Tuesday, June 19, 2018

New York City #4 - days 1 & 2

Welcome to New York (week)!  Breaking down our recent (ish) trip into multiple posts since there's a lot I have to say (always, about New York) and it fills up a week of posting!  Hah.

This was mine and my husband's 4th trip to New York.  He asked if we are done after this trip.  I informed him that we are not but we might spread them out a little more, since we've made 3 trips in just over 5 years.

We took our first trip in October 2010 and I LOVED it.  I had been dreaming of going to New York for at least 15 years and it completely lived up to my expectations.  Two and a half years later, in April 2013, we went back and took my youngest sister and her best friend.  It was on that trip that we got the call about our (now) oldest son.  Life changing moments happening in NYC.

Since our story with him started (for us) in New York, we knew we wanted to take him there someday and finally did in May 2016 which also happened to coincide with our 10th wedding anniversary.  While on that trip we started talking about bringing our parents along.  I worked on my parents for a few years and finally got them to agree.  Matt asked his parents and they agreed instantly.  I know New York isn't for everyone but seeing the Statue of Liberty (and going in her head!) is a fantastic experience and seeing things like Central Park are pretty awesome too.

Then we got a baby and life seemed crazy for awhile (and still is) but, as I wrote here, not going was never a conversation.  We just knew we were going to figure out how to take an infant on a 19 hour train ride and carry him all over the city.  Turns out babies who aren't mobile and love to be held are pretty happy being strapped to Mom for 12 hours a day.  As long as he was fed and had a reasonably clean diaper he was a happy traveler.

As for the trip!

We always take the Amtrak.  Pretty much everyone asks if we've considered flying.  We've looked at prices and are fine with a day on the train to save at least $400.  Plus, we'd have to drive 2+ hours each way to the airport to save that kind of money and with needing to get to the airport early, we'd really only save a few hours.  Or so.  I've never looked that much into it.  I get a whole day to sit, no housework, no meal prep, and mostly read and sleep and eat.  What's not to love about that???  Except that two kids didn't really let me just read all day but it's still a pretty enjoyable.

What didn't work out so well this time is that our train was running late picking us up (so we boarded at 1:59am instead of 1:15am) and then it got even more behind as we went, getting us to New York 2.5 hours late.  With getting through Penn Station, buying subway passes for all, getting to the subway, and then walking (thankfully the rain had stopped by this point) a few blocks to our apartment.  From the time we left our house to drive to my parents' to drive to the train station with them, to wait on our late train, ride the train, and then get to the apartment...it was 23 hours.  That was a long time to be in transit.  But we were in New York!!

View from our apartment window!
First off, the apartment.  Once we finally knew who all was going with us (besides the baby we didn't know existed yet) I started scouring VRBO and AirBnB for 3 bedroom apartments we could rent for a reasonable (for New York City) rate.  I looked at so many.  Looked at hotels in desperation.  Looked some more.  We ended up with this one in the Turtle Bay area, which I had never heard of but seemed safe and the price and bedroom configuration were right.  Other than just one bathroom it worked out really well.  There was an air mattress for Luke and Sam got a fancy dresser drawer.  We did have to hike up 3 flights of stairs but we were gone most of the day so it wasn't like we were doing that constantly.  Overall, two thumbs up.

The first day we were gone was almost entirely spent traveling.  We got the apartment at 10pm.  Unpacked and crashed.

Then it was time to see New York!  Both sets of parents went to morning Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, just a few block walk away.  Matt and I stayed at the apartment to "sleep in" which is humorous if you have kids.  But we weren't ready to rush them out the door for 7:30am Mass.  We had packed breakfast for that morning and parents picked up on their way back (my Dad quickly found his favorite place to eat in New York, going there 3 times in 2 days).

Once all that was done, first up was going to the Empire State Building.  Matt and I had done Top of the Rock twice but never the Empire State Building.  It's a good way to get a bearing of sorts on the city and it's pretty iconic too.  We took the subway to nearby and the views from the ground made it obvious that our views from the top weren't going to be great.  But that also meant low crowds which I am ALL about.  Also, the boys were both free.

Even with very short lines to wait in, it still took awhile to get through all the places there would have been long lines  Get through security (with unstrapping a baby), wait for the elevator.  Then it took us to the 80th floor for our first views.  We saw the Flatiron Building for the first time in all our trips!  There was a lot on this floor about the history of making the building and how fast they built it (in just over a year!!).  With Indiana limestone (woo-hoo! Shoutout to Indiana!).  There were views from 3 sides of the building.  Then we took another elevator to the 86th floor where there was outside viewing.

If you've seen Sleepless in Seattle, this is the floor they show at the end of that movie.  Which I had rewatched leading up to our trip so I was familiar with it.  The views mostly weren't great.  We couldn't see the Statue of Liberty although it would have been visible without the clouds.  Could barely see Central Park.  We picked out 30 Rock for the opposite view of what we had seen from there.  Even though the views weren't great I'm still glad we did this. 

Plus, every time I ever see the Empire State Building in pictures or tv I can now say "We were there!" which is one of my favorite things to yell at the tv (you don't want to watch New Year's Eve tv with me because I shout it constantly).  So that's exciting (for me, not my poor husband).

After we had enough of the top we headed down, hit up a Walgreens at the bottom (clearance candy and I needed new sunglasses because mine BROKE as soon as we walked in the ESB.  Not that it was ever sunny on our trip).  Then back to the subway and onto Rockefeller Center.

We walked through there just a bit and then hit up our favorite Earl of Sandwich (we've eaten at this same location on three of our trips) for lunch.  Then a detour past the LOVE statue at W 55th & 6th and my Mom and I (and Sam) went to Milk Bar for cookies while the rest headed onto Central Park.  We met up there and meandered through the park for a few hours.  I wish we could have had more time there but we had walked a lot already (my parents' FitBits logged 30,000 steps which was near 15 miles in just one day!).  We hit The Mall and Bethesda Terrace, two favorites.  Then Matt and I took the boys back to Luke's adoption spot and our parents' went to the Belvedere Castle and some of the Ramble.

This was the closest we came to losing anyone on the trip, when Matt and I were crossing Sheep's Meadow and Luke decided he HAD to go see some rocks that were not in the direction we were going.  We told him we were just going to leave him and he called our bluff and took off, and got pretty far away. Then Matt had to go after him since I had a baby strapped to me and couldn't exactly run.  So that was fun, right before we celebrated where we got him.

His adoption spot is behind Heckscher ball field #5, if you are ever in the area and want to see where we became parents.  (Maybe slightly prettier than the standard delivery room?)  By this point it was getting close to supper.  We headed in the direction of our parents and eventually met up with them with a plan.  We left both boys with the 4 grandparents at the Diana Ross Playground (across Central Park West from the Museum of Natural History) while Matt and I went to Shake Shack and Levain for burgers and cookies to bring back and picnic in the park.  It was the first time Matt and I had been alone in New York since our first trip almost 8 years earlier and even though we were just speed walking for food, it was a nice break.  Plus, we had never seen the Upper West Side and I always love checking out new neighborhoods.

We came back with burgers, fries, bottled water, and HUGE cookies and we all enjoyed eating.  Hard to beat delicious food in Central Park.  I have zero pictures from this, other than of the food, but it is one of my favorite memories of the trip.  Also, highly recommend both Shake Shack and Levain Bakery.  I will happily pay $4 for a cookie when it's that big and delicious.

From there we walked to a nearby subway stop and headed back to the apartment.  Note: I had the official New York transit app on my phone, which I paid $1-2 for before trip #2.  But I never used it on this trip because it was easier to pull up Google Maps on my phone web browser and have it pick up where we were, tell it where we wanted to go, and it would tell us how to get the subway, which line to take, where to exit the subway, and how to walk to our destination.  Definitely recommend that for easy directions.

We all relaxed and refreshed at the apartment before Matt, my parents, both boys, and myself headed out for Times Square.  We had spent 9 nights in New York before this trip and on every. single. night. we had gotten Jamba Juice and visited Times Square.  Every night.  (With our super late arrival the night before I had to settle for a Jamba Juice from Penn Station and no Times Square.)  I know, Times Square gets a bad rap and it's crowded and it's touristy but I really like seeing it at night.  So we set off, stopping at the Jamba Juice in Rockefeller Center and then walking to Times Square.

It was crazy.  Crazier than our last trip when it was partially under construction.  Crazy.  I don't know if it's that we had two kids with us (although 3 year old Luke visited it last trip), or having my parents to keep track of too, but I swear it was the most crowded I had ever seen it.  It was even overwhelming for me.  We did, briefly, sit on the red stairs and took some pictures but we weren't there long.  I'm still glad we visited but once was enough this trip.

I noticed other parents with small kids in Times Square and every time I would think "What are these parents doing with their kids out so late???" before remembering, oh yes, I have two small kids with me too.  (It was 9:30-10pm when we were there.) (Pot, meet kettle)

We walked through the entire Times Square, coming out on the south end and visiting a NEW Toys R Us that had opened since trip #3 and was supposedly closing in less than 2 weeks.  We super rarely shop at Toys R Us but on trip #2 we bought a turtle for Luke there, after price checking stuffed turtles at a few different stores.  I had planned to buy that before the trip but then, with finding out we got him while we were there, it became the first thing we ever bought specifically for Luke and not just "future baby".  Then the store closed before we took Luke and we had to visit a different location near the Empire State Building.  And went to this location on this trip.  Even with everything at least 20% off it was still very overpriced but we bought something inexpensive for both boys, to keep up tradition.  And that's more than I ever expected to say about Toys R Us.

Luckily, there was a subway stop right by Toys R Us so we said goodbye to Times Square and headed back to our apartment where both boys all of a sudden decided they were wide awake and definitely did NOT want to go to sleep.  Yay parenting!

That concludes day 1 & 2 of our trip, look forward to another 2000 words about day #3 tomorrow!

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