Birthday Surprise!

It’s July 26 so its around 4 days past my 30th birthday. On this day I decided to head to CT for a little bit just to take in some of the sites that I haven’t seen in a good long time because I was feeling a bit of nostalgia. There were two things on my agenda, Fairfield Prep where I went to High School many years ago and to go to Stew Leonards which is the most awesome grocery store in the entire world.

I started the day like always, breakfast at the Waldorf and then a train ride up to Greenwich. Claire and I took a nice walk on Greenwich Ave which I haven’t done in ages. There were quite a few new stores that I haven’t been to lately and so we took the opportunity to do a little window shopping. We didn’t buy anything because we can’t afford Greenwich at this point in the trip. We had spent the better part of the week in the city and my budget was running low (I lie of course I had no budget :)).

First stop on my tour was of course Stew Leonards. This place is simply awesome and even though I was only there for a day, Claire and I actually bought stuff to eat just because we could and it was Stewies after all!! They still have all the great animatronic stuff all over the store, there are a few departments that are new (how the cram all that stuff into the same floor space they had in 1988 I have no idea but its being done!), and of course I had to head on over to the little petting zoo that the keep around for the kids. Lots of pics there which I would post but right now I’m too lazy to try and put it into my blog post (blogger doesn’t have the best editor on the planet for this task).

The next stop that I made was to my old high school of Fairfield Prep. I haven’t seen my old High School in a very long time. Since then they have built a new section of the school for a bigger library and to eliminate the need to walk out doors in the snow or the rain. Claire took pics of me here as well. The old buildings were there but there was a new alumni hall across the street which was kind of weird to me. I don’t think I like the new design. The old design of the school made it more open by having the separation of the two buildings. Claire took a bunch of pictures of me here which was nice because I don’t have that many pics from my Prep days in highschool. I wish I had some older pics so I could show the differences between then and now but oh well.

After visiting the ole FP, I headed back down to Greenwich to await pickup from my friend Tiny aka Johnson for dinner. I thought that it was only going to be dinner with Claire, myself, and Tiny. As it turns out Claire planned a surprise party for me at one of our favorite Japanese restaurants called Kujaku. There were a whole slew of people that I haven’t seen in a couple of years and they came from all over the North East from as far away as Philadelphia PA and Amherst MA. There are pics of course but its easier to see them on my Picasa Web Albums. Needless to say it was a very good evening so far with all my friends around wishing me a happy 30th while eating kick ass Japanese food. There were so many people that we took up two Hibachi tables, now thats very impressive in my eyes. Afterwards a bunch of us headed out to a bar, some of my friends that lived a bit further away had to head home because of the very long drive but thats alright, it was just great to see them after so long. We didn’t stay at the bar too long and it was a new bar that I had never heard of. I think they took over the restaurant that used to be at the corner or something. Anyway, we had a few shots just because we could and it was a night to celebrate not only my birthday but also Claire’s since she had the party on her birthday. I’ll make it up to her for her 30th. After that another smaller set of us decided to head over to 9 Ball to play pool. This is something that I haven’t done since I lived in CT and it cemented the fact that I can not play pool to save my life. We stayed and played for a while, at least an hour or two but it was a lot of fun. Luu was nice enough to drive us back into the city since he has to head that way anyway. The next day would be our last day on vacation but thats for the next blog post!

For pics of my party click the link! Jason’s 30th Birthday Party

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Sightseeing in NY

Today was a day that Claire and I spent going sightseeing in NY. I wanted to see the Falls of New York display which are a series of man made water falls that were put in the East River by some artist. The best way to see this of course is from the water so I booked us some tickets on the Water Taxi in South Street Seaport. The actual challenge was getting TO South Street Seaport. The Seaport is all the way downtown near city hall and I got a little lost. On the way there, we did end up running into Pace University New York where Claire picked up a t-shirt. That stop was totally not planned but it was cool to actually go and Claire also was able to get a student discount even though she hasn’t been a student in a while now.

After getting my bearings we made it to South Street Seaport just fine. For those of you unfamiliar with South Street Seaport, it’s a mall on Pier 17 on the island of Manhattan. The area used to be a major market place for getting fresh fish. This recently changed and most of the actual fish market has left and gone to the Bronx or something like that. There has always been a shopping center there and I also used to enjoy the food too so I was hoping that this experience would be no different. Well anyway I digress, I did get the tickets to the NY Water Taxi since not only would they show the Falls of NY but it would also go right up to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty so I could get some good pictures of that. For me the next part is the funny part in this little adventure. I didn’t expect to see a lot of people going sightseeing on Friday morning, it is Friday morning after all! Well lo and behold, Claire and I get sucked into a tourist group. And this isn’t just any tourist group it’s a tourist group from China! I haven’t seen so many Asians in one group in a long time and the fact that they were Chinese made it all the funnier to me. You can tell that some of these guys were from the motherland, they brought out their best 1970’s era polyester and up to your man boobs pants just for the trip to NY. I guess it was fine because I was able to blend in with everyone else there and for once not be in the minority.

I got some really good pictures of the Statue of Liberty, some decent ones of Ellis Island and a lot of good ones of each of the falls and the 3 different bridges that we went under while on the NY Water Taxi. The cool part is that I didn’t get sea sick and throw up over the edge. I have a little bit of sea sickness so I’m not big on boats but this was one of the experiences that you just had to have while in NYC. It was funny to see all the little Chinese people running around the boat with their cameras taking pictures of just about everything. I know I was right there with them so I didn’t feel like a dork doing it as well. We stayed out on the water for about an hour or so and I have lots of pictures as proof. After we got off the boat we headed into the mall. One of the reasons that I love NY is that I can actually get raw clams on the half shell. For some reason I can’t get this down in Florida so I have no choice but to go northward in order to have one of my favorite foods. I of course had Claire take a picture of me eating them. I only had half a dozen but that was more than enough to sate my appetite. Claire had a bubble drink which is a drink we first encountered in Hawaii and we have been lucky enough to find it in other places.

Well that takes care of Friday morning, but it was Friday afternoon that was going to be special. One of the events that I think every visitor should do is High Tea at the Plaza Hotel. I consider this one of the high points of our trip. We even got all dressed up for it and walked the 10 blocks or so to the Plaza. Now the Waldorf is a nice hotel but the Plaza just totally kicks its ass in almost every way. Too bad its not a Hilton property, I would have totally stayed there instead of the Waldorf. You couldn’t even take pictures with the flash on your camera so as not to damage environment and the mood in the hotel. Now that’s classy! LOL! OK, now on to the tea part. There is a specific area where tea is held and we read that you should dress up a bit for it. So of course I’m in my business attire minus jacket and Claire is looking awesome in her dress. The chairs were nice and comfy, the china looked totally expensive, and there was even a harp player in the middle of the room. Some of the people weren’t dressed all that well so we put on our CT snooty noses and made fun of them for being so craptacular in such a fabulous setting. The neat thing about high tea is that the only thing you really need to choose is the actual tea blend that you want to sip on. The rest of the food is included in the price that you’re paying. The tea is brewed in a lovely china pot and they give you lots of cream and sugar to flavor it further if you so choose. I chose to only add sugar to mine but I did try it cream, just to give it that British zing. I can’t remember what the food was that we had but it was at least 3-4 different courses. It wasn’t a meal really, it was all finger food but since Claire and I got two different pots of tea, we each got our own trays of finger foods. I didn’t know how long tea would actually last but from the time we started to the time we finished, it took over two hours to finish all the tea and all the finger foods that came our way. The service was excellent, the man was attentive without being overly so. He would probably take glances of us to make sure everything as ok and cleared up plates and everything when we were just about done but also had some time to have some conversation and such between ourselves. Overall, a grand experience which I wouldn’t mind doing again in 10 years or so, maybe by then the menu would have changed.

The final spot that we did our sightseeing was at the lovely Empire State Building (which we walked to since we had to burn some calories after having high tea). In all my years of living up north in CT I never once went to the top of the Empire State building. It was just one of those things that you sort of take for granted when you’re living so close to NY. The building is there so I don’t really need to see it any time soon but when you move away you start to think of all the little touristy things that you should have done just to experience them. I bought the tickets to go to the Empire State Building before we even embarked on our trip to NYC so I was well prepared to go to the top. What was kind of surprising was the number of lines that we had to pass through and these lines weren’t short by any means. There is the security line, then the ticket line, then the line to go all the way up the elevator to the 86th floor which is where the observation deck is. Now this is the part that slightly annoyed me and Claire about this part of the trip, we actually got stuck with another group of freakin tourists and this time they were French. CRAP! I have found during my time waiting in lines at various amusement parks and other major tourist attractions that people from Europe and people from North America have very different concepts of “personal space”. There was a family of four behind us in line and they were literally right up my ass. The father of the group kept on hitting my sneakers with his feet. His wife was no different to me and kept on trying to push us forward. The kids were alright, I assumed they were in their teens. The son I thought was hilarious, he looked like a girl! Well since they kept on bumping me, I shielded Claire as best I could from them and we started to play a little game to make sure they didn’t progress as fast as they wanted. Whenever we had to make a turn in the line, I would take the inside track and Claire would take the outside one to prevent them from coming right beside us in line or attempt to cut. To top it off we did it EXTRA slow so there was a nice gap in front of us so we had some breathing space. I know this annoyed our little friends and they kept on trying to push and we would just stand there and do nothing. Ahh how I love annoying tourists from the European continent. My major point about personal space is that we’re all in the same freakin line, no matter how much you try and push and force others to go forward, there is a shit load of people before me and we’re not going to get there any faster, so rather than ride up my ass and make me mad, back off a little, talk to the family and enjoy the wonders that is the line to get to the top of the Empire State Building. We got to the top of the building and we were able to take some pretty good pictures from the top of the building. We decided to stay there till dusk so we could get some sunset shots as well. Overall I think we spent about 2 hours roaming the deck and taking different pictures of different areas of the city. We had every intention of going to a comedy club that night but we were just too tired and instead of taking the subway back we thought, to hell with it lets just try and walk it. Man that wasn’t the best idea we’ve had to date but even though we missed the comedy club, the next day would be awesome since it would be our day in CT.

Broadway Night

It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged but I need to finish chronicling my trip to NY. Some of the details are getting a bit hazy already since it was over two weeks ago but I’ll try my best to get things going.

First off my wife and I decided to do a bit more exploring in Central Park and take things a little easier for the day. Even though we did do a lot of Central Park a couple of days ago, we decided to go back and see what else we missed. I personally wanted to go to the Central Park Zoo simply because I’ve never been there before. Of course I had to see things like penguins and birds and all manner of critters. I thought it was a good experience. In all the years that I’ve lived in the North East I don’t think I’ve ever really been to Central Park itself. In true New York fashion the wife and I had to have a pretzel in the park and naturally I took some pics.

This one is of the gate to the Central Park Zoo, I thought this was appropriate to take a pic of it while I had the chance.

Now the rest of the day was pretty relaxing since we didn’t do anything to make us too tired, we had a Broadway show to attend! But naturally, I remember events based on meals so we had to make the night extra special by heading over to one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants before we could go and see Spring Awakening.

Bar Americain was an excellent place for us to eat our dinner out. Originally we were going to try and hit up the Mesa Grill but it was way too far downtown near the Flat Iron district and would have required two subway trips. By no means do I think the choice we made was a mistake. I dont’ even remember what my entre was personally but I do know that the dessert was so good that my wife cant’ even remember what she had for dinner. Too bad I probably should have taken a picture of it.

OK now on to the show! I haven’t been to Broadway since I think the 1980’s (I know I’m old right?). I won’t give away the plot or anything but the show was really good. The theater wasn’t as big as I thought it would be and for some really weird reason there were tons of little high schoolers going to the show. This didn’t really annoy me that much and we had decent seats to watch. The good thing was that no one tall was in front of us. I still have the PlayBills at home but haven’t really looked at them since the show. I would recommend anyone going to see a Broadway show to check this one out. I wouldn’t mind going to see Avenue Q, I hear that show is also good if a little on the crude side, but being me I know I would enjoy that.

After the show we were just wiped out so we ended up heading home afterwards. I did take one more picture that night that was pretty cool and it was of Times Square. I could have stayed at a hotel there instead of at the Waldorf but it’s way too loud there so I’m pleased with my choice.

Yankee Game Day

Day 3 of my vacation almost started badly because I was supposed to go to a NY Yankee Game with my wife at Yankee stadium. This was going to be special because it was one of the last games that would be played at Yankee Stadium until the new one is completed for the 2009 season.

In order to kick things off we decided to have some breakfast and checked the weather to make sure that it wouldn’t rain. This part was important since we would have to take the subway all the way up to the Bronx in order to get to Yankee Stadium. Breakfast was the same and afterwards we did another little walk up 5th Avenue to go into some stores that we didn’t before. My wife was wearing my Yankee hat that I always keep around and I wore the new batting jersey that she bought for me before we left Florida. We were fortunate that the subway that we needed to take was very close to the hotel. Nothing like taking the Number 6 express all the way to the Bronx!

The Yankee game was against the Twins and the game itself was awesome. To have the true baseball experience my wife and I had some hot dogs and cracker jacks from one of the concession stands. I know that’s really expensive but we wanted the true ball park experience. The game was very good I do say so myself. Not only did the Yankee’s win but it was a close enough game that they had to bring out Mariano Rivera. I didn’t think they would bring him in but when the 9th inning hit with We took quite a few pictures while we were there at the ball park, we wanted to go to Monument Park but the park is closed on game day so I didn’t get to see it. We tried again at the end of the game but the line was so long it wouldn’t have been worth it. It was also going to start raining soon and we didn’t want to get caught since I didn’t have an umbrella with me. I also got a good pic of the new stadium that the Yankee’s are building right next door to the current stadium. You can see it in the pic of myself and my wife earlier in this post. The new stadium looks pretty awesome, I can’t wait to see a game there one day. Maybe if I’m lucky enough I’ll be able to go there during its opening season although I suspect everyone in the Tri-State area that loves the Yankees and even people beyond will be rushing to get a good glimpse and share the new experience.

After we were done with the game and getting some souvenir’s (OK I was the only one to get anything, I picked up a final season patch for a Jersey I want to get and a t-shirt that looked uber cool) we hopped back on the subway to find some dinner. I was supposed to go out with a family friend but because of some mis-communication we didn’t end up going out to dinner together. The original plan was to go to Little Italy or Chinatown but that was no longer in the cards because just as we got to midtown Manhattan it started to rain. This normally would not present a problem but we were looking for some Chinese food and Chinatown seemed too far away and the smell of wet garbage also wasn’t very appealing. Before I set out on the trip to NY I made sure to send away for an official NY Visitor’s guide and found a nice Chinese place called The Peking Duck. I have never heard of this place before but I guess it had to be good if its mentioned in the guide. After getting cleaned up after the game we decided to walk over to The Peking Duck for dinner. This place looked pretty nice from outward appearances if a bit fancier than we thought by the description. As the name implies, this place specializes in Peking Duck so of course that’s what we ordered. I have to say that the duck was awesome. My wife and I split an entire duck for dinner and to top everything off we also had some friend flounder since its hard to find in Florida. The flounder was also excellent and we both over ate by a lot but we were quite content with the meal. I do know that I’m going to be heading to that place again.

Oh and one last thing, on our way to dinner, we saw the new Japanese trade ambassador on 5th Ave. It was kind of funny so of course I took a picture J