We arrived in NYC on Friday afternoon. We rented a studio apartment in the Upper East Side at 1st and 76th. It was almost perfect – a decent size (by NYC standards), had everything we needed and the location was great. The Husband and I have been to New York several times before – we’ve usually stayed downtown so it made a real change to stay uptown. It was less frenetic, I felt slightly less touristy and I got to say ‘Meanwhile, uptown…’ on a regular basis.
The best thing about staying uptown was the proximity to Central Park. We’ve been in the park before (indeed Baby Dude had one of his funniest ever moments there, when, as I took his nappy off to change him, he peed and a perfect arc of pee landed splat in his face) but we explored it much more this time and it was a delight. I squeezed in as much Central Park running as I could. On our first morning there, I snuck out early and joined the hordes of runners running loops around the reservoir on the lovely cinder track. The views were amazing. This was a real bucket list run for me and it didn’t let me down at all. I ended up running most of the days we were in New York because it just felt like a wasted opportunity if I didn’t. Fantastic running!
One morning, we took the boys to do our family run there. We ran 2 loops of the reservoir, which is basically a 5k. They rocked it – Big Brother scored another 5k PR, he’s taken 11 minutes off his time for his first 5k back in Australia in May. This was the first time he’d run 3.1 miles with no walk breaks and we were bursting with pride in him.
My lovely cousin Tina met up with us in New York and that was one of the best things ever. Tina lives in Virginia. She and I met when we were 16 and 17 and it was like worlds clashing. She was cool…and hot. I was uncool and not hot. I was totally intimidated. It turns out that she was intimidated by my good grades and geeky swottyness. 25 years later we caught up in DC and hit it off immediately, so spending time together in New York was wonderful. Our trip tied in with her son’s 10th birthday so they came up to celebrate. It’s not often that you meet someone and just basically feel like you should be besties. It’s even rarer when you’re related to that person! One night, the Husband nobly baby-sat and she and I snuck out for wine and dinner. We talked non-stop, marveled at how our lives seemed to have mirrored each other’s, cried together (we blame the prosecco) and laid the groundwork for a very precious friendship.
This was basically the first trip to New York for Big Brother and the Dude, so we did a number of standard tourist things, but seeing them through new eyes is always good. We took the boys to see the Statue of Liberty. In retrospect, the hour-long queue and resulting experience wasn’t quite worth it and we should have got the Staten Island Ferry, saving time and money. But I’ll be honest – being up close to Lady Liberty was pretty moving. At a time where immigration is a big issue in America, the ghosts of the past moved me to tears, especially when reminded of the words of Emma Lazarus’s famous poem….
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
On a lighter note, we took the boys up the Empire State Building and that was cool.
Talking of cool, I dragged the boys to Brooklyn. We walked over the bridge, which was fantastic, we ate pizza by the water and took photos with the most wonderful skyline, we rode the famous carousel. It was fun.
One morning, we went downtown to the 9/11 Memorial. The plaza, with its enormous inverted fountain, was serene and lovely. Next to it was the Oculus, one of the most dramatic buildings I’ve ever seen. But Oculus is a shopping mall. So on the site of the worst terrorist attack on US soil, next to the memorial to the dead, they built a fancy shopping mall? I’m not sure about that, guys. But nice work on the building.
Food was intrinsic to some of our best New York moments. We’ve eaten pretty healthily on this summer-long trip but we ate like pigs in New York, got to be honest. On the first night, we headed to Shake Shack, the famous burger chain. It. Was. Spectacular. Their Mushroom burger was honestly beyond all words. The boys raved about their meat burgers too. People often compare In n Out and Shake Shack. I’ve always been unimpressed by In n Out, even in my carnivorous days. Shake Shack rocked my world.
My world was also rocked by Levain’s chocolate cookie. Golly, that was good.
My other NYC highlight was the Fearless Girl statue. If there was one thing I wanted to see there, she was it. And she was beautiful. She stood there, facing up to the Wall Street Bull without flinching. There was a crowd around her. People queued up to have their photo taken with her. And every little girl who stood next to her, hands on hips, chin thrust up, moved me.
Which leads us to Tuesday morning. I squeezed in one last run, one last sunrise as part of our American lives. I thought of the girls I’ve run with for the past seven years. My cat ladies – Jen, Jess, Kate. My wonderful morning running buddy Lisa. The other fabulous Californian ladies that running has introduced me to. You know who you are! I thought of the redwoods and the Pacific ocean and red velvet cake and sourdough and rattlesnakes and mountain lions and that beautiful orange bridge. I ran round the reservoir, thought of you all, and I was grateful.
We flew out of New York with very mixed emotions. Leaving California was hard back in May, but the America of 2016 is not the America of 2017. We are enormously grateful to have lived here during the presidency of Barack Obama and his family. As the plane took off, I felt something akin to relief, something I never thought I would ever feel about leaving the USA.
But despite all this…America, you are wonderful. We love you. We have faith in you and in your people. My family leaves part of its heart in your beautiful, generous, welcoming land. Thank you for everything.
Onwards, to the true north, strong and free!