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By this Author: jeffsurfus

Our New York Trip

What and Why


This is a detailed travelogue of our trip to New York City with our youngest daughter Savannah. Savannah is getting married to Kory on June 3 and we are very excited for the upcoming wedding. We have taken some great trips over the years as a family and Savannah wanted to take one more trip with her Mom and Dad before the upcoming wedding. After much consideration, we chose New York City as our destination for a 4-day weekend getaway. This is a day by day travelogue of our wonderful trip.

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Day 1 - March 10, 2017

Dexter and Westfield to New York

Both Stephanie and I in Dexter and Savannah in Westfield got up early for our flights to LaGuardia Airport in NYC. Savannah arrived a bit before us and met us at baggage claim. We arrived to snow falling and on the ground in the city. We grabbed a cab for the ride into Manhattan. It was a slow traffic-filled ride with a little too much time spent in the Queens Tunnel for our comfort but we arrived at the Cambria Hotel & Suites on 46th Street safe and sound.

Cambria Hotel & Suites is in a great location for exploring Mid and downtown Manhattan. It's on 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

We checked in and headed over to Rockefeller Center (a very cold and snowy walk!) for a quick lunch and a planned visit to the Top of the Rock and a tour of Rockefeller Center. We planned a lunch at Wichcraft in Rockefeller Center. Good sandwiches at this deli chain started and owned by Tom Colicchio of "Top Chef" fame (for you Food Network junkies). Here's Savannah and I outside the deli:

We had done some pretty serious planning for this trip and next on the agenda was a tour of Rockefeller Center and going up to the top of Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock) for a view of Manhattan. However, given the snowy and cloudy conditions we decided to postpone these activities until Monday.

This left a big hole in our schedule so we decided to head on over to the Museum of Modern Art or MOMA instead. We had all been to MOMA before but there is always something interesting on exhibit there. We were not disappointed. There was the usual stuff, such as Andy Warhol:

and Pablo Picasso (I love this one...not everyone's a fan) and Vincent Van Gogh:

There were also a couple of interesting temporary exhibitions, including a retrospective of the work of Francis Picabia, a French artist who worked in a very diverse set of styles and media. Also interesting was an exhibit called "100 Years" by Hans-Peter Feldmann, which was a series of photos, linearly displayed around 3 walls of a room of persons aged 0 to 100. A very interesting couple of hours.

After that we took in the beautiful St. Patricks Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Here's a picture of the inside which doesn't do it justice:

By that time the snow had stopped and the weather had cleared so we did some walking around Rockefeller Center, watched the skaters,

and got some yummy macarons (well, yummy to Steph and Savannah anyway...I'm not a fan).

We still had a couple hours left in the afternoon so we added a tour of Radio City Music Hall to our agenda and it was worth it to see that gorgeous building. There were no productions going on at the time so we got to go on stage and see the view of the hall from there--quite impressive. Here are a couple shots of Savannah (Can't you see her doing the can-can?) and me (an obligatory selfie) onstage:

Back to the Cambria to give our feet a rest and get ready for dinner. Dinner was planned at Palma, a recommended Italian restaurant in the West Village. First we had to get there. Our Lyft driver never showed up?! So we grabbed a cab for an adventurous trip downtown. This was a stereotypical New York cab ride where you grab hold, close your eyes, and hope you make it in one piece. After a few wrong turns we made it to a beautiful intimate restaurant.

The food at Palma was delicious in the covered and heated courtyard area. An added bonus was that we witnessed a marriage proposal at a nearby table and cheered along with the rest of the room when she said yes!

A very eventful Day 1! We returned to the Cambria to rest up for Day 2.

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Day 2 - March 11, 2017

Bagels, Twin Towers, Lady Liberty, and A Perfect Pint

We woke up refreshed and ready to go for Day 2. Our first order of business was to fulfill Savannah's request for an authentic New York bagel. As some of you may know bagels and cream cheese were a main source of sustenance for Savannah in her toddler years so bagels do have special meaning for us. After much research, we found that one of NYC's highest-rated bagel places was a few blocks from our hotel. So we hoofed it over to Ess-A-Bagel. Savannah was not disappointed as she appears quite content with her bagel:

Next up was the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. We approached this experience not knowing what to expect or how we were going to react, but felt that it was something we needed to do...and we are so glad we did. We all agreed it was one of the highlights of the weekend and wished we had spent more time there.

First we checked out the memorial which consists of 2 pools in the footprint where the towers once stood. Surrounding each pool are the names of those who perished in each tower. Some of the names had roses placed in them. It is quite powerful. We didn't take a picture but here's a good representation of one of the pools:

We then went inside, which is actually underground below where the 2 towers stood. The building itself is quite amazing. The original slurry walls for the towers form some of the internal walls:

There were many moving exhibits and displays:

There's an In Memorium room where you can see a picture of each victim (all 4 walls are covered) and read a story about each and every one of them if you choose to. We read a few. Putting faces on and reading stories about these victims is a powerful experience:

Most amazing was the historical exhibition, in three parts...before 9/11, day of 9/11, and after 9/11. It was very complete, very informative and VERY emotional. Hearing some of the voicemails from the victims that morning.....not knowing what's going on....was difficult. It all really brings home how fragile and precious each day is for all of us. No pictures from this display....we were just taking it all in.

Tying it all up at the end was a display of a brick from the house where we took out Osama bin Laden.

If you are in NYC and have the time, you have to go to this museum. You won't regret it.

We had to move on a little earlier than we would have liked because we had a timed ticket for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and needed to grab a quick lunch. We made our way over to Eataly NYC Downtown. This is a very cool indoor Italian marketplace with all kinds of food and drink. We had delicious Italian sandwiches but had to rush our way through lunch before heading out. More on Eataly later...

Off to Battery Park to take a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It was quite cold and windy so we decided to stay aboard the ferry at Liberty Island and get off at Ellis Island. We did get a good view of the Statue of Liberty though...

Ellis Island was quite interesting, particularly in context of the immigration issues we are facing today. We didn't take any pictures here but learned a lot such as:

  • It was only open from 1892-1954, but it took in 12 million people.
  • It was only one of 21 immigration welcome stations across the country....but it gets all the attention.
  • Unescorted women were not allowed to leave without someone here to accept them. Hence there were many quick weddings on the island.
  • Mass immigration lasted only until 1924...things slowed down significantly after that.

Enough Ellis Island facts. It was a good reminder to me that that we are very lucky to be Americans and we owe it to those who aspire to our way of life an opportunity to achieve those aspirations.....regardless of their race or religion.

Back to Manhattan Island. We decided to go back to Eataly for a cocktail and an appetizer before dinner but made our way to Wall Street first for a very special stop:

The "Fearless Girl" statue was placed in front of the famous Wall Street Bull statue just recently on International Women's Day to make a statement about putting more women in leadership roles of corporations and on their boards of directors but it has been embraced as a symbol of defiance against Wall Street greed. The place was packed with people getting a photograph with the statue but we worked our way to the front to get the above picture. Here's what she looks like without all the people...facing off against the bull:

Back to Eataly for a glass of wine and a charcuterie. Life is good in the city:

We relaxed a bit and warmed up at the wine bar and then grabbed a cab for an early dinner in the East Village. Our dinner stop was the Asian Fusion restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar. This place did not take reservations and it is very popular so we decided to show up just before it opened at 5:30 and we were glad we did because there was already a sizable line at 5:15 when we arrived. The food was excellent. For the Ann Arborites, it is very similar to the Slurping Turtle. We sampled excellent small plates such as shrimp, brisket, and chicken meatball buns, a kimchi and pickle plate, BBQ pork belly ssam, and smoked chicken wings.

We finished dinner fairly early but it had been a long day so we headed back to the Cambria to rest up and decide if we were done for the day or not. We got pretty comfortable at the hotel but decided to head out for a beer at one of the many Irish pubs in the neighborhood of our hotel near Times Square. Seriously there were probably 20 Irish pubs in a few block radius of our hotel! Steph decided to call it a night but Savannah and I ventured out to a place called The Perfect Pint. How could we not go for a beer to a place called The Perfect Pint?

The beer was good (far from perfect) and the company was great. We had a couple beers, took a quick stroll through the Times Square craziness, and headed back to the hotel for the night. Another great day!

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Day 3 - March 12, 2017

Flatiron, Chelsea and Midtown

On Day 3 we didn't have anything scheduled until brunch at 10:30 so we thought we could sleep in a bit but the spring forward time change took a bit of a bite out of those plans. We took a cab to the Flatiron District where our brunch was located and hopped out right by the Flatiron Building - probably one of the most photographed spots in New York. Of course we had to take some shots of the very cool building:

Next up was brunch at Almond. Stephanie and Savannah did a great job of picking these restaurants I must say! This was a great farm-to-table restaurant with a welcoming rustic atmosphere.

The dishes, such as huevos rancheros, salmon benedict, and Antony's Grandma's Tamales were all excellent. This was a nice relaxing meal to start the day. It was hard to leave this comfortable restaurant to go back out to the cold.

We were going to walk down to our next stop, the Chelsea Market, but it was too cold with a bitter wind so we flagged a cab and headed over. The Chelsea Market is an indoor market with lots of varying stalls and stores selling all kinds of prepared and unprepared foods - the best fish market I've seen (I haven't been to Pike Place in Seattle) and all kinds of ethnic foods. It's in the old National Biscuit Company factory and it has lots of nooks and crannies. Interestingly the National Basketball Association has it's world headquarters in the upper levels of the building. A couple of photos:

We decided to take a walk on the Highline, an elevated walkway along the east side of Manhattan on an old railroad track. It's very well conceived and designed but the wind was so cold on this sunny day that we couldn't walk too far. We did make it down to the new Whitney Museum of American Art, which is a very cool post-industrial building. We briefly considered taking it in but they were between major exhibitions so much of the museum was not open. Oh well, maybe next time. Here's what the building looks like:

We've gone this long without one of those New York traditions - shopping. So now it was off to the original Macy's Herald Square, the 8-story anchor to the Macy's chain. We spent a couple hours there, mostly taking it all in. I can only spend so much time looking at three full floors of men's clothes. They did have a Starbucks which is where I ended up while Stephanie and Savannah finished browsing.

Time to move on to Bryant Park and the New York Public Library - a gorgeous NYC landmark.

Lots of beautiful rooms and it could be a museum itself. There was a small Lou Reed display - why not? It's New York. And a wedding party trying to get photographs while being chased around by security guards. Apparently wedding party photographs are frowned upon in the New York Public Library.

Then it was another short hike to another NYC institution - Grand Central Terminal. The architecture in this city is amazing and Grand Central Terminal represents that very well.

We managed to get a picture of the three of us here:

Lots of walking today. It's great the number of things you can see within walking distance of each other in Midtown. Savannah wanted to sample a slice of some good representative New York pizza so we did some Googling and found a highly rated spot in Times Square. So we walked on over through the madness to Patzeria Perfect Pizza. It was a hole in the wall but the pizza slices were outstanding.

Back to the Cambria for a rest - quite a bit of walking today. We were so taken with Eataly that we decided to go to Eataly Flatiron for dinner at their rooftop pop up restaurant called Baita. We had gotten a recommendation about this place from the bartender at the Downtown Eataly.

Most of all it was a beautiful setting, but the food was good too, particularly the shortrib polenta and the salted cod. A couple pictures:

After dinner, downstairs to a little gelato for dessert. We would have gone to the Nutella Bar but it was packed. Yes, a Nutella Bar:

It was still somewhat early so we found a rooftop bar nearby - 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar. It has an outdoor rooftop bar but it was a little cold for that. There were some people out there, but it looked like they were freezing. Here's what it looks like:

The view was pretty spectacular but the drinks were overpriced, as you would expect. The view from the inside was pretty good too. Here's the Empire State Building from the window:

After a drink, it was back to the hotel for the evening to rest up for our final day in the city.

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Day 4 - March 13, 2017

The Rock, the Met, the Park

Day 4, our last day in New York. First up was a tour of Rockefeller Center. It has a very interesting history and even more interesting design and architecture. Without taking the tour, you can really miss the elements of all the buildings that make up Rockefeller Center. We had a great tour guide who happened to be from Flint, Michigan. A few photos from the tour:

Immediately afterword we took an elevator to the "Top of the Rock", the observation deck on the top of the main Rockefeller Center skyscraper. The day was clear and the view was fantastic.

The view looking north showing Central Park:

The view looking south showing the Empire State Building, the new World Trade Center, and the Statue of Liberty in the distance:

We were very glad we put this off from snowy Friday to sunny Monday. Off to lunch before the afternoon at the Met and Central Park.

This was everyone's first trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and we were not disappointed. A beautiful building and an unbelievable collection of art. A special exhibit called "Seurat's Circus Sideshow" really had me excited because I absolutely love George Seurat's paintings and I was not disappointed. Some shots:

There were several other Seurats and a number of his followers' paintings as well as many well known impressionists (a lot of Monet, Degas, Pisarro, etc.). The amazing Robert Lehman collection could be a museum unto itself. We spent a few hours here and felt like we just barely scratched the surface. I would definitely like to come back and spend more time here.

You can literally wear yourself out walking around looking at beautiful art so we consciously decided to step away and take a walk through Central Park on our last afternoon.

We decided to stroll over and take a look at Strawberry Fields, the memorial to John Lennon in Central Park. It was lovely but quite crowded. Everyone wanted to get their picture in front of the memorial seal so I wasn't able to get a picture of it. Here's a downloaded picture:

Unfortunately, it was time to go back to the hotel and pack up and head out of town. I'll spare the details of the difficulties we had getting out of town due to the incoming snowstorm. We got out safe and sound.

It was a great four days of good food, art, sights and sounds, but most of all it was a priceless time for Mom, Dad, and Daughter.

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