New York New York, A Hell of a Town

One of my favorite Simpsons episodes is when the family goes to New York City because Barney has gotten drunk, stolen Homer’s car, and left it at the base of the Twin Towers. In order to retrieve the car, Homer has to wait by the car for a police officer to come by, which only happens once a day. Of course Homer drinks too much crab juice with his kavkalash and has to pee, and misses the police officer, sending him into an insane rage. Meanwhile, the rest of the family has a magical time in the city, but Homer drags them away, car destroyed from his decision to remove the boot on its tire by using a jackhammer. As they drive out of town, the kids ask if they can come back to New York sometime, and Homer, his face pelted with garbage because the windshield is gone, mutters “We’ll see, kids.” 

I was really worried that The Hubs would feel that way about New York City, because that’s how I felt about it the first times I visited in the pre-9/11 era. I just felt completely overwhelmed, like I was becoming more and more neurotic the longer I was there. But my last trip to New York, in January 2015, was completely magical and I realized that New York is actually pretty fantastic. And luckily, everyone in the family felt the same. Some highlights of our stay:

1. Our hotel, the Refinery NYC. Our room was enormous by New York City hotel standards, and it had an amazing rooftop bar with a view of the Empire State Building. The service was outstanding, from the front desk staff to the bellmen to the concierge who recommended her favorite bagel shop and arranged us a limo to take us to the pier in Red Hook.

2. Front row tickets to Wicked. The show was incredible, of course, and so was seeing it from the front row, where The Kids could peek into the orchestra pit and really see the expressions on the faces of the actors. Also, I had no idea that the dad from Girls was playing the Wizard, so that was a nice surprise. My favorite part of the experience was watching the kids watch the show, especially The Girl, who was completely enchanted the entire time. I was worried that she and The Boy would have trouble sitting through the whole show, but I mean, it’s such a great show, it wasn’t a problem at all. I think that’s a memory that will stay with them forever.

3. The Boy running a 5K across the Brooklyn Bridge with my college BFF. Poor kid was exhausted after, especially because it was so hot, but I’m very proud of him, and I think he’s proud of himself too. 

4. We bought The Girl her first American Girl doll from the store by Rockafeller Center. HOLY HELL THAT PLACE IS NUTS. The Girl chose the MaryEllen doll, and then we got her and the doll matching outfits, because of course we did. Dear Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and anyone else: American Girl crap is what she wants for her birthday and Christmas this year.

5. Eating in Little Italy. My mom’s stepdad was Italian and I like to joke that he was in the mafia, since he was a casino doctor in Reno in the 1950’s and how many Italian casino doctors were there in Reno and the 1950’s who weren’t at least connected? So, I have an obsessive love of Italian food, and it was really amazing to be in a place where immigrants like his parents came to start a new life in the new world.

6. The Statue of Liberty. No, we didn’t go all the way to the top, because dude, who the hell wants to walk up all that way, and also all the tickets for the crown were sold out. But we did have pedestal tickets, and that was pretty cool. Pro tip: be sure to put on sunscreen, because now I have a really funky tan from the shirt I was wearing. Speaking of imagining immigrants coming to the new world, wow, imagine seeing Lady Liberty as you fled from poverty, persecution, pogroms…a truly amazing experience.

7. Taking The Kids for their first subway rides. I am a firm believer in teaching kids how to use public transit. Partly this is because I don’t drive, and partly it’s because I remember being a teen and having so much more freedom because I was able to get around my city on public transit. It’s just a skill set that I think everyone should have, and it was fun teaching the kids to swipe their fare card and find the right platform for the right train. And also teaching them not to touch anything because eeeeeew germs.

8. Sailing out of New York harbor. WOW. I mean, WOW. I got all verklempt as we watched the city getting farther and farther away, wondering if I’ll ever get to see it again. And then sailing under the Verrazano bridge, juuuuuuuust barely making it without hitting the bridge deck–everyone up on deck cheered. 

But the rest of that story will have to wait for the next installment of this travelogue, because now it’s time for afternoon trivia in the Golden Lion Pub onboard the Queen Mary 2. 

#EpicCaldwellVacay is finally here!!!

YOU GUYS! For a very long time, we’ve been planning a seriously epic vacation, and it’s FINALLY HERE!!! I’m writing this from 35,000 feet over somewhere in the Midwest, on my way to New York with The Hubs and The Kids. We’ll be spending a couple days in NYC, then boarding Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 to sail to England. We’re blowing a chunk of my 401K (because I’m technically retired now, so I might as well spend it, amiright? And if I end up being some miracle breakthrough of cancer science, well, I guess I’ll go back to work!) and sailing in a Queens Grill Suite. This comes with butler service. BUTLER SERVICE!!! Our butler will arrange cocktail parties for us, unpack for us, shine our shoes, serve us dinner course by course in our suite…basically, make sure we have everything we could possibly need.

The suite is called a Queen’s Grill Suite because this is a British ship, so we upper crusters don’t dine with the lesser people. No, we have our own special dining room, called the Queen’s Grill. (There is also a Princess Grill, for the not quite as fancy suites, but if you’re gonna blow part of your 401K, I mean, you might as well do it all the way.) We also have our own bar just for suite passengers, so we don’t have to drink with the hoi poloi. In addition, the suite itself has a bar, because of course it does.

The kids are looking forward to going swimming, seeing a show in the ship’s planetarium, and spending time at the kids’ club, which is staffed by child care workers who have been certified by the British government. I’m looking forward to going swimming, drinking Scotch, and dancing in the ballroom in my brand new gown on formal nights. The Hubs is looking forward to drinking Long Island Iced Teas and sleeping.

Our ship will land in Southampton on August 16, and then we’ll be taking a quick tour of Stonehenge before heading to London. Our former nanny, who’s just finished her master’s degree, asked if she could come with us (she’s paying her own way, you guys!!! Seriously, best nanny ever) and we were like “OMG SERIOUSLY YES!!!” So she’ll be meeting us at the ship in Southampton. We’ll spend a couple days in London, then take the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness. We’ll be staying near Loch Ness for a few days, then our nanny heads home and we head to Oban for a few days (we’re staying near the whiskey distillery, because of course we are) and then finish our trip in Edinburgh, where their big festivals will be happening. And then we fly home.

I know y’all are like “OMG how can I follow along with this epic trip?” I’m glad you asked! I’ll be tweeting as much as possible, using the hashtag #EpicCaldwellVacay, and those tweets will also feed to my blog’s Facebook page. Expect lots of pictures of castles and whiskey, but I’ll also share any epic meltdowns, mine or The Kids’, because I’m keeping it real, y’all.  As time and Internet access allows, I’ll also blog about it.

YOU GUYS I AM SO STOKED!!! Oh it’s on. It’s on like Donkey Kong. #EpicCaldwellVacay has begun!