Reunited (and united) with family and friends in the Empire State
As mentioned in the previous update on my blog, dated November 6, me and my brother traveled south to Florida instead of visiting family in the states of New Jersey and New York due to the storm Sandy. We had a great time down south, enjoying the nice weather, great local food and visiting friends. Friday November 9th, it was time to head up north.
After a wonderful few days in the Sunshine State, it was time to say goodbye for now. We returned our rental car the night before our flight, and got to our hotel where we repacked everything (my brother is crazy when it comes to shopping!) and got to bed early. Wake up was set to 03.20 am…
0600am-flights should be banned. But until that law goes into effect, we had one of those to catch from MCO to EWR.
We got to MCO, checked in, in the United Premier Access lane (we do have some benefits as frequent flyers) and got all our 4 (!) bags checked in to our destination, Newark, free of charge. I thought we only were entitled to 3 free checked bags with United, but I wasn’t going to argue with them.
MCO is the most typical vacation destination I can think of. Even when we landed in MCO a few days earlier, they welcomed us to Disney World, even though that was not anywhere near where we had planned on going. A typical vacation destination means tons of families traveling with oversized carry-ons, kids, toys +++ That creates this huge line in security, but we went to the premier access line for security because of my frequent flyer gold status and we were through the check within minutes. Nice touch and something my brother appreciated (he does not have any status with any airline but enjoyed the same benefits as I did when travelling with me)
MCO is nothing fancy, but an OK airport to go through in my opinion. It has a good layout and is easy to navigate. Not plenty of places to grab something to eat in the morning, but that’s that..
0530 am and it was time to board the 737 bound for Newark-EWR. Flight was OK but I was sick with the cold and my ears kept popping all the way to Newark which was a pain, but I survived. Never had that happen to me before though, so rather unusual.
We arrived on-time in Newark and after disembarking the airplane we headed straight for baggage claim where our bags were already on the conveyor belt when we arrived! The priority tags apparently work on EWR (as opposed to MCO where our priority tagged bags were almost the last ones on the belt)
When we had picked up our bags we saw two of my mom’s cousins, Karen and Roberta, coming to meet us! Wonderful to see them both again! We headed for the car where we started our drive to their home in Jefferson, New Jersey. It was about an hour drive and when we got to their house we were greeted by Karen’s husband, Tommy. All very nice people! We played a little with my cousin Annie’s, 3-year-old son before my other cousin, Molly showed up! We had lunch together, and Tommy made the most wonderful hamburgers with salad. We had homemade chicken soup and cakes as well. We didn’t leave the house hungry, that’s for sure 🙂
Later in the evening we went to eat at the restaurant where Karen works. Molly, my brother and I then headed to Morristown which is on the way to Newark where we had a hotel reservation for the night. In Morristown we met up with Molly’s cousin, Kristi. Me and Kristi, however, are not related, because I’m related with Molly via my grandmother who was Molly’s grandfather Andy’s first cousin, while Kristi and Molly are related through Molly’s grandmother, who married Andy. Family relations are easier to figure out when you have a family tree to look at haha.
In Morristown we had a few drinks before we headed to Hilton Newark Airport.
The Hilton Newark Airport property is OK for an airport hotel. Rooms were rather spacious and we had a “great view” of the Budweiser factory near the airport. I’m HHonors Gold, and therefore had the option to choose between 1000 extra points or free breakfast. I opted for the latter. They had a small gym that me and my brother went to in the morning the next day. We upgraded our breakfast for $4 per person (the free breakfast voucher was only for continental breakfast, for $4 extra we got the full buffet)
Parking was $12 overnight which is nothing compared to what we had to pay for at the Hilton New York (more on that later..)
Around 11 am we headed for the city. New York City.
Crossing under the Hudson River via the Lincoln Tunnel, rolling down the window of Molly’s car and look up at those crazy, big, huge, tall buildings. It was breathtaking, to say the least. A sky scraper in Norway is a building that has more than 6 floors. You can only imagine how entering New York City was quite the experience for me!
We parked the car in the hotel garage, after navigating NYC’s endless “One way”-roads. Molly did a great job 🙂
Our hotel room wasn’t ready yet, but we left our baggage on a trolley and stored it at the hotel, and decided to start touring the city without checking in. We headed for the nearest subway station where we got a 7-day unlimited pass for $29. Our first destination was Brooklyn and the Bay Ridge area. Before we could get there, we had to change the subway twice because they suddenly announced “next station – last stop” and we hadn’t even gotten to Lower Manhattan yet! But we made it. After disembarking the subway on 4th Ave 77th St in Brooklyn, we walked down 4th to 80th St where we found the current location for the church where my great grandmother was baptized in 1912.
We then walked up 3rd avenue to 69th street where we found this little deli
You can read more about the Nordic Deli store here
We were thinking of having lunch at the deli, but lack of sitting areas brought us across the street to a sushi restaurant were we had delicious sushi 🙂
After eating food with sticks we headed to 59th Street via subway. We walked a couple of blocks until we got to where we wanted, on 59th Street between 7th and 8th Ave.
59th Street Lutheran Brethren Church. The exact church my grandmother, who passed away last year on 9/11, was baptized in 1930.
After a little look of the church building we noticed a guy sitting on the steps of what looked like an apartment in conjunction with the church. He asked “Are you from Norway?” Yes we are, we replied. (In retrospect, we were the only people with blonde hair and blue eyes around, making the guessing simple for him, since the other people around were Chinese.) Turned out the guy was the Youth Pastor in the church and that his heritage traced back to a town here in Norway, not too far away from my home, either! He showed us around, told us the history of the church and the area, how Brooklyn was THE place to be for Norwegian Americans, and how it has slowly turned in to a more Asian district of New York. Until the 1980s they had church services in Norwegian, while now they have it in English and Chinese.
We got to go inside and have a look as well!
After the tour of the church we took the subway to Times Square for some photos. On our way from the subway and to Times Square, we grabbed some coffee from Starbucks. Their Chai Latte is superb, if you ask me. Perfectly spiced and sweet.
Time to get going back to the hotel and check in. Changed to some different clothing and we were ready for what this Saturday night had in store for us. My brother went to a party at the Alex hotel with our neighbor from Norway who is in the Navy and was in NYC for Veterans Day. Molly and I thought we were going to a restaurant near the hotel, but when we met up with Karlene down in the hotel lobby, it turned out we were picked up by Jeremy and Natan in a white limousine and driven out on Long Island to Natan’s house for the Flight For Control book event! Sushi in the shape of an airplane, magic and great friends made this a wonderful Saturday night I will remember for a very long time!
I’d like to thank Natan’s family for having us that night. Very nice people who even opened their home during the storm Sandy for those who were out of power and water.
Limo on our way back to the Hilton New York hotel, too!
Sunday morning we had breakfast together with Karlene before she had to non-rev back to Seattle from JFK. Molly, my brother and I then headed to Grand Central station to meet up with some cousins on my grandfather’s side. I have never met them before, but I’ve met their uncles and aunts in Norway, and visited one of their aunts in Florida many times.
We got on the subway and went down to Ground Zero. We wanted to go into the 9/11 memorial, and was told it would be about an hour wait. That 1 hour turned into 2 hours, but we spent the time in line getting to know each other, some time passed by rather quickly.
Once inside the 9/11 memorial, I couldn’t really (and still can’t) fathom how many people actually lost their lives that horrifying day, and how many families have been directly affected by the twin terror attacks. The memorial itself was peaceful, in a sense, with falling water, grass areas, trees, almost like a nice little park. Though that exact area was so very far from peaceful as you can imagine, September 11, 11 years ago.
After the memorial, we went to a local burger restaurant and had lunch. I ordered a beer (Stella Artois, for the history records) but to my big dissapointment, I wasn’t asked to show I.D. Great, and I waited 21 years for this?
After the burgeres were consumed, we walked to Wall Street and took a subway up to Rockefeller Center where we had tickets to visit Top of the Rock, the top of Rockefeller center, located on the 67th-69th floors.
After taking the elevator down again, it was almost time for my cousins from upstate NY to head home. We got cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery and then Molly, JC and I decided to purchase tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular from a guy on a street corner. We said our good-byes to our cousins from upstate and got into the Radio City Music Hall.
The show was amazing, and so was my company and the drinks from the Delta 360 Sky Lounge too! Delta Air Lines, along with Chase and Norwegian Cruise Lines, are this year’s Christmas Spectacular sponsors.
We got dinner from a trolley outside the hotel, really good food to be honest! Then we went to bed, our legs tired from all the walking!
Next morning, we headed to Central Park after breakfast to go for a walk in the park. When we saw a horse carriage, we decided to rest our legs for a little while, while taking the horse carriage around Central Park!
After that, we went to the Museum of Modern Art where the famous painting “The Scream” is on display this fall and winter. Painted by the Norwegian painter Edward Munch.
It was getting close to noon and time for lunch. My brother loves the ribs at Hard Rock Cafe, so the to the HRC we went! Nice restaurant right on Times Square. After a delicious meal we headed back to the hotel in a yellow taxi, packed our stuff (we requested a late check-out which was granted earlier that morning) and headed for the car. The price for parking the car for two days in the garage was $142. Can you believe that?
Traffic jam down 9th Ave on our way to EWR, and the planned 20-minute ride took 1 hour and 20 minutes. 17 miles. But we made it in time to check in and off we went through the priority lane for security (once again, I love the frequent flyer gold benefits) and to the SAS Business lounge for some snack and drinks before boarding.
The flight home was rather uneventful, but we had a 7 hour layover in Copenhagen, which was spent sleeping in a sleeping chair. Nice. I also took a shower in the lounge which is probably the best feeling in the world after a night crossing the Atlantic in an economy class seat.
It was an amazing trip, and I’d like to send a special thanks to my cousin Molly who organized everything for us! Too bad the plans were shortened but we just have to come back another time!
Reuniting with Molly and her family, reuniting with my friend Karlene, finally uniting with my family from Upstate New York and pilot friends from New York – it was an honor!
Can’t wait to see you all again – SOON!