Times Square. Steve and I stayed near this symbol of the excitement and energy that is New York City. A trip that kind of came out of nowhere and yet really connected with our sense of fun and adventure.
See, when Steve and I became full time empty-nesters, we told ourselves we would start travelling more. Sam was the last to leave the nest in February of 2017, and in May of that year we had this amazing adventure in California. And then in September of 2017, we made the decision to relocate from Phoenix, AZ back to Steve’s hometown in Kansas. That pretty much became our only focus for the rest of 2017, leaving no room for further travels.
Most of 2018 saw us settling into our new home and life in Kansas. Time seemed to fly as we undertook a significant home project, I made an attempt to return to the job market (short-lived but educational and fruitful for making new friends), and Steve kept up his travel for work. Sure, we made a couple of local day trips to flex our “adventurekking” muscles (read about our visits to Council Grove and Lindsborg). But we were feeling the need for that next big explore. So, at the last minute and without too much planning, we took ourselves to New York.
What follows are snippets and scenes from our amazing 5 days in the Big Apple. Fair warning. This post is long, but mainly because of all the pictures. What can I say? I’m a very visual person!
Arriving in Midtown
Steve picked a beautiful little boutique hotel with a ton of history. We were half a block from Times Square at The Algonquin, on 46th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.
The Algonquin opened in 1902 and has a rich history. Around the end of World War I, the hotel became a hangout for many esteemed literary figures of the time. Writers who went on to found the New York Times and influenced such well-known names as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
The interior is rich, and the decor projects the elegance of its long history. Dark woods, bold colors, and beautiful details, like the wall sconce from the Round Table Restaurant pictured below, really evoke the hotel’s character. It was an amazing place to stay.
Steve and I arrived early on a Thursday afternoon. So, after checking in to the hotel and dropping off our luggage, we decided to explore our surroundings.
We had dinner reservations at a Brazilian restaurant that night, so we walked to Little Brazil Street to familiarize ourselves with the area. Turns out there are several restaurants along the same street, including, as one would guess, several Brazilian ones.
The area also boasted some classic town houses that I just had to capture.
We walked the area until hunger and tiredness led us to Brasil Brasil where we had reservations. And of course, we had to enjoy a caipirinha each before our meals. I ordered the picanha and Steve ordered the bacalhau Gomes de Sá. My picanha was served with collard greens (couve) so tender and juicy, I almost preferred it to the steak.
Almost, but not quite!
Friday, our second day, threatened rain. I had Chelsea Market on my list to see, and Steve agreed. I’d heard so much about this indoor shopping area that I was quite excited to see it in person.
Chelsea Market turned out to be smaller than I expected, but SO charming! There is a little bit of everything there. Beautifully laid out stores with such appealing wares! Food venues, flower shops, fresh produce, meats…you name it. I LOVED exploring Chelsea Market!
A very creative decorative fountain.
Boy, I wanted to dive into all that seafood! Luckily, we had eaten breakfast before heading out to Chelsea Market, or I could have spent a pretty penny down there!
We decided to walk back from Chelsea Market, despite the fact our legs were a little bit tight from all the walking we had done on our first day. There was a break in the rain and it looked like it would last, so we headed back towards Times Square.
the walk back from Chelsea market
On the way, we stopped at a beautiful little children’s boutique where I found the most adorable Christmas present for our grandbaby, Bella. She’s three and irresistible. Of course, she had to have a present!
Whole Foods Market was another stop. I spent 10 years of my professional career at the company headquarters in Austin, TX. And it still holds a special place in my heart.
Our walk back took us past St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. I just love the juxtaposition of the Gothic architecture against the high-rises. It is such a contrast!
We passed this jiu-jitsu academy. The academy was of interest to us because it is connected to the famous Gracie family from Brazil, who are legends in the sport.
And our now LONG walk back to Times Square took us a few blocks from the Empire State building. Although we had not made plans to visit the Empire State Building, I was happy to have been able to see it, even if from a distance.
At this point, Steve and I have tired legs and feet. Remember, our legs were already a bit tested from our first day of exploring.
Almost back to the hotel, we saw this lovely policeman with his mount, being so friendly with the tourists! He sat happily for several pictures. He also gently cautioned people not to get too close to the horse’s head. Apparently, his horse liked to occasionally “taste”. I loved his calm and patience.
So now, our legs and feet are singing. Although we had dinner reservations for a Spanish tapas restaurant, we decided that it made more sense to indulge for lunch. So, we made our way back to Little Brazil to Meson Sevilla for some tapas.
In a nutshell, our AMAZING lunch…Pan con tomato y jamon, almejas al casino, and lengua al ajillo. I’d like to tell you which my favorite was, but I could not possibly pick one. So delicious!
Followed by the most beautifully delicate tarta de Santiago (which we inhaled before I thought to get a good picture). Add a post-meal espresso, and we were happy campers!
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The rains finally hit that afternoon, so we took a cab to the Met.
What can I say. The Met should have its own zip code. It should be one of the wonders of the world. I started taking pictures and soon realized that I could either document the experience, or actually live it. So, I gave up.
I do not have very many pictures, but what I do, I will share. With no explanations, because, you must understand, this place is ginormous! It is overwhelming! It is consuming! We spent over 2 hours at the Met and did not even scratch the surface.
I do not do this magnificent museum justice. I’m actually several countries and an ocean away from doing it justice.
So, regardless, here are some examples of the magnificent architecture, some sculptures, some furnishings. My apologies for not doing better.
Sorry again. My coverage of the Met is short and abrupt. I need to go back for a week and only then might I get to see a good portion of it.
That night, Steve and I ate at the hotel and then headed out to catch our show.
I had so wanted to watch Hamilton, but the ticket prices were just not something we could justify. A school friend from my childhood recommended Pretty Woman, so we got tickets. We had no real expectations and ended up thoroughly enjoying the show! The performance earned a standing ovation.
We walked back to the hotel for the night and realized we had probably walked 8-10 miles that day alone. Our legs were shot, our minds were tired, and we were very, very happy.
9/11 Memorial Museum
The next morning, Steve and I took the E train to downtown to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Yes, this middle-aged couple navigated the New York City subway system like a couple of pros. Here are some pictures to prove it.
What can I say about the experience of visiting the Twin Towers site? There really are no words. It was a beautiful, yet overwhelming visit. The painstaking attention to the details in the telling of the story of the place, from its rise to its fall, was almost surreal. Steve and I would not trade including it in our trip for the world, but by the time we left, we were emotionally wrung out. It is a transformative experience.
The line to get in was long but moved surprisingly quickly. It was a cold and windy day, yet everyone awaited their turn patiently, with low voices and no complaints. So many languages spoken around us. Although we encountered different languages in midtown, there seemed to be even more foreign guests visiting this site. It felt like a coming together of humanity to mark a moment of communal loss and remembering.
The memorial museum is quite extensive, and I cannot possible cover it all. In brief, it takes you through the history of the building of the towers, and what it signified to human achievement to construct such an engineering feat. Then it shows you what was left after the attacks, and what they had to dig through and what they found. And finally, in the last portion, it takes your through the horror of the event itself and the personal messages, pictures, stories, mementos, artifacts…everything that happened that fateful day. In that last section there are no pictures allowed.
Once inside the door, you are taken down to the base of the towers. In several places, parts of the original structure are still in place.
You can see sections of the structures.
And you can read about the significance of the structures, such as the remnants of the Vesey Street exist, that, along with an adjacent escalator, provided one of the few unobstructed exits for hundreds seeking to escape.
Or the section of steel that shows the warping caused by the impact of the airplane, and exactly where it was in the building. This is the kind of detail that allows visitors to actually see and understand exactly what happened and how.
So many monuments to those who were there that I cannot show them all, although some of the images below allow some glimpses.
After walking thought the final section where pictures were not allowed, Steve and I welcomed exiting the building and internalizing the serenity of the 2 memorial fountains with their wall of names. It was like a balm after seeing the horrifying evidence of all that tragedy.
We think this both beautiful and painful experience is a must for anyone visiting New York City.
We took the subway back to midtown, grabbed some lunch, and decided that some holiday cheer was in order, so what better place to experience the holidays in New York City than Rockefeller Center?
We loved seeing that the Rockefeller tree was in place, and the scaffolding to decorate it was rapidly being assembled.
That’s Steve in the brown beanie and backpack, catching the sites we see on television.
I had to capture St. Patrick’s Cathedral, although we did not go inside.
The famous skating rink at Rockefeller Plaza.
And Saks Fifth Avenue.
And once again we find ourselves really tired!
So, we made it to the bar of another Brazilian restaurant, Via Brasil, and indulged in a couple of cocktails. Steve had a batida de maracuja and I had a batida de cajú.
We then we called it an early night because our plans for Sunday started early!
Breakfast and another subway ride took us to the South Ferry station at Battery Park, where we got in line to go through security and board the ferry to Liberty Island.
We boarded the ferry, and a short 15 minutes later, we were walking onto the island to see one of the most iconic symbols of our country.
There is a small museum at the base of the pedestal where you can learn about the history of the conceiving, making, delivery, and subsequent alterations made to the statue. Our tickets allowed us to climb to the top of the pedestal. We decided against the climb to the crown because, frankly, after 4 days of walking in New York City, our legs were truly shot.
We made the climb to the pedestal, where I took the next series of shots of Ellis Island and the New York skyline from different sides. Alas, my poor hubby, who increasingly suffers from fear of heights tried to join me outside, but had to go back in.
We were lucky to have such a beautiful day for this visit.
Lady Liberty was beautiful against a cloudless sky.
After climbing to the pedestal, walking through the museum, and a quick stop at the gift shop, we were once again on a ferry on our way to Ellis Island.
Steve felt especially moved by the Ellis Island experience. Once again, my pictures were few because we were trying to take in and take from what we were seeing, but the next few capture a sense of the place.
Two things struck us. One, how demanding it was for many of these immigrants to cover the distances they traversed. And two, how challenging it was to go through the Ellis Island ordeal. They teach us about it in school, and on a cerebral level, we think we understand. But a visit to Ellis Island forces you to connect to their reality in a way that I don’t think many things could.
There was a very educational exhibit on the chronology of immigrants to this country over a 300-year period, that really drove home an understanding of what it means to be a melting pot. When you confront the numbers, over such a long period of time, you understand how all of us carry a piece of that immigrant heritage.
Throughout the many years we used Ellis Island as a point of entry to our country, this open area served many purposes. Often, it contained snaking lines of people awaiting their turn to gain admittance to their hopes and dreams.
On the second level, there is a very poignant exhibit of the treasures people thought important enough to bring with them through the vast distances to reach our shores. Things so dear they saw them as essential to their future. They were donated by the families of immigrants, and it is touching to see the often humble belongings these items were. The treasures often had little financial value. But they held tremendous sentimental value to their owners. That exhibit really humanized their experience to us.
A ferry ride and subway trip later, we were back in midtown and ready for a quiet dinner and a night in at our hotel to rest and regroup.
the last day
Our flight left Monday late afternoon, so we breakfasted a few doors from our hotel at Cafe Un Deux Trois. Veterans Day showed a more subdued Times Square than we had previously experienced.
After a leisurely breakfast, we walked back to 5th Avenue near Rockefeller Center to do a wee bit of shopping. See, I got it into my head that I needed a new purse and thought that getting one from the 5th Avenue store of the designer would be a nice keepsake from New York. I convinced Steve that it would make his Christmas shopping for me easier. Because he humored me, I am patiently waiting to unwrap it Christmas Eve. After all, that is only fair!
If you stuck around long enough to read this entire post, you understand that our time in New York included a ton of walking, tired legs, and exhausted minds. To us, it also encompassed exactly what we hoped to get out of this quick trip. We are not deluded about how little we have truly experienced in the Big Apple. But we carefully selected places and experiences that meant something to us. And we got to see everything on our list.
Yes, we were exhausted every day. But beyond that, we experienced amazement, challenges, and a growth in emotional richness. I hope all our future trips provide us with the same blessings!