food was delicious, and there was even a jazz band. Even more, the quiet atmosphere was a nice break from the chaos outside. After dinner, we just strolled through the city (avoiding stampedes of people, of course), enjoying our time. I was quite sad to go to bed that night because I knew our trip was coming to an end and I definitely didn't want to head back to Greenville the next day.Our trip home was also fairly uneventful, aside from traffic, toll booths, and taking a wrong turn at one point. We arrived in Greenville around 1:30am and practically collapsed into bed. Pure exhaustion = a great trip. :-)