We got up bright and early Thursday morning, met Wendy and Amelia standing on the curb outside our house, and headed over to Matt’s building to park. His office had moved just that week, and they’re just a mile or so from Terminal 2 now. They allow staff to leave their cars in the ramp, so that’s super-convenient for us. We rolled our bags a block over to the train station on 34th Avenue, hopped on the train, and got off at Terminal 2.
Unlike our last visit to the lesser terminal, they now had Pre-Check. We were through instantly, and had to wait not for the expected delay (Amelia being pregnant, and therefore needing the patdown instead of the scanner), but Wendy being searched for some stupid TSA-paranoid reason. Of course.
This was to be our first flight on Southwest Airlines. For some reason, it costs approximately one billion dollars to fly to New York in the summer, and Southwest ended up being only a little less than a million. Plus it’s really nice that they have free checked bags, even though we were carrying-on on the way there.
The one thing I was wary of was the bus-style boarding, where you’re assigned a line position and then just pick whatever seat you want. That’s great if you’re at the front, of course, but your line spot depends on when you check in. Since I’d recently acquired the SWA credit card, we decided to use the Early Bird credit ($50) to buy early boarding access. That guaranteed we’d be in the “A” boarding group.
Matt and I got A34-35, and our friends were at the front of the B group. (There are 60 spots in each group.) We ended up in the only 2-seat row on the plane, in the exit row section. I decided just based on that that the pre-boarding fee was probably worth it.
Another downside to SWA is you have to have a layover, and in most cases for us that’ll be in Chicago. BUT! It’s Midway instead of O’Hare, so you don’t feel obligated to blow up the airport in rage. We had a nearly 2-hour layover, so we headed to Harry Caray’s for lunch. The food was pretty good, and our server was really funny and also REALLY slow. Once we got our checks paid, it was time to board.
Matt and I had to settle for a regular row this time, which was fine. We were still near the front. I discovered that the in-flight magazine has dollar-bill origami lessons, too! Here’s my pretty sad attempt at a $20 alligator. It was really close until the end.
We had spectacular views of the city coming into LaGuardia. We had to make a huge circle to approach from the north, but it meant we got a great tour from above.
We landed a little before five, and immediately upon exiting the plane I understood why people avoid LGA. (I’ve only flown into JFK and Newark.) It’s tiny, cramped, and looks a lot like a prison. The baggage area is gated off like a cattle pen, and smells bad. I was happy when our friends got their bag so we could leave.
We headed to the taxi line, and the lady there called for a bus (!!) because there were five of us. Someone radioed back to say they were out of buses, so we had to split up. Wendy and Amelia took the first one, and Matt and Jumi and I got the second. Sadly, we missed a prime opportunity to yell, “Follow that cab!!” SIGH.
We sat in traffic most of the way through Queens, the tunnel, and into Manhattan. Our driver asked if it’d be alright if he dropped us off down the block from our hotel (on 44th and 6th), because otherwise he’d have to go around several blocks on one-ways and around Times Square to be able to drop us off in front of the hotel, and estimated that’d take another 25 minutes. We were very happy to be let out down the block and cut some time off the journey.
We rolled over to the Millennium Broadway, noting that it was on the very same block as the Belasco Theater, which was the reason we were in New York in the first place: while I was researching tickets for the Book of Mormon in Minneapolis, I saw an ad for Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris. I mentioned reaaaaally wanting to see that on Facebook, and the New York trip was born!
At the front desk, the three of us were told that our reservations were actually at their sister property, the Premier Hotel next door. The lobbies are connected by a walkway through a theatre lobby, which appeared to never be in use. I was a little disappointed to not stay at what I assumed would be the super-fancy hotel, but the lobby of the Premier was promising: it was way more modern, and the lady working there was really nice.
We were extremely happy with our rooms, too. They were big, with a really comfortable bed and giant bathroom with a tub and shower stall. It was definitely the more business-oriented hotel, which was fine since that almost meant recently-renovated. Even Bally had a spotlight to hang out in.
I texted Wendy to let her know our room number, which was conveniently next to Jumi’s. I heard back from her after a while, and they were still in their taxi. Apparently their driver wasn’t quite as efficiency-minded as ours, and went all the way around Times Square. We headed down to the mezzanine for another awesome hotel amentity: their daily happy hour. They had appetizers and free beer and wine daily from 5-7pm, and free breakfast in the morning. Their espresso machine was available all day, too! (The free beer options weren’t great, but they were free.)
Wendy finally texted that they were settled in, so we went to find them. Unlike us, they actually did have rooms in the Millennium. Their room looked out onto 44th street, and they had an amazing view of the Chrysler building on one end, and parts of Times Square on the other. But the room was nowhere as nice as those at the Premier, so it balanced out. (We saw an office building from our windows.)
It was after 7:30 by the time we left the hotel, so we were getting hungry. We’d decided to walk over to Gotham West Market, because there were several restaurants to choose from, and it was a little less than a mile away. To get there, we had to walk through Times Square. It was the first of many, many times we’d have to pass through that mess. (It’s always fun to see it the first time!)
Gotham West Market reminded me of the Ferry Building in San Francisco, but I liked it better. Possibly I was just really hungry. It was pretty crowded when we arrived, so I wasn’t quite sure where we were going to find a seat. Down at the end of the building, we found Ivan Ramen. They had vegetarian ramen, and I was so excited about that that I figured I could just stand and eat it if necessary.
By the time our food came out, we’d found a table for the five of us to cram into. Matt, Jumi and I had ramen, and Wendy and Amelia got burgers from the shop next door. Matt got us Negronis from the tapas place nearby, too. Because, you know, Negronis and ramen. Why not.
There was a roasted tomato in my ramen… just one lone tomato… but it was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Amazing.
After everyone had finished eating, we started looking at the tapas menu on the table. Ramen, burgers, Negronis, tapas, and really expensive beer for dinner? WHY NOT.
It was all delicious. The patatas bravas were even better than the ones we’d had in Barcelona. Matt also had an order of crispy whitefish, which Wendy was loudly announcing as Crispy Whities while we ate.
After that, we decided we weren’t up for riding the subway around to find a bar to hang out in, and instead wanted to find something between there and our hotel. Conveniently, there happened to be a tiki-themed bar right on our way! We headed over there, and went downstairs to find the Reunion Surf Bar (named after the island) in a Hell’s Kitchen basement.
The place looked like a more casual version of Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, and we didn’t have to wait in line to get in. They set us up at a long, narrow table on bar stools, and we ordered drinks. Amelia, aka the pregnant one, ordered an ice cream sandwich that came between two giant cookies. Awesome.
Their drinks were good, and the music was entertaining. Wendy and Amelia left after a round, and we hung out for another one. Then we decided to head back to the hotel, where Jumi said good night and Matt and I decided to see what was going on across the street. We ended up at the Long Room around 12:30am. The place was started to wind down, which surprised me a little since I knew it was open til at least 2am (possibly even 4), it’s a half-block from Times Square, and it was Thursday night. Our bartender got us drinks, then sat down at the bar himself to drink. He didn’t show up again, but another guy got us refills and then disappeared. We finally gave up on trying to get a check, and left $40 on the bar so we could go to bed.