For as long as I can remember, visiting New York has been a dream of mine. I had a layover once in JFK Airport. I was just 20, and I didn't really know where JFK was in relation to the city, so I peered desperately out of every window, hoping for a little peek of the tall buildings (to no avail, of course). I think someone even told me it was pointless ("You're too far away," they said), but I figured that a city that big had to be visible to some extent. Slumped in an airport seat in defeat, I looked at every business person that passed me with envious longing, thinking, "You've been there. You've seen it. You know what New York is like."
We live in a world that is saturated with New York City obsession. From our earliest years watching Sesame Street, to nearly every TV show and movie these days, we've all been told countless times that New York is where it's at. Nowhere else matters. If it did, we'd do shows about those places, right? I mean, why do a TV series based in Denver when we could do it in New York? Seinfeld. The Cosby Show. Friends. Saturday Night Live. How I Met Your Mother. The Mindy Project. 30 Rock. Mad Men. Mad About You. Elementary. Rules of Engagement. Law and Order. Will & Grace. Just off the top of my head! ;-)
We're told over and over again that it's the greatest city in the world. David Letterman used to say it on his show nearly every night, while handing out "cuts of meat" to lucky visitors from Pittsburgh and Tucson. So for those of us in the Midwest and beyond, we've grown up feeling like New York is untouchable. It's too much. We're not smart enough, rich enough, or good enough for it. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. We're intimidated. And if we're not within driving distance (or have any family or friends to visit out that direction), then we might as well give up the dream of seeing what all the fuss is about with our own eyes.
I feel a little ridiculous that even at 40 years old, it was still such a big deal to me. Ryan knew. And being able to count the big trips we've taken together on just one hand, he decided it was time.
On my birthday, back in November, he surprised me with plane tickets for the three of us to spend a full week -- spring break -- in the city of our dreams. The trip would fall over his 40th birthday, as well, so it would be our way of celebrating the milestone for both of us.
I was floored. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Excited. Stressed. Undeserving. Nervous. But over the next five months, we carefully formed a wish list of everything we've always wanted to see and do in New York City. "There's no way you can see everything in one trip," they said. Well, darn it if we weren't gonna try! We jotted down ideas and recommendations from various friends. And then one day, in early March, I bought a big, detailed map of Manhattan. Because I love maps.
As our basic itinerary developed, we used colored pencils to trace our proposed daily routes (a different color for each day, of course). It was an unwieldy process -- us sprawled out awkwardly on the family room floor with a laptop, our destination wish list, colored pencils, and the unfolded map -- being oh so careful not to wrinkle or tear it. But you've got to give us points for planning and organization!
And finally, on March 24, we embarked ...
We'd done some online research and determined that the very best way to get from LaGuardia Airport to the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan was to catch the free Q70 shuttle bus to a subway station in Queens. While Ryley and I waited for our bags on the carousel, Ryan headed to an automated machine to purchase each of us a 7-day subway pass.
But let me tell you this: Once we got to the station, dragging our 50-pound suitcases up and down several flights of stairs to the elevated train was NO JOKE. Nightmarish, really -- because there were so many people on our heels, and we were trying desperately not to be in anyone's way, so we just kept pushing ourselves. Thankfully Ryan was following the signs and seemed to know what he was doing while Ryley and I just tagged along behind him.
Grand Central Station is a maze in and of itself. I seriously cannot adequately express what it was like to blindly navigate the white-tiled tunnels in the very depths of the station, dragging our suitcases, tackling stairs, dodging fast-paced New Yorkers. It was all adrenaline. Next time we'll take a Lyft.
Our hotel was only two blocks from Grand Central, but we were disoriented upon emerging from the station and ended up taking a longer way by accident (haha!).
We got settled in our hotel room (they upgraded us to a larger room for free when I asked if they had any rooms with a mini-fridge!). The Roosevelt Hotel is old and historic and beautiful, but there's a reason it's more affordable than others. They seemed to have trouble with keeping their elevator fleet up and running, and the carpet was a little dated, but it was clean! No complaints from us!
Once we'd rested for a bit, we decided to head down to Times Square -- just three long blocks away. It was already almost 8 p.m., so it was quite dark out, but the streets were busy with people. We followed the throng, and then suddenly, Let there be light!
There will never be anything like that first experience of seeing Times Square lit up in all its glory. In all honesty, it was an absolutely overwhelming experience.
We were hungry, though, so we walked further up Broadway and ended up having pizza at an Italian place next to Colbert's studios. Then we wandered through the M&M's store and the Hershey's store (obviously we like chocolate!) before raiding a Walgreens for drinks and snacks to stock our fridge. By the time we'd toted our groceries back to our hotel room, it was time to call it a night!
Total miles walked on Saturday: 5.6
Stay tuned for an oh-so-detailed account of our Sunday adventures ...