Tuesday, December 29, 2009


So Rachael and I went to New York City and stayed in Manhattan this Christmas. It was a chance for us to get away and go someplace where we have never gone before. We planned for the trip to be from Dec. 20th to Dec. 25th, but a blizzard in the Northeast caused our flights to be shifted from Dec. 22nd to Dec. 28th. It was too bad because we had Dave Letterman tickets for the Dec 21st show. Thank goodness the Doubletree hotel shifted our reservation and even gave us a free night!

So we made it into the Newark airport late Tuesday night on Dec. 22nd and we were a little worried about the train system during the late night so we took a cab to Manhattan. The quote for the cab ride was around $60 to get us to the hotel in Manhattan, but little did I know that I would also have to pay for the toll (both ways) which added up to $85. Welcome to New York. Suddenly, a train ride at night seems a little more appealing.

For our first day we headed to Time Square to buy some Broadway tickets. We found a TKTS booth and found some Orchestra tickets (16 rows back) for Mary Poppins for $60 a piece. Not bad. It was a great show. The set was amazing and of course the songs and performances was superb. If you make it to Manhattan, you have to watch a Broadway show. After the show, we went around the Midtown area and visited Rockefeller center, the Empire State building, and Macy's.

The second day we headed uptown to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) . We quickly figured out that you are required to make a donation to gain admission, so you can donate from $1 to the recommended $20 and beyond. We donated $10. The MET is an huge art museum with an impressive collection of art. We visited the Egyptian art, American art, and the art of the impressionists that had many Monet's, Van Gogh's, Manet's, and Degas. We then walked across Central Park and headed for the Museum of Natural History, which is the place were they filmed Night at the Museum. This museum is a great place to take kids, but I got a little bored. I did enjoy the planetarium though. I noticed that the theory of evolution was strictly taught in this museum. There was even a short video that defended the validity of evolution and how everything makes sense because of it. Their defense of it didn't make sense to me. After the museums we headed back to the hotel with quick stop at 5th Avenue to see all of the shops that we can't afford (Tiffany's, FAO Schwartz, Apple, Saks).

The third day was Christmas and we woke up early to see if we could get on the Today show at Rockefeller plaza only to see that they were not filming that day. We almost did a double take when we got back to our room to watch the Today show with all the regulars and they said it was Christmas. What a crock! After that, we headed down south to the Statue of Liberty only to find that the ferry was closed, so we walked a few blocks to Wall Street to find where all of the stimulus and bailout money ended up. Wall Street was an interesting area. All of the buildings were built very close together at a time when building codes in that area were a little more relaxed. Next to Wall Street is the famous Trinity Church which is well known if you happened to see the movie National Treasure. Rachael and I stopped by Ground Zero and then headed back to midtown to walk around for awhile.

The fourth day we headed down to the SoHo to visit an Artisan Market, only to find that it was fairly lame. So, we headed to Little Italy to a famous pizza place, Lombardi's, for some good pizza. We walked around the Little Italy, Chinatown area just to get a feel for the area. The Little Italy district was amusing as every restaurateur was a little pushy and would try to lead us into their door when we walked by. After that, we headed back to the Statue of Liberty and took the ferry to the island. I found that I bought the wrong tickets and we could not enter the base of the statue. Oh well. The weather was rainy and cold and I think that Rachael and I were ready to get back to the hotel.

The last day we met up with some friends from Boston who happened to be visiting Manhattan. They were a little more experienced with Manhattan and took us around town. It was a fun day. We started the day by visiting Redeemer Presbyterian at Hunter College to get an a very clear discourse on James 2 about "Faith without deeds is dead". We then walked to the Guggenheim Museum to see the special exhibit of Wassily Kandinsky who is said to be the father of abstract art. From there we walked around Central Park and then headed down to Chelsea to wait in line for some free tickets to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater to an late Sunday night improv show in a dirty old basement. The interesting thing about it is that some known comedians were performing including Horatio Sanz, a SNL alumni, Bobby Moynihan, a current SNL cast member, and Lennon Parham, who is a cast member on the CBS sitcom Accidentally on Purpose. It was a fun to at least go to the spots that tourists (like me) barely frequent.

The next day (Monday Dec. 28th) we headed home (taking the cheaper train to the airport) and said goodbye to NYC.

Overall, this was a fun trip . The landmarks and buildings are spectacular and it is one of the main epicenters of art, business and culture. It was great to see all of the well known sites and get a taste of Manhattan. On the other hand, Manhattan stresses me out. It is too crowded, very impersonal, and too expensive. I think if I ever visit again, I would steer away from the well known and overcrowded Midtown and the Wall street districts and visit either the Uptown areas or the Chelsea and Greenwich districts.

Observations of Manhattan:
  • Manhattan is expensive. It seemed that the food was twice the price no matter where you went. Or perhaps it was because we were in Midtown. There are places where you can get a good meal for a decent price, you just got to look for it.
  • People are not very friendly in Manhattan. The cashiers were usually impatient, they were not very helpful, and it seemed as if they were just trying to rip me off. We hit most of the tourist spots so it was fairly crowded and perhaps they just had to keep the line moving. I guess I am used to southern hospitality in Austin.
  • Probably more that half of the people around us were speaking a different language. Again we were in the tourist section, but after awhile I was surprised when I heard someone speaking English.
  • The subway system is great! We were able to get just about anywhere in Manhattan using the subway. It might be easier to take a cab but it is a lot cheaper to take the subway.
  • Manhattan is dirty. The subways are great but the stairs and waiting areas are caked with filth and muck. I am not a germaphobe, but still, I would not recommend touching anything. If you look closely in the sewers and lower tracks you can see rats and mice.
  • Central Park is beautiful and very well done. I had a chance to take a morning run around the park to the well known spots. Only until the last day did I find the well known bridges, fountains, etc. in the southern end of the park.
  • I don't think I would last in NYC. I am a little timid and tend to be a too nice. It seems that you have to be a little pushy and rude just to survive. You have think on your toes and you have to call a scam for what it is. Just be prepared.

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