The last time Beth, Noah, and I were in New York was for my father’s memorial service three years ago, but the last time all four of us were there together was a little over five years ago. You can read about that visit in this post (“The Planet New York,” 12/27/07). June was twenty-one months old so of course, she doesn’t remember this trip, but she provided the impetus for this one. Ever since she was in the community center drama camp production of selected scenes from Annie last summer she has wanted to see New York. The perfect thing of course would have been to see the play, which is on Broadway now, but it wasn’t feasible in terms of time or money, so we made the following plans, based mostly on June’s suggestions: see the Statue of Liberty (from afar, because it’s still closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy), have pizza in Brooklyn with my cousin Emily and her son Josiah, take a carriage ride in Central Park, and see the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. It seemed ambitious but feasible in the roughly twenty-four hours we were planning to spend there.
But we didn’t count on the traffic. There was an accident on Route 1 near Wilmington, and there was construction on the New Jersey Turnpike, and what we thought would be a four-hour drive stretched out to six. We had to cancel our dinner plans with Emily and Josiah because getting from our hotel in New Jersey to Brooklyn and back in time for the younger kids’ bedtimes was impossible. Instead we took a ferry from Weehawken to Manhattan, where we walked among the Times Square crowds, gawked at the tall buildings, and got pizza slices and garlic knots for dinner. We had these cupcakes for dessert. The pictures on the site do not convey how tiny these cupcakes are; they literally bite-sized. June was delighted with everything. She was up on her knees pasted to the window of the ferry on our first foray into the city (and on the next day, too). “New York hot dogs!” she exclaimed on seeing a vendor. “New York pretzels! New York everything!”
We got back to the hotel, paused on the shore of the Hudson to admire the skyline on the other side, all lit up (the Empire State Building in Easter egg colors) and put June to bed, only a little past her bedtime. She fell asleep about two minutes after her head hit the pillow. I asked Beth if she thought June would like to be surprised with a room service breakfast and she thought she would, so we all pored over the menu, made our own choices, and mutually decided on pancakes with fresh strawberries for June.
She was surprised, but in a delayed reaction kind of way. At first she didn’t even understand we’d ordered the food and thought a man bringing breakfast on a cart to your room might just be part of staying in a hotel near New York. We explained it to her and it wasn’t until about an hour after breakfast that she started saying over and over that she couldn’t believe we’d ordered breakfast to the room to surprise her.
Our first stop for the day was the Empire State Building. Beth had read if you arrive before ten you don’t have to wait hours and hours in line and the first ferry across the river wasn’t until 8:55, but we managed to get there by 9:40. The lines were not horrific. It took about an hour to get to the top (you wait in line to go through security, and then to buy tickets and then take the first elevator and then the second elevator) but it was efficiently run and the lobbies where you wait are pretty, with art deco décor and Empire State Building mosaics and frescos on the floors and walls, and models of the building in glass cases, and black and white photographs of the construction of the building.
Up on the observation deck the view was just what everyone expected. We stayed about twenty minutes, taking it in from different angles, making special note of the Chrysler Building (which we could also see from the hotel parking lot). I gave Noah two quarters so he could use the binoculars and then two more so he could do it again.
Next we made our way to Central Park. The carriages are first-come, first-serve, but there were several lined up in a row when we got there and we didn’t have to wait at all. I noticed our driver, Jamal, seemed to be using the license of someone named Jason, but he was amiable and informative and he when he tried to up-sell us to a more expensive tour, it was a pretty soft sell. Mostly what he pointed out were locations from various movies (most of which we hadn’t seen because we hardly ever go to the movies) but the big find was the Plaza Hotel because that’s where Eloise lives. I pointed out the back-to-back P logo on the doors to June, who noted it appreciatively. Toward the end of the tour, June confided to us that she was pretending we were royalty from Maryland and that all the other horse-drawn carriages in the park were our guards. Beth says that’s when she knew the expense and being stuck in traffic much of the day before had been worth it. New York was everything June had imagined.
After the carriage ride we stopped at a deli to pick up supplies for a picnic lunch on one of the boulders in the park. (I had Swiss on rye and a black and white cookie.) When we’d finished and were about to leave for the Statue of Liberty, June said she wanted to stay and climb the rocks. She loved them when she was a toddler and they are just as much of a draw now. Beth asked if she’d be willing to skip the statue, and she said yes. We’d had a full day already and we had a long drive ahead of us, so it seemed like a more relaxed plan. We stayed in the park for a while watching both kids scramble over the big rocks. As we were leaving Central Park, heading back to the subway, the shuttle bus, the ferry, and a long car ride home, June said, “I wish I lived in New York.”
“Maybe you will someday,” I said.
“She totally will,” Noah predicted.
Meanwhile, June is enrolled at the same community center drama camp this summer and they’re doing Oliver! London anyone?