Monday, June 9, 2014

Fulfilling a dream in the city that never sleeps...

Twenty years ago, these 15-year-olds made a pact that one day, when they were older, they would go to New York City together.

It was Verlinda's dream (since 3 years old) to see the Statue of Liberty in person.

Last weekend, we made that dream come true...

After a Thursday night, red-eye flight, Verlinda and I arrived in NYC at 5:30am. After a death-defying drive to the hotel on a Super Shuttle, we arrived at the Upper West Side near Central Park, and decided to start our adventure right away.

We received a quick lesson from a local (and AWESOME individual) on how to navigate the map & the NYC Subway system, we were confident and on our way to Ground Zero to pay our respects and take a moment of reflection on the events of 9/11.

The 9/11 Memorial Fountains and grounds were very serene in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. It was so tastefully created, but still very haunting to imagine being there in that spot on 9/11/01. It is hard to describe all the emotions that were running through me while we were there.

After collecting ourselves, we started heading towards the Statue of Liberty!

The walkway to Battery Park is absolutely beautiful - full of tall trees, lush greenery, and lots of squirrels!

Verlinda was so excited, she had me take a million pictures. =)
It's almost impossible to get a bad picture of Lady Liberty, so here are some of my favorites:

We did it! One thing off her bucket list!

On our way back to the hotel to crash for a while, we encountered this bit of entertainment in Battery Park. Super funny and talented street performers from the Bronx.

One glorious 4-hour nap later, we headed to Bleeker Street for some UH-MAZZZZZING pizza from John's Pizzeria.

Just in case you were wondering, yes, we ate the whole dang thing!

We got some famous cannoli from Pasticceria Rocco (delicious!) and headed to the Empire State Building to check out the famous view. It was really cold and windy 80+ floors high!

Day 2 consisted of a visit to the Museum of Modern Art to visit many of my favorite artists.

Seeing Van Gogh's Starry Night in person gave me the chills, truly. It is such an iconic and beautiful piece of work. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo

Pablo Picasso

Claude Monet

Henry Matisse

Jackson Pollock

Andy Warhol

And my personal favorite, Vincent Van Gogh

Just when I thought my day couldn't get any better, we headed to the Gershwin Theatre to see WICKED. It was the most spectacular thing I have EVER seen in my life. Seriously. It was so flippin' awesome that I literally had goosebumps the entire time. It was really cool to see Verlinda's reaction to this show, because I felt it gave her a truly authentic Broadway experience.

And it was so amazing to finally see all the songs I love performed live, and within the super-cool context of the story.

One (really cold, and really long) City Bus Tour later, and after some fantastic Thai food to warm us up, we headed to the West Village to a little (literally) hole in the ground club, that lived up to it's name - Smalls Jazz Club. We got there just in time for their 3rd set (at midnight!) This was another highlight of the trip for me, for sure.

Day 3: Sunday started in the most wonderful way - a visit to Strawberry Fields to see the IMAGINE mosaic and the moment was topped off with some live acoustic Beatles music.

Verlinda and I both grew up listening to the Beatles, so this was extra special for us. We could have sat there longer, but we had a lot to accomplish in a day.

We explored Central Park, and all the entertainment it had to offer on our way to the Met.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is ENORMOUS. It would take 3 whole days to go through and see everything it has to offer. So once again, we chose just a couple exhibits that appealed to us most - the Fashion exhibit, art/relics of Africa and the Americas, and a few more contemporary artists. We couldn't take pictures of the Fashion Exhibit, but it was superb. Beautiful couture creations of the 40's, 50's and 60's were featured and were just beautiful and unique. It's kind of hard to picture anyone wearing the pieces we saw in Arizona, but in New York, yes, definitely!

This was my favorite piece my Georgia O'Keefe that was on display. Beautiful colors and intensity.

The true highlight of my Sunday was the most surprising moment of the trip for me. Verlinda really wanted to see "Disney's NEWSIES" on Broadway.

I am always game for a Broadway show, so I was ready to be entertained again. I had NO IDEA just how GOOD and ENERGIZED I was going to feel while watching it. The star of the show was Corey Cott as Jack Kelly. He was not the original lead when the show opened 2 years ago on Broadway (that was Jeremy Jordan), but let me tell you - this guy HAS IT ALL (and I think his performance was even better than the original). His stage presence is immediately captivating, and his vocal ability is fantastic, which makes him even better looking than he already is. To think he is only 2 years out of college is truly incredible, and I expect to see big things come of him on Broadway.

Here are some highlights of Corey and the cast of Newsies.

The dancing in this show was athletic, and strong, and non-stop. It was so cool to see several former "So You Think You Can Dance" contestants in this show, with pretty big parts. Their talent has definitely not been lost after their time on that TV show was over.

After a much needed dinner in Times Square, we decided to do a little shopping, and make our way to Rockafeller Center. By this point in our trip, we were both EXHAUSTED, but still had a few things we wanted to see.

We stopped at the Magnolia Bakery to get some treats and headed to the top of Rockafeller Center (which is a really cool building) to check out the view from there. The Empire State Building was lit up in red, white, and blue. We learned (thanks to Google), that the Empire State is lit in different colors on certain days to represent different things. Check it out here.

Day 4: Homeward Bound
We had to get in 2 last things before heading to the airport. Stop #1 was for some authentic New York Bagels. I promised my parents I would bring them some as a souvenir.

So we enjoyed some (huge, delicious, fabulous) bagels from 72nd Street Bagel on the Upper West Side, and then headed to (stop #2) FAO Schwarz to be big kids for an hour.

Some highlights:

As you can see, Verlinda and I had a BLAST. We packed as much as we could into a 3.5 day trip, because we both wanted to have the ultimate New York City experience. We both crossed things of our dreams lists, and it was truly worth all the saving, and the long wait, to make it happen.We are so grateful to our husbands for holding down the fort and taking care of our kids so we could enjoy our trip thoroughly, knowing everything was taken care of at home.

Now that I have experienced the city as an adult, and have experienced several different things (but really just a sliver when you realize just how much NYC has to offer), I know what I want to revisit next time, and what new things I would want to see when I can go back with Solon and the kids. Solon would absolutely LOVE the jazz, the pizza/food in general, and Central Park. He might even enjoy a Broadway show if I could find the right one for him. The kids would love Central Park, the subway, the energy of Times Square, the Broadway shows - they would love so much. I can't wait to go back someday when they are just a little older.

On a final note, I have to say that the New Yorkers we met throughout our trip were so awesome. From the first gentleman (Chuck) who educated us on the subway system and the hidden gems of the city, to the colorful personalities we encountered on the subway, to the gracious street musicians and performers - everyone was so unique and welcoming and were just very cool to the "tourists". They were proud to educate others about their city, and that helped enhance our trip and our total experience.

The isle of Manhattan is truly a gem. It's truly the city that never sleeps. And it is truly unforgettable.

Thanks for letting me share my trip with you!

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