Christmas in the Big Apple

Gosh, I have been horrible at blogging lately.  I still have another baby and two more maternity sessions I need to blog!  But today, I wanted to finally blog about a special trip I took to New York City the day after Christmas.   

My grandmother grew up in NYC, and for as long as I can remember, she has always, always talked about wanting to take a girls' trip to show us the city.  Life has always gotten in the way, and trying to coordinate that many people has meant the trip has simply never happened.  In the last six months, it seems every time I turn around I am hearing about another tragedy.  It really makes you stop and realize how short life can be.  My sister and I decided that we were going to forget about all of the excuses and just plan it! We decided to make it a grandmother/grand-daughter trip, and decided to surprise Nanna for Christmas.  Wisely, my grandfather suggested we tell her we were taking her somewhere, so she would block off the days on her calendar (even though she is "retired", at 80 years old, she still flies all over the country giving speeches and doing various workshops). 

 

This plan worked out so great, because she had something to look forward to. She told EVERYONE (even her dry cleaner, when explaining why he HAD to have certain clothes ready for her to pack for her surprise trip). I suspect that she guessed (hoped) our destination would be NYC, so I did all I could to throw her off. I referred to the trip as our 'girls' retreat', hoping she would think 'mountain lodge or spa'.

 

I found a program online where you can enter your flight information and it prints out a huge ticket. Christmas day, we had her on pins and needles all day waiting to open her gift. The time finally came....

NEW YORK CITY!!!!!

We flew out of Atlanta the very next morning. We arrived in New York just after noon, took a cab to our hotel, re-grouped, and headed out. Of course we had to stop and get some REAL New York style pizza for our first meal in the city. Then we continued walking to Times Square. Nanna pointed out the Paramount Pictures Building, where her father directed public relations. She told us stories about how she and her friends would get to sneak in the back door and see all of the shows. And how they would watch the ball drop in Times Square from the windows of the building.

We ended up at the TKTS booth, and stood in line for about an hour to buy discount tickets to a Broadway show. We ended up with tickets to Chicago, and I was so excited! We had a few hours to kill, and no one wanted to go back to the hotel, so we headed over to Bryant Park and wandered through the Christmas Market booths. As we started making our way back to the theatre, we decided that Nanna should take a pedi-cab to save some energy for the rest of our stay! McKenzie hopped in with her, and Amy and I soon lost them in the sea of yellow cabs.

We had just enough time before our 8pm show to grab a glass of wine and some appetizers at a cute little Italian restaurant across the street from the theatre. The show was FABULOUS! And I loved that the theatre was small. We had good seats anyway, but there was such a cozy, intimate feeling in such a small theatre. (and fun side note, the girl that played Velma, was on Smash Monday night!)

 

We were off to a slow start the next morning, but still made it to see The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. I was excited to see them, and really felt that no Christmas trip to NYC would be complete without it....but I was completely unprepared. They were unbelievable! The show was a lot more family-friendly than I thought it would be, and it had something for everyone. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. The tickets are pricey, but oh-so worth it!

By the time the show was over, the weather had gotten even gloomier and by the time we finished lunch, the rain was really coming down. We decided a rainy day in the city was a perfect time to hail a cab and take a ride (literally) down memory lane. With Nanna directing we set off to see some important landmarks from Nanna's childhood and young adulthood.

 

First stop was 40 E. 64th street. This is the home that she lived in with Pappy when they were frist married. This is also the apartment they lived in when my dad was born. Nanna told us that the building had roaches, and they would spray and all of the roaches would just change floors. She said one day she went in to get my dad up from his nap and there was a roach on him! She immediately called the landlord, and screaming in only the way a new mother can, demanded the roach problem be taken care of because “THERE WAS A ROACH ON MY BABY!”.

 

Next stop was 136 E. 67th street. This is the home she lived in as a teenager.

Next, was 1025 Park Avenue. This was her childhood home. When her father worked for Paramount Pictures, this was the apartment the studio would send all of the movie stars to for photo ops. The apartment was so huge that Nanna's family didn't have the vast amount of furnishings it would take to fill the space. She said the walls were designed with moldings to hold huge oil paintings. The studio arranged for a gallery to loan them paintings to hang on the walls. Another gallery loaned them a HUGE dining room table (one that she may, or may not, have danced on at one time....). She had all kinds of stories about that apartment, and we even rang the bell, in hopes that a kind resident would let us in. No such luck. The apartment had been sub-divided into four apartments, and no one was home.

Back into the cab, and onto Brick Church, where Nanna and Pappy were married 59 years ago (will be 60 in March!). Unfortunately the doors were locked. I would have loved to go inside. Nanna's wedding pictures were so beautiful, it would have been nice to see it in person.

Of course it was rush hour, and raining, at this point, so it took forever to get back to the hotel. When we finally made it, Amy and I had about 10 minutes to freshen up and head back out to meet up with our French cousin, Chris, and his girlfriend, Elodie in Little Italy. Chris and Elodie live in Paris and did an apartment exchange and just happened to be in NYC the same time as us! One of our aunts lives in New Hampshire, and made the drive down to see Chris (and us). And, as an added bonus, my godmother, Ali, who lives in NYC but travels a lot, just happened to be in town as well. We all met as this adorable little Italian restaurant, for a delicious meal and lots of laughs.

*Quick explanation of this photo- Ali told us that she started noticing when her mom was about 60, every photo of her, she had her hand under her chin. She later realized her mom was trying to keep up the droopy skin/double chin. Ha! It was our joke of the night, which meant we had to have a photo with us all doing it. And that is our waiter on the right.

The next morning we were up and out early, and headed downtown to the World Trade Center Memorial. Tickets are free, but you have to sign up online for a time slot ahead of time. I don't personally know anyone that was involved (directly) with the attacks on 9-11, but being there in that spot was very emotional. I, like everyone, remember exactly where I was on that fateful day. I was a freshman at Clemson. My roommate, Kris, and I always watched the Today show while we were getting ready for class. I remember going to class, and my sign language professor had been in class all morning and hadn't heard yet.

One thing you should know about my grandmother, is that she believes in a lot of different things. She goes on vision quests and has a drumming circle. She studies with Shamans and goes to sweat lodges (have you seen The Proposal with Sandra Bullock? You know the scene in the woods with the grandmother? That is Nanna.). At one point while walking around the memorial, Nanna excuses herself and walks over to some trees. She comes back and tells us she needed to offer some sage to the earth. Amy's response was, “Ok Nanna, just don't us arrested.”

We finished at the memorial and McKenzie requested trying to see the Statue of Liberty. We did a quick Google search and realized a tour was leaving in about 10 minutes, we hailed a cab and made it just in time. Unfortunately, Amy had a conference call scheduled, and because there was a tour guide over the speaker system, Amy spent the whole tour in the back of the boat on her cell phone.

It was a little windy, to say the least.

One more try...

Oh well.  She is still pretty.

We took at cab to China Town and met back up with Chris and Elodie for an amazing Chinese lunch, where we ordered waaaaayyyyy too much food! After lunch, we strolled through Chinatown and Little Italy to walk off some of the lunch and do some browsing. But that point though, we were getting hungry again, so we stopped for what else? New York cheesecake!

We took a cab back to Central Park as it was getting dark. We hired a horse-drawn carriage to drive us around Central Park as Nanna recounted more stories from her childhood. She told us that she used to have a horse that was stabled on the west side of the park. She would ride through the park. One day, some boys standing on one of the bridges, dumped water on her horse. He took off and Nanna couldn't get him to slow down. Finally, the mounted police had to chase after her, come alongside her, and stop the horse. She told us she hadn't thought of those memories in years and years.

This is another story she told us:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fh_T39jtek&w=560&h=315]

 

That night, Nanna treated us to a real New York steakhouse meal. It was to die for! What a way to end an amazing trip to New York.

 

There are so many funny stories from our trip, and I really want to write them so that I don't forget, but they are all those 'you had to be there' stories, and I don't even know where to begin. Like, the last morning when Nanna went down to breakfast ahead of us. When we went down to meet her, we couldn't find her. I called her and she said she was in the breakfast room, we went back in and still couldn't find her. Until a blond woman turned around, and it was her! Nanna in a blond wig! Apparently, this is something Nanna has pulled on her friends before. And she had actually planned to do this in the middle of dinner the night before, but she accidentally put the wig in the wrong purse.

 

Yep. That is my Nanna.

 

A woman who brings a blond wig all the way to NYC to pull a prank on her grand-daughters. A woman who offers sage to the earth at the WTC Memorial. A woman who has been married (and still so much in love with) the same man for almost 60 years. A woman so full of life and spunk that at 80 (almost 81) had her three grand-daughters running to keep up with her.

 

Goodness, I love that woman.

 

 

***And for Nanna, McKenzie, Amy- some memories that can't be put into words, but I hope we never forget:

-Trying to sing "He Had It Coming" to the taxi driver on the way to dinner.

-Putting Nanna in the taxi, and the look on her face as the cab pulled away... and the following phone call "ell-o?  Me no speak English.  Good-bye". 

-Laughing and Giggling in bed over absolutely nothing.

 

And that isn't even half of it.  What a trip!

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