East Coast USA 2015

Family trip to the USA - a first for everyone...

2015 saw our first - and long-awaited - trip to the US. This was the first of my 'itinerary trips' although I'm not sure it was that well planned as I seem to have forgotten most of the details. (To clarify, an itinerary trip is planned well in advance on an excel file and each morning, afternoon, evening and night is filled up with various activities). 

We flew into JFK and worked our way via train and subway to Midtown Manhattan and the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on 40th & 5th, right next to Bryant Park. In hindsight, a great choice - a great Deli next door and central to almost everywhere. We had 5 nights in New York, plenty of time to cross most of the sights off the list. In no particular order, we had a blast! 

On our first night, we took in a Yankees game - while I never want to see them win, we left at the bottom of the 8th inning, just before they clawed back a 0-3 deficit, drew level and went on to walk off by scoring 4 runs in the bottom of the 12th inning. For a Yankees fan, that would have been an amazing comeback, but as we were all pretty wiped out, it's probably best that we left early. Our second night was July 4 and in NYC, it's all about where you will watch the fireworks. We ended up on a flyover overlooking the East River and although we've seen many great fireworks displays over the years, this was up there with the best.

We loved Central Park and seeing all the familiar places that we'd seen in movies over the years. I ran around the park early one morning and just soaked up the buzz of actually being in NYC. We walked from Midtown all the way over Brooklyn Bridge, again soaking up the atmosphere and seeing familiar sights and place names along the way. We took in a Broadway show - Les Miserables - and loved the whole experience. What else? Times Square; Flatiron building; Grand Central Station; Empire State Building; Statue of Liberty; World Trade Centre memorial and the Met. Of course, all usually accompanied by some very large meals!  

Time to move on though, and the itinerary said the next stop was Washington DC, so we worked our way back to Grand Central Station and took the amtrak train direct to DC. We chose to stay downtown, not a lot of choice really and although a decent hotel, we had a long walk to and from the sights each day. As for the sights, I hadn't planned too much and we were happy to have a tour guide to help us out for a whole day. We walked a lot, and took in most of the great memorials. A fascinating day for sure and an amazing experience all round. 

On top of everything, we spent some time at 'The Wall' - the Vietnam Memorial. This was a place I had thought about visiting for many years, ever since I started to become fascinated by the Vietnam War as a teenager. Unfortunately my long-awaited experience was a bit of a let down - just too busy and while I was expecting a place of quiet reflection, it was more of a selfie hot spot. However, all was redeemed the next morning when I took an early morning run past and enjoyed a few minutes of complete solitude. 

Our most fascinating memory from DC was our trip around Arlington National Cemetery. We hadn't planned to visit, but our guide was adamant that we go and I'm so glad she was. It was an amazing experience - from Civil War graves, the Eternal Flame, Medal of Honor recipients - a very poignant morning. Aside from that, we took in one or two of the Smithsonian Museums as well as an evening in Georgetown and long queue to buy some famous cupcakes. Just two nights in DC, next was a flight up to Boston where I would cross a few more points off my bucket list.

Fenway Park would have to be my ultimate sports destination. Being a Red Sox fan helped of course, but the history amplified this even more, as America's oldest ball park. So we stayed at The Verb hotel, literally a stones throw from home plate. We stayed during a weekend series with the Yankees, so even though we only attended one game, were able to feel the atmosphere before, during and after every game in the series. We had tickets for the final game in the series - an afternoon first pitch and we took our seats in the Centre Field Bleachers in the hot sunshine. Needless to say, despite losing the game, we loved it all and the girls got to run the base paths at the end of the game while I got to set foot on the hallowed turf.

As a Red Sox fan, I am also a fan of all Boston sports so a visit to TD Garden, home of the Celtics and Bruins was always on the cards. However, this was for a U2 concert - their first of two Boston gigs and a massive tick off the bucket list. Amazing concert which was still ringing in my ears several hours later.

As for the rest of Boston, we did the usual sights - Harvard; the Freedom Trail; Boston Common and 'that bench' where Robin Williams sat; Faneuil Hall Marketplace and 'that bench' with the bronze statue of Celtics legend Red Auerbach; the Fens and finally dinner in 'the Pru' with my Americanized Uncle Johnny. 

The following day was rental car pick up day and a drive to the depths of Maine with Johnny. On the way we had our first Lobster Rolls as well as stopping off at a discounted booze warehouse. We loved Maine with it's whole Lobsters; Bar Harbor; Acadia National Park and the experience of staying in the middle of nowhere with Johnny and Carol was also a lot of fun.

Our last day was a very early start, driving back from the depths of Maine to Boston Airport where we dropped off the car before getting the train to New York for our night flight from Newark. We spent our last few hours back in the New York streets soaking up the atmosphere around Madison Square Gardens and the buzz of the U2 concert going on that evening. I took in my first and last street hot dog before hitting the tracks and flying out. Our first US trip was a blast and I just wish I'd have discovered it earlier!


The Lowdown...
Where we stayed (New York): Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/Fifth Avenue
What I said at the time: Our first visit to NYC and we enjoyed our stay. We didn't spend too much time at the hotel, however it more than met our needs as a base for our 5-night stay. Each day we took breakfast at the deli next door, which offered an excellent spread. Then it was either a walk up or downtown, or a short walk to Grand Central Terminal to catch the green line subway if we were going further afield. The hotel is ideally situated in midtown Manhattan - easy walk to Times Square, Broadway, 5th Avenue etc. A little further to walk to up Central Park or even to Brooklyn (we did that one day) but that's what NYC is about although we would catch the subway back to GCT at the end of the day. I would certainly stay again when back in NYC. Location with good value is the key especially with 2 adults and two teens.
Would we stay there again: Yes

Where we stayed (Washington D.C.): Holiday Inn Washington DC - Central/White House.
What I said at the time: No review.
Would we stay there again: Yes

Where we stayed (Boston): The Verb Hotel
What I said at the time: No review.
Would we stay there again: Yes