“Empire State of Mind” – New York, NY

Anne the tour guide taking us across the HIghline

Anne the tour guide taking us across the HIghline

Everything on the east coast seems so close together. I had no idea before we were here that you could drive from Washington DC to New York City easily in a few hours. Well, easily in a car, that is. In a motorhome that can’t reverse when the car is being towed, it can be a different story. Everything was going smoothly until we reached the George Washington Bridge and missed our turn off for a highway that took us to our camping spot at Chris’s aunt’s house in Connecticut. We had to pull off the bridge freeway to try and turn around and ended up in the Bronx with some very low old elevated train tracks above us on a very narrow street having to make some strange sharp turns to find our way back to the freeway. Luckily it didn’t turn out to be a big deal, and we didn’t have to unhook the car from the Moho in the middle of the street in a strange part of NYC.

The awesome lake by Connie's house

The awesome lake by Connie’s house

We made it to Aunt Connie’s house (Chris’s dad’s older sister) before dark and she and her daughter Claire had a homemade spaghetti and meatball dinner waiting for us. I had met Connie a couple of times when she’d come to visit us in California, but hadn’t seen her since before Zeph was born, and I’d never met Claire or Connie’s sons either. Connie’s house was built in 1739, and she and her late husband, Phil, have fixed it up and added to it over the years they’ve been there. It’s on a beautiful piece of land outside of New Haven; I think Connie said they have about 100 acres. It’s mostly all trees, so I don’t think they venture onto most of the property often, but what a quiet and lovely place for us to call home for the week! We happily ate the delicious meal the girls made for us, got to know Claire a little bit (Chris hadn’t seen his cousin in about 15 years) and had a great time watching Zeph play around in the dirt with Connie’s old collection of matchbox cars.

The Moho parked on Aunt Connie's front lawn

The Moho parked on Aunt Connie’s front lawn

The next morning we drove to Bridgeport, about an hour south of Connie, to take the train into NYC. My dear dear friend Anne moved to the city about a year ago from LA, and I couldn’t wait to see her and her new home. Chris got us a sweet hotel room at the Conrad in the downtown financial district of Manhattan while we were there. It was in between Battery Park City and Wall Street and World Trade One, the new building erected next to the 9/11 Memorial. We met Anne on the “HighLine” that evening. The HighLine is an old elevated train track that no longer runs, which the city has turned into a walkway for pedestrians, with all sorts of beautiful planters and street musicians playing live music and food carts and statues. You can even see the old train tracks in parts of the HighLine, with plants coming up all around them.  This was one of the coolest spots in the city. We walked through the different areas of the city with Anne, our personal tour guide, to Artichoke Pizza. Our first experience with authentic New York pizza was, well, delicious. I don’t think I will ever have as rich and creamy and yummy of a slice of pizza as my artichoke and white sauce pizza was that night. Good thing I had two slices!

Lovely fountain in Central Park

Lovely fountain in Central Park

We shared a cab with Anne and dropped her off at some swanky Top Chef restaurant so she could pay a bet debt to her boyfriend David (they bet on the show somehow and she lost, owing him a meal at the restaurant of his choice) and headed back to our hotel. We were craving some ice cream (big surprise) and the concierge told us about “Shake Shack” downstairs from our lobby. Sounded like my kind of place! Chris and Zeph stayed in the hotel room while I ventured out to procure us some sweets. Shake Shack is a burger joint that also makes homemade custard, so I got Chris a strawberry milkshake and me chocolate custard with hazelnut streusel. Yep, pretty yummy. New York was quickly becoming the food city of my dreams.

Enjoying the luxuries of a hotel

Enjoying the luxuries of a hotel

The next morning we got to meet up with our friend that we know through my dad and stepmom back in San Diego, who was staying at the same hotel as us. If you’ve ever been to New York, you understand this is quite a coincidence, as there are bazillions of hotels everywhere in the city. I found out Irimga was at our hotel via her Facebook check-in status (and social media gets such a bad wrap). We chatted in our hotel lobby for an hour or so and caught up on life. Her two lovely daughters are the same age as my little brothers and I have known the girls since they were little kids. Now the oldest, Miranda, is graduating high school in a couple of weeks and heading to college, as is my brother Sam – where does the time go?! We had a great time with Irimga, and then took a taxi over the Brooklyn Bridge to meet up with Anne and David for brunch. Anne lives in Williamsburg, a pretty cool part of Brooklyn, and we walked a few blocks from her apartment to eat. After breakfast and meeting David for the first time (two thumbs up), we dropped him back off to get some work done. Anne led us to the Williamsburg Bridge, which isn’t too far from the Brooklyn Bridge, and we walked across to check out more of the city. We stopped at a food cart selling waffles, where I ordered the “WMD” or a yummy waffle with berries and whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Yes, we had just had breakfast, but that walk across the bridge made me hungry again!

WAFFLES!

WAFFLES!

We walked over to the 9/11 Memorial, and went through the four checkpoints to get in to see it. I am not really sure what to say about this experience. It’s one place I never dreamed of going to as a kid for obvious reasons. But as an adult, it’s quite moving to behold and be in that sacred space where one of the most evil things ever to take place happened. The two pools that now stand in the footprint of the two towers shower fountains of water down to a central point where the water disappears into a deep well, out of sight. The sound of the water falling, the mist carried across your face by the breeze as you walk along the sides, glancing at the names, while the sun shines and the people around you point at names talking about how they knew that person. Well, it’s like nothing else. I’ll leave it at that.

View of One World Trade from our hotel room

View of One World Trade from our hotel room

We walked back to our hotel and David met up with us for dinner. We ordered Shake Shack downstairs and took it back to our hotel room where we ate our delicious food, watched Zephyr play with his trains and color, and played a hilarious card game called “Cards Against Humanity.” Think of the game Apples to Apples (which is a family favorite at Chris’s parent’s house) and then make it so un-politically correct it’s awkward to read some cards out loud and you have yourself “Cards Against Humanity.” We had a great night joking around and Anne and David headed back to Williamsburg on the metro.

Too much fun playing cards with friends

Too much fun playing cards with friends

Irimga had suggested we visit “Top of the Rock.” This is a quick elevator ride that goes to the 68th floor of the GE building in Rockefeller Square. What a view! We could see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade, Central Park, and so much more! The three of us stayed up there awhile, enjoying the sun and the skyscrapers of the New York City skyline, and then took the elevator down to walk over to Central Park. Zeph napped in his stroller while we cruised the park. It’s quite large and pretty darn busy on a Sunday. Plenty of street performers and vendors selling food and caricatures and knick-knacks.

Top of the Rock!

Top of the Rock!

We took a cab to the Chelsea area of the city to meet Anne that afternoon to help her get some plants for work. She’s a producer of a show on Animal Planet called “Too Cute.” She’s quite good at her job, the show is the most popular one on that network! After we procured some cat-friendly jungle plants for her shoot the next day, we walked over to the Lower East Side to meet David for dinner at a small old Italian joint. We had some great conversation over dinner and said a quick and sad good-bye to our friends afterwards. We took a cab back to our hotel and headed to Grand Central Station the next morning to go back to Aunt Connie’s house and our Moho. More of New England awaited us!

Chris, Connie and Zeph cruisin' the beach on the lake

Chris, Connie and Zeph cruisin’ the beach on the lake