I began to ‘get it’, I even gave a friend directions back to her hotel in mid-town Manhattan. I was beginning to feel at home, and to be honest, swapping London for NYC does help: it is another city, you use the subway and it can be hectic in places.
At one point I found myself sat on the subway feeling like I could close my eyes and open them to a London tube and not be surprised. But of course, we were not in our gorgeous London Town – this was NYC and it’s energy is different, hightened maybe, and everything has the excitment of ‘somewhere different’ stamped on it. However many flip-outs or moments of ‘what-were-we-thinking?’ I could still look up, look around and think; ‘We’re in New York! I LOVE IT HERE!’
In our second abode we discovered a roof terrace with the most incredible view of Manhattan. Every night before bed we started going up there to run around and stare at the Empire State Building: what colour would it be this time? One night we opened the door to the roof to discover a party in full swing. The BYT’s waved us in, we found a corner, the kids jumped on the tables to see the view, and then danced – and danced. It was one of those magic moments.
And our trips? They continued. I started hanging local when possible to try and combat the fatigue of the subway (it gets hot down there) and as a result we found ourselves at a flea market and watching co-ed soccer.
Brooklyn Food and Flea Market (every Sunday):
This is in the East River State Park in Williamsburg and lucky for us just down the road from our apartment. I REALLY wanted to go but had a voice saying, ‘not great for kids, not great for kids..’ And I soon realised this was daft. This could be fun for kids, especially if I gave them $10 each to buy something of there own! Sorted! There are SO many stalls with clothes, bags, objects, trinkets – EVERYTHING. And food. If I had been alone I could have browsed for hours, as it was, the speed we looked was up to my kids, with a little ‘rein’ control. I did buy a dress, my little girl bought an old key (she wore it round her neck on a chain…), and my little boy bought a toy giraffe. Their highlight was a puppy called Ruby; my highlight was the owner of the puppy dog who was happy for them to play whilst I strayed to the surrounding stalls – albeit rather quickly.
Co-ed Soccer in East River State Park:
This was right next to the flea market and perfect for a rest in the shade after the unrelenting sunshine baring down on the stalls. Both my girl and boy were mesmerised by the games – many playing at once, and on every Sunday. We chatted to one of the people watching (who had just played) and he told us how co-ed soccer was the norm and he preferred it to playing in an all-male side as the ‘egos’ dissipated with the mix. Apparently, every co-ed soccer team has to have a minimum of two to three female players to play: love this and would love to see more of it back in the UK. Note to self: must check out back home.
Central Park: SE Corner and a bit beyond:
We met friends here, and went to the Zoo. My little boy took charge and led us around: sea lion show, snow leopard, penguins, birds of paradise and…a goat – apparently. D was determined to find the ‘goat’, and to be fair the picture on the map was rather goat-like. We found it. ‘We can go now,’ D said. ‘That’s the goat!’ It was actually a Chinese Water Deer (though as I double check the Zoo website I cannot find it! Maybe D was right after all…). This is a lovely Zoo, not dissimilar in size (and price) to Battersea Park Zoo, though rather more exotic. There is also a Children’s Zoo and a 4D Movie Theatre on site. Bloody Marvellous!
And beyond the Zoo, under the heat of the summer sun we explored: boulders to climb, playgrounds (amazing and various – some more urban and concrete than others) with wet and dry play, a carousel, baseball diamonds and many, many pathways. Ice cream stalls, snack stalls and street theatre surround the park walls – I had the best falafel sandwich and we were mesmerised by the most amazing acrobatic troop who performed through comedy, speech, drama and incredible synchronicity on all levels – most importantly on the parkour style flips over five willing spectators. All this was across the bottom end of the park, we entered in the SE corner (near FAO Schwarz) – we would need another three weeks to actually explore this whole glorious green rectangle.
The Staten Island Ferry and Statue of Liberty:
This trip was with husband-in-tow, which two or three were, and I’m so glad. Seeing the Statue of Liberty is spine-tingling, and I have seen her before. Every country has THAT building or view that tourists and travellers think of when they plan their trip, and Ms Liberty has been thought of by many. We decided to avoid Ellis Island and Liberty Island this time (kids too young; crowds; cash), and enjoy the ferry and the view in all it’s simplicity. The ferry is free and you simply queue up, walk on, sail, take photos, jostle (politely) for a good view, get off at Staten Island and sail straight back on the next ferry. The ease of it was a relief. Once back on Manhattan we played and ate in Battery Park – and met up with friends – as the kids ran around in the fountain and watched the turkey. There is a turkey.
McCarren Outdoor Pool, Williamsburg:
This is a massive lido, which was greeted with shrieks and discussions of who was going to jump in first. It has all levels of depths, “from millimetres to REALLY deep,” according to my daughter, and so all are welcome. It has been renovated and I think reopened in 2012 – no food poolside, only towels, goggles, books. In the heat of the summer it is such an oasis. And it is FREE. The queues move quickly and, if this summer is anything to go by, there is a free packed lunch for ALL CHILDREN over the holidays before they enter or when they leave. Munch on it in the playground next door. We did.
I know as I write this I am missing moments and dropping information – check out John McCarren Pool on Google to find out about its history, it is both frightening and sad, but most definitely no more, just as NYC is far from the murder capital it once was in the 1980s. It is quite fascinating and incredible how time, effort and money can change the make-up of such a place.
As we neared the end of our stay I began to dread that moment when you get home and feel like the holiday never happened. This has NOT been the case and I put it down to the amount of time we had in NYC, the similarities and the intensity of our visit. And with my husband still there we see the streets of the Big Apple on FaceTime everyday. Ah, the beauty of technology.
Finally, still to come: Prospect Park, the High Line and Governer’s Island
Still getting used too: The Heat. Yes, I think this was a constant battle but the more I dealt with it the more I could cope. Not so with the children. They approached the day with gusto every day, and their excitement was priceless, but the heat gradually wore them down; hence the pool, the parks and the shade. And ice cream. And the iPad. They still love NYC, so the heat did not beat us. We kicked its butt.