Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New York City

We visited New York City for the first time September 30 through October 6, 2007. We enjoyed perfect weather in the 70's all week with not a drop of rain. It was so nice to spend a week getting to know each other again without kids. It could not have been a better week. We owe so much thanks to both our parents and to Brian and Merika. What you did for us was priceless and you don't know how much we appreciate you. You made it all possible for us. We set this blog up as a journal for us of our experiences in New York but also as a guide for anyone planning a trip to the Big Apple. We are very type A personalities and love to research and plan everything out beforehand. We hope you find something useful on this site whether it be a link to another website or an insider tip we provided.

Each of these photos contains a lot of detail and you may CLICK to ENLARGE. Most pictures on this site were taken using a Canon 8 megapixel A630. Do not use or copy without my consent.
Happy traveling!



Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Our trip to the Statue of Liberty was splendid. Perfect weather!! We reserved our pass months early so we would be in the first group in the morning to see Lady Liberty. After security and a short boat ride we made it to Liberty Island. Us speed walkers were first in line and we entered the base/museum first. It was marvelous because as we went through the museum and climbed to the top it was as if we were the only ones at the statue and museum. Everyone was behind us the entire way by. We definitely reccommend going first thing in the morning. This first picture is of us aboard the Staten Island ferry. Its a free 30 minute ride to Staten Island and then we hopped right back on and came back to Manhattan. It was a little foggy that night, but it afforded us a great view of the Statue at night as well as the Manhattan skyline returning. Great opportunity to sit back and enjoy the ride.

We took a gazillion pictures of the Statue of Liberty. There were too many good ones so we put these ones in these collages and lowered the quality : ( You can click to enlarge.

Visit to Ellis Island
After a couple of hours visiting Lady Liberty, we hopped back on the ferry, and headed toward Ellis Island. It was very inspiring to peer into the lives of immigrants to the United States. There are many wonderful exhibits and stories told there. We came to better appreciate the faith and determination that motivated so many immigrants. They created the backbone of this great country. Below are some examples of the exhibits and wall-sized photos that covered the walls.

New York Food

In choosing our visit to New York, it was as much about seeing the sights and experiencing the culture, as it was tasting the foods that make New York famous. We love food (if you can't tell from our pics) and New York provided a wonderful place to "Food Tour". Carnegie Deli, Lombardi's, Ping's Seafood, and Chinatown Ice Cream Company were by far our favorite eateries of the trip. We obviously did not go to the $100 per plate restaurants which I am sure "are to die for" but we loved these places the same. Surprisingly, most of these places take CASH ONLY. So make sure you are prepared wherever you go.

We LOVE Carnegie Deli. Let us start out with our very favorite restaurant in New York. We tried 3 of the best delis in New York. Junior's was very good but too "franchisee". Katz's was also great food and just as famous as Carnegie Deli. Even at 7:00PM though, I would not venture back to Katz's deli. The only neighborhood where we felt, "Lets get out of here". Like Katz's deli, Carnegie's walls are plastered with pictures of the rich and famous that have come to enjoy the fixin's. The pastrami at Carnegie Deli was gorgeous. If you try any other pastrami after eating there, it will taste like plastic. It is the best. Even the pickles tasted amazingly fresh and tasty. The sandwiches are as big as dinosaurs. The cheesecake IS New York cheesecake. It is the best. They gave us pieces big enough for King Kong. That is our verdict after trying 3 of the arguably best delis in New York and even the country. Carnegie deli treated us like we were shopping for diamonds. Maybe we lucked out, but they took great care of us. Myrona tried there cheesecake recipe they have posted online and it was very very nice! Cookie dough crust! There are only 2 in the world. One in NYC and one at the Mirage in Las Vegas. The original in NYC definitely has the better ambience. Thanks Tara for reccomending Carnegie Deli. You were right!

Had to include this shot of The Brookln Bagel Cafe. This was right by our hotel. We often grabbed breakfast here and ate on the second floor and people watched. There are shops like this all over Manhattan. Kind of a mini grocery mixed with a mini buffet mixed with a bagel shop. Great concept that works brilliantly in NY.

There is nothing extravagant about Gray's Papaya. There is just something special about 2 hot dogs with the fixin's and a papaya fruit drink. It just hits the spot when you have been walking and are hungry and tired. There are several incarnations of Gray's Papaya throughout the city. They all serve the same concept. Cheap hot dogs and a fruit drink. We even found a copycat place in JFK airport on the way home. Definitely a NY food icon.

We were a little skeptical about a pizza shop that claimed to be the first ever pizzeria in the US. Whether they are or not (an item of debate among some) we loved the pizza at Lombardi's in Little Italy. We ordered a pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, spinach, and garlic. The pizza was very fresh and flavorful. We would definitely return for more. We love a lot of pizza places no one in particular better than the rest. Each one has its distinct style and flavor. We love Uno's Pizzeria deep dish, Otto's in Tempe, AZ thin crust, and definitely Lombardi's fresh flavorful pizza pie. Very nice and relaxed interior and a well-dressed, great-serving staff.

The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory popped up as a New York favorite on many of our online searches. We too enjoyed their distinct fresh ice cream. They have a lot of flavors to choose from. From ginger or lychee to wild blueberry or strawberry shortcake. This was our favorite ice cream shop. Much better than Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Yummy yummy in my tummy.

After lots of walking in Chinatown we stopped at Ping's Seafood for brunch. In our research, Ping's continuously placed in the top 3 Chinese restaurants in the city. We were not disappointed. The dim sum was fresh and heavenly. They are FAMOUS for their dim sum. Very classy interior and service. We loved the carts FILLED with choices in dim sum, desserts etc. They bring them straight from the kitchen on carts for you to choose. Sort of like a "live menu". We loved it and will go back next time.

Virgil's is famous for barbecue in New York. They supposedly scour the country for the best barbecue through Virginia, Carolinas, Texas, Oklahoma etc etc. They choose the best of the best and they try to emulate it. They have been featured on morning shows and have great reviews. Their placemats have a map of all the restaurants they visited in their quest for the best barbecue. Problem. The map stopped at Texas. We ordered a nice variety and enjoyed our dinner before going to see the Mary Poppins musical. I can honestly say that Joe's Barbecue in Gilbert, AZ is just as good if not better than Virgil's. They should have kept on driving. So to all of our AZ peeps. Eat at JOES! and enjoy.

The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory was a fun stop after hiking all the way across the Brooklyn Bridge. Many websites reccommended the place. Great location right on the water under the Brooklyn Bridge. However, the flavor choices were very limited. We did not think it was any better than typical franchise ice cream shops. Still a fun stop to take pics by the water and enjoy some ice cream. I think this is a shot of some brisket we tried.

Grimaldis is a very old pizzeria that we found on the top of many "pizza lists". We visited the Brooklyn location right under the bridge. Their proximity to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Company is also a plus. Very cozy interior including an endorsement from the Godfather himself. Remember cash only here and they don't deliver. We picked up our pie and booked it back to the hotel to get ready for the show that night. Great thin-crust pizza.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Central Park

We spent a lot of time exploring the many areas and scenery that make up Central Park. We spent virtually 2 days exploring and traversing the park. There is so much to see and enjoy. Our 2 favorite New York museums, Museum of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art, flank each side of the park. We also enjoyed visiting the Central Park Zoo. The park is so incredibly diverse with activities such as concerts, baseball, biking, playing chess, boating, sunbathing, strolling birdwatching etc etc. It seems there is an activity for everyone to enjoy. Definitely a do not miss experience when you visit.

The Central Park experience is not complete without a boatride on the pond.

September was a gorgeous time in Central Park. We especially enjoyed Shakespeare's Garden with the many butterflies and bees hovering around. They were very photogenic.

Click to enlarge. Panoramic shot of Pond and Boat House.

View of Central Park from Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. From this vantage point you truly appreciate the immensity of Central Park.

In front of Bethesda Fountain. Used as a backdrop for many films.

Chess lovers paradise. Fresh air, nature, and chess. Bobby Fisher..where is he??

Beautiful scene in the Conservatory Garden

Another great shot in th Conservatory Garden

Famous bridge over "The Pond". Great spot to sit on a bench and take it all in.

Great shot of the Boat House, a very nice restaurant, with rental boats seen in the foreground.

Looking to the north at The Mall.

Conservatory Water with some boats floating by.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Financial District

There was lots to see in downtown. The financial district seemed less crowded with tourists. The streets were filled with business men and women running for a quick bite to eat. They seemed to tolerate the few bumbling tourists around them. The weather was perfect so many were eating outside on the steps of Federal Hall, or around the stock exchange. We enjoyed walking through Federal Hall and exploring history there. There is terrifficly old and beautiful architecture downtown to enjoy. The lunchtime ambience was a fun time to visit.

Gorgeous shot of Federal Hall ceiling.

George Washington inaugurated first President of US on balcony here.

Statue of George Washington in front of Federal Hall.

Shot of Wall St with lunch-time vendors on the left.

Trinity church where Alexander Hamilton is buried. Very old church and very old graveyard. A few fun spots around the church to sit and eat lunch.

Close-up shot of The Stock Exchange.

The famous Wall Street Bull.