Wild Week in the City!

Wild Week in the City!

Last summer, Jason, Henry and I were discussing what we wanted to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’d all been hankering for a trip to New York, but also to St. Simons or anywhere else, really. We decided that New York it was. We would go for the Macy’s Parade and take a whole week to make it the most amazing trip ever!

So of course, I started planning! We’ve been so many times, I knew what all we would do, but wanted to add some extra fun! I got help from so many friends and together, we made a super fun itinerary that pleased a mom, a dad, and a 10 year old boy.

This is long, so skip ahead or whatever!

Monday, November 24

Our favorite way to go to the city is to leave before the sun comes up and get there before people even leave for work! This was the earliest we’d ever left, though, on a 6am flight out of Atlanta. Yes, that means a 3:30 departure from our house. But? We landed in NYC at 7:50 and were in the hotel by 9. Boom. Full day in the city!

Jason had started a new job November 1, so he wasn’t technically off for the week. He spent Monday and Tuesday, day and night, in Long Island while Henry and I stayed in Manhattan. He would join us on Wednesday morning. So we got to the airport and said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Odd…

Henry and I got to our hotel around 9 and surprisingly, our room was ready! We love to stay at the Hotel Metro, a Midtown hotel about half a block from Macy’s Herald Square, because of their family rooms. For about the same price as a Times Square room, we get two bedrooms — one with a queen bed and one with two doubles. Space for each of us! It’s close to Metro stations and a Starbucks! They have a wonderful bar and restaurant attached and did I mention how convenient it is? Win Win WIN!IMG_0856

It was strangely warm that day, so Henry and I ditched the coats and any extra layers and headed out. First stop — Times Square. We grabbed a hot dog, hit the M&Ms store and Toys R Us and took a bunch of goofy pictures.

We had planned for a while to meet up and hang out with my friend Neil who lives in Queens. He had found a cool exhibit going on at Discovery Times Square that Henry was so excited about. It was an interactive Avengers exhibit that takes you through intelligence files of the Avengers or something. I didn’t fully understand but Henry thought it was the bee’s knees!

Henry and I met up with Neil after the Avengers exhibit at John’s Pizzeria for some lunch. The pizza was excellent, the beer was cold, and the company was fun! Afterwards, all three of us went and walked around the area. We hit Bryant Park and the NYC Public Library (which Henry thought was really cool) (I thought there were way too many steps considering we woke up at 2:30am).

Afterwards, we headed to Grand Central Station to look around and get a snack at Junior’s. There, Neil treated us to cheesecake and real chocolate egg creams. Uh, I thought the egg cream sounded disgusting until I tried it and now I think about them at least once a day because hello deliciousness!IMG_0875

Henry and I headed back to the hotel where he promptly went to sleep — at 5pm — and I didn’t dare wake him. I wasn’t far behind!

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Tuesday, November 25

Tuesday morning, we slept in a little. We met Neil at Macy’s to head up to the UES for breakfast. Because Jason and Henry are such Seinfeld freaks, he thought it would be cool to go to Tom’s Restaurant. Tom’s is the restaurant they used as the facade for Monk’s Cafe on the show. Since Jason couldn’t go, it was just us and Henry thought it was way cool! We had pancakes and eggs and a typical (but delicious) diner breakfast. We plotted out our day and set out for more fun!

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Since we were up on the UES, we went to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Oh, it was absolutely beautiful! Henry was in awe on the inside of the cathedral and even more so outside when a few peacocks walked by. In the city. Peacocks. Just seemed odd!

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Walking back over towards the main road, we walked through Columbia University. It was beautiful, too. I was freaked out being at a university where people weren’t decked out in orange and blue, saying War Eagle to each other, though. I did feel my IQ points jump up a little just being on campus!

We took a cab down to The Met where Henry enjoyed the Egyptian exhibits and the Knights exhibits. It’s one of the museums I’d never been to, so I was excited to see the Tiffany windows and the Death Becomes Her exhibit.

Lunch was at Alice’s Tea Room, a place I’d wanted to go for a while, but apparently it’s not as awesome in real life as it is online. Lunch was good. The wait was horrible. And Neil and Henry thought it was girly. Oh well…

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We moseyed down to Rockefeller Center where Neil was meeting someone to take pictures later. We did some run-throughs so he would know the best places to take the pictures over near Radio City Music Hall.

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Henry and I headed back to the hotel and had a little bite to eat and crashed! A winter rain/sleet storm was predicted to come in overnight and Jason was already planning to come into the city earlier the next morning than originally planned. Sleep came easy after a long day in the city!

Wednesday, November 26

Wednesday was a very lazy day. It rained buckets, was cold and painfully windy.

Henry and I got up super early and threw on clothes so I could meet Catherine, a mom who lost her daughter to Group B Strep earlier in the year. I take every chance I can to be able to give real life hugs to fellow bereaved moms. Braving the elements was nothing compared to the early days of grief that she was facing. We quickly scooted back to the hotel to warm back up, though!

Jason came straight to the hotel from Long Island and we decided that we would ditch our plans to go to the Statue of Liberty that day. The only thing worse than walking around in the city in wind, rain, and sleet, would be going on a boat to an island in the wind, rain, and sleet!

The three of us took advantage of a day of rest. We napped, had lunch next door at Playwright Bar and Lounge.

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We went the half block over to Macy’s to goof off and then napped some more! Dinner was also close to the hotel at Liberty NYC. I highly recommend this restaurant — it was excellent!

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Back to the hotel we went to hit the bed early and get our plan of attack for the Macy’s Parade the next morning!

Thursday, November 27

Up EARLY for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This has been a goal of mine — to go back and be a spectator — since I participated in the parade in high school. So of course, I jumped out of bed like it was Christmas morning! We bundled up (not enough) and headed out at 6:30am. Yes, the parade starts at 9. No, we’re not insane. We got a sweet spot at the corner of 38th and 6th, right on the fence. Front row, baby!

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We sat. We waited. We met the people next to us who were absolutely amazing. We watched protestors get tackled to the ground and arrested. We complained. We squeeeeeed when we could finally hear the parade coming!

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The parade in person is absolutely nothing like what you see on television. There’s a lot of behind the scenes scheduling that is too long to share in this post, but that makes it not flow well in person. But… if it’s a bucket list item, it’s one of the most amazing things you can do! In fact, put it on your bucket list right now! You’ll be glad you did.

Yes, I cried like I always do. Yes, my boys laughed at me. Yes, it was totally worth it all!

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Of course, Henry got too cold and then overheated (frostbite?) and almost passed out. He was fine, but jeez, kid, can’t we go to a parade without you falling out?

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It was snowy and drizzly and by the time it was over, we were done. D.O.N.E. Done. We hobbled back to the hotel on frozen numb feet and grabbed lunch at the hotel. And then napped.

I had made reservations for Thanksgiving dinner at Rock Center Cafe. We walked up to Rockefeller Center and had a glass of wine (and Shirley Temple) at the bar. Our dinner was amazing. Best filet ever, maybe! It was fun to eat on the skating rink level and see people enjoying skating while we dined.

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But we were exhausted. We detoured through Times Square to see it all lit up before going to the hotel!

Friday, November 28

Breakfast was at Andrew’s Coffee Shop. You may remember this restaurant from our last trip.

Stupidly, we decided to walk to the Intrepid Museum. It didn’t seem like it was going to be THAT far, but it was extremely cold and windy and well, it was dumb. But, in spite of that, this may have been the highlight of the trip for both Jason and Henry. Boy or girl, I HIGHLY recommend this museum as part of your visit.

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The Intrepid Museum is not only an aircraft carrier with many aircraft on board, but it also houses a submarine, a space shuttle and the British Airways Concorde. Tickets aren’t cheap, but I can say with certainty that they were worth every single penny. It was really all worth it just to see Jason’s excitement while he sat in the Concorde’s cockpit jump seat!IMG_1245

After the Intrepid, we took a cab over to 5th and Central Park and walked down 5th Avenue back towards the hotel. A stop at Tiffany (I got a ring), Saks, Louis Martin (Jason got a watch) and the Lego Store and we were done for the day.

We headed back down to the hotel and decided to eat at the Korean restaurant nearby. None of us had ever eaten Korean and it was to DIE for! Like the egg cream, I think about Korean almost daily. Must find a good restaurant near us!

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Saturday, November 29

We had breakfast at Andrew’s again. It’s so close to Hotel Metro and delicious, it was hard not to!

Afterwards, we took the subway down to Chinatown. Jason and Henry had wanted to find chicken feet to eat but luckily, they didn’t. I was already planning to gag and be dramatic the whole time. We did find a little grocery store and went in and bought all kinds of little treats! I found some black bean treats that were divine. I need to find out how to get more!

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We lunched in Little Italy at Caffe Napoli where Henry had meatballs the size of his head!

We walked to Lower Manhattan to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. This is also a must-see. I had been to the Memorial, but not the museum. Jason and Henry hadn’t been to either. I wrote about the trip and strange events HERE.

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Being me, and well, us, we went back to the hotel after that because Georgia and Georgia Tech were playing and Auburn and Alabama were playing. So we ate hotel appetizers in the room and drank overpriced beer for the evening!

Sunday, November 30

Our last day. Like we like to get to NYC early, we like to milk the last day for all it’s worth. Our flight is out at 4:30pm so we have all morning plus lunch to goof off before having to head to the airport. And with it being the weekend after Thanksgiving, we plan to give ourselves plenty of time in the airport.

We grabbed breakfast at Tick Tock Diner in The New Yorker Hotel. I had nutella french toast and almost had to go to the hospital due to the awesomeness coma I was in!

All Henry wanted to do the whole trip was go to Central Park Zoo. We didn’t tell him where we were going, but took him there for our last morning! It is always so fun to see the zoo. Such a strange site to be standing in the middle of it with huge city buildings all around.

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Afterwards, we went to FAO Schwarz and back to our hotel to get our things.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to our favorite city, but seeing the city shrink behind us as we drove to LaGuardia was super hard this time. I don’t know if it was because we had been there for a full week or just because it was magical. But there’s always next time… which I’m already planning!

When things don’t make sense…

When things don’t make sense…

There are times when we realize that things just don’t make sense. But once we think about it, they make perfectly perfect sense.

We just don’t understand what it means.

Maybe we’re not meant to.

Three years ago, I took my niece to NYC for her 13th birthday. We spent several hours in the rain walking around the newly finished 9/11 Memorial. I wrote about finding Todd Beamer’s name and thinking back to his wife’s book and then…

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As strange as it sounds, I think of Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and her Unborn Child often. I mean, not every day, but sometimes I’ll hear a word and think of her. Coozie, Grandiflora (plant word), Lauren (my sister’s name)… They all spark a memory of that moment.

I don’t understand why, but at the same time, I don’t question it.

Thanksgiving week, while we were in New York, we went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It was the first time there for Jason and Henry, and my first time at the Museum. Let me tell you. It’s amazing — a must-see when you’re in the city.

In the museum, they have a room that is lined with photos of all who lost their lives on 9/11/01. Faces are smiling up and down, as if they are actually looking at you. And you feel them. I wasn’t paying attention to names, just the eyes in the pictures, when a name grabbed me on a photo.

Yes, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas.

The one name that had grabbed me before, grabbed me again almost exactly 3 years later.

Sometimes what we believe as coincidence
is really just getting ourselves caught
in an angel booby trap. ~Terri Guillemets

In the center of this room, there was a small theater that ran on loop, videos about those who lost their lives narrated by people who loved them. There were no seats available, so I looked into the room and on the wall were the words Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas. Of course I started crying because, WOW!  

I don’t know what any of it means, but I know that for some reason Lauren and her Unborn Child have a place in my heart. I know nothing about her except what I have seen in the memorial but I’m going to try to find out all I can about her. There may be nothing that ties us together, or there may be something.

I may never understand what it means. Maybe I’m not meant to.

Thoughts From the 9/11 Memorial

Thoughts From the 9/11 Memorial

This post has been in the works for nearly two weeks now. In the same way J and I were left speechless when we were there, I’m left speechless looking at the images.

A little back story, though. J was only 3 when the 9/11 attacks happened. She knows very little about any of it. That’s why I felt it was very important to take her to see the sacred space, one that is silent and almost still in a city of hustle and bustle.

We talked a lot both days about the tragedy. When we were walking in Midtown, we tried to imagine the streets being filled with people running and screaming, covered in ash and dust and blood and fear. When we were walking to the Memorial on Wednesday afternoon, the sky darkened and the rain started coming down heavier. It didn’t stop us. We still talked.

I shared with her the fact that Uncle Jas’s main client at the time, Marsh & McLennan, was housed in one of the WTC towers. That day, 295 employees were killed. Another employee was also killed on one of the hijacked planes. She was left speechless. Until then, she didn’t know that her uncle had a direct connection to the devastation.

We talked about the fear and panic and uncertainty that followed. She can’t understand it. I hope she never has to.

Our first stop was at St. Paul’s. There we got to see the memorials they have set up, mainly focused around the rescue workers and emergency crews that helped in the recovery and cleanup effort. Pieces of the memorial that emerged almost immediately on their fence out front was preserved and is housed in the church.

Badges were collected from the various departments from across the country and world that came to help with the rescue and cleanup. These remain in St. Paul’s and continue to be added by those who come to pay their respects. We then moved towards the Memorial. It got eerily dark and the rain let up a small bit. Security was like nothing I’ve ever seen. We went through at least 4 check points. Made going through the airport look like easy stuff. I’ve never been more excited to go through an X-ray machine, honestly.

The first steps into the greenspace revealed the stunning scene. Inside this huge city, where the world’s tallest buildings once stood, a beautiful expanse of grass and trees and beauty abounds. The whirr of the water from the waterfalls is in the background, creating a silence that’s peaceful.

Walking to the first waterfall, we were both taken aback by the enormity of it all. I saw the WTC buildings in person, but she had no frame of reference. Trying to explain how much larger than any of the other buildings the Twin Towers were was difficult and I’m still not sure I did it justice.

Stepping up to the edge of the fall, seeing the first glimpse of the width and depth and beauty of it all… well, it was shocking. Unfortunately, the rain was coming down hard and taking pictures with my camera AND holding my umbrella proved very difficult.

There were names. So many names. We stopped at a few and instinctively just reached out and touched them, tracing the letters, remembering. Always remembering.

It just happened that we stopped at Todd Beamer’s name. I had to fight the lump in my throat, seeing his name, knowing the story behind him having read his wife Lisa’s book.

But then I looked above it. “Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and her Unborn Child.”

My heart sunk. I had to look her up.

Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas had just celebrated her 38th birthday, was a wife and daughter and soon-to-be-mother. She was writing a book that sounds like something I would like to read. She was on United Flight 93 and her life was taken far too early.

The fact that these were somebody’s wife, unborn child, husband, father, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, partner, best friend… it was just too big to fathom.

As the water fell and the rain fell and the city seemed to be engulfed in silence, life was going on around us. But for a few minutes it seems like the world has stopped.

Much like it had to feel that day…

I pray that with every drop of water that falls at the Memorial, with every day that goes by, our children will live in a safer world than we did. I pray that every firefighter, policeman, and emergency worker stays safe and gets to live to go home with their families.


I pray that the families of all the people named on the two waterfalls find as much peace and comfort in the beautiful space in their loved ones memory as we found.

 

If you are planning a trip to New York City and plan to go to the 9/11 Memorial, note that you have to have a ticket and will be required to show identification.

 

The Brightest Sky on the Darkest Day: Remembering 9/11

The Brightest Sky on the Darkest Day: Remembering 9/11

This post is up today, also, at Band Back together. 

I’ve started this post about ten times now. The words haven’t come. Until now. I’ve been wanting to start with something about how bright the day was and couldn’t form the right sentences to make it clear. The last few days have been spent editing all of your wonderful submissions and the overwhelming majority of you, from all across the nation, speak of how gloriously gorgeous this fall day was all over the country. I find it amazing that that is how I remember the day and it’s how you all remember the day.

The sky was the bluest I’d ever seen. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The grass was nearly fluorescent green, giving one last burst of color before dying out for winter. The air was crisp, even in Georgia and everyone on the road driving to work that morning seemed to be minding their manners. I remember thinking this to myself as I drove the 33 miles to work that day.

And then, as I was getting out of my car to go into my parents’ jewelry store to work, they broke in with THE BREAKING NEWS. I listened and ran inside and made my mom turn on the little TV we used for our security cameras. There it was. Right there in front of us. I took one look at the first impact’s fire and smoke and said out loud to my mom, “those buildings are going to fall down.”

As I said it, the second tower was hit. I called my husband whose first comment was, “We’re watching. My largest client is in one of the towers. I can’t get in touch with any of them.”

Work stopped. Nobody came into our store that day that I remember. We stayed glued to the TV and locked the doors because we didn’t turn on the security camera and quite honestly were afraid of what else would happen, even in VERY small town Georgia.

All day I worried about Jason and his employees, knowing they were terribly worried about their client. They left and went to one of their homes to watch and huddle together. As we would later find out, his client was housed in the North Tower on floors 93-101. The impact zone of Flight 11 was on floors 93-11. Every employee and contractor for that company that was already at work lost their lives — 295 employees and 63 contractors — on impact.

The news kept coming. The world kept changing. The fear was growing. The reports were almost impossible to fathom. Number of dead. More crashes – Pentagon, Shanksville. More dead. Bigger numbers. People missing. Signs looking for their loved ones. Where were these people? People running and screaming with obvious injuries. Where were the parents of those children?

The desperation and panic and worry increased with every new report.

The world felt so dark and scary. The A Team newscasters were brought in when soap operas should be on. They were wearing black. They were serious. The world felt like it was ending. It felt like it was nighttime and that night would never end. The sun would never shine again.

I needed a snack — a break.

So I grabbed my money and walked out of our jewelry store, expecting dark skies, falling debris, smoke and panic.

What I found was that I had walked out of a black and white world into a world washed in technicolor and silence. Our small downtown street was as silent as could be, with a backdrop of bright blue skies and bright green trees and crisp air.

How could it be so bright when it all felt so dark?

Taken March 2002, I didn't realize a firefighter was in the picture until we got home. It was silent in Lower Manhattan except the hum of equipment moving debris.

March 2002, World Trade Center Site, taken by me

March 2011, 9/11 Memorial at the NYC Firefighter's Museum

March 2011, 9/11 Memorial at the NYC Firefighter's Museum

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