Now that I've officially gotten my new business started, it's time to get back to documenting my travels. :) Before even leaving in January, I had the idea to tack on a trip to the UK to finally explore the country-side and find all those fabulous Austen-related and historical sites. At some point during in Australia, I started telling all the fabulous Brits I was meeting that this was not just an idea, but a certainty, because again- why wait? I had no real reason NOT to make that happen, especially since I was already taking a break from "real life". That said, I wanted to maybe rest a bit and catch up with my family, and my mother hatched a plan for me to plan a little week in NYC with my sister and her family. However, they had the very limited time-frame of Easter break in which to make this visit work. That meant that I had to get from Sydney to New York in approximately 3 days. I obviously already had my flight from Sydney to SF, which I knew was going to be about 24-hours of flying, so I gave myself about 2 days in SF to slightly recalibrate my body and of course also re-pack. I had clothes in my pack for summer, but New York and then the UK in April would most certainly NOT be shorts & t-shirt appropriate!
Side note: I may have underestimated my ability to conquer the time-change from Sydney to SFO. I left Sydney shortly after lunch and forced myself to sleep most of the first flight to Hong Kong (with the help of a handy little pill). Then I forced myself to stay awake from HK to SF, thinking that would make me tired enough to sleep the full night of my arrival (around 10pm). At first, I thought I had won. My beloved former travel buddies Gregg & Val picked me up and lent me their couch for the next couple of nights. After catching up with them, I was actually tired, and so with instructions to force me awake around 10am, I successfully drifted asleep. One of the last movies I watched on the plane was Life of Pi, which you may know takes place mostly at sea and is a bit surreal. Well, somehow my dreams overwhelmed me and I woke in complete darkness 100% sure the sofa I was actually on was a boat rocking in the sea. Complete that with thoughts of how I was supposed to make it to California, I knew I was completely delirious. I was simply unable to clear my thoughts at all, so I finally decided around 4am that it was useless, and I went for another pill. Lets just say that sleeping until noon that next day was worth it, and completely excusable. That jet lag is NO JOKE, even with preparation.
Also not a joke? The fact that I had to abandon my beloved backpack. Sweaters and boots just take up so much more room than swimsuits and skirts, sadly. I will admit that I STILL have not mastered the art of packing lightly, and I think I was just so excited to see different clothing from what little I had over the past three months that I just threw all my favorite items into a mammoth roller bag. This would prove to annoy me endlessly during my weeks in the UK, so maybe now I've finally learned my lesson. In any case, finally I reached New York, and again was welcomed by some other great friends who were lending me their comfy couch in Brooklyn, before my family arrived the day after. Even though that was just a mere three hours more of time difference, that hit me pretty hard as well. My friends showed me all of the waterfront development going on, and we attempted to walk across the Brooklyn bridge.
I say attempt because it would've been amazing, but the weather wasn't really cooperating, and my energy level wasn't really either, so after a FABULOUS brunch (the food in Brooklyn really is fantastic), we headed back home to take a cozy nap. Then my wonderful friends allowed me to watch the Duke game (even though they are Tar Heel fans), and were really quite nice to me when we lost. This would be the game where the poor Louisville player shattered his leg mid-first half, which honestly put a damper on any smack-talk that would've been going on anyway. But still- very kind of them. Besides, they took me to a super cool bar and then a wonderful French restaurant to help drown my sorrows. Seriously- and I know this isn't news to a lot of people at this point - but Brooklyn is really cool. I highly recommend staying there rather than in Manhattan if you want a bit more of a "local" feeling experience.
However- if you're heading to NYC for the first time and want the full tourist experience, as my brother-in-law and nieces were, Manhattan is still the place to be, so off I went to meet them at our hotel. I'd chosen a boutique hotel which was a great value, just off central park by the Museum of Natural History. This ended up being a really great choice. It's not in the absolute madness of Times Square and mid-town, but it's only about 3 subway stops away from that area, and there are plenty of cool restaurants in the area. Plus, it's ideally located for an excellent walk through the park down to 5th Avenue & FAO Schwartz, ect. We had heard that the Toys R Us in Times Square was now far superior to FAO Schwartz, but for purely sentimental reasons, my Mom and I still really wanted to take the girls there. It's probably not worth it, even with the big piano from "Big", fyi. Here are a few shots of our walk through central park that first lovely afternoon (click the arrows to flip through them):
Day two included a longer subway ride down to Ground Zero. It was about 75% finished when we were there, and we could already tell it will be fantastic. Getting in was a bit complicated, to say the least, plus it was now freezing, and for the girls (7 years old), the significance of the place was of course over their heads. We then walked the few blocks down to Battery Park to board the Staten Island Ferry. We had to give in to the wooly-hat vendors it was soo cold, and make a pit-stop in a Starbucks for some hot drinks, even though it really only is about a 15 minute walk. Because Ellis Island and the Statue island were still closed from Hurricane Sandy, there was absolutely no reason to wait in line for the statue cruise, and besides- you do go right by Lady Liberty for a very reasonable price - FREE! Honestly, unless you want to visit the museum at Ellis Island (which is amazing from all reports), this is the way to go! Here are some pics of Ground Zero and our ferry-ride:
Next up: lunch and some shopping in Chinatown! My hosts from Brooklyn have actually lived in China previously, so they recommended an authentic place and boy did they deliver! The food was fantastic, if a bit odd for my NC family, and it was right around the corner from all the crazy shopping on Canal St. After a fairly long cab ride home for a rest, it was time for a fabulous Broadway show (Annie, in this case). The girls are into theater, so they absolutely loved it - definitely a highlight!! The next morning was spent exploring the Museum of National History, which I skipped in favor of a catch-up tea with a great friend. After a bit of a wander to find a deli for lunch (we didn't want to go to Katz's, knowing how crowded it would be), we headed down to Rockefeller Center and the American Girl doll shop (useless unless you have fanatical fans). After a walk through times square at night, and dinner at a funny theme-restaurant for the girls, we headed up to Top of the Rock, which I find a bit better than going to the top of the Empire State, because you actually SEE the Empire State (even if my pic is a bit blurry)!
With that, our time in Manhattan came to an end, and therefore I'll end this never-ended blog post and say that no matter who you're with, New York City really is an amazing place to visit. We managed to fit in activities that everyone from 7-year-olds to a 70-something year old would enjoy, all during a short school holiday period. It was now time for me to cross another ocean and hit the UK! :)