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(We arrived in NYC on March 25th)
For us, London was cold. Cold and hard because that was the kind of cash it demanded. Cold because Spring had not yet sprung and the climate was bitter. Cold because we had no friends or family there to welcome us. We were ready to be home.
Our flight to New York City was on Virgin airlines and it was scheduled to leave at 4 PM. Although the flight was not long (6 hours or so) we would cross 5 time zones and we expected the jet-lag to be difficult. There were huge lines at the airport because it was the start of the English spring break and it took over an hour and a half for us to drop off our bags (we had already checked in online). While standing in line to drop our luggage we were informed that our flight was five (!) hours delayed. It was going to be a long trip home it seemed.
We arrived into JFK at 1 AM, cleared customs and headed outside to catch a taxi. There were tons of touts waiting for us, offering rides into the city in their cars but frankly, compared with the touts of Cairo, their attempts were weak. We grabbed a taxi and directed him to West 22nd in Chelsea.
Before leaving Cairo we had put out a call for help to our family and friends – we didn’t have any contacts in London or New York and needed some help. Dave’s family came through – he has distant relatives in NYC and his mother stays in contact with them. Bill and Susan Shanok are Dave’s second-cousins once-removed (Bill is Dave’s great-grandfather’s brother’s grandchild) and they have owned a place in the city for over 40 years. We had no idea what to expect, but we were happy not to be staying in a tiny hotel again.
The worst thing about the delayed flight was that we arrived on Bill and Susan’s doorstep at 2 AM. Bill did not seem to mind and was up to greet us.
Bill and Susan had four grown kids that are no longer at home. They put us up on the top floor of their three story Brownstone, where we had two separate rooms and two bathrooms; more space than we had seen in quite a long time. The beds were comfortable and we slept soundly all night.
In the morning we woke up and had a breakfast around the kitchen table downstairs and Anna went on a walk with Bill and their beautiful Collie.
Bill and Susan's Collie
We had a lot planned for the day: with only two full days in New York we had a lot to do. We headed off early to see Dave’s step-mother, Julianne. She lives on the Upper West Side, near Central Park. We took the subway to get there and it was a cool, but beautiful day out. Julianne met us on the street and we took a quick tour of her place before setting out for the park.
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Anna, of course, had to have a try a carrying Julianne’s cute little dog.
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After the park we headed to the Natural History Museum, which was very close by. It is an amazing museum (and we had seen our share of museums by this point). The kids loved the displays.
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Our tour of relatives was not complete though because earlier in the day Meta had called her first-cousin once-removed (Meta’s Mother’s cousin) and arranged a meeting. They had not seen each other since they were little kids and we were set to meet at a pub near her apartment. Valerie is the same age as Meta and has a son just a few years older than Caleb. She has the same smile as Meta and her mother:
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Caleb had fun learning a little about pool
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It was a very full day and we slept well again, despite the jet-lag. The amazingly comfortable and welcoming quarters that Bill and Susan probably had something to do with our sound sleep.

Before we had left on our 6 month odyssey we had promised the kids that they at the end of the trip we would visit the most famous toy store in the world, FAO Schwarz in New York City. They mentioned this fact several times during our travels, and today was to be the day. Once a five story toy retailer downtown, they had moved to a smaller shop after declaring bankruptcy a few years back. Although they did not have a Ferris wheel or merry-go-round like in the old store, there was still a guard at the front door.

Inside were huge stuffed animals

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that were outside our budget as well as our luggage weight limits. The kids got a few toys and really enjoyed their time at FAO Schwarz.

Next we went on to the Empire State Building. We ended up not going up to the top (it was quite expensive and none of us were that keen on it anyways) but we did take some shots in the lobby and looking up the tower.

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Then we made a trip to another nearby icon, the Brian Dube store. If you have never heard of Dube, then you probably are not a juggler. It is one of the most famous brands of professional juggling equipment available, and Dave has been using Dube’s equipment for over 20 years. It was the first time he had been to the actual shop, and it was a fun diversion for everyone.

We also took the dog for a walk down to the local dog-run where Anna was in Pooch Heaven
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We ended the day back at Bill and Susan’s place and got ready for our trip back to Portland.

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