1. New York 2009

  2. O

    ur original plan was to go to Quebec city and enjoy some of the local attractions including Ile d’Orleans to pick strawberries, Val Cartier water park and the Moulin à Images. We were watching the weather closely the days leading up to our departure. The weather in Quebec is colder than Montreal and going to a water park required good summer conditions. On Sunday our fears were confirmed, cool and rainy days on the horizon for the upcoming week. On the spur of the moment we decided to change our plans and we scrambled to cancel our reservations in Quebec and make new ones in New York city. Chantal found an excellent hotel on 54th and 6th called the Warwick. I ran out to the local Chapters to by a couple of books on NY. We packed our bags and got ready for a Monday morning start.

  3. We left at 10:30 AM July 6th, Shortly after crossing the border we stopped at Beekmantown for a bathroom break and to eat some of the food we packed for the trip. Thankfully it was mostly cut vegetables which kept it light. The weather for the 615 Km drive was perfect we enjoyed really nice scenery in the Catskills. We had a brief second stop at 3:30 PM for gas at Hannacroix just south of Albany. The children travelled well until about the 5th hour when they started to get weary of being in the car. As we approached the George Washington bridge I got a text message from Daniel on my phone. It turned out that they were still in N.Y.C. on their return from Mexico and we decided to meet for dinner.

  4. We arrived at 6:40 PM and checked into the hotel. We were very happy to meet Nathalie, Daniel, John, and Matthew in the lobby of the warwick and headed out for dinner. We walked around on Central Park South looking for a place to eat and finally settled on Pazza Note on 6th Ave.

  5. The highlight of our dinner was Nat and Dan recounting their wonderful vacation in Mexico. How they learned to drink tequila, the dune buggy rides, and the beautiful seclusion of their resort mixed with the nearby town over the hills. Dinner ended around 8 and we headed back to the hotel and settled in around a quarter to 11.

  6. The next day, Tuesday, we woke up at about 6:30 and were ready for the included breakfast an hour later. We were pleasantly surprised by the breakfast which was varied and of good quality. There were fresh croissants, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, blueberry blintzes, NY bagels, yoghurt, sausage, bacon, fresh melon, pineapple, and other fruit. we made it special for the children by letting them have chocolate milk every morning.

  7. Dan had left us his tickets for the Grayline sightseeing tours which he had purchased and which only expired the next day. We decided to use these and first thing after breakfast we walked over to Columbus circle to get on the bus. We started with the uptown loop where we saw many sights including the Cotton Club and the Apollo theater in Harlem with Michael Jackson on the Marquis.

  8. At 11:00 AM we switched to the downtown loop, William was tired and fell asleep on the bus, the tour guide laughed and said “well, how can you sleep on my tour”. We passed through Times Square, then on to the Empire State building, the flat iron building and we got off in the financial district where we had lunch at the nearby McDonald’s at about 12:45. The first floor was extremely busy and noisy but we found the second floor called the “orchid room” a quiet oasis. A friendly New Yorker directed us to walk through an old church “St. Paul's Chapel” where we could access the construction site at ground zero. She also cautioned us to keep hold of our children while wandering the city.

  9. We walked around the site and got directions to visit the WTC Visitor Center. A museum setup to deliver a personal message about and from people of the September 11th tragedy. The place is very small by New York standards and fairly crowded, but we found the exhibits of personal effects and messages from loved ones very touching. We were told that some of the buildings that were deemed unsafe had to be dismantled piece by piece because they could not be dismantled by explosives. This painstaking process will take a very long time and is extremely costly. I was taken aback by the thought of taking apart a skyscraper girder by girder.

  10. We ran back to catch the Grayline bus at the stop where we got off at 5th ave. and 14th street. We continued our tour to head back up to the Museum of Natural history. The tour guide we got on this bus was not very good and I got the sense that she was making up stuff as we were going along. The previous tour guide explained the color coding of street signs from the black, to green to brown. Black being financial district but our new guide said something completely different and lumped two of the colors together. All this to say that the quality of the guides varies a lot. Additionally, we were quite surprised that we were never asked to show our tickets on any of the 3 occasions where we got on.

  11. We underestimated the time it would take to get back to the AMNH and arrived about one hour before closing. Luckily we were able to catch the last showing of “Journey to the Stars” at 4:15 PM. The show was presented from within a huge sphere, I was very impressed by how the solar system was explained and you get could a real sense of proportions and how vast the orbits of the remote planets. The show was also very good at portraying the awesome power of the sun and its electromagnetic influence. What I found puzzling where the sound effects and rumbling seats as the show flew us past large stars. I guess soundless, vibrationless space is not as exciting.

  12. With the remaining minutes left until closing we took a quick dash to the 4th floor to see the impressive dinosaur exhibits. The museum would have to be visited again.

  13. We walked down a few blocks and had dinner at the Chirping Chicken. The food was pretty good and appeared to be very popular with the locals.

  14. After dinner ran into another friendly New Yorker who did her best to help direct us to the nearest subway station. In the end we decided we had walked enough already and hailed a cab. We headed for some shopping for the children. Our first stop was the FAO Schwartz but unfortunately we arrived after closing which was at 7PM. Since the Apple store was right next door we dropped in for a visit. The actual store is below ground. The entrance is a large glass cube at street level with the iconic white apple at the center. To access the store you can either take the all glass elevator or stairs. Despite the store being open 24/7 it was extremely crowded when we visited. William played a few games on some IMACS setup for the children and we picked out an educational game for him. We wrapped up our visit and headed back to the hotel on foot.

  15. On Wednesday we had our hotel breakfast, and the children each had 2 chocolate milks. We then headed for the BX-M11 bus that would take us to the Bronx zoo. I needed to stop at an electronics store to purchase an additonal CF memory card. After purchasing and testing the memory card near Rockefeller Center. We headed down into the nearest subway on 47th to purchase tickets. There we found a very helpful transit employee who explained how we could get to the zoo by taking 3 trains.

  16. We were slightly alarmed when everyone on the train including some who looked like they were going to the zoo dropped off one station before ours. Fortunately we were still very near the park and made our way on foot to the park entrance where we found a huge lineup. The transit employee who helped us with the trains also mentioned it was Donation Day at the Bronx zoo. This meant that the usual entrance fee which would have set us back about a hundred dollars for the family was waived. The entrance did have panels that suggested donation amounts but the lineup at the entrance was so big that the staff was just letting people in about 20 at a time without asking for anything at all. The only reason we stopped at the ticket booth was because we needed to rent a stroller. The zoo is huge and I was certain I would need a stroller for the children.

  17. The Bronx Zoo was very crowded and the Tiger exhibit dangerously so. Chantal and the children stayed back when they saw the crowd. I ventured in to get a picture of the big cats. At one point some some of the patrons were getting agitated with the crush of the crowd and I opted to leave bit not before snapping a few quick pics. The other exhibits were not as bad and we were able to enjoy the primates and get good views. We had lunch onsite and after visiting about half of the zoo it was near 4:30. The reptile exhibit was closed so we headed for the exit. I was very happy to have the stroller because it allowed us to cover a lot of ground.

  18. We had dinner at a really nice Thai and Sushi restaurant just a few doors down from our hotel on 54th at about 7PM. We ordered the all you can eat sushi with side orders for the children and enjoyed a nice bottle of Berenger rosé. The food was excellent and the service was pretty good too, we rolled out of there and got back to the hotel at about 9PM. Chantal was very stuffy so I took a walk to find some Sudafed. An hour later Chantal rang my cell and asked where I was at. She was worried that I ran into trouble. It turns out some of the ordinary meds we pickup off the shelf in Canada have to be purchased through a pharmacist in the US. I had to walk between 3 pharmacies before finding one that had pharmacists 24/7. On the bright side I could see down into Times Square which is dazzling at night.

  19. On Thursday we walked from our hotel into Central Park. This being my third visit to New York and Central Park I am still amazed that I always find something new. The old trees are well maintained and very beautiful. There are several species of Oak and I spotted many London Plane but I was surprised to see that New York had a large number of ginkgo trees not only in the park but lining many streets. Aside from the tourists in horse carriages and pedicabs and bicycles. There were numerous native new yorkers enjoying a quiet lunch in the park out of their brown bags and tupperware.

  20. William and Audrey-Anne eagerly climbed the outcroppings of rock and we got a really nice view of the city from one of these vantage points. They were also attracted to a statue of the dog Balto and an amusement park at the south end that we opted not to visit.

  21. We visited the Central Park Zoo at about 10:30AM and I was totally amazed by the quality of this zoo. I was expecting little more than a petting zoo, but it turned out to be first rate. We did not get to see the elusive snow leopard but we did see the polar bears and several tropical birds along with monkeys and nice seal show. All in all I preferred this zoo over what we saw in the Bronx. It was far more accessible for the children.

  22. After our zoo visit we stayed in the park to let the children enjoy some of the playgrounds. I would love to see the park in the fall or in the springtime when the flowers are blooming.

  23. We had lunch at the 6th Ave Café at about 1:40PM and then headed back to the hotel. Audrey-Anne and I took a nap while Chantal and William went shopping at the GAP on 54th and at World of Disney both walking distance away.

  24. On their return from shopping we headed out. Chantal wanted to buy a purse and we ran into a street vendor immediately across the street. While Chantal was cutting a deal I asked a police officer why the police were posted all around the Hilton hotel with a skywatch. He explained that the NAACP were in town and they were providing security. Chantal bought two knock off purses and we headed out on foot to Times Square for a place to eat. After walking down to 42nd we found a nice child friendly mexican restaurant called Chevy’s across from Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. I ordered an enormous watermelon (fruit of the day) margarita and we enjoyed gaucamole made on the spot with fresh baked corn chips. This place is highly recommended.

  25. We then headed for the must see Toys R Us in times square. The store features an in-house ferris wheel. I bought tickets for it and we all got in for a ride it was about 8PM. We then spoiled the kids, William got a galaxy robot and Audrey-Anne some toy musical instruments, of course we had to carry all this stuff around with us in Times Square. We left the store around 10PM.

  26. I stopped in a camera store and bought a lens adaptor that is very hard to find in Montreal. That is what I really like about New York, you can find just about anything including adapter rings for a ten year old camera.

  27. We then stopped at a tourist shop and bought a coffee mug and baseball cap for Chantal’s dad. It was about 10:30PM when we decided to head back on foot to our hotel.

  28. Friday morning was checkout day. We packed the suitcases and left them at the front desk for pickup later. We had 8 pieces of luggage but only 2 real travel bags. We left the hotel at about 9:30AM and walked back up to Central Park and headed up the west side to go back to the museum. By the time we got to Columbus circle, Audrey-Anne was too tired to walk so I carried her the rest of the way to the AMNH. In hindsight we should have taken a cab to keep everyone fresh for the museum tour. I bought tickets for the Extreme Mammals Exhibit which was really well done. We then had lunch in the food court which was expensive but good.

  29. Aside from that we visited the Asian mammals, Hall of Asian Peoples, NorthWest Coast Indians, Plains Indians, Eastern Woodlands Indians, Hall of Pacific Peoples, Primates, Reptiles and Amphibians . Lastly we stopped at the Hall of Human Origins which I found to be the most interesting of all. There was a guided tour going on but at this point the children were wiped out and we had to leave.

  30. After the museum we hailed a cab and headed back down to Times Square for dinner. We deliberately set out for an early dinner at John’s Pizzeria on west 44th street. The restaurant is setup in a former chapel and we had the pizza which was good but not great. We got in at about 5PM and by 6 the restaurant was full.

  31. Our final visit was the Titanic Exhibit which was superb. we arrived there at 7PM but I could have been in there all night reading every word printed. The exhibits were touching and in some cases surprisingly preserved. One of the highlights was the reproduction of the grand staircase. We had our picture taken on its steps. At the end of the tour we saw many articles for sale including reproductions of the first and second class dinner plates. I was curious whether people would try to buy whole sets.

  32. We took a cab back to the hotel and picked up our bags. After settling the parking bill we headed home at about 8 PM. I was very surprised to find there was almost no traffic at all getting out of Manhattan. We were quickly on the road we stopped only once at Plattekill for coffee and gas. Chantal suggested we stop at Lake George but the children were tired from the last 5 days and so I drove all the way home arriving at 2:15 AM.

  33. It was a wonderful trip. Both Audrey-Anne and William were real troopers, Chantal and I were very surprised at how well they behaved and how much we were able to do with them in New York City. We look forward to future vacations.