Feb 21

Courtyard Marriott Herald Square

In June I stayed at the brand new Courtyard Marriott Herald Square in New York City for one night when I had a night out on the town planned. My original reservation was for a city view room with two full sized beds.  When I checked in I was offered a non-city view room or an executive room (King Bed and Pull out sofa) with a city view. I’m usually not a fan of pull out beds in hotel rooms, but I figured in a hotel that was 2 weeks old the bed would be in good shape.

So up I went to room 911 with a view of the city (midtown). The room was obviously nice and fresh, being only 2 weeks old. When you walked in the room you’re in a hallway that has the bathroom at the end and the bedroom area to the right. The benefit to this design was that you can’t see the room from the hallway of the hotel.

The room had a king sized bed, a small couch (twin sized pull out bed), flat screen TV, coffee table, desk, small closet with THIN full length mirror, coffee maker and a mini fridge.  I found the bed and couch comfortable and although the closet was small, it was what I would expect in a hotel in New York City.

The room was quite spacious for 2 people (by New York City standards), but it would be tight with a third person in it for more than a day or two.  They layout was good for the space, my only complaint is that if you sit at the desk you block access to the rest of the room.

Also worth mentioning is that there is security at the entrance of the hotel, while the doors open automatically during daytime hours you need a room key to enter at night.  I like that extra bit of security.

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced hotel in midtown I would recommend staying here, it was clean, secure and the staff seemed to care.

May 16

World Trade Center Memorial

In March I finally had the chance to go to the September 11th Memorial.  Fortunately it was a nice day, but pretty windy, which can be a problem.

I arrived about 45 minutes before my ticketed time, even though they say not to arrive more then 30 minutes early and was let in.  The line moved pretty quickly and security was efficient, a marked difference from when I went to the Statue of Liberty last year.

You enter the memorial from the Southwest corner, straight ahead is the South Pool representing the South Tower or Tower 2.  This pool holds the names of the first responders as well as some of the flights, South Tower, and Pentagon losses.  Check out the 911Memorial website for more on how the names are arranged.

A Police Officer I had the pleasure of meeting about a month before the attack

When you enter, to your left is an open area with trees, beyond the trees is the North Pool.  On windy days it seems the North end of the North Pool has a water issue, the falling water being blown.  I was the only person I saw who walked along the North edge of the pool.  Actually, I went at more of a run and still got quite wet.  I did it to honor those who had died and whose names were on that wall.  But on a cold day, I wouldn’t suggest it.

I love the memorial, and I have seen some great memorials around the world.  There is a serenity here with the pools, waterfalls, trees.  The only problem is the tourists.  With so many people there it breaks the serenity of the environment.  No matter how hard people try to be courteous, a large number of people always seem to fail.  For that reason I think going early in the morning would be best.

The saddest names


The wind blowing the water

After you leave the memorial you are directed to walk in a path that takes you to the shop associated with the memorial.  They have a few items on display, they play some documentaries on TV’s and they sell a wide variety of books, videos, clothing and other touristy types of items.  It’s worth a stop in the shop even if you’re not looking to purchase anything.  The museum is scheduled to open later this year.

Apr 15

Visiting the Statue of Liberty

One of the nice things about living in New York City is that out of town friends often visit, giving a reason to see the sights of NYC.  A friend from my last Contiki tour was here in April and she wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.  Since I was last there in the mid-90’s, I was happy to go.

My friend booked the tickets herself back in December and ticketed time slots were already starting to get sold out.  And forget about tickets to the crown, I believe that is a 6 month wait!  We had tickets for 11:00 (everything earlier was sold out for the pedistal) for security.  I believe tickets were $13 each.

We arrived at exactly 11:00 and the line for security was quite long.  There were 3 lines, those with bought same day untimed tickets (longest line), pre-purchased timed tickets and people with New York Pass, which was the fastest line.  Actually the line was so fast that I would encourage anyone going to see the Statue of Liberty to look into this pass, it does have many other benefits besides skipping the line so there may be value to anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time in New York City but wants to see a lot. 

We waited on line for at least an hour to get to security, which is similar to airport secruity, minus the nudoscopes.  You had to take off belts, shoes, jackets, etc.  I will say that the security was a little inconsistent.  Everyone went through metal detectors, and so did all bags, but it seemed like some lines you had to take your shoes off but on others you didn’t.  Just like at the airport you can get lucky and have a quick moving line, or you can get stuck on the line with all the rookies and it can take a while.  This is done inside a temporary type of building that isn’t quite big enough to process as many people as they have coming through. 

After you go through security you wait for the boat, boats come every 30 minutes and in spite of arriving at 11:00 we did not get on a boat until 12:30.  I think this had to do with there not being enough security lines to process people, but also once you go through secruity and you’re waiting for the next boat, the area is not big enough and I think it backs up into the security area which stops or slows down the screening.  Of course the waiting area that we were in was kinda roomy with no one encouraging us to move towards the front of the area to make more room. 

My point?  The security process needs some tweaking so plan a lot of time into your day. 

The boat only took a few minutes (and wasn’t really crowded), but there isn’t a ton of seating onboard.  But there is a snack bar with food and drink. 

At the Statue of Libery you disembark the boat and are free to walk around the island as much as you want.  There is a gift shop and a snack bar on the island too.  If you want to go into the Statue you will need tickets that allow access.  You will also need to go through security screening again, though there was no line here.  Inside is a museum and the original torch, you can learn all about the Statue of Liberty, of course if you didn’t plan your day well then you wont have much time for this section.  Inside you can climb the 192 steps to the pedistal.  I’ll be honest, I’m not sure it was worth the work.  You get a nicer view of New York City, but a terrible view of lady liberty as you’re just looking up her skirt and there’s nothing to see there.  And the stairs killed both our legs, my legs were spasming, making it hard to walk up or down stairs for a while after.  I’ve climbed to the tops of many things and never had this problem.  If you choose to climb to the top of the crown you’ll need to climb another 162 steps. 

After we finished on the island we waited online for the ferry which goes on to Ellis Island and then back to New York City.  We were short on time so we did not get off at Ellis Island.  I have been there in the past and it’s nice to see if you have the time, but I don’t think it’s a must see. 

Overall I enjoyed going to see the Statue of Liberty, the Island is well cared for and offers great views of New York City.  This is a once (or twice) in a lifetime activity so plan accordingly.  Plan to spend a lot of time there, just bring your camera and some money and hope it’s a nice day!