Jess says it's my turn to blog, so we'll see what we can do here.
We got to the airport about 2 hours before our flight. Which was good, because we were apparently going to need most of that time. We went to the American Airlines self-check-in, walked up to a computer, punched in our information, got our boarding passes, and then waited for someone to come down, put the luggage tag on our bag, and place it on the conveyor belt. And we waited. And we waited. We watched while the guy who hates his job wandered up and down the line throwing people's bags onto the conveyor belt. We watched while other employees walked into the back room and disappeared for several minutes at a time. We watched while people piled up at the kiosks and the line. After something like 30 minutes of standing there someone finally came around to take our bag.
Then we got into the security line. Something like 7-10 TSA employees to run a single line. By the time we got halfway through from where we started, the line was twice as long as when we got in it. They eventually opened a second line which sped things up considerably. I won the security-theater lottery and got patted down. Nothing like having your 4th amendment rights violated to make the holiday season cheery. However, TSA seems to be making some intelligent improvements. Further in front of us a mom and a dad were both holding small children when they got to the front of the line. The TSA employees allowed them to go through the metal detectors while holding the kids. Previously I've seen the employees demand that the children walk through by themselves, so the screaming, crying kids who have no idea what's going on get pushed and prodded through the detector. So I'm glad someone with intelligence decided it wasn't any less safe to let parents carry kids.
When the plane started boarding, the airline was offering $500 travel vouchers for people willing to bump to another flight. Which seems pretty decent, but that wouldn't have covered the cost of the flight for our tickets; we might have considered it except for our hotel reservation and the plans for the next day.
The flight itself was uneventful, though American Airlines didn't give us anything but a couple cups of soda during the 5-hour flight (you could, however, purchase a small sandwich for $10, or crackers and cheese for $5).
We arrived in JFK and went down to get our bags. For unknown reasons, the baggage claim signs weren't providing any information at all, but the captain had announced which carousel our luggage would be at. That took forever. We did finally get the luggage and meet up with our pre-arranged car which took us smoothly to our hotel.
After checking in around 1:00 AM we asked if there was somewhere to find food. We were directed to a 24-hour deli on the corner which was acceptable.
The next day we checked out and left our bags at the hotel while we wandered around the city. When the rest of the family arrived (after a delayed train) we further wandered around the city ending up at Macy's. We walked through their "Santaland" and then had dinner at one of the several restaurants in the store (there are something like 3 or 4 Starbucks inside Macy's!).
Once we finished up at Macy's we booked it back uptown to see The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet. It was fun. Jess didn't cry and was able to enjoy the show. After the show we went back to the hotel and got our bags and then headed towards Grand Central. Jess had a battle with the subway again. She was being too nice to the ticket reader and it kept telling her to re-swipe. Once she flicked it through nice and quickly, it let her in.
The train ride back was fine, although we had to switch trains because there was some concern about whether our train was in proper working condition or not. I also spent most of the train ride fixing the Board. There were a few minutes when Mom and Dad called me over to solve a logic puzzle for them (which was part of an ad on the wall).
The next day we did nothing: our muscles and joints were a bit sore (did I mention that we walked around NYC for 6 hours?). Today we also did mostly nothing. We went over to the high school for a few minutes to say hi to some of my old teachers. Due to vehicle scheduling conflicts we then had no ride back home. So we walked home, pausing at Subway for lunch and to warm up again. This evening we went up to the Trinity College campus and watched It's a Wonderful Life on the big screen, which Jess had never seen.
That's been our vacation thus far.