To celebrate our 14th anniversary, I decided to put a tiny little getaway together. During planning, the trip managed to go from an overnighter in Savannah to a weekend in Manhattan at the Lotte New York Palace, but hey, when these things start escalating, sometimes you just gotta tuck and roll. It’s FOR THE MARRIAGE, right?!
The Big Secret
Since Hubs is typically the one to handle our trip planning (remember Steamboat?), I wanted to put this one together all by myself and leave everything a complete surprise for him. In an effort to get him to think we were heading to Savannah (which we’ve talked about going to for a while and would be an easy decoy), I casually dropped hints, pretended to almost slip up a few times and got creative with the packing list. I told him he needed his swimsuit (unnecessary), a nice outfit to wear to a fancy dinner (aka Broadway show), and shoes to hike in (we WOULD be hiking, just in the middle of the city instead of in the woods). I also told him that it would take about 7.5 hours to get there. Savannah, conveniently, is about that far to drive for us if you throw in stops. Technically, if you add up the 3.5 hour drive to ATL (yes, BHM is closer but twice the cost and I’m nothing if not frugal), 1.5 hours for security, 2 hour plane ride, and the 30 minute train into the city….VOILA! 7.5 hours. I’m telling y’all, I had this covered.
What I did NOT have covered was the time change from Bama to Georgia (how do I always forget this?!), turning what I’d thought would be a bright and early flight into what might as well have been a middle-of-the-nighter. Having to leave by 4am was such a joy. I’ll admit to THAT little detail being a tricky sell… (“Why do we have to leave so dang early for a road trip? Can’t we push it back to a more reasonable 7am or even 6??” “Ummm…it’s OBVIOUSLY because I made surprise breakfast reservations at a popular eatery about halfway to our secret destination and you’re close to ruining it so stop asking questions, okay??”) *close call* So in an effort to reinforce the whole sham, about an hour outside Atlanta when we’d gotten hangry enough to force a stop for biscuits, I finally revealed THE ITINERARY. Tooooo….drum roll please….Savannah.
I know. A fake itinerary may have been taking things a bit far but y’all, I NEVER get to surprise the man and he’s a relentless guesser so drastic measures had to be taken. Bless him for trying to act surprised and happy in order to not hurt my feelings though.
Anyhoo, like I said, he was such a good sport and we hit the road headed towards our first stop of the trip, which per the fake itinerary was our breakfast reservation. (THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART) As I’m navigating how to get there, we’re traveling closer to the airport when I looked over real nonchalantly and said, “You know what? Just follow the airport signs from here.” And he was all like “What are you talking about?” And I said, “Just go to the airport.” Him…*chuckles* “Wait…you’re serious?” And I got to say (through smiles and surprisingly teary eyes) “WE’RE GOING TO NEW YORK!!” And he started laughing and tearing up and I was laughing and tearing up and it was worth EVERY.SINGLE.TINY.DETAIL that I’d planned and all the extra work of keeping it a secret. It was like a grown up version of the Disney World surprise. Pure happy.
Reality Check: We then rode around the airport no less than 17 and a half times trying to figure out how to get onto the correct ramp to get us to the correct parking area so we’d be closest to the correct part of the airport we needed (why was that so friggin’ tricky?!) but even that couldn’t completely kill our vibes.
Planes, Trains, and Feet
We flew into Newark, New Jersey without incident and although my brother who lives in Brooklyn recommended taking a car into the city for the incredible views, I just couldn’t stomach the $100 fare when there was a perfectly good train that would take us to NY Penn Station for just $13 each. It was a relatively simple process to take the airport’s AirTrain to the station, purchase the tickets, and board but FYI for any of you planning a trip: Go UP when you board the train because the downward area has no luggage compartments and um….as we were told multiple times…..nothing was allowed in the aisle so….big red suitcases be damned. We were lucky to find seats close to each other so we for sure weren’t giving them up for a little luggage issue.
When we arrived, NY Penn Station seemed more like an underground mall (once we made it up the escalator anyway) and since we never actually HAD that breakfast I’d put on the fake itinerary or had extra time to eat in the airport like I’d hoped, we were both STARVING. Those butter biscuits were long gone.
We dropped $20 on a hard as rock pretzel, a wrap thingy, and a bottle of water and stood there in the middle of the station scarfing it down. After consulting the map app on my phone, we decided it wouldn’t be too far to walk to our hotel and would also give us an opportunity to gawk at the city for the first time.
Let me stop right here and issue a warning to all my fellow small town readers that have never ventured into a big city: no matter how good you are at navigating your way around town, when you’re in a place like New York with massive buildings towering over you on all sides, all bets are off. You know nothing. After we finally figured out which direction we needed to walk in order for our little blue dot to follow the little blue line, we began the longest mile and a half walk of our lives with our huge red suitcase obediently rolling along behind us. Deer in the headlights, y’all.
So some quick observations from this first little stroll through town:
- There are a lot of people in New York City
- Errybody walks extremely fast (except for the person in front of you), and
- Nobody cares at all that you’re dragging a huge red suitcase through the middle of town. Nobody’s paying a lick of attention to you so no worries whatsoever on that account. I’m pretty sure we could’ve been walking around in our undies and nobody would’ve glanced over. It’s a strange feeling to be surrounded by so many people but still feel completely isolated. Not bad really, just different. Definitely no Roll Tide how are ya’s or smile-n-nods happening up in this place.
When I was first considering a weekend in NYC, I came up with a rough amount I was willing to pay for airfare and a hotel room. I figured it would get us a Holiday Inn Express in Jersey and we’d have to take the train into the city and I was totally cool with that. However, as I was looking for plane tickets, I ran across a hotel + flight package that seemed too good to be true. It was on a major travel site and everything checked out ok with good reviews so I decided to go for it (which is completely unlike me, btw). With the money saved by booking the package, I was able to get us a couple of nights in the Lotte New York Palace (where they shot Gossip Girl!) in the middle of Manhattan with a room overlooking Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and still stay within budget. WHAATT?? And because I was feeling so happy about it, I splurged and upgraded to a skyline view room because again, IT’S FOR THE MARRIAGE.
When we finally rolled (the big red suitcase) up to the hotel, the lobby was packed out. I thought they must be having computer issues but turns out we all just arrived at the same time. In order to keep their guests happy, they were offering complimentary champagne and water while we waited. Clue number one that this was not your typical night in a Best Western. We finally made it to our room on the 32nd floor and the views were every bit worth the hype. They.were.amazing!
What WASN’T so amazing is that we found out staying in a hotel this fancy meant foregoing the usual middle-class creature comforts. What do I mean? Well, by the time we got to the room, we were obviously exhausted. We’d been up and at it since 3:30am and were both physically and mentally done. When I get like this, I realllyyy want a Mountain Dew or even a coke to decompress. I guess it’s my version of a smoking habit. You know what swanky hotels don’t have? Vending machines. You read that right. They do not have VENDING MACHINES. They weren’t mid-way through every hall where you’d normally find them. They weren’t even on every 5th floor or whatnot (I called the desk to confirm). There.weren’t.any. Not even ice machines, y’all. To get a cold beverage without ordering from room service, hubs had to descend 32 floors to the Sundry Shop below, purchase a $5 CAN and if we wanted ice we had to request a TRAY of it be brought up by guest services (which we didn’t do because I refused to spend even the tip money for a delivery of ICE). And guess what else? No microwave or minifridge either. These rich folk don’t play!
In all honesty, though, this place was amazing. Beautiful, convenient, and very well run. Maybe one day we’ll be swanky enough for it, but I kind of hope not.
Night on the Town
had big plans for that first day that included site-seeing around the hotel (Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock, Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and of course, dinner before our first ever Broadway show). You know what happened? Hubs fell asleep while we were resting our feet, I ordered Room Service for supper (off the KIDS MENU y’all because it was the only half-way affordable option), and we got freshened up in just enough time to meet the car to take us to the Majestic Theater.
Full disclosure here: I’ve actually had a prior NYC trip. It was my senior year in high school and I went with three of my older college friends (it’s the only time I ever threatened my parents with moving out but I’d been working since I was 15 and I was GOING ON THAT TRIP). My friends planned the entire thing. I didn’t have a clue about anything related to New York. I don’t remember making a single decision and that was completely fine. It was a total deer in the headlights experience for me. My only complaint was that we couldn’t agree on a show and ended up not seeing anything at all. With my musical theater background, going to a Broadway show was the thing I was most excited about. (I threatened to just go by myself but fortunately my friends were wise enough to not let that happen.) This trip? Broadway tickets were purchased directly after flight and hotel reservations were made. Boom. Check.it.off.
Seeing as how it’s the longest-running show in Broadway history, I chose The Phantom of the Opera. The Majestic Theater was gorgeous. The set and costumes were amazing. The musical itself…has been checked off my list (how did I not know it was kind of weird and depressing?!) Sidenote….if you sit in the mezzanine for this show, which I’d highly recommend for the views, I’d suggest wearing flat shoes if you value your life. The theater is gorgeous but I’ll go out on a limb and say those steps wouldn’t pass code these days….I’d rather have suffered dehydration than risk a jaunt up those rail-less steps for a potty break in my 4-inch heels with the lights off.
After the show, we crossed the street to John’s Pizza (not to be confused with Papa John’s), scarfed down an entire pie, hailed our first cab, and got back to the hotel after midnight like the wild and crazy party animals we are.
To the casual observer, it might appear that all we accomplished on day one was checking into the hotel and seeing a Broadway show. But for us, this day was a non-stop, eye-opening, emotionally draining ride filled with hours of travel, satisfyingly shocking twists, new modes of transportation (trains, taxis, hotel cars!), lots and lots of walking, and our first time in a city this massive.
To say we were spent is an understatement. And as I was rapidly drifting off to sleep in that big plush bed all I could think about was that I may have been a wee overzealous when I put the itinerary together for the next day. Maybe just a wee…..But we’d deal with that tomorrow.
Until Next Time,