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Old 5 May 20, 08:16 AM  
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Proud to wear my Ears
Join Date: Sep 13
New York, February 2020

Joanne, 45 trip organiser
John, 49
Jack, 16
Joe, 13
Gemma, 10

This is my first trip report and as it was lockdown, on a rota for work, I thought I might give it a go!
I usually plan all the holidays deciding where we should go next. John isn't that bothered where we go but he did mention a few years back that he wanted to visit New York. I didn't need telling twice!
A friend of mine had been several times at February half term and as I was a teacher that worked, as well as being told it was the cheapest too! It would be our first visit for us all!
John would be turning 50 this year so I set about looking for prices for February. I just looked at BA.com and set myself a target of less than 3000! Last May bank holiday there was a sale on and there it was. I had to book it!
5 nights at the Riu Plaza, Times Square with breakfast included.
Manchester - Dublin - JFK
JFK - Heathrow - Manchester
We decided not to tell the children but give it to them as part of their Christmas present. It was hard not to talk about it for all those months especially when John doesn't like the planning mode!
My months were spent reading theDibb and talking secretly with my friend!

On Christmas Day I placed a suitcase on the floor with presents inside and a scratchcard each to reveal the destination. Gemma was the first to see the case and make a comment that we might be going on holiday! When everything else was opened they scratched their cards to reveal the Statue of Liberty, The Rockefellar Centre and finally the destination - New York! I think it was 53 days from this point so they wanted to know when, where and for how long. The discussions could begin! Only when they told family and friends did it seem an extravagant gift! They were very surprised. I had kept it a complete secret! Well mostly!

Travel Day, Saturday 15th February

It was the time of year when we had all those storms and on the morning we were due to fly I heard on the news that BA were cancelling all flights from London. Luckily we were flying with Aer Lingus and everything went to plan. We had never flown indirect before so this was a new experience. We had 2 hours layover but we were slightly late landing and with all the security and clearance this time was soon eaten up! In fact we ended up the last people going through clearance that they called us by name for the flight! We were the last on and in no time at all we were on our way.
We landed early into JFK and with our cases the first off the belt we were in our taxi on the way to the hotel. I had pre-booked with Carmel taxis so a phone call was made and the taxi arrived. We arrived at the hotel about 8pm. There was only us checking in so we went to the room, dropped the cases and wandered into Times Square. Wow! So busy and bright. We went into the M&M shop, absolutely packed out! When we came out we bought a sandwich from one of the street vendors and found a bar for a cheeky drink. We rolled into bed about 10pm absolutely shattered!

Day one, Sunday 16th February

We had a good nights sleep and awoke early. We went down for breakfast at 7am. Gemma was excited to try the Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms cereal! She isn't really a breakfast person but as this meal was included we all ate well and then we just had an evening meal later.
By 8am we left the hotel and made our way into Times Square. It was much quieter compared to the previous evening! Our first port of call was the Rockefeller Centre. I had decided to just buy these tickets when we arrived. The ticket system was so complex I couldn't work out what was best to do so I just paid as I went.
There was no queue for the TOTR so we walked straight in. We took the lift to the 67th floor and looked at the views from here. It was really cold! As it was still quite early it was a little dull and cloudy but we could still make out the Statue of Liberty, from a distance, Empire State Building, Intrepid and Central Park. We took the lift to the 69th floor. There was a Valentines glass screen in front of the Empire State Building view.

We had a wander around the ground floor area of the Rockefeller and I have to admit we lost our bearings a bit here! It is huge! We eventually made our way outside, opposite St. Patrick's Church. People tell me the grid system is easy to navigate straight roads that run downtown to uptown. I get that but when faced where we were in between streets we couldn't figure out which was uptown to Central Park! We went the wrong way. After turning back we eventually found Central Park and the Plaza Hotel.

We called into Trump Towers for a hot drink and a rest in Starbucks. We continued down Fifth Avenue and saw designer shops by Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Louie Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. Finally we reached Central Park.
Jack, Joe and Gemma found Heschler Park and played on the swings for a while before we made our way to the Carousel.

Joe and Gemma rode the Carousel then we continued on to Bethesda Statue and lake. We had walked for ages, Central Park is huge! I must admit this was the furthest we got in Central Park the whole trip! We retraced our steps back to the Plaza Hotel.
Before our trip another friend told me about an Eat and Play Card from Attraction Tickets. It was 16 and provided discounts on many eating places. I bought it but then had to swap my receipt for the actual card. We then spent the next half hour locating The Bike rental place. We eventually found it, swapped it then had to decide what to do for the rest of the day. It was only 12:00pm!
Gemma wanted a Magnolia Bakery or to return to the hotel. I hadn't come to New York to sit in my hotel room!
We decided to find a subway station to see Brooklyn Bridge. That was an experience in itself! But it turned out we used the subway to travel everywhere.
The subway we went to had a lady on a desk so we asked her what to do. She was very helpful. I had googled all this beforehand but it's very different when doing it for the first time. The plus was we didn't need to pay for Gemma which I wouldn't have known if I bought from a machine. Gemma travelled for free all holiday saving us $5.50 each trip!
Back to our journey to City Hall for Brooklyn Bridge. Tickets bought we had to travel 2 stops on one train then change to an R train to City Hall. All was going well until we got an R train going uptown not downtown! We got off at the next stop and took a downtown train instead.

We walked along Brooklyn Bridge towards the first tower before we turned around and made our way back to the subway.
We exited at Times Square 42nd Street. We were not sure where we were but we walked and hoped we were going in the right direction. It was and we found our hotel just after 3pm. We rested and showered before going out for tea later.

Joe was wearing his Fourfit watch. We had walked 15.7km, 19890 steps!

Before this trip I made a long list of eating places to try from everyone's recommendations on the Dibb. Once here we actually only found one of them!
We decided on the Heartland Brewery for tonight's tea as the voucher I had swapped earlier could be used there.

Now when Jack went to school after Christmas and told his friends he was going to New York it turned out that one of his friends would be there at the same time as us. His friend's dad had grown up with John so this was a nice surprise.
They were arriving today! Who should walk into the Heartland Brewery when we were there? Our friends! We had a chat and arranged to meet them for tea the following evening.

When we went to pay the bill I tried using my eat and play card but he couldn't use as another discount had been applied. John had been given some vouchers outside for free drinks. He put them on the table and the waiter took them. I wasn't aware of these so when my card wasn't used I was shocked. The discount turned out to be about the same anyway. I knew these evening meals would be a good chunk of our spending money so any discount was better than none.

We called in to the Levi's and Disney shops before having a drink in the hotel bar. We were in bed by 9:15pm.

Total steps: 24685

Day two, Monday 17th February

I had pre-booked tickets for the 10am ferry to the Statue of Liberty. After our free breakfast, we made our way to the subway for South Ferry. When we emerged at South Ferry the weather couldn't have been more different. The sun was so bright you needed sunglasses and there was not a cloud in sight!
We were running late so rushed towards Battery Park. We needn't have worried! There was a long queue but we just joined it and waited our turn for security. We then boarded the ferry and decided to sit inside as it was still quite windy once we set sail.
We walked all around the Statue of Liberty taking in the views of Manhattan - One World Observatory and Empire State Building. We looked around the museum before taking the ferry to Ellis Island. It was so warm here that Gemma was down to her t shirt!
I found the museum at Ellis Island very interesting, the children not so!
At 1:30pm we took the ferry back to Battery Park and walked towards Wall Street. The children just wanted to return to the hotel but I was of the opinion that if I am here I am seeing as much as I can! We saw the Charging Bull and the New York Stock Exchange then caught the subway from here back to Times Square. We remembered to get off at 49th street this time! Joe and Gemma spent some of their money in a slightly less busy M & M shop then ate them back at the hotel.

Steps: 12773

Whilst we were resting our friends phoned to arrange tea. They were going up the Empire State Building so we would walk to meet them. We headed up Broadway and met them outside a Shake Shack. This was on my list but looked too much like a takeaway! We headed back towards the Heartland Brewery where we were the previous night. We had seen a couple of Irish bars around here. We settled on the Brooklyn Diner. Jack and Gemma just wanted to have a chicken burger and as it was on the menu we went in. We placed our order but was informed they had run out of chicken burgers and Budweiser!
The children reordered and other beer was bought and we had a good catch up with our friends. It was their second visit so we discussed plans that we both had already made.
We parted ways and after a cheeky drink in the hotel bar we made our way to bed.

Day three, Tuesday 18th February

I had booked tickets for the 9/11 Museum and One World Observatory for today. First it was the 9/11 Museum. We left the subway at Courtland Street and walked towards the pools at 9/11. It was a cloudy day and was threatening rain which kind of reflected the mood and atmosphere of being here.
Our tickets were for 10:30am and we spent about 2 and a half hours in there. It was very simple yet detailed and quite moving reading about the events of that day. My children weren't born at the time so I had to explain things as we went along. John went in the museum inside (near the fire truck) so me and the children went and sat on one of the benches and spent a good half hour or more people watching and listening to one of the guides that came by.
On leaving, we spent some time looking around the Oculus (Westfield shopping centre) and then Century 21. Our tickets for One World were for 3pm so we were killing time until then. The Oculus is huge and we struggled to find somewhere to just have a drink. The signs were not very helpful! Whilst waiting, we phoned home to up date grandparents on our trip.
On arrival at One World we were told that it was cloudy and we wouldn't see anything but we could rearrange our visit. We only had the following day so I asked what the weather was forecast for then - it was sunny! We swapped our tickets for 4:15pm the following day however I had also booked the restaurant so that we could eat up there then see the views at nightime too. As our wifi wasn't great the man on the desk kindly changed this reservation too.
We left here and took the subway straight to Grand Central Station to say we had seen it! It was quite magnificent! We looked for food in the Dining Concourse and finally found a Magnolia Bakery to please Gemma! We bought a cake each and saved them until we had had our tea.
We took another subway to 42nd Street, Times Square and looked for somewhere for tea. We found an Irish bar just off Times Square to have a drink. It was slightly too early to eat! After a couple of beers we decided to ask for a table so that we could eat. The waitress took us to the back of the pub - it went back quite a long way! I can't remember its name!
We left here and went in the Levi's shop - again - to spend another small fortune (30% off everything!) before arriving at the hotel about 7pm to eat our cakes! They were OK!

14286 steps, 11.2km

Day four, Wednesday 19th February

We left here about 8:30am to have breakfast at Ellen's Stardust Diner. It was on our way here we saw the second Juniors Restaurant but as we were at One World that night we couldn't visit it! The first Juniors we saw, I think was the day before. We had actually passed it every day walking towards Times Square but never noticed it till then! It was through the other side of the underground car park of the Marriott Hotel. Literally on the next street!
We found Ellen's to discover they were queuing down the side of it!
If it was just me and Gemma we might have joined the queue. As the boys were with us they wouldn't have waited so we ended up in McDonalds across the road! This is one excuse to visit again - Ellen's!
I asked if I could use the discount card I had and they hadn't heard of it. It was becoming to be a bad buy! We headed off to Fifth Avenue after breakfast and Tiffany's in particular. We located the shop at the Rockefeller Centre but it didn't open until 10am. It was only 9.15am!

We found these deckchairs and roaring fire outside the Rockefeller so the children decided to have a sit down and relax! We decided to head for Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue instead. Walking up Fifth Avenue we came across a Nike store. Gemma was desperate for a pair of Nike Air trainers. All her friends at school had them. We waited 30 mins for the shop to open at 10am. Gemma chose a pair she wanted, bought them and put them on! We continued on to Tiffany's where I bought a pair of earrings. This was an experience in itself! It was quite busy and nothing had prices on! My reaction to the price of one pair was one of shock! I guess I hadn't banked on an answer of $400! I don't normally spend so excessively on myself so to buy something from here was one of extravagance! I saved wearing them until my birthday in April!
From here we continued to Central Park to go ice skating. John and I had decided that we would do this before we came here. When Gemma finished school for the Christmas holidays one of her friends arranged for us to meet up in our local town to go ice skating. This was my secret opportunity for Joe and Gemma to have a practice! Joe wasn't so keen but went on to make up the numbers. Gemma was holding on and eventually let go and was skating. Unfortunately Joe didn't make it onto the rink - I went on instead! I was a bit gutted for him because I wanted us all to go skating in Central Park.
Anyway, we entered Central Park to the right and ended up walking through the Zoo and then walked back on ourselves to locate the ice rink. We arrived at the rink about 11.30am. They were polishing it but we eventually got on the ice about 12:15pm - all of us!

This was Joe and John on the rink. They literally did one lap gripping hold of the sides all the way round! They were hilarious to watch! Once back at the entrance Joe was off! Me, Jack and Gemma did a few more laps before retiring ourselves. The weather was perfect. Blue skies and sunshine. We got quite warm skating and in places the sun was blinding our vision!

At one point Gemma tumbled and crawled her way to the side in order to get back up again. I'm not that confident a skater to have helped her! A little later I came a cropper too! My skate caught on the ice and couldn't keep my balance. I ended up flat on my front! Luckily John and Joe who were at the edge in front of me didn't see me on the floor! I managed to get up to kneeling but unlike Gemma I was right in the middle of the rink - too far to crawl - so I waited and a member of staff came to help me up!
As well as Magnolia Bakery, Gemma also wanted to visit Dylan's Candy Store. It was at the other end of 60th Street. We found it and saw Bloomingdales here too. They all bought a pick 'n' mix bag and luckily the discount card was used on each purchase. However they hadn't really heard of it either but they honoured the 10% discount.
We had to be at the One World Observatory for 4:15pm today. John wanted to find the Ghostbusters Fire Station so we located on the Ullman app and took a subway to Franklin Street. We walked up and down about 3 times before John turned down a street and found it! In fact it was just across the road from the station!

We walked towards One World for our return visit at 4:15pm. We had some time to kill so went in an old cinema that was a cafe/bar for a couple of drinks. We left here and arrived at our destination about 4pm. They let us through early!
We entered the lift and watched the changing scene before watching a short video at the top. My friend had told me what happens next but I had forgotten! When it happened, I won't spoil it for you, it was amazing! Wow! We walked to the right and were given our iPads to identify the different buildings. Once again, our friends appeared! It's a small world! They had been on an helicopter ride that morning so we had a quick catch up with them before we entered the restaurant.

Up here we saw the changing view of Manhattan from day to night. We had a round table with a clear view of Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building and Times Square. This was a very expensive meal but I suppose you are paying for the experience! It was well worth the views! We left here about 6:30pm and took the subway back to 49th Street. One final drink at the hotel bar before headed up to bed for our last night.

21016 steps, 16.6km

Day five, Thursday 20th February

This was our last day. The plan was to pack our cases, leave with the Concierge and walk the Highline. We turned right and walked straight to the end. We ended up at the Intrepid Museum. We hadn't planned to visit this but as we couldn't find the Highline it was an option. However, it seemed quite pricey as we were running out of money, still had a credit card though, Gemma wasnt that keen and neither was I. I was determined to walk the Highline as that was the plan! I knew John wasn't keen on walking, his feet were hurting suffering from fallen arches. We walked towards the start of the Highline which seemed way off. We saw the Vessel and John and Jack spent a good while watching wagons being loaded with muck. This is their line of work so were in their element. We continued on the Highline and saw a commotion of police cars and fire trucks below. It looked like a car had crashed into a trailer. We continued some more and decided to climb down at Chelsea market. We located the nearest subway and made our way back to the hotel. We visited Macy's to see the Big piano. We found the wooden escalators.and searched high and low before a workman directed us to the basement. We had a play on it before getting the subway to the hotel. I remember we went direct to 49th street and instead of walking we changed lines and got off at 42nd Street! It was something like this. We figured we had paid for the journey and literally changed stations to ride 2 more!
Our taxi was due at 3pm.
The hotel was heaving with people leaving including cabin crew and even pilots checking into the hotel!
We collected our luggage and our taxi arrived. We booked this the previous night with the hotel as we needed a minivan as there were five of us and cases.
We arrived at the airport, checked in, through security and proceeded to wait in the lounge. We bought some sandwiches and crisps between us as we were only flying at 6:30pm. We were told it was delayed an hour but in the end we boarded on time!
We took our seats for me to discover that my seat was wet! I told the cabin crew who came and looked. She would get me a blanket to sit on. She came back with an upgraded blanket for me so I sat on my economy one but had a better one to keep me warm! I started watching Rocketman and had nearly watched half of it before we even left the airport! I managed to get some sleep on and off but had both Jack and Joe asleep on my shoulders with their leftover meals on my table. I awoke feeling boiling hot and unable to move!
We had a perfect landing at Heathrow. Normally my ears pop but you couldn't even tell we had landed on the ground. We made a dash through the airport after our experience at Dublin 5 days earlier to discover that the flight was delayed! Poor Gemma wanted to go to the toilet but I wouldn't l let her as I didn't want to miss the flight! Seeing the board we breathed a sigh of relief and all visited the facilities!
Eventually we left Heathrow and an hour later arrived at Manchester. Another smooth flight and no ear popping landing! We located the car and made our way home.

I'm now writing this when the country, and world are in a state of lockdown. Looking back we were extremely lucky to have made it there and back as just some 4 weeks later everything was stopped. I would like to return again. There is still so much to see - Intrepid for one, Ellen's Stardust Diner for 2 - and do! Not forgetting those restaurants on my list I never even located!
If you have made it this far, thanks for reading.

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Old 10 May 20, 08:16 PM  
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New Photo Added by Nellie75 - 10 May 20 8:16 PM.
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Old 11 May 20, 10:58 PM  
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Excellent report Nellie!

Loved the picture of John skating and I hope you are now wearing your Tiffany earrings. x

Edited at 07:12 AM.
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Old 12 May 20, 02:28 PM  
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Proud to wear my Ears
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Thanks. Him and Joe were hilarious on the ice rink. Joe couldn't get off quick enough! 🤣 and yes still wearing my earrings!
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Old 12 May 20, 10:36 PM  
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Loved this. Me and my daughter were also there in February. I miss it so much x
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Off to make more memories x
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Old 25 May 20, 02:22 PM  
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Thanks for reading. Seems a lifetime ago now!
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Old 25 May 20, 03:28 PM  
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Great report. You were lucky you went in February! Looks like you had a great time and got lots done.
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