An Unusual Layover in NY City - My Family Travels
Biking in Central Park
The view from Belvedere Castle
The Strawberry Fields Memorial for John Lennon
The Free Ferry to Staten island

My grandfather recently died and we travelled back from our home in North Carolina to Belgium, where the rest of our family still lives. Although we weren’t exactly in a cheery holiday mood, my parents always try to make the best of every situation.

When my mother realized we had a 9 hour layover in Newark, she decided we weren’t going to waste that time inside a stuffy airport but spent it in New York City. Our first idea was to visit the Statue of Liberty. I’ve been there when I was three years old, but I don’t really remember. I do have a cool picture and my little brother has indicated more than once that he would like one too. But the warnings about long security lines during the summer time made us wary.

My mom came up with an unusual idea: biking in Central Park! We all thought it was brilliant, so she went ahead and booked it online.

We flew from Raleigh to Brussels, so we didn’t need to worry about our luggage: it was send directly to our final destination. All that was left to take with us, was the hand luggage. Since our family hasn’t mastered the art of travelling light, that was still too much to carry around. Ever since 9/11 there are no more public lockers in the airport, so we needed to find another solution. Fortunately Central Park Bike Tours had lockers available in all sizes. Problem solved. After locking everything away, we were fitted with bikes and the obligatory helmets. Not wearing one wasn’t an option, so I thought it best not to worry about where mine might have been before it ended up on my head.

We were the only family that had booked the movie scene tour, so we had the guide – a quirky guy that talked way too fast – all to ourselves. He had plenty of funny and interesting stories to share about Central Park. Our trip took us past the locations where Spiderman 3, Friends, Glee and plenty of other movies and TV shows were shot. After I got home, I watched “Home Alone, Lost in New York” again and it was funny how the scenes in the park gave me a completely different feeling. I really felt more connected to the movie.

Riding through the park, it was hard to believe that we were in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the country. It was warm and sunny, so there were a lot of other cyclists, locals and tourists, around. We also stopped by Belvedere Castle. No Smurfs in sight, but the view from the top certainly made up for it.

The Statue of Liberty was still in the back of our minds and our guide gave us a great tip: the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island is free and you pass real close to Liberty Island! So we took a cab from Central Park to the Whitehall Terminal near Battery Park and boarded the ferry together with a load of other tourists who clearly got the same information we did. We almost had to fight to get a place near the railing but it was worth it: we got to see Lady Liberty and my dad even made a pretty decent picture of me and my brother. Mission accomplished.

The taxi ride from Staten Island to Newark Airport went smoothly and we arrived there with plenty of time to catch our flight to Brussels. I’m sure my granddad would have approved of our day in the Big Apple….

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