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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New York

On Sunday, November 13, 2011, I received an email which read, “You’ve been chosen the grand prize winner of the iVillage Ultimate Twilight Saga Fan Sweepstakes – Congratulations! We hope you can join us in New York City for the advance screening of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1…” My response was, “What? Really? Is this real?”

But let me back up just a moment. About a week earlier my husband Matt suggested we enter a contest for a trip to see the Premier of Breaking Dawn. I scoffed at the idea. “Seriously? Why waste our time entering? There are probably ten thousand people entering” I said. “Someone has to win,” he replied. So we entered and…WON!

Sunday afternoon I received a call from Jessica Cordero, Acquisition Marketing Manager at iVillage congratulating us and asking for some information to get started with our itinerary. iVillage is an online, “daily destination” for women. They call New York City home and are part of the NBC Universal Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks Group.

As soon as I hung up the phone with Jessica, Matt and I started making arrangements to take time off from work, get our children taken care of and wind up some last minute details. Then, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we were on a plane headed to the east coast.

iVillage arranged for us to be picked up at the airport. Coolness! I have never had a driver waiting for me, holding a sign with my name on it; so exciting right from the start. Arriving at the Renaissance Hotel, Times Square, I was like a kid in a candy shop. With eyes wide open and jaw on the floor, Matt and I took a quick inventory of our 12th floor room with a view, and then headed down to check out Times Square, better known as the the site of the annual New Year's Eve ball drop.

Wow! My senses shifted into over-drive. The bright lights and revolving advertising signage captured my attention first. Signs in Times Square are actually termed "spectaculars" and the largest spectaculars are named "jumbotrons." But it wasn’t just my sense of sight kicking into high gear; my other senses were enticed as well. My taste buds were treated to many new foods, like Chocolate Nutella Cake with strawberries and vanilla gelato. 

The next morning we braved the cold and headed over to Rockefellar Center. We were just in time to see and listen to the Today Show as Ann Curry came out and chatted with children, gave hugs and posed for pictures. Then we crossed the street to see the Rockefellar Center’s infamous ice rink and Christmas tree. We learned that this year’s tree is about 75 years old and stands just over 74 feet high. It was surrounded by scaffolding so workers could string nearly 5 miles of lights around it before the official lighting on the 30th of November.  We also learned of the amazing way this tree “gives back” after the holidays by becoming lumber for houses built by Habitat for Humanity.

After Rockefellar Center, we did what many New Yorkers do each day; we jumped on the subway. Our first ride took us down into the financial district with our final destination being the site of the World Trade Center. As we exited the subway car, we noticed a large group of New York Police officers dressed in riot gear and wondered if this was normal or if something was going on. We quickly realized we had just stepped into the start of a protest. So I did what any inquisitive writer would do; I grabbed my camera (and by “my” I mean the fabulous loan from Frankie Leal) and started capturing the protest until my more reasonable husband suggested we leave before we became a part of the chaos.

So we left the subway terminal and strolled the streets of the financial district. When we arrived at the World Trade Center Memorial site the exciting energy I felt earlier was replaced with the sound of silence. Each time I tried to speak I choked up and couldn’t find the words to clearly express what I was feeling. Seeing the names etched into the bronze panels touched me in a way I cannot adequately capture with words. Unfortunately it began to rain and didn’t let up, so we left sooner than we would have liked. To read about and see a virtual tour of the 9/11 Memorial, you can log on to www.911memorial.org

On our way back to the subway, we once again found ourselves in the midst of the “Occupy” movement. We snapped some photos to show our family and friends and watched until we saw NYPD busses rolling in. At that same time, a NYPD officer passed me with at least a hundred zip ties in his hand, a good sign that people were going to be arrested and it was time for Matt and I to head to the subway and back to the hotel.

That evening iVillage so graciously arranged dinner for us at Del Frisco’s, a top rate Steak and Seafood Restaurant. We devoured every bite of our meal, from the creamy avocado goddess dressing on our salads to the tender and equally delicious entrees of lobster and filet mignon. As if that wasn’t enough, I also said “yes” to dessert. The baker in me could not resist a slice of their six layer lemon cake. It was a perfect marriage of tart and sweet filling resting in between cushions of moist lemon cake.

After dessert, we headed off to the premier of Breaking Dawn. I checked in at the iVillage table in the front of the theater and was immediately greeted with “Congratulations” and “Wait Here, someone wants to meet you…” I felt like a star! We were taken upstairs and photographed with some fun Twilight-esk props and then given complimentary popcorn and drinks. Breaking Dawn was great! The best in the Twilight Saga yet. But for more about Breaking Dawn, you will have to go and see it for yourself or read the book-no spoilers here.

The next morning, we boarded the E train heading downtown and exited at the 14th street station. We then made our way to the corner of 16th and 9th, also known as the Chelsea Market. You may have heard about Chelsea Market from one of your favorite Food Network stars like Emeril Lagasse or Rachel Ray. Originally the site of the National Biscuit Company, and the place where Saltines were made and the Oreo Cookie was born, the Chelsea Market now plays host to bakeries, restaurants and other vendors. Above the market are offices for businesses like the Food Network, MLB.com and my new friends, iVillage. Jessica gave us a tour of the iVillage and Oxygen offices. It was fun to see where “it all happens.”  

Then we headed outside of the market to stroll on the High Line, a public park, much like Reedley’s Rails To Trails, which has been created out of an old railroad track. The difference between Reedley’s Rails to Trails and The High Line is the “high.”  This beautiful park is elevated above the streets, offering views of Manhattan’s West Side and the Hudson River. I could even see the Statue of Liberty from the High Line’s pathway. After working up an appetite on our walk we headed back inside.

As we made our way through the market, it felt like we were walking through an underground subway that had been carefully restored and improved upon, combining interesting industrial d├ęcor with relics from the past. The aroma emanating from the bakeries was intoxicating. Somehow I resisted buying any sweets, but I had a really tasty wrap filled with avocado, turkey and sprouts for lunch. Ending our trip at the Chelsea
Market was truly the “icing on the cake” for me.

Saying “thank you,” even saying it several times, doesn’t adequately convey how much I appreciate all of the work Jessica and the iVillage staff put into awarding us the iVillage Ultimate Twilight Saga Fan Sweepstakes Grand Prize Winners. The accommodations, transportation and extras they provided were beyond anything we could have dreamed up. I kept telling them, “This is the best date night ever!” And it was. I feel so incredibly blessed to have been chosen and even more blessed to have been able to experience it all with my husband. I don’t know if we will ever make it back to New York, but if the opportunity presented itself, I would do it all over again, because as their state song says, “New York is special. New York is diff'rent. 'Cause there's no place else on earth quite like New York...And that's why I Love New York.”


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