New York City
When John told me our flight from Cancun to Barcelona was going to stop in Newark, NJ, I immediately thought that we should layover there for a few days and take the girls to NYC. New York City had been one of the original destinations on the BT, but as you’ve probably noticed, this trip has changed and evolved along the way, and NYC fell off the list. That is, until now!
As we started our final descent into Newark Airport, I caught a glimpse of the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty. It made my heart skip in a way that surprised me, and before I knew it, I was welling up (good tears)! For those of you who don’t know, I grew up just outside of New York City. I also went to graduate school in the city, got my first job out of college in NYC, and spent a few of those formative years after college, bouncing back and forth between Hoboken, NJ (where I was living at the time) and the Big Apple. New York City has a sweet spot in my heart and I was reminded of this as we began to land.
After living in Mexico for the past three months, we all found ourselves extremely excited to be back in the states for a variety of reasons. We were looking forward to a break from speaking Spanish and the ease of being in a city that we knew. John’s aunt has a time-share in the NYC so we made arrangements to stay there. The apartment could not have been better for us. It was spacious and in a great location on the upper west side, near Lincoln Center and Central Park. We arrived in the late evening, so once we unloaded our bags we went out for dinner. One of the things I love about big cities is that you can find just about any kind of food, at just about any time of day (or night), usually within a short walk or short Uber/taxi ride away. Our whole family loves Mediterranean/Greek food, so we found a place just around the corner from the apartment and sat down. We had such a great meal! With every bite we took, we looked at each other and smiled, and almost giggled as we commented on how good the food was! Our tastebuds were in heaven! It was so fun to be experiencing “new” flavors and not eating another Mexican meal.
The next morning we got up relatively early and took the subway to the east village where we met our friend Ashley. Ashley is a friend of ours from Durango, but before we left Mexico we found out she was going to be in NYC the same weekend we were. We couldn’t believe our luck and timing! We overlapped for half a day, so we took advantage of that time and made a plan to meet her for breakfast at Vaselka. Sitting with Ashley, while siping coffee and eating a meal, was great! It was so nice to see a familiar face and a dear friend. Our hearts were full and we were all a little giddy and happy from hanging out with her. We spent our time catching up on Durango “news”, sharing stories, talking about traveling, and discussing our plans for returning home to Durango in July. Seeing Ash reminded me of how much I missed being with girlfriends. We've met a lot of wonderful people on our journey, but nothing compares to longterm friendships, full of history and experience. We all found ourselves fast-forwarding in our minds to arriving home and being with the familiar faces of our friends and family in Durango.
After we left Ashely we took a taxi to the 911 Memorial where we spent a couple of hours walking through both the historical and memorial exhibitions. As you can imagine, our visit there was informative, but heavy. When we were finished we needed fresh air, and decided it would be good to walk to Chelsea Market for lunch. Chelsea Market is in the heart of the historic Meatpacking District and is a place where many locals and tourists go to shop, eat, and hang out. Filled with a variety of shops, restaurants, and markets spread over an entire city block, Chelsea Market is a “must” for any food lover or shopper and we enjoyed another non-Mexican meal!!!
After lunch we walked on the High Line, from Chelsea Market to Times Square. The air was cool, crisp and refreshing, and we could feel the weather changing (a winter storm was forecasted to roll in the following day). When we reached Times Square we popped into an Old Navy to buy a down jacket for John. Not anticipating traveling to a “cold” climate during the last part of our trip, John’s warmest layer was a button down long-sleeve shirt! Although he’s tough, his shirt would be no match for a winter storm. We found a jacket quite quickly and also grabbed four beanies on the way out!
That night we met my friend Liz for dinner. Liz and I were roommates when I lived in Hoboken, so I’ve known her for about 18 years. What I love about friends like Liz, is we can pick up where we left off as if no time has passed. Conversations flow easily when we talk and reminisce, and my heart always feels full and happy when I’m with her. Her husband Sam and another friend of ours, Rosemary, joined us for the evening and we spent our time together chatting, eating a great meal, and drinking delicious wine (something that we couldn't find in Mexico).
When we woke up the following morning, we were a bit disappointed when we noticed the city wasn’t covered in snow! Our trip, so far, had been essentially snow-less, so we had REALLY been looking forward to the anticipated snow storm. But when you’re given lemons, make lemonade, right! While John and I sipped coffee in the apartment that morning, the girls got to work cutting snowflakes out of paper and taping them to the walls! Voila! Instant “snow”!! The girls were happy!
The snowstorm did finally come and by the time we motivated out of the apartment, the snow had begun to accumulate on the ground. We took a subway to Battery Park where we then got on a ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty up close. By now the snow was really coming down, the clouds had rolled in, and it was bitterly cold. The view of Lady Liberty was no longer clear, and we realized it might have been better to visit her on another day! But we had started on our path, so we pressed on!! Visiting the Statue of Liberty was on Isla’s BT wish list and it has been a place she has wanted to visit since she was in first grade. It was really fun to see her excitement and watch her bright eyes light up as we got closer and closer to the statue. When we arrived at the island we stepped off the ferry and immediately felt cold! The joy we had felt earlier about the snowstorm had now turned sour! As we walked around the actual statue we were pelted with freezing rain and whipped by the cold wind! Our thin blood was no match for the storm, and with the Visitor Center under construction, there was no where to go to get out of the elements! We decided to do a “sprint” lap around Lady Liberty and planned to catch the very next ferry. Although our time on Liberty Island was brief, we loved getting to see the Statue of Liberty up close. We wished we could have stayed longer and hung out. We’ve decided, as a family, that we absolutely have to visit Lady Liberty once again, on a warm day, when we next find ourselves in NYC.
The natural route after visiting the Statue of Liberty is to take the ferry to Ellis Island, and we all sort of did this reluctantly. Our focus had been the Statue of Liberty because of Isla’s interest, and Ellis Island had sort of become an afterthought. When we arrived on Ellis Island we were thinking we wouldn’t stay long, but we ended up staying for several hours. We chose to do the self-guided audio tour and we could not have been happier with our choice. It was so informative and so interesting! We all walked away fascinated, intrigued, and amazed by the number of people that have walked through the doorways, hallways, and rooms of the buildings. We left there with a true sense of what it must have felt like to have your hopes and dreams made true for “coming to America” (or completely crushed).
As the day drifted into evening we went back to the apartment to change and grab a quick bite to eat. No visit to NYC is compete (in my mind) without eating at least one slice of NYC style pizza, so we took the girls to a great pizza joint just around the corner from our apartment. From there we took an Uber to Times Square and took the girls to the Broadway production of The Lion King. It was awesome! We were all blown away by the performance and we talked about it for days. The girls couldn’t get over the costumes, the dancers, the music, the theatre, all of it! It was fun to watch them as they took in everything around them and I was happy they got to have yet another amazing new experience. It was a great way to end another fantastic day in NYC!
We took our time the following morning (which has become pretty normal for us) before leaving the apartment and hitting the streets. We started with a walk through Central Park, then strolled through Rockefeller Center and made stops at the LEGO store and FAO Schwartz. From there we went to the Top of the Rock where we enjoyed expansive views of the city. We took the girls to Grand Central Station, showed them where I used to work, walked through the NYC Public Library, and made a few other stops along the way. We spent the whole day walking and exploring in the sunshine and it felt fun to meander (sort of) aimlessly.
On our final evening we met up with a family I’ve known since I was a little. The Mena Family is essentially an extension of my own and I have many fond memories from growing up with Brad, Sarah, and Drew and spending time with their parents Dan and Betsy. I love getting together with the whole family, and with one of Sarah’s son’s turning one, it made it easy to make a plan and gather everyone together (with the exception of Brad, who lives in Germany). We had a great evening catching up, drinking delicious wine, and eating a home-cooked meal. The girls were ecstatic to be in a home, filled with toys and kid books, and getting to play with other kids while the adults stood around laughing and chatting. We left Sarah’s house completely fulfilled. It felt so warm, comforting, and familiar to be spending an evening with familiar faces and to be in their home. We’ve had many wonderful interactions with people on our trip, and we’ve connected with some truly wonderful people, but most of our encounters have been around a campfire, on the beach, in a restaurant, on a hike, in a campground, on the street, etc. There’s really nothing like being invited into someone’s home! Our hearts were full!
The following day we took our time in the apartment, drinking coffee and packing up our bags. We went out to lunch and took one last walk through Central Park before heading to the airport.
Our time in NYC was great! We loved being in a big city! We loved speaking English (although we spoke a lot of Spanish just out of habit). And, of course, we loved that we got to connect with friends. We flew to Barcelona with contented hearts ready for the next chapter of the BT - Europe!