Saturday, 29 January 2011

Dec 22 - To Liberty & Beyond

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day for our excursion to visit the Statue of Liberty. After a simple breakfast of cereals, muffins and bagels in our room, we caught the subway to South Ferry Terminal where we walked to Battery Park. We picked up our pre-purchased tickets and went through security to get on the ferry to Liberty Island. As necessary as it was, security was rather painful. We had to go the whole hog as at the airports. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we didn’t have 6 children with us.

On the subway bright and early

Tickets in hand...Let's go!
Seated on the ferry ready to go!
Goodbye to Manhattan...
...Onto Liberty Island
Our first glimpse of the Lady herself

Once on the Island, we had to go through more security to climb up to the crown. Bar our cameras, we also had to lock up everything in lockers which took even more time. The climb to the crown in winter coats was a rather strenuous journey that encompassed 354 steps in a narrow enclosed space. It was definitely harder than expected! The long preparation to ascend the crown though, was well worth it as the view was spectacular! We then went down to pedestal level where the museum was and caught up with the rest of the group looking after the little ones who were not allowed to climb to the Crown. The museum was fascinating, going through the history and symbolism of the statue.

Making the approach for the climb
The original torch
The stairs to go up...
One way up and the other way down
One of the first to reach the top. Oh to be young again...
The whole group!
A spectacular view
Going down is just as hard!

The morning flew by and we decided to give Ellis Island a miss as we left to seek some lunch. The ferry was very full with those standing up packed up right next to each other and we were unfortunate enough to again encounter some terrible attitude. A family of 3, the youngest of whom was a young lady in her early twenties sprawled themselves, along with their bags, on the seat. To give you an idea of how much space they took up, we were able to fit 4 adults and 4 children on the same seat. We didn't expect them to give up their seats. However, not only did they refuse to move, they also expected those around them to give them space! The young lady complained rather loudly that the children were too close to her legs, and that one of the children actually touched her leg. Unbelievable! We were so glad they left at Ellis Island. It was a change from the helpful and friendly people at Walt Disney World.
We caught the subway to Pastis, a Parisian style brasserie in the meatpacking district. As we waited outside for our tables, we admired the fashionable and impeccably dressed patrons walking out. Unfortunately, there were no stars for us to spot today. We did, however, have a delicious, albeit, very late lunch. Seared tuna nicoise, linguini with cockles and garlic, and crème brulee made for very contented stomachs. Jonah stayed asleep throughout, which meant Malcolm and I ate in peace!
Joining the rush for the ferry back to Manhattan
The view from Battery Park
Waiting patiently for a table

We walked off lunch at the High Line, a park built on a section of the former elevated freight railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. The frigid cold must have helped burn off some extra fat! Although it was a nice walk, it would have been nicer in speing or summer. It is definitely a must to come back to when they have extended the line. At the end of the walk, we separated from the rest of the group to get ready for our “date” tonight.

High Line Park
Lara pretending to be asleep
Jonah having a VERY late lunch
Anyone need a model? Mitch doing his best pose

Luan in her element, organising the group for a photo
The result!
An impressive car park
Watching traffic go by
Views from the Park

We caught a cab back to the hotel and settled for John’s Pizza, supposedly one of the best pizzas in New York. We were not able to squish it anywhere in our busy schedule so we decided to take the opportunity for some take-away tonight. Malcolm was sent walking to obtain one and he came back with one HUGE pizza. We only managed to eat half as a family!
Luan came to babysit the children and we walked our half a block to see Wicked at the Gershwin Theater. It was lovely to have some time to ourselves. However, I have to be honest and report that I was just a little bit disappointed with Wicked. I was not wowed as I expected to be. The sets were amazing and the performers phenomenal. I was captured by the storyline but was underwhelmed by the score which I thought was a touch weak. I kept waiting for the heart stopping number, but it never came. Overall, I did enjoy it though and I was glad that I got to see it in Broadway.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Dec 21 - New York New York!

I am just a little tired of all the early starts. Delta had moved our flight forward which meant that we had to complete resort airline check in for our flight by 5am. Malcolm scored that job. I won the lottery and got to dress and feed the children. Yippee! We had to be organised to reconvene at the lobby by 5:45 for our 6:00 am Magical Express shuttle to MCO. It was somewhat sad to leave the beautiful Port Orleans Riverside. Our time at Walt Disney World seemed to have gone by so quickly and I couldn’t believe that it was over.
Our last views of the POR

Without our large suitcases, it was a smooth process for our flight to New York. Arrival at La Guardia was also very smooth and quick. Our luggage had already come through by the time we got out. Our driver from Wiro limo was already there. The big surprise of the day was that we got a big white stretch limo! I was expecting a minivan...

It appears that "Malcolm" is quite difficult to spell

Our stretch limousine!

The children thoroughly enjoyed the luxurious interiors of the limo on our journey to the Novotel, alongside our suitcases. When we arrived, our room was fortunately ready. Jonah screamed so much that the concierge gave all the kids free stuffed toys to shut him up! Most reviews of the Novotel mentioned generously sized rooms for a New York hotel. I’d hate to think what a not-generously sized room would be like! After the rollaway bed was made up, we foolishly attempted to enforce naptime and failed miserably. We decided to abandon ship and walked through the bright lights of Times Square instead, aiming for the B&H Super Store at 34th St.

Everyone huddle up nice and close
The other half
Our room at the Novotel Times Square
Our very first New York cheesecake. Yummy!
Our collection of soft toys thanks to Jonah's screaming fit

What an amazing store! And the mind boggled at the sight of the photography section, a haven for any photographer. The shop, though large, was surprising well set out and signed, with helpful and friendly staff posted at strategic locations. . The kids were happy though because they scored free lollies and lemonade. As tempting as it was, we ended up walking out without making any purchases I didn’t think I was anywhere near the level required to justify buying the expensive lens that I had been eying. I still had much to learn about my current gear and a long way to go before I outgrew them.
We began what would become a familiar and time consuming routine of making sure the children had their hats, gloves and coats on. We then headed for Macy's. After we got our 10% discount card, we started shopping. And oh did we shop! It so happened that they had a one day sale of 30-80% off. It was madness. It was a struggle simply getting into the store. So we ended up having McDonald’s for dinner within Macy’s as we did not want to brave exiting and re-entering. We didn't end up getting Elliot’s socks or Lara's sneakers but we did get a whole heap of other stuff!
Walking through Times Square

Obviously still haven't had enough...

Lens, oh glorious expensive lens!

We were surprised to discover that it was already 930pm! This was followed by the realisation that we had lost Jonah's new Land’s end jacket. Trying to find the jacket was a lost cause. We bought a new one and caught our first taxi in NY successfully. The children were exhausted and fell asleep without fuss. Though tired, I went to bed happy and excited, eager to continue our adventure in this city.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

We are home!

A brief post in real time...

We have arrived home safely after a horrendous 14 hours with Jonah on the plane. Thankfully the lovely Lanella has made the house immaculate for our return, even washing our sheets and making our bed. It was nice coming home to a tidy and clean house. Mother came to the rescue, cooking us dinner and then taking the children for a sleep-over, excluding Jonah unfortunately. I have since had to re-learn how to shop, cook and look after my own children. Being the great mother that I am, I discovered that the kids don't go back to school until next Monday. Arghh!!!! At least, we have now unpacked and all the laundry is done. Thank goodness tomorrow is a public holiday. Hopefully I'll have time to sort through the 30 pages of blog notes that I've made as well as the collective 110G of videos and photos...the trip report will continue shortly. I promise!

I am eagerly awaiting our trip to Hong Kong in May and the announcement of the Magic's itinerary for 2012 in April so we can plan our next big adventure.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Dec 20 - A Trip To The Dark Side

Today was our last day in Florida before heading off to New York and it was somewhat of an anti-climax after such a wonderful time in WDW.

We were picked up by our 720am Mears shuttle for our Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure day. After making it to the gates of Island of Adventure just before 8am, we were routed the LONG way through Jurassic Park toward the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. However just short of the WWOHP, the crowds were advised that it had already reached capacity and we had to either wait in the stand-by line or get a timed ticket to enter. However, this ticket was to be obtained all the way back at Toon Lagoon. So we trooped back with Malcolm running in front. The fabulous husband of mine earnt his keep and managed to get the first return ticket issued for the day. This was all by 835am.

What I resented was the poor flow of information and poor crowd management. The whole morning was filled with chaos and confusion. This was evident in the frustration of all the other guests around us. We were also unable to get information about child swap despite asking 5 staff members.

When we tried to return to WWoHP, we found the road blocked. We were not told why but the path was so jammed pack with people that it was impossible to do anything else but wait. Even at this late stage of the morning, I could see that guests were being told different things by different staff members and that people were just not getting the information that they needed. We only found out by chance that the timed ticket we got was for entry into WWoHP and not for the Forbidden Journey. This was not apparent and others were not so polite when they found out.
Islands of Adventure

The stroller brigade ready to roll out

Almost there...but no cigar. We were told to turn back
Our place of refuge while we waited
The line for entry to WWoHP would later go past this statue
We tried to make the best of the situation and we did enjoy getting to see WWoHP. We bought ourselves some butter beer, both frozen and unfrozen, as well as some pumpkin juice. It was simply delicious! I loved the frozen version. With everyone refreshed, we started to line up for Forbidden Journey. At this stage, we had no idea what would happen to the babies and we were tired of asking with no reply so we took them all with us. By chance, we found out that we didn't need lockers as the ones minding the babies were able to carry the bags. This was fortunate as we very nearly took the slightly longer line of those who required lockers. We were still in the line for at least 90 minutes. This truly tested everybody's patience, for both adults and children. The ride was fanastic but it broke down halfway through! To have the lights come on whilst stuck in an awkward position just ruined the experience.

By the time we finished, the place was even more crowded so we left. The children were getting tired of lining up and were cranky and hungry. I was so disappointed that we didn't get into Ollivander's or Honeydukes's. We headed to Seuss Landing to entertain the little ones and for some lunch. We then left IOA and headed for Universal Studios.

Completing a very important transaction
What Elliot thought of the goods
The pumpkin juice
Crazy roof lines
Pointing us in the right direction
A place to lick our wounds
Once again, it was disappointing to discover that the advertised wait times did not correspond at all to the actual wait times! Shrek 4D was noted to have a 10 min wait so we entered, but ended up waiting for at least 20 min. We gave the children another reprieve and headed for Woody Wood Pecker's fieval's playground. We had a choice of ET with a 45min wait or the children's rollercoaster which advertised a 20 min wait time. We chose the latter but came out at the same time as our friend who chose the former. I was not happy Jan.

We decided to give up on Universal all together and headed out for an early dinner of Japanese. It was a nice way to end the day and oh so welcoming to have sushi and sashimi. Who would have thought that jalapenos peppers would work well with sushi! We caught the shuttle back to the hotel exhausted. Although the day did not go as well as was expected, it helped to share the experience with friends. We were at least able to complain to each other to moderate the pain!

We're now back at the hotel and we've finally sorted out our luggage that we're leaving behind to be transfered to the Boardwalk Inn upon our return to Florida. We're off to New York tomorrow!

Hurray for Japanese!