Day 5 & 6: Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time

Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time: Day 5 & 6

Day five consisted of a lot of walking in Central Park along with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It started out raining, so we decided to have lunch at Kefi before heading out. Sandy had the Macaronia Spestofai and I had the Pork Souvlaki. If you want great Greek food, this is the place. By the time we were done eating, the rain had stopped, and we continued on to Central Park. You don't realize how big the park is until you're on foot walking down one of the long and winding paths. We did not take the pedicab or carriage tour. One of those would probably give you an overview of a portion of the park, but they are not allowed on the walking paths. We used the iPhone map to navigate our way around. We saw Bethesda Fountain, open fields with families having fun, the resident hawk, a lone waterfall, beautiful bridges, a large reservoir, a playground for kids, Strawberry Fields (a tribute to John Lennon), an outdoor concert, people in row boats, rolling hills and large boulders to sit and relax on. After a half day in the park, we never came across the Central Park Zoo!
Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art was somewhat boring for us. It is all the buzz and talk about one of the must-see sights in the city. I enjoy art, but I can't say that I'm an art lover. I didn't realize how underwhelmed I would feel after visiting there. Oh well, I guess some things just don't keep my attention, and that was one of them for sure. One tip I can give you if you're visiting the museum is that the $25 admission fee is the "recommended" admission price. They will accept anything you are willing to pay for admission to the museum. If you look at the sign above the ticket desk the word "recommended" is really small next to the word admission. We offered $10 each, and they gladly accepted it. I considered it a donation. Be sure to grab a map, because you WILL get lost in the museum without one.
Short and sweet for day five.

I decided to add day 6 to this post as well. Since both days covered just a couple of places. Day six consisted of another day in Central Park. This time we kicked back and did some reading under the large shade trees. I think we needed a little break from all of the running around at this point in the trip. We found some entertainment in the subway station. You never know what you're going to come across at the stations or on the subway for that matter. This band called The Meetles was pretty good. I was impressed as they played the David Bowie song Major Tom spot on.

While on one of our walks in the park we came across a couple who had just married, but didn't have a photographer. We volunteered to take a picture for them, and they were very happy and thankful.

After the park we went back to the room to regroup for dinner in Little Italy. We met some long time friends there, and had a great time catching up while eating at Pellegrino's. The food was excellent, and the atmosphere inside and outside was relaxed and festive.
We felt safe being out after dark there. Just be sure to check your train schedule and stations. Some stations close at a certain hour and train schedules change too.

Day 4: Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time

Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time: Day 4

Day four was up, up, and away on a helicopter tour of Manhattan! After reading the reviews on trip advisor, we knew we couldn't pass up this once in a lifetime experience. We highly recommend Helicopter Flight Services for the ride. We purchased in advance to reserve a spot. All of the helicopter tours fly out of the same heliport, Downtown Manhattan Heliport, near Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. When you get there, you'll notice all of the helicopters coming and going nonstop. They don't even shut off the engines. They land, unload, and take the next group up. Our helicopter was like a limo on the inside, very comfortable, with plenty of room for everyone to fit. They strap on an inflatable life vest just in case. It was my first helicopter ride, so I didn't quite know what to expect. They line you up and walk you out on the platform in single file, so nobody gets too close to the rotating blades of all the helicopters. Once at the helicopter, they take your picture that you may purchase after the ride. Then they load you up and take off! It was wobbly when we first left the ground, but once we got going in one direction it was like being in an airplane. They took us up a little past central park and then turned it around to go back down to the Statue of Liberty. It doesn't matter which side you sit on, because you'll get the view you want either coming or going.

The pilot narrated as we flew by the sights. The flight doesn't last long, but you feel like you got to see the whole city by the time you're done. We got some great pictures. One of my favorites was the aerial view of where the twin towers once stood. I would recommend taking the flight when the sun is directly overhead. Depending on what time of year it is, somewhere between noon and one o'clock should get you the least amount of shadows in your pictures. The flight is something we'll always remember and cherish. If you're taking the subway, the one train drops you off within walking distance of the heliport.

After the helicopter ride, we revisited St. Paul's Chapel from our walking tour. It is located directly across from ground zero. They have turned the chapel into a memorial of 9/11, and it is a must see. Inside they have a video playing of those who sought refuge in the chapel after the attacks, very moving. You'll also find notes and encouraging letters written to the rescue workers, pictures, banners, and other artifacts. I found this to be more touching than the memorial preview center or the memorial pools themselves. Granted the museum is not open yet, and the Freedom Tower is not complete. St. Paul's Chapel was the only building nearby left unscathed by the collapse of the towers. Not even a broken window. Meanwhile the other five buildings that made up the world trade center complex had to be torn down. It is a miracle that this 246 year old building remains standing after the attacks. As we were sitting in the chapel, the floor shook from a passing subway train. I can't imagine what it must have felt like to be in there when those buildings came down.

The 9/11 preview center was our next stop which is about a block from the chapel. It was very crowded with not much to see, but they did have alot of souvenirs to buy.  There is a piece of steel from one of the buildings in the shape of the New York skyline. They also distribute tickets to the memorial there. I recommend getting your free tickets online for the memorial. You can pick your time to visit, and print your tickets in the comfort of your own home. I wouldn't say skip it, just don't plan on being there more than thirty minutes. Admission is free to the preview center.

From there we went on a journey trying to find the entrance to the 9/11 memorial. The whole area is under construction. If you don't know exactly how to get to the entrance, you could find yourself walking blocks in the wrong direction. We almost made a complete circle around the area not knowing we were very close to begin with. The fences are high around the construction, so it is hard to see down the block. The line moved fairly quickly, and when we got to the entrance there was a standard airport security type checkpoint to go through. There are NYPD and security cameras everywhere. Once inside the memorial area, you'll find yourself almost directly in front of one of the memorial pools. Unless you are looking for a particular name on the memorial, you should go to the adjacent pool that is closer to the Freedom Tower and less crowded. Other than the two pools at the memorial, there is nothing else to see right now. They say that the museum as well as the Freedom Tower will be completed sometime in 2013.

Visiting the Financial District was not very eventful for us. We saw the classic wall street bull, had a nice lunch at a local deli, and then we were on to the next thing. You're not allowed to see the stock exchange in action anymore since the attacks. The NYSE is heavily guarded as well as all of the financial institutions in the surrounding area. There was a large presence of NYPD in general. I would say it is definitely a safe area!

The highlight at the end of our day was the New York Water Taxi sunset tour. They take you out into the Hudson River for a nice evening cruise. You'll go under the Brooklyn Bridge, see the Manhattan skyline, and get up close and personal with Lady Liberty. Again, we bought our tickets in advance, so we knew we had a seat on the boat. I would suggest arriving at least thirty minutes early to get in line to board. You want to make sure you get a seat on the upper deck. It has unobstructed views. They will narrate the tour and even take your picture for you. Beverages and snacks are available for purchase. I believe there was complimentary champagne. The sunset cruise was definitely a highlight of our trip.

That concludes day 4 of our trip. Feel free to post comments or ask questions.

Day 3: Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time

Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time: Day 3

Here we are at day three. Well, Sandy and I have covered alot of ground up to this point. We've tackled many of the tourist destinations. Day three was reserved for a Broadway show and a couple other attractions.

We took the subway into Grand Central Station. It is a major hub of traffic into and out of New York City by rail. It can be confusing trying to find your train when you depart, but there are plenty of people there that can help you find it. The floor below the main concourse is a food court. We were surprised to find it because all of the pictures you ever see are in the main lobby of the terminal. The food court is made up of what you would typically find in a mall. I had Chinese and Sandy had a chicken kabob pita. Average food. We then headed up to the top level to find an Apple store that covered almost the entire floor complete with genius' to help you with any Apple issues. We forgot to go outside to take pictures of the front of the building.

Grand Central Station
Boarding another train, we continued our journey to Broadway and 53rd street to see Sister Act at the Broadway Theatre. I surprised Sandy with second row tickets, and she was elated. Originally we planned to stand in line to get the discounted tickets from TKTS, but after seeing the long line, I was relieved to have already purchased our tickets. I would say that most of the seats in the theatre had a good view except the ones in the way back. Being in the second row puts you just below the stage and very near the band that is below/under the stage. It was like we were part of the show. I highly recommend Sister Act as a clean, family friendly, funny show. At $14 for a medium sized coke and small bag of pretzels, I recommend that you arrive hydrated and full from a prior meal. Ha!

After the show let out, around 4:30pm, we walked down to the B&H photography superstore. Since we are professional photographers, we order equipment from them now and again. It was indeed a huge store, and they had plenty of staff on hand to handle any questions. They even have a used equipment section if your looking for something older or at a discounted price. It was like a candy store for photographers. They also carry video equipment and accessories.

From B&H, we walked down to 34th street where the Empire State Building is located. We had already got our pictures from 30 Rock, so we didn't feel the need to pay through the nose and stand in a long line to go to the top. This was a really busy section of town. You have to pay attention or you'll be in someone's way that's trying to make the next crosswalk. Anyway, we went into the lobby so I can officially say "Been there. Done that!" Go to 30 Rock, it's a great view and less crowded!

For dinner we stopped by the Potbelly Sandwich Shop for a quick bite to eat. We've eaten at this franchise before and knew we couldn't go wrong. The Wreck in our opinion is their best sandwich. They toast it, and it is yummy!

Continuing on to 5th Avenue, we stopped at the New York Public Library for a quick picture outside. Then it was on to St. Patrick's Cathedral for some more pictures. Just being inside the building is a highlight!

For dessert, we stopped at the Magnolia Bakery made famous by Sex and the City. I had a yummy piece of yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and Sandy had one of their cupcakes which was very good. We sat across from Radio City Music Hall to eat and take more pictures.

One note about bathrooms in the city. Some eating establishments don't have them! You may find yourself sneaking into another store to use the bathroom, and merchants have signs on the doors saying they are for customers only...for good reason. And for that reason, you'll usually find them in the basement or the top level of the restaurant all the way in the back.

That completed day three. Another long day on our feet, and they are tired. Time to regroup and recoup.

Day 2: Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time

Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time: Day 2

Day two in New York City consisted of a tour by foot with Real New York Tours. I found them on Trip Advisor is a great resource, and I use it often when we travel. There's nothing more accurate than customer reviews in their own words.
Let me start out by saying that a tour on foot in NYC is not for the weary. It is a full on tour to see as much as you can in 6-7 hours while walking and hopping the subway to get from place to place. Our tour guide was Trey, and he was a wealth of information. There are several different tours to choose from, so you can custom tailor your experience with this company. Check out their website at RealNewYorkTours. We started out at Paramount Plaza around 10am and proceeded to cover most of Manhattan in a day. We did this tour early in our trip, so we could familiarize ourselves with the city layout and make notes of places we wanted to return to later in the week. One of the sites was Ground Zero. You could still feel the somber aura in the air as Trey explained that seven of the buildings at Ground Zero were destroyed and ALL other buildings in the immediate vicinity sustained damage except for one that was directly across the street from the twin towers. It was St. Paul's Chapel. It would be the place to feed three thousand rescue workers every day immediately following the disaster. The chapel did not sustain any damage, not even a broken window. A miracle for sure. We plan on returning to the chapel in the coming days for pictures and more of it's stories. We walked through Chinatown and Little Italy where you can see how Chinatown is taking over the area.
There aren't many Italian immigrants coming to the U.S. anymore, but there are still plenty of Chinese coming. After walking though Chinatown, I didn't want to eat Chinese food for a long time. They had markets lining the streets and the smell of dead fish and other things was gagging. We even saw a bucket of live frogs for sale. Rumor has it that they don't just eat the legs! A walk through the financial district showed us where they closed off Wall Street to traffic after 9/11. The protesters of recent weeks had disbanded. They are no longer allowed to camp out in the park near Wall Street. Central Park was a brief break from the crowds, even though there were alot of people in the park, it didn't feel as congested as the streets. Strawberry Fields is an area of the park dedicated to the late John Lennon. His apartment building is adjacent to the park where Yoko still lives. Soho is a happening place where there are many well known stores for shopping. The artists are dwindling in that area, because the rent keeps going up as the area increases in popularity. We had lunch on Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village where I ate the best Italian sub I ever had.

Get the Italian Special at Faicco's, you can't go wrong! Across the street is a little Italian bakery called Rocco's. They have the best cannolis! Get the chocolate covered shell. They make the cannolis on the spot for you. It's a real treat.

 There were other areas that we explored off the beaten path. We walked about ten miles, and yes you will be exhausted, and yes your feet will hurt, but it IS worth it!

Day 1: Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time

Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time: Day 1

Well, friends, it's my first time visiting the Big City, and it sure is different than little old Port St. Lucie, Florida. I've been to Chicago and Miami before, but NYC dwarfs those towns.

We arrived this morning around 11am via LaGuardia airport. We had hired a driver to take us to our humble abode that would be home base for the next eight days. It is our nephew's room in an apartment on the upper west side just outside of Harlem. He was nice enough to let us stay here while he is gone on a family vacation. You heard right, I said a "room". It's about 12x14 with no A/C. Not to mention we share a kitchen, bathroom and living room. I have a new found appreciation for living in a single family home all to ourselves with A/C, especially in the middle of summer. The benefits of staying here are that it is much cheaper than staying at a hotel @ $200-$400 a night, and everything is close by including the subway. The bonus is that the family that owns the place, also living here, is very nice and helpful.

After we arrived, we made a quick trip to the grocery store, subway station and a pizza place. The prices on the groceries were not much higher than at home. There are several other corner stores that have food and snacks, too. At the subway, we purchased our unlimited ride metro cards at $29 each for the week. Now to figure out how the subway works! We then went to a local pizza place and got a couple slices. They tasted o.k. but not award winning. I'm sure we'll be having more pizza in the coming days.

The advice I received from friends before we left was don't get mugged, come back alive, and see a show while you're there. I have to say we feel pretty safe here so far, and we plan on seeing a show on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, after stocking the fridge we headed to midtown Manhattan for a tour of Rockefeller Center and the Top of the Rock observation deck. Figuring out the subway wasn't hard, and we felt safe riding it. Just pay attention when the train stops to make sure you know where you are and how far you have to go to get to your station. It took us about thirty minutes to get to midtown. We had some time to kill upon arrival, so we went to the Hard Rock Cafe and got a guitar pin. I collect them from all the HRC's we visit. From there we went to Trump Tower to get some pictures. We watch the show The Apprentice with Donald Trump, so we were excited to be there where they film some of the scenes. Although we did not see the Trumpster, it was cool. Next stop was St. Patricks Cathedral. The architecture there was jaw dropping and a photographer's dream to photograph. We'll be going back to that place to take more pictures. Finally, it was time for our tour. The guide was a little lackluster, but we learned alot about the history and architecture of the plaza. I think the tour guide needed a vacation. You could tell he had repeated himself for the umpteenth time to just another tour group. After that, it was up to the 70th floor of 30 Rock for an unprecedented view of the city at sunset. It was a beautiful clear day with a calm breeze that kept it at just the right temperature for a nice visit. We got our pictures and proceeded to find the subway station for our return trip.
On a side note...It's hard not to think of 9/11 while in NYC. The sirens, fire trucks, and the highly visible NYPD are all reminders of what it must have been like to be in the city when the towers came down.

Anyway, finding the station was fairly easy and at 9pm there were still alot of passengers on the trains, so we felt safe once again. It was quick ride back to our temporary home, and we are exhausted. Tomorrow is our tour of the city on foot and let me tell you my dogs are already barking from today's excursion. Well, that concludes day one. I'll post some pics when I get them uploaded.

Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Using Laser Part 3:

Endoscopic Sinus Surgery Using Laser Part 3:

Well, almost two months since my surgery and I'm feeling much better. The dead animal smell in my nose is becoming a distant memory. I can breathe much easier. Sandy says I'm sleeping much quieter now too. They still have me on the saline spray several times daily and they recently added the Nasonex back into the mix for every other day. When I wear my glasses my nose still gets irritated after a couple hours. It feels like an uncomfortable pressure on my nose that the doc said should go away. My check up a couple days ago showed that I am healing well and the doctor says I'm at about 60% back to normal now. He set an appointment in another four weeks, but said if I don't have any issues then I don't need to come in.

On a separate note: Make sure you double check what your insurance is paying. We have found several discrepancies with Blue Cross & Blue Shield where they weren't applying some of the charges to the deductible and totally not paying other providers for no reason. So we had to contact them to resubmit claims.