Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Menjaks Take NYC by Storm!: A Family Visit

July 3 - 4, 2015
New York, NY

Enjoying family and great views from the roof deck of our building
Over the 4th of July holiday week, my sister, Jen, her husband and her two children took a family roadtrip from Michigan to New York.  They spent a day at Niagara Falls before visiting my dad and stepmom, who live on the New York side of Lake Champlain.  The grand finale (as I like to think of it!) of their trip was a 2-night stop to see us in New York City.

It was a whirlwind visit, but we had a wonderful time catching up with them all.  It was my brother-in-law Ivan's fist time in NYC since 1992 and Jen had not been here since the '90s as well.  Of course it was also the premier visit to the Big Apple for my nephew Christopher (8) and niece Kate (almost 4) and we were very excited to share our fair city with them all.

They arrived very late on July 2nd so we didn't see them until the next day, which was Friday.  Despite the holiday, Scott had to work a little in the morning, but it worked out perfectly, since the weary travelers got a slow start after their late night arrival.  After spending a couple of hours at the office, Scott was able to meet us at Grand Central Station, where we took my niece and nephew on their first ever subway ride to Battery Park and to our day's ultimate destination, the Statue of Liberty. 

Getting ready to ride the subway
The subway ride, with a stop-off in Union Square for hot dogs and umbrella stroller purchases, to Battery Park was smooth as silk.  But the wait to get on the ferry for the Statue of Liberty was a long, hot, sweaty one; it was almost two hours before we boarded the boat and got underway.  The kids were patient and well behaved, in spite of it all (well, after getting ice cream, anyway).

Having frozen treats in the shade while Ivan held our place in line
Finally, after enduring standing in the hot sun and the airport-style security lines, we enjoyed the cool breezes and prime views of Lady Liberty on the short boat ride to Liberty Island.  

Ladies Liberty, on the ferry ride
Upon reaching the island, however, after all the waiting in line in the hot sun and heavy crowds, Christopher had reached his limit, vehemently declaring "no more lines!!!"  so it was a very brief visit.  During our quick visit, however, Scott managed to regale us with some interesting Statue of Liberty facts, gleaned from his audio guide, none of which I retained long enough to repeat here.

The best photo we could manage, between the crowds and moods, before getting back to the ferry boat, ASAP
Back on the ferry, we snagged a quiet corner up on the top deck and had a relaxing ride back to shore.

Enjoying the breezy ferry ride back to Battery Park
After a bit of play time in Battery Park - a splash park for Kate and some statue-climbing for Christopher - we took the subway back to Midtown before parting ways to rest up before dinner.

Playing in the splash park, in tutu dress, of course!
We kept the evening plans low-key, beginning with a wonderful and relaxing Italian dinner at Osteria Laguna, just up the street from our visitors' convenient East Midtown Hilton Hotel (and very near our apartment as well).

Oh, the joys of dessert! At Osteria Laguna, where Christopher ate almost an entire dish of tiramisu!
Following our delicious meal, we returned to the apartment for after-dinner drinks.  Kate and Christopher relished jumping on our giant ottoman/coffee table while good-naturedly attempting to kill one another, as siblings tend to do.  

Kate loved jumping from the couch onto the ottoman, exclaiming "Kitty High Flier!!" with each jump 
Typical siblings in action

We ended the evening with a trip up to our building's 30th floor roof deck, taking in the view of the twinkling night sky over Manhattan and the red-white-and-blue patriotically-lit Empire State Building, before calling it a night.

On the roof deck, with the Empire State Building in the background
Day two proved to be slightly less successful, with the rain beginning to fall shortly after we set off for Times Square on foot.  Claiming tired legs, Ivan and Christopher opted for a cab while Scott and I walked with Jen and Kate in a stroller.  As we approached, it began to appear as if every tourist in the city was in Times Square and we had a bit of a challenge reuniting our party after the separation.

Jen and I found an oddly quiet spot in Times Square to take a couple photos while Scott took Kate into the nearby Disney Store and Ivan and Christopher were at Toys R Us
It was stressful negotiating the intense crowds in the rain, especially with two small children, but there were no tears, there were photos taken with various Disney/animated-movie characters (can you say Puss-in-Boots?! Yay!!) and the kids were delighted with their stickers and toy guns (I'll let you guess which kid got what) from the Disney Store and Toys R Us, respectively, so we considered it a win!  

Before long, it was high time to remove ourselves from the madness of Times Square, so the ever-so-obliging husbands took the kids to Sarge's Deli, where word had it that some of the best corned beef and pastrami in the city was to be found, while I took Jen souvenir shopping (win, win!).  Scott and Ivan enjoyed the giant sandwich they shared and Kate discovered that she likes coleslaw.  

Upon our post-shopping arrival at Sarge's, I devoured the tasty, remaining free pickles (gotta love a Jewish deli!) and Jen polished off the scant remains of the kids' pancakes and eggs.  After lunch and shopping, it was time for the Michiganders to get on the road for home.  While we would have loved to be able to spend more time with them, it was still wonderful to have the opportunity to see them and show them a little bit of our new home town.  Everyone had a good time and we hope they'll come see us again soon - I miss them already!!

More photos:
At Grand Central Terminal before catching the subway
Meeting up with Uncle Scott at Grand Central!
En route to the Statue of Liberty, the boys and Kate had a hot dog lunch in Union Square while Jen and I picked up a stroller for Kate at the nearby Babies R Us
Like father, like daughter
Sharing free-give-away Coke Zeros with a Dreamer and an Explorer in Union Square
Approaching Liberty Island on the ferry
Our corner of peacefulness on the return ferry trip

Scott and Jen really enjoyed the ferry ride back to shore!

Dinner at Osteria Laguna in Midtown East
Playing on the streets of NYC after dark

On the roof deck, with the Empire State Building lit for the holiday
A friendly neighbor offered to take a photo of all of us up on the roof

We caught up with an overzealous Puss-in-Boots in Times Square!
After the Menjaks got on the road, I donned the new shirt that Jen bought for me and we made a beeline for some adult-style relaxing in Bryant Park, before taking in the fireworks later that evening

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