We had a great trip to New York for spring break!
Ohio this time, so it was a long drive in one shot from Wisconsin. Thankfully my kids all continue to be excellent travelers, making 15 hours in the car together possible--even pleasant.
In any case, here is a summary (with lots of pictures) so I won't forget:
My kids' spring break didn't line up with my niece's this year. She only had off the Friday before Easter, and we had from then up through the beginning of April. So we decided in order to get the most time for cousins together that we would pull our kids out of school a day early and drive to New York all that Thursday.
The car ride was (blissfully) uneventful. We finished reading the book Wildwood (which we enjoyed) and started Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, which is part of the My Family and Other Animals series. I really like reading to my kids in the car. (It's amazing how much faster it makes the time seem to go.)
We arrived around midnight in New York City where my sister-in-law had an air mattress already set up for the girls and the trundle bed pulled out for Quinn. My brother was out of the country for a business trip, so it was "just" the seven of us (plus Pepper the dog) for the first few days. I am amazed every time we visit that they are able to find space for us in that apartment, but they do, and we're grateful.
Our first day in New York the kids just wanted to entertain themselves in and around the apartment. For them New York has always meant their cousin's room, the play area across the drive, Bennett Park, and egg hunts in the little rose garden. If we didn't insist on actually seeing other things I think they would happily settle into their insular routines and never venture farther than Ft Tryon Park a few blocks away. But for the first day after so much travel whatever they wanted to do was fine. They played outside in weather that was warmer than what we'd left behind in Wisconsin while Ian and I took a walk.
We decided to go see the High Bridge. Originally an aqueduct, the High Bridge was closed for 40 years and recently reopened to pedestrians. It takes you from Manhattan over the Harlem River to the Bronx. It was a beautiful day for a walk, and time alone with Ian is always good.
|view from the Bronx to Manhattan|
|You can kind of see the lighthouse off to the right in the dark|
|Of course, the only photo I've got at the pond has a dearth of said sailboats|
By the time we made our way to the Central Park Zoo, Quinn and Ellora were wiped out. Ian found them a bite to eat and then took them back home. Aden and Mona joined me in the zoo where we squealed at the red panda, were fascinated to see a large rat scurrying along the edge of a display, and marveled at the snow leopards. The best part, however, was the aviary. It's easily one of the best we've ever seen (and we've been to a LOT of zoos.) The birds were incredibly beautiful and everything was very close. We even saw a fruit bat climbing about in one of the trees!
For the most part our day was dominated by eggs. I saw an idea online for dying eggs by wrapping flowers and leaves on them, then boiling them in either red cabbage (for blue) or onion skins (for brown). Mona and I went out together to find the supplies. We were supposed to wrap the eggs with pantyhose, but there were none to be found at the local markets so we used cheesecloth. (The funniest thing about the cheesecloth was the set of illustrations on the package with suggestions for use, and one of them simply said "Outside" and it looked like cheesecloth outside. Inspiring! Actually, when it comes to pantyhose times have changed, because none of the kids had any idea what I was talking about. I had to explain they were like sheer tights. Anyway, no longer a staple item.)
The onion skins worked, the cabbage did not. And we learned you have to wrap the leaves and flowers on very tightly or you just get a smudgy effect. It was fun, though, and we may experiment more with it next year.
We didn't hide the real eggs on Easter. We broke out the supply of plastic eggs from last year and I asked Quinn to organize them. Normally what we do is assign each kid a color and everyone hunts only for what is theirs. That works out well because not only does it keep things even, but we can avoid putting anything with nuts into Aden's eggs, we can make sure Quinn's are all low enough for him to reach, etc. Unfortunately, Quinn came up with some confusing system where everyone got four green eggs in addition to their color plus there were some eggs that looked like bugs that didn't open well so they were empty. Nobody could quite remember exactly which ones they were supposed to be looking for without consulting a list Quinn made.
The most unexpected thing, however, was that there had been other families hiding eggs in the rose garden earlier in the day, and they weren't as efficient as our crew at finding them. Our kids came out ahead finding more eggs than Ian and I had put out there. (Plus they had help from Pepper, who was surprisingly good at rooting eggs from under bushes.)
|all around the rose garden|
|Mona's homemade basket!|
|And yes, I do keep Uno cards in my bag for when we have to wait in places like restaurants|
But as good a time as dropping off a car for servicing was, the real reason I was along for the ride was that my sister-in-law wanted to treat me to a mani-pedi as a belated birthday present. I had a manicure once for my wedding, but I've never had a pedicure, so that sounded like a great present! Unfortunately the spa where she made the appointment had some unexpected construction work going on that was not only noisy, but forced them to block off the entire pedicure area. I still got my hands done, though, and they at least put fresh polish on my toes.
The really funny thing was that the woman doing my hands was wearing a mask as protection from whatever dust was getting kicked up behind the plastic sheet in the construction zone, and she gave one to me, too. Which was fine, I appreciated her concern, but we were the only two people in the place wearing masks. Not even the workmen doing the construction were wearing masks. We looked like we were our own mini-quarantine, and that maybe the masks were protecting others from us somehow.
When my hands were finished and they moved me across the room to stick my feet under the toe lamp to dry, I realized we were directly across the street from the Nintendo store. My kids make a pilgrimage to the Nintendo store every time we visit New York, and we had a loose plan for my family to meet me somewhere near Rockefeller Plaza around that time, so I called Ian (who was on the subway and called me back when he came above ground) and told him to just take the kids straight to Nintendo and I would see them.
Sure enough, about ten minutes later I saw them all arrive on the corner and walk into the building! The whole thing is a big glass box, so I watched them look around the lobby, and then Ian must have granted permission for the girls to explore because I saw them hurry up the stairs and start looking at Pokemon merchandise. I waved and waved and waved to no avail, so I called Ian again and directed him to keep turning and looking out windows until he finally spotted me. It wasn't until I went across the street myself and looked back on where I'd been that I realized what a cluttered sea of lights and distractions I'd been competing against while trying to get their attention. Seeing Quinn and Ian eventually wave back to me was one of the highlights of my trip.
|Quinn and Ian at Nintendo|
From there we went out to eat (white pizza!) and then on to the MET. The girls remembered it, Quinn did not. This is becoming a common theme lately. There are many things on our general checklist of things to do with the kids that Quinn was simply too young for when they happened, or that we feel like he must have done by now but hasn't. (For instance, we were stunned to realize recently that Quinn had never seen Finding Nemo or Mary Poppins. My girls knew them by heart, but those movies had fallen out of the rotation by the time Quinn was old enough to absorb them. I'm making a point to ask him now what he's seen or what books he remembers before just making assumptions.)
The MET is a place you could never visit enough, though. I was glad to have the chance to see certain things again, such as this Tiffany column that I love.
My kids got to see all the armor, and the Temple of Dendur (which they know from an old Sesame Street video called Don't Eat the Pictures), and many wonderful paintings.
|Quinn and Ian at the Temple of Dendur|
|Quinn liked this skinny cat|
|Wisconsin Landscape by Curry, a little glimpse of home|
|Entrance to the Transit Museum|
The Transit Museum is inside the old Court Street stop, and still has a working third rail to power all the old cars on display. I remembered enough from the tour we got a long time ago to pass on some of what I thought was interesting to the kids, and of course Ian could probably lead tours himself. You can try all the old turnstiles and see the old tokens and walk through cars from different eras and get a real sense of being in the past. A lot of the evolution of subway car design came out of the need to thwart vandalism and to accommodate changes in fashion (high heels, hats...)
I liked being able to show the kids things from the subway that I remember from when I was a child, although they did not have a car on display like I remember riding that looked like it had been burned and the only fresh element was the new graffiti. New York really is a much different experience now. My memories are of a lot of grit and grime, and what my kids see is more akin to an amusement park.
Soup Brothers when we have time in Milwaukee. (I don't know if they'll have room for all of us, but it's worth it even if we have to get our soup to go.)
The next day we headed downtown. There was a new and shiny transit stop Ian wanted to see
that felt like a visit into the not-too-distant-future.
After that I wanted to show the kids the lobby of the Woolworth building nearby. It was a place I stepped into once many years ago with my dad who remembered it was beautiful. Now there is a sign out front saying no tourists are allowed in, but my brother and I decided to feign ignorance and walked past the sign with the kids and asked when the next tour was. The men at the desk said we'd just missed one. I asked if I could take a photo, and the guy looked at me and kind of laughed and said, "Well, you could take a photo..." as if maybe there was a rule but he didn't particularly care, so I snapped a quick (and not very good) one of the ceiling. The whole lobby is gorgeous--all mosaics and sparkling tiles. I'm glad my kids got a glimpse of it.
|Woolworth building lobby ceiling|
From there we wandered over to the Freedom Tower. That's an area of town I really haven't had a desire to visit since the terrorist attacks, but I was curious, and it's been long enough it seemed time.
|hallway to the Path Train|
Ian wanted to see an embarrassingly over-budget subway station that lies underneath the Freedom Tower. It was designed by Calatrava, who also designed our art museum, and my kids recognized his work immediately (and wanted to know why this part of New York looked so much like Milwaukee).
|Milwaukee Art Museum|
Next to the Freedom Tower, of course, is the 9-11 Memorial. I wasn't sure what to expect but I was impressed with it. Each of the footprints of the Twin Towers is now a reflecting pool of sorts, built of black stone, with water cascading into it from the edges, and then out of sight into another space in the center. The waterfall itself is comprised of thousands of individual small streams. Around the perimeter are the names of people who died there. The whole area is beautiful with lots of places to sit, and trees that will fill out the space nicely as they grow. I liked how the rushing sound of the water helps block out a lot of the surrounding noise of the city, making the experience more contemplative than I had anticipated.
There was something both disturbing and appropriate about the fact that the footprints of the Twin Towers are perpetually falling now. It made me uneasy even as I found it comforting in its own way.
So I tried to recount bits of what went on that day, first when we were sitting at a display in the Transit Museum that depicted the impact the terrorist attacks had on the transit system, then again at the memorial. I told them how our cousin who worked for ABC News at the time was haunted by footage he witnessed while trying to determine which images were too disturbing to air, mostly of the many people who had chosen to jump from the towers. I told them of the number of first responders who had died while trying to save others. Of the impossible amount of dust and debris. Of how people prepared at hospitals and gave blood and that nobody came. I told them about the plane that hit the pentagon, and the one that went down in Pennsylvania. I was not able to tell them why all of that happened. I can repeat basic facts, but I don't really understand why.
I asked the kids if they wanted to go into the museum there at the memorial, but they said they were already too sad and didn't think they wanted to know any more right then. I don't blame them.
We did walk down to Battery Park where we saw the pummeled remains of the sculpture that used to sit between the towers. We admired the Statue of Liberty in the distance, wished we had time to visit the impressive looking museum of Native American history, and looked at the famous bull statue in the heart of the financial district. (Aden was stunned to learn that Wall Street was an actual street! She thought it was just an expression people used.) We walked into St Paul's chapel and saw where Hamilton is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery. A lot of those gravestones have worn to mere slabs now.
After that we picked up Ellora and a friend of hers at school. I was glad my kids got to see what her school looks like and experience what a different environment it's in compared to their own.
My sister-in-law took me to an exclusive concert sponsored by some people she knew through work. Unfortunately, despite the obvious high skill level of the musicians, it wasn't a genre of music I relate to so I can't say it was enjoyable. We did go out to dinner with some of her colleagues at an upscale hotel restaurant nearby and that was more fun. I wasn't particularly impressed with the food, but the lobby of the Mark is quite striking:
The next morning we got up early, packed the minivan, and hit the road again. Many states later we stepped back through our door where my children all admitted it had indeed been worth it to clean the house well before we left because it was nice to come home to a space that was welcoming and orderly. The next day we picked up our dog from the kennel and we settled quickly back normal.
We're so fortunate to get to explore a short tongue twister of a place like "Unique New York" and have it also feel homey. But there really is nothing like home.