I have been on vacation in New York. That is, if you call flying across the country with three kids, and two septuagenarians to attend a college graduation and family wedding, a vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I love to travel, but vacationing with a large family, to attend assorted family events makes it more family than vacation.
In the interest of economizing I booked our flight on a red-eye from LA to JFK. I tried to prepare us all for red-eye flight by packing neck pillows and blankets.
We were scheduled to arrive in the city that never sleeps at the sleepy hour of 5:30 a.m. I thought this was a good idea since it could save us a few hundred dollars by not having to pay for the extra night in a hotel. I figured that if we could check into our hotel early we could rest and freshen up later. I am also the kind of person who can sleep anywhere, including an airplane, and who needs sleep anyway? Well, maybe my 70+ year-old parents and my kids could have used some.
So much for my planning. But, eventually we did manage to get into our room shortly before noon, and everyone promptly went down for a long nap. Finally, about mid afternoon, we headed out to explore the city. We stopped at Rockefeller Center.
And Diego and Nico stopped at the Lego Store in Rockefeller Center.
We strolled down 5th Avenue where my parents visited the Waldorf Astoria…
My parents, being the good Catholics that they are, wanted to visit the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Juan, being the Apple Fanboy that he is, wanted to visit his cathedral…
We ended up at Central Park for a carriage ride.
Then took the subway to Times Square, where we took more pictures and saw ourselves on the Jumbo-tron.
There was much more on our list that we wanted to do, but time, money, and energy prevented it. So, we ended our first day in the city with a meal at Juniors and their famous cheesecake.
On Day Two in NYC we had planned on heading out to Ground Zero, and having an early lunch in Little Italy and then take the 1:00pm tour of the Statute of Liberty. I had the foresight to book the Statue of Liberty tour online months ago, but wasn’t able to book the tour to the inside of the torch since it was sold out until August! What I didn’t’ have the foresight to do was account for the inevitable delay that occurs when you are traveling with such a large and diverse age group like mine. Let’s just say that traveling with my family is a lot like herding cats. I also did not plan on it taking nearly an hour to get from the upper East side to financial district in our rental van. By the time we arrived at our $45 (!) parking lot we had to sprint to make it to the ferry that would take us to Liberty Island. We finally managed to board the ferry, and had a
great memorable time touring this landmark in the rain, wearing our trash bags rain gear.
Running low on energy and time, we had to skip the Ellis Island tour and headed back to Ground Zero where we took in the very moving exhibit at the World Center Tribute Center. By the end of the tour we were all feeling pretty drained so we thought some authentic NY style pizza was in order. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything that looked like an authentic NY pizzeria so we ended up at a little hole in the wall that had only two bar stools and a standing eating counter. After two days of walking the NY sidewalks, our feet were tired, and even though next door there was a Papa Johns Pizza with plenty of seating, we were unwilling to compromise comfort for “authentic” NY pizza by the slice. This “experience” finished us off and we limped back to our van so we could make the 2 hour drive north to the Hudson River Valley to attend the graduation of my cousin from West Point the next morning.
The graduation ceremony was very inspiring, and was a nice educational tie-in to the previous days sites we had visited. At the conclusion of the ceremony the graduating cadets throw their hats in the air and the kids attending are allowed to enter the field retrieve one. Erica, Nico and Diego each got a hat. Inside the hat, the cadet had written their name and included a message of inspiration and/or money. Erica and Diego both got nice notes in their hat and Erica got $50! I promptly told her she could use the money to buy her own NY souvenirs, since NYC has to be the most expensive place for a family vacation!
The rest of the weekend was spent with family, attending the ceremonial pinning of lieutenant bars on my cousin overlooking the Hudson River at Trophy Point, and a celebratory brunch at the historic Thayer Hotel.
On one of our last days we were supposed to attend my cousin’s wedding at 2:00pm at the West Point Catholic Chapel. However, someone forgot to inform the bride and groom that NY state law requires the marrying couple wait 24 hours after getting the marriage license before getting married. Since my cousin got her marriage license on her wedding morning, the priest refused to marry her. Oops! With some last-minute scrambling and frantic phone calling, an unofficial wedding was rescheduled for the guests at 2:45 at a protestant chapel. The official Catholic wedding would take place the following day, after the requisite waiting period, and after we left for our trip home.
Once the happy couple’s ceremony was concluded, we proceeded to the official reception with an official open bar. My kids cleaned up real nice and everyone had a great time.
The other wedding guests seated at our table remarked how well-behaved our kids were, and asked how we did it? I revealed our secret. I told them that we pinch them under the table any time they start to misbehave. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised that after over four days of traveling and sight-seeing my kids were still getting along pretty well and they remembered their table manners. And I was even more surprised, shocked actually, at how grown up they suddenly seemed…hanging out at the bar ordering Rob Roys and Shirley Temples and dancing all night.
All in all it turned out to be a good trip. But, after all the coordinating of travel plans, schedule snafus and family obligations, I am ready for a REAL vacation. One that involves me, and a beach, and a drink that isn’t named after a 1940′s child movie star.