New country, new experiences, New York!
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It has finally begun! For those of you who know us “in real life” then you have probably been listening to us talk about this trip for months. And, here it is! We weren’t lying!
Three days ago, we were sleeping in Gatwick airport and now I’m sat in a hotel room looking out over the Manhattan skyline. (And the kids are asleep!)
I’m planning to write a travel diary to keep everyone up to date with what we have been doing and to provide a record for us and the children to look back on.
Let’s take a look at Our Adventurehood (yes, I am all about the branding) so far.
Day 0 – Saying our goodbyes
On Sunday, we spent the morning doing the last-minute bits of packing. Whenever you go away there are always those last few things that you can’t pack until the last moment. Toothbrushes, makeup and the like.
But when you are setting off to travel the world WITH ONLY HAND LUGGAGE, then everything you are taking is essential. There is literally no room for luxuries.
This meant that Sunday morning felt a bit like a mad rush to do all the packing. Poor old Dan, who had spent most of the day before looking after the kids whilst I (Charlotte) attempted to pack, literally packed everything on Sunday morning.
We had spent the Summer staying at my parents’ house and they very kindly offered to take us out for dinner on our last day in the UK. This was to double up as a leaving meal and a birthday celebration for me.
We went to a local restaurant and enjoyed some delicious food together for the last time before we set off. It was lovely to all eat out together and enjoy each others company before we set off.
Arriving at Gatwick airport
With everything packed, we set off to Gatwick airport. My parents came with us so that we could say goodbye and so that they could drive our car back to theirs.
It was a tearful farewell as we all said goodbye, but we were buzzing with excitement as we stood there loaded up with our bags. This was the start of a very exciting year!
We settled into our room for the night quickly, with sandwiches and crisps for dinner. The kids were wide-awake because it was new and different. Plus, they’d had an hours sleep in the car on the way there.
Day 1 – First plane experience
We woke up at a reasonable time on Monday morning. We had a taxi booked to take us from the hotel to our terminal at Gatwick airport. It turned out that a taxi was £2 cheaper than getting the shuttle bus.
We made our way to the airport in good time and unloaded our bags. Then we headed straight to check-in as it was already open.
Well, not from the kids, but from mummy! Check-in did not go well. After queuing for a fair while, we made it to the front and headed to the check-in desk. This was when we were asked about our onward journey.
I told them that we had a ticket booked out of the USA to The Bahamas and that it was our plan to do that. Then, the rather robotic lady behind the next said “and then where?”
Turns out that The Bahamas doesn’t count. The USA likes to monitor who leaves their country and leaving it to go to The Bahamas isn’t enough. They want you further away than that.
There’s going to have to be another post written about VISAs and whatnot but let’s just say that we now have tickets booked to Colombia and we had to queue for the check-in desk twice.
Aeroplane fun times
People make a lot of fuss about flying with kids, but really I do not know why I worried. I just let Dan deal with them and watched a film. Jokes. Sort of. Not really.
In seriousness, the kids were pretty good. Emily watched The Lego Movie on repeat for 8 hours and Alice got passed back and forth between the two of us then took a nap. Every time they got mildly cranky we gave them a snack.
Before we knew it, we had arrived at JFK airport and had to rapidly gather up all the mess we had made and disembark from the plane.
The worst bit (and I’ll put this in my post all about VISAs too) was getting through passport control. Goodness me, that is slow, boring and almost pointless. In the end, I shouted to a slightly official-looking man to ask if there was a “family-friendly queue” and he let us escape the snaking hellhole.
Yellow cab to the hotel
We escaped the airport in a yellow cab. At this point, more than happy to pay for a service that took us right to the door of our hotel. The kids loved it; a) because it was yellow and b) because it had a TV in it.
We were so relieved when we arrived at the hotel to find it basic, but clean and tidy. The beds were large and comfy and the view was incredible.
The room has a balcony with a view to the left over the Manhatten skyline. To the right, you can see the trains that pass by taking commuters and tourists into the city. The whole place buzzes with New York-ness.
Day 2 – Taking in the sights
We were up early the next day and I, having been to New York before, wanted to take the family to the real thick of it. I wanted them to be able to say they’d been to NYC.
We were on a train to Times Square before 8 am and were in Central Manhatten by twenty past. We emerged from the Subway station almost immediately into Times Square. With the lights of all the Broadway shows blazing despite the early morning sunshine.
We walked past shops that still closed, scoffing that even the city the never sleeps needs a lay in. And went for a coffee to combat the jet lag.
Chocolate and Disney
With caffeine and sugar hit in the system, and the shops finally opening up, we decided to check out a few that really excited us. Hence, M&M shop, Hershey’s and Disney.
None of them were disappointing. The M&M shop was full of bright colours and walls of different M&Ms in colours that I’d never seen and flavours that I had never heard of. Alice oohed and ahhed at the large characters dressed as the Statue of Liberty and fire officers.
Hershey’s was my personal favourite, and not only for the free chocolate that we were given on our way in, but because it is home to my favourites: Reese’s. Despite the excessive salivation, I managed to find the willpower to make it out empty-handed. This might have been helped by Emily accidentally ordering a personalised bar of chocolate and us making a hasty exit before they tracked us down to pay for it.
First trip to Central Park
After bribing the kids with chocolate so they wouldn’t whinge whilst we walked around Times Square, we finally gave in and agreed to find a park. With only one viable option, we went North and ended up in Central Park’s Heckscher Playground.
The park had lots of great things to climb and play on but was, unfortunately, a little wet from the morning’s shower. This didn’t stop the kids from playing in it and getting covered in sand. Emily made her first friend, a little girl named Ady.
Turtles and Angels
After an eventful lunch involving a rather confident squirrel and losing one of Alice’s shoes, we went deeper into Central Park. This was mostly because Emily said we had to find more playgrounds.
What we did find though turned out to be one of my favourite moments in New York so far. We found the beautiful Angel of the Waters fountain which stands adjacent to a boating lake.
In this lake, you’ll see people flapping about pretending they know how to row, but also TURTLES. The pond is full of turtles. Trust me when I say they are way more interesting than ducks.
We spent quite a long time sat at the water’s edge watching the turtles poke their heads out. There was gentleman next to us who was feeding them and this created quite a swarm. They were friendly and would try to climb out in the hope of getting more food.
Alas, the cute little turtles could only hold the children’s attention for so long and we had to hunt down more playgrounds. Luckily, Central Park has plenty of them and does not disappoint.
We managed to visit two more during the afternoon and loved both. But our favourite was the Billy Johnson Playground because it has an awesome granite slide.
Alice’s lost shoe led us on a hunt for some new footwear. Because she’s my baby and deserves the best we headed down 5th Avenue. Unfortunately, because I am tight, we walked past all the posh shops to a giant H&M and got her some sparkly boots from there. Still expensive though.
5th Avenue is home to some the major New York sights, including the Rockefeller Centre, Trump Tower and Sak’s. There’s also a host of VERY expensive shops that have you wondering why you thought M&S was posh. Plus, it gave us all a hankering for a McDonald’s. We grabbed one in Times Square and jumped on the Subway back to the hotel room. All of four of us were shattered.
Day 3 – Lower Manhattan
Today we had an even earlier wake up than yesterday. 4:10am! However, we bummed about in the hotel room for a while before heading out.
Partly for my birthday and partly because I wanted to, I decided that we would spend the day in Lower Manhattan. This meant that we hopped on the subway and headed straight for the Staten Island Ferry.
When we arrived Alice had fallen asleep and Emily spotted the beautiful Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park. Despite arriving 15 minutes before it officially opened, the lovely people let Emily and I hop on and enjoy the ride to ourselves.
The fish spectacle with pretty lights, giant ride on fish and serene music makes for a lovely experience and Emily was so sad when it ended. If I’m honest so was I. It was magical!
The Statue of Liberty
Next up, we hopped on the fantastically free Staten Island Ferry. This commuter ferry takes New Yorkers to and from the island multiple times a day, but mostly for us, it was a bargain way to see the Statue of Liberty up close.
The kids demanded snacks as soon as we were on board and spent most of the 25-minute boat ride distracted by some very orange cheese puffs. Fortunately, by the return journey, the crisps had all been consumed and we got them to engage with the view a bit.
Charging Bull and Gluten-Free Pizza
Some thorough research before we left that morning meant that I had found a pizzeria from which I could purchase a gluten-free pizza. The bonus was that it was next to the famous Charging Bull statue in the Financial District.
We grabbed a pizza and a Philly cheesesteak sandwich for Dan and sat in Bowling Green at the bull’s rear end. The pizza was amazing and the kids loved it too. It was a big win on the hot meal front, as the tomato sauce almost counts as a vegetable.
After lunch, we headed to the 9/11 memorial. Given that it was my birthday, this means that we were visiting on September 11th. Exactly 18 years after the tragic event.
The mood around the memorial was sombre and the area itself had been fenced off, restricting access only to those who lost friends or family that day. There were film crews everywhere and I even had to turn down an interview myself.
The new World Trade Center stands proudly beside the memorial. A shiny new building surrounded by other interesting works of architecture, homes to shopping centres and eateries.
Back to Central Park
The weather was roasting though (30+C) and the area was busy with those paying their respects at the memorial, so we hopped on a train out of there.
After another action-packed day, we took the kids back to the park from the previous day and let off some steam is this shady spot.
A quick stop (and a remortgage) at the nearest shop, we headed back to the hotel room with supplies for dinner.
What next in New York?
We still have a day and a half left in the Big Apple before we head to Washington DC. This is great news as we have some big sights yet to visit. By the time, I update this next, we will most likely have moved on. But I can’t wait to see what we do next.
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