Friday, October 27, 2017

Our Visit To The Big Apple

It's official.  We finally have admitted that we are old.  Several months ago we signed up for a senior citizen bus trip to New York City.  We even took out the insurance in case a disaster happened, and we couldn't make the trip or even worse, a tragedy happened in New York.  Thank goodness we didn't need it, but it gave us peace of mind.  We are still pretty capable of traveling on our own, but not in the traffic of New York City.  If we ever planned on visiting, this had to be the way to go.  Everything was taken care of for us, we just needed to show up.

Sunrise to begin our trip

So last week, early in the morning, we headed out.  The bus pickup point was an hour away so we needed to leave home in the dark.  On the way, there was a beautiful sunrise. That was a good sign.  As it turned out, everyday the weather was gorgeous.  The only rain we had was one morning on the way home.  The first day on the bus was an adjustment, but soon everyone settled in.  The good thing about senior bus trips is that they stop every two hours for a break.  We traveled through Milwaukee, around Chicago, across Indiana and stopped for the night in Ohio.

This was at an Ohio rest stop, we almost have our first day in.

The next morning after breakfast we continued on our journey.  This second day took us through Pennsylvania.  I never realized how beautiful Pennsylvania is even though the fall color was not quite there yet.

Lovely little town nestled in a valley 

One of the rest stops featured this sign at Arby's.  We felt right at home and wondered if this is being offered in Wisconsin.

It was after dark when we arrived in New Jersey.  We stayed in Totowa, New Jersey and spent the next four nights there.  After eating breakfast at the hotel the next morning, we all boarded the bus for our first day in New York City.  This day we met our guide for the first time.  The tour company hired a guide to show us around for the next few days.  I was so excited to see the city's skyline.

We chose our own bus seats when we first boarded, but the head travel assistant moved our seats everyday.  The drivers side of the bus moved forward three seats and the other side moved back three seats.  I was fortunate to be in the front seat the first day into the city.  As we entered the Lincoln Tunnel, I was in front.  At the end of the tunnel, the Welcome to New York sign came into view.

In the morning we picked up the guide, and he explained some of the buildings we were seeing and told some of the history.  We saw some of the same sights several times because we spent most of the time in Manhattan which is only 2.5 miles wide and 13 miles long.  We saw where several TV shows are made, we saw the marquee for Broadway shows, the Bull and the little girl in the financial district and many other attractions.

The Cake Boss 
The Late Show

Our first real stop was the 9/11 memorial museum.  It was a large area taking up eight acres.  When we went into the museum we had to go through security similar to airport security.  It was an unreal experience realizing that we were so close to where the terrorist attacks actually happened.

The original spots where the North and South towers stood have Footprint Fountains.  The new buildings were built in a different spot.  The museum explains the history of the event plus a large map which shows where all the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred.  There are pictures of the people killed and examples of the devastation.  It is a pretty solemn place and is a reminder of what a terrible tragedy is was.

Destroyed firetruck

This is one of the Footprint Fountains built at the sight of one of the Twin Towers.

After leaving the museum we went to Rockefeller Center where a meal was provided for us.  We saw the ice skaters on the ice rink.

For the final two hours of the first day we were on our own at Times Square.  What a busy place.  Lights and people everywhere.  I can't imagine what it will be like on New Year's eve.  It was especially busy because the New York Yankee's were playing in the final playoff game.  Several big screens were set up with bleachers for people to watch the game.  It was disappointing for the fans when they lost, but imagine how crazy it would have gotten if they would have won. 

Empire State Building at night decorated for the Yankee playoff game
Madame Tussaud's
It was a little overwhelming for me to be in such an environment, but at the same time amazing.  How people live like that everyday, I can't imagine although I think most of the people in Times Square were also tourists.  I was ready to go back to the hotel.

Early the next morning we left for day two.  This was my favorite day.  It consisted of seeing where Sully Sullenberger landed the plane on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, visiting  the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and picking up cheesecake from a famous New York cheesecake store.

Area for Landing on the Hudson
Our bus took us to Battery Park.  This is the park where the ferry leaves for the Statue of Liberty.  We had to go through security again.  I didn't mind because one of my fears of New York was security.  As I found out, security is very tight with a huge police presence.   There were police in view most of the time as well as mounted police units and security cameras.

We got our tickets and stood in line to wait for the ferry.  Each ferry holds almost a thousand people and one was coming and going the whole time we were there.

The view from the boat was breathtaking.  Ahead we could see the Statue of Liberty and behind we could see the Manhattan skyline.  

We had more airport type security when we got off the boat, but then we could do our own thing.  We decided to climb up into the statue as far as they would let us.  We were allowed to go to her feet.  To go further required a reservation which were booking out nine months.  When we began the 200 step flight, there was a replica of the torch.

At the top of this section of steps there was a platform where you could walk around the base seeing in all directions.  One faced New York, one direction faced the Manhattan bridge, one faced New Jersey and the other side faced Ellis Island.  

Looking up to the torch

View to Ellis Island 
  Looking down.  We were pretty high up in the air.
After lunch and a trip to the gift shop, we boarded the ferry again for Ellis Island.  Ellis Island is where all the immigrants who traveled to this port landed and were processed.  It was a museum with thousands of personal stories to tell plus a place to research your own family.  Many years ago I found out my grandfather landed here.  I ordered the ship manifest and a picture of the ship he traveled on.  I gave it to my mom as a gift.  It was a beautiful building.

Approaching Ellis Island from the water

After we left the islands we headed back to New Jersey.  We were scheduled to have dinner with several other tour groups at a very nice restaurant.  It was near the MetLife stadium where the New York Giants and the New York Jets play football.  Since we were a little early some people wanted to stop at a famous New York Cheesecake bakery called Juniors.  The bus double parked and several people went in and bought cheesecake.  The funny part was that after we got home, we saw QVC was selling Junior's cheesecake and had free shipping.  After this brief stop, we continued to the restaurant and finished the night with delicious Italian food and even some dancing. 

Day three brought another adventure.  We got on the bus again and drove into the city.  It was Monday morning and a big change happened in the city.  It went from mostly visitors to seeing more of the locals rushing off to work or wherever.  We basically retraced much of the area we had already seen.  I got a few more pictures from different angles.  

The empire state building
Brooklyn Bridge
This is a school.  They don't look like Wisconsin schools.

United Nations
Eventually we pulled up to the area I was anxious to see.  It was Central Park.  It was beautiful there, and I was disappointed that we were not scheduled to stay longer.  I can see why New Yorkers need this green space.  Their lives are all concrete, crowds and noise.

View of the National Art Museum

After a brief walk around a small section of the park, we exited near the Dakota apartment building where John Lennon was killed.  There was a section of the park called Strawberry Fields and an insert in the sidewalk called "Imagine" in his honor.

After Central park it was lunch time.  We were dropped off in Chinatown and Little Italy for two hours.  The merchants were so aggressive.  They were trying to sell knock off Rolex watches and designer handbags.  The seafood markets smelled pretty bad as well.  We decided not to eat there and kept on going to Little Italy.  The Italian restaurant owners were out on the street trying to get people in their establishments.  We chose one of those and had lunch.  We had panni's and a pizza which wasn't any better than others I have had.  For desert we had Cannoli which was their specialty.

The only restaurant in Chinatown I recognized. 

I couldn't help but wonder what they did with all the leftovers at the end of the day.

We did manage to get some bargains and bought a few souvenirs.  Some people loved this experience, but I was a little uncomfortable.  Looking back, I'm glad we had the opportunity.  Next we went to the Grand Central Terminal.  It wasn't anything like I expected.  I pictured it as a crowded dirty station.  It was gorgeous.  With the help of Jacqueline Kennedy it has been restored.  In the building there were shops, eating places and even a grocery store.  It was a very expensive grocery store.  Strawberries were $15 a pound.

When the tour was finished, we were provided another nice meal at Grand Central terminal.  Then we were on our own for two more hours.  Truthfully I would have liked to go back to the hotel.  It was another long day, and I had seen all I needed to see.  This area of the city has a lot of high end stores and restaurants.  Not really knowing the lay of the land we went back to the bus early and waited to leave.  When we got back, we had to pack to go home.  Early the next morning we were on our way.

We had one more stop to make.  We stopped in Stoystown, Pennsylvania.  This was the location of the Flight 93 National memorial.  I think this was even more somber than the 9/11 museum.  On September 11 terrorists planned to take over flight 93 and fly it into the capitol building.  The terrorists took over the cockpit but the passengers on the plane stormed the cockpit and forced the plane away from Washington DC and it crashed in Pennsylvania.  This memorial had the television commentary from that day playing as well as lots of information about what happened and pictures of the people who died that day.  

In this photo you can see a large rock near the woods.  There is also a marble wall with the names of those who died.
This is the rock that marks the point of impact. 
When we left Pennsylvania we still had several hours to travel.  We stayed overnight in the same Ohio hotel we stayed on the way out.  The next day we arrived back home.  We were tired but had tons of memories.  It was amazing how many things were packed into one weeks time.  I am sure I will remember many more things during the next few weeks.  It was a great experience.