NYC 2008

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On July 24, 2008 I flew from Jacksonville, Florida and my daughter Venus, grandson, JJ, and granddaughter, Baylee fly from Chicago on Southwest Airlines. It is our first flight on Southwest and a very pleasant one indeed. My plane stops in Baltimore and Venus, JJ and Baylee transfer onto my plane for the last leg to New York. We get to the Manhattan Airport on Long Island just outside of Islip, New York. Then it's a shuttle bus to the Long Island Railroad, followed by a 1 1/2 hour ride to the city ending up at Penn Station, the busiest train station in the country.

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A mile or so cab ride to the Roosevelt Hotel, which is located at 45 East 45th Street just off of Madison Avenue, checkin and we are off for a quick walk to Rockerfeller Center after we get settled into the hotel. There we see the tiny area where the ice-skating rink goes in the winter. It looks a lot bigger on television.

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On Friday we walk the block or so to Grand Central Station and navigate our way downstairs to the number 5 subway and a trip to the south for our anticipated helicopter flight over Manhattan. The heliport is near Battery Park where the ferry leaves for Liberty Island so we see the traditional costumes of Lady Liberty on the street. And we get a first glimpse of New York's Waterfalls under the Brooklyn Bridge. There are four of these man-made waterfalls appearing temporarily as art exhibits. Weird!

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Anticipation is running high as we wait nearly half an hour for ourscheduled 20 minute flight around the city. This will be my third helicopter flight. The first was when I was 12 with my parents over Niagara Falls. The second was with my daughter in 1980 over and through the Grand Canyon. Venus was not quite 9 at the time and she was scared to death and didn't really get a lot of enjoyment out of the flight, so I was surprised when she agreed to this flight over Manhattan. This is the first flight for JJ and Baylee and Baylee is feeling a little apprehensive about it all. JJ is loving every minute of it.

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We take off quickly and the view of Lady Liberty is instantly breathtaking.

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The helicopter seats 6 passengers and they chose JJ to sit in the navigator's seat so he had a bird's eye view of everything. Visibility from the passenger seats in the back was good, however, as the windows were huge. We take off and fly over Governor's Island first. The place where the first oversight of Manhattan began. And of course a view of Lady Liberty.

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And Ellis Island. BTW, the restaurant we chose to eat at the previous night was named Annie Moore's after the very first immigrant processed through Ellis Island. She was given a $20 gold coin in celebration of the opening of the immigration center that would become world famous.

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There are various pictures of the city but I can't remember what it all is until we get to the sports famous Yankee Stadium, both old and new versions, in the Bronx. We will go there to see the Yankees play the Orioles on Monday night. What a great view into the stadium!

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It was hard keeping the camera steady in a helicopter and there was a slight haze in the air so these pictures are not the best quality.

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My favorite shot is the one looking straight down into the city. It reminds me of the ortho photography we have on the Property Appraiser's web site or of the satellite shots on Google Maps.

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Some distant shots of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

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The south end of Manhattan including the Brooklyn Bridge and distantly, the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn which marks the beginning of the New York City Marathon.

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We are all eating this up. Smiles all around.

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I particularly like this picture of JJ peering around the seat. He really doesn't like to have his picture taken.

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After the helicopter flight and a quick meal at Subway and a pit stop at MacDonald's, we walk thorough the financial district passing the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Building where George Washington was sworn in as president the first time and approach Ground Zero, the former home of the World Trade Center.

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While there is definely construction going on at the bottom, it is really difficult to get a good look.

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We would learn later on the boat tour that New Yorkers do not like the name ground Zero and prefer to continue to call it the Two Towers or World Trade Center sight. The view into the area was not as accessible as it was 5 years ago on our previous trip and it doesn't look to be much different although there is obviously construction going on. The steel girder that had melted like a cross and served as a de facto memorial was no longer there but the "sick" building is still there draped in a shroud as the slow process of deconstruction takes place.

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Another subway ride and a good walk takes us to the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise at 42nd Street. 42nd Street got big Jim Walker, he's a straight-shooting son of a gun. lol.

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This was a two hour cruise down the Hudson River around Battery Park and up the East River and back again. We left at 7:00 so the sun set as we cruised and it was a very informative and enjoyable view of the city from the water. Another trip I would strongly suggest to visitors of NYC. A favorite sight of mine is the 4 story golf driving range located on an old pier on the Hudson River. Who would ever think you could hit golf balls in Manhattan?

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Sights along the Hudson, one of which is a new Trump Tower being constructed.

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Views of Greenich Village.

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Two views of the Brookly Bridge, my favorite is the underside. And the Manhattan Bridge.

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Another of the waterfalls. And the Williamsburg Bridge, including the underside. Being on the water inspires time for reflection as Venus does.

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This type of boat ride is a lot more enjoyable than my trips on boats sponsored by the United States Navy.

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The tour guide told us the way to remember the bridges across the East River was the acronym "BMW". From south to north the bridges are the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg.

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Many views of the three main bridges across the East River and sunset views of the Statue of Liberty. It is seren and peaceful on the ferry.

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Night shots of the waterfall under Brooklyn Bridge and of course, Lady Liberty. Day three means a walk past the ESB and a tour of Madison Square Garden.

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Did you know that the basketball court and ice hockey arena are located on the fifth floor of Madison Square Garden? I sure didn't. One basketball player for the Knicks has some pretty big shoes to fill.

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Phil Jackson, coach of the Lakers and former Bull's coach used to play for the Knicks, which is short for Knickerbockers, in case you didn't know. And what seems weirder is that beneath the Garden is Penn Station, that busiest train station where the LIRR stops.

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More about B & H Photo later, but we found it hard to believe that a retail store would be closed on a Saturday. We found a nice little, reasonably-priced restaurant where we had breakfast. Surprise was in store for venus, who started to down a carton of milk only to find it was spoiled! Yuck.

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Saturday evening found us on the 7 train to Queens and Shea Stadium for a Mets-Cardinals baseball game.

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Right next door, and I mean right next door, is the new stadium for the Mets. I don't know what it's name will be but this is the last year for both New York baseball stadiums with new ones opening next year. Mets, btw, is short for Metropolitians, in case you didn't know, which my daughter didn't. The game went 14 inning and finished well past midnight. I took a picture of the scorebaord in the top of the 14th, just before Albert Pujols hit his 19th home run to put the Cardinals ahead to stay. After the game Venus and I got separated from the kids in the mass of humanity streaming towards the subway. JJ's phone was dead from too much texting and we got a bit worried not knowing how we would find them. But JJ has a good head and New Yorkers are very friendly people, so he borrowed a cell phone, called Venus and we were happily reunited.

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Sunday was the day for the Statue of Liberty, so another subway ride to Bowling Green, wait for the ferry and a quick tour of the statue.

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Venus, JJ and I had been here in 2003 but Baylee had not. She didn't seem too interested in it which was good, I guess, because the weather changed abruptly and the winds howled and the rains came down, forcing us under cover of a concession stand tent. We waited out the worst of the storm and then made our way back to the ferry and skipped Ellis Island this time.

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We stood in front of the web cam placed at 46th St and Broadway outside of a camera store and Friday's restaurant and waved to some friends we called up who were watching us. This was a cool experience!

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We see JJ in his familiar texting pose on the ferry and the subway.

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Lounging around the hotel is fun sometimes, too. We found the Soup Nazi, but apparently political correctness changes his name to Soup Man. No sign of Jerry, Elaine, George or Kramer, however.

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Monday meant a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. Much smaller again then what it looks like on TV but it gave a breathtaking view of NYC.

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Venus is not a fan of heights but she did pretty well at the 86th floor Obversatory.

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Pictures don't do the actual view any service, especially with a haze in the air.

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The kids get closer looks. The Chrysler Building in the distant, a competitor of ESB during construction for the tallest building. Venus inspects her new Pentax K100D Digital camera. JJ stands still for a photo op. Look at his eyes!

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Baylee looks, I take a picture of myself and see Madison Square Garden from the top.

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We walked 6 floors or 145 steps from the 80th to the 86th floor and back down again to avoid jams at the heavily used elevator. Did I mention, Venus is somewhat afraid of heights?

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Monday night means a subway ride on the 4 train to the Bronx and a baseball game at the infamous Yankee Stadium in its final year of operation. The original Yankee Stadium was constructed in 1923 at a cost of 2 million dollars and took less than one year to erect. The new Yankee Stadium, located across the street cost, cost 1.3 BILLION dollars and has taken 3 years to erect! Amazing!

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This marks my 19th MLB team stadium. Surprisingly it is Venus' 8th, JJ's 6th and Baylee's 5th. Maybe they will make a lifelong goal, too, to see a game in every Major League Stadium?

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After being there in person I can see why the Yankees decided it was time for a new stadium. It is not very fan friendly at all. Corridor, hallways and aisles are very narrow. It felt like walking in Times Square, wall to wall people. Our seats were in the third tier and the very last or top row of the stadium in right field. The top tier is very steep and it was kind of scary. I got a headache and clogged sinus leading me to believe this is how the term nose-bleed section came about.

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My name appeared on several businesses outside the stadium. Yeah, I know, it's really all about Stan Musial, but it is my first name. lol.

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We took a tour of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and it was actually very intersting and a lot of fun. Venus has a friend who has always wanted to go to Madame Tussaud's which is located in several cities and since it was free with our New York Pass, we decided to try it out.

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The figures are pretty life-like and we had to pose with all of our favorites. Venus' favorite actor is Morgan Freeman, so that was a must.

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I had to pose with all the pretty celebrity women and, of course, the Beatles.

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We completed the mile and a half walk back to B & H Photo store and it became obvious why they were closed on Saturdays. Almost all of the people who worked there were Jewish, the Hasidic kind, with the long beards and moustaches and the Yamulkes (sic) on their heads. And they really know their business. There was a tree in the store which is the only inside picture I could take. I was told not to take any more for security reasons. This store is an entire city block and is two stories packed full of camers, TVs and other electronic equipment. There must have been at least 100-150 employees and it was jam-packed with customers which again felt like we were in Times Square. Conveyor belts or rollers ran throughout the store overhead and under counters to carry merchandise to wherever it needed to go. Very impressive and worth a visit to see.

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Afterwards on our last night in New York City, we are exhausted and lounging on our beds before dinner was pretty much fun.

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Here we are eating our last meal together at the Manhattan Long Island Airport before we leave. The reverse trip from the hotel to Penn Station took maybe three times as long as the arrival trip because the traffic was bad and a street was blocked off but we made it in time for the hour and a half train ride to Ronkonkoma. Venus has been taking multiple shots with different setting trying to learn about her new camera.

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The final shot is the best picture. There sit JJ, Baylee and I eating our last meal together as a Southwest plane sits in the background. Not our plane, however, as it had been delayed. All in all a delay of about an hour. This gave us time to shop in the airport for last minute souvenirs. More pens for Shannon. A Long Island ball cap. And also time for a couple really good, hard massages in the convenient chairs located in the airport. Just a dollar for instant pleasure. I would also experience another delay of about an hour in Baltimore and my flight came close to being cancelled because of bad weather between Baltimore and Jacksonville. But I did get home on time and safely.

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It was a very good week spent in the hustle and bustle of New York City. It is a place that is a whole lot of fun to visit but I think a week is enough and I could never get used to living there. Too many people, too fast a pace. But vacations are all about adventure and experiencing new and different things. I think we accomplished that on this trip. And it's always a good family bonding experience. I know JJ enjoys these vacations because he said on our last night in the hotel, "So where are we going on vacation next year?" You gotta love the enthusiasm. Until next year, I'll be seeing you.