Thursday, 9 December 2010

And it was New York, New York - Day 9

On Friday morning we woke up feeling sad because it was time to go home. Hotel check-out was at noon, so I immediately began the age-old ritual of trying to fit far too much into my suitcase. I did eventually fit everything in but the scales at the airport check-in desk later confirmed that it was only 200g under the airline’s weight limit – phew, that was close!

All packed we headed back for breakfast at Austin’s Café one last time for the usual BLT and iced tea for the Yorkshireman and French toast with a white chocolate mocha for me. I was going to miss these little breakfasts in cafés, discussing our plans for the day with hubby and not having to cook or wash up.

After breakfast we had one last walk around the area, partly just to look at it more closely in the daylight (since we had always been somewhere else in the city during the day) and partly because I was on a mission to get hold of a Starbucks “red cup” Christmas tree decoration before we left. I’d bought one for my mother a few days before and shortly afterwards regretted not getting one for myself too – after all, it’s officially approaching Christmas when the ‘Bucks turns red! Sadly none of the Starbucks around our hotel seemed to have any left. I did procure another pumpkin and cream cheese muffin though – yum!

We got back to the hotel room to pack up our final bits and pieces and I made one last cup of coffee in the awesome coffee machine to enjoy with my muffin. Then we went and checked out (the easiest and quickest check-out ever) before walking the seven blocks or so to Penn Station to start our long journey home. There was yet another Starbucks just beside the station so I figured I would give the decoration hunt one final try. Success and joy! I tucked it carefully away in my hand luggage, pleased as punch to have finally gotten hold of another one, and we made our way down into Penn Station.

We followed the signs to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), got our tickets from the machines and then headed on to the train. There was loads of room onboard so we spread out along two rows of seats with all our luggage. A short journey later and we had arrived at Jamaica Station, where we made our way to the AirTrain to JFK, buying tickets at yet another machine first. The LIRR/AirTrain combo really was a good way to travel – it was cheap, quick and easy – so I think I’d use that next time rather than getting a cab.

The journey to JFK was, in fact, so efficient that we ended up arriving about five hours early at the airport. Even the check-in kiosks were still asleep and there was no sign of any Virgin Atlantic staff anywhere, so we headed down to the departures hall to kill time at a café. We settled for Peets Coffee & Tea, which was overpriced and had really bad customer service, but I got my caffeine hit and the Yorkshireman got one last iced tea, so we couldn’t complain too much.

About an hour later we thought we would give check-in another try. Aha! The kiosks were now operational and we checked in without a problem. Unfortunately there was then a queue to stand in for the bag drop, which would ordinarily be fine, except that there were still no staff there to actually check us in. Ho hum. Luckily we were first in the bag drop only queue – either everyone else had problems with the kiosks or didn’t realise there were two lines. Laters, suckers! After half an hour some staff finally showed up and soon we were leaving our bags off and wondering how we were going to kill the next three hours.

We started by getting some lunch and ended up going for some Chinese food at Wok & Roll, which was far from the best we’d had on our trip but was pretty good for airport food. Next we walked around the shops in search of a New York souvenir fridge magnet (a tradition when we go anywhere) and, having finally decided on a nice, non-tacky, sepia tone one, we headed through security to the gates.

It was kind of boring through there though, although that may have been more to do with having run out of money than a lack of facilities. We technically still had over $50 left on my pre-paid Mastercard but, thanks to an error on the part of the Marriott Marquis View Lounge, all but $7 was it was being held in limbo (and in fact at the time of writing still is, despite lots of emails back and forth to them – highly irritating). Pity – we could have had more fun in the bars. Instead we passed the time transferring photos from the camera to our laptop and having a look at them all on the bigger screen.

Looking at the pictures of everything we had done really brought home what an absolutely amazing trip it had been and made me feel ever sorrier that we had to leave this amazing city. But, a couple of hours later, leave we did. On our flight back we got the awesome on-demand entertainment systems so, between that and the free red wine, we had a great time and didn’t even try to sleep.

We finally arrived back in London Heathrow at 6am UK time the next morning and made the long trek between the terminals for the long wait for our flight back to Belfast at 10.45am. After check-in I grabbed some breakfast (the Yorkshireman wasn’t very hungry) and then, giving up on finding anything else to do, we headed through to our departure gate to stretch along the seats there and try to rest our eyes a little. Eventually our flight was called and before we knew it we were back on the Emerald Isle. By 8pm that night we had been up for around 40 hours straight, so the adrenaline finally ran out and jetlag took over. The Yorkshireman headed to bed then and there and I managed about another hour before I finally stumbled upstairs too.

So that was that: the trip to New York was all over. There are still so many things I would love to do there and didn’t get the chance this time, and there are things I would like to do again, so I guess we’ll just have to go back again. What a pity, eh? Unfortunately New York is one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been and so we’ll need to start saving again in the hope that we’ll be able to afford to return at some point in the next couple of years. I know it’s a cliché but it really is true: I honestly do ♥ New York.

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