2009 Vacation Day Five

My vacation was closing in on it’s ending at this point, but these were the two days I had been anticipating the most. The weekend was here and that meant it was time to head into the city!

Saturday, August 29th, I got up at 6am to get ready to go. I was taking the 7:40am train into NYC. Once I was ready, my Uncle Bill drove me to the train station which was about 5 minutes away. I bought my ticket from the ticket machine and awaited the arrival of the L.I.R.R. The train pulled into the station right on time and I got on board for the two and a half hour ride into Penn Station. During the long ride in, I kept myself occupied by reading copies of The New York Daily News and The New York Post from the previous day. Yes, it’s quite the trip into NYC, but the time doesn’t seem too drag on too much when you keep yourself busy reading and whatnot.

Before I knew it, I was at Penn Station. Having not gotten much sleep the evening before, I decided my first stop should be a Starbucks one. I wanted to be as awake as possible so as to enjoy the full day I had planned in the city. Mocha Frappe in hand, I found the subway and bought a day pass. Upon locating the number one subway train, I boarded and was on my way toward my friend’s part of Manhattan. My friend, Robyn had invited me to stay with her when I was up visiting New York and I was thrilled, since I had never seen New York City at night. Usually, I go into the city and then have to head on out at the end of the day so I can get back to Long Island. This was a nice change of pace.

It was a wet, rainy morning I quickly discovered when I emerged from the subway underground at my friend’s stop. Which made me all the happier that I had packed an umbrella with me. I popped open the handy dandy covering device and followed the directions Robyn had provided to find her apartment building. After originally heading in the wrong direction, I thankfully quickly did a 360 and arrived a few minutes later at her building. She buzzed me in and I headed up.

After greeting one another and exchanging hugs, I dropped off most of my things and we headed out to enjoy a day in the city. It was still drizzling, but it wouldn’t be for much longer. Within an hour, the rain subsided and it became a beautiful day for walking around NYC. We did some shopping with Robyn in the lead, showing me the best places to go, and then headed to a perfume store. My friend and the lady behind the counter ended up giving me a brief education on perfume. I even ended up buying a bottle.

Next up was the NYC Taco Tweet-up that I had helped plan with a twitter friend who lives in New York. The event was held at the awesome Rosa Mexicano in Union Square. There was a great spread set up for our gathering. They had $2 tacos for us with choice of meat (chicken, steak or pork) as well as an array of toppings. Also, there were chips, peanuts and guacamole to be had. The food was amazing, very delicious. Highly recommend Rosa Mexicano if you are in NYC or near one of their other locations. And, the meet up itself was of course great. It was nice being able to put some faces to the twitters I speak to on a regular basis. Fun was surely had by all who attended I’m sure.

At some point, Robyn and I pulled ourselves away from the fun at Rosa Mexicano and continued our shopping/browsing around in Union Square. We went to Barnes & Noble, where I got to meet one of her roommates who works there. Pam was pretty cool, and we briefly discussed the experience of being a B&N employee since I had previously worked for them. Then, Robyn and I left the bookstore and ended up at Forbidden Planet. Very busy and cool comic book shop. They have lots of indie books which was nice to see, as a lot of shops don’t have such a good selection.

Strand Bookstore was up next, and I wandered around the huge shop for awhile before settling on a Cornell Woolrich book. I have never read his work before and have been wanting to. By this point, Robyn wanted to chill and watch the performers playing in the square. So, I headed into Trader Joe’s by myself. Honestly, the store was so chaotic and busy that it didn’t take me long to turn around and decide to just browse around Whole Foods instead. Whole Foods in Union Square is huge. Unlike the location I’m used to here in Orlando, the NY location had multiple floors. And, yes it was busy as well. I located a few items I wanted and went toward the checkouts. This location has two sides for customers to use to check out. One side is Express, the other is for people who have more than 10 items. I used Express, which in and of itself impressed me. Customers stand in about five different colored coded lines and watch the TV screen above them once they reach the front of their line. Then, a register number appears telling you which one to go to. I was impressed, as this system really kept the lines moving fast. New York knows how to keep lines moving!

Eventually, I met back up with my friend and we headed for pizza. She took me to a great place called, Famous Famiglia. According to the signage, they are the official pizza of the New York Yankees. We each enjoyed a slice and some garlic knots. While the pizza was great, I still think the pizza I had my first day in New York was the best slice I had while up in New York.


Robyn and I both agreed to that even though it was still a bit early, we would head back to her apartment and watch a movie. Twenty minutes later, we were back at the apartment and popping in a DVD. I ended up falling asleep as we enjoyed the movie, Push.

The day was over and I had a great time in the city. 🙂

2009 Vacation: Day One

I had hoped to start posting my vacation journal stuff before now, but obviously, that didn’t happen. Anyway, here we go! 🙂

Tuesday, August 25, 2009. My most anticipated vacation week began with my alarm clock buzzing loudly to arouse me just before 9am. I got up, ate breakfast, showered and dressed. After ensuring I had everything, I gathered up my bags and loaded them into my dad’s Grand Prix. We were then off for the Orlando International Airport for my 9am flight.

The check-in was quick and easy, which is just how I always hope it will be. The security checkpoint wasn’t too bad despite a couple of folks in front of me who always seem to not know how to put all their stuff on the x-ray belt and remove their shoes. Sometimes, it’s the things that most of us see as simplistic and not requiring much brain activity that boggles the minds of a select few… reminds me of the people who think ordering a sub at Subway is a rocket science. I have to force myself to chuckle at these sorts of things and people, or I might go insane.

My airline of choice to Long Island, New York is Southwest Airlines, as they not only tend to have reasonable fares, but their staff always treats me right. In the past, I’ve flown with a few others like Delta (I recall the short-lived Delta Song!) and JetBlue, and while they were okay, honestly, they didn’t impress me in the least. I don’t expect a lot when I fly, but some airlines just know how to treat their customers better it seems.

The flight into Islip was pretty smooth, not a lot of turbulence. I had a local Long Island mom to my right who was returning home after helping her sophomore college son settle into his dorm. In the window seat was a middle-school aged kid who was also returning back home to Long Island, after visiting his dad in Florida for the summer. Both nice people to chat with during the two plus hour flight from Orlando.

Upon arriving in the Big Apple, my mom’s sister, Linda picked me up in her new Civic. In tow, my Aunt had my cousin Jimmy’s two kids, Brianna and Cameron. Having never met my second generation cousins, it was nice to finally get the opportunity to do so. Brianna is fourteen and starting high school this year, Cameron is six. The kids wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese to play some games, so that was first up. Now, I haven’t been to a Chuck E. Cheese since I was probably like ten years-old. So, my feeling that the experience was going to be unlike it is through the eyes of a kid was spot on. To say the place is loud and overwhelming is probably and almost certainly and understatement. Kids of all rugrat sizes and ages were running all over the indoor playground. Between the sounds of kids squeeling for joy, the musical sounds of the games themselves and the blaring loudspeakers singing the praises of Chuck E. Cheese world, a few minutes of this place is enough for any adult to go bananas. How parents can manage to survive this sort of thing with their children, I do not know. It didn’t take me long to imagine how my own parents must have felt when I longed to play there as a youngster. For those years, I’m so sorry mom and dad.

Once my Aunt and I were able to prod the kids along in spending all of their game tokens, the experience wasn’t over, oh no. There were tickets won by playing said games that now needed to be redeemed on toys, ie: junk that is of course worth nothing…well, nothing unless you’re a kid that is. Watching my little cousins decide on prizes, my mind again went back to my childhood. I vividly remember an arcade place where you won tickets that you could exchange for similar junk toys or candy. My dad used to take my brother and I there pretty regularly when we were in elementary/middle school. So, I had to smile when I saw the indecision that my cousins went through in choosing their prizes.

Laffy taffy and plastic rubbery toys in hand, we finally left Chuckie’s land and made an immediate beeline for a a place I had been waiting for since booking my plane ticket the month prior. It was time for some real New York pizza goodness! And, it’s no lie that the best slices are found at “holes in the wall.” Totally true, at least in the state of New York it is. No atmosphere, but hands down the best pizza I had my entire trip. Oh, and the garlic knots are great as well. I had a good chuckle when my six-year-old cousin proclaimed out loud that Virginia (his home state) had better pizza that the slice he was slowly munching on. Ah, kids say the funniest things, don’t they?

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. We went back to my Aunt and Uncle’s place, where my Uncle Bill and I got to admire each others weight loss from the past year. He had lost more than 90lbs whereas I’ve lost 70lbs, and he looked great. He took me out to his local health good store, Wild By Nature. It is a nice store, I was impressed. It is down the road from their house, where a King Kullen grocery had previous been. I picked up a few items as did he before heading back to the house. We then changed into our workout clothes and headed out to the Nature Preserve for a walk. The Preserve has great trails for walking and I enjoyed taking in the fresh air as we went along the paths.

The day came to a close with a viewing of the Iron Man movie that I brought up with me. My Uncle and Aunt had never seen it, nor had the kids, so it was cool watching it again with people who hadn’t seen this awesome film before. Especially neat seeing the excitement in the eyes of a kid for it. All in all, it was a nice first day of my vacation. I was happy to finally be back up in New York.