Sunday, July 22, 2012

Travelogue, Part I

So, I'm in New York.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had the pleasure of waking up at 3:30, arriving at the airport at 4:30, and getting airborne at 6:00.  That all went smoothly, except for the annoyance of TWO people re-packing in front of the ticket counter because their checked luggage was over the allowed weight (or at least allowed without an overcharge).  Oh well.

Made it to SF just fine, the weather was fine.  However, I'd been warned with a 2:00 a.m. e-mail that my flight from SFO to Newark was going to be delayed.  Apparently this was due to the crew not having arrived.  This was through no fault of their own, but apparently the flight they were arriving to SFO on was canceled or delayed or whatever.

Now, I've been on my share of long flights in the past 6-18 months, but somehow I'd forgotten what fun they are.  Yes, that's sarcasm.  See, on the little puddle-jumper flights (which is what the majority of mine have been in the past six months), there might be one type of annoyance or another.  But when you spend five hours in a tin can with a couple hundred people, you're going to encounter a MUCH wider variety of annoyances.  It was too hot when we boarded, the air blowing on me was too cold (and blowing too hard.  There was a baby SHRIEKING intermittently, and someone kicking my seat intermittently.

However, at least the drinks were complimentary (they're not on Allegiant), and they gave me a WHOLE can of sprite plus a cup of ice.  It's the little things.  :-)

I saw some cool scenery in California, got a glimpse of Lake Tahoe, then tuned out for a while.  I think I also caught a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake, and some other cool scenery in Utah before it got cloudy and I tuned out again.  Then again over the plains, it's clear how flat and farm-oriented it is.

About an hour before we landed, I saw that we were flying over water, and thought that was weird.  It took me a minute to realize it must be one of the great lakes.  Boy, those things are big.  :-)

Also shortly before landing, my seat mate chatted with me a bit.  He's from India, but spoke pretty good English, though with a fairly thick accent.  I overestimated his English abilities at first, though, because when I told him I work for the company that makes Red Vines, he looked thoughtful for a minute.  Then he asked me how far Portland (not that I live in Portland, but whatever) is from the Napa Valley. I corrected him that I said Red VINES, not red WINE.  I explained "vines" like plants?  So then he wondered what we did with the plants that we put into the candy.  He'd never heard of licorice.  Oops.  So I told him it was just chewy candy.  :-)

So...the landing.

We flew across rural treed areas, some farm land, then it got a little more suburban, and then BAM, we were flying south off the west side of Manhattan.  Awesome.  I'd had the good luck to randomly choose the correct side of the plane to sit on, and got a perfect view of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, etc.  So that was the first exciting part of the landing.

By the time Manhattan was out of view, we were only a few hundred feet off the ground, flying over some pretty industrial areas.  Then we banked, HARD, and swooped right over the buildings.  It felt REALLY low, and it was, in perspective, but like I said, probably 150+ feet off the ground, the pilot leveled us out, bobbed and weaved a few more times to line it up straight, then a few seconds later, we touched down.  I don't recall a landing where the approach isn't lined up with the runway a couple miles out, but rather lines up at LESS than the last minute. 

Collecting my luggage was blessedly uneventful (though it took a while for it to show up), then I headed out to find a taxi.  My hotel is near a subway line, so there was probably some combination of trains that would have gotten me there, but I didn't feel like dealing with it.  My seatmates on the plane thought a taxi ride would be 40 to 50 bucks.  Got to the taxi stand, and it's flat fares, and for mid-town Manhattan, east side (where my hotel is) was $65.  Well, that's not MUCH more than the upper end of the range, so oh well.  Except if you're paying by credit card, you have to pre-purchase a voucher, which adds a $5 "processing fee" and that fare quoted doesn't include the tolls, or tip of course.  So by the time all was said and done, my card is going to be hit with $101!!!  Guess I'll take the train(s) back to the airport.  Sure, the company is paying, but $100 seems excessive, to me.

But I'm glad I was in the cab, because I got to see other planes landing, and making the same swooping maneuver ours did.  It looks just as dramatic from the ground, honestly.  I guess with all the major airports packed together, plus possibly restricted airspace issues, they have to come in from the side until the last minute.

Approaching the tunnel that would bring us across to Manhattan, we were quite stuck in traffic, and I asked the cabbie if traffic is always that bad on a Saturday afternoon (curious if maybe there was a sporting event or something, though I have no clue if we were near any stadiums), and he said that was GOOD traffic.  Huh.  I live in a small town and all, but just drove around SF quite a bit, and this was MUCH worse traffic than I noticed there (granted, mostly on weekends or going against commute traffic, but still).

But we arrived safely at my hotel, I hopped out and gave the man his voucher (with the tip written in)--it seems a little weird not to hand over cash, but whatever.  I didn't bring enough cash--forgot to plan for that.  Check-in was uneventful.

My room is awesome.  More spacious than I imagined a room in downtown (okay, mid-town--they differentiate that sort of thing around here) Manhattan would be, and with a pretty awesome view.

Panorama of my room (click to view bigger)
View from my room

I hung out in my room for a little while, taking pictures of it and charging my phone, then hit the town.  I didn't feel hungry, but figured I should eat before bed--my last meal had been a crappy salad (bought in the airport, eaten on the plane).  I wandered down the street my hotel is on toward Times Square, but first had to stop at Bryant Park, which was gorgeous.  The areas flanking the grass in the middle were softly lit and treed, but the grass in the center of the park was brightly lit like daylight, with spotlights from the tall buildings overhead, so it wasn't patchy--it really was like it was daylight.  I also took photos of Grand Central Station from across the street--now THAT is an awesome building.

Bryant Park at night (the photos from my real camera will be better, but I can't download them until I'm at home)
Anyway, I made it to Times Square and explored a bit.  I can't even imagine what the crowds are like at New Years Eve (or other holidays, for that matter)--on a random Saturday night just past sunset, it was pretty crazy.

I walked back on 43rd to switch it up a bit (my hotel is on 42nd, and that's the street I walked down earlier), and smack into Grand Central Station.  Went inside and took more photos.

Panorama from Grand Central Station - again, click to view bigger
I walked past a little cupcake shop (both the cupcakes AND the shop were little), got a few of them, and headed back to my room.  Even though it was only 9:00 back home, I was up early, so I had NO trouble falling asleep around midnight.  I slept until my alarm went off at 8:30.  But now I'm getting ahead of myself, and need to save Sunday for another post.  :-)


  1. Aaaaack! I forgot to tell you only to get in to a licensed yellow cab! Your fare should be much lower if you get a licensed yellow cab - and should include tolls.

    Times Square on New Years Eve in the early am is crowded - you can't walk down the sidewalk because people have been there since before dawn, staking out their spot for that night. My mother once tried to insist that I negotiate it with my child in a stroller. Umm, no where to walk, there's no where for the stroller, either. I turned down a street and called back to her that I would meet her at the restaurant, which was at Rockefeller Center. 5th was nearly deserted :)

  2. It was a licensed cab, but not sure what brand. I didn't see Amy options...just a taxi stand with a line of taxis. Maybe I should have looked around more. Oh well. Maybe I'll ask at the concierge how much it'll cost to get back to Newark. Otherwise I'll just take the train.