Sunday, May 8, 2011

The incredibly late, picture-packed, New York post

I promised you this post, and (finally!) I have delivered!
Let me start with a link to the photos from the trip. There are so many I want to share but the album is much more convenient:

We spent 5 solid days traveling and site seeing all the way to New York City and back. Here's a breakdown of our trip.

Day 1: Home to Baltimore, Maryland
On the Monday of our Spring Break we loaded a charter bus full of bleary eyed, excited students and made our way to Baltimore, Maryland. If you're looking through the album you will see there are photos of the Capitol, Washington Monument and other sites in Washington, DC. This was a surprise detour on the part of our driver and the trip coordinator. We were able to get off the bus and quickly photograph the World War II Memorial and the Capitol. Everything else I snapped a picture of was from the bus. Not bad for my little camera, huh? Baltimore itself was just lovely, too. We stopped in the Inner Harbor area for dinner and some time to walk around and socialize. I had a Maryland crabcake, but it just wasn't as good as the ones my mom makes at home :) We stopped in Maryland for a night's rest but it didn't last long!

Day 2: Baltimore, Maryland to New Jersey via a day in Philadelphia
We spent the bulk of our second day in Philadelphia doing some site seeing and tourist-y things. What was the feature highlight of the day? Philly cheese steaks!! We had authentic sandwiches at Jim's Philly Cheese Steak. On the historical side, we visited Independence Hall, Christ Church, and the Liberty Bell. My favorite place, however, was the National Constitution Center. There was so much to see there, including 3-d representations (read: statues) of the signers of the Constitution. I initially thought the students wouldn't be interested but once they got their cameras out to take photos with famous historical folks the fun began! There were other exhibits in the Center that we didn't get to access which makes we want to go back and take my step-dad; he's a history buff and would have LOVED that place. Maybe that's why I liked it, too. From Philadelphia we got back on the bus and headed to New Jersey to spend the night before hitting the big city!

Day 3: New York City and a Broadway play
Up again (early) and rolling out! We started with a ferry ride (after an experience in "airport style" security) out to Liberty Island to see the Lady herself. Standing on that island and looking up at a statue I had only ever seen in the movies was an incredible moment. I am easily overwhelmed when I consider all the opportunities I have had solely because I live in the United States, and that moment was no exception. We then visited Ellis Island before going over to Battery Park for some shopping and dining. That evening we saw Times Square for the first time. The only word I can think of: HUGE!! Everything is vertical, literally! There are giant screens on the sides of the buildings and it looks like the middle of the afternoon there all the time because of all the lights. The students and I were amazed! We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and then took in a marvelous production of Mary Poppins. I have seen Wicked in Charlotte before and the quality of these performances always goes above and beyond any of my expectations.

Day 4: New York City and the Step On Tour
After setting out again early in the morning from New Jersey, we took a tour of the city on the bus with a Step On tour guide. We saw what seems like everything you could want to see. We stopped and walked around in Central Park for a while and took some beautiful photos. The weather was a little chilly for late April (in the South I mean) but it was a gorgeous day.

The most moving part of the entire trip for me was when we walked over to Ground Zero. Let me go back and say that I was 17 years old on 9/11/2001 and can remember coming around the corner in the hallway where my chemistry class was and seeing that our teacher had the television on. The first plane had hit between classes and we gathered around the television watching the coverage. Someone said "A plane just hit the World Trade Center." And I remember thinking that it must have been a terrible accident. The second plane hit right before our eyes, and that's when we knew this was no accident at all. An announcement came over the intercom at the school instructing all the teachers to turn off their televisions and not to discuss the events. A handful of seniors, including myself, spent the rest of the day sneaking from room to room watching it on television and trying to make sense of what was happening...

So there I was, almost 10 years after that vivid moment in my life. I stood and watched the construction go on, looking at the gaps where buildings had been, where lives had been lost. I cried. No, I sobbed. I called my mom and told her I love her, because I realized in that moment I would not ever really understand the kind of loss those victims' families must feel. In fact, there was a memorial group having a service of remembrance for a victim of 9/11 while we were at Ground Zero, reminding me although it has been almost 10 years, those losses are still very real to those who experienced them firsthand.

Day 5: Homeward Bound!
Friday, we loaded up all of students, all of our souvenirs and all of our memories to head back to North Carolina. We thought we had seen it all, experienced it all and had nothing left to see. But our bus driver and trip coordinator had one more surprise stop for us: Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Yeah, Hershey. Like the chocolate.
We stopped at Hershey Chocolate World for lunch and shopping. I was really afraid the students wouldn't enjoy this, but they did, and so did the adults! I have to admit: chocolate from Hershey, PA is amazing. There's something fresh about it that you don't get when you buy candy at Wal-Mart or Target or the grocery store. What a great way to end our trip :)

We came home to rain, happy parents and I had one happy husband :) It was a jam-packed trip and I could have slept for days afterward, but I would have done it again in a heartbeat. I never thought I would actually see New York City in my lifetime, but now it's something I can cherish the memory of forever. Enjoy the photo album!

Next post: My brother's wedding weekend!

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