If not now, when? In recent two years, we lost four immediate family members, and except for one with a known illness, the rest were all sudden and unexpected. Their demise left our family surprised; and shocked to say the least. More bad news, untimely death of more relatives and friends. What is going on? The seemingly no ending of these events resulted in fear, vulnerability and sense of urgency on my part. Here today, gone tomorrow?
East Coast here we come. My only surviving brother (Ed) residing in the Philippines came to the States, so all four of us remaining siblings can go on a bonding trip. Joined by my husband and sister-in-law, the six of us booked with Take Tours a 9-Day East Coast tour. This company caters mostly to Chinese, but their tour price was very reasonable; with good accommodations, and the itinerary included many places and attractions. Excluded were admission fees to attractions (optional) and meals. It was no surprised, our group was taken to Chinese buffet restaurants when possible, with limited other options in nearby establishments. Their schedule was hectic, but if you want to see a lot, this tour is for you . I warned my group, “our trip would be more of sightseeing and not a relaxing vacation”.
Starting from New York City, we made our way thru Philadelphia, Boston Washington DC, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. Attractions included museums, historical sites, famous buildings, scenic drives, harbor cruise: The Capitol, Niagara Falls, Ivy League Schools (Harvard, Princeton, Yale), and many more. We started our day early between 6:30 – 7:30AM daily to avoid traffic especially on weekdays; and got back to our hotel late in the evening. Drive, Nap, Eat, Tour…our routine everyday.
We ate, laughed, walked a lot, went shopping and posed for hundreds of pictures. My sister, Bella, was in-charged of taking photos for immediate posting on Facebook. While I took photos to make DVD, photo book and for blogs. Long hours, long drives we endured. Sleep deprived and exhausted. But despite it all, we enjoyed and did not mind the ordeal. This trip gave us opportunity to visit major cities in the East Coast and its attractions. We shared many wonderful memories, adventures and experiences. This bonding trip is unforgettable and totally worth it.
Cost of the trip charged to my credit card, but the experience priceless.
Sept. 24, 2012: Departure from Long Beach
Boarded our plane JetBlue in Long Beach for 9:00pm departure, but had to change to another plane due to mechanical problem in one of the communication devices and finally took off after more than an hour delay.
Sept. 25: 1st day, NYC, 911 Memorial
Landed JFK at 6:30am after a 5-hour flight, with enough time to transfer from terminal 5 to terminal 7 to meet our tour guide, Michael. Since we arrived before 8:30am, we were able to take advantage of a free half day tour of the Big Apple to visit and spend time at 911 Memorial Park.
The 911 Memorial Park was built where once stood the twin towers of World Trade Center that collapsed during the September 11 terrorist attack. There is no admission fee, but a pass is required to go inside. The pass can be requested online ahead of your trip or obtain on day of your visit from the office around the corner. There are two reflecting pools with names of all who perished during this senseless attack inscribed on the walls. It was surreal, as I watched the attack live on TV when it actually happened.
Our tour guide stopped at Chinatown for our group to buy lunch to go and to pick some breakfast for next day. Our tour guide explained we leave very early the next morning, and won’t have time to stop for breakfast. It was almost 3:30pm when we get to our hotel room, ate late lunch in our room,…chatted a bit and then went to bed early.
Sept. 26, 2nd Day …New York City Tour
Bright and early at 6:45am we started our full day of New York city. I used to actively trade stocks, so was excited to visit the Financial District; Wall Street, New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building; statue of “the Bull” a symbol for when stock market is up. And for obvious reason, “the Bear” meaning market is down is nowhere to be found..
Street food is a must try when you travel. We decided on NYC hotdogs for lunch, and ate in a park nearby 911 Memorial. Beautifully landscaped, tourists and locals eat here for lunch. Can’t believe we are here amidst the tall buildings, right on the streets of NYC, we often see on TV or in the movies.
A ride up to 86th floor of the Empire State Building will not dissappoint if you want to see a fantastic, panoramic view of NYC skyline and its harbor.
There was an optional visit to Madame Tussaud Wax Museum that we skipped. Instead, we walked to the famous Times Square. Tourists and locals are here for its ambience and billboard spectacle; but is best known for its entertainment. Plenty come here to attend a Broadway show. We did not have time to see a show. ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ broadcasts its show right here on the Square, in front of a live audience from its office at 44th and Broadway. The Time Square is definitely one of the most visited places in the world
At night this place should not be missed! Everyone, locals and tourists congregate, along with street performers, interesting characters into this square to provide a crowd you want to be a part of. The square is transformed into a vibrant, energetic and exciting place. When neon lights illuminate the giant billboards, it is magnificent. All I can say, is its totally a different feel compared to Las Vegas. They are both very impressive and must be experienced.
At the USS Intrepid, Sea and Airspace Museum airplanes used by the army for many purposes were on display, but the highlight of our visit was the retired space shuttle, the Enterprise. Visitors are allowed to walk directly underneath or ascend to a viewing platform near the nose for a closed-up look inside. Endeavour, the other retired space shuttle, was recently brought to Los Angeles.
We could not have a more perfect weather during our harbor cruise to to Staten Island to view the Statue of Liberty. The ride was very relaxing, and we got to view the city from a different perspective.
Our tour continued to Metropolitan Museum of Art, and again opted not to go inside. While waiting for other members of our tour group to finish their tour of the museum, we took a short walk into Central Park; then strolled the street apartments admiring their beautiful garden. We had coffee at a café on Madison Avenue then boarded our tour bus.
Our day finally ended, our weary bodies collapsed as soon as we got to our hotel.
Stay tuned for part 2. New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.