Sunday, December 18, 2011

And away we go! First stop. NYC!

I had come up with a grand plan for the day before I would leave for Morocco. I would try and go to bed at about 9pm and wake up at 3am. That way I would get at least 6 hours of sleep. But as usual, I was too excited to sleep. I kept waking up every hour or so. Not surprisingly, when the alarm went off at 3:15a, I was feeling tired. Instead of getting up, I cat napped till about 5:30a and then it was rush to get ready. For some reason, I always manage to find a bunch of little things to do in the last few minutes before I leave.
 
 "The Anxious Passenger"
SuperShuttle had called the day before and left a message telling me that the driver would be there to pick me up at 5:57a. I don’t know why they ever bother being so precise. But, lo and behold, the driver showed up at 6a. I was feeling good since my flight wasn’t leaving til 9:05a. I had told Soon that I would meet him at the airport at 7a. Luggage stowed in the back and me in the front passenger bench seat, we headed out of my neighborhood.


As soon as the driver turned in the opposite direction to the fastest way to get to the airport, I figured we were on our way to pick up another passenger. We made our way into NE DC and picked up our first passenger; an elderly lady who was already waiting but because she was elderly, took longer to get boarded. No rush. Still plenty of time. We continued to wind our way into the heart of DC.

The driver pulled into the campus of Catholic University to pick up the third passenger. This one was not so easy to find since campus buildings are so often difficult to identify unless you’re a student there. Our first tune into a parking lot turned out to be the wrong location so we double backed and the driver had finally found a spot that both he and the passenger knew the location of. We pulled over to the side of the street and we waited and we waited and we waited. After what seemed to be an interminably long amount of time spent waiting, the driver called the passenger who said she was in her room. The driver had suspected that she was still packing so he advised her to take a taxi. She somehow managed to convince him to wait and so he agreed to give her two more minutes. I begged him to go because I didn’t want to miss my flight but understandably he decided to give her one more try. By now, it was about 6:45a and with two more passengers to pick up, I knew I would miss my 7a meetup time with Soon so I texted him and told him it would be more like 7:15a before I would arrive at Reagan National. Wait and wait and finally the girl appeared and wheeled one suitcase down as if she had all the time in the world…..despite the fact that the driver had told her he had two other passengers already waiting for her. By the time she reached the van, I could tell the driver had really lost all his patience……especially after she told him that she had another bag that she had to bring down. Under threat that she would have to call a taxi, this time she hustled her ass back up to the front door of the dorm and hauled her ass and bag back to the van at lightning speed. When she got into the van, she apologized to both of us but she got no acknowledgement back. I was not in the mood to be kind as her “I so sorry ladies” came just seconds after I texted Soon to tell him that I wouldn’t be there til 7:30a and to go and check in ahead of me. Soon decided to wait which was really nice of him.

  "At the Airport "The next two passengers were picked up quickly and the driver wasted no time getting us to the airport. He pulled up curbside at Delta at 7:30a on the dot. I scurried off the van as quickly as I could, grabbed my bag and headed inside. Soon was standing right there inside the entrance and we proceeded to the Delta check-in counter.

Our ticket had said we needed to check-in to get our seating assignments and boarding passes but with the help of a very kind Delta agent, we were able to actually do self check-in. Now, I could breathe easily as I knew we had more than enough time to clear security and get to the departure lounge. We passed through security with ease and I was hungry…..stomach growling as I hadn’t eaten since lunch on Saturday. Not a whole lot of dining choices around Gate 20 so McDonald's it was. A sausage McMuffin and coffee for me and a sausage McGriddle breakfast and orange juice for Soon. Nothing like a greasy breakfast to hit the hung pangs with.


   "Plane, train and train "Our plane to JFK arrived and we took off on time. I slept pretty much the whole way there, waking up just a few minutes before we touched down. We arrived at Terminal 2 and from there, took the Air Train to Terminal 1 which is for international departures. We had a 7 hour layover and so we had planned to spend time in Manhattan. I wanted to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and Soon suggested that we also see the Christmas windows at Macys. Luckily for us, Terminal 1 also has a luggage storage facility so Soon and I went there and left my suitcase and two of Soon’s backpacks.



We back tracked to the AirTran Platform and got on the train headed for the Jamaica Station. There we bought a Metrocard for $7.25 each way that would cover our AirTrain ride to Jamaica Station plus the $2.25 it costs to ride the E line of the NYC subway system.

At the Jamaica station, we boarded the E Train bound for midtown Manhattan. It was a long but uneventful ride. Well, uneventful except for the fact that as I was sitting on the train, I realized I had lost my $14.50 Metro card. Bummer. Luckily for, I didn’t need to use my Metrocard to exit the station but would have to plunk down another $7.25 card to replace the one I had just lost. Bummer again.

  "Christmas in the city " We got off at the 5th Ave and 53rd Street stop and exited to the street level. It was a frigid day in Manhattan with temps somewhere in the high 20s. We were well prepared with our layers of warm clothing and in my case, a scarf to wrap to keep my neck warm. Manhattanites are truly a hardy breed because frigid temps or not, the streets were packed with people out and about. Once we got our bearings, we headed down 5th Ave. Along the way, we passed a building all decorated up to look like Christmas present and the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


The church was our marker to make a right turn and from the corner, we walked the short distance to Rockefeller Center. The place was absolutely crowded to the gills with people!! We snapped photos of the tree which doesn’t really look all that impressive in the day time. Soon says it’s a better sight at night and I can believe that.


We made our way to the skating rink and I was prepared to see skaters. Instead, we saw the Zamboni doing the needful. Disappointing as I had that image of skaters, twirling about, in my head and well, didn’t get to see them for real.

 
On our way out, we stopped to admire the angel decorations. Very pretty and festive.
 

  "To Broadway in the cold "We continued our way down 5th Ave, heading towards 34th and Broadway, the cold cutting through my layers of clothing. It was good thing I was building up body heat as a result of our brisk pace of walking. When we got to 42nd Street, we had to decide which way to turn to go towards Time Square. My instinct said to turn right but a passerby, whom we stopped to ask directions from, told us to go in the opposite direction. So, off we went and not half a block later, we realized she was sending us the wrong way and so we double backed. Grrrrr…..it was cold and I wasted half a block of body heat.








As we passed Bryant Park, we found the sun! Yay! Warm…..not by much but enough to actually make a difference!
 






  "Do I need some candy? " At the edge of Bryant Park stood Dylan's Candy Bar.  Not that I either wanted or needed candy but I had heard so much about this place that I had to go in and check it out.  The walls and floors were plain cement which was the perfect backdrop for bins and racks and shelves and tables overflowing with colorful candy of as many types as you can imagine.  I was drawn to the bins of gummy things.  I didn't buy any though.  Next time.










  "Where the ball drops " We soon found ourselves standing in Times Square. Been there…..done that so many times before. We did get to see the Crystal Ball and both Soon and I had the same impression. We thought it was much larger. Hmmmm….












  "Hot chocolate!! " Down Broadway we went and when Soon caught sight of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf shop, he had to go inside. I wasn’t about to object since I knew it would be warm inside. There, we ordered two Red Velvet Hot Chocolates and sat down to sip them. A chance to rest our feet and to slowly enjoy our drinks which we both agreed were very delicious. I could have easily had a second cup but we had some window displays to get to so it was back up on our feet and out the door.
 




  "Fantasy windows " It wasn’t long before we had arrived at Macys. There was already a good sized crowd hovering in front of the windows.
 
There were six displays. Two and interactive touch screens where you could design and place an order for a custom Christmas ornament. How cool is that? Where have you ever seen an interactive window at a department store. This year’s theme characters reminded me of steampunk but all in white with bling – very much about fantasy and imagination.


I remarked to Soon how all the art brought to mind the work of a vinyl toy artist that we both admire, Dok A. The characters were all animatronic puppets. I had to take video to capture both the sight and sound of what I was experiencing.


Around the corner, on another wall of windows was another set of displays recalling the tale of Virgina, the girl who wanted to know if there really was a Santa Clause. These displays were more along the lines of the traditional ones that Macys is known for. None the less, there were superbly rendered. Whoever is the artist behind the Macys windows is an artistic genius…..that’s all I can say.


  "Back to JFK we go"Before we had arrived into Manhattan, we had decided that we needed to leave by 2pm at the latest so we wouldn’t be in danger of missing our flight to Casablanca. By the time we finished our visit to the Macy’s windows, it was barely after 1pm but we had had enough and so we decided to head back to the airport early. We headed down the 34th and Broadway entrance and there I bought my second Metrocard.


We followed the signs and boarded the D Train to 7 Ave and from there, connected to the Sutphin/Archer Ave/JFK station and from there, took the Air Train to Terminal 1. Easy peasy.

Now, we're truly on our way to Morocco!

Goodbye NYC!  It was a short but fun visit!