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NYC with the Parentals

Monday, November 21, 2022

Today I would finally be returning to the United States. While I enjoy spending time with my family, actually being in the US isn't something that I relish. However, I still had five days ahead of me in NYC with my parents, which would be a lot of fun.

I left the hostel at 06:20 and walked over to the closest tram stop. The Edinburgh tram runs direct to the airport and is my preferred method for getting between there and the city center. This morning I encountered more issues with trains in the UK: while en route to the airport, the train conductor announced that tram services would be terminating at the Gyle Center shopping mall! I didn't panic too much at this unexpected change as I figured I could easily order an Uber to the airport, which was quite close to the Gyle Center. A kind woman on the train let some of us know how to get to the airport using the busses.

When the train stopped, most everyone made a beeline directly to the bus station, where we waited nearly 20 minutes for the airport bus to arrive. We were able to use our tram tickets to board the bus and were soon back on our way to the airport. It was a lot of drama to have to deal with early in the morning, but it all worked out in the end and I had ample time before my flight.

Everything at the airport went smoothly and I managed to get some breakfast before boarding the flight. I had a direct flight from Edinburgh to New York JFK airport, departing just before 11:00 and arriving at 13:30 in NYC. I spent most of the flight watching movies (the in-flight entertainment was quite extensive, which I was quite pleased with).

Customs and passport control entering the US was much faster than I had anticipated – quite uncharacteristic for the United States! Once I retrieved my checked luggage, I set off for the AirTrain, which took me to the subway. Our hotel for this week was in Long Island City, located in Queens; I was able to take the E train from the AirTrain all the way to the hotel.

My parents were flying in later in the afternoon, so I checked in and spent the next few hours just relaxing in the hotel room. We had a very large room (giant by NYC standards). My parents arrived at the hotel just before 18:00 and they quickly got settled in before dinner. It was very nice to see them again and I was looking forward to the next several days in NYC together.

We went out to grab a quick bite for dinner, popping in to a nearby pizzeria to get a couple slices per person. We also bought some cookies at one of my favorite shops in NYC: Chip City. They have the most delicious, humongous cookies; my buddy Shane had introduced me to Chip City years ago when I visited him in Astoria. We took our food back to the hotel to eat.

After dinner, it was still rather early in the evening, so we decided to take the subway into Manhattan. My mom really enjoys the Christmas season and I wanted to take her around some of the holiday window displays at the shops along 5th Avenue. Some of the shops had very nice window displays, while others were just bizarre. Along the street were some holiday light displays as well.

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We walked from 59th St and 5th Ave down to Rockefeller Center, where we saw the annual Christmas tree (it was covered with scaffolding for decorating), and then down to Times Square. The area was, predictably, crowded, but not as bad as I would have thought for a holiday week.

It was getting cold and late, so we took the subway back to the hotel for the night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Breakfast was included at the hotel, but it was one of the most disappointing hotel breakfasts that I've seen: a pan of dried out scrambled eggs, ham, cereal, some bread, and yogurt. I skipped eating at the hotel and chilled in the hotel room while my parents ate their breakfast. When we left a little later, we stopped at a small bagel shop where I was able to get something to eat.

We took the subway back into Times Square and walked through there for a little bit before catching a different subway north to the Upper West Side. The plan for today was to explore Central Park for a while. I have been to NYC dozens of times, so I had asked my parents to let me know what they wanted to see/do; my father said he wanted to see the park, so I planned a nice walk to see some interesting sights.

We first passed by the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon, though this was just because the subway dropped us off nearby. Our walk took us throughout the park, which was beautiful in the chilly morning, and we walked around the southern bank of the Lake. I took my parents to the Bethesda Terrace, where we were able to admire the large fountain there.

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We then made our way around the Lake and headed north a little bit to the Belvedere Castle. Unfortunately, the castle was closed today and we were not able to go inside. It is a small building and was built to resemble an old European castle. Around this time, I began to take a lot of random, candid photos of my parents. I would send some of them to my sister to amuse her. My mom didn't understand why I was taking so many ridiculous pictures, but it didn't deter me from taking more photos. While most of them didn't really turn out, some of them are rather good!

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We made our way to the east side of Central Park and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was a stop that my mother had expressed interest in, so we bought tickets and went inside. Art has never been my “thing” but I can appreciate the talent of artists. We first ambled through the ancient Greek section before heading upstairs to the European artists section.

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My mother wanted to see the paintings by Vermeer, of which the museum had several on display. The Vermeer paintings were located in a separate gallery for an exhibit on Dutch painters, but we still enjoyed the European paintings. We saw several works by Van Gogh, Monet, and Seurat; the famous “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte” was fun to see because my mom had a deck of playing cards with the painting on them, back when I was a kid.

Finishing upstairs, we went to the lower level to see the Dutch paintings exhibit. Several Vermeer works were on display and my mom was thrilled to see them. The intricate detail and depth that Vermeer achieved in his works is stunning. I had never paid much attention to him as a painter, but my mom was able to explain a lot about his works.

It was early afternoon by the time we finished at the museum, so we stopped for a quick lunch. My dad was feeling tired as we finished lunch, so we took the subway back to Queens so he could rest at the hotel. My mom and I continued on to Astoria, where we walked around for a little while. We made our way west to a park along the banks of the East River. It was really beautiful outside and we both thoroughly enjoyed the walk. My mom had never been to this part of NYC before and I was glad to show her around a little bit.

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After a couple of hours, we made our way back to the hotel to meet back up with my dad. The three of us returned to midtown Manhattan, where we had dinner. This evening we were seeing the musical Wicked at 19:00 and I was excited for my parents to see the show. I have seen Wicked a few times and have enjoyed it each time, but my parents had never seen it before. They enjoyed the film “The Wizard of Oz” so I felt confident that they would enjoy this musical.

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Our seats were in the center of the orchestra section – they were far better than I had expected! We would have great views of the entire stage throughout the show. My parents really enjoyed the show, which I was glad about. The current Broadway casts was incredible, particularly the actress playing Glinda and the actor playing Fiyero.

The show let out at 21:30 and we made our way back to the hotel to get some sleep.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

We skipped the hotel breakfast this morning, heading to the lower east side to get bagels at one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I discovered this bagel place years ago and I return there every time I visit New York. It was very busy when we arrived and it took quite a while for us to get our food, but it was well worth the wait. We all enjoyed our breakfast and felt energized for another day in the city.

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I took my parents over to Macy's on 34th Street so we could admire the holiday window displays there. The windows were festively decorated, by far the best we'd seen thus far. Along 34 Street itself, the final preparations for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade were being made. It was interesting to see how everything was setup on site, which is very different from what one sees on television.

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We took the train back to the Upper West Side to 72nd Street, where the balloons were being prepared for the parade tomorrow. I had planned for us to stroll along the streets to admire the balloons from this unique perspective; the area was open to the public throughout the afternoon. Unfortunately, my father didn't feel like standing in line for 30 minutes before the area opened up, so we went to get him some lunch instead. I skipped lunch because I was still full from breakfast.

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We walked back through Central Park, heading south this time. I took us down to Columbus Circle and then to the Hearst building. The Hearst tower is one of my favorite buildings in the city: it is a modern glass skyscraper with triangular windows, built inside the facade of the original building where William Randolph Hearst started his newspaper empire.

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This afternoon we had tickets to see The Book of Mormon musical. Again, I had seen this show before, but it was new for my parents. My sister and I felt certain that our mom would enjoy the show, but we were unsure about our dad. The production was top-notch and the entire cast was spectacular, especially the main actors playing Elders Price and Cunningham. My parents laughed throughout the show and they both thoroughly enjoyed it.

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With the show over, we went out to get some dinner. I had found a restaurant in the Lower East Side that had oodles of Christmas decorations that I knew my mom would enjoy; I had been trying to contact them to make reservations, but their phone line was always busy and I had no reply to my emails. I thought we could at least swing by and see if there was a small chance for a table, but, when we arrived, there was a queue out the door. Instead, we went to a nearby Irish pub for dinner. The food was alright and the bar was very festively decorated.

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After dinner, we went back to Times Square to try and get a hot chocolate from a chocolatier. The store had a small location in Times Square, but their primary location was near Washington Square. To my disappointment, they were all out of the hot chocolate when we arrived! Aside from the show in the afternoon, nothing today had gone according to plan!

We hopped back on the subway and went over to Hudson Yards so we could enjoy the holiday decorations. My mom really enjoys Christmas lights and I had read about how good the display was at Hudson Yards; they did not disappoint. Lights and balloons lined the sidewalk outside of the new shopping mall and leading up to the Vessel. Inside the mall the lights were everywhere: thousands upon thousands of lights covered every balcony and every guardrail. At the main entrance were several massive light displays of hot air balloons. We were stunned at the extensive Christmas light decorations. Before leaving, we walked around the base of the Vessel (it was closed and we couldn't climb up the structure).

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The three of us then took the subway over to Times Square to see the Christmas lights display at Sacks Fifth Avenue, located directly across from the Rockefeller Square Christmas tree. The scaffolding had come down earlier in the day, so we could see the tree in all it's glory now, though the lights wouldn't come on until next week when the official lighting ceremony took place.

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Sacks Fifth Avenue has an annual lighting display on the exterior of the store which is timed to music. My mom and I had first seen it several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. This year's display was impressive, but not as festive. The light show was done to the music of Elton John for some reason, rather than to more holiday-themed music. It was still fun to watch the show though.

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I then took us up 5th Avenue to 59th Street so I could show my father where to meet up with us tomorrow morning. My mom and I were going to attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but dad didn't want to stand around for it, so he would be meeting us in the city after it concluded. We made a plan on where to meet and then took the subway back to Long Island City. I had continued snapping random, candid photos of my parents throughout the day just for my own amusement.

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Dad went back to the hotel while mom and I stopped in at a supermarket to get some snacks for the parade tomorrow. We were going early in the morning and there was no telling what would be open or if we'd be close to anywhere that was open (once we found a good spot to watch the parade, we weren't going to be moving). We grabbed some almond croissants and chips, along with a drink each.

The rest of the evening was spent at the hotel relaxing before bed. Tomorrow was going to be a big day!

Posted by Glichez 20:15 Archived in USA

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