Log 1 – New York City Arrival and Times Square
TR Robertson — After two and a half years of opening and closing of the chances to add travel once again as a part of the American landscape, my wife and I recently started out on a lengthy vacation to the east coast of the United States and beyond. We did manage, in 2020, to sneak in a fun trip with my son and his family to Big Sur and the San Yanez wine country, following all the COVID virus protocols stipulated by the state of California. A portion of our current 2022 trip includes a cruise on Oceania Cruise Lines, a trip that originally, in 2020, was to be trip beginning in Singapore along with numerous stops in India and other ports. As the COVID pandemic cut into the travel industry, our original cruise was cancelled and postponed and we were given an opportunity to change in hopes that 2021 would bring better travel chances. In 2021, the cruise we picked out was postponed and we were then wait listed on the cruise along the east coast of the U.S. with stops in Canada, Greenland, and Iceland. As 2022 arrived, we were informed, in March, that we had been added to the list of passengers for Oceania’s Insignia cruise ship, beginning in New York and including stops in Boston, Maine, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Greenland and Iceland, scheduled to leave on July 21st.
Excitedly, my wife, Carolyn, began preparations for the cruise, scheduled to leave New York in mid-July. We decided to add a visit to New York City, a city we had flown into many times, but a city we had never experienced. The following series of articles will take you, the readers, through the amazing experiences we took part in, the food scene, the sights, the sounds, the unusual, the different and the history of a part of the U.S. and other countries we were visiting for the first time. As you read these, if you have been to any of the locations we stopped in and have had experiences you would like to share, add them at the bottom of the articles in the space provided.
Departure and Arrival
The day had finally arrived for our departure to New York City. All preparations had been made for someone to care for our home and our little girl, Bindi, a mini-Aussie Shepard. We were also conflicted about leaving on the trip as our son Chris and his wife Leslie were expecting our second grandchild, which happened on our second day in NYC, arriving about a week early, so welcome to Little TR. An early flight to New York City began with a 4:20 am pick-up at our home for San Diego International Airport. We gave our selves plenty of time for check-in, TSA security screening and gate arrival for our 7:00 am departure. We dropped our luggage off at the Alaska Airlines check-in counter, finding out that we had packed a little heavy. One of our initial problems was figuring out what clothes to take as we would be arriving to sweltering weather in NYC and Boston and cooler weather in Canada with cold weather in Greenland and Iceland. Along with this we had to bring some nicer clothes for some of the restaurants on the cruise ship. The plane loaded passengers on time, but a forty-five-minute delay occurred due to the number of planes in line for early morning departures. One thing I immediately noticed was the fact that at least 80% of the passengers did not wear masks on the plane, the flight attendants did. As we approached New York City, the pilot of the plane made an announcement that we might be delayed due to thunderstorms in the area, or we might even have to land elsewhere and refuel if we had to wait too long to land, then take-off again to continue to New York. A groan came out from those on the plane. Shortly after this, another announcement was made that an opening had come up and we would be landing not only on time, but a little early. Claps and a few cheers welcomed this news.
Landing and disembarking, we were surprised at the ease of getting off the plane and how close the baggage carousel was to our gate. We grabbed out luggage, looking like people moving to another city rather than just visiting. Carolyn had arranged for a Limo-type SUV pick-up so a quick phone call and about a fifteen-minute wait had us loading the luggage for a one-hour ride into the city. One quick observation was that the traffic in NYC at around 4:00 pm is as bad, if not worse, than San Diego and Los Angeles traffic. Our driver filled us in about some of the sites we were driving by. As we got into Midtown Manhattan, where our hotel was located, lots of things jumped out, such as honking cabs, food kiosks selling everything imaginable were on almost every corner, fast food places were everywhere on every block and the signals for crossing streets for pedestrians meant nothing. I especially noticed the number of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts shops around. There was a Dunkin’ Donuts directly across from our hotel we never stopped in. One of our guides said there was something like 126 Starbucks in Manhattan alone. I did see one that was out of business.
We checked into our hotel, the RIU Manhattan Plaza Hotel on 47th Street and got to choose the 41st floor as our room location. We were hungry as the food we were given on the plane consisted of a bag of Simply Steller Original Vegan Butter Braid with Sea Salt and a Coke. Picking up a City Guide with a map of Manhattan and finding out we were only two blocks away from Times Square, we grabbed our phones and camera, and our adventure began. The hotel also provided a handout on places to eat they recommended, divided by food type. Carolyn suggested Thai food, so we picked out a place called Yum Yum Too Thai on 46th Street, a street designated as Restaurant Row. Walking out of the hotel toward 7th Street we turned toward Times Square and were amazed at the number of people on the sidewalks and crowded into the Times Square area, both tourists and locals. It is estimated 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily. It was hard to imagine that around 58,000 people crowd into this area on New Year’s Eve in an area fenced off and shut down to traffic and there are no restrooms available in the area on New Year’s Eve. The New Year’s ball and 2022 could be seen high above on the118 year old One Times Square Building that is being renovated. Characters in costume paraded in the open spaces of Times Square, dressed in Star Wars costumes, Sesame Street costumes, Marvel Superhero costumes, and several ladies with bikini Vegas girl costumes painted on beckoning people to take pictures with them, for a fee. I remember hearing Jimmy Fallon make jokes about the Elmo Sesame Street character. As we walked by the street corners the smells of food cooking from the kiosks mixed creating an overwhelming aroma. Along the way we began to notice a number of the Broadway theatres with musicals on stage like Hamilton, Beetlejuice, Chicago, Six and many moremusicals, as this is also part of the Theatre District for NYC. In Times Square there was a booth with long lines of people attempting to purchase tickets for many of the shows for that day’s performances. There are 41 Broadway theatres in NYC, theaters that seat more than 500 people. Theatres with 99-499 seating capacity are Off Broadway theatres and theatres with 99 and below seating capacity are Off-Off Broadway theatres.
As we walked down 46th Street we passed small restaurant after small restaurant of every imaginable “flavor”. They all had outdoor eating areas as well, most of them added during the COVID pandemic when indoor eating was either not allowed or strongly discouraged. New York City is allowing these outdoor eating spots to remain. Finding Yum Yum Too Thai at the corner of 46th and 8th, we had our first NYC meal, Pad Thai Noodles, Pork Dumplings, and some deep-fried sweet corn kernels with a sweet sauce. A delicious meal to begin the New York City adventure. We returned to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Day 2 in NYC will cover our visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and One World Observatory as well as our first ride on a New York City Subway.