June 10, 2006: A Day in Manhattan with the Toccos

Today is the big day touring Manhattan. I didn’t wake up to my alarm this morning and accidentally ended up sleeping in until 6:30 which didn’t leave enough time for me to drive out to Panera and get bagles for everyone. But in hindsight I think that having the extra sleep was probably more important in the long run anyway. I have been so tired all week and even sleeping in that much only barely got me five hours of sleep and today is going to be a very long day.

Everyone was up and moving pretty early. Our goal was to be ready and out of the door by 7:00 so that we could make the 8:00 run of the Staten Island Ferry which is about 36 miles away from the apartment. I was ready by 7:00 but not everyone was and we didn’t manage to leave for twenty minutes. We were running really late and making the ferry was going to be extremely tight. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that none of us have every used the Staten Island Ferry before and we are not familiar with the route to get there, the parking situation or any other logistics necessary to make this happen smoothly. In fact, I don’t think any of us have ever even been on Staten Island before at all. So even that part of the trip will be a bit of an experience. I have spent a bit of time in Manhattan and I have driven across the Bronx once but that is the extent of my time in the city. I have never set foot on Long Island which includes Brooklyn and Queens. Our dreams of making the 8:00 ferry were almost shattered when we discovered that Francesca’s truck had no gas and couldn’t make it to the ferry without getting a fill up.

My father in law and I were in Dominica’s car and we raced ahead to make sure that we knew the route to the ferry so that we could help speed up Francesca and the rest of the family. We were doing okay and there was a slight chance that we would have been able to make the ferry but when we got to the exit for US278 (the Staton Island Expressway) the bridge to the island was closed and we were screwed. No chance of making it as the nearest bridge to where we were was twenty minutes away down the turnpike. Frank and I turned off and pulled into a gas station to call Dominica and figure out what we needed to do. They were just a little bit behind us and it was way too late for them to turn around and try to make it to the other bridge. So they were just going to meet up with us and figure out where to go from there but when they got to the bridge they were just opening the bridge and they were able to get onto it. So they ended up being in front of us instead of being behind us and we most definitely missed the ferry.

We got to the Staton Island Ferry station and discovered that parking there is more difficult than you would imagine. They expect you to have $5.50 in quarters for every vehicle that you are parking or else you are supposed to have some sort of parking card that we had no idea what it was or how we would get one. Fortunately the security guard working the parking lot was really nice and took care of our parking for us. We paid him and he got a parking card on his break and registered our cars. That was going to end up being an amazing pain if he hadn’t done that for us.

We got into the terminal and got on the 9:00 ferry. There was no way that we were going to make the earlier ferry. That was just silly. The ferry ride is really cool. It takes about 25 minutes and takes you right past the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island and gives you awesome views of lower Manhattan, Jersey City, Staten Island and Brooklyn. And it is free. We all went out onto the observation deck so that we could watch everything in the harbour.

We got off of the ferry and discovered that the ferry terminal that we had been intending on taking was closed so we had to find a different terminal. This would have been fine but we didn’t realize that it was so close and we were past it before we even started looking for it. No map ever shows you were the entrances to the stations really are so they can be quite difficult to find. There was traffic between us and the station entrance and we didn’t see it. We ended up getting directions from someone and even then had a hard time finding it.

We started the day by riding the subway up to Rockefeller Center and walking east to Fifth Avenue where we went to the American Girls Store. I am creeped out by dolls (to me they are just models of baby corpses which is just gross) which is technically called pediophobia which is not to be confused with being afraid of real, living children which is pedophobia. Since everyone knows that I have a fear of dolls, spiders and centipedes all ready I might as well let you know about the last one, coulrophobia, which is a fear of clowns. So anyway, Joe, Brittany and I went shopping in the nearby area so that we wouldn’t have to spend any time in the American Girls Store. We went to the Godiva store and then to the Sharper Image before returning to get everyone about an hour later.

From the American Girls store we walked north so that Francesca could see St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We went inside but only for a second. Then it was back to walking the street. We walked up to see Trump Tower. We went inside, looked around and then left. There really isn’t much to do in Trump Tower if you don’t have an office there although it is quite nice inside. Then it was on to FAO Schwarz. Here Dominica, her mother and I just sat outside of the store while everyone else rushed in and took pictures of themselves in the store. Next we were on to Central Park. Everyone just wanted to see the park so we walked in several hundred feet and took a picture on a park bench.

Everyone was starting to get hungry but there wasn’t any time allotted for getting food so Dominica and I grabbed crepes and empanadas at a little vendor on the south side of the park and everyone else went to a nearby vendor and got hot dogs and pretzels. Then it was back onto the subway for a trip to Chinatown to be attacked by the vendors on Canal Street. We arrived on Canal and spent two hours walking up and down the street looking at purses, watches, etc. It was impossible to move up and down the street it was so jam packed with people. If anyone is ever planning on going to New York City this is one part of the experience that I sincerely suggest avoiding. The whole thing exists just for the tourists and it isn’t really a part of New York culture. With seven adults and two children navigating the street was nearly impossible. We were all totally exhausted from the experience and it really took the fun out of the rest of the day because no one wanted to walk anywhere anymore. Everyones feet hurt and everyone was tired. That alone is a good reason to avoid Canal Street. Just because it might take all of your energy away and leave you very little for the other things that you want to do in Manhattan.

From Canal Street Francesca wanted to walk to Little Italy and SoHo but everyone was exhausted, including her, and they managed to talk her out of that idea. So we just hopped back onto the subway and rode back north to Times Square. On 42nd Street Dominica and I decided that we were hungry and that it was going to be a while before dinner so we can into the Cold Stone Creamery and got some awesome ice cream. They make the ice cream right there on the spot mixing in the pieces to make whatever flavour you want. It is really cool. We found out that it is a chain and not unique to New York but really, not much is. New York is a city that thrives on a lot of chain businesses. It is strange that that happens in a city so large to the extent that it does.

We walk through Times Square and up Broadway so that Joe could see the Theater District. This is Joe’s first time even in Manhattan. We walked up to 48th where Francesca wanted to see the Hershey Store. Min, Joe and I just sat outside while everyone else bought Hershey’s chocolate. Then it was time for dinner. We walked up to the Jekyll and Hyde Club which is way up near Central Park. It was a lot of walking after a long day of walking. Everyone was really exhausted at this point.

The restaurant was pretty interesting. It is really targetted at kids even though the whole place seems like it must be designed for adults. They did a really good job with the whole place and it really gives you the feeling of being in Disney World. It is a four floor restaurant and we were seated on the fourth floor. We got there really early, before 5:00, so there was hardly anyone there yet. That was nice. We were able to get seated right away and there was plenty of room for us. It was dark inside, very dark, and everyone was very tired so by the time our drinks had come everyone thought that it was late in the evening when, in fact, in was late in the afternoon and still quite early to be eating. The food was pretty good and the service was excellent. Everything was pretty expensive but it wasn’t bad. If you have kids who enjoy spooky stuff then it isn’t a bad place to go at all. Nice because the adults get to eat and drink and the kids have some stuff going on to keep them entertained.

After dinner no one was ready to do anything else besides me. I kept trying to convince people to stay in the city and go to a show but no one wanted any of that. Everyone was just thinking of bed at that point. We got onto the subway and rode all the way down to the docks where we waited for the ferry back to Staten Island. It was a more or less uneventful trip back to North Brunswick. At the plaza across the street everyone decided to stop at the Baskin Robbins to get ice cream. Everyone but me. I headed back to the apartment because Oreo had been alone for thirteen hours and was not going to be happy about it. I didn’t want to leave him alone any longer than was necessary. When I had suggested going to a show earlier that was assuming that one group of people were going to head back immediately to take care of the dog and that just a few people would be staying for the show.

Oreo was so glad to see me. I think that this might be the longest that we have ever left him alone in the house before. He to go out so badly when I got there but he was so happy to see me too. He was jumping all over. He was so happy to be “rescued”.

Once everyone got home we just sat around in the living room for an hour or so. No one had any energy left to do anything. By 10:00 we were all heading off to bed. I was very much ready to go to bed by that point. I am exhausted from the entire week of not getting enough sleep.

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