Cecilie had two heart's desires: 1) visit the American Girl Place and 2) visit the Statue of Liberty. With this as our rough itinerary, and a few tips from friends & former residents, Torbjorn helped me plan a Big Apple Getaway that was exactly what a newly-minted 7 year old and her distracted, distractable Mommy needed.
As with most things, my eldest child made the trip memorable for me through sheer force of personality - the city through her eyes was in turns overwhelming, impressive, smelly, and exhausting. That the "very best part of the trip" was the fact that "Mommy can sleep next to me the whole night long!" just about sums up what was the very best part of the trip for Mommy too.
Thought I could share her thoughts, and then mine.
New York - Cecilie's Version:
the morning of departure, 6am: Mommy! I am ready for adventure!!!!!!
Mommy? I know why the Statue of Liberty has to be so big. [Why do you think?] Because everything in New York is big! The buildings are big, the taxis are big... look, even the squirrels are big!! Especially the squirrels.
in Toys R Us, Times Square, looking at the Barbie display: this is a little...... ugly. They look like Bratz dolls. In fact, they look mean.
walking by a steaming grate near Times Square: This city is putrid! [what do you mean by putrid?] I mean smelly and gross!
as the taxi pulled up to the hotel: [in a very shy quiet voice] Umm, is this our hotel? Don't you think it's a little.... fancy for us?
in the hotel bathroom: this is the most luxurious, most wonderful hotel bathtub in the world! [she'd filled it up & hopped in immediately upon entering the room]
upon being offered a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in the two hours before our home-bound train: I would go with the NO on that one.
And as for my thoughts? They were random and frequent, and I wish I'd taken the time to write them down as I did her quotes. I found it vaguely alarming that I persisted in spending the 48 hours taking mental notes in the form of Facebook updates, despite the fact that I had no resource for mobile FB or iPhone to feed my self-publishing addiction.
So here was my take on New York, the GrownUp Version:
- The magic of the train journey was palpable - my girl loved [almost] every minute of train life.
- Penn Station is really unattractive.
- The ability to swipe your debit card in taxi cabs, and have the little machine calculate your tip for you? Magic.
- The internet really can make hotel spaces look much larger than in real life.
- If that was 4-star, I would really hate to see what 3-star is like.
- A trip to the Statue of Liberty is not to be not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently and soberly. The security screening process for us to reach the ferry (as in, remove all metal items and place them in the x-ray bin) took an hour. And then when we arrived on Liberty Island, you were expected to go through another screening to get into the Statue itself. Cecilie put the kibosh on that - she was happy just to be there & read a book about it.
- Grumpy Park Rangers ought not volunteer to take people on guided tours. She actually yelled at two little 4-6 yr olds for not listening. We ditched the tour.
- A playground is an attraction if you are in New York City or in Smallville USA. Who can resist the siren call of the monkey bars?
- Times Square is impressive, but only for about 30 seconds. Then it is just crowded.
- Cecilie and I share mild agoraphobia. Not so great at Times Square.
- Australian girls shopping at Sephora for nail polish are heretofore stereotyped as very sweet to small 7 year olds picking polish for their first pedicure. (We went with matte purple. Very on-trend.)
- When a restaurant says they serve 'family style' they do indeed mean family style. This means enormous portions. What are you meant to do if you are just a party of two getting takeout?
- Swedish Fish, SourPatchKids, Pringles, Raisinettes and root beer will give you a stomachache, no matter how long you'd looked forward to a movie party in bed with Mommy.
- Sometimes the pressure of a Very Special Brunch at a Very Special Doll Store all by yourself with Mommy does get to you, and will make you bounce in your seat and then bang your chin on the water glass and then burst into tears.
- Having a [limited] amount of real cash money on hand in the American Girl store is HIGHLY recommended. The visual aid of making dollars disappear as the items chosen accumulate is hugely effective.
- Evidence that Disney has lost its magic powers over my 7 year old was amply demonstrated by a visit to the Disney superstore. We toured 3 floors, and whilst much was touched, held and examined, nothing was worth using up those precious dollars. (See above.)
- Evidence that innocence remains a bit longer: a visit to Tiffany elicited no response other than "hmmmmm..... Can we go now?"
- Entertain no expectations that you will do any shopping for yourself. 1) there will be no available funds (just speaking for me here) and 2) no inclination whatsoever from your travel partner
- FAO Schwartz has earned every inch of its reputation. An incredibly impressive store catering to all levels of indulgent elders and small demanding individuals. (Also larger demanding individuals.)
- Those bike rickshaw contraptions are a total ripoff. (sorry Laramie Flick - they are. I was looking for yours though.)
- Hot chocolate at Starbucks sounds better in principle than in practice, even on a cold rainy day. Three sips, and we were done. (Another dis-inclination that C and I share. But as the mother who paid for said hot choc, I was duly annoyed that she wouldn't drink it.)
- Biggest logistical challenge? Organizing food. Sounds silly, in NY, where you can get any cuisine your heart desires, but getting the stars to line up between hunger pangs, good food sources, and tourist locations was nigh on impossible. We ended up eating soft pretzels and wrapped sandwiches most of the time.
- My top indulgence of the weekend? Reading a WHOLE chapter book in bed with my girl, all the way until she fell asleep.
- My favorite memory of the weekend? A happy little sprite hopping down the sidewalk on 5th Ave under her umbrella, singing to herself and jumping over puddles. It was truly all that my Cecilie Girl is.