Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kings of Queens

If you had to sum up Heather & Brett in one word, you could probably go with adventurous!  We're those nerdy people that hit the holes in the wall and never pass up a good tourist trap.  What if Heather didn't get a picture of it and we missed it??   Personally, we think we would be ideal contestants for The Amazing Race.  Heather could navigate all of the airports and Brett could eat all of the weird food.  We'll have to thumb wrestle to see who does the skydiving's probably the only thing either of us would pass on.

Adventure was calling when we decided to make our first trip to the city to watch the Cardinals take on the Mets.  With folks scheduled to come visit soon, we decided a short trip into NYC would be a way to learn the ropes.  We headed down to Poughkeepsie where we caught the train that took us all the way into Grand Central Station.  Poughkeepsie parking ran $3 and was several blocks from where the train depot was so we barely made it to our seats before it was time to go.  Tickets are self-serve and were $14.50 one way (during non-peak hours) and the train conductor punched our ticket.  We guess they throw you off if you don't have one?!?  The 1.5 hour train ride ran parallel to the Hudson and was slooow moving!  We made several stops before we finally got to our destination.  Coming into the city we went right through Harlem, which made us feel tuff (like on the Outsiders).

First observation:  the Subway was hotter than hell!  You would think being underground and away from the sun it might be a little cooler...nope, still 100 degrees.  Subway tunnels are just what you imagine:  they smell like a giant urinal and there's a homeless person on every platform playing the theme from Titanic on some duct taped together musical instrument.  We've both been to NYC before and rode the subway but forgot about the intricate tile work.  Every stop has beautiful mosiac tile designs.  Most of the ceramic work was done when the system opened in October 1904.

Brett & The Yankee Clipper
The NYC Subway is the largest rapid transit system in the world, with 468 stations in operation!  More than 1.5 billion passengers ride annually and it's open 24 hours.  One of the most interesting things we noticed is that you could buy alcohol all over the subway system.  There were beer and wine carts everywhere!  (We decided that we had spent too much time in the Bible Belt and should probably close our gapping mouths.)
View ImageWell, our jaws were on the ground again when we finally got out of the tunnels and up to Grand Central Station.  In the words of Country Mouse, "It's just like on tv!"  At 42nd & Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, the Grand Central Terminal covers nearly 50 acres of prime New York real estate.  Other than trains, you'll find fancy pants restaurants, fast food joints, a pharmacy, fresh food market, delis, bakeries, newsstands and more than 40 retail stores here!  The main concourse is a huge cavernous room and houses the main information booth in the center.  
View ImageThe famous four-faced clock on top of the booth is the background of many tourist photos.  But did you know that the clock faces are made from opal,  estimated to be between $10 and $20 million??  Also, within the marble and brass tower lies a 'secret' door that conceals a spiral staircase that leads to a lower level information booth.  Amazing what you can learn from the History Channel!

When you visit Grand Central Station, be sure to look up!  The ceiling is painted a pale blue/green  and full of constellations.  But look closely and you'll notice they're backwards!  A couple of explinations for this:  one is that the ceiling is based on a medieval manuscript, which visualized the sky as it would look from outside the celestial sphere.  The other is that the painter reversed the image by accident. Whoopsie!  

Of course Brett couldn't just buy tickets to the game online at the stadium.  Oh, no...that would be too easy.  We had to get them off of Craigslist, his new favorite obsession.  So as soon as we snapped a few pics we found the 7 train and were off to Greenwich Village to meet up with the NYU student scalper them to pick them up.  Luckily, we only rode the subway for about 5 minutes before we realized we were going the wrong direction.  Our NYU hookup was very surprised that he had just sold his tickets to Cardinals fans!

Watch for flying tennis balls!
With tickets in hand we were back on the train and headed out to the borough of Queens to meet up with Albert and the gang!  It took us about 30 minutes to get to Citi Field, but the train dropped us off right at the door.  Interesting fact:  just next to the stadium is the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where they play the US Open.

View from the top
The Mets moved into Citi Field in 2009 when it replaced Shea Stadium and the $850 million ball park is pretty spiffy.  The Jackie Robinson Rotunda was totally picture opp worthy so if you ever visit, pack the camera.  Outside of the stadium is the original Home Run Apple from Shea and Brett couldn't resist having his picture made in front of that thing.    For some reason, Heather's Arkansas born and bred father, Mr. Ed, swears to love the Mets.  We're not sure why, but we sure did enjoy texting him game updates when the Cardinals scored 6 runs in the first inning!  It took the Cards 13 innings to put away the Mets 8-7 and the game didn't end until almost midnight.  The Garretts did not get back to Clifton Park until 3 a.m., but the chance to cheer on the Cardinals made every moment of this adventure worth it!

Only $20 million a year for naming rights.
Jackie Robinson Rotunda
Just for you Mr. Ed!
Ballpark hot dogs, NY style
Thankfully, we only saw this once.

Apparently we were very close to LaGuardia Airport.