Monday, April 4, 2011


Mentioning 'the best laid plans' (and all that) - well Fred & I have spent about 18 months seriously planning our holiday, and let me tell you, our first day in New York didn't go to plan!
We had a gruelling 12 hour flight to L.A - I didn't sleep a wink the whole way, mainly because of a baby that shrieked hysterically the whole way - poor thing & poor parents! Josh (10) and Kate (7 ½) & Fred slept a little, though the kids stayed awake a lot of the time complaining that their legs hurt. A Note about Air New Zealand: Their service was pretty average, and the fact that they didn't supply us with the almost compulsory toothbrush/paste/night mask etc left us VERY unimpressed - as we had expected these fundamentals and hadn't taken any of our own with us - hence a bad case of dragon-breath for our family in the morning. Descending into L.A I was struck by the grey and brownness of the scenery - and the haze of smog. The mountains were beautiful, but the city just seemed an endless blur of dusty grey with strips on interstate dwindling into the horizonView from hotel window.
View from hotel window.
. Once in L.A everything went smoothly, apart from a delay in our New York flight. The flight to New York was loooooooong, and I managed to catch a couple of 5 minute naps each time the woman next to me let out rip-roaring sneezes & I jerked awake like a startled bunny! Not to worry, we breezed through JFK airport and caught a yellow taxi cab to our hotel - Hotel Pennsylvanian. I was pretty much a zombie as we were driven silently through the swift moving traffic on these long expressways - which to be honest pretty much looked like expressways anywhere else in the world. However the views of Manhattan lights and the Chrysler towers pretty steepled roof was a delight on the eyes. Once through the mid-town tunnel it only took a few minutes for us to arrive at our hotel - The Hotel Pennsylvania
The lobby is a little dated with a huge chandelier, but I guess that's part of the old charm of the place - I think it dates back to the early thirties.
But then imagine our horror at getting to the reception desk at about 2am to discover we had made a mistake with our booking, and we weren't expected (or allowed) to check in until later that day at 2pm. Yes, it was 2 in the morning, and we couldn't lay our heads to rest in our booked rooms for 12 hours...! So we had the choice of paying a whopping US$400 full price for another room for the remainder of the night, or staying awake till our room was ready later todayStaten Island Ferry.
Staten Island Ferry.
. We decided we would rather drink lots of coffee & give the kids coke, than pay over NZ$500 for 6 hours sleep. So we took off to a nearby 24-hour diner and had a lovely 'early' breakfast - the kids chowed down on chocolate chip pancakes, Fred had banana pancakes and I had bacon & eggs - and lots of coffee. We then saw two police officers who we asked if Times Square was safe for us to walk to at that time of night - there were still LOTS of people around and quite a few shops open. They assured us it was safe as they had just been there, so kids in tow we took a 3am-5.30am tour of mid-town Manhattan - what a blast! We saw a number of homeless people, which was sad, but no one hassled us at all and we didn't feel at all threatened as we walked up and down & across the streets of the Time Square area. The neon there has to be seen to be believed - Joshua and Kate loved the M&M shop with the big neon sign that changes constantly with the cute M&M characters. By about 4.30 I was starting to feel light-headed from the combination of caffeine high and lack of sleep, so we stopped at a nearby McDonalds for a rest - and another coffee - okay, okay at that time I didn't REALISE I was having a caffeine head rush! We saw the sky lightening, and the amount of people on the streets increase as dawn approached. We'd made it through a night on the town.
Then we decided to catch the subway down to the end of Manhattan and catch the Staten Island Ferry (free) which goes right past the Statue of Liberty with awesome views of downtown Manhattan & Brooklyn BridgeTracey, Kate, Josh with Shrek.
Tracey, Kate, Josh with Shrek.
We headed to see the World Trade Centre memorial, which is basically names on a huge sign and a small information kiosk with many Asian tourists milling around & photographing themselves in front of a large colour photo of the twin towers on the side of the kiosk. That made my stomach turn. We took no photos and didn't stay long. It was a sobering place to visit, but I had always promised myself that I would visit it and pay my silent respects to the dead. I still remember clearly watching the event on television that September morning, and to see the gigantic hole in the ground was just surreal and so, so sad.
The kids were very anxious to get back to the Times Square/Broadway area - you see that had spotted the 'Toys 'r' us' humongous toy store - they spotted the huge indoor ferris wheel earlier in the morning and DROOLED. Of course we all had to have a ride on it... There was also a giant sized animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex who moved his head/arms and occasionally let out a bellowing roar, a oversized Shrek (kids & I had a photo op with him) the Statue of Liberty & the Empire State building completely made of Lego - and let's not forget the huge Barbie house (two floors big) stocked with everything Barbie licensed. By that time I had been awake over 30 hours, so my patience with my dear daughter Kate dithering on whether she wanted to spend her $20 pocket money on this doll or that was wearing a bit thinToys R Us
Toys R Us
By the way, it was a beautiful blue sky day and HOT in New York. There seemed to be heaps of professional filming productions happening around the streets - Fred even got interviewed for TV news about toy recalls outside 'Toys R' Us' - who knows if it'll end up on TV!
We staggered back to the hotel and sat in the lobby about and hour (Josh & Kate fell asleep on one of the couches in the lobby) until our room was ready. We are on the 10th floor, with views of Madison Square gardens and on to the river. The room is very nicely furnished, and even if it wasn't I think I was too tired to care - I flaked out for 2 ½ hours!

Anyway, will probably add this to our blog online with some photos over the next few days. We are all fine, and even though the day wasn't what we planned, we've made the best of it, and actually enjoyed the whole experience!

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