Tentatively we boarded the plane. So far the morning had gone well. The timings with the trains and checking in had worked out. The luggage situation worked perfectly so we were free from our coats and travelling light with our hand luggage. We had a nice birthday breakfast for Rob. This was the bit we were dreading… 7.5 hours in a confined space with three bored children. It wasn’t the boys we were worried about, they would happily watch films and do their activity books for hours on end… it was Orla that filled us with dread! Nicknamed “the dragon” a couple of days before by friends watching her being confined whilst tired, we knew it was a nickname that suited her. She recently learned to run… and now she runs, a lot, and fast. She is also a bit “hitty” these days and incredibility LOUD!
Set your expectations low and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised… and we were… she fell asleep as we took off… heaven! The next two hours where blissful. I even got a chance to read my book, a pleasure I haven’t experienced in months.
I reckon we would have got another hour or even two out of her except that Alfie kicked a whole glass of water over her and it all went downhill from there really. But we survived to tell the tale and on the whole it was alright. She spend a large proportion of the remaining flight stood at the window shouting “Airplane”.
And so we arrived in New York. Immigration was fine and we got the full six months stamped in our passports. Our bags went through customs without issue despite our extensive bushcraft kit which could be tricky to explain to city folk. The drive into the city met with all my expectations and more. I’ve seen so many pictures and film footage of the New York skyline yet I was utterly unprepared for how impressive it is in real life. The way the skyscrapers, compacted onto a small peninsula seem to pop up out of nowhere, demonstrating some of the most impressive feats of human architecture and engineering with their spiky wonderfulness. The whole city looks as though it’s been designed by a great artist to be viewed from the outside rather than having evolved building by building. And yet when you get into the centre of it all you realise it is just as beautiful viewed from inside, on the ground.
But we were tired… boy were we tired! I haven’t felt that tired since my kids were new born babies! With a few hours to kill we walked up to Central Park in the hope of finding suitable snowball making snow and to gauge the distances on the map. It was further than we thought and it was cold! We found a corner of Central Park with a café and bought hot chocolates then wrapped back up and headed home. We managed to defer passing out for the night until 6pm (11pm UK time) before collapsing into deep sleeps, which considering we’d been up since 4.40am UK time I thought was impressive.
The time difference meant that the kids (and therefore we) were wide awake at 3.30 am. Although that sounds quite hideous, and in many ways was, it also led to quite possibly what will be one of the most special memories of my life… At 4.30 am my 6 year old son, Alfie, and I headed out into the cold and snowy New York morning to find tea, cookies and, more bizzarely, Chicken McNuggets… The snow was getting heavier as we slipped and slid our way back with our bags of junk seeing the night shift workers clearing the snow off the sidewalks, mini John Deeres with snow ploughs and hand held gritters being pushed behind. It was a truly magical experience made special mainly by Alfie’s pure joy and excitement about the snow and Macdonalds, as well as a sort of weird surrealness that comes from being an adult wide awake in a city at 4.30 am, yet neither exhausted with a newborn nor drunk.
We got back to the hungry pack and had a floor picnic with our funny supplies and by 7 am we were all ready for a nap.
Rising again at 8 am the day seemed somewhat more civilized and on opening the curtains to a full blown snow storm the delight from the children set us off in a happy snowy mood. We had planned to do a bus tour of the city but they were unlikely to be running in the heavy snow and are really expensive so we opted for playing in the snow and a couple of chores.
We bought American SIM cards so we’re back online and we bought an Orla sized car seat for when we pick up the hire car on Saturday. The boys loved the snow and strangers happily engaged in snow ball fights as they struggled down the Avenues burdened with the biggest snowballs they could manage.
By lunch time the snow had turned to rain and at every road crossing there were ankle deep puddles to jump through at each side of the road… sounds horrendous, stepping into pools of ice water in completely non-waterproof boots every 100 or so yards. But to be honest, once your feet are soaked through then it’s much like wearing wetsuit booties – the water warms up around your feet and although they are pretty squelchy with every step, they’re not too cold… as long as you keep walking anyway.
The ironic thing is that wellies have been my predominant footwear, year round, for the last seven or so years. I’ve been mocked for wearing them to cities, in supermarkets and on hot summer days. Now for the first time I’m without my trusty wellies, thinking they’d be utterly ridiculous in New York City I’ve come in pretty leather knee high boots, yet I need them more than ever! I don’t think I’ve ever stepped in such deep puddles or had such wet feet. So here is a little word of wisdom to pass on to any readers out there considering visiting New York in February… bring welly boots… they’re all the rage here and super practical… everyone bar the Deans are wearing them!
Once we pick up the hire car on Saturday we’ll be buying ourselves some wellies for sure but until then we are drying our boots out best we can on the room heater in the hotel and will dine in our socks in the hotel restaurant. Hopefully they’ll be dry by tomorrow when we go to explore Down Town New York and see the Statue of Liberty. To be honest we are grateful for the excuse to hole up in the hotel as the wind has picked up to the point of painful and I wanted time to write this post and take stock of the journey so far. Sorry for the lack of pictures… we’ve been concentrating on keeping the kids safe in the City and it’s been kind of tricky to get the camera out but hopefully once we have the hire car it will be more accessible.