Matt and I were prepared to spend our first Christmas away from Wisconsin since embarking on our international adventure. It had been a long 7 months primarily on the island, but Matt isn’t off school for an extended amount of time until the end of February. Even when he was headed to New York City for a long weekend on business, I was planning to stay behind. Then my family offered to fly out to NYC for an early Christmas with us and I couldn’t resist. Plans were quickly finalized, including a visit with Matt’s mom and sister, and our whirlwind weekend was upon us.
Direct travel from the islands doesn’t really work, so we spent a night in Guayaquil, Ecuador, before heading to NYC. Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and its banking and commercial hub. We had heard horror stories about Guayaquil and were given the usual warnings to be extra careful because the city was dangerous.We were pleasantly surprised. We stayed in a lovely hotel right across from “Iguana Park” (formally named Parque Seminario) and the Cathedral and a few blocks away from the delightful Malecón 2000 or river walk.
You would think that iguanas lose their appeal when you live in a town filled with them, but they don’t for me. I find the dragon-esque creatures to be equally fascinating and hilarious. Iguana Park was filled with land iguanas, a relative of the marine iguanas in Puerto Ayora. There were easily hundreds of them all over the park. We admired them and the turtles and koi in the pond. Early the next morning we went for a walk before our flight so I could visit the iguanas again and… no iguanas! Matt and I were mystified: where the heck did they all go? We wandered about and Matt teased that they were brought in for the tourists every day and shipped out at night. At one point I stopped under a tree in the lilac family to enjoy the sweet scent. We continued walking and I joked “what, did they all climb up to sleep in the trees at night?” We looked up – Yep!
We headed to the airport and our only excitement there was that one of our bags was flagged for a narcotic check so Matt had to go in the secret room for that process. As you can see, he didn’t look nervous due to a clean conscience.
At 8:30 pm we landed in New York, whizzed through immigration and customs and were in Manhattan at the house my family rented by 10 pm. Mick and Andy were out picking up our requested Indian food for dinner and Tom, Sue and Shannon had managed to stay awake to greet us despite being up at 4 am for their own flight. We visited into the wee hours until Mick, Andy and I finally called it a night at 2:30 am. The next morning we were able to have breakfast together before Matt headed to his meeting, Tommy, Sue and the kids to the Rockettes show and Mick, Andy and I for a walk alongside Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We reconvened in the late afternoon at Times Square, walked around bit and caught the first of many subway rides back to the house before dinner at Paola’s, a delicious Italian restaurant, and a nighttime visit to the Empire State Building.
The next day we took the Staten Island Ferry to get a view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan. It was a gorgeous day – more like September than December – and the trip was warm and sunny.
Marilyn and Jenny flew in that morning in time to meet us for a late lunch at Katz’s Deli, made famous in When Harry Met Sally. While the scene was chaotic, it actually was a pretty efficient operation considering the crowds.
One last stop before heading back to the house for final packing and our trip to the airport: Rockefeller Plaza and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The crowds were intense, but seeing the skaters and tree was worth it.
5:30 pm and we were back in a cab for our 8:45 flight to Ecuador. A whirlwind trip but worth every minute!