Latelies Travels

Vacation: NYC to NC pt.1

August 3, 2015

Hey hey, friends! We’re back from our vacation and ready to share all the details! We spent 3 days in New York City and 4 days in Asheville, North Carolina. We are forever indebted to my mother who came to Austin to watch our kiddos so that Michael and me could have that time for just the two of us. It was a honeymoon redo and a sanity saver all rolled into one. We originally honeymooned in Georgia at Callaway Gardens — in July. It was too hot to do anything. It was too hot to even swim (the water felt like soup)! So I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but we would totally recommend NYC and Asheville.

You may be asking, “Why NYC and Asheville? Those seem very unrelated.” Yes, it’s true that there’s not much in common between the two cities. However, it’s been my experience that it’s cheaper to book multi city flights than a single city round trip. Crazy, right? I have always always always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, and Asheville, because we both like the mountains.

We arrived at the airport at 4:45am for our 6am flight. There was not a single coffee shop open. We walked up and down the terminal looking for coffee and/or something to eat. Luckily, we found sweet sustenance coffee right before we needed to board our plane.

Having such an early flight was no bueno, but it was a direct flight to NYC, and it meant we would get an earlier start on our visit there. The upside of an early flight was getting to watch the sunrise while sitting above the clouds.

The downside was that we were so tired by the time we got there that all we wanted to do was sleep. (Unfortunately, sleeping on a plane doesn’t really happen for us.) When we got to Manhattan we walked from Penn to the Burlap Sack for lunch. We highly recommend this place, by the way. They serve only one thing: fries or tots topped with your dreams.

Burlap Sack Eatery in NYC via

After lunch we walked to our hotel, The Evelyn, on 27th and Fifth Avenue. It’s was about 1pm and check-in wasn’t until 3pm, but we had been up for nearly 10 hours , so I almost kissed the lady when she told us she could give us a room early. The downside of the early arrival was that our room was right next to the elevator. We asked about noise, she said it should be fine, but that they would be happy to move us if it was an issue. The staff at The Evelyn was top-notch. On the way up, we got to ride with one of the staff in an old-time elevator; manual doors, a hand crank and all.

The room was small, but gorgeous. It had just been fully renovated, and they did a fantastic job! And the bed. Oh, the bed! It may be because we had been up since 3:30am, but that was the most comfortable bed I have ever encountered. Even the pillows were perfect! (I typically find hotel pillows to be too hard or too soft.)

Our phone photos really don’t do the place justice. You can see better photos on the hotel’s site. And yes, the rooms look just like the pictures.

the evelyn via

I still can’t believe that we got this room, in such a prime location, for only $180 a night! The bathroom even had heated floors!

the evelyn via

Check out these details! This was right when you stepped out of the elevator. The grass cloth walls and those scones — drool!

the evelyn via

After showers and a rest, we walked over to the High Line. It’s 1.45 miles of disused, elevated track that was turned in to a linear park.

high line via

We didn’t walk all of it. It was getting hot outside and we were getting pretty hungry, but what we did see was nice.

The High Line via

From there we walked by Times Square and back to our hotel. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure how we passed Times Square, as it wasn’t near where we had dinner and it wasn’t in the direction of our hotel. We probably took a wrong turn at some point. Our GPS was pretty slow and being a bit shoddy. Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped and walked through Madison Square Park. It was just around the corner from our hotel, and it had one of those lawns that you see in movies. You know,  with people sunbathing and reading. I asked Michael, “Who has time for this sorta thing? Look at them! All relaxed and enjoying life. Man, I want to do that!” I supposed we could have gone hang out on the lawn at some point, but we had things to do and see in NYC, so it didn’t happen. Next time, though!

We were in bed by 8pm. I know. Ridiculous, right? We’re old and tired. Mostly tired. It should be noted that we were woken up a number of times by the noise of people waiting for or getting off the elevator, but we were too tired to ask to be moved. The next morning, I had the delightful surprise of realizing that I could barely walk. My knees were swollen and every step was painful. Pain or no pain, however, we had scheduled a tour of Grand Central Station at 10am, so off we went. We walked – rather I hobbled the few blocks to Grand Central. I also quickly learned that jogging across crosswalks and walking down stairs or ramps felt like my legs were going to break at the knees. (Side note: No one in New York waits for the crosswalk sign to tell them to walk. They just cross. We looked like total tourist standing there waiting for the sign while everyone else just crossed. We eventually just started crossing, too, but I thought it was the strangest thing.)

Pain aside, the tour we did with Free Tours by Foot was one of my favorite things ever. John was our tour guide and he was amazing!

Free Tours Grand Central Station via

He started with the founding history of the island and the progression of transportation and how Grand Central came to be. We also walked outside and learned about the buildings near Grand Central, including the Chrysler building.

the chrysler building via

The tour was very interesting. We learned about the psychology of the architecture, how every portion of the station was designed to make you feel something while you were there. The lights were soft and dim in some rooms to make you feel safe and like you’re dreaming. The ceilings were lower in the main train tunnels to move you along — to make you feel like you wanted to hurry up and get out of there, because yes, they didn’t want you lingering. We got to hear about the  gold-plated light fixtures, saw the first digital clock, learned that the famous clock in the center of the station is faced with opal estimated to be worth over $13 million, and that every clock in the station is set two minutes fast so, “You shan’t miss your train.” We also gleamed tons of inside tips from him like: how to get cheap seats to broadway shows, how to get front row seats to the best shows for free, the best and cheapest places to eat, etc.

grand central station via

Seriously, it was the best decision made that day. And did I mention, the tour was free!? At the end of the tour, you pay your guide what you think the tour was worth. You could pay nothing if you wanted to, but the guides work really hard to earn your appreciation and therefore your cash. (We did give John money. He earned every penny!) They offer multiple other tours, and I would highly recommend doing at least one tour with them if you are ever in NYC.

After the tour we went to the dining hall. There is a round booth right in the middle that serves coffee. The name is Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. It was the BEST coffee ever! There was also a man playing the violin right in the center of the dining hall. I still think about that coffee and the music. It was magical.

After lunch, we took one of the trains to The Natural History Museum. The stop was a few blocks away from the museum, but this gave us the opportunity to stroll through some of Central Park. We also found a used bookstore on our way to the museum. It was exactly what I pictured when I envisioned a used bookstore: small, books stacked floor to ceiling…

westsider books via

loved it! We picked up a copy of A Light in August by William Faulkner. I’ve never read it, but it has a slightly torn book jacket and what looks like editing written into the margins. It’s exactly what we were looking to find for The Library.

We went into the museum using one of the side entrances. You can buy tickets there and there was no line! There was a huge line at the main entrance, so if you ever go, make sure to skip the line by going through one of  the side entrances. It wasn’t until we were about ready to leave that we saw the signs for the available app that would guide you to all of the exhibits shown in the Night at the Museum Movies. It was a bit hard to really enjoy the museum with my knees hurting so badly and so many stairs. I’m certain we only really saw half of the museum, but eh… We came. We saw.

natural history museum via

The knee pain also meant not getting to go over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Womp. Womp.  It was also clear that I was not going to be able to walk those few blocks back to the subway station, so we Ubered. Yep. Michael downloaded the app, and we actually got in a stranger’s car and trusted him to take us where we needed to go. It was a great! I was completely apprehensive of trying Uber, but I can tell you we did it a few more times while in NYC. (It’s way cheaper than a cab.) We had him drop us off at a bakery we wanted to try, and then we walked across the street to the subway station. After a quick rest at the hotel, we went to dinner at Risotteria; the best Italian food I’ve ever had.

Monday was our last day in NYC. Have you noticed that I didn’t mention the statue yet? We saved it for Monday. My knees were feeling slightly better, but walking down stairs was still pretty awful (not so much a problem walking up stairs, oddly enough). I sucked it up, however, because we were in NYC and I had a lady to see. We opted to take the ferry to Governor’s Island, instead of the typical Staten Island Ferry. Governor’s Island is a 172 acre island in the heart of the New York Harbor, and it has great views of the statue; not that you can tell from our crazy phone cameras.

gov island and lady liberty via

They also have free bike rentals on weekdays, something we took full advantage of. (My knees didn’t hurt at all while biking. Go figure.) We considered taking this two-person bike:

Gov. Island via

But opted for the traditional cruisers, instead.

gov island via

There was also a hammock lawn, an outdoor food court, and art installations. Michael said Governor’s Island was his favorite part of NYC. It’s definitely at the top of my list, too; especially since the whole thing only cost us $4.

gov island hammock lawn via

After Governor’s Island, we took in some of the financial district, then took the subway back to Midtown and got a few souvenirs for the kids, my mom, and ourselves. Then it was fun stuff like packing and trying to sleep, because we had to be at JFK at 5:30am after our flight was moved an hour earlier. That morning we took an Uber to Penn Station, and then took the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to the AirTrain for the airport terminals. This is the same way we got to Manhattan when we arrived on Saturday morning (minus the Uber) and I would recommend it. It only took less than 20 minutes to get from JFK to Penn Station (and vise versa), and it only cost about $20 total for 2 people. The LIRR is not the subway. It’s an above ground train with seats and overhead racks for you luggage.

LIRR via

I was hoping to fit NYC and Asheville in this one post, but at 2000+ words, I’m going to leave Asheville for a separate post. The plan is to also post on money-saving tips + how we fit 7 days worth of belongings for 2 people in 1 carry on, and about traveling with food restrictions (kind of big deal for us). So, pop in on Wednesday to hear all about Asheville.

What about your guys? Any awesome vacations lately? Do you have any favorite places in NYC that we missed? We definitely have things we want to go back and do.

**You can read part 2 of of our vacation here. You can also read our packing tips here and the low-down on where we saved and where we splurged on vacation here.**

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  • Reply Jody Powell August 3, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Sounds like a great trip. Sorry about your knees! Thanks for the tip on Governor’s Island; I’ll have to check it out on my next trip. Can’t wait to hear more tips and money-saving ideas.

    • Reply Blair August 4, 2015 at 8:17 am


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