New York, New York!

Trip Start Dec 30, 2013
Trip End Mar 25, 2014

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Ciara's Gaf!

Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, December 30, 2013

Farewell Ireland (again!) it's only for a few weeks this time so there were no tears shed in Dublin Airport Departures this morning. An adventure waited! Jen and Kathy were starting the trip in NYC and Michele joins us in 4 days for the backpacking portion through Central America. It’s a tough life but sure someone’s gotta do it!

First stop was New York City BABY! We were spending 4 nights in the Big Apple with Kathy’s friend from college Ciara. Michele was then to join us on Friday and we were to start the Central American adventure from there. 11am Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to JFK. All went smoothly during the journey, after a minor initial hiccup!

So since this trip covers quite a bit of mileage there’s quite a variance in the climates we’ll be in so we had to pack accordingly – i.e. NYC was going to be FREEZING so we had to pack our thermals to get us through those few days. We had separate bags packed for the winter woollies for easy access in NYC and because they were too bulky for our rucksacks. Jen gets dropped off by her parents at the airport and once she steps out of the car into the pouring rain she realises that the NYC bag is still in her bedroom at home. Cue utter panic! The sleeveless tops & shorts packed in the rucksack aren’t exactly adequate for NYC over New Years. Thank god we were there early so Mammy & Daddy Lennon have to make a speedy return trip back out the M50 to pick up the bag while we go check in. THANK GOD we had extra time (and that Jen’s parents are soooooooo great!!!). All was fine from there and we made it to NYC unscathed!

Ciara works for Deloitte and is over in NYC on a 6 month secondment so she ever so graciously hosted us in her apartment in Tribeca for the 4 nights. We definitely wouldn’t have been able to start the trip in NYC over NYE without having Ciara there. Accommodation would have bankrupt us and we wouldn’t have been able to afford the rest of the trip before we’d even started. So Ciara – you’re deadly! Thanks sooooooo much for your generosity. I hope you didn’t regret the few days’ company! We’ve both been to NYC a few times before and had done most of the sights but there were still a few things we wanted to tick off, along with the numerous restaurants Ciara kept telling us we HAD to go to! (We blocked the fact that we’d probably be on a beach by the end of the week out of our minds – the diet starts in Mexico – hopefully!!)

Day 1, Mon 30th Dec: We arrived to Ciara’s apartment mid-afternoon after a taxi journey from JFK. There was an Irish girl in the taxi queue behind us and asked could she share a taxi with us into the city. She was over to visit her boyfriend who had moved over here 10 weeks ago and hadn’t a notion where she was off to! For the whole journey into the city we pretty much forget that she’s in the front seat (and that the driver is too for that matter!!) and end up recounting numerous drunken moments from our college years – probably not the best first impression to make on the poor girl! We all dropped our bags to Ciara’s apartment, freshened up a bit – especially Sinead (it took us about 90 mins before we realised that we hadn’t introduced ourselves to each other!) who was now very excited about the upcoming reunion with her boyfriend. We went for a wander around Tribeca to walk Sinead to the Subway and see the Brooklyn Bridge (To Do List – walk over the Brooklyn Bridge some night before Friday). Dinner had been booked for that night in a restaurant called Balthazar. Kathy had given a voucher when leaving her job in Melbourne so that was No. 1 on the restaurant list. We had booked table weeks in advance knowing it would probably be busy the night before NYE. Jen has a cousin and a couple of friends from college living in NYC we asked two of them along for dinner with the three of us and Ciara’s friend Tara who was also over for a holiday. Initially we just wanted to add one more person in, increase the booking from 4 to 5 people. We were told no! There was absolutely no room for anyone to squeeze on the end of our table in the whole restaurant. There were no spare chairs in the whole restaurant supposedly. Even an offering of having 3 people sit on 2 chairs wasn’t allowed!! So the two lads had to make their own dinner plans cos there was no way no how they would be eating with us! Sorry lads!! Now, when we got there it was fairly jammers, but we totally could have squeezed one of the lads in. Ah well. Yummy dinner had by all, thanks for the recommendation Kathy’s ex-work peeps!

We went for a few drinkies after dinner in a bar up the road from the restaurant. Can’t for the life of me remember the name of it but it’s on Spring St. It’s nothing crazy, just a place for a few quiet drinks, but played all the 90’s pop classics. LOVED it! Ronan came to meet us for a couple hours. I’m sure he felt super macho with that music playing sitting at a table surrounded by 4 girls. J

Day 2, Tues 31st Dec: NEW YEARS EVE! The main event of the trip. Plan was to start the day with a few touristy bits downtown and then head up to Times Sq for dinner at 5.30pm. We walked the whole way along the Hudson down to get the Staten Island Ferry. We probably spent a grand total of 2 minutes actually on Staten Island but the Ferry between there and Manhattan is free and has amazing views of the NYC skyline so it was definitely worth the trip – once we got the feeling back into our fingers and toes! We stood on the deck on the way back to get a good view but dear lord we were like icicles when we got back to Manhattan. Straight to the nearest coffee shop for some soup to warm us up. We had a wander down Wall St and then back to the apartment.

We had dinner booked for 5.30pm in Bobby Vans Steakhouse on 46th Street (just off Times Sq). We had no concrete plan for midnight but we were thinking dinner and then maybe try sneak into Times Sq and hang around for the ball drop. Chances of us being able to manage it were close to impossible with the amount of crowds and NYPD out in force but feck it we’d give it a shot and see how far we got! All else fails we would head up to Central Park and watch the fireworks up there. We grossly underestimated the mission it would be to get us to the restaurant, we knew Times Sq itself would be closed off but we had no idea that every avenue either side and about 30 streets all around it would also be on lockdown! (Noted for future reference!!) We ended up literally going around the world for a shortcut, walking for a good hour before we begged and pleaded with a policeman to let us through to get to the restaurant – and we were only let past because we showed a booking reference for the restaurant and ID’s! We were still about 10 blocks away but were told we could go through with police escort!! As we were literally walking across Times Sq all this commotion started – we didn’t realise it but it was exactly 6pm and there was a big ceremony and fireworks show for the ball to go up. 6 hours to go til midnight! And here the three of us were, grinning like bloody eejits having stumbled across it, with literally hundreds of thousands of people behind us who had been queuing up for hours!! We were VERY VERY tempted to try jumping the barriers and staying there for the night. But our stomachs and the amount of scary looking armed NYPD around us made us continue on after 5 mins or so. We eventually made it to the restaurant, just an hour later than our booking! All was fine though, because the streets were closed off they were just glad we showed up because there would be no one else filling the table! Had a scrumptions meal there – way too much food again - but we took our time as we still wanted to try somehow get back onto Times Sq as close to midnight as possible. Ate the slowest meal of our lives, followed by coffee and then desert!! When needs must! The restaurant was literally 200 metres away – but there were numerous barriers and NYPD in between us! We ended up in an Irish bar directly across from the restaurant for the night (typical I know!) but it was good craic! We ran out on the street for the countdown and heard the whole thing and were covered in the streamers and confetti that was let down all over Times Sq. We were delighted with ourselves!! Granted we didn’t get to see the ball drop at midnight (the main attraction), but we did get to see it go up, and basically rang in 2014 on Times Sq (well just metres away). NYE in NYC? Ticked off the bucket list!!

Day 3, Wed 1st Jan: Surprisingly we weren’t that hungover today after the NYE festivities so we could function and continue on with a couple of touristy bits. We went breakfast in this teeny tiny place on Chamber St called Kitchenette (the name should have probably given it away that it wasn’t going to be huge!!). Afterwards we went up to the 9/11 memorial. In 2011 on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 a memorial was opened at the site of the two WTC buildings. The memorial is basically two fountains with the name of every person that died in the attack inscribed along the sides of them. It’s so well done. The fountains are the exact same shape and size and in the exact same location as the foundations of the Twin Towers. I was really impressed by it. If someone worked in the North Tower then their name was inscribed on the wall of the North Tower, and same for the South Tower workers. A white rose is also laid on top of each person’s name on their birthday. There’s a museum currently being built on the side, with landscaping to be done, all expected to be completed by summer 2014. Well worth a visit to anyone going to NYC for a trip. Afterwards we headed up to Central Park to go ice skating. Loved it! No broken bones or injuries of any sort thank god. Another tick off the bucket list! We went for a wander down 5th Avenue then (with a pit stop to get a hot dog from one of the street vendors – you just HAVE to!!) to have a look at all the Christmas lights. My god nowhere does Christmas like New York. 5th Ave was quite a spectacle. Amazing. We called into Jen’s cousin who was working in bar just off 5th for a couple of drinks. Then to Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant in the Meatpacking district for dinner. Yet again TOO MUCH FOOD! We were nearly rolled out of the place. This has to stop!!!

Day 4, Thurs 2nd Jan: Our last day in NYC! Michele was arriving in this evening and the three of us would be flying out to Mexico first thing Friday morning so there wasn’t much on the cards at all for the day. We met a few of Ciara’s friends and went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Times Sq for brunch. This just has regular diner food, but what makes it different to Eddie Rockets and the likes back home is that all of the waiters / waitresses are trying to make it as Broadway stars and they perform for the diners’ in-between taking orders and clearing tables! It’s gas! They’re very good, a number of them leave every year and get jobs on Broadway shows so they use this as their stepping stone. After that we walked up to Macy’s to have a look at the Christmas windows – but being Jan 2nd they were taken down L. We did manage to pick up Macy’s Christmas Teddys in the sale for $6 – the ONLY thing we’ve bought to date in NYC, so proud of ourselves! It probably does sound like all we’ve done in NYC is eat, with the odd touristy thing here and there, but when you can’t go shopping you need to find other things to do!! Michele arrived in the afternoon and we sorted ourselves for leaving on Friday morning. As per Murphys Law there was a MAJOR Snow storm due into NYC and the Northern East Coast of the USA on Thursday night to continue until Friday evening. We kept checking our flight though and all was looking fine. Slight 15 minute delay but other than that the airline didn’t see any issue with us getting to Mexico the following day. Flight was 8am so we booked a car to take us to Newark airport at 5am to give us enough time as no doubt the roads would be in a complete state. All sorted and out for dinner and drinks for our last night in NYC. Sinead – Jen’s old housemate came out for dinner too. We went to Stanton Station, a tapas restaurant in the Lower East Side. Absolutely scrumptious! The snow storm had started around 7pm so everything well and truly looked like a Winter Wonderland when we finished dinner. We went to a bar called Piano across the road for one final night cap before trying to get a taxi home! We made a couple of American "mates" in there who entertained us for an hour or so.  When the waitress came back to us to query the money we had paid for our bottle of wine (cost $40 and we left $2 tip) because we hadn’t left enough tip we knew it was time to go home! The roads were in some state already. God only knows what they would be like at 5am when we were due to head to Newark. According to the airline the flight was still running on time so alarm set for 4.30am and full steam ahead for Mexico!!

Day 5, Fri 3rd Jan: Murphy’s Law – whatever can go wrong will go wrong!!
It was most definitely a winter wonderland outside the window. Snow completely covered everywhere. More than I’ve ever seen before! The roads looked to have been cleared a bit though so the snow ploughs were obviously out during the night. Thank god we had the car booked cos there would have been absolutely no hope of us flagging one down on the street (as we learned the hard way a short while later…).

So 4.55am we’re sitting in the lobby of Ciara’s apartment waiting for the car we had booked for 5am. At 5.05am it’s still not there and we get a bad feeling so Kathy calls the company we booked the car through. After 40 mins we are told that our booking reference was actually used for 2 bookings and that the car has gone to the other one so there are no more cars available for us. Anywhere in NYC! It’s ok though, because they will refund the $110 that we paid 24 hours previous to secure the booking. Eh it’s NOT ok! It’s close to 6am, we have a flight at 8.30am from Newark to Mexico, there’s a blizzard outside the door, there are no taxis on the street, WE NEED A CAR….NOW! Kathy let rip at them but all she got in response was apologies and promise of a refund so she hung up. (There will be a strongly worded email written at a later date). We then had the doormen of the apartment ringing everyone they knew trying to get us a taxi or something to go to Newark. No joy. We had two choices (i) abandon the notion of flying out today, hope the flight is cancelled and book a new one the following day and go back up to Ciara upstairs and get back into bed; or (ii) public transport – this involved a 15 min walk in -12 degrees, through the snow to the subway station, a subway to Penn Station and then a train from Penn Station to Newark.  Most sensible people would have chosen option (i), so we went for option (ii). Out we go into the snow to the subway. It was like something out of 'The Day After Tomorrow’! The streets were deserted (except for piles of snow everywhere) and here we were with all our worldly possessions on our back trekking through it. We’d lost our marbles! We did actually pass a few taxis along the main road when we were crossing. They stopped, asked us where we were going and then drove on! We used every curse word under the sun at them as we watched their rear lights drive away. So we get to Penn Station, we’ve just missed the train to the airport by 5 minutes and the next one wasn’t due for an hour. Time was getting very very tight. We had checked in online but still needed to get boarding passes and bag labels etc. We went outside to try once more to get a taxi – the nicest man in the world was dropping people off at the station and agreed to take us to Newark. Our hero!! It was a dodgy journey, the roads were in a mess, he took numerous wrong turns, but he got us there in one piece and with an hour to spare for our flight. Legend of a man!

Thinking we’d been through the worst of it we walk into Departures with big smiles on our faces, they soon disappeared. There were people EVERYWHERE! It was crazy. Since we’d checked in we just had to print our boarding passes and bag tags and then drop our bags. Easy?
Yeah right. United Airlines have RIDICULOUS system of doing that. There are kiosks that passengers go to to print everything. The boarding passes come out there but the bag tags all go to one machine, manned by one member of staff. So the eight kiosks are printing bag tags to this one guy. Cue mayhem. The poor chap has about 100 people standing around him, shouting their names and destinations and bag tags are streaming out of the machine every few seconds! Eventually we got tags on our bags and off we went to drop them off. We were told to leave them outside departures with a few members of staff on what were the equivalents of hotel trolleys. We reluctantly leave our bags and cross our fingers and toes that we’ll see them again in Mexico!! Onwards to security, more delays.

 Eventually we get on our flight, spend 90 mins sitting on the runway and FINALLY we’re in the air en route to Mexico. Things can only get better….right?!!
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Great cannot wait for the next edition!!!!

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