Last week, I continued the story of our NYC adventure. This week, I share our few hours of free time in the city.
We woke early in hopes of seeing Kim before she and her group left for the day. Their choir group (over 230 members) was divided into “family groups”’ of about twelve. For some reason, we were assigned to a different group than Kim. (At the time, it felt like a mistake, but subsequent events proved we were exactly where we belonged. Why am I still surprised when these things happen?)
When I texted Kim, we found she and her friend, Maribeth, were at a nearby restaurant eating breakfast. We decided to get oatmeal at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby so we wouldn’t miss her when she returned.
On her way in, she picked up our envelopes with all our credentials and tickets for the following two days. (Since we missed the meet-and-greet the previous evening, we hadn’t received ours.) Thank goodness, she knew who had them, so we were finally “official.”
Each family group was assigned a mission project before they left Texas. When we signed up, we decided to pass up this opportunity in order to do a few hours of sightseeing. (To be honest, the nature of the projects wasn’t described, and I was afraid of straining my bad knee if too much walking was required.)
After we bid farewell to Kim and the others, we went to the concierge desk to inquire about a bus tour of the city. With limited time, this seemed the best option.
When we got there, another group was busy with their plans, so we had to wait. Within a couple of minutes, we were joined by another guest. I nearly always talk to people when standing in line (to Larry’s eternal embarrassment). So, I struck up a conversation. This fellow bore a striking resemblance to one of our colleagues from Universal Studios, now sadly passed away.
I don’t remember exactly how the conversation drifted to Japan—possibly because of the USJ logo on the back of our jackets. It turned out this man had spent his earliest years in Takarazuka where we lived while in Japan. His family had moved to Chiba where one of our Japanese students lived. He worked for a steel company and now lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our time in line passed quickly thanks to Nose (pronounced “no-say”). We always enjoy talking about our time as expats, and he was most interested.
When the concierge was finally available, we booked tickets on the hop-on-hop-off Big Bus tour of the city.
Most people aren’t aware of what an architecture junkie I am. Had I not been an English major, I might have studied the subject in college. Manhattan has one of the most amazing arrays of styles anywhere on the planet. And I was in heaven.
As we reached the stop, a new bus arrived. We were able to get the very front seats on the upper deck. All glass in front of us afforded an unobstructed view of the city. Even though the day was a bit overcast, we still had a great view.
I nearly had to pinch myself as we drove the streets and passed famous landmarks. A couple of blocks from the bus stop, I looked down to see the marquee of the Knickerbocker Hotel. I’d read stories of this place, and now we were there.
I have always loved deco style, and directly ahead of the bus, stood the Chrysler Building, every bit as beautiful as its photos.
I recognized landmarks, like the Empire State Building and the Flatiron Building, long before our tour guide identified them. He gave us a wonderful overview of the city and its history. For a couple of history buffs, his enthusiasm and knowledge were most welcome.
We traveled through Chinatown, the neighborhood of iron buildings with their ornate railings (reminiscent of those we had seen in New Orleans and Melbourne, Australia), Times Square, Wall Street, and all the other famous areas of the city. I was actually there, after all the years of wanting to visit! And we had met more friendly, smart, and welcoming New Yorkers.
Next week: standing on Holy Ground.