Fall Weekend in NYC (Part 2)


Picking up where I left off…

With the rain starting to really come down I had to make a run for the nearest subway station.  My now broken, 14-hour old umbrella, did not manage to keep me dry as I briskly walked the 2-3 blocks to the Christopher St. Station.  Upon arriving to the Element, I found that my room key no longer worked.  Going back down to the lobby I discovered that I would need to be escorted to my room, despite my late checkout request.  They refused to just extend my room key because “then it would be good for another night.” Considering that I made the request at check-in (before I was given a key) I can’t understand why they couldn’t just make my key valid until 4pm? This has never been a problem with other hotels, of any brand.

Back to subway I headed and I was on my way to New Jersey.  I made the switch to the PATH train at the 33rd street station and from there I took the train to the Newport station.  After initially heading the wrong way down the street, I turned around and found the Westin Jersey City Newport.  At check-in I inquired if there were any King rooms available, but was told there were none.  I was however given a room on the 17th floor that looked out towards lower Manhattan, including the World Trade Center.  The room otherwise is what I would consider your standard Westin room; not overly different from many others in the chain.  I did like that it had a “sitting area” next to the large window however.

Westin Jersey City Newport - 17th Floor Room

Westin Jersey City Newport - View of Lower Manhattan

I didn’t stay at the hotel for long as I had a ticket for the 9/11 Memorial at 6PM, plus by now the rain had stopped, so I made my way back to the PATH station.  Since I was heading to the World Trade Center I would need to change trains at Exchange Place (only later did I discover that it wasn’t that far in terms of walking distance from the hotel) to hit the Newark/WTC line.  Trains were running on a “20 minute schedule” which apparently to PATH means “you get to wait for 40 minutes on a platform”.   By the time I made it to the WTC station, it was already past 6pm and the rain was back, which ultimately just made me to decide not to go to the memorial. I was going to have to try my luck tomorrow to get in and run the risk that I wouldn’t get to a ticket at all.

With the rain spoiling the evening, I headed up to Grand Central Terminal to figure out my plan of attack for the evening.  With a cup of coffee in my hand to warm me up I figured that I would check out a place a friend had heard about – Harlem Tavern.  That meant heading a bit more north than I had even been in Manhattan – 116th Street.  The restaurant was not hard to find at all.  The entrance to the 116th Street station was literally right in front of it.  The place looked fairly busy, but I somehow managed to get a table.  Dinner wasn’t the main goal here, that was going to be later in the night, but this was more of a drinking stop.  Apparently the Harlem Tavern is fairly new and has been getting mixed reviews online.  I found that the atmosphere was great, although a bit loud.  They had several large TVs behind the bar and music going as well.  Probably not the easiest place to have a conversation, but it seemed like most people were managing to.  I downed a few pints of various Oktoberfest brews along with some mini-sliders before heading back to midtown.  I had a slight buzz after all that, so its a good thing that the subway station was right out front!

Harlem Tavern

After a stop at a Starbucks at Columbus Circle to rehydrate and make use of the free wifi, I walked down to the corner of 53rd and 6th.  There resides my favorite food cart in New York that dishes up inexpensive halal meat platters of chicken or lamb (or both!) and rice.  Last time I stopped here in July, the line was rather long (which is expected), but tonight thanks to the cold the line was fairly short.  Of course on the same hand that meant that I would need to eat it fairly quickly in order to keep it from getting cold and with that much food its definitely a challenge!  A very, very tasty challenge, and in my opinion the best late night food option when out-and-about NYC.  After a stroll through Times Square (a place I usually try to avoid), I was on a train back to Jersey.

The next morning I tried to get up super-early but that just didn’t happen.  I did make it down to the WTC and the 9/11 Memorial Visitors Center probably around 9AM.  Luckily, I was able to secure a 1PM ticket for the memorial.  That was about the latest ticket I could do, so that I could get back to the Westin to pick up my bags and head to EWR.  With my ticket in hand, I headed uptown towards Central Park.  By the time I got up there it was about 11AM, so I picked up a few slices of Pizza from a place on 6th and then setup shop on the rocks on the south end of the park.  I enjoyed my pizza and spent about an hour reading before walking around park as I made my way to the Columbus Circle Station.  For whatever reason I really enjoy reading or just kicking back in the parks they have in NYC or even the mall in DC.  Sure, I might live in Florida, with the beach just a few blocks away, but I find that sitting out on the beach there’s just too much sunlight often and well its a barren landscape.  Sitting in a park next to a fountain, under the trees, or on a grassy field is just more preferential to me – and the town I live in lacks that (because isn’t the beach one giant park?)

Making my way to the 9/11 Memorial with my ticket in hand, I joined the queue for entry.  I expected long lines, but it wasn’t that bad.  The wait was relatively short and then I was led to a security checkpoint where they do the typical x-ray/metal detector.  Once cleared you are able to proceed through the fence maze to the memorial grounds.

My first impression as I walked on to the memorial ground is that the design and work went into it was just incredible.  It’s incredible simple, but elegant and really does highlights the impact of the events of that day.  I feel that my words wouldn’t do it justice, so just take a look at it yourself in the pictures below:

9/11 Memorial - Walking Through The Entrance

9/11 Memorial - South Tower Flowers

9/11 Memorial - South Tower

9/11 Memorial - North Tower Flowers

One World Trade Center (From 9/11 Memorial)

I took many more pictures at the site and there are plenty more, along with all my other pictures from my weekend located  at my Flickr set here.  I probably spent close to an hour at the memorial, taking my time to walk around.  Another thing that I noticed while there were the numbers of “tourists” that were posing for pictures at the memorial.  To each there own, but I just didn’t have the urge at all during my time at the memorial to snap a picture of myself there.  It just seemed out of place given what occurred there, just ten years ago.

On my way back to the hotel in Jersey City I found myself passing the protesters in Zuccotti Park taking part in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I found myself walking around the outer edges of it capturing a few shots of what was going on – no more than ten minutes later I was back on my way to the PATH station.

Occupy Wall Street Protest

While on the NJ Transit train to the airport I got a message that my flight was delayed.  It was still showing that I would make my connection, so I figured I wouldn’t worry about it too much.  The Sky Priority lanes at Delta check-in looked a bit long, so I figured I would just go ahead through security and check with the gate if I could get on the earlier flight to ATL just to be extra-safe.  After teaching a fellow passenger how to use the mobile boarding pass scanner (why couldn’t the TSA agent tell him how to use it?), I was through security and in the gate area.  I found the 5:00PM flight to ATL boarding, and about to close at that, but unfortunately they were going out completely full in both First and Economy Class that evening.  There was no room for me – I was going to have to take a chance and hope my flight would not get any more delayed.

With two hours to kill, I decided to set up shop in the Delta Sky Club, thanks to the $25 access benefit I get with my American Express card.  Thankfully, I found a power port so I could get a charge on my cell and tablet while I kept checking on my flight.  It slowly kept getting more and more delayed and eventually got to the point where it was where I would misconnect in ATL by an hour.  I wasn’t going to be going home that night, but I did contemplate at one point seeing if Delta would put me up in NYC, but I figured it would just be best to be closer to home and in ATL.  Eventually, around 8:30 I left the lounge and walked down to the gate.  The inbound aircraft had finally arrived and we were ready to board.  I got on and settled into my seat in First.  Tonight’s flight had a meal on-board and judging by how the flight attendant took orders, it appears I was the second “highest-ranking” elite in first tonight, which I find a bit surprising given that I am just a Gold, but then perhaps all the Platinums and Diamonds bailed to the 5PM flight?

Chicken Breast Over Pasta (First Class Dinner EWR-ATL)

The flight was not overly remarkable, and we ultimately got to ATL about an hour after my originally schedule flight home had left.  Since that was the last flight of the day, I had the distinct pleasure of being put in a hotel near the airport.  I was sincerely hoping that I would be given something better than my forced overnight last year (the World’s Worst Days Inn), especially now that I was a Gold Medallion/Sky Priority customer.  When I was given the Comfort Inn & Suites Atlanta Airport North, but since I wasn’t given a choice, it was take it or pay for my own.  I called the hotel as I made my way to the shuttle bus zone, but despite calling, it took nearly 45 minutes before the shuttle showed up – and this hotel is only about 5 minutes from the airport!  That alone let me know that this place was going to suck.  Once there, the lobby was just dark and a long line had formed with all of us that Delta dumped here.  The rooms weren’t that much better: dirty windows, pillows smelling of smoke, a rock hard bed, sheets that probably hadn’t replaced in a decade (given how worn they were), and the stains on the comforter on one of the beds.  Luckily there were two beds so I could at least choose not to sleep in that one.

Comfort Inn & Suites Atlanta Airport North - Only The Finest For This Frequent Flyer

After a fairly bad night of sleep, I was back up so I could get back to ATL to catch the first flight back to Panama City.  Using my meal vouchers I grabbed breakfast before heading to the gate.  There isn’t much to say about the flight down other than that we got to Panama City about 30 minutes early and the ground crew had no idea that we were going to be that early.  I also got a kick out of the flight attendant (who must have been fairly new) that said upon landing “If you are not familiar with the Panama City Airport, there are maps in the back of Sky Magazine.”

Well that’s it.  What was going to have been a relatively short write up about a city that I’ve been to already a few times this year, turned out to be a little bit on the long side.  That’s what happens through when I start smashing the keys on the keyboard!  Who knows where my next trip will take me, but hopefully it’s not too far from now – perhaps somewhere on the west coast?

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