Just five days after returning from the first leg of our anniversary trip, we jetted off on the second. And fortunately, even after hiking Pikes Peak a week earlier, we were ready for all the walking ahead of us!
two trips for 12 years
<<< part I: Pikes Peak • part II: New York City >>>
This was Seth’s first time in New York City and my second – but given that 21 years had passed since I’d been, it basically felt brand new all over again. So in that sense we were really discovering the city together – and it was fun to see iconic sights, go to Broadway shows and even survive the fairly constant rain from a hurricane that coincided precisely with our trip.
Evidently, this anniversary had two themes: Not only lots and lots of steps taken together but also toughing it out as needed – first in the thin air on Pikes Peak and then in the rainfall in New York. I’m sure a lot of commentary on life and marriage could follow, but I’ll leave the symbolism at that and get onto the good stuff:
– feature film –
See the occasion come alive in these video highlights!
day 1 • 09.30.22
Kansas City >>> New York City
Southwest thoughtfully provides napkins with space for trip planning, but with Seth being Seth, we of course opted for a spreadsheet! I’m usually pretty adept at having a finalized itinerary before we leave, but that goes out the window a bit for travel that falls during my fall photography season. Fortunately, a three-hour flight went a long way for filling in the gaps! And at the end of that flight came our first aerial view of the Big Apple:
Our journey from LaGuardia Airport in Queens to Midtown Manhattan involved a bus, a train and a walk. But we arrived with perfect timing, just before the check-in window at our hotel. We also found it pretty perfect that we’d be staying in room 1212 for this 12th anniversary trip:
Rockefeller Center was an easy walk from our hotel, and seeing the city from the Top of the Rock observation deck seemed like a perfect way to start our New York experience. We also knew this might be our only opportunity to take in this view (or any view, really!) before the rain came.
I knew Top of the Rock would give great views of Central Park and the Empire State Building (below), but I wasn’t expecting the on-site photo ops. It definitely earned some extra points for those!
A new addition to our camera gear as of this trip was an Insta360 action camera. I think it will serve us better for videos than photos, but the photo effects are fun – and this was a perfect place to first try them out!
Maybe this heart was there to frame the Empire State Building, or maybe it had been added just ahead of our visit as a backdrop for our anniversary photos. Either way, I loved it!
“Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.” (Isaiah 33:6) Who knew the entrance of 30 Rock showcases a Bible verse? The piece of art as a whole is called Wisdom, which I of course appreciated.
day 2 • 10.01.22
serendipity in the city
Our first morning in Manhattan, we made our way to Grand Central Station, passing the Chrysler Building just a few blocks from our hotel:
With Grand Central housing the closest subway station to where we were staying, we ended up here quite a bit. But this first visit was just to see the beautiful building, complete with constellations on the ceiling:
Continuing on toward Times Square, we passed Patrick Mahomes at the Oakley store on Fifth Avenue and had to stop and say hi.
Times Square! But we weren’t there so much for sightseeing as for spending an hour at the TKTS booth for discounted Broadway tickets. We’d planned to see two shows but opted to add a third … perhaps in part to get the most from all that time we’d invested in line!
After lunch, we made our way to our first show. I normally try to avoid having strangers in my photos and in some cases even edit them out, but I figured crowds are just part of the landscape here. And I actually really like the busyness all around me in the shot below:
We passed Radio City Music Hall and St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the way to our next destination …
Serendipity! (Any other fans of the movie will appreciate that a Bloomingdale’s was also along our route to this famous restaurant.)
Dessert for dinner is OK when you had a salad for lunch. It was also priced just right for hitting the $18 per person spending requirement! But the expensive ice cream was worth the experience, especially when we later realized what special seats we’d lucked into.
It wasn’t until we were rewatching “Serendipity” after returning home that we realized that on our visit to the movie’s namesake restaurant, we sat in the exact spot the main characters did! Most of the main restaurant scene consists of close-ups on the characters, so it’s not quite clear where they’re sitting – and thus it didn’t stand out to us when we saw it in person. But watching the movie this time, we noticed right away from the scene’s short establishing shot that John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale were right where we’d been.
This isn’t a super obvious side-by-side (above), but they’re in the left half of the left image, beside the fireplace (which is partially hidden behind that plant). The other image shows me in John Cusack’s spot. Evidently that table by the fireplace has been called the Star Table for the 20+ years since the movie came out – and while it would have been nice to know at the time that we’d lucked into such iconic seats, it was also a pretty awesome discovery to make after the fact!
You can also see the famous fireplace above (at left), and below, you can see us in the mirror above it. The good thing about documenting most things much more than necessary is that when you later learn something was definitely worth documenting, chances are good you captured at least a little of it.
After leaving Serendipity, we walked back to Broadway for our second show of the day, where we found we had front-row seats:
And finally, we ended the day with a nighttime stroll through Times Square and other bright lights that were perfect for pulling out the 360 camera:
day 3 • 10.02.22
from “Friends” to “Phantom”
We started this day by going to Greenwich Village for bagels before heading to one of my must-see sights …
At the corner of Bedford and Grove is the apartment building from “Friends” (and of course I had just the right shirt for visiting it!). I really love the shot below of us with the building behind us – almost as much as I now love exclaiming “We’ve been there!” whenever it pops up in an episode.
One subway ride later, we made our way to the Flatiron Building – only to find it obscured by scaffolding. But fortunately, just a short walk away was another iconic sight:
One of my favorite photos from my last trip to New York was of this Macy’s, as seen from the top of the Empire State Building. So it was fun to see it again, this time from street level. And after boarding the subway near here, we traveled to another sight I was definitely up for visiting a second time:
We left Central Park in just enough time to catch a train to Times Square for our last Broadway show …
“The Phantom of the Opera” actually was the last of three Broadway shows I saw during my last trip, as well. It was special to be back at this theater (only four rows from the stage this time!) and to fit in this “Phantom” viewing before it ends its 35-year run next spring. Fun fact: It holds the status of being Broadway’s longest-running musical.
Right across the street from the Majestic Theater is this pizza place that looks fairly unassuming outside but is surprisingly palatial inside! We ended our day there with authentic New York pizza and, once back at our hotel, found an episode of “Friends” that seemed especially appropriate to see on this trip:
day 4 • 10.03.22
to Brooklyn and back
While the office buildings outside our window (above left) filled up with workers on this Monday morning, we made our way down to Brooklyn with a task of our own: Taking the “official” anniversary portrait I hoped would pair with the one from our Pikes Peak trip. But my first order of business upon arriving in DUMBO was to capture the iconic shot of the Empire State Building framed by the Manhattan Bridge (above right).
I chose Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park as our photo spot not only for this unbeatable backdrop – the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan skyline – but also for what I hoped would be a lot less hustle and bustle than many places in New York, where it just wouldn’t be feasible to set up a tripod for self-portraits.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to contend with crowds here – probably in part because it was a rainy Monday. Also thankfully, it seemed we were gifted the sole 10-minute window that day where the rain let up and the wind wasn’t whipping my hair and dress around. That makes the shot below even more meaningful to me – knowing how strongly the odds were stacked against us getting anything decent, yet we came away with one of my favorite-ever photos of us:
Next up was another New York must-do: Walking the mile across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. Making the trip in this direction gives epic skyline views the entire way:
Fortunately, we remembered to stop midway through our walk to check in for our flight home the following day. Just taking care of business on the Brooklyn Bridge! And shortly after, we made it back to Manhattan:
Our next stop was the Oculus, a shopping and transportation hub at the World Trade Center that’s also just an awesome piece of architecture! It looks like a dove when viewed from the National September 11 Memorial, and it represents the city’s rebirth after 9/11. The positioning of the building is such that on that date each year, at the exact time the North Tower fell, the sun shines through the peak of the roofline and creates a tower-shaped beam of light along the floor.
After I changed into warmer clothes at the Oculus – as this really wasn’t a day to be wearing a dress – we headed out in hopes of catching the Staten Island Ferry before rush hour. Since it runs 24/7, it’s a fast and free option for getting a relatively close look at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty if you can’t fit an official tour into your schedule.
By the time we returned to the World Trade Center, the sun was setting and the rain still falling. We came upon the memorial where the Twin Towers once stood almost out of nowhere, with no signage or other indication they were close until all of a sudden we saw them. I’m not someone who’s easily overcome with emotion or the magnitude of a moment, but it really was powerful to stand here at dusk on a dreary day, with the rain joining the cascading water in the pools.
Each pool spans nearly an acre, formed to fill the footprints of the towers that fell. According to the memorial’s website, the pools contain the largest manmade waterfalls in North America – each descending 30 feet into a square basin and then another 20 feet into a smaller central void. The architect created this design to represent “absence made visible,” because although water flows into the voids, they can never be filled.
Rising over the memorial in one direction is One World Trade Center (above), and in another direction is the Oculus:
Since we started this trip with views from Top of the Rock, it seemed fitting to end it with views from One World Observatory – the highest point in the city. It’s at the top of One World Trade Center, which at a symbolic 1,776 feet is the tallest building in the United States.
And here’s how the city looks from all the way up there! Even on a less-than-clear night, it was really amazing. I especially loved getting this perspective on the Brooklyn Bridge and the memorial fountains after having been up close to them earlier:
Lastly: One last shot from our 360 camera, of us inside the Oculus on our way to end the day with a train ride back to Grand Central Station.
day 5 • 10.04.22
New York City >>> Kansas City
After checking out of our hotel, we had some extra time before needing to head toward the airport. And what better way to make the most of that than by toting our luggage around in the rain?! Thus we opted to take it souvenir shopping on Fifth Avenue, then past some nearby sights like the Waldorf Astoria (above).
We also went to see the United Nations Headquarters (above right) – although presumably due to rain, its flags were down. By this point, though, I’d accepted the weather we’d been dealt this trip and tried to soak in the last little bit of the experience (figuratively and literally!) before beginning our trek to the airport.
Above: Grand Central in reality. And below: Grand Central in a mural at LaGuardia.
It turned out blue skies still existed above the clouds! And it was strange to feel strange to see the sun. But New York was fun even without it – and with several items on our list we didn’t get around to seeing, I’d say a return trip (maybe outside hurricane season) is a must!
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