Spring Breakers in New York City

central parkThis year for Spring Break, Andrew and I took separate vacations. He has been dying to do an alpine touring trip through France and Switzerland with his brother for years, so I got over my fear of him going to Europe without me and gave him the go ahead. But with one caveat, I was not going to stay at home alone with my girls during spring break. We decided that we would take our airline miles and see the Big Apple. Nadia has been enamored by the city because all the shows she watches on Disney are set in NYC, so why not. My sister, who lives in Virginia was able to take time off from work and take the train up with her daughter. We also got to hang out with other friends visiting the city too. It was great seeing familiar faces in the big city, it could have been a long, tiring trip without some other adult support.

We got in to town on a Sunday evening, instead of a hotel room, my sister and I decided we would be more comfortable with our daughters in an apartment (not to mention the prices of hotels are ridiculous and they would not take more than 4 people). We rented an adorable apartment on the Upper West Side through AirBnB. It was perfect, plenty of space for all of us to spread out, bathroom and laundry and a kitchen so we could have tea and breakfast in the morning before heading out. Most mornings our first stop was the Juice Press across the street, where we filled up on smoothies to get us started on our day.

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Cake Boss Cafe

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Fire Station at Ground Zero

On our first full day we did an awesome Hop On/Hop off Bus tour through the city. Our first stop we got off at was the 9/11 memorial. We did not go into the Memorial because it was packed and we didn’t have passes. Also, the large sign before heading in reminds visitors to be quiet and respectful. This seemed like it would be challenging for our group of 8 (3 adults, 5 kids). It was still a very surreal experience. Seeing how many people were down there, and going by the fire stations that were most likely the first responders was very intense. I was not ready to go in with my kids and try and process everything that happen, while also trying to tell a 7 year old why a plane would fly into a building. From here we toured around Battery Park and got our tickets to see Lady Liberty for the next day. After Battery Park we got back on the bus and headed uptown, we went by the United Nations, and saw were tons of celebrities lived and where tons of movies and TV shows were filmed. It was fun seeing all these cool places in real life! We finally got off the bus at Rockefeller Center and spent some time in the amazing Lego Store. After our shopping, we decided to have an early dinner so we could make our Night Time Tour of the City and Brooklyn. We ate a quiet little restaurant called Nino’s 46. I imagine it was quiet because most New Yorkers don’t eat dinner at 5:30, but it worked perfect for our crew. We were even able to stop by the Cake Boss Café after dinner for some cupcakes to bring on our tour.

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NYC Skyline from Brooklyn

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Empire State Building at night

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NYC Library

The night tour was awesome despite the wind and my amateur photography skills, it is pretty hard taking photos at night on a moving bus, but I tried and got a couple good ones.

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Lady Liberty

The next day we took our bus tour back downtown and visited the Statue of Liberty. The boat trip and touring the grounds were beautiful. There is so much history here it is truly amazing. I was sad we didn’t make reservations to get into the pedestal or to do Ellis Island, we will have to do that on our next trip. But just seeing the outside of the statue and taking the audio tour, you learn a lot about what went in to erecting the statue and how powerful of a symbol it is and was to people coming to the United States for the first time. We heard this poem on the audio tour, it’s called “The New Colossus” and was written in 1883 by poet Emma Lazarus, who was born in New York City. The poem lines appear on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

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Alexandre Gustave Eiffel – second designer of the internal structural elements of the Statue of Liberty

After our visit to the Statue of Liberty we had to get back quickly to our apartment so that we could change and get ready for our night on Broadway. Before the show we had dinner at Sardi’s, which has been the toast of Broadway for 90 years. The dinner was excellent and the service was great, we were in and out with plenty of time to get to our show (without feeling rushed). We ended up seeing Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theater. The show was awesome, we had great seats so it was perfect for the girls. Plus it was funny and the music was great. Side note: the guy that played Jafar also did the voice for Jafar in the Disney animated movie, so that was exciting! That night it also snowed! Lots of crazy weather for our week. Sun, rain and snow – all in the first 3 days. The next day the girls, my sister and I, had an impromptu “spa treatment”. This was not our favorite part of the trip, but we are dealing with it. This might be a topic of an upcoming blog, once we are completely over it. I won’t go into the details. After we were done at the spa, the girls got rewarded for being such troopers, so by their request, our next stops were M&M World and American Girl Doll.

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Horse Drawn Carriage in the park

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Friends Fountain

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Promenade in the park

After this crazy day we headed back to our apartment and chilled out for a bit and ended up eating at little place that was around the corner called Pomodoro Rosso and were in bed early. For our last day in the city we decided we were done shopping and fighting the crowds so we spent the day in Central Park. We took a horse drawn carriage tour around the park and saw more sights of movies and shows like, Sex in the City, Elf, Home Alone, Enchanted and Ghost Busters. This was a fun way to see the park and it was a beautiful day too. After lunch, we had to say goodbye to my sister and niece since they had to get to Penn Station to catch their train to DC. We thought we might check out the Museum of Natural History since it was just around the corner from our apartment, great idea – except, everyone else on spring break had that idea and once we walked in apparently all the ticket terminals went down. There was a huge line of people waiting and we were not 100% certain we would get in if we waited in the line. Instead of waiting in line we decided to make our way to the other side of the park to check out the Central Park Zoo. Although it wasn’t exactly like the zoo in Madagascar (high expectations) we did have fun checking out the cool birds, snow leopards and seals. After the zoo we made our way back to our apartment, by way of a super cool playground (one of the 21 playgrounds in Central Park) and Strawberry Fields, where we visited the John Lennon Memorial. We had our last meal in the city at little sushi place called Raku – It’s Japanese 2! (that really is the actual name) and went to bed early to get ready for our 6am car that would take us to the airport.

Strawberry Fields - John Lennon Memorial

Strawberry Fields – John Lennon Memorial

Overall it was great trip! We had a lot of fun seeing the sites, shopping and fighting the crowds. We ate some great food and the girls loved eating giant pretzels and hot dogs from the street vendors (one of Daddy’s favorites from the city too!). It really was comical how many people were packed into the city. But on the flip side, when we hung out in Central Park or in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side, it didn’t feel too crowded. I think it will be a few more years before we go back, maybe when the girls are a little older and can appreciate the museums a bit more and their taste in shopping becomes a little more in line with mine.

Until Next Time, thank for reading.

Spring Break 2013 – Oregon Coast – Camper Style

dsc_1167Now that we have the camper we have been making a point to use it.  A lot of people say they know people that have campers or RVs but they never get used. Well, we are not going to be those people, yes it does get me a little exhausted getting ready to head out for the trip, but once we are on the road, I never really want to go back to our stable home, I really prefer our mobile home! 

For Spring Break this year we decided that since we have spent the majority of the winter in the snow, it was time to play in water and try some surfing, so we headed down the Oregon Coast. This was going to be our first chance to explore the state beaches and see what they had to offer so we can decide where to go back.dsc_1245

Our first stop was Cape Look Out State Park. It is a just South of Tillamook, Oregon. It is a really big area with lots of hiking trails, plenty of hook ups, and a lovely beach. One of the (small) drawbacks was that you had to cross the main road (where traffic comes to the different camping areas) to get to the beach. Which made me a tiny bit nervous so I wouldn’t let the girls head to the beach alone. But again, it was only about a minute walk to the beach, we had hook ups and were very close to the bathroom.

dsc_0050We did not surf at this beach but we did take a long walk in the misty rain. We had the beach to ourselves and found a number of treasures, including shells, sand dollars, kelp jump ropes and a swing made out rope and driftwood. The lovely thing about the camper is that after this long walk in the rain, we have a nice, warm place to change clothes, eat lunch and regroup, so that when the sun came out we were all ready for more beach time and sand castle building. We also love being able to bring our own food and make our own fresh dinners.

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After two nights it was time to head south for our next destination, Beachside State Park – just South of Newport, Oregon.  One thing I loved during this trip was my morning walk on the beach, just a short outing, a little me time to say hello to the beach and the waves. When I got back from my walk, we started out mornings like we do at home: a little coffee, breakfast and reading the news, etc. Since it was Monday, we knew we might have some work emails to tend to, this Monday, Tax Day, Boston Marathon Day, I was checking the news/Facebook and was excited to hear about the US runners that had finished in record time. But sadly, shortly after hearing that news, the tragic news of two bombs exploding at the finish also came in.  My feelings for this could go on and on – my shock and confusion of why someone would do something like this to such a strong willed, amazing community still gives me chills. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families.  But this is about our trip, so I will continue. After Andrew and I tried to comprehend the news, we squeezed and hugged our girls a little tighter and we got ready to enjoy our beautiful day with our family. We had lovely weather and took our time heading down the coast, stopping at multiple waysides/rest stops to take in the views.  We arrived in the afternoon at Beachside State Park, a camping spot right on the beach! Our spot was literally next to the beach access walkway, which for some might be a draw back, in the height of the summer I imagine there would be a lot of foot traffic but for us in April it was not a problem. The highlight for me was again the proximity of the beach. We could hear the waves when we went to sleep, we could see the beach from our bed and the girls could happily run to the beach to build castles while we made lunch or got dinner ready.  The first night we had an amazing dinner, fresh caught salmon, veggies and rice. Not too fancy, but delicious. A lot of times I get ideas in my head and it’s hard for me to get them out until I act on it. One of my fantasies for the trip was to find a local fish market where we could get fresh caught fish to bring back to camp and grill. It’s not a lot to ask, but what we found was so great, a little fish market in Newport, right off the docks on the Bayfront, called Local Ocean Seafoods. It was a fresh fish market and restaurant. The first night we picked up salmon and the next day we headed back for lunch for more fresh caught fish.

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Since Beachside had such a great proximity to the beach, this is where we did most our surfing/playing in the water. Once we were all suited up in our wet suits we headed out! The sun was shining and it was warm, we played in the waves and in the surf and wore ourselves out. None of us really stood up on the board and the waves were not very big, but we were playing in the water and we were warm and it was April!

After two nights here we had to say good-bye, for this trip we decided two nights at each spot would be enough. I could have stayed at Beachside longer, but there was more to see and of course, we don’t have unlimited time. The next destination was Nehalem State Park, just outside of Manzanita, OR. This park is also amazing and gigantic. It wasn’t packed in April, but you can imagine the place filling up throughout the summer. There was a playground next to our site and we were just steps away from the beach access, again a little too far for the girls to go alone, but the park wasn’t and they enjoyed playing there, even in the rain! The first night we got there we took a nice long walk on the beach into Manzanita for dinner and a few groceries and then the next day we took the camper to Seaside where we did a little surfing at The Cove. Thanks to our friend and surf coach Lexie, we knew when and where the waves would be best for the family. Another perk of the camper was when we parked for surfing – we had ALL our stuff with us, we could have lunch, change, etc and then just step out the door and surf. I’m telling you, taking your house everywhere you go is really convenient!  Although it was a bit cloudy, we were still able to catch some fun waves and play in the water.

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After a couple nights in Nehalem we pack up and headed north for the trip back to Washington. On our way home, we planned some crazy fun for the girls, gave ourselves a little extra space and clean showers by booking one night at the Great Wolf Lodge. We had a great day and night playing at GWL, we had friends meet us there and that was especially fun and a great change of pace after being just the four of us for the week.  It was also a bit of a culture shock after 6 days of quiet beach time, we jumped into pretend waves and tons of people, but it was still fun. The Howling Tornado got us screaming and the girls loved playing in the arcade. And the next day we were all ready to get home, which was perfect, we had a short drive back to Seattle and had the rest of the day and weekend to clean up and get ready to transition into reality.

dsc_1283Although the camper is going to stay parked for a few weeks now, we are always thinking about our next trip and when we can get back on the road. It’s too bad that work and school thing gets in the way of all our fun plans! Until Next Time! – kg