The girls and I are back from a whirlwind weekend in New York! We had all been invited to a cousin's Bat Mitzvah, but Andy (well, Andy's knee) definitely did not feel up for the long ride, so he and Pete stayed home and "bached it." (That doesn't look right, but it can't be "batched," right?)
After studying all of the possibilities, we decided that the the best idea of all was for me to not have to drive at all. So we got up very early on Saturday morning and hitched a ride down with Lauren and Gary. We played word games for nearly 4 hours, stopping only once for a bathroom break. We got a little lost heading into Brooklyn, but it turned out that the turn we had missed would have led us to a major traffic jam—Mom and Dad did make the proper turn and ended up late to the service because of it!
The Bat Mitzvah was held at the Church of Gethsemane, which hosts the Kolot Chayeinu congregation, and we lucked out and found street parking a couple of blocks over. Gary just had to knot his tie and slip on his jacket, but we 4 had to change into our dresses in the back seat. I am here to report that it is just barely possible to wriggle into Spanx under those conditions.
The service was lovely, and we were relieved when Mom and Dad finally showed up. From there, we drove a mile or so to the party, which was held at Deity Lounge (only in Brooklyn would you have a Bat Mitzvah service in a church and the party in a converted synagogue, amiright?). The parking gods were definitely being kind to us—this time we got street parking directly in front of the building. Deity is a very cool place, and ideal for such an event: The grownups were upstairs and the kids (and their loud music and crazy dancing—yes, I'm that old) were downstairs. It was so nice to connect with relatives I haven't seen in years—one cousin I had last seen when I was pregnant with Steph in 1996! Steph and Julie had a ball, coming upstairs every now and then to check in. I made it downstairs at one point and did the photo booth thing with them:
The food was delicious, and the dessert was rows and rows of high-end bakery versions of childhood favorites like Ring Dings and Twinkies! Yum! We were among the last to leave the party—why make that long trip if you're not going to milk it for all it's worth, right? Lauren and Gary graciously offered to drive us to our hotel, and we did manage to get lost again thanks to my maps app, which sent us ridiculously off-course. They then left to go stay overnight with friends in New Jersey.
We got settled in our room and then went out to find dinner. It turns out that there are bazillions of restaurants on 5th Avenue in Park Slope just a couple of blocks from our hotel; we walked up and down and finally chose a cute little Italian place called Campo de' Fiori. Julie declared it the best pizza she'd ever eaten, mainly because of the sauce.
The next morning we had continental breakfast in the hotel, checked out, and off we went! I knew we didn't have enough time to actually do anything, but we planned to see as much as possible. Julie really wanted to take a cab because she'd never ridden in one and because if we took the subway she wouldn't be able to see the Brooklyn Bridge. So we took a cab to the Staten Island Ferry, which was a surprisingly great take. The terminal is clean and nicely organized; you board the ferry and get a 20-minute ride across the harbor. We were told to stand on the right, so we got a great view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Then we got off in Staten Island, turned right around, and got onto a different ferry for the same ride back (standing on the left this time, of course). The whole thing took just under an hour—and was free! It didn't hurt that the weather was magnificent.
We asked a ferry guy for directions to Ground Zero, but he wasn't too sure. We then asked two different police officers, who were also a little unclear. I was shocked—it ended up being about a 10-minute walk, and they didn't know how to tell us to get there! We started walking, saw the Wall Street Bull, and then finally saw a few signs. We didn't go into the WTC Memorial, but we did see the site where the old buildings went down and the new buildings are going up.
I'm red-faced to admit this, but it had never occurred to me that "downtown" means "down" as in heading south and "uptown" means "up" as in heading north. Duh! (Well, to be fair to myself, we don't use the term "uptown" in Boston.) That was a revelation in terms of navigating. So I knew we had to start heading uptown in order to eventually catch our 2:30 Bolt Bus at 34th and 8th. We went down into the first subway stop we saw and said, "Driver, take us to Times Square!" Well, actually, we bought our tickets and hopped on the next train that came. It was just a few stops, and then I watched the girls' faces as we emerged to street level in Times Square! This is what they wanted: crowds, noise, lights, skyscrapers, excitement, and that feeling that everything in the world is happening right around you at that moment. We walked around, bought junky souvenirs, gawked at the pricey stuff in the M&M World store, people-watched, and spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to find public bathrooms. We ate a quick and yummy lunch at Pax Wholesome Foods. (Meanwhile, did you know that in New York, all restaurants have a sign posted in the window for their grade in sanitation? Are there reasons that someone might choose to eat in a restaurant that didn't earn an A? Ick?)
Then, with the girls still starry-eyed and me still dragging our suitcase behind us, we continued heading uptown. We wanted to get something to bring with us to eat on the bus ride, but we again ended up spending most of our time trying to find a bathroom. We were stunned that there wasn't one at Starbucks! When we were just about desperate, at last a sympathetic cleaning lady at a Burger King let us use theirs without waiting in the mile-long line to buy something first. (I would've been happy to buy something, but the line was moving so slowly.) We ended up just buying a bunch of Luna and Cliff bars at a little market. We didn't want to tempt ourselves with too much water, because we knew that the bus was going to make only one stop for a bathroom break, so we had just one bottle with us.
We finally made it to the bus stop outside the Tick Tock Diner, which is in view of the Empire State Building. Our driver apologized to us because instead of one of those sleek, fancy Bolt buses, we had a dumpy old Peter Pan bus that did not have electrical outlets as we'd been promised! My iPhone was just about out of charge, so that was a big bummer. He thought we would have wifi, but we didn't have that either. My iPad had plenty of charge, so I ponied up the $20 for a month of 3G in order to catch up on two days' worth of Scrabble and Words With Friends games, to text Andy, to see all the Bat Mitzvah photos my cousins had already posted on Facebook, and to check my email. The good news was that this bus did have a toilet in back! This was a huge relief to the girls, who had been very concerned about waiting until we stopped at a rest area.
The bus ride was uneventful, and we ended up not stopping since we had the use of the bathroom. The girls were glad that the driver decided to avoid the traffic on 95, because that meant that they got to add New Jersey to the list of states they've been in. We arrived at South Station just before 7pm and were very happy to see Andy and Pete and to get home.
As you know, I am very much a Nervous Nellie, so I am pretty proud of myself for having done this weekend excursion on my own. The girls really enjoyed their first taste of New York. Next time we will do it at a more leisurely pace.