THURSDAY 24th Jan
I have really been looking forward to New York, despite knowing that it was going to be cold here…..I still wanted to come, I wanted to see The Empire State building, the World trade centre site, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square. We arrived into JFK airport around 7.30am having gotten very little sleep on the overnight flight. We quickly got our luggage and then left the boys in MIL’s care while Joseph and I took the air train to another terminal to pick up the 14-seater van we hired. While in Vegas and trying to find transportation from JFK airport to New Jersey, we found that no one would take us…the only option was to drive ourselves there…..so that’s what we did. We hired a big ass van which would fit in all our luggage and drove ourselves with the help of TomTom GPS drove all the way from JFK airport across the state border…into New Jersey to North Bergen where we were staying….the trip took us about an hour and a bit. How cold was it??? Freezing cold….everyone was bundled up in many layers of clothing and still….we were cold! On the way to North Bergen, we could see icy slush along the side of the road and up the hills.
New York is sooo different from LA and Las Vegas….skies were grey, there was so much concrete everywhere….people were rushing about…..cars were speeding…..bright yellow taxis were weaving their way in and out of traffic….car lanes were narrow….it was cold….depressingly cold….well…maybe depressing because we were sooo very tired. We arrived at Days Inn, checked in, got up to our room and were quite pleased with our accommodation. We have two deluxe double adjoining rooms with interconnecting doors. Jordan and Jarryd share one room while the 4 of us share the other room. It’s quite spacious and we have a microwave and mini fridge in each room which is great. By this stage, we are soo tired and hungry. We have no energy to drive around to find food…so we let our fingers do the walking….we found a chinese restaurant brochure in the hotel room and got chinese food delivered to our room. After eating, we all collapsed into bed and before we knew it….it was about 8pm!!! Refreshed and again hungry, we piled into the huge van and went in search of basic supplies and food. After driving around our little neighbourhood, we settle on KFC for dinner…..it was ummm….pretty disgusting! The seasoned rice was crunchy….the chicken pieces looked huge but it was half batter….pretty unappetizing.
Our search of basic supplies led us to Rite Aid which is a 24 hour pharmacy which also sells a bit of food. No bread though…but something caught my eye at the check out…..pocket hand warmers! The little packet says that it’s all natural, non toxic materials in two little sachets…which when exposed to air, heat up and stay hot for 7 hours. At 99cents for a pair, and knowing full well how cold it is…..I grab a couple of packets to try. After driving around a little more….we find a Shop Rite supermarket which was about 5 mins from their midnight closing time. So we quickly run in there to grab what we can and after another little drive….we return back to the hotel to sleeep.
FRIDAY 25th Jan
Joseph and I wake up very very early to return the van….it’s sooo cold….bitingly cold….I open up a pack of my handwarmers to try it out…in a few minutes…they’re toasty warm….I pop them in the pockets of my coat and realise that they’re fantastic….best ever discovery!! We’ve pre-organised to return the van to Newark airport which is much closer to North Bergen. We hire a smaller van….a 7 seater Dodge Caravan which is more practical for us for getting around. We get back to the hotel to find everyone still sleeping soundly….so after they got ready, we all bundled up, piled in the car and after showing everyone my fabulous hand warmers…..we agree we need more…so we head back to Rite Aid to find that they only had 6 packets left….I bought the lot and gave everyone one each.
Then we headed into New York City. North Bergen is only 8 minutes away from New York city….just on the other side of Lincoln tunnel. Very convenient and accomodation is half the price compared to what we would pay if we stayed in NYC. We drove around the city quite aimlessly….the tall buildings block the GPS…..so our Tomtom is only working intermittently. We find the World Trade centre site and it’s under construction….nothing to see and impossible to park. We try to get to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty and end up somewhere near Homeland Security and made a mad dash in the freezing cold to take a few quick photos with the Statue of Liberty in the background.
Then after a little while, we were hungry and I spotted a quaint little diner ….Cheyenne Diner and park our car for $15 an hour just to eat at this place. Oh wow…this place is fantastic….it has the diner look that is in the old american movies….with the booths…and long counter. Their menu was fantastic…ok…you absolutely must click here to see their fabulous menu and drool!!
We rush back to the hotel to quickly refresh before heading out to meet more of Joseph’s old friends. We drive to Ruben & Nita’s house in Passaic where we said did a quick meet and greet with Randy, Bobby, Dicko & Jun before heading off to Century Buffet for dinner. OMG….this buffet was absolutely mind blowingly phenomenal. Why??? Because of the seafood…there were clams, imperial prawns, snow crab legs, steamed prawns, baked oysters, fresh oysters and sushi and sashimi galore. Of course there were rows and rows of other food…but I only had eyes for the seafood. Hehehe….and oh boy did I indulge or what??? After dinner, we headed back to Ruben & Nita’s place to have a proper chat with everyone. Jun has an x-box….so not long after we arrived, the 3 boys headed upstairs to play while us adults had coffee and a long leisurely chat. Michael also dropped by a little later for a bit. It was well after midnight when we collapsed into bed.
SATURDAY 26th Jan
Today, we’re determined to explore more of New York city…this time on foot….so we park near our Lincoln tunnel exit and head off on foot. We make our way towards the Empire State Building and on the way there…we are distracted big time by a few stores…..we stop by Macy’s where I get my Estee Lauder moisturiser at half the price that I usually pay in Australia! Then we’re determined to find a hotdog stand that’s on a corner …in the tvshows…they’re always on corners right??? tee hee…we enjoy our hotdog and also try the famous new york pretzels. They’re very fresh but oh sooo salty. We had to brush off most of the salt before we can enjoy it. Then we head to Times Square and this place is oh sooo wow! I’ll have to let the photos tell the story…I’m a bit tired of typing. LOL
Then tired and very very cold and hungry….we can’t decide on what to eat…when I spot Applebee’s….and I think to myself…we’re in the big Apple….it’s only fitting that we eat Applebee’s , so after a wonderful wonderful lunch and another long walk along Broadway with a quick stop at M&M world and Toys R Us for Jeromel to have a ride on their famous 60 foot tall indoor ferris wheel, we head back to the car and find that it’s sooo far away…it was amazing how far we walked that day!!
That night, we go back to Ruben & Nita’s place for dinner with them and Randy, Cora and Bobby. We have a fabulous dinner and so much fun chatting to them. Jun takes Jordan & Jarryd out for the night….to the mall and then to watch a movie. Jeromel is rapt because he gets the xbox all to himself! The adults go down to the basement which is just absolutely gorgeous and get stuck into playing cards and karaoke and of course a bit of drinking. It is at this house that I get hooked on Dunkin’ Donuts coffee…..it’s soooo yummy!!! We leave at around 2am soon after the boys get back from the movies after having such a fabulous time.
SUNDAY 27th Jan
While the rest get to have a sleep, Joseph and I are up at the crack of dawn because we have to return the van to Newark Airport. Randy has kindly offered to pick us up from the airport and pick everyone else up because we have a busy day planned with them. On the way back to our hotel, we grab Macca’s breakfast for everyone. It’s a special treat because we usually only eat breakfast in our hotel with our bread and cereal. Ruben comes to pick us up because we won’t all fit in Randy’s car. Then it was back to Ruben & Nita’s place for a quick stop…managed to indulge in another cup of that delish Dunkin’ Donuts coffee before we head over to have a quick catch up with Russel’s family.
Then it was back into the car for the drive to Bebe’s place for lunch. It’s there that MIL gets to catch up with a few of her friends. This place is close to the beach and is sooo windy and sooo cold…but nevertheless…..we head to Bradley beach for a few photos on the boardwalk. It is absolutely freezing cold…..our faces and hands get numb from the cold!! By late afternoon, we say our goodbyes to everyone else and head back towards Edison.
On the way back….somehow…we get lost and end up crossing the bridge to Staten Island!! Luckily we have TomTom with us and after a quick stop at the loo for me, we manage to find out way back to meet up with Randy who has safely made it back to Russell’s house. On the way back to Passaic, after a phone call to Jun, Nita says we’re having dinner at Houlihan’s in Bridgewater. Because there are 10 of us for dinner, there is a little wait before we are seated…but the wait was well worth it because dinner is absolutely fabulous! Jarryd has a New York Strip Steak, Joseph has the Prime Top Sirloin, Jordan has a Tillamook burger and Jeromel and I share a delish Prawn & Pasta with a side of Caesar Salad. Soooo good!!! After dinner, we got dropped back to the hotel where we had to do some laundry and pack our bags.
MONDAY 28th Jan
Our last day in USA
We’ve arranged for a shuttle bus that operates out of our hotel to take us to the airport, so we check out at 10am and because our flight isn’t until 7.30pm, we leave our luggage with reception. Ruben and Nita pick us up and take us to IHOP for brunch. We had seen IHOP restaurants before….in Anaheim and in Vegas…but we had never been before….I mean….IHOP….it’s a strange name for a restaurant. Until Nita tells us that it stands for International house of Pancakes. Pancakes!!! This place is unlike Pancake Parlour! They have steaks, they have all you can eat pancakes and the servings are massive!!! And all sooo cheap!!! Check out their menu here! After brunch, we have to say goodbye to Nita as she’s off to work. Ruben takes us to the mall to while away some time. I’m good….no shopping for me….I mean…I want to buy a bag…but I can’t find one that I like. All this time, I’ve been using my trusty big bag that my sis gave me a few years ago and it’s falling apart…the handles seams are fraying badly, there are rips inside the bag lining, another growing gash on the outside. It’s only saving grace is that it’s big enough to hold all the ‘crap’ that I need while I travel and the fact that I can’t find a replacement for it that I am happy with. By 5pm, we’re back at the hotel ready to go to the airport. We’re all so tired that we snooze in the shuttle on the way to the airport.
At JFK, we go through security check for the last time in the USA. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it….but in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, we’ve had to go through the special security check line. I think we’ve been earmarked because we’re doing so many stops through the USA in a short time. Maybe they think we’re drug runners because each time we go through…we have to take shoes and jackets off…we go through a special air blower thing….we get patted down…even our pants waist bands get checked…even the soles of our feet. All our hand carry gets searched thoroughly…..selected items like keys and mobile phones get drug swabbed. It was scary the first time, but we’ve learnt to expect it and enjoy it. We bypass the long queue that most people have to go through. We get to sit down and rest while they search our hand carry luggage. We have nothing to hide and it’s rather entertaining watching them do their job.
I felt really sad leaving New York….knowing that we were leaving the United States….we’ve had such a great time here and while Joseph got to catch up with a lot of his old friends, I’ve made new friends. Friends who have opened up their homes to us and have taken us out and made our time here extra special. We truly can’t thank them enough.