My family has been known to have an adventure or two. Now that my parents are in their “senior discount years,” they’ve taken to the road for longer periods of time and with abundant enthusiasm.
Since retirement, Mom and Dad Spurr have driven across Canada and back, half-way over and back again a couple of times, down to Florida a couple of times, over to New Orleans, and worked their way back through just about every notable stop on the Eastern seaboard and the 49th parallel (for friends outside of Canada, that’s where most of Canada is actually located).
Except for driving around the city on a highway during rush hour, New York City has remained elusive. Through a series of circumstances tied to milestone birthday, an opportunity came up for my mom to join a group of friends in NYC for a long weekend, she signed on and got to work planning.
In her first trip to New York, Mom enjoyed many of the experiences New York is known for: Times Square, a Broadway show, shopping, gigantic portions of food, but she wanted to share her unique experiences and offer a few tips for taking on the Big Apple.
Haggling with a pedicab driver
This was a new one for me. Mom was determined to see Central Park and a pedicab seemed like a fun way to do it. She felt the first price quoted by the driver was far too high, so she beat him down to something far more reasonable.
For the time they were in the park, they got up to a fair number of shenanigans, like getting in a fountain and being the victim of a cyclist-pedicab crash (the cyclist’s fault, she was texting). In the interest of protecting the guilty in both these cases, no pictures will see the light of day.
To cram in maximum sightseeing and conserve their energy, the gang bought a 48-hour Hop-On Hop-Off bus pass. They used it more for transportation than sightseeing, but in the end, managed to see a lot of the city while going to place to place.
One tip, make sure you check the schedule. “We had a day ticket, so when we came out of Macy’s we just missed the 6:00 pm one and the night tour had started, so we had to wait two hours. We ended up walking 20 blocks or so back to our hotel.”
Visiting Ground Zero
Mom’s top priority was seeing the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. They put their names in for guest passes ahead of time, since there are a limited number each day. She cautions people to be prepared for searches, winding through stanchions and taking no photographs until clearing security. It was worth it for the experience on the other side. Her words: “Just very quiet and peaceful.”
Rubbing shoulders with Damian Lewis
While waiting in line for Anderson Cooper, Hometown star Damian Lewis was walking down the street. The guy behind in line stuck out his arm and shook his hand to say hi and compliment his work, and because Damian is a polite Englishman, he shook it back. In doing so, he brushed my mother’s shoulder and now she is a big fan of polite English gentleman, Damian Lewis. It helped that his picture was plastered all over the city in advance of Homeland’s season two premiere.
Making friends with Anderson Cooper
Not friend-friends, but close enough her gang had to observe the “Do not touch Anderson Cooper” rule.
Once New York planning ramped up, they put their names in for tickets for a number of shows which tape in New York. Luckily enough, Anderson Live got back to them with tickets for a taping at his new studio location somewhere near Hell’s Kitchen.
Mom made it past the pre-interview stage by name-dropping a newly-famous local cat who ran for mayor in Halifax, whom AC had endorsed on-air a few nights earlier. Alas, she missed out on 15 minutes of fame.
The episode was pre-taped for later in October, so she couldn’t reveal a lot of what happened during the taping. However, she did come home with a new dictionary, which remained in its wrapper until the episode aired.
Once they took their seats, a producer took them through the rules for the taping. No pictures, don’t scratch yourself unless you want it seen on television, and the most important rule, no touching Anderson Cooper.
Mom and her friends showed great restraint in this regard when leaving the studio. They were stopped by security as Anderson was heading into his dressing room, but he did take a minute to say hello and ask if they enjoyed the show. Thanks, Anderson, for being so nice to my Mom and her friends, you’ve made some friends for life in Nova Scotia.
Free ride on the Staten Island Ferry
One of my New York recommendations is the free crossing on the Staten Island Ferry. For short visits, it’s a great way to squeeze in a harbour cruise, see the Statue of Liberty and a sweeping view of Manhattan.
New York, my Mom enjoyed your burgers, but she couldn’t get over the size of this one. Or the price. That said, her review was a rave, including the fancy French fries with herbs at the bottom and the onion ring-type topping on the burger.
Check around to see what’s going on
Here’s a tip from me that my Mom endorses: check around to see what’s going on. On Sunday morning, Mom discovered there was a free concert in Central Park on Saturday night featuring Neil Young and Foo Fighters. Sorry Dave Grohl, Mom couldn’t remember the name of your band, so I had to divine that piece of info out of “foo-foo something.”
It appears a love of New York is genetic in my family, because Mom is already talking about what she’ll do the next time. Specifically, she wants to go on the subway, go over to Brooklyn, and spend some time in Harlem. So, if Anderson Cooper wants to invite her back, she’ll be there in a flash.