So I'll get off my lazy pa-toot and write this thing... Sorry that it's taken me so long. Subsequent posts by the much more consistent Naomi will reveal how crazy things have been since we returned from our Epic Vacation and hopefully provide an acceptable excuse for my lethargy!
We woke up bright and early on Sunday morning and enjoyed a beautiful view of New York Harbor outside our cabin balconies as we pulled in to dock. Our cabins were on the port side of the ship, giving us a spectacular view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Liberty Island and Lady Liberty herself (see picture above), the beautiful skyline of Lower Manhattan, and an old grubby fisherman relieving himself off the side of his derelict fishing boat (that's how I knew I was really back in New York).
We escaped the ship that was our home for a week with considerable effort! The lines were huge, the warehouse storing US customs was hot and muggy, and our bags were heavy! We did manage to hop on a taxi and take a short ride to one of the chapels that I served in while a missionary. It's called the Midwood chapel, in Midwood, Brooklyn. It's a beautiful building, and I quickly had many fun memories flood back into my mind upon seeing it! It was one of my more memorable areas, with a mugging attempt, a hostage situation below my apartment, some incredible people, endless hours walking up and down Flatbush & Ocean Ave talking to people and eating Italian Ices, and some fun preparation playing soccer at the park! I managed to stop the current Elders and chat for a minute or two at the chapel, hear the news about some of the people I know, and hear about several people that I taught "way-back-when". It was fun.
After a few hours of church meetings in our street clothes (the bishop said in the sweetest Haitian accent: "Oh brother... we'll take you however you come! Come on Sit down by me!") we boarded the subway to get to our Hotel. I decided to treat my wife and parents to what my mission really was like, so we hauled our luggage several blocks to the Newkirk Ave stop on the Q train and rode the train to our hotel. My first day as a missionary, I had to drag all 3 pieces of luggage through 4 different trains to get to my first pad... which needless to say is really, really tricky. I experienced a little bit of sensory overload that day... so taking our luggage through the trains was a nice blast-from-the-past! In reality though, it was tons cheaper than taking a taxi, which was why we really did it.
Our hotel was pretty nice, even if the view outside our window wasn't the greatest in the world (see above), but again, we were going for autentico completo! We dropped off our luggage, caught our breaths, and immediately jumped back out on the train to go explore some more of the great city!
Our first stop was to Battery park in Lower Manhattan where we boarded the Staten Island Ferry and had a fun ride across the harbor. It was very picturesque and turned out to be a beautiful day, so we enjoyed it!
After returning to Manhattan we walked up a few blocks to see Ground Zero, where the twin towers used to stand. When I arrived in New York as a missionary, it was only several weeks after the attack, and I can still remember the two giant spotlights that shot into the sky every night. I can still remember talking to people and hearing how much that event affected them. It softened the hearts of a lot of rough New Yorkers.
After that it was a short train ride up to 42nd St. and Times Square (Trains played a big part in our two days in NY... they're kind of an on-going theme)! It was kind of a sensory overload for all of us. It reminded me of downtown Shanghai ... just with more American Advertisements! But it sure was loud, bright, and packed with people.
Here are some more cool pictures of us seeing Wall Street, the Wall Street Bull, the location where Pres. Washington was sworn in, etc. Somewhere around there was where Nicholas Cage discovered an underground tomb full of the Knight's Templar Treasure... but I couldn't quite remember the exact spot.
I did find a much-more valuable treasure though... the M&M store just North of Times Square. Mmmmmmmmm -drool-. My Mom and I got our pictures with the great American Heroes!
What?! Visit Central Park and NOT climb a tree?! I laugh at the very mention of the idea.
From there we got to walk through the bottom SW corner of Central Park. I was blown away by Central Park... it was one of the neatest parks I've ever seen in my life! It was gorgeous, well tended and full of people jogging and biking. Naomi and I both commented on how cool the trees looked: it seemed like they were extremely old and had been there for a very long time. It was really a neat park. We walked through it for like an hour and like I said, we barely saw even the bottom tiny corner. We were impressed!
We then walked a few blocks from the West edge of the park to go see the Manhattan Temple in the Theater District. It's a really neat temple; and really reminded me of the Hong Kong Temple, being just tucked into a street corner and rising up above the streets. Unlike the Hong Kong temple though, I didn't get a chance to actually go inside this one, because of the short visit. But it was beautiful, and very neat to see Moroni towering about the city streets.
After that we boarded the N train and made our way back into Brooklyn and our 3rd Ave Hotel in Dyker Heights to rest our weary feet! We did manage to find a good pizza place that made the NY style pizza (so big and thin you have to fold them in half, wait a few seconds for all the grease to drizzle off the end, then enjoy!). We even managed to find a Costco in Brooklyn where my Mom and I promptly got the largest bag of M&Ms we could find .... mmmmmmm -drool-. Then we rested and slept and snored and got ready for the next day... which would turn out to be more tiring then the first! "Bring it on" we said!
To be continued...