I had nothing to blog about so we went to New York for the weekend. The things I do for you people.
I have contemplated various ways to present the information I have to convey to you in an interesting, engaging, and possibly humorous manner. I haven’t found one, so you’re getting a bit of everything.
Things my kids did this weekend that they could just as easily have done at home:
Demanded to have stuff bought for them
Wanted a piggyback (Mabel)
Played at a playground
Rejected healthy food
Looking slightly demented at a playground in Greenwich Village.
Things that were not ideal about our trip to NYC:
I had a stress headache for most of Saturday, with a sore neck that was probably from sleeping funny the night before but in my mind of course was the precursor to Lyme, meningitis, and/or death.
Staying in Manhattan is great, but space is at a premium. Our two-double-bed room had space for very little else in it, and I’m pretty sure I could feel the end of the bed with my feet even when my head was up on the pillow. I’m 5’4.
Mabel is not the greatest of bedfellows. At 3am on Sunday she announced that she was hungry, but rejected the banana that was the only edible thing available. Then she fell back asleep taking up all of the bottom two-thirds of the bed. I didn’t dare move her in case she’d wake up and be hungry again.
The weather was cold. There were snow flurries on Saturday and every time we turned a corner the canyon effect made a wind tunnel of the avenues. As it had been practically balmy on Thursday, even though I knew the forecast I neglected to remember just how cold cold is. I had no gloves. The children had gloves but their legs were cold. The Central Park zoo was obviously not going to be a good idea.
Changing our plan to going to the Met instead was not a good idea either. Maybe we’re spoiled by the free Smithsonian museums in DC, but the idea of paying $50 to get in, mostly just so we could sit down and have a cuppa somewhere warm, was not helping my headache. We took another bus back downtown and had a cuppa in a non-museum environment instead.
It is impossible to feed all of us at in the same place, unless we all eat french fries. Or pizza, maybe. This is frustrating when you’re staying in Chinatown and surrounded by delicious smells of garlic and peking duck.
When drawing the curtains in our hotel room a little too enthusiastically on the last night, Mabel pulled the entire curtain rail down. As we were on the ground floor, this meant that passing strangers could look straight into our room all evening and that the street lights shone brightly on us all night.
… what was I saying about whining? They didn’t lick it up off the ground, you know…
Washington Square. Good playground here too.
Things we did that were good:
Saw the 9/11 memorial. I didn’t take any pictures because it was too cold to take my hands out of my pockets, but it was really nice. Simple, stark, affecting. We didn’t linger, because of the kids and the cold.
B took Dash up the Empire State Building. Mabel decided she was scared of tall buildings (possibly something to do with all that talk of very tall towers that had fallen down; whoops) so she and I went to Macy’s instead.
Found decent food with a minimum of research. Our “let’s just walk around and we’re bound to find somewhere” approach usually fails miserably, leaving everyone starving and grumpy. This time it came good: on Friday night we found a very hipster joint full of non-tourists right on the edge of Chinatown that was a family-style taverna/Italian restaurant/drinking establishment. It was called Sauce, though you’d never have known from the outside. The food was good, though Mabel wouldn’t eat her spaghetti because it tasted funny (it was fresh pasta) and Dash wouldn’t eat anything.
On Saturday we found a great comprehensive diner for lunch just around the corner from Macy’s. Excellent fries. That evening we were all tired and bad-tempered and didn’t want to stray far from home, so Dash and I went out and found, within about a two-block radius of our hotel, dumplings for B and me, a bagel and popcorn for him, and pizza by the slice for Mabel. Then B went out and bought two single bottles of beer and the kids got icecreams for dessert. Everyone was happy, though the white duvet cover narrowly missed getting a giant blob of chocolate cornetto on it.
The hotel, which I had got on Priceline in one of those “you pick the area and the price and we don’t tell you exactly what it is till afterwards” deals, was fine. I always have great hopes when doing that that we’ll end up with a Hilton for $120 a night, but it was a Comfort Inn (and more than that). It was a little further to the right than I was expecting for “Financial District” but Chinatown turned out to be fun. And the hotel was very new so everything was clean and nice and the included breakfast was great. And they were very nice about the curtain rail.
Requisite famous-person sighting. We met friends for lunch on Sunday before we left, and they took us to Otto, one of Mario Batalli’s restaurants. (He’s a TV chef.) We saw him there, though not in the kitchen, signature orange Crocs and all. The pizza was delicious and the dessert was divine.
Mabel gets down to some writing on the PATH train.
The logistics (this is the boring bit unless you are actually researching your own travel details):
We have yet to find the perfect combination of travel/accommodation for a weekend in NY. In the past we’ve stayed in New Jersey, but this time I wanted to try staying in Manhattan again. In Manhattan you might still be a subway ride away from any particular thing you want to do (especially with kids, because they’re not going to want to walk, for example, the length of Fifth Avenue, even if they will happily run around a playground non-stop for an hour), but there’s a psychological thing about being right there, and – more practically – in New Jersey it’s less possible to step out of your hotel and find three different cuisines in a two-block radius (see above; bagels are too a cuisine).
Driving is the cheapest way to get there; for a family of four it’s practically free. But you have to offset that against the price of parking (astronomical in Manhattan) and the hassle of taking public transport into the city if you park further out. We parked in Harrison, NJ, which has a nice big parking lot right beside the PATH station, and it was easy to find from the I 95. We paid $44 for the whole weekend’s parking. ($11 per 12 hours.) Then we took the PATH train into 23rd street (one change) and from there got onto the subway system proper. We put $20 on three Metro cards (Mabel was free; I think she’s under 44 inches but I forgot to check) and that more than sufficed for our transport for the rest of the time. We made good time with the driving at about 3.5 hours each way, but all the trains added well over an hour, so it was more than 5 hours from home to hotel and vice versa.
Next time I will definitely look into taking the train all the way up, but you have to book your Amtrak tickets in good time to get a reasonable price and I wasn’t thinking about the nitty gritty of where we would park until the night before we left. Amtrak would take us right into 33rd Street, avoiding the parking problem altogether and cutting down on total travel time.
On the whole, travelling with children does get easier every time. The last time we went, I was still trying to find subway stops with elevators because of the stroller, which is not a trivial thing, but you forget so soon once you don’t have to do it any more. The time before, it rained and was just pretty much generally miserable, so this weather was, I suppose, an improvement. What’s more, Dash didn’t reject the french fries just because they still had skin on them, because he too is growing as a person.
(We have of course gone to New York City as real adults with no children, but one must clear one’s mind of such experiences and start anew. Maybe some time when we’re 50 or so, we’ll get to do it that way again. If our knees will hold up.)