Friday, November 8, 2019

New York City 2018

Now that 2019 is coming to an end, what a great time to finish my trip recaps from 2018. #facepalm

I really hope 2020 is the year I get back in my blogging groove. But for now, I will keep recapping my 2018 trips AND the big trip I took earlier this year. Luckily I didn't travel as much in 2019, so I won't have as much to update once I get to it.

I know in the past I've divided long trips into multiple post, but I'm going to keep my five days in New York City all in one post. So bear with me- you might want to grab a snack and beverage, because this is going to be a long post.

ANYWAY....after my amazing trip to Cooperstown in July 2018 (see recap here), I parted ways with my awesome travel buddies and headed out to have many adventures in NYC.

I stayed with my amazing friends John and Ryan. John and I go way back to our college days so we have been friends FOREVER. John was delayed on a business trip the first day I was there, so Ryan played tour guide my first evening in town. I visited NYC back in 2007, but of course, there was so much I didn't see my first trip, so I was excited to do some more sightseeing. 

I'm a history nerd (anyone who has read my blog or follows me on Twitter knows this), so Ryan took me to do some sightseeing around their neighborhood. Our first stop was in Harlem at the former home of Harry Houdini. It's not a well-known tourist spot- I think mainly locals know about it. But it was still cool to see. It's now a private residence, so we couldn't go in or up to the door. But of course, I posed by the gate (because I'm a nerd). 

We decided to walk the 37 miles to General Grant's National Memorial-aka Grant's Tomb. Okay it was really like 2 miles, but to my feet, it felt like 37 miles. Lol. The festival, A Great Day in Harlem, was going on that day, so we got to hear some good music while we were there. We stopped for a bit on the stairs to rest, so we got to enjoy it for a while. It was awesome.

Resting our feet after walking
A Great Day in Harlem. There was a fashion parade going on at this time
Paying my respects
We were starving after all our walking (and I hadn't eaten since earlier that morning), so we stopped at a place called Hop House Harlem. The pizza was amazing. This was NOT the last time I had pizza while I was in New York. Lol.

I knew I had a busy schedule the next day (Monday), so I went to bed early(ish), but not before making friends with Clyde. Bonnie was too shy to come out and meet me (although she made a quick appearance on my last night).

Just call me the cat whisperer
That Monday I took my first ever solo subway ride. I know this isn't a big deal to most people but it was to me. Thank goodness for the map on my phone so I didn't look like a tourist trying to figure out my stop. (NARRATOR: She still looked like a tourist). My good friend Eric (more about him in a moment), managed to get me a VIP ticket to Live with Kelly and Ryan. Kelly Ripa was on vacation that week, but it was still cool to be in the audience. Evidently I was on TV more than once (friends back home texted that they saw me). It was neat to see how a talk show was filmed and what went on during commercial breaks. Ryan Seacrest and his guest co-host Jenna Dewan mingled with audience members during the breaks. 

After the taping, I met up with Eric, who was going to be my tour guide for the day. Eric and I had been social media friends since 2014. We became friends when I mentioned his book, Rally Caps, Rain Delays and Racing Sausages on my blog. Shameless plug for Eric, check out my review of his book here. His book is available on Amazon (click here), in case you are looking for a Christmas gift for a baseball fan in your life. Anyway, he found my post and reached out that he hoped I liked his book. We became fast friends. When his son was born, I mailed a little gift to him and his wife. Eric is a Yankees fan so of course I had to send the baby Rangers stuff. :) I'm now his son's honorary aunt- it's amazing how social media can bring such important people into your life. For all the bad things on it, I focus on the good that it brings.

My amazing friend and tour guide, Eric!
SIDETRACKED. Sorry, back to NYC 2018. So, Eric had planned an entire Rachel Tour for the day. It started with behind-the-scenes at Eyewitness News 7 and Kelly and Ryan Live. I told him he needed to start his own tour guide business- it was fantastic. We did A LOT of walking, but it was all worth it. We went through Central Park (something that I had wanted to do my previous trip but didn't have time). There was an Alice in Wonderland statue, but it constantly had kids on it (of course), so I couldn't get a great photo with it. It was still fun though.

Friends in high places allows you to get this photo op
Maybe next time I'll get a photo with Alice
So we walked onto a set where they were filming an episode of God Friended Me. Because of that, I decided to try out the show (I like it!)
Eric knows that I love the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's (okay, everyone knows that), so we stopped at some locations used in the film, including Holly Golightly's apartment (well the outside scenes were filmed there). I did research online to make sure I was standing on the correct apartment steps. As we were leaving, a group showed up and it was obvious they wanted the same photo op. 

Breakfast at Tiffany's filming locations
A photo of me in 2007 having "breakfast" at Tiffany's during my first NYC trip
We met Eric's lovely wife Chrissie for lunch and we ended up going to Wahlburgers (the burger chain owned by Donnie and Mark Wahlberg). It was a fantastic burger! **Spoiler alert: I ate at another Wahlburgers location on my road trip this year. You'll eventually read about it. Lol.** 

The tour wasn't even close to be over. After lunch, Chrissie had to return back to work but Eric and I continued on. What's cool about having a local be your tour guide, is that you find interesting things most tourists wouldn't recognize. We went by the apartment used in the opening of The Jeffersons and we also went by a place where the Marx brothers once lived. There was no sign, so unless you knew to look for it, you would have just walked on by.

Moving on the east side.
The Marx brothers once lived here
Our afternoon tour made stops at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center (I got to see where the ice skating rink is during the winter-during the summer it is a patio seating area), Radio City Music Hall, New York Public Library, and Grand Central Terminal. After a very long, but fun day, I had dinner at Eric's apartment with his family (where his toddler son and I became fast friends) and then took an Uber back to Harlem where I showered and immediately crashed. I had almost 30,000 steps and walked 13 miles that first day. We won't talk about the condition of my feet after that first day- it wasn't pretty.
St. Patrick's
Rockefeller Center

Yes, all of that was just the FIRST full day. I know, I squeeze a lot into my trips. I don't go on vacation to rest, I go on vacation to explore. Lol. So John wasn't able to meet me until lunchtime the next day, but that meant I was able to sleep in on Tuesday morning (I got some much needed rest). I read that the location of the first baseball game was in New Jersey, so I figured since I was RIGHT BY New Jersey, I should just "pop" over for a quick photo op, and I could cross New Jersey off my states to see list. Poor John. It took a lot of walking, several misguided subway rides, a water taxi ride, and an Uber to get to it. And he doesn't even like baseball. Lol. Yes, we went all the way to New Jersey just so I could get a photo. Don't judge. We did eat a late lunch/early dinner at a fantastic little diner while we were there though. And I got to keep the cool place mat (after a little begging to our server).

After that "much longer than expected" adventure, John was ready to call it a day, so Ryan was sweet enough to go to the Yankees game with me that night-that way I wasn't taking the subway alone. I was okay during the day, but alone in NYC at night is way out of my comfort zone (to be fair, being out alone at night ANYWHERE is out of my comfort zone these days). Ryan also isn't the biggest baseball fan (meaning not at all), but he was a trooper and sat through the whole game. And I think he even enjoyed it, but he probably wouldn't admit it. :)

I attended a game at OLD Yankee Stadium back in 2007. I thought the new stadium was cool, and the concourses were nice and wide- it just doesn't have the history that the old one had. BUT it was still a fun stadium to visit. The fans we sat by were all nice, we had no issues. I'm not a foodie, so when I go to baseball games, I stick to the baseball favorites- like hot dogs or nachos. Yes, I'm boring like that, sorry. Lol. I did like that on each level they had a map of what food was available on that level and where it was located. They also had where amenities like ATMs or restrooms were located as well.  That way you didn't have to walk around aimlessly. That's smart- I think all ballparks/stadiums need to have that available.

Outside old Yankee Stadium in 2007
On Wednesday, John took the day off work to hang out with me (I promised him no more trips to New Jersey). We decided last minute that I needed to see a Broadway show while I was in town. I saw one in 2007 when I visited and didn't think I could squeeze one in (I also didn't think I could afford a ticket). We went down to Broadway early to get rush tickets (which are last minute seats to performances, they cost $45 and are normally VERY good seats). John had seen The Play That Goes Wrong and said I would love it (we were both in theater in high school), so we went and got in line for rush tickets for it. There was only one person in front of us when we got there so we knew our chances of obtaining good seats were very good. We ended up with tickets on the second row- those normally cost $125 a piece.

Times Square 2007 vs 2018
NYC street art
Our next stop was at One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial. I had decided to skip the 9/11 Museum this trip (I will definitely check it out next time I go). The line just to get tickets for the museum was a four hour wait (word of advice- get your tickets in advance online if you want to go). We didn't go up One World Trade Center, but I did pay my respects at the memorial. During my last visit to NY, that area was fenced off and still being called Ground Zero. 

Across the street is St. Paul's Chapel- which is the oldest public building in continuous use. In 1789 George Washington prayed at the chapel after his inauguration as the first president of the United States. The days and weeks following 9/11, the chapel was used by Ground Zero rescue workers and volunteers as a place to rest.

My history tour continued as we went to visit the birthplace of Teddy Roosevelt. For newcomers, I try and see anything related to a president (childhood home, presidential library, etc). It's so interesting to see this old house in between all these skyscrapers, but after all, it was there first. I highly recommend this tour if you are in New York and have time to go by. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and I learned a lot.

After a pizza lunch (told you I ate my share of New York pizza), we went back to the apartment to rest and get ready for the Broadway show. Now, I didn't pack like I was going to see a Broadway show, so I didn't have much to work with outfit wise. I did the best I could. Lol.

The Play That Goes Wrong was FANTASTIC. I highly recommend seeing it if you ever get a chance. This past summer I saw a traveling production of it here in Dallas and it was just as amazing. Hands down one of the best plays I've ever seen.

In true Rachel fashion, I waited at the stage door for autographs and photos
Thursday was my last FULL day in NYC (stay with me, you are almost to the end of this recap). One of my dear high school friends lives in New York and works at the Tenement Museum in lower east side Manhattan. Before I knew he worked there, it was actually on my list of places to visit, so it was perfect. I hadn't seen him in several years. I highly recommend visiting the Tenement Museum if you are ever in NYC. They have several different tours to choose from, sadly I only had time for one (and of course I picked the one my friend Kirk was giving). :) You can't take photos inside so I only have outside shots.

My cousin Richard also lives in New York (yes, it's good to visit cities where you know people), so I went from lower east Manhattan to Brooklyn to have lunch with him. It was a cute little place called Delaware and Hudson. The food was very good. I hadn't seen my cousin in a while, so it was good to catch up. I'm sad we didn't have more time together but I'm glad we were able to work in lunch while I was there.

After lunch I had just enough time to head back to the apartment to start packing. My flight was going to leave VERY early the next morning and I knew I was going to be out late with Eric at the Mets game and would be too tired to pack afterward. Once I was all packed, I hopped on the subway (I was becoming a pro at riding the subway at this point) and met Eric at his office and then we were off to Queens to Citi Field to see a Mets game. I was glad it worked out that both the Yankees and Mets were home while I was in town. I never made it to Shea Stadium, so this was my first time seeing the Mets. And they were playing the Braves (my favorite National League team). I was worried that a potential storm was going to delay or postpone the game. There were storms in the forecast every day of my trip and the most I saw were scattered showers, and none that lasted very long or were that strong. The clouds looked threatening at the beginning of the game, but the most we saw were very few sprinkles.

This was my 7th ballpark to see in 2018. I loved the dog, he was so sweet. And yes I tipped him. I'm not sure where his owner was at, I assume somewhere close, keeping an eye on him. The home run apple at the top is the one that was in Shea Stadium
Citi Field was great. I loved the layout, the concourse area, and the fans were super nice. So when you hear that New York has horrible fans, please know that some of their fans are very nice!

We had AMAZING seats (shout out to Eric for finding them). We were in the section where a server waits on you, so you don't have to get up during the game. **PINKIES OUT** Although I did go get my own ice cream because I wanted the Home Run Apple souvenir cup (and that was in a different area). I was afraid I was going to overpay for ice cream, but they were not shy in the amount of ice cream they gave you. Holy cow. It was worth every penny.

Our love of baseball is how we became friends, so it was so great to actually see a game with Eric!
After the game, we took the subway back to Eric's, and I got an Uber to go back to Harlem. My New York trip was coming to an end. My sweet friends knew I would be exhausted when I got back to their apartment, so they had my bed on the couch all ready for me. And they even had Netflix playing The Dick Van Dyke Show when I got in. Top notch service. They were amazing hosts, so thankful they let me take over their living room for five days. :) I got just over three hours of sleep before my alarm went off. I had scheduled a car to pick me up to take me to the airport (so I didn't have to risk finding an Uber at like 4am). It was an exhausting week, but was so much fun!!

So, okay, that was my week in New York (yes, last year). Again, sorry for the delay. If you stuck out until the end of this post, God bless you. That was a lot of information and photos. But I had so much fun so I didn't want to leave anything out. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. I wish I could get paid to travel for a living. Lol.

One of these days I'll wrap up the last trip I took in 2018. And then my 2019 trip. And then you will be caught up. I hope everyone is doing well!!