1-22-16 Friday (Savannah & Jacksonville)

Before I even mention today’s actual stuff, I have to clarify our change of plans.  We were to leave today (Friday) but due to an ice storm coming to Charlotte Thursday late night/Friday early morning, we had to head for the hills.  Well, the flatlands of Florida.  Jim coordinated a Hilton Homewood Inn hotel in Jacksonville for Friday night but that would have been too far a drive with our change to leave Thursday night.  So, we had reservations in Savannah as well.  After work, we finalized our packing and headed to Beth and Anne’s for departure.  Dinner at Culver’s.  Mmmmmm.  4 hour drive to Savannah with a midnight-ish check-in.

We expected better of the room.  It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, living room with wood burning fireplace and kitchenette.  Our toilet was a little dirty and had a ring in it.  The girls had a glass in their room that was so filthy, it was scary.  The tubs looked dirty and stained.  Upon closer inspection it looks like they had been previously painted or something.  Ann and Beth wouldn’t use their tubs while Jim and I did.  I took a handwipe and rubbed vigorously at a spot in the tub to see if any dirt came off.  No dirt so I’m thinking it was just stained. 

The fireplace was real nice.  It came with one of those paper/starter logs.  We really didn’t get to enjoy it since we were all so tired.  That was Thursday…

Friday was an easy day.  We just needed to drive to Jacksonville.  We checked out of our hotel and stopped in Eulonia, GA for dinner.  We saw signs for Dockside restaurants and followed them up some creepy back streets to a marina.  Ultimately, upon arrival, we decided against eating here.  It looked like there may have been a couple of places but one was closed and the other looked like it should have been.  We went to Altman’s Restaurant.  It was a small town restaurant with nice people and good food. 

We checked into a nicer but smaller Hilton Homewood.  Again, a 2 bedroom, 2 bath.  This time, no fireplace. Sad face.

In search of supplies, snacks, bottled water and the like, we hopped into the car and stocked up at Target.  The hotel was within a shopping mecca so everything was in walking distance.  We had an appetizer and adult beverage dinner at the Cheese Cake Factory.  A great start to our vacation.

Photos from the day:

2016-01-22 008Above: Jim, Beth, Garret, Ann.  Yes, I (Garret) knows he’s gotten fatter.

2016-01-22 005Above: Me and Anne.  Backseat besties.

2016-01-22 006Above: Jim.  He drove most of the trip.

2016-01-22 007Above: Beth.  Vehicle owner and driver relief.

12-27-15 (Pole Dancing Prohibited)

Our last day in NYC.  Our flight is at 6 so we agreed to leave the city at 4pm.  In the meantime, hotel checkout is at noon but the hotel offers a free luggage hold service.  We checked out, had our luggage stored and went to the Times Square Diner for breakfast.  It was within a block of our hotel.  I loved the inside of this place.  It was cramped like everywhere else but still nice.


At this point, we decided to see the store windows we had missed.  I found a site online that listed them all along with notes, addresses, maps, etc so away we went.  Here’s a post featuring photos and descriptions.  New York Post Merriest Holiday Windows

We saw Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue.  Pretty amazing.

logo2For a late lunch, we went back near the hotel and stumbled on another side street restaurant called McHale’s Bar & Grill.  The woodwork in this place was amazing.  What a nice place.  Take a peek at their website.  Unfortunately you won’t see the ornate Christmas garland that was hung all over.  All high class Christmas decor.  The food was yummy too.  We were a little put off by the fact that they told Jim, 1 free drink refill was included with his meal and thereafter a charge.  Really?  We sat right near the bar and know they have a soda fountain.  They charged him $10 for 2 Cokes.  Our total bill was $52.80 for Coke, Iced Tea, beef stew, and a bacon mac & cheese. 

Off to the hotel we went.  We got an Uber cab and began our long unexpected journey to the airport.  OK, after all of this we know we went wrong by not giving ourselves longer than 2 hours.  I’ll just get that out there.  The ride to the airport should only have been a half hour.  I’m no expert cab driver or NYC navigator but it seemed like the driver constantly drove into the heart of traffic.  Every major street, we were on it.  The traffic was so thick, at every light only a car or 2 could make it through. That rhymed. I should be a rapper or something.

XrayWe made it to the airport and I was about to cry. We didn’t have much time at all. We checked in, got to TSA, and the line wasn’t too bad but it barely moved. Two of the TSA agents conversed. “Why is this line moving so slowly?” “Well, guess who’s at the X-Ray machine.” “Joe?” “No, Sam.” “Just as bad.” I looked at Jim, let out a deep sigh and pretty much admitted defeat at this point. I pretty much figured, we’re not making it. Years later (it seemed), we made it through security but needed to get to D2 so we could be shuttled to B35. We ran. D2 was empty. My heart sank. A woman next to the gate standing at an ominous door to some stairs asked if we needed the shuttle to B35. She was sweet. We told her about our dilemma, she called someone on her walkie and said the shuttle would be here in a sec. We rushed onto the shuttle with a few other folks and eventually got to the gate via the tarmac. We had to walk back up inside into the terminal gate via ramp.

The terminal was full.  We saw a line standing to board. We hopped on the line and then tried to assess if we had time to pee.  I’d imagine they’d be boarded by now.  We took turns at the peeing thing and then went to the front of the line to see what was going on.  The co-pilot is coming from another flight which is delayed.  No one has boarded.  Everyone is standing around like zombies.  We found a seat, got a beverage, relaxed, calmed down, cooled off and were thankful for the delay.

SpeakTime to board.  No First Class this time (groan).  This plane didn’t even have a First Class section anyway.  Seats were in groups of 2.  Yay.  Air blew from the vents.  Warm.  Uhhhh, hopefully the A/C will kick on soon.  We sat for a while, an announcement came on to say there’s some last minute maintenance being done and it should only take a short time.  Maintenance?  Scary.  We waited.  And waited.  Accouncement.  They have to reboot the system so lights and air will turn off.  That it did.  Darkness.  Rebooting this plane made me think that a Speak and Spell was the brain behind the systems.  I mean, what’s the deal?  Finally, A/C and on our way.  All in all, between waiting for a co-pilot, and the “maintenance”, we were 2 hours late.  We made it.

The trip to NY overall?  It will be a while before we go back.  And when we do, it won’t be during a holiday.  Although we’ve been there twice in the past, once was just for a night out while we were staying in Riverhead, Long Island.  The time before that was 10/2001, just one month after 911 when everyone avoided NY.  Hotels were cheap, crowds weren’t existant. 

Jim’s Yoda backpack was a big hit.  He got a lot of compliments on it. 

The weather was unseasonably warm which was a plus but we had to deal with a lot of rain.

I want to thank the MTA for the amusing posters on the trains.  There were tons of them but I only took a picture of the 2 I liked most:

2015-12-27 050

Unfortunately these moral posters are needed.  I can’t believe what people do.  On one subway ride, a woman sat there with music on, no headphones, and was singing.  It wasn’t overly loud but too loud enough to the point that it’s rude.  How about a sit next to you and  blast music you don’t particularly care to hear?  People suck.


12-26-15 (Ellen’s Repeat Performances)

We went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner again.  We both ate the same things too.  Yeah, we liked it a lot.  Again, the hostess had to pull out the table for one of us to get onto the booth side of the 2 top.  It felt like the time we were in San Francisco at a Chinese restaurant and seated at a table about 3 inches away from another table.

2009-01-22-CA-20_thumb1Above: 1-22-09, House of Nanking, San Francisco

2015-12-25-006_thumbAbove: Ellen’s Stardust Diner.  See the closeness of the tables on either side of us?

Below: Performers/waitstaff belting out some tunes.2015-12-26-005_thumb1





Here’s some pics of us:


We had advance Statue of Liberty tickets for noon.  We made our way to Battery Park.  We were at the complete wrong end of where we needed to be.  We were by the World Trade Center.  Not a big deal.  We hoofed it. The weather was decent and the views of New York Harbor were nice to look at.  Once at the ferry boarding area, a line snaked and snaked and snaked throughout the park.  We thought we’d never find the end of it.  People in line were holding self-printed tickets like we had and some had tickets like you’d get at a box office.  We were pretty mad about the length of the line considering we had “reservations”.  Luckily we asked a parks person who gave us directions to a different, much shorter line for preferred guests. Because we used a Citi card to purchase the tickets, that’s what made us preferred.  Phew.  It was strange and annoying that we had to go through 2 TSA style security checks.  One before boarding the ferry and again before entering the Statue.  Sigh.

On Liberty Island, we made our way through the masses, picked up a audio tour listening device and explored.  We only has reservations for the pedestal.  The crown was booked months in advance.  No big deal.  I’m sure as anyone who has visited her would say “it looks smaller in person.” 






Afterwards we headed back to WTC for a photo since they sky was clearer:


Then on to see Rockefeller Center and some of the department store holiday windows.






NYC was sooooooo crowded.  It took forever just to walk a few blocks.  Getting into Rockefeller Center was the worst.

It was really hard to find a place to eat that didn’t look cramped or to have uncomfortable seating. We tried two Shake Shack locations.  Slam packed, no seats.  Other places we stopped into looked way too crowded or was very pricey. We walked and walked and walked.   I was in the mood for Italian or Chinese.   We nearly gave up and returned to our hotel when just a block up from the hotel up a side street, was an Italian Restaurant, Patzeria Family & Friends .  It was early so and being off the main strip, it wasn’t packed.  The menu looked good.  They had a special that seemed appealing.  We both had Chicken stuffed with mozzarella, prosciutto and spinach. It was drizzled with Marsala and served over a bed of pasta. It was divine. 

I mentioned other places were too pricey.  We didn’t realize this one ended up costing quite a bit because without knowing the price, Jim ordered a side Caesar Salad ($8.95) and a pitcher of White Sangria ($28).  Total bill = $93.47.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel room and vegged.  Our feet, ankles, hips, back and everything else ached.  We needed some downtime.

12-25-15 (Reservations? Reservations? Reservations? Reservations?)

Merry Christmas!  We did quite a bit today.  We started with breakfast at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, home of the singing waitstaff.  What a fun place!  The servers take their turns singing full versions of songs.  The food was good too.  My only complaint is that the tables were only 6 inches apart from one another so it was like dining with strangers.  Jim and I had forgotten that this seems to be the norm in big cities.  The hostess had to pull the table out so that one person could get in.  It was crazy and awkward. 

2015-12-25 009

2015-12-25 004

2015-12-25 007

2015-12-25 008

Next up… a total waste of money for us.  Jim bought tickets online for the World Trade Center Observatory.  Tickets were $31 each.  We got there and it was foggy.  Staff said it was zero visibility.  Tickets are purchased with a reserved time slot.  We’d have to wait in a long line to reschedule.  We didn’t see any point in rescheduling since we weren’t really sure on when our next opportunity to get there again would be and what the weather would be like at that time.  We went ahead with the visit.  As we made through various check points, the staff would constantly remind us about zero visibility and did we want to reschedule.  It was nice to offer but after being asked this 6 times before making it atop, I was getting a little annoyed.  Now I know what a parent feels like.  No thanks.

Security check point, orientation videos, informational videos, upsell a device video, and finally up top.  Guess what?  We couldn’t see shit.  Zero visibility.  Honestly, we probably shouldn’t have even bothered with it.  It’s just a view of the city which we’ve seen on past visits.  Oh, and beverages were $5.50 each.  Oh, and we initially headed the wrong way on the subway causing an added expense.  It was an expensive look at gray.  Oh well.

2015-12-25 011

Once outside, we sat down in a little pocket-park and called our parents for Christmas.  I stopped at a street vendor for a potato knish, something I haven’t had in years.  Jim was unfamiliar with them and after a bite of mine, didn’t really care for what he’d been missing all his life. 

knishesAbove: It’s a stock photo.  Really, I only ate one. 

Back over to Times Square.  NYC is crazy busy.  Too crowded for our liking to be honest with you.

2015-12-25 015

Later we headed to Radio City Music Hall which is only a few blocks from the hotel.  The Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes was very much amazing.  The singing, dancing, and special effects were amazing.  I said amazing, right?  A couple of photos off the website.  I couldn’t possibly take such great photos:

The Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

The Rockettes in "New York at Christmas" in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

For dinner, we had reservations at Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar.  We wanted something simple for Christmas dinner.  Something more our personality.  This was it.  It was tasty. 

GAbove: My meal

Below: Jim’sJ

The place seemed very disorganized.  We stood behind a party of 4 that seemed like they were negotiating a hostile takeover of the place.  I’m really not sure what their issue was.  It was great for some of the host staff to talk over them or beside them to help us but I was asked 3 times if we had reservations (we did).  It’s like the 1st and 2nd person who asked this question did absolutely nothing with the information.  On the 3rd time, we were sent downstairs to a different hostess station where once again, you guessed it, we were asked if we had reservations. The four-top tables were too close together making the back of some chairs between the chairs of the next table over.  Awful.  Again, it’s the big city way for restaurants I suppose.  The service was slow as well and the place wasn’t even filled up.  Jim ordered his burger with no tomato and no pickles. That thing had so many tomatoes and pickles it was ridiculous.  The server passed by and mentioned it.  He replied that he was sorry and that they make so many of these things that the runner probably grabbed the wrong one.  The server left.  No offer to make it over.  Nothing.  Jim picked everything off and hoped that the pickle juice wouldn’t contaminate the flavor.

After dinner we browsed the Saks 5th Ave windows and went to Rockefeller Center.  The crowds were unbelievable. 

2015-12-25 022

You’ll notice a lack of photos.  If I like what I see, I generally try to get a picture of us in it.  I’m just not into too many photos of inanimate objects anymore.