Today was the day where stress levels skyrocketed. At least, they were much higher for my dad, who had the privilege of driving a minivan through the streets of Manhattan. The rest of us had the ability to sit back, relax, and point out the sights.
After a hearty breakfast, all six of us piled into the minivan and started out for a day in the big city. Now, just to get to Manhattan took us about an hour, to say nothing of the drive time once we crossed the bridge.
Since it was a Sunday afternoon, the traffic was actually not as bad as the movies/TV shows would have you think. Was it crowded? Yes, but a lot of the crowding was due to pedestrians (which is basically true of all of New York City). The car traffic wasn’t too bad, once we figured out which lane(s) we needed to be in.
We visited one of the largest cathedrals I’ve ever been in — and it’s still unfinished, at that. The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine is immense. Towering columns, an 8,500-pipe organ, and barely any chairs, let alone pews, to fill the space. You could shout, and the halls would just swallow your voice — don’t shout, it is still a church, that was merely an observation.
The entrance hall reminded me of the halls of Moria, from the Lord of the Rings. That got a laugh from John, and eye rolls at my geekiness from my family.
It was beautiful, but the lighting inside hardly could do it justice. As with most of the cathedrals and large churches I’ve seen, the sheer size prevents the space from being well-lit, and it remained dim with shadows in the alcoves that prevented good photos.
John directed us through the heart of the Manhattan shopping district — down Fashion Avenue and past Diamond Row — before circling ’round to drive by the east side of Central Park (a view I’d seen before, but from the pedestrian side of things). Driving through New York was a different experience, especially when we headed south toward Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry.
We only missed the turn once before we found a close enough parking garage. (Boy, those parking garages have tight corners. And remember, we’re in a minivan, too. Tense moments.)
The ferry is set up so that you always miss the instant turnaround on either side, thus keeping you in the terminal for a half-hour in hopes that you’ll purchase concessions. We did. Pretzels, popcorn, beer … you name a concessions-style food item, and I’m sure the vendors sold it. We were even able to take it on board the ferry with us.
Pro-tip: When on the Staten Island Ferry, one place to get a great view without the crowds is below-deck on the back of the boat (by where the bicyclists can roll on board). Everyone goes to the top, but no one goes down there. Bonus: If it rains, you have a roof just steps away.
We really did luck out with the weather, though. Just warm enough you didn’t need a jacket, and sunny with a nice breeze … it was beautiful. Great weather to be out on the water.
We swung around the Staten Island side of the ferry, and had a chance to sit and chat for a while, passing around a bag of popcorn. The crowd here waiting to head to Manhattan wasn’t nearly as large, so we must’ve caught some commuters heading home on our way here.
We stayed inside the lower deck on the return journey, but managed to get a few shots of amusing signage.
After getting back to Manhattan, we took the subway up to Times Square and our dinner choice: Carmine’s. Oh, em, goodness. We ordered two dishes and had enough leftovers for another meal and a half (and there are six of us, none of us light eaters). The food was really, really good.
After we finished stuffing ourselves, John and Dad went to go get the van from the Battery Park, and Mom, my siblings, and I went walking. We had about 45 minutes to walk to our meet-up spot, and we picked up dessert from two different bakeries on the way. We also found a couple of schools (which led to the question of where NYC kids play sports, since there’s so little open space).
That question was partially answered on our drive back to Stamford, when we passed a multitude of ballfields and sports complexes. I think most of us (except Dad, who was driving) caught a few minutes of napping on the drive home. It was definitely more subdued conversation, and we headed to bed en masse pretty much as soon as we walked through the door.