"Fondue" Means "For Dipping"

The Chappell Experience:

NYC Phase 2: Friday morning

(Fondue does NOT mean "for dipping")

                      Getting on the Peter Pan Bus was simple. Our group was the only one there at 6:15 am, so navigating our way to the appropriate gate was something that my 5 year old daughter could easily figure out (considering it was a whopping 20 feet away from the main entrance). Boarding took place, promptly at 6:20. Chris and I sat a little longer than most of the other passengers, who all seemed to be in a rush to find "the perfect seat" as if we were about to attend a showing at the local movie theater. I promise, in the next post, you'll completely understand why I am so eager to tell you about how easy it was to get going on Peter Pan's bus. The seats were a bit cramped for us "over 6 foot tall" types but I'm sure they would have been fine for anyone of a normal height.

                      By the time we arrived in the Big Apple, we were both starving and almost at the point of tackling anything that moved and eating it raw in the middle of the crowd of people BUT that sort of thing tends to be frowned upon. Instead, we resorted to finding the nearest sit-down restaurant for lunch. The lucky winner? Ruby Tuesdays! Did you know that if you go into Ruby Tuesday's at 11:20 am in New York on a Friday morning, they will be serving breakfast? Neither did we. If we wanted lunch, we were directed to move our tired, stiff asses up to the second floor. That was just fine with us though, as it provided a much nicer view of the millennial vapers and miniature dog walkers. Now, when I say miniature dog walkers, I mean the dogs are miniature, not the walkers. Although, we were on the second story of a rather tall building, so you never really know.

                      Of course, being as hungry as we were, Chris and I gave in to our animal instincts and ordered the $13 shrimp fondue appetizer, followed by a couple hickory barbecue bacon burgers. As delicious as our food was, I'm not sure it really justified the resulting $68 bill. In retrospect, there was a $.99 pizza-by-the-slice eatery one block down, that would have probably done us just as well and served us twice as fast. No regrets! It was our first meal in NYC and it was pretty darn good.

                      The highlight of the trip for me, was definitely going to be the Top of the Rock at sunset. I'm pretty sure that I said "I want to reserve the 6:40 tickets as soon as we get there" to my incredibly tolerant husband about 500 times before we even arrived in New York. I happen to know from experience, that after the 236th time, its etched into his mind. The additional 264 times were just a precautionary measure. Let me tell you, not many things in New York are properly labeled and the Rockefeller Building is no exception to this rule. Word to the wise, no matter what entrance their website tells you, they all lead to the exact same corridor at street level. If you walk around long enough, you'll eventually come to the door that says "Top of the Rock", but if you're buying tickets or, in our case, redeeming a city pass voucher, this door is not for you. Thanks to a very nice woman in a comfortable sized cubicle in the middle of the hallway, we were directed downstairs to the "Top of the Rock" shop. (Another side note: if it is a "push" door, do not put a handle on it! Handles imply "PULL"! That is confusing!) Alas, the woman in the shop redirected us across the hall to ticketing. Thanks to newfangled technology, my antisocial husband and I didn't even need to approach a ticket agent to redeem our passes, we just needed to scan the QC code on our phones and VIOLA! Tickets printed.

                       With our 6:40 tickets in tow, we made our way over to the theater district to find our hotel. Fully aware of the fact that we were about 3 hours early for check in, I protested Chris' brilliant idea of going to drop off our extra large backpack at our hotel. (I say "brilliant" sarcastically because, Mrs. Know-It-All didn't believe that we would be allowed to leave our bag at the hotel.) Boy, was I wrong. While they informed us that our room would not be ready for at least an hour and a half, they gladly checked our luggage for us and gave us a ticket in exchange. This is actually a really good tip that I will probably use in the future. Check with your hotel to see if they'll hold your bag for you until you can check into your room.

                       If I were being honest, and trust me, I am not sugar coating anything here, I would have to say that the easiest experience we had all weekend was our visit to the Empire State Building. They have been dealing with loads of tourists for so long that they have the entire process completely streamlined. There were no lines and the only people complaining were the ones that couldn't comprehend the logic behind getting off of one elevator to get onto another one. Never mind the observation deck in between because that is completely irrelevant.

                       It was at that "in between" point where my loving man and I opted to take a selfie in front of one of the building's large windows, with a stunning view of the cityscape. He pulls out his phone and opens the camera app as we turn our backs to the window and are met face-to-face (almost literally) with a fellow tourist who is much closer than comfort would allow. We now refer to him as 'selfie guy', awkwardly enough, he didn't take the hint to back off when Chris nearly hit him in the face in attempt to take our selfie. Needless to say, the picture definitely caught us with *clears throat* interesting... smiles on our faces.

                       Unfortunately, it had been a crummy sort of day as far as the weather was concerned, so the sky wasn't exactly clear. I did manage to get some really nice pictures of the surrounding city. Nothing as stunning as I had hoped for, but they were acceptable none-the-less. And as the wind whipped through the observation deck, nearly blowing everyone off of their feet, I ran around like a crazy person taking photos. To say that it was fun would be a massive understatement.


                      I would like to take a moment to mention that the city pass that we bought was from citypass.com and we picked the C3 option. You have 9 days from the first use to see 3 attractions. It was actually the perfect option for us as we were only going to be in the city (and on foot) for less than 2 full days. Prior to our purchase, I had compared several different options (for details, please see our previous post "The Over Thinker's Guide to Planning a Weekend Trip) and this one had the most bang for the buck. For 2 passes, I paid $168 all fees and taxes included. So if you're planning a fun weekend getaway, I would definitely recommend that option.

                      By the time we were back to check into our room, our legs and feet were already starting to get sore. Check-in at the Comfort Inn at Times Square was simple enough, despite the fact that their system was down - we were on our way to our second floor room in no time. Thanks to hotels.com I was able to book a king sized bed, 3 blocks away from Times Square for only $135. We didn't have to share a bathroom and the place was not sketchy looking, which at the lower price point in our budget, we were definitely seeing a lot of places that reminded me of something out of a horror movie. Why such a bargain, you may ask? Let me tell you; if you want to stay in the city and have a large room in a quiet area where you will not hear the bold thumping sounds of some rapper wannabe driving his decked out SUV at 3 mph down the street, do not stay on the second floor of a hotel that is 3 blocks away from the center of the city that never sleeps. Because unless you come prepared with ambient noise and maybe luck out with a loud AC unit, you will also, never sleep. Don't get me wrong though. The Comfort Inn served its purpose, it gave us a safe, extremely comfortable place to sleep after the long day of exploring and it was as clean as you could hope for. The staff was friendly, oh... and I'll tell you about the continental breakfast in the next post!

                  After a brief rest (and some inappropriate dance moves by yours truly) we headed out to the famous LOVE sculpture on the corner of W 55th Street & 6th Avenue. Even though I was extremely focused on getting great pictures, this trip was about us. We were celebrating and enjoying quality time together. A picture of us together, taken by someone else, was actually pretty important. You might be pleased to know that in this day and age, people can still be kind to each other. If you ever find yourself in a tourist destination, hoping for someone to offer to take a picture for you, all you really need to do is look around. Maybe you'll spot someone that is looking for the exact same thing. We found a nice couple (that may or may not have spoken English) that seemed to be looking for help. When I offered to take a picture in exchange for their help, they were more than happy to oblige. I'm happy to say that I have my very own, very cliche, LOVE sculpture picture with my incredibly photogenic hubby.


The Over Thinker's Guide to Planning a Weekend Trip

The Chappell Experience:
NYC phase 1: Planning

As with most of our grand adventures, New York City started as a conversation about a month ago. I was put in charge of planning "the next trip" which, I happen to excel at. If you ever want to see the inner workings of an over thinker's brain, tell her to plan a weekend trip away and give her a note pad. You may or may not know this but over thinkers are excellent planners and budgeters because we take literally everything into account and we compare the deals to get the absolute best prices. Don't you worry though, I will share my knowledge with you along the way.

          Being a couple who consists of a photographer and her wonderfully inspiring husband / assistant, I always look at our trips as "photographic excursions". Therefore, everything around the planning of this trip had amazing photo-ops in mind. I wanted to make sure we got in some super touristy attractions, like the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Building as well as doing some general hoofing around the city. After careful consideration and lots (when I say lots, I mean an entire front and back side of a steno note page filled with comparisons) I chose a city pass that would suffice. 

The options I had narrowed it down to were:

  • citypass.com - $132 per person OR $83 per person if you choose the C3 pass

  1. The regular pass gives you access to 6 attractions. The C3 pass will get you in to 3.

  2. You have 9 consecutive days to use either pass from the first time you use it. Giving the regular pass an awesome value if you're staying for several days. However, if you're only staying in the city for a weekend like we did, you're much better off with the C3 pass.

  • newyorkpass.com - at the least expensive this pass will run you $134 for one day. Prices range all the way up to $329 for 10 days.

  1. See as many attractions as you possibly can within the purchased time frame.

  2. If you purchase multiple days, they need to be used consecutively. Use it or lose it!

  3. Passes are valid from the first use until midnight. So if you don't use your one day pass until 4pm, you have 4 hours to use your pass!

  • smartdestinations.com - (New York City Explorer Pass)  3 Attractions = $89 / 4 = $124. Prices go right up to 10 choices at $219.

  1. They offer a "Build Your Own" bundle, which allows you to choose how many attractions you would like to see. Each selection saves you a little more money.

  2. The regular pass does not require you to choose your attractions prior to your visit. 

  3. "Visiting your first attraction activates your card. Then, you'll have 30 days to use your pass." (This is actually an excellent feature!)

              I personally went with the city pass C3 ($168 total). It saved me a few dollars and gave me everything I wanted. Last year, we drove to Atlantic City and stopped in NYC on our way home and between tolls, gas and parking, we spent a fortune just by having our car with us. This time, I decided to find other means of transportation. After doing a quick "Providence to New York" google search, I found wanderu.com . Wanderu gave me both bus and train options and assisted me in booking the absolute best deal. If you're wondering, you can get a bus for as little as $26 (one way)! For a little over $110 (with fees and taxes) our toll-free tuna can was booked! (If you're keeping up, we're now at $278 for 2 days in the city) Last, but certainly not least; the hotel...

              This part was daunting, to say the least. Any time I book a hotel, I go to priceline.com (period, end). As far as I was concerned, priceline had the absolute best deals. And after looking through their results for 2 days (because I'm an obsessive freak) I was sure that I would be paying $180 for a decent hotel room. When I say 'decent', I mean - we won't be sharing a bathroom with strangers but our room will be, at best, a pod room with a full-sized bed. The cheaper places, ranging from $40 - $135 reminded me of the European places that were depicted in the movie "Hostel". Ever seen it? Don't. If you're the type that doesn't mind sharing bathrooms, don't see this movie. It just might make you want to change the way you look at "these kinds of places". So when I bring the price up to my dotting [at the time] fiance, he scoffed at me. That' right! SCOFFED! At ME! Frugal frick'n Franny! "What do you mean, the best you can do is $180?!". Needless to say, I looked into other options. Queue hotels.com ! I found a great deal on a king room in the Comfort Inn Times Square Hotel. $105!! AND we get our own bathroom! Ok, so I had to wait a day to book it (for monetary reasons) and when I finally booked it, the price bounced up to $135. Still though, a great deal none-the-less. ($413 total)

             With all of the details booked, I was left with one thing to plan. The itinerary. Bread and butter, baby. Bread and butter. My notepad very precisely outlined the whole thing and it looked something like this: 

Excuse my neuroses here.

  • (Friday)

  • 6:30 am - Peter Pan Bus departs Providence, RI

  • 10:30 am - Arrive at Port Authority, NYC

  • 11:00 am - Eat like starving hostages

  • 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm - General sightseeing, check-in at the hotel

  • 6:30 pm - Top of the Rock (I had this dead-set, planned for sunset.)

  • 9:00 pm - The Empire State Building

  • 10:30 pm - Go back to the hotel and die of exhaustion

  • (Saturday)

  • 10:00 am - Ferry to Liberty Island & Ellis Island

  • 2:00 pm - head back to Port Authority area

  • 4:00 pm - Greyhound it back to Providence

              As you can see, I had everything planned to the "T". How much would you bet that everything went smoothly? Stay tuned, kiddos. I'm going to tell you all about it in our next post. Thanks for checking out our brand new blog at chappellphoto.com . And feel free to browse our site to check out the pictures that I captured on our trip. Do you know of any other bargains that would have helped cut the costs of this trip? Leave your comments! Share your frugality!