Thursday, August 11, 2011

New York City: Day 4

Whew. What a walk! We were up early today to catch a 9am ferry to the Statue of Liberty, which left from Liberty State Park in New Jersey. We knew that the light rail would get us close to the park, but we didn't know that the park was huge, and we took a VERY roundabout way to get out there and ended up having a mile plus trek to the boat. At least we made it on time, no thanks to the security that chose to scan change from J's pocket a second time. Seriously.

The kids and I had never been to Liberty Island before, so seeing Lady Liberty up close was a treat. I was amazed at how glossy the flame looked yet how dingy the statue itself seemed. The island had people everywhere... 13,000 visit each day, but only 2500 tickets are available to go into the statue. Hurrah for planning ahead! The view of NYC from below the island, atop the statue's pedastal was my favorite of the trip, even if it is a TIGHT squeeze to have people walking in both directions up there.

From there, we moved on to Ellis Island. I had no idea there was such a huge, detailed museum there. We spent some time seeing lists of boat passengers, the evolution of the island from a fort to intricately designed complex, and the cramped quarters of the dormitories. My biggest disappointment was that I couldn't look up all of my kids' ancestors that could have possibly come to America through NYC (none of mine, but all of J's fit the timeframe). **I need to look into this at home!**

We had been told to plan for the round trip to both islands to take about 5.5 hours, and I believe it did!

One thing that our trip was missing that we knew we wanted to do was have an authentic Italian dinner. The immediate area around our hotel had a Bertucci's, which I love but can always go to at home. We're only a PATH stop away from Hoboken, though, so we decided to head over to Luca Brasi's, and that place did not disappoint! The meatballs that the kids had on their spaghetti were the size of apples and by far the best I've ever had.

After reluctantly trashing the leftovers (hello... sauce all over our clothes on the way home!), we thought we had a bit of time before Carlo's Bake Shop closed for the night and decided to pay a visit then rather than coming back the next morning, as we had planned. The line to get in was about an hour, we were told, but we stuck it out, not wanting the opportunity to pass. When you join the line, you are given a number, but you are let into the store about 10 numbers ahead of time. Mind you, each party of people is only given one number (ours had six, and one had 10!), so 10 groups of people inside a small bakery makes for some cozy quarters, to say the least. Z and B were on top of each other a bit more than usual. But, we had time to pick out what we wanted before our number was called. We saw some full-size cakes when we walked in, and we were pretty much pinned into the cookie display, so I couldn't see the cupcakes and the like, but J and the kids picked out a cookie each, A and I planned to split a lobster tail (I had heard they were the bakery speciality), and Mom picked a mousse cake that we tried the day before at Discovery. I also chose an 8-inch cake to take home. I almost didn't, but it's almost my birthday, so I thought it could just be my early birthday cake. When else am I going to be able to say that my birthday cake was made by Buddy and his crew?

Love NY, but NJ has turned out to be pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New York City: Day 3

Today was the day B had waited for for a LONG time... we were finally going to American Girl. Unfortunately (for her), we were going to take in views of the city from the Top of the Rock first.

We went into the city and ate a quick breakfast at Cucina and Co. at the bottom of Rockefeller Center. Luckily, we were early enough in line for the Top that we didn't have to wade through the hundreds of people that we've encountered at the Empire State Building in previous trips. Hurrah! The kids were goofy at the top, experimenting with binoculars, making crazy faces, and enjoying a room where lights follow you around as you move (even A didn't want to leave that).

After coming back to earth, we went to the Plaza just on the off chance that Hoda and Kathy Lee were outside. They weren't. We went across to see the summer version of the skating rink area and finally gave B her due.

She and I went with A and my mom to the American Girl Store, where she immediately started looking for hers (long, straight blond hair with bangs and blue eyes). There wasn't one of the floor, so she had to wait to pick it up at checkout. Lucky for me, she was a good sport about that. We hunted down dolls for A and my nieces, and B picked out a dog (aptly named Coconut, for the only fruit she likes) for her doll.

While we were there, J took Z to FAO Schwartz, which I thought I remembered was in that area, past St. Patrick's Cathedral. Oops. It was further, but the boys were pretty fast. Z enjoyed the floor piano and scored a new Lego game.

After a quick lunch, we checked out the Pompeii exhibit at the Discovery Museum. The kids enjoyed the videos and the art mosaics the most, and YAY, there was a Cake Boss Cafe at the end, so we had a little taste (haha) of what to expect when we go to Carlo's on Friday.

We let the kids have an early swim back at the hotel, as we planned to see the Smurfs movie in the evening. Unfortunately, when we got there, the projector was on the fritz, so the showing wouldn't be until 9:20. I know it's vacation, but there's no way I was going to let them stay up that late. So, after promises of seeing it at home ASAP and an ice cream cone, it was pretty much a day.

I'm going to miss New York.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New York City: Day 2

We didn't set an alarm, thinking that the kids got up so early yesterday, they should try to sleep in.


I should have known better.

They were up at 7am, just like always.

We had breakfast at a horrible place across the street. Okay, not horrible, but ridiculously disappointing. Wouldn't you think that a place with "coffee" in it's name and "frappes" on it's menu would actually be able to fix one? No. Maybe that employee didn't make it in to work today. Sigh...

The weather forecast for today called for scattered showers pretty much the whole day, but the sun was out early [side note: I looked out the hotel window this morning and saw the Freedom Tower, which I didn't see the day before because I didn't look to the right, I guess. It took my breath away because I was surprised.], so we started with walking across part of the Brooklyn Bridge, which J and I had never done before.

As we planned this trip, I knew that we would be using the World Trade Center PATH station at least once. I was NOT prepared for the raw emotion of actually arriving at that stop. Totally took me off guard. Exiting the station are MASSIVE esclators, with World Trade Center at the top. And, given that we got into the city when millions of people were going to work, the entire row of esclators was PACKED with people. I SO wanted a picture, but I probably would have been run over. Seriously. Anyway, stepping out of that station to walk to the subway station that we needed, the area where the towers were is RIGHT in front of you. I REALLY wasn't ready for the tears that came to my eyes then. I should have been prepared for that, but I wasn't. At all. I vividly remember visiting when they were still standing, when I had very fresh dreams of living and working in Lower Manhattan. I was devastated all over again.

BUT, I have three fabulous children that needed me to very quickly pull it together, even if they had no idea how close I was to falling apart.

So, we continued.

Okay. Next time you go to New York, walk across at least part of the Brooklyn Bridge. Even if you have a 6 year old that declares she hates being outside and that it is too hard to walk. Or an almost 2 year old that wants to do it all by herself. Or an 8 year old that you think really might end up alone in Brooklyn because he keeps walking ahead of everyone. Being right under the enormous towers and cables and being able to see a completely different view of Manhattan is amazing. J got both of the big kids Italian Ices at a little stand on the bridge, and it was so fun for them. At first. Then the bees came, and they apparently also love Italian Ice. Z declared that he was done and passed it off to me because I had been letting A have little bites of both of theirs. B kept eating hers but would periodically either scream or practically fling the Ice away (possibly almost onto other people) to shoo the bees away. Amazingly, as we started back to Manhattan, the bees left us alone, so the kids finished their treats in peace.

We went to lunch afterwards at South Steet Seaport. Unfortunately, I remembered from other times that even though you can see the seaport from the Brooklyn Bridge, it is a huge pain to get from one to the other. We actually took the subway TO Brooklyn before ending up where we needed to be (okay, so that part was J's error, but it might as well have been the best way to get there). We got Nathan's hotdogs for lunch (well, everyone else did... I hate hot dogs so I ended up with Bacon Ranch Fries that I barely touched). I think all of the kids must have been suffering from low blood sugar because they were hilarious at lunch, playing with the toys that came in their meals and just having FUN. B about flipped when she realized you could see the Statue of Liberty from where she was sitting.

After lunch, we went out onto the top deck to take in more views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, Brooklyn, and the statue. When we were trekking back to the subway, it started to rain. At this point, we were going back to the hotel and planned to take the ferry back across to Manhattan to go to the Intrepid museum. Mom decided that she wanted to stay at the hotel and let A take a nap, so J and I got Z and B (and the umbrellas) and headed for the ferry. We took the Hudson River Walk to get there and took some awesome pictures of the city, even though it was raining hard. Both kids were happy and laughing and smiling, and it was just a good time. The closer we got to the ferry stop, though, we could tell that there was NO ONE there. We found a security guard that told us this particular ferry was REALLY slow and apparently only runs once an hour. We just missed one, and with the museum closing at 5pm, we knew we would never make it. So, given the lack of coffee at breakfast, we went to Starbucks and treated the kids to cake pops, which I'm pretty sure are made with some addictive drug as excited as they get about them.

Even though we missed out on the Intrepid, the riverwalk and good time with the big kids was amazing. Sometimes I love when things don't go as planned.

Dinner was a local parlor's pizza that arrived an hour after we ordered it and was lukewarm but actually tasted okay. More pool time. Good bedtime for the kiddos.

I still love NY.

New York City: Day 1

Wake up time: 3:30am (you should know that about us by now). We finally smartened up and took the Amtrak to NYC instead of driving. Not having all of those time-consuming stops and kids arguing in the backseat was awesome! Once we arrived at Newark, our hotel was a few stops away on the PATH in Jersey City. From our hotel, we have partially (largely) obscured views of Manhattan, but a clear view of the Freedom Tower's progress. More on that tomorrow.

After checking into our hotel and scoring an adjoining room with my mom (HUGE when traveling with three kids), we went across the street to Cosi for a quick lunch. I haven't been to Cosi since working in Arlington, and I've missed their salads, so that was a treat.

On to Times Square. I thought it would be the perfect way to start this trip for the kids. Who isn't awed by the lights and crowds and craziness? We transferred from the PATH in the city to the Metro. What is wrong with those machines that 90% of the time don't like take credit cards? We're just using cash... you should, too... trust me. LOVE seeing that Times Square/42nd Street subway sign! It just makes my heart happy.

We first went to Toys R Us, B's favorite part of the day, where J took the three kids for a ride on the ferris wheel (after a VERY short line). B really wanted the My Little Pony car. Luckily for Z, they ended up in the M&Ms car. I think he would have cried if B had her way. A even loved the ride. We wandered the store for a bit afterwards, awing over the gigantic moving dinosaur and the Lego Statue of Liberty.

Afterwards, we moved onto the Disney Store, where there was a huge video screen playing promos for Phineas and Ferb. The kids were over the moon seeing that. We bought nothing there (yay us!) and moved onto the fun red bleachers above the TKTS booth. I LOVE the way that more loitering is accommodated in Times Square now... shutting down Broadway for a couple blocks (driving there was always a nightmare anyway!) and adding these bleachers. It was my favorite part of the day, watching and taking it all in. Almost right after that, we planned on going to the Hershey store, anyway, but Z, who was a bit cranky at the moment, saw someone dressed as a set of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, just like we saw at Hershey Park a few years ago. It was like he found a long lost friend. It was his biggest smile of the day. We stopped briefly in the store where each Z and B picked out a bag of Jolly Ranchers that we could have bought at CVS. No chocolate? Are these really my kids?

It was 4:30 or so by the point, and we decided to have an early dinner at Ellen's Stardust Diner before it got too crowded. The servers all take turns singing here, between all of their other duties. Z actually named this as his favorite part of the day. I loved it, too. We couldn't do a musical this time around (KILLS me, you know) because A is too little, so this was the closest I could come.

We made our way back to the subway afterwards, going back through the madness just for fun. We got the kids their (freezing cold!) pool time and a decent bedtime.

I love NY.