Travel – New York City

Let’s travel back in time.  It’s the week before Christmas.  I’m at work, when suddenly my phone rings.  It’s the Boy.  He is ecstatic because one of his work friends gifted him with two tickets to one of the sold-out New Years run shows by Phish at Madison Square Garden that he (the Boy) hadn’t been able to get himself.  He is just mind-boggled.  He says we have to go.  I look at my schedule, and I’ve got a little time off available, so we decide to make it happen.  There’s a lot of researching flights and hotels last minute, but we figure it out, and on December 29, at the crack of dawn – we fly up to Newark Airport in the smallest airplane I’ve ever ridden.

Note: It turns out that if you want last minute train tickets anywhere, they’re SUPER EXPENSIVE.  We had to go into Newark and out of LaGuardia, but this round trip flight for the two of us was still less expensive than it would have been to take Amtrak, which makes me sad.  Anyways – this little guy above is a Bombardier Q200, and the very last row is five seats across, like the schoolbus when you’re a kid.  Luckily we didn’t have anyone next to us, so it wasn’t that bad.  Plus, it was like an hour long flight, so no complaining from me.

We were initially worried about getting into Manhattan from New Jersey, but it turns out to be easier than you’d expect.  There’s a train service called AirTran, which is a combination of the tram that goes to the airport train station, and then a proper commuter train which goes to Penn Station in Manhattan.  It took maybe 45 minutes round trip from the time we purchased our tickets, and though we didn’t have seats on the train into the city, it was totally ok since we’d spent that time also sitting.  Plus, $13 per person.  You can’t beat that, and there was no sitting in traffic.  Definitely an option to keep mind when you’re trying to figure out how to get up to NYC, but I will say that it definitely helped that the Boy and I were only carrying backpacks with us, so keep that in mind.

Our hotel wouldn’t be able to check us in early, so we needed to kill some time.  So we headed toward the area where our hotel was located and found a few things to do.  By the time we got there, it was nearly time for lunch, so I dragged the boy into Eataly.  Eataly is a combination of market and cafe – the kind of thing they call a Food Hall everywhere else in the world, but is less common in the United States.  The idea is that you can buy Italian foods and products, and also sit down and have a nice meal.  They do cooking classes and demonstrations, and nearly all the cafe area have counter space overlooking the food prep area.  We sat in the cured meats and cheeses section, and ordered a cheese plate, a charcuterie plate, mozzarella di bufala, and some Brussels sprouts.

Basically, it was all heaven.  Just enough food to satiate our hungers, but not enough where we would feel overstuffed and tired the rest of the afternoon.  Trying all the different kinds of cheeses in combination with fig and marmalade and on their own was a treat.  The Brussels sprouts were crispy perfection.  And introducing the Boy to buffalo mozzarella was a highlight.  If you’ve never had it, buffalo mozzarella is much more like soft mozzarella than the thing you find in the refrigerated case.  It is soft, and layered sort of like an onion, and has a pungent, musky aroma that makes sure you know that this cheese isn’t from your every day farm animal.  It’s got a slightly raw and funky taste that I adore, and it is like biting into a pillow of sunshine.  Do yourself a favor and try it sometime.  And if you’re a DC area person, you might someday get to have an Eataly nearby – it’s a perpetual rumor, though currently on hold for now.

In the same building as Eataly is a Lego store.  We had to visit because the two of us love legos.  The Boy has given legos to his daughters for two Christmases running now, and we both have fond memories of building with them as kids.  Going into the store and seeing all the latest sets, and the cool things that the store was able to do to display legos versatility was amazing.  This Santa was the least of the cool things.  There was a giant dragon that snaked through the store.  Multiple LARGE Star Wars sets including the Death Star.  A wall of individual bricks that you could pick out and buy by the piece.  It was basically heaven.  I told the boy that if we ever become very very rich, I want to have a home with a room dedicated to lego.  He agreed that would be cool…but not realistic.  🙂

After a stop at Starbucks for some pick-me up afternoon caffeine (I tried their holiday tea “Joy” and was not super impressed by anything holiday-ish), we wandered across Madison Square Park to a little museum we’d spotted on Google Maps.  It’s called the Museum of Mathematics, and was an interesting way to kill a few hours.  It’s definitely geared towards a younger set, but there were a lot of the exhibits that would have been super cool to try out.  I say would have because we walked in and were shocked (but maybe not?) to see what seemed to be every family in mid-Manhattan at this museum.  I think because it was a holiday week, with lots of families and grandparents in from out of town, and because it was raining just enough to be annoying that afternoon, a lot of families had found there way to this cool space.  If we had been able to try even half the hands-on exhibits there, it would have been amazing.  I had to satisfy myself with building a cool truncated dodecahedron, and some cooperative sessions with tangram puzzles.

By the time we finished up in the museum, we were able to check in to our hotel – The New York EDITION (the building with the clock-tower).  Now, if you just googled that, your jaw may have dropped seeing the nightly rate.  Mine would have too.  Fortunately for our bank accounts, the Boy earns a LOT of Marriott points in his travels for work, and when we were looking at the availability in decent proximity to MSG that night, this one came up for 40K points – along with every other hotels in the area, including some that would cost much much less per night if paying in cash.  So we said to ourselves – why not book the swanky hotel for the same “price” as the cheaper ones?  It was a good call.  The hotels was lovely, the room beautiful and perfectly cozy.  There were robes, and a fascinating screensaver thing on the television that we may have watched for entirely too long.  If you ever have the chance to stay there, it is worth your while.

Dinner was at another nearby locale – Wagamama.  Wagamama is a British-based chain of Asian-cuisine restaurants, with a focus on Japanese.  There was talk for a very long time that we would get one here in DC, but it never appeared, and I’ve been curious ever since if it lived up to the hype.  We had hoped for something in the noodle soup variety, and Wagamama was perfect for this.  I had an amazingly tasty short rib ramen, and the Boy a head clearing green curry.  We also drank some tasty Japanese beers, and were entertained by the couple next to us discover that they had not yet revealed their political affiliations to each other.  It was both horrifying and engrossing – like driving past a car accident.  But we couldn’t stay long – Phish was on soon!

We got into the MSG, scoped out the merchandise for later, and found our seats, which were pretty darn good.  The Boy sent a few thankful texts to his work friend, and we got excited for the show.  Well, he was more excited, but I was still interested – this was my first Phish experience after all.  I knew the show would likely go late, so after having my chill-inducing beer at the restaurant, I needed a little caffeine pick-me-up, so was rewarded with a giant cup of Diet Coke to keep me rocking all night.  I will say that the band didn’t help with the “rocking” at least to start.  They opened with the above a cappella number, which was cool…but did not scream “ROCK SHOW” to me.

The night got better after that.  Our seats were very close, and we had a wonderful view of the band, and of all the excited people down near the rail.  I will say again that it wasn’t quite my cup of tea, and did not change my world view the way that it does for the people who go back again and again, but I had fun.  I can definitely see the appeal – the music is good, the lighting is amazing, the people attending are generally very chill and nice, and there’s just this happy, excited atmosphere.  Not sure if I’ll return to another show, and I don’t think I could do multiple nights in a row, but I had fun, and wouldn’t say no to another one in the future…

The next morning was relaxing – we ordered room service and did breakfast in bed, lounging and enjoying the swanky rainforest shower and the robes from the closet.  When we’d finished eat, packed our backpacks and headed out, we got coffee (because while we didn’t pay for the room, per se, the cost of breakfast was no joke) at a fun little shop called Idea Coffee.  More interesting than your every day Starbucks, and with a good vibe.  They had a working electric fireplace in the corner which was so cute and cozy!  But we continued heading north and passed some very cool things – the Empire State Building (which I still haven’t been inside) with its mega lines around the block, the adorable holiday windows at Lord and Taylor, and the New York Public Library, where I took this picture of the Lion “Patience” dressed up in holiday greenery.

We had gone north to brave Times Square the day before New Years Eve and get in the TKTS line for a discounted matinee somewhere.  We got lucky and scored swanky half-price seats to see Waitress, which I’ll talk about later in the week, and we were floating on air…until we discovered the Boy had left his scarf hanging in the hotel.  Whoops.  Fortunately, they were very helpful, and were able to retrieve it, so while he ran back the 20 blocks to the hotel, I hung out at H&M and took photos of silly clothing and myself trying on accessories.  By the time he rejoined me, it was time to book it over to the theater.  The show was terrific (again – more tomorrow), and by the time the show let out, it was snowing!  We bundled up and kept our fingers crossed that uber wouldn’t surge yet, and had to wait a while (eventually cancelling one guy who couldn’t figure out where we were), and hopped in a car for the long ride to LaGuardia.  I was so concerned about not missing our flight, but it turns out that the terminal we were in was a tiny one, with very few people in line for security that Friday evening, and then our flight was delayed for an hour.  We got into Dulles around 10, and then home around 11, but it was worth it.  The trip was quick, but every aspect of it seemed perfect for the moment.  It’s one of those things that I feel lucky to be able to do, living close enough where we can make New York a day trip or just a quick overnight.  And every time I go, I feel lucky to discover new things.

So that’s our trip.  Anyone else do a fun holiday trip?  See any good live shows?  Eat someplace fun and new?  Get a great deal on a hotel?  Build cool mathematical models over the holidays?  Or do you have any fun tips for the next time we make our way up to NYC?  Let me know in the comments!

3 Comment

  1. Nicole Holstein says: Reply

    ooh man I would have loved to have overheard that conversation the couple near you all had.

    1. maggie says: Reply

      Well, it started with him saying that he really wants to visit Kennebunkport, Maine because George Bush and W are his favorite presidents, and he admires them so much. This was a surprise to her, but he could have sworn he told her early on…

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