New York, New York – Hornblower Cruise

Our final major tourist activity for the trip was to take the Hornblower Sightseeing Cruise  around lower Manhattan. We took the Big Bus to Pier 15, but when we arrived, the line for the boat was crazy long.

Luckily we had spotted a restaurant – Industry Kitchen – on our way in, so we decided to get lunch there and wait for the 1:30 cruise.  Dave got a Caesar salad and I got a pizza. Dave doesn’t usually like pizza, but he tried some of mine and ended up eating half of it! Which was fine, since it was way too big for me to eat all by myself anyway. The restaurant was nice, and because it was so sunny, they had all the doors open, so even though we were sitting inside, it still felt very light and airy.

OH- and how could I forget this? They had a unisex bathroom. It was the first time I’ve actually witnessed one with my own eyes and bladder. It was three or four stalls, with solid walls in between and full-length doors. The sink area was shared. I really wanted to take pictures and mention the experience on Facebook but I restrained myself.

When we finished lunch we got in line for the boat. One thing I’ve noticed they do at a lot of these places is ask you to pose for a picture before you go into the attraction. When you come out, they’ve printed out your picture and want to sell it to you for $35. I noticed the guy behind us was alone (he was a photographer) and he declined to have his picture taken. I guess I should remember that next time, as we aren’t going to buy photos.

I mean, why buy photos when we can take our own?


It’s us or the skyline… we nearly succeeded at fitting both in this frame. I’ll spare you the other selfies we took.

When we first got on the boat, I was annoyed because there was very limited seating and it was only around the windows. People had already claimed their spots and were viciously defending their territory. I had really looked forward to sitting down, as my feet were sore from walking so much and not wearing proper shoes. (What, they were cute boots!)

We  didn’t want to go up to the deck because we were afraid it would be really cold. We’d been freezing standing in line. I even had my mittens on! But after a while of jostling around in the boat, watching 90% of the occupants focusing more on their phones or their snacks than the actual view, we decided to get up to the deck and just deal with the cold.


The view was much better outside!

It turned out to be windy but not as chilly as I’d feared. We got a good look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as we chugged by.

Then the boat turned back around and we headed back to land.


There’s Manhattan!







Dang, we could have taken a helicopter tour.


Ferries are born here.


The Brooklyn Bridge

The ferry ride, or whatever it was we were on, was about an hour long, although I think that included boarding and de-boarding (?) time because it went quickly.

We hopped back on the bus and back to Times Square. After a quick visit to Starbucks, we got on the bus again to do the uptown loop. This went around Central Park, along the upper West Side, to Grant’s Tomb, Harlem and Spanish Harlem and then back along the park, along what was once known as Millionaire’s Row – where the Astors and Vanderbilts had their mansions during the gilded age. Along the route we saw the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (where James Gandolfini’s funeral was), The Dakota – the apartment where John and Yoko lived, John was shot and where Yoko still lives, and lots of other buildings where some famous person lived or still lives. Our tour guide kept joking about how much it cost to live along the park, but it was kinda bringing me down. Like, “Enjoy looking, but you will never be able to afford this life.”


Grant’s Tomb through the bus window.

We did enjoy the uptown bus loop. We sat on the top of the bus but it had a little shelter thing over the front, and heaters by our feet, so we kept warm enough. The people in the back, who were out in the breeze were freezing. They kept trying to get up and come to the front and the guide kept yelling at them to sit down because there were no seats open.

We got off the bus at the south end of Central Park since it was closer to our hotel than going back to Times Square. I have a soft spot for Central Park, as it’s the most well known works of the father of landscape architecture; Frederick Law Olmsted. Oh, and Calvert Vaux, but FLO is my homeboy. Ugh, why am I not doing landscape architecture?


Looking in to Central Park from W 59th St

Next time we go back to NYC, the plan is to do museums and Central Park. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!


New York, New York – 9/11 Memorial and World Trade Center Plaza

On Saturday morning, we made the trek down to the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza in lower Manhattan.  Please have a look at the slideshow. My thoughts on the visit are below.

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Going into this, I expected it to be an emotional experience. What else could it be? This was the site of the most horrific event I have witnessed in my lifetime, and the beginning of a decade-plus of war, violence and ever-growing cultural tension.

A little personal history – I actually visited the Twin Towers in March of 2001, with my good friend Jonathan. The towers were massive concrete-faced structures. Humongous and imposing. We took the elevator up to the observation deck and looked out over the world. It was nighttime and the city was all lit up. The view went on for miles in every direction. At the time I took my role as a Vermont chickie very seriously so I was unimpressed with the urban jungle and sprawl. But deep down I had to admit it was cool. Of course the memories of that visit were since tinged with gloom and sadness. Just months later I would see smoke rising up from the stark empty space where the towers had been as I traveled from New Jersey to Connecticut just days after 9/11.

Walking towards the site on this bright Saturday, my mind is on the memories of people running desperately down streets billowing with smoke and ash and papers – so many papers. As we approach, we see the gleaming glass structure of One World Trade Center piercing the blue sky.

Rounding a corner just before entering the plaza, we’re accosted by a guy selling glossy photo books commemorating that day. He eagerly flips through the pages, pointing out full-color scenes of the towers churning out thick black clouds of smoke. “Do you know how many buildings fell after 9/11?” he asks us. “I don’t know,” I admit feebly, “Five?” I’m caught off guard by this interaction, and just want to get past him already. “Seven,” he says, pointing to another page with a graphic showing which buildings were damaged and which fell. “In the museum they charge you $20 for this book, but I only ask $10.”

He also tried to sell us another book with even more photos. Dude. I have seen enough photos of that day. The images are permanently seared into my mind. I do not want to see photos.

Finally, we break free of him and make our way into the plaza. The first thing we notice on the way in is a wing-like white structure soaring over us. I later learn this is the new transportation station – called the Oculus.

We then come upon the first pool – the north pool. I try to envision how huge those towers were, and somehow it seems incongruent with these gaping holes in the ground. It’s like my brain can’t process that these footprints could have held those massive buildings.

At this point I’m doing ok with the emotions. It’s like they haven’t caught up to me yet. We look at the names engraved along the edge of the fountains. I later read that the names were grouped by people who were associated in some way. In some cases it was the flight they were on, or a group of co-workers. You can read more about that here.

As we made our way around the north pool we notice the inscription: Rahma Salie and her unborn child. Wow. I later learned that there were 10 more inscriptions like this one. After we left, I looked up Rahma Salie, since it was her name we happened upon. She and her husband were traveling together on Flight 11. They were Muslim. They were on their way to a wedding in California on September 11.  She was 7 months pregnant with their first child.

Now we turn away from the pool and look up at the tower. One World Trade Center. The Freedom Tower (apparently they don’t call it that anymore though). It is tall and sleek. In the gleaming sunlight, the glass reflects all kinds of colors.

When we turn back to the plaza we see the Survivor Tree. As we get closer we can see that people have put mementos on the tree. There’s a tour group standing in front of it while a tour guide with an abrasive voice describes her 9/11 experience.

Walking towards the south pool, I notice there are Easter bunnies and flowers stuck into two of the names. Something about this sight knocks loose the last of my emotional wall, and the tears start pouring from my eyes. The reality of all the names is overwhelming. And remembering all the people who are still alive and aching today for the loss of their family members, friends, co-workers….

We step away from the pool and walk under the trees. Dave and I sit and watch people while I cry for a bit. The tour group is still mesmerized by the Survivor Tree. Clusters of teenage girls huddle together, underdressed in summery clothes. The majority of the occupants of the plaza at this time are tourists. Many of them seem too cheerful and light and I want to scream at them to stop smiling and sober up. But I don’t. I realize you can’t expect people to be acting like they’re at a funeral when they visit a memorial. You can’t force people to be sad.

Once I’ve pulled myself together again, we walk around the other side of the south pool. I want to take a picture of the pool with the tower behind it, but as I approach, a young couple jumps in front of me. They look at the pool for approximately two seconds, and then the guy goes back to looking at his phone. I expect them to move along, so I wait patiently. The girl then begins primping herself in preparation for a selfie. Seriously. My eyes were rolling so hard I’m lucky they didn’t roll right out. Finally, satisfied with her photo shoot, she moves on.

As that’s going on, the couple on the other side of us gives each other a sheepish grin before quickly turning around and tossing coins over their shoulders into the fountain. What the hell? I’ve got nothing against coin-tossing in other fountains, but this is like throwing coins into a grave. I don’t know what possesses people sometimes.

Finally everyone with offensive behavior clears out from my shot and I’m able to get the picture of the pool and tower behind. It’s an odd mix of macabre and shiny new hopefulness. A least I think so.

We leave the plaza now and on the way out we notice the FDNY house that is RIGHT THERE. Like literally in ground zero. These guys were on the scene first because the scene was happening right around them. See their website.

All in all, we probably spent an hour walking around the plaza. There is a 9/11 museum on the site (it’s the short, mirrored building in some of the north pool pictures in the slide show). We did not go into the museum. I don’t know if I’d ever be ready to go in.

One World Trade Center also has an Observatory. It probably would have been a great day to go up there, actually, as it was clear and sunny. But I really just wanted to see the plaza, and that was enough.

So that was that.

Our next stop was the Hornblower Harbor Cruise…. stay tuned.

New York, New York – Big Bus Night Tour

After our visit to the Intrepid, we debated whether to have dinner first or to go ahead and take the Big Bus tour. We wanted it to be dark so we could enjoy the lights of the city, and it was still a bit early.

We walked toward the bus pickup area, which was right outside the M&M’s store in Times Square. We figured we would just grab dinner on the way and catch a later bus. When we got to the store and saw how long the line was, we decided to just get in line. It was a good thing we did, as it got really long, really fast.

The Big Bus is one of several companies that operates open-topped double decker busses that haul tourists around the city, while a tour guide shares details about various historic landmarks or notable events. During the day, you can hop on and off the bus at certain locations, but in the evening it’s a two-hour loop that starts and ends in Times Square.

We were excited to get good seats! And also to be sitting down.

I put the rest of the pics into a gallery, which hopefully makes viewing easier. Also, I didn’t remember all the names of the buildings, so if I wrongly identified something and you notice, please let me know and I’ll fix it. Also-also, pardon the blurriness and general lack of artistic quality to many of these. It was dark and we were in a moving bus, so it was not that easy to get decent pics. 🙂

Next up – the 9/11 Memorial

New York, New York – The Intrepid 

Dave and I had Friday off, so we decided to make good use of the extra day and take a trip into the city. It’s only two hours away from us by train. It’s kind of silly that we don’t go more often. We’re going to make an attempt to visit regularly from now on.

We did a lot of things while we were there, and took a ton of pictures, so I’m going to break up the posts by location.  Our first stop was the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum.

But first, we found a little Brazillian restaurant called Rice and Beans, which was where we had lunch.

Dave loves rice and beans!


Then it was on to the Intrepid, which is an aircraft carrier that fought in WWII, the Cold War and Vietnam.

My dad said it looks like Dave is pulling the Intrepid in this picture. 


A lego model of the Intrepid


I’m gonna assume this warning is now irrelevant.

We also went in the USS Growler, which is a 50’s-era cruise missile submarine.


Leave it to me to smash my kneecap while attempting to climb through this doorway.


I call dibs on the top bunk. I would hyperventilate to death on the bottom.


What happens if I press this button?


Ok, I don’t want the top on this set of beds. Or any of them, really.


No lie, there were more beds next to this.



Anyone for a game of checkers to avoid contemplating death in this sardine can 2,000 leagues under the sea?

The Intrepid also has a Space component, but we were too cheap to pay for that part. Although now that I look at the website, I see that it looks pretty cool. Maybe next time.

NEXT UP- we go on a night time bus tour of the Big Apple!