I’ve changed my mind…Javert is my spirit animal.

This morning we packed our bags to leave. But more on our next adventure to come. We had a few more hours in New York and a couple of things we still wanted to accomplish. Our first stop was the 9/11 Museum.
We both felt the museum was very well done. Upon entering you descend below ground into what was once the below-ground floors of the World Trade Complex. In the large atrium you can find structural steel girders bent complete into horseshoe shapes, the remnants of the staircase that allowed thousands to descend, and the final column to be removed from the site, which served as a memorial as it remained standing. The area was next divided into two large exhibits.
The first contained a time line and detailed description of the events of September 11. There were a large number of recovered objects to make
it very effective. Throughout there were voice overs of people’s memories of that day (there is actually a recording studio where you can tell your own story). It was a reminder of the thousands who survived. But there were also reminders of those lost: transcipts of emergency calls from the hijacked planes, phone messages left by those trapped in the towers’ upper floors and heroic tales of rescue workers who gave their lives to save so many.

The second section was a continuation of the memorial above. Here were photos of those who lost their lives that fateful morning. The photos were accompanied by a number of personal stories and belongings. Suddenly the countless faces and names were people with their own story, it was quite moving.

Upon leaving the museum we needed a cheer up. We headed uptown to Herald Square for a little shopping. This is the area we had passed on our walk home the night before.
For lunch we popped into Pret a Manger. This was a frequent stop in Europe and were excited to visit one state side. Kris had a buffalo chicken wrap while Justine’s was pulled pork. Both were delicious and warm, needed in the slightly chilly day.

For us, we decided shopping in the US isn’t that exciting anymore. The majority of stores can be found back home and if we’re going to buy something designer we’re going to buy it on sale or at least not when the exchange rate is not in our favour. Amidst this, we still bought a couple of treats & souvenirs.

Next it was off to Washington DC! Yup, our next activity was to move on to an entirely different city…how exciting. The east coast has a very convenient train network connecting anywhere you’d want to visit. Our Amtrak ride between NY & DC would be a quick 3.5 hours. We became well-versed with train travel during our Europe trip, but have not had the opportunity to ride the rails since. We arrived at the station with plenty of time to pick up various snacks: a grilled cheese sandwich, a Santa Fe wrap, a sprinkled Krispy Kreme donut, a NY-staple black & white cookie and a pair of Tim Hortons ice caps. Yup real Timmy’s there in Penn Station. Who knew? We tried to be one of the first through the turnstiles when our platform was announced so that we could get prime storage space for our luggage & forward-facing seats together.
On the train we snacked and blogged and listened to a playlist of Aladdin: The Original Broadway Cast (aka our cast), Les Miserables: The Movie Soundtrack and Once: The Original Broadway Cast (some people we’ve never heard of). Such a vast array of show tunes. In the course of of our journey we passed through 5 different states…a crazy concept for us Western Canada girls.

Our DC hostel was a short walk (made slightly longer due to construction) from the train station. We arrived in the city at Union Station, which is a grand building with all the amenities one might expect in a modern, high-class station. Kris (who was in DC with her mom last summer) acted as tour guide, telling Justine about the nude soldier statues positioned around the roof. When the station first opened the dignified lady passengers found these quite disturbing and vulgar. Rather than take them down the architect instead had each hold a giant shield which blocked their nether-regions…much more modest.
The hostel is nice, although we’re in a 4-person room (as opposed to the 2-person private room we had in NYC). Our roommates have made us jealous with tales of multiple-month journeys we wish we were on.
There were still a few good hours left in the day by the time we got settled so we took a wander through downtown to the Mall. When we refer to the Mall in DC we are not talking about a shopping mall but instead about a grand expanse of important buildings, monuments and museums. At one end sits the Capitol Building. Dead center is the iconic Washington Monument. And at the other end is the Lincoln Memorial. We approached at the Capitol end. Justine was amazed by its height & grandeur when she caught her first glimpse. Kris, again acting as tour guide, pointed out each of the Smithsonian Museums as we passed on our walk down the Mall. We can’t wait for a full day of museums tomorrow!

– We are not good shoppers.
– Train systems are pretty similar in the US to Europe.

– A 3.5 hour break on our feet.
– Learning to duet the entirety of One Day More.

Love, Luck & Louis Vuitton,
Justine & Kris

It’s a Gooberfinch OR Her hair grew 3-sizes that day.

This morning we woke to rainy skies but for the first time in forever it wasn’t foggy and humid. We headed to our 9 am time at 30 Rock. Being there super early we were able to ride right up (while Justine finished a latte in record time). The views from the top were amazing, even through the clouds. Central Park was clearly visible as the massive green space it is. The Empire State rises massively in front of you. The top of the Rock is considered the best view in NYC because you can actually see the Empire State Building. We snapped lots of pictures before the rain finally forced us back inside and down the funky space-age light-show elevator.
After our 9am appointment, we had 10:30 tickets at Discovery Times Square. The exhibition space is currently hosting the best show ever…and by that we mean that this was not a show. In our minds this was all completely real 😉
Top Secret information…for Authorized Eyes Only!
After entering a non-descript door tucked away off Times Square (an obviously labelled door on the edge of the tourist center) we were ushered to identification kiosks. Here we were issued our official identification as members of SHIELD. SHIELD is the Strategic Hazard Intervention Enforcement & Logistics Division. Basically they keep the world safe from supernatural, alien, super human, mutant and super villain threats. With our probationary member status we entered SHIELD STATION, the training center meant to whip us into shape so we could one day join the elite agents in the Avengers. After an initial briefing we performed physical tests while surrounded by real artifacts from the life of Captain America (movie props). Next we brushed up on our mad science skills in Bruce Banner’s (aka the Hulk) lab. We learned of Norse mythology so we would better communicate with Thor (and Loki…love Loki!). And finally we tried out operating a super suit while looking at an actual Ironman suit! In the end we received certificates giving us official initiation into SHIELD as full agents.
In reality…it was really cool to see the actual movie props from the various Marvel films. The Ironman suit was a highlight, as well as Loki’s helmet & staff. But on everything the intricate details were mind blowing. You have not idea how many compartments & patches & zippers, etc there are on Hawkeyes pants. Or the cool design that actual exists in the fabric of Agent Hill’s jumpsuit. We just wish we’d been allowed photos 😦

We went for lunch at a little Italian restaurant in SoHo. It was called Il Corallo Trattoria at 176 Prince St. Kris ordered goat cheese ravioli in a tomato basil sauce while Justine had fettuccini and salmon in an asparagus cream sauce. It was delicious. Very classic Italian; it threw us back to our time in Tuscany with Mamma + Papa P.

We weren’t just randomly in SoHo, this was the starting point for our next walking tour: SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown. We knew our guide wasn’t going to live up to the standard set by the last two right from the start; he never emailed us a picture of himself or told us what he’d be wearing.

SoHo is a culturally rich neighbourhood with a sorted history. Today it houses the rich and famous, the trendy and fashionable, the people we all want to be. Originally it was built for the same: the wealthy trying to escape the squalor of the lower city. As the elite moved out to more open spaces it progressed into the local of houses of ill-repute and the base for Irish gangs. Next came the industrial age of cast iron buildings (literally molded of cast iron & made-to-order from a catalogue of choices) and child labor sweat shops. As labor laws changed artists & shops moved in, shaping the culture of the area today.

Next the tour led us into Little Italy. Here you’ll find an assortment of Italian restaurants and shops but surprisingly little to no Italians living here. Actually, there hasn’t been for awhile. Fewer tourists are visiting the area, rent is too expensive and many businesses are closing. Our guide predicted Little Italy will be gone in our lifetime. Here’s to hoping someone can save these adorable streets and eateries.

The tour concluded in Chinatown. There are over 300,000 Chinese in New York and over 1/3 of them live here. It is home to the largest enclave of Chinese in the Western Hemisphere. Walking down the main streets you can see a wide array of Chinese cuisine delights. We spotted dried sea cucumber, fresh eel and a number of other things we’ll likely never try (or identify). It was amazing to learn the number of people living here who do not speak English. How are they able to live in this metropolis without it?

After the tour we headed to Central Park once again. This time we saw the very popular lower east corner. This is the area you always see on movies and tv shows. We were, like yesterday, interested in one show in particular: Doctor Who. In the Angels take Manhattan episode Amy, Rory and the Doctor perch on multiple rocks with scenic backgrounds while they eat a picnic, read and relax. We thought it might be nice to do some relaxing (and photo taking) at these same rocks. The first was difficult to locate. There are two locations we found that had very similar scenery, although not exactly. Perhaps the trees have grown in a bit differently in the last 3 years? Either way it was a beautiful spot that provided fun pics, no matter what their original inspiration was.
The second boulder has The Pond as a recognizable backdrop (funny because the Doctor is sitting by it with The Ponds). This is also possibly the entrance to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments Seelie Court. At first we were disturbed by the lack of rocky outcrops by the water’s edge, but soon figured out that the boulder is actually up the hill and clever camera angles make it look water front. We are very proud of the photos that followed! One in particular ended up pretty perfect! Also Kris was very excited to lay exactly where Arthur Darvill (aka Rory, who you might remember mentioned in last posts as her favorite,) had once laid.
Coming out at 5th Avenue we had a nice view of The Plaza. It looked quite extravagent. There were all of the high end shops they frequented on Gossip Girl and more stores that are fancy but we can find back home. The highlight was standing in front of Tiffanys. Now all we needed was a croissant for breakfast.
We wandered back towards Times Square to grab a quick supper. Tonight we happened upon a cafeteria style Italian restaurant, Bocca. Justine had a parmesan chicken sandwich and Kris had a meatball parmesan hero. They were fast and tasty, plus the staff was much more competent that the night before.

Our evening entertainment was another Broadway musical; tonight it was Aladdin! We were very excited for this one. First, we had heard great things from Kris’ sister and brother-in-law. Second, we are huge Disney fans. And third, the Genie had just won a Tony Award three days ago!
The show did not disappoint! The songs were amazing, the acting was fabulous and the set design & costumes were outstanding. Seriously, there were almost tears of joy during “Friend like Me” because it was so elaborate but seamless and could not have been more perfect. We both highly recommend this show. We couldn’t even be disappointed we had an understudy as Aladdin. Our Aladdin was in his Broadway debut but easily kept up with the rest. We were both big fans.
If this show taught us anything it was that James Monroe Iglehart deserved his Tony. Right at the beginning he even pulled the award out of a pocket instead of the magic lamp. “Oops! This is just a trinket I picked up last Sunday.” The crowd went absolutely mental for him. Super cool.
During the first half we both noticed a familiar voice in the cast. It turns out the actor playing Jafar did the voice for the same character in the 1992 movie. We fangirled over this fact.
After the show we once again waited for the cast to emerge. More autographed Playbills to frame on our walls! We also took a selfie with our
favorite Genie. He was just as charismatic in person as he seems on stage.
Again we took part in a post-show activity, and again it wasn’t even slightly deviant. Any day that starts up high should end up high too, so we went up the Empire State Building. This may seem repetitive but scaling the Empire State Building (lets call it the ESB from now on) is an iconic attraction all of its own…plus we got to see the city both in daylight and as a mass of twinkling lights. We were able to walk right up to the elevator, which Kris is certain she couldn’t do on her last visit. She remebers quite a bit of waiting. Her memory is probably correct considering the amont of zig-zagging velvet ropes directing lines we got to skip by doing an evening visit. Do the ESB at night!
The city looked amazing from this height. Like a zillion little lights somehow connecting to make structures. We were able to get clear views in each direction at one point or another. We were also able to watch the fog roll over the expanse of buildings in a thoroughly apocalyptic fashion.

Our walk back to the hostel (yes we walked…that’s what we do) was unintentionally eventful. First we happened upon Macy’s Herald Square, the largest department store in the world. Then we were approaching the Flatiron Building. When it was completed in 1902 it was one of the tallest buildings in the city. Known for its triangle shape, it has become an icon of the city. Lastly we passed Kleinfelds. This store is known for having the largest and finest selection of designer wedding dresses in the world and for being featured of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress.
– We need a Genie, not just for the wishes but for the entertainment value.
– It is pretty much impossible to destroy the new World Trade building. It is bomb proof at the bottom. It can last 6 days with jet fuel burning inside it before the heat starts to compromise the structural integrity of the metal. You can aslo evacuate people via the roof by helicopter. It has a million back-up exit strategies.

Love, Luck & Lights,
Justine & Kris

It’s post-apocalyptic Ireland, right?

This morning we set out to find Tomas in his orange flannel shirt on the corner of Bryant Park. We aren’t creepy stalkers, we promise. We were on a 10am walking tour. Like our favourite Sandemans ones this was a free tour but put on by Free Tours by Foot. This company has you reserve a spot before the tour and in doing so the guide sends a confirmation email with a picture attached…and in this case a description of what he’d be wearing. How helpful!

In the course of the tour we visited Times Square and Grand Central Station again. We had Tomas take a photo of the two of us, as an actual staged photo featuring us both is a rarity. We learned that one of the central buildings in Times Square is actually empty. The money it makes in advertising more than covers the upkeep costs.
At Grand Central we were told the building was almost destroyed, like Penn Station, but Jackie Kennedy Onasis rallied the masses and played a large role in saving it. Tomas pointed out the Whispering Gallery where the architecture allows you to hear whispers from different the opposite corner of the foyer. Justine couldn’t hear much for whispers, but could hear Kris singing.
“So if you care to find me look to tgewestern sky…” -Wicked
We stopped by the Helmsley Building and Waldorf-Astoria. Both were very grand…to the point that you feel out of place standing in the lobby. Fun fact: the Waldorf-Astoria was built by the Astor family and John Jacob Astor IV died on the Titanic.

The tour ended at Rockefeller Center, home of NBC studios and the famous Rockefeller Christmas tree
& skating rink. When the land was bought John D. Rockefeller had potential tenants but when the Depression hit the New York Opera pulled out. He decided instead to build a huge commercial center to make his money back. Here we said goodbye to Tomas and continued on with our day.
By now it had started to cloud over but we decided to try to go up 30 Rock (or the top of Rockefeller Center). We had difficulty just finding the area where we buy tickets; Rockefeller is confusing to navigate. At this time it was an hour wait and they couldn’t guarantee good visibility. They mentioned we could exchange tickets for another time so we bought some and decided to see how it goes.
We had lunch in the food court at Rockefeller. We shared some sushi and blogged while we waited for our time. After an hour they told us visibility had decreased and wouldn’t be getting much better today. We rebooked for 9am tomorrow. Fingers crossed for good views!

With the rest of the afternoon free we embarked on another walking tour. This one of Greenwich Village. With all of the switch-y ticket business we were running a little late on the way to the Village (that’s what real NYers call Greenwich Village). Luckily we had received a photo of our next guide Mike as well. Mike turned out to be the greatest guide ever. He was an actor (because what tour guide in New York isn’t?) and treated our tour group not like children in a class but like friends he was conversing with. If Kris ever becomes a tour guide (it’s secretly something she’d love to do) she’d model herself after him. The tour took us through the Greenwich streets as we discussed radicals & artists. We saw The Stonewall Inn which is considered the birthplace of the Gay Rights movement. We saw Bob Dylan’s home from the early days of his career. And most importantly, we saw the apartment Rachel, Monica, Joey & Chandler lived in on Friends.
The tour concluded in Washington Park, which was originally a mass grave for disease-riddle New Yorkers of the 1800s, you can likely find bones just below the surface. Now it’s a lovely green space with a famous triumphal arch, a fountain that has been featured on Glee a couple of times now that the main characters reside in NYC, and plenty of nice places to sit & read/write/relax/contemplate life…just maybe don’t go digging!

We hopped the subway back uptown and made our second appearance in Central Park. This time we explored the lower central section around The Lake. We happened upon Strawberry Fields first, a memorial to John Lennon. We took a moment to imagine all the people living life in peace before continuing on to Bow Bridge.
Bow Bridge is recognizably featured in most any tv show or movie filmed in Central Park. Finn & Rachel wander across it on Glee. Giselle teaches us through song how she knows that you love her as she skips across it in Enchanted. But most importantly the Doctor & Amy perch on it for some important reading & discussion in Angels Take Manhattan (the Doctor Who series 7 mid-season finale). We may or may not have a video of Kris dashing across it in a similar fashion to the Doctor.
Continuing with the nerd sites, we visited another location where they filmed DW…this time where Rory gets captured by little baby cherub-weeping angels. This is in Bethesda Terrace, a lovely look out location on the lake. It’s apparently a great place to film because The Avengers can also be spotted here near the end of the film. It’s the spot where you see all the filming photos with Hawkeye standing in sassy butt-stuck-out positions.
Just off the Terrace is a lovely promenade wide enough for horses & carriages to carry fashionable folks past their equally influential counterparts. Now-a-days people sit on rows of benches and watch the tourists & locals jog & stroll by. Part way down the lane the Doctor sits and ponders a horrible future in the previously mentioned DW episode. Being as this episode marked the end of the Ponds-era of the show the images we tried to recreate here are rather iconic for Whovians.
Our Geekdom tour of Central Park left little time for supper so we stopped at a cafeteria-style place not far from the theater district, Villas. We each ordered a sandwich which ended up being really delicious but was such a struggle to get. The two girls serving us could not have been less enthused by their jobs…or more easily confused. For some reason the idea that the two of us wanted two sandwiches was just too much for them to take. Then we saw a lady order a salad which they put ranch dressing on despite the sign clearly saying you got to pick your dressing from a list of 12 or 15 options. When she asked for raspberry vinaigrette they just added it on top of the ranch instead of remaking her meal.

Our entertainment for the evening consisted of our first Broadway musical: Once. This show is based on a movie which was based on a book and won 8 Tonys in 2012. Fun fact: ‘Falling Slowly’ also won Best Original Song at the Oscars. Once is the story of a guy and a girl who sing and fall in love. Pretty simple concept, the tag line is ‘his music needed one thing…her’. As excited as we were to see the show it would have been indescribably more exciting if we had been here six months ago. At this time the show was starring Arthur Darvill aka the previously mentioned Rory from Doctor Who. Kris loves him. Like LOVES! It’s probably best we didn’t see him because she would have just cried through the entire show.

Once was amazing, everything we hoped it would be. The set design and production was very simple. Every member of the cast was on stage at all moments. The set was a worn bar set-up, where they actually served alcohol to audience members during intermission, where they created the feel of other locations by simply moving chairs & tables about. The music was perfect, with a folksy feel. A lot of the songs were meant to sound like they were Czech folk songs, or pop-rock songs with Irish influence. It gave us goosebumps to hear ‘Falling Slowly’ live. This is a must see for anyone, not just Broadway lovers. If your into Mumford & Sons or similar bands be sure to work this show into your New York viewing schedule.
After the show we were able to meet the cast and get autographs & photos. Our signed Playbills will make awesome souvenirs!
But our day was not over yet. We rode the subway to the southern-most tip of Manhattan and embarked on a ferry journey to Staten Island. You might wonder why we would choose to travel, to Staten Island of all places, and at 11 o’clock of all times. It wasn’t to go to SI; it was for the ferry ride itself. The Staten Island Ferry offers a great view both the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline…and its free! Although it was a tad bit foggy we still enjoyed the iconic views and crisp night air. It was a perfect way to end the day.
– A theatre is a Broadway theatre if it has more than 500 seats; Off-Broadway theatres have less than this. Most Broadway theatres aren’t actually on the street Broadway.
– Express trains do not stop at every stop.
– ‘Once’ is almost EGOT…someone get this show on tv so it can win an Emmy.

Love, Luck & Liberty,
Justine & Kris