After getting back to our hotel after midnight on Thanksgiving and a fitful night of sleep for Elena, hence also Jenny and me, we got off to a later start on Friday morning. We still managed to pack in an extremely full and tiring day. Here are my impressions.
Hotel hospitality: Because of our upgraded status, we had vouchers for free breakfast at the hotel. I stayed in our room with a sleeping Elena, while everyone else went down to breakfast. Nobody was around to take their vouchers, which they didn’t think was unusual. As it turned out, they had inadvertently gone to a banquet area set up for a marching band group. Later I went down with Elena and found the right place. I hope no poor band kid went hungry for lack of food.
The financial district: I liked Federal Hall, but a fussy baby prevented me from reading about everything that happened there. I also didn’t get to take a picture out front, mimicking the pose of the George Washington statue. I was the main person who wanted to go to Wall Street, but once we got there I realized that I really wanted to see what was going on inside the NYSE and the Federal Reserve bank, not just look at their imposing exteriors.
The UN building: Jenny’s best information said the UN building would be closed on Thanksgiving. It said nothing about the day after, so she thought it would be open. While Elena and I took a break in my parents’ nearby hotel room, Jenny took her family on the long walk to the UN. They were disappointed to find it completely closed–even the flagpoles were bare. It wasn’t a total loss, though, because they had the experience of eating lunch at an authentic New York hot dog cart.
Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse: On the map it looked like just a couple of short blocks from the subway stop to the base of the George Washington bridge, home of the famous Little Red Lighthouse. In real life, we found a winding pathway down a steep hill. There weren’t any signs pointing the way, but at two key moments we found people to ask for directions. It was already cold and windy and got worse close to the water. Still, it was a beautiful little lighthouse, and very picturesque at the base of the gigantic bridge. Although it took a lot of time and energy and killed our desire to go ice skating, we all really enjoyed the Little Red Lighthouse. Now we just need to get a copy of the book for Elena.
Times Square: I used the last bit of my cell phone’s power to arrange a meeting with my family at the entrance to Toys-R-Us. Apparently, everyone else in the entire New York Metro area decided to meet at exactly the same place and time–it was an unbelievable crowd. The overwhelming mass of people provided a perfect foil for the surreal, garish displays lighting up the area from the walls of all the skyscrapers.
Inside Toys-R-Us: It seemed that everyone who had just been outside the iconic toy store was now inside with us; we should have played Where’s Waldo in there. At least I got to spend some time with my family. I felt sorry for the very pregnant woman, probably a local resident, who was trying to take advantage of a Black Friday deal on some needed baby gear. But she had to compete with tourists form all over the world for a spot in the register line.
Dinner in the city: Only half a block away from Times Square, it’s dark and calm, and there are even homeless people sleeping under the fire escapes. We stopped at the first reasonable-looking diner, right next to the Port Authority. Elena had finally reached her limit and I had to carry her the last ten minutes before we found it. The food was good and wasn’t very expensive. The highlight of dinner was a funny old Italian man working as waiter/busboy/maitre d’ who smiled at Elena.
Macy’s: Our last stop for the night, it was well worth the trip. The picture windows on the front side were bright and interesting, but we exited on the side of the building and chanced upon the windows with the story of Miracle on 34th Street. They were less crowded and more to our liking. On the inside, we were amazed that the store seemed to have no top floor–we kept going up and up and up. Up high there are old wooden escalators and squeaky wooden floors. We were so intrigued by the possibility of going higher and higher that we didn’t explore enough to find Santa. We bought one souvenir: a “Baby’s First Christmas 2009” ornament in the shape of a pair of shoes.
The long trip home: The people all around us on the crowded train back to New Jersey were very friendly, even when Elena finished her bottle and cried. We didn’t get much sleep that night, but we made it out of the hotel and to our flight without any trouble. I have one message for the couple sitting in front of us on the plane: you can put your seats back or you can glare at the baby behind you, but you shouldn’t do both. Jenny put in a heroic effort in keeping Elena from grabbing the lady’s hair. The second flight, from Dallas to Austin, was even shorter than usual, which was great for us.
Back in our apartment we said hello to Jewel, then finally crashed and took a long nap. I’d like to thank our families for all their help with Elena and all the fun times we had together. Although they’ll never read this blog, I also want to thank all the nice people who smiled at Elena. Watching the parade may have been a once in a lifetime experience, but who knows–maybe we’ll go back someday!