Since we have been in the need of a travel fix, Alex and I brought in the New Year in New York—although not with the diaper-wearing, captive crazies of Times Square. A cheap flight out of Chicago plus a great deal on an apartment in New Jersey sealed the deal and we were off to Newark (aka New Work).
We easily found the shuttle to Manhattan (only $15 and runs every 15 minutes) and waited for a recursive amount of time (something like y = 15x) while witnessing some of the best Spanglish EVER. Painted with ruler-guided eye liner, the reddest lips, and what I can only recall as some peacock-colored hair bow, la senora baja bantered back and forth with the ticket taker (who I swear was Steve Brady’s long-lost twin) from her throne at the front of the bus. From behind the steering wheel that measured a greater diameter than the driver did height, she transported us to Port Authority with what can only be described as New York- style driving.
Following a marathon nap, we left our Jersey nest for dinner. Guided by my oh-so-intelligent phone, we found am authentic Cuban restaurant that did not disappoint. Not surprisingly, food became a focus of our trip. While waiting for our reservation at Rockefeller Center’s observation dock (which, btw, is 100 billion times cooler than the Empire state building), we decided that some NY pie was a must. We found an OTC place that while they gave me a free slice after they forgot my order, could not compare with the experience we had across the Hudson in West New York.
Our reservation for the evening was just a la vuelta de la esquina from our apartment. It turns out that our reservation was at one of 5 tiny tables in an OTC pizza joint. “You must be Alex. And your name is…Alexis?” Vincenzo greeted us. The good humor and wine (gratis or as Vincenzo would say, gratuito) continued throughout our stay. The fact that it was perhaps the best pizza I’ve had made up for the lack of romance.
Besides indulging our taste buds, we also attempted some typical (and some not) touristy things. The tenement tour on the lower east side was very well-done. While touring the apartments, we followed the story of an Irish family trying to make it in during the latter half of the 19th century. From layers of original wallpaper and flooring to baptism certificates and work directories, it was more an experience than a tour. Right after the tour, we had to book it to Liberty Park in Jersey to catch the last ferry to Ellis Island. (According to my brilliant phone, we would arrive with only minutes to spare). A subway ride, the PATH, a light rail, and then a shuttle ride replaced by a run/walk got us to the loading dock at the moment of cast-off.
While we had another disappointment at the 9/11 memorial (no tickets available for days), we did stumble upon one unexpected treasure. McSorely’s Old Ale House (est. 1854) is NY’s oldest saloon. Everyone from Honest Abe and Woodie Guthrie to John Lenon has thrown one back there (women not until the 70s).
The only things we did NOT get to do (much to Al’s great disappointment) is go to a show, on- or off-Broadway. We’ll just have to go back!