Thursday, December 29, 2011

I left my Heart in NYC ...

I left my Heart in NYC …

I think that everyone that grows up in the country has dreams of the big city at times, I for one have always felt drawn to the city – Don’t get me wrong – I love love love my country life and don’t think I could ever leave it to live in the city – but there is something inside me that LOVES the city – I love the buildings, the urban living, concrete jungles. I love the hustle and bustle and my most favorite thing of all is the night skylines. I have always dreamt of going to NYC, and a few weeks ago I got my wish. I had worked very hard for months and months on my jewelry line, put in countless hours. So I decided I needed a break – I needed to break away from home and enjoy some of the fruits of my labor. Frankie and I booked a trip to NYC. I had never been more excited to get out of town in my life, well this was only my 2nd time on a plane – BOTH times within this year and THIS time – my honey was traveling with me. Our adventure started early AM on Dec 9th, we had dropped the Twins off at Granny Nell’s in the Roan, tucked them in and headed for Charlotte International Airport around Midnight, we wanted to get to Charlotte to sleep for a few hours before our 6:10am flight. We arrived in Charlotte around 2:30am and after 2 full circles around the airport we found the daily / short term lot and settled down for a nap. Frankie says I was snoring, and he didn’t sleep LOL but I don’t know about that really. We got checked in then was informed the plane had to be de-iced, then the luggage was delayed being loaded, then the little tram that pushed us out of the loading area broke down. Finally we took off a little later than planned but my face was glued to the window watching Sunrise over NC … while Frankie napped. We landed about 8:10am at JFK International Airport – seeing a glimpse of the NYC skyline as we made the decent got me all giddy with excitement! We picked up our baggage – and headed to ground transportation to set up our shuttle for transport to the hotel. The driver arrived and advised me to sit up front in the van for more leg room – LOL – so I jumped in the front seat – not realizing that I was about to take the most terrifying ride of my life. Remember this was my 1st trip to the city – and I have never ridden in a taxi. Or anything similar on a time schedule in a big city… Once we crossed the Queens bridge and headed into Manhattan it was GAME ON – that driver was beeping , swerving , making his way thru the crowded steets any way that he could – I nearly screamed out loud on several occasions – hahaha – we almost ran over people, taxis, curbs, hot dog carts and everything in between. I was never so glad to get to the Hotel Pennsylvania – and we were next to last stop…we were too early to check in but our hotel had luggage service – so for $8 we dropped our belongings and headed out to explore the city.

Our 1st stop was Penn Station Subway – where we purchased our $29 Metro Cards that gave us UNLIMITED rides on the Subway for 7 days – LOL even though we were only there for 3 days it was the way to go – I mean 5 million peeps travel these lines – they can’t be wrong. We had a 2pm timed entry to the 9/11 Memorial so we headed on down to Ground Zero, we were way early – as it was about 11:30am when we stepped out of the Subway terminal across from the memorial. We had time to kill – we headed down to the Financial District on foot to see Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. We headed down to Battery Park, saw the Sphere from the World Trade Center and the Lady in the harbor. I guess from seeing the Statue of Liberty on TV and such, I thought she would be much closer in the Harbor than she was. I expected her to be RIGHT THERE – haha, Boy was I mistaken. After walking around the park we headed back up to Ground Zero. It was finally time to go in. The security at the 9/11 Memorial is just as tight as airport security. We had to show our ticket at least 10 times, then once inside there were tons of secret service types of security. I was prepared to cry, but surprisingly it was so peaceful and the calming sound of the waterfall, cascade pools was amazing. It was a beautiful tribute to those who perished there over 10 years ago. The pools were in the exact footprints of the buildings and were huge.

There was still plenty of work going on around them – but the memorial area was at peace. The 1st thing that caught my eye was a single, small American Flag placed inside one of the engraved names. Obviously a loved one had recently been there to pay their respects. I saw countless names on the markers – and the ones that seemed to touch my heart were the ones that included “and Unborn Child” at the end of them. There were so so many. We spent at least an hour or so – walking around the North and South Tower pools – reading names and remembering everything that Sept. 11th was and I was taken back on several occasions as I looked up at the surrounding buildings – and I wondered what chaos and terror had filled those very streets that fateful day. And what heroes and citizens, adults and children had lost their lives. And how 10 years later we are still trying to repair the damage and loss of that day. As I glanced up at the Freedom Tower – under construction beside of Ground Zero – I look forward to seeing it proudly stand to honor those that were lost and give hope to the future as the Sphere stands in battery park a few blocks away – to symbolize that we may be battered but the spirit of America cannot be broken completely. We went into the 9/11 museum and gift shop [ where a video was playing…. That is when my tears fell – hearing the stories of the people – who are still missing a loved one, a husband, a father, a son, a mother, a daughter, etc. … that was heart wrenching to me. But I was so so glad that I came here. This is a place that 10 years ago I wanted to be helping, I wanted to volunteer – and finally I was getting to see it with my own eyes and feel it in my heart and soul.

After that – we caught the Subway back to Manhattan and checked into our hotel … I had to laugh as most of the hotel reviews were not to good, but they all said the same thing – the place was not the most fancy place to stay but for the money – it was right in the heart of Manhattan and all of the action. One review mentioned the Shining – and upon entry of our room – I was laughing out loud at that comparison – and it was DEAD ON! LOL! The room was tiny – and I expected that – but everything was straight up out of 1970 or earlier! We dropped the baggage in the room and we were off again! This time – it was getting dark so we headed 8 blocks up to Times Square and I was in HEAVEN. Times Square is everything I thought it would be and more … everything is SCREAMING for attention.

It was dark but looked like bright midday sun from all of the LED screens / banners / ads, etc. There was so many people and the city was hoppin! We went into McDonald’s and grabbed a few drinks and large fries – which were to my surprise priced the same as home! We went out to what I will just call the red steps of Times Square and plopped down and ate our fries and people watched for a good hour to hour and a half. I saw the infamous Naked Cowboy but was not in a good spot to get a pic. There were costumed Asians dressed as Elmo, Buzz and Woody, Mickey, Pooh, etc – all wanting to get pics with tourists for tips – I did not give in to these! LOL! From Times Square we headed up to Radio City Music Hall - the home of the Rockettes - all decked out for Christmas - OF COURSE! 

 – then on to Rockefeller Center – which was phenomenal – it was also everything I dreamt it to be and more! The Rock tree was breathtaking.

And I told Frankie it was the only tree in the world that could make a mix of white and colored lights look good – I bet there was millions and millions of lights on it. The Rock Center was the most populated area I had seen. PURE MADNESS! The most animated Salvation Army bell ringers I have ever seen were working the corner there – dancing and singing. I loved it! Did I mention that Rock tree … oh yes I did but it is worth repeating how really magical it really was. As we were standing in the madness taking photos of the amazing tree of Rockefeller Center – behind us was a ticking clock on the side of the Saks Fifth Ave store – and much to our amazement – this happened when the timer ran out - Watch ...
very very AWESOME! Once we watched that we headed to the Rock Center building – up up up to the 69th floor which is also known as the TOP OF THE ROCK. Talk about an amazing and breathtaking view of the city. WOW! Seeing the city from this perspective is a MUST. I was torn between the top of the Rock and the Empire State. The Empire State of course gets you higher. But I was given a New Yorker’s advice, my good friend Richard – that the Top of the Rock was his preference as it includes the Empire State in the skyline … so I opted for it… THIS TIME, Next trip I will venture to the top of the Empire State Building. As I stepped out onto the terrace at the top of the Rock – my mouth dropped open to my feet – GA GA GORGEOUS view – breathtaking.

We spent awhile looking at all of the different angles, picking out landmarks and buildings from our guide. I took many shots OVER AND OVER – cause that is what I do. I catalog it at least 10 times … then take JUST ONE MORE to be sure! After awhile at the top, we made our way down down down to the busy streets below. Richard had informed me the a short walk towards Central Park was the most amazing Holiday window displays at Bergdorf Goodmans – and wow oh wow was he ever RIGHT! I have never seen such amazing window displays in my life. They were themed from Gold trimmed dresses – which included gold themed birds, peacocks, and such to and underwater – “Under the Sea” theme to Artic winter scene complete with a walrus and a white tiger.

Stunning. I felt like I needed to PAY out some Benjamins just to lay my little eyes on the windows – LOL! We were beat so we headed back to the Hotel Pennsylvania for the night – I am still amazed as I read all that I have typed here – at what all we accomplished on our FIRST day in NYC! Oh and I am not finished – we remembered on the way back to the hotel that our room smelled of cigarette smoke – and being that we do not smoke – that was AN issue – we went to the Walgreens in Times Square to the 3rd floor to find Febreeze hahaha – then back to the room and sprayed it down – and slept with our window open – hahahaha! I woke up about 5am FREEZING! Shut the window – cranked the heat and crawled back in bed for awhile.

Day 2 … I was super excited because this was the day I was going to meet my friend, Richard Nesbit. A New Yorker of 30+ years. A person that I have grown to call a CLOSE FRIEND – I met …. ONLINE – over 5 years ago. We met on the photo sharing site Flickr – and he has taken me MANY MANY times on a stroll through New York City streets, Central Park, and other areas via his amazing PHOTOGRAPHY. Richard still shoots in film and is one of the most talented photographers I know. He has a great gift of capturing REAL LIFE, REAL PEOPLE and letting the world see NYC thru his eyes. Here is a link to Richard's Flickr - when you have time - take a looksie - and you too will see what I am talking about ----> Richard's Flickr

Richard is one of New York’s Finest, a true gem. He had agreed to take time out of his day off to meet Frankie and I for brunch, and show us some parts of the city and park that we may miss out on otherwise. He came by subway to the hotel and met us in the lobby. Where I greeted him with a huge hug, well 2 hugs. As my other internet friend Judy – (another amazing photog) had advised me to give Rich a hug from her as well! The three of us started chatting like we were old pals, and well we are old pals – but like we’d known each other for a lifetime. We followed Rich back to the subway and caught a ride to the Upper West Side. He showed us his side of the city, I was amazed at the difference from Manhattan to here. This was a living, breathing neighborhood. Very quiet, and at ease. We passed by his block and he pointed out the building that he calls home, we passed a friend of his from church and exchanged friendly hellos, we saw Quest, the restaurant that he makes his living at … then we went to an amazing little café called – “Good Enough to Eat” – and Boy oh Boy was it! I had the GETE signature pancakes, which were served with a Strawberry whipped butter that would MELT IN YOUR MOUTH … oh my GAWD – divine … It was so cute and somewhat country décor – it felt like HOME. It was well worth the 20 or so minute wait – lined up out the door when we arrived. I WILL be back to eat here again! After brunch we headed to Central Park. Oh how excited I was. Richard and I had discussed before how it came to his attention that Central Park was designed by the same guy who designed the gardens at Biltmore Estate, and if you know me at all – Biltmore is my 2nd home. Sure enough I was amazed at some of the similarities there. We saw some amazing points of interest in Central Park, I saw A LOT of familiar spots that I have seen on TV and in the movies. We visited Strawberry Fields, the memorial for John Lennon and the apartment where he was fatally shot. We saw some great, very humorous performers in the park. They really know how to put on a show for the tourists. We only covered a small portion of Central Park – and it was beautiful. I can only imagine it’s beauty in the fall … and other seasons. Oh what a beautiful oasis in the middle of this gigantic city. There are places in that park that you would never guess that you were in a city, well until your eyes glace up and see the towering blocks and glass peering in above the treetops.

Again I will say it – I am IN LOVE WITH THIS CITY! We saw the Wollman Ice Skating Rink – which is a pretty happing spot to skate with the city skyline as the backdrop. The Carriages were lined up around the park, oh how I wanted to hop in – then there were a ton of protesters – protesting the use of horses for carriage rides – HELLO – these are WORK HORSES – they are treated like kings and queens – they LIVE to work and pull buggies – UGH – there is always animal rights people trying to rain on people’s parade. I mean I believe in good treatment for animals and all – but YES I do take my kids to the circus – and YES I will ride on a carriage drawn by horses… as will millions of other people. SIGH. After several hours in Central Park we headed to Columbus Circle and the Time Warner Center, where we said our goodbyes to Richard and thanked him for our highlighted tour thru Central Park. I have to express again how awesome of a person Richard is. We had some great conversation and felt like we came knowing him as a friend online but left knowing him like he was part of our extended family! THANKS RICHARD for being an amazing and talented person – and ohhhh how I loved that real “click” of the shutter of that FILM camera … ahhh – that is music to my ears my friend! After Richard departed we walked through a little Holiday Market craft show – where I picked up the cutest knitted hat and matching arm warmers – with little crocheted flowers on them … then we headed to Little Italy for some of the most talked about Pizza in my books and apps anyway – Lombardi’s – which is dubbed as America’s 1st Pizzeria – opened in 1905 … we got there well BEFORE dinner – at about 4pm. But there was already about an hour wait … so … we WAITED … Frankie and I are pizza-holics … so we were not going to pass up the 1st pizzeria in the US by NO MEANS were we passing it up. LOL! It was sooooooo delish! Oh my heavens – the pepperonis were like those little round ones I remember on pizzas back in the day from somewhere – they curled up around the edges and were crispy and greasy – YUMMO!!!!! Oh I savored every bite of that pizza – it was REAL Italian and the sauce was MAGNIFIC-O! After that we had decided to take the subway to Brooklyn to Brooklyn Heights Park to see the infamous New York skyline at night with the Brooklyn Bridge. This was a TRIP! We got on the Subway in Little Italy and got off in Brooklyn at some SCARY looking station … it was desolate with a few creepy looking peeps hanging out by the trains. We had to walk about a mile from the station to the park, it was late, well not REAL LATE – but dark. The streets here were not packed like Manhattan – they were shady and creepy and desolate. I kept looking behind us to see if we were being followed – looking like the gullible Southern tourists that we were. We were using my iPhone to navigate – you see. I downloaded several AWESOME paid apps that told us what subway line to take, they even worked underground when there was no service, they navigated us down streets, turn by turn… Well once we reached Brooklyn Heights and I got my Skyline pics we were about ready to head back - I have to add the Skyline from this area at night is SUPER AWESOME and worth every bit of scaryness that I thought about the whole way there and back! LOL!

From Brooklyn Heights - The Statue of Liberty stands proudly out in the harbor with her beacon of light - gorgeous!

… however this area was a dead zone at this time – there were a few stragglers passing thru – a few cameras popping pics, but by a few I mean – one or two … seriously. So I reached for my phone to take a panoramic shot of the night skyline – and ZAP … my phone was DEAD!!!!! UGH! Of ALL TIMES FOR MY PHONE TO DIE – we were in Brooklyn – a mile from the Subway station – in a shady part of town!!!! Thank GOD for Frankie’s sense of direction and memory – he was able to get us back to the Subway and to Manhattan safely and quickly – LOL – I was ready to Hail a cab and pay god knows how much to haul us back to civilization with my Manhattan peeps. Hahaha – Once back to Manhattan we headed down the theater district past Letterman’s marquee, which I had to pause to take a pic for my granny – she is such the Letterman fan!, around the corner to snag a photo of the Hello Deli! Which is often a regular on the Late Show – then headed to my fav spot in town to chill out – the RED STEPS of Times Square! I swear this is the ONLY place to sit down in the city – well, not really but it sure seems like it. I just know that when I am tired – I can always find a spot to sit down in Times Square. And there is PLENTY to look at and lots of people watching to be done there! We sat for a spell and decided to check out the Piano Bar, Richard referred us to called – “Don’t Tell Momma” – oh my gosh – this was LITERALLY one of the highlights of the trip for me and Frankie. THIS IS THE HAPPENING SPOT – there were any locals inside as well as people like us – just along for the ride. We sank into some stools at the bar – and I told Frankie that we were going to run up a $100+ tab or BUST! And by GAWD – WE DID … I think after the tip it was closer to $150, hahahahaha – I am no cheap drunk let me tell ya! This place was phenomenal – the staff, bartenders, waitresses, and all sang along with the piano players – there was a group celebrating a birthday and a happy little gay guy got up and had the place screaming with laughter and singing along. It was the most fun I tnink I have ever had in a bar! They played all of the Billy Joel and Elton John hits – they put their own twist on some well know songs – that had me doubled over and in tears from laughing so hard. I was the bar’s best customer I am sure of it! LOL – Our bartender would just look at me and I would throw my finger up in a circular motion and he knew that meant – ANOTHER ROUND for me and Frankie! LOL! It was a hoot! We made lots of new friends at Momma’s and I will def. be back there again next trip! About 2:30 or so – we made our way or shall I say – I stumbled the way back to the Hotel and crashed … oh I slept VERY well that night.

Day 3 – I woke up so sad to know that this was my last day and how FAST the time had gone by – but we had a full day ahead of us – as our flight was not to leave JFK til 9:50pm … but our transportation was picking us up at 6:30pm … We headed down to check out – and dropped the $8 luggage fee like we did at check in – and headed for the infamous Chinatown … I had no intentions of buying purses from a Chinatown basement – but as soon as I was on Canal St and in the midst of the Asian madness – I bought purses … LOL – what and experience that was. I had heard from my family and friends about the secret basements – and uhaul vans around Chinatown – the bargain basement of the black market … and on every corner and in between was someone saying … “You want Rolex, Tiffany, Prada, Gucci…..” I stepped into a store which reminded me of the inside of a “Wings” at Myrtle Beach. T-Shirts, Purses, all over the walls – as I glanced around the store – the lady whispered to me “Prada, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana?” with a question in her voice – I said SUUUURE …. So that was it – we were on our first top secret mission to the bargain basement – she quickly motioned to the man at the front of the store who then gave a glance down the street then a nod, suddenly a secret door popped open that was covered in other handbags and shirts – like a secret passage – she hurried us inside and down some narrow steps, LOL – Frankie and I ended up in this dark basement and led to a room full of knock off handbags – LOL! I was like – WOW! So I looked around – waiting for any moment to be hurried thru a back door to an alley to make an escape from the police or something- haha .. we looked and a few more tourists joined us. I might have made out with a few goodies – as we headed back up the stairs, she hushed us to be quiet … she got on her walkie talkie and I was at the top – the door was locked … suddenly it popped open – we rushed out – to see several others waiting to go in – LOL! What an experience! Fun times. We headed down the street to find Mc D’s so I could have something to drink – I was parched after that adventure! Outside the Mc D’s (which oddly took EBT cards – I took a pic of the sign – LOL!) there was a huge crate full of sweaters – with a sign that boasted “Sweaters $2 each” –

and several men shouting about this amazingly good deal. So what did I do – DUG THRU THE SWEATERS of course! LOL! I ended up purchasing 2 which looked like my granny, she loved her sweaters! We then headed back to Manhattan as there was a few more stops I had to get in. By this time the foot traveling of NYC was taking it’s toll on me and my feet … I had never hurt so bad in my life – I tried to suck it up but it was overwhelming. We made it back to Manhattan and traveled to the granddaddy terminal of them all Grand Central Station- Oh my – it was gorgeous. There was another Holiday Bazaar of sorts going on – so I made a few purchases and we headed headed back out to the streets. I could not go on any longer – my feet were in so much pain – I was brought to tears – I had held it in as long as I possibly could. We found a spot to sit in Bryant Park. Frankie rubbed my aching feet as tears streamed down my cheeks – I was more upset with the fact that I was whining and crying than anything – I felt like I was ruining our last few hours in the city – Frankie, who is always upbeat and positive assured me that I was not – and just told me it would be ok - we were not in a hurry – as he always says to me … He is a God send – sent straight to me from Heaven – I could not ask for a better person to spend my life with. He never complains, he always keeps a positive thought and attitude, he never rushes me … and no matter what he can make me smile when I am crying … so after about a 30 min foot rub – right out in public at Bryant park – I was relaxed and refreshed, ready to suck it up and get to it! We headed down to Macy’s – traveled up the old wooden escalators to the8th floor to Santa Land – and peeked thru the tiny window and who I know was THE REAL MR CLAUS!!!! I mean it was HIM – he had that twinkle in his eye! We received a little Macy’s Santa Land Button for our visit and I got 2 extra so we had 4 – one for each of the boys … then we headed back to Times Square to THE MACK DADDY TOYS R US … 4 stories tall – complete with a Ferris Wheel and Life Size Barbie house inside … oh my gosh – it was KID HEAVEN … as soon as we got inside I spotted the most cool talked about toy of the season … the Air Hoggz Air Swimmer Shark – in action – I was amazed at it’s “swimming” ability and realism – I stared for a good 10 minutes … haha – I wanted one of those – BAD … LOL – as did every other parent and kid watching …. We bought a few things - we were amazed at the giant Lego sculptures of the Empire State and Statue of Liberty that took umpteen hours to complete ... we then headed back to the Hotel area – I said my farewells to Times Square – and we hit up a pizza joint on the way back – we ate CHEAP in NYC – and I am proud to say that … as when I go on a trip – I like to eat cheap – I like to spend my money on things that matter like “I HEART NY” T-shirts, and whatnots , LOL! I spend my money on FUN! After eating we had about 30 min before our transportation was to arrive, so we picked up our luggage – and waited – around 6:45pm we said farewell to Manhattan and headed to JFK – again - this was a wild and crazy ride thru the streets – nearly hitting people and I thought we were going to die. There was an older Italian lady who spoke very little English and her daughter riding to the airport with us – a time or two the older lady said very loudly “Mama Mia” and I would bust out laughing – as did she, Frankie and her daughter … we thought we were going to see Jesus before we made it to the airport. Once at the airport – we checked in and waited for awhile – boarded the Jet Blue aircraft and made our way back to Charlotte. It was a wonderful and eventful journey that I will not soon forget. I do know that I would make NYC my second home if I had the $$ - ahhhh maybe one day – when Artistic Icing hits the big time – I can have my apartment overlooking the Hudson. A girl can dream right? Yes … but this is the 1st of many more trips to the Big Apple – I hope to take Gabe sometime as I know that he would love it – for a country boy – he has that same thirst for the big city that his momma does. And yes I will be back NY – as I stated in the beginning of this story – I left my heart there.