Tuesday, December 20, 2016

the city that never sleeps- part 2

On Monday morning, we were up early and in the rehearsal hall to check the girls out from their chaperones. After checking them out, we headed to the Statue of Liberty as a group.... A group of over 600!!  Spirit of America does a great job of managing such a large group, but its obviously a little slow pace.  We made our way to our first subway of the trip.  It turned out to be a memory I won't soon forget.  Since we had a huge group, we were literally stuffed like sardines onto the subway.  Our group of 20 was terrified of getting separated on the subway, so seeing us move when the doors opened to hop on was quite comical.  We stuck together and moved as one unit.  The common people of NYC were probably not too pleased with us, to say the least.  We made it to the Statue of Liberty Harbor Cruise and waited for a little while to get on our boat.  The wait was cold, but we survived.  Whenever we got on the boat, we claimed a park bench outside in a place where the wind was blocked.  Some of our crew got inside where it was warm.  I think everybody enjoyed seeing Lady Liberty.

We took the time on the boat to take a Kea family photo.  Lisa and Lucinda are mom's first cousins.  Kea is my first cousin.  This dance trip kind of turned into a family affair and I loved it.

Whenever we got off of the boat, we went to the 9-11 Memorial with a smaller group from Spirit of America and then made our way to Macy's.
The girls had to be back to the hotel and ready for NBC rehearsal at Macy's by 6:00.  We took the time to go to Ellen's Stardust Diner.  It's been more fun in years past when we have been, but I still love the place!  The waiters and waitresses are aspiring to be on Broadway and someone is singing the entire time.  They're very talented and it gives a fun atmosphere.  The girls stayed up late practicing and sorting their red jackets that had gotten mixed up whenever they took them off at Macy's rehearsal!

On Tuesday morning, some of our group was up at the crack of dawn to go to the Today Show.  Mom and I decided to wait since "Today Show" was on the Spirit of America schedule for the day and we thought it may be super crowded.  Turns out the majority of the girls opted to sleep instead of doing the Today Show at 6am.  After the Today Show, we went to McDonalds for breakfast and everybody did their own thing.  Beccy, Morgan, Lisa, Jaden, Jenn, Hanna, Kea, Mom and I went to the Brooklyn Bridge.  Figuring the Subway out stressed me out a little bit, but I had good help.  The Brooklyn Bridge was probably my favorite thing from this trip.  It was something I hadn't seen before and it was so, so pretty!

The view was awesome.  After we made it across the bridge, Mom, Landon Kea and I went down to Wall Street before heading back toward Midtown.
We made it to the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular a few minutes late, but we made it nontheless.  The boys slept through it and some of the girls did too!  They were so exhausted! After the show, we went and got pizza at Sbrarro and did some souvenir shopping.
Afterwards, mom and I got tickets to see Lion King the next night and then went to Bryant Park. We really loved Bryant Park.  It had a cute skating rink, Christmas tree, and cute little shops all set to Christmas music and lights. She got a treat that looked out of this world good, but I was still feeling a little sick so I didn't indulge.  Our night was cut short whenever a random guy ran into the table we were sitting at and then made a scene like I had intentionally tripped him.  I'm pretty sure he intentionally ran into our table!  A guy nearby saw what was going on and asked him if he had a problem.  I gave the guy who came to our rescue a thank you and we got out of dodge.  I found the mace in my purse after we had made it about two blocks.  Fail.

Wednesday morning, mom and I got up early (starting to see trend here?) and walked passed the Today Show to see Al and Matt.  We were planning to go back on Friday morning, but Al & Matt are off on Friday after the parade on Thursday.  We walked by a few times and got some pictures of them, and then went and got breakfast at a little cafe behind the hotel.  We took our breakfast to the rehearsal hall where the girls had started a dress rehearsal for their parents at 8am.
 I stayed long enough to see them perform their number with music once and then went back to the room to catch a break while I could!

We got the boys and headed to Macy's to shop a little.  I lucked up because all of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade stuff was half off by Wednesday.  Score.  We ate at Sbrarro and then found a good place to wait on the rest of the group to make their way over to go to the Empire State Building.  By this time, I think everybody was completely exhausted and starting to feel the lack of sleep.  We have seen the Empire State Building at night before, and I think it was prettier!

It's still an awesome view though.  After the Empire State Building, most of the group went to Central Park.  We took some cute pictures and enjoyed being semi-laid back for a short time.

The Central Park skating rink is my favorite! After Central Park, we split up and a smaller group of us made our way up 5th Avenue and past Trump Tower. We found a place to eat and then mom and I went to see Lion King on Broadway!  Spirit of America offered an extra Broadway show (Wicked) for an additional fee whenever we registered.  We chose not to take advantage of the offer.  First of all, it already cost and arm and a leg and $120 extra dollar just didn't strike my fancy.  Also, I thought I would probably rather see Lion King if we saw another show.  I'm glad we did it, but I wouldn't have to see it again.  It may have been better if we hadn't been on the very tip top row of the theater!  We laughed a lot about how tired we were and the possibility of falling asleep during a show that costs us a pretty penny.  It was HOT up in there too and I stripped down to my cuddle duds.  Cuddle duds are like long johns.  They were thick and fleece, so it was kind of like leggings and a fitted top.  I also shucked my shoes.  Uggs make my feet hot hot hot.  Lets just say I probably didn't meet the dress code and thank goodness for dark theaters.

We took the well lit streets back to the room and got in bed as quickly as possible.  Every minute of sleep counts when you're getting up at 4am.  Thursday morning, we were on the road by 5am.  Whenever we walked out of the Hilton we saw quickly that we were not going to get a front row seat on our side of the road.  We crossed the road and gave up the luxury of a restroom for the next 6 hours to have a front row seat for the parade.  #worthit  We spread out blankets on the side walk to save spots for the rest of the spectators in our group.  Most of them were still helping the girls get ready whenever we made it out to the sidewalk!

 Parade morning was most definitely the coldest I got the whole week.  We were sitting in the same place for hours.  I had lots of layers, a blanket, hot hands, feet warmers, Uggs... and I was still pretty frigid.  I couldn't help but think about the dancers in their skimpy costumes and tights out there somewhere freezing their tails off!!  They were given wind blockers like runners use, but from what I've heard those didn't help too much!  There was a Starbucks near us but nobody would get one because we knew we would need a restroom and there wasn't one.  Not without crossing the road and potentially getting stuck over there!  Bathrooms in NYC are few and far between.  The security itself at the parade was something to see.  NYPD was everywhere.  We are pretty certain that an undercover cop was nearby us the entire time.  A middle age guy with a black coat on propped up on a mailbox behind us super early in the morning.  He was by himself and he stayed there the entire time.

The parade started at 9 and was in front of us around 9:30.  It isn't quite as magical as it is on TV with all of the background music and such, but it is still pretty awesome. Whenever the Spirit of America groups passed us, everybody lost their mind hollering and acting crazy.  Since we were in front of the Hilton where everybody was staying, that is to be expected.  We spotted a few of the girls, but I don't think they saw us.  We didn't make it back into the room in time to catch their performance on TV.  We may have if we had not been across the road!  After Santa made his way by us, we went inside to thaw out and thanked the Lord we were safe because there was so much hype about terrorism during the parade.

There was a lot of adrenaline going in the Hilton whenever the girls came back from performing and then they started to crash.
We got a group picture and gave everybody a time to meet downstairs to go to Thanksgiving lunch.  I called and bumped up our reservation, which thankfully wasn't a problem.  The parade didn't last as long as we thought it would and everybody was hungry.  I set out to have a few moments to myself and find the restaurant.  I had made reservations a month prior, but I wanted to make sure I knew where it was so I could give everybody directions.  It's hard to herd a lot of people even whenever they're cooperative and helpful! Especially whenever everybody is a little lost and the majority is just following the person in front of them with no actual clue where they are!  Haha.  Anyway. I found the restaurant and called mom with the directions.  We ate at O'Lunney's and they were very accommodating, had a wide variety on the menu and served us up a decent Thanksgiving lunch.  I ordered a quesadilla and started smashing it before I realized I probably needed to hold back.  My stomach wasn't doing me any favors, even this far into the week!

After we ate and about half the girls fell asleep in the restaurant, we found the Subway to the 9-11 Memorial.  Subway Selfie!
 About half way into our subway ride, they announced that the route we were taking was down.  Great.  So we walk up out of the subway lost with no idea which way to go!  Tina put the address into her iPhone and saved the day.  We made it right on time for our 4:30 reservation at the memorial.  I found a restroom in the memorial and went and stripped about 2 layers and put them in my backpack!  It got warm.  The memorial is very well done and worth seeing.

Most of its contents include things leftover from the buildings.  I was really interested in reading some of the first hand accounts of what happened that day.  If I hadn't been super tired and with a big group, we probably could have spent a little more time in there.  Whenever we got back close to the hotel, everybody split up.  A lot of our group went back to the room, but not us!  Mom, Beccy, Kea and I went back to Bryant Park.  Kea got churros and then we found the NY Public Library as well as Grand Central Station.  Grand Central was another favorite for me.  It was unbelievable!  We rode the subway from Grand Central into Times Square and finished up our shopping.
 After we got back to the room, we packed up our stuff and got ready for departure.

Friday morning, we got up early once again.  A crew of us went down to the Today Show where we were second in line shortly after 5am.
 We got into the plaza and the camera scanned us a few times but I don't think we got much camera time!  Beccy and I went ahead and left early because we wanted to go find Penn Station and get some detailed directions about what we needed to do to make darn sure we made it home.  We had a little trouble with the subway, so we just walked the wholeeee way.  I bet we walked 3 miles that morning!  We came in contact with someone super rude who told us where we needed to go whenever we got to Penn Station.  After we got back to the room, we learned that mom had stuck it out by herself at the Today Show and got on TV pretty good!  She also won a $25 Kmart gift card as a reward for sticking it out!  Haha.  My mother is a crazy person on vacation.  She doesn't eat or sleep-- she just goes full speed ahead for the duration of the trip wherever she is.  You should see her at Disney.

We all met in the lobby of the hotel and the bell man helped us each get taxis.  The trip to Penn Station was much shorter and cheaper this time than when we arrived, which nobody could figure out.  We were at Penn Station super early. After we got our luggage checked in, everybody left their carry-ons and went to get food nearby/shop at Macy's for a few hours. I stayed with everybody's stuff for awhile and then mom and I went to get something to eat on the train ride home.  I think we all felt a little relief as we waited for our train to arrive to take us home.  I did one thing on the way home- sleep. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see my house.  It was a fun trip, but I felt like I had been gone for half a month! I really cannot say enough great things about this group!  They were a lot of fun and I would do it all over again!

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