Sunday, January 9, 2011

Turkey Trot 2010 - Part 3: I Heart NYC...

...and NYC hearts me!

December was a challenging month, but before all the major challenges, I had the opportunity to travel to NY from November 18-25. Click to read about Part 1 and Part 2. The final part of the story, as much as I remember 2 months later, is posted below. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

NYC 11/22-11/25:
The gist of my time in NYC comes down to this: friends, friends, and friends. It was a time to reconnect with people and places. I arrived comfortably on JetBlue and took the AirTrain to the subway to the Upper East Side where my dear friend CP lives with her husband and two really fun and personable twin cats. Unlike Rochester where I had a pretty good idea of where I would be when, my time in NYC was much less structured. I sent a message to everyone saying I was in town and to book times to hang out and then just waited and explored the city. Well, not so much the city as Manhattan itself; I made appearances at all my favorite "classic" places (Times Square, Union Square, Columbus Circle, Central Park, Hell's Kitchen). And every night I had dinner with dear friends and chatted it up while gastronomically well-satisfied.

I spent the first night with CP in her living room but then got an amazing deal on Priceline to stay at the Millennium Hotel Times Square. The room was nicely appointed and had a partial view of Times Square. I say partial because, well it was partial, but it still was a great unobstructed view - and I still regret that I booked my trip back to California for the day of Thanksgiving because my hotel room would have provided an awesome view of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Oh well, it just wasn't meant to be this time, but there will hopefully be another opportunity. I DID, however, get to see the balloons for the Parade all aired up and ready to go the night before. Funny story: I was supposed to meet friends for this amazing experience...except we got separated into the massive crowds and the NYPD is very unforgiving about even letting you cross one street to get to where you have to go. Instead, you end up going, in some cases, 10 streets and 2 avenues out of your way just to get from 76th St. to 77th St. It is definitely an opportunity to practice patience so that you don't end up arrested.

HOTEL: Millennium Broadway Hotel - Priceline Rate $99 +taxes per night
  • PROs: Excellent location, fast elevators, nicely appointed room with super comfortable leather chairs and plenty of space to walk around (in fact, by NYC hotel room standards, this room was palatial), and a VERY nice bathroom - well appointed, big, and luxurious feeling.
  • CONs: The bed was not the most comfortable AND it was sparsely appointed; the comforter was the only "blanket" on top of a single sheet - I found that downright disgusting because I wasn't sure if the comforter gets washed regularly. Expensive internet so I didn't end up using it (just go to the Starbucks located next door and use the free internet whilst enjoying hot cocoa).
  • OVERALL GRADE: B- (would have been an A- with better bedding).
  • Would I Recommend This Hotel: Yes, IF the price is right.

Other Highlights of the Trip:
  • Took my picture with Santa Claus at the new American Eagle in Times Square. The picture was taken in the old MTV TRL studios overlooking Times Square - an amazing spot, especially looking down from the 2nd story corner windows. 
  • Forever 21 has a "Street Cam" that captures the street on Times Square right in front of the store. So you can stand and wave and see yourself waving back as a small dot on the big screen! I thought it was amazing. My friend NK, when we finally met up 10 minutes later, spoke scathingly about "the idiots blocking the street to wave at themselves on the screen...who would do such a stupid thing." Ahem, ya, who? And take a picture of it? I mean (insert nervous laughter) that would be so silly! I then showed him the picture of none other than ME doing what he just called stupid and a host of other synonymous adjectives. We laughed.
  • Two years ago I got to enjoy the Tree Lighting Ceremony at Rockefeller Plaza from the comfort of one of the brokerage firms at 30 Rock. This year, I got to see the tree in preparation for its lighting. Then, we walked into the Lego store and saw a full Lego mock-up of the Christmas scene at Rockefeller Plaza, complete with lego people ice skating. I thought it was a pretty talented work of art!
  • I took a bath and sipped tea. That's right. I had 2 hours to kill one evening and wanted to just relax in quiet solitude so I drew a hot bath, made some tea, then just quietly reflected and meditated. I know it sounds cheesy but those moments of quiet reflection were wonderful.

I love New York and as you can see, this whole trip did not disappoint. I will be back in NYC January 15-18, traveling with none other than AA, so look forward to some more crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful and beautiful times.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Turkey Trot 2010 - Part 2: The Turkey in Rochester

December was a challenging month, but before all the major challenges, I had the opportunity to travel to NY from November 18-25. Part 1 of the series is located at this link. The rest of the story, as much as I remember 2 months later, is posted below. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Rochester - 11/20-11/22:
My trip to Rochester can be summed up in two words: family and eating. The trip started on Amtrak. I love Amtrak. On a gloriously sunny, but wintry cold and windy day in Buffalo, I packed up my things and headed to the train station. I had just stayed two days in Buffalo (click here for the full story) and was now waiting at a pretty decrepit Amtrak station - "Buffalo Exchange St. Station" - for the train. It arrived about 30 minutes late and boarded only through two doors - one for passengers going to NYC at the front of the train and one for all the other passengers around the middle of the train. It was pretty disorganized, mostly because you couldn't hear the conductor telling you which door to go to. And especially when compared to California Amtrak, which has nice new double-decker cars and you can board at any door, the east coast Amtrak experience, while more expensive, left more to be desired, as well. But once inside the train, it was amazingly comfortable, with really kind conductors and spacious seating. And my favorite part of train travel: the soft and gentle rocking that puts me to sleep. It is unavoidable - I will be sleeping on a train.

This trip to Rochester was an incredibly special one because it meant I would get to see eight very special people, some of whom I haven't seen in a few years. My two aunts (Agnes and Maida), my two cousins (Anais and Cathy), another "like" aunt/uncle (Frida and David), and two friends from Baltimore (Alex whom I taught with and her husband Jim).

I ate way too much thanks to my Aunt Maida who cooked delicious food, my cousin Anais who cooked an amazing pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner, my friend Alex who took me to a supermarket, and to my "aunt" Frida who took me to a really yummy Thai place.

I know, out of all the things I wrote above, you are all scratching your head about the Supermarket. Turns out that folks who live in Buffalo/Rochester area have an "absolutely amazing, super, wonderful, awesome, can't-live-without-it" supermarket called Wegman's. In fact, it was billed as a must-see place that received its own slot in my schedule for a tour. We went to their "flagship" store and yes, it is pretty amazing...BUT STILL A SUPERMARKET! What made it amazing was the fresh food they served; in fact, there is a restaurant on premises with fresh cooked everything right in front of you. The food they made was well worth the trip - especially the salad, with fresh vegetables and delicious dressing. But like I told Alex, no matter how amazing I try to make Wegman's sound back in California, all my friends will still look at me funny that we went to...a supermarket.

One must-see place that my cousin Cathy took us was the Genessee river. It is a 15 mile stretch of waterway that has boating (in more seasonable weather) and homes lining the water and a trail for walkers. The weather, while a bit nippy, was still favorable for a beautiful, fresh-air walk along the river. With the sound and sight of the water relaxing the senses and the nice crisp, fresh air to breath in against a gorgeous blue sky backdrop, it was a remarkable connection with nature and self.

My time in Rochester was way too short, but it was scheduled how I like to schedule all my trips - not necessarily overbooked, but busy and jam-packed with activities and time with the people I love. The trip did not disappoint. After having spent time with all eight of the people I love, it was time to go through security at Rochester International Airport and wait for a JetBlue flight to NYC.

Stay Tuned for the Last Installment: Turkey Trot 2010 - Part 3: I HEART NYC

Saturday, January 1, 2011