I was increasingly annoyed with comments and attitudes that people were sending our way. I needed a break from it, so we headed back to the hotel for lunch and a nap. After eating lunch and desperately trying to get the kids to take a nap, we ended up being late leaving to see the 9/11 Memorial. Alex and I had visited the area shortly after 9/11 and really wanted to see the memorial and how the area had changed. You don’t have to pay to get in, but you do need tickets to reserve your time there. We decided that a cab would take too long, so we were going to attempt the subway. You read that right – we were going to take the subway with two kids under the age of three and the biggest double stroller the entire city of New York had ever seen. See, we were told by the front desk of our hotel that all the subway stops had elevators. We were completely wrong. After figuring out which train and station we needed, we realized that there are only elevators at certain stops. Thinking it wouldn’t be a big deal, Alex and I carried the stroller (with the kids in it) down the stairs to the subway platform. I bought our passes and we proceeded to the turnstiles. It was then that we realized that the stroller was too wide to get through. Panicking, we decided that the best way to get through was for me to hold the kids while Alex folded the stroller up and carried it through. I made my way through with a child on each hip. Alex tried to collapse the stroller only to realize that there was a ton of crap in the bottom that was keeping it from closing completely. He tried to lift it over the turnstile as toys and bottles and bags were dropping from it. I was helpless to assist him. There was no way I trusted Anna or Luke on the subway platform by themselves. Alex slammed the stroller back, still unable to get it through the turnstile. A line was forming behind him. Becoming obviously frazzled, a guy walked up to Alex and said, ‘Hey man, why don’t you just go through the emergency exit gate?’ I just shook my head. Right next to the turnstiles is an emergency exit gate. I opened it (setting off alarms) and Alex walked through with the stroller. Shortly after getting the kids buckled in their seats and all of the stroller contents back in their place, our train arrived. Technically, Alex ‘jumped the turnstile’ and didn’t pay for his ride. It’s possible that he’s a wanted man in New York City now.
We managed to drive the stroller to an empty area of the car. I locked the wheels and grabbed a seat next to the kids. We didn’t know if we should laugh or cry at this point. As the subway lurched forward, I tried to figure out what stop we needed. I realized that I had no clue where we should get off. The man sitting across the car from us overheard and told us what to do. I thanked him for his kindness and help. He was the nicest stranger that we met in the city. All too soon, our stop was being called (or I think it was being called – can anyone actually understand what the driver is saying?). We wheeled the kids on the platform to assess our next steps. We realized that in order to get back to the street, we had to take some stairs that took us under the subway track and over to the other side. Going down another set of stairs wasn’t a problem, getting back up several flights was. I was trying to hold the stroller as high as I could while Alex lunged upward. The kids were holding on for dear life. Eventually, Alex just grabbed the whole setup and carried the stroller (with the kids) to the street. I was behind him laughing so hard I think I peed a little.
After taking a breather and grabbing some water, we started the long process of checking into the 9/11 Memorial site. Understandably, security is ultra tight. We eventually made it through to the memorial and the reflection pools. I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to take any photos, but the memorial is amazing. Without sounding dramatic, the memorial is a powerful experience. To see the sheer size of the tower footprints and all the names of the people who lost their lives – it was astonishing.
We left the memorial area shortly after we were questioned for mixing a bottle for Luke. Security was tight, remember? Next to the memorial was a little building where you could make donations or buy items to support the memorial. We stopped in so Alex could check out the motorcycle that Paul Teutul Jr designed on his TV show. Alex is a major fan of the show, so he was pretty amped.
As we were making our way out, I got a text from Mellie saying that she had finished up for the day and was going to come and meet us. We stayed put, waited, and relaxed a little. Mellie found us and we decided to kill some time before dinner by walking to the South Street Seaport to explore. I thought it sounded like a great idea – somewhere I’d never visited on my prior trips! On the way there, we ran into the coolest playground. The kids saw it and were begging to stop. I had never been to NYC playground before, because I would have looked like a pedafile without having a child with me. So, we stopped and let the kids play with the city kids and their nannies.
We pulled the kids away from the playground (not by their choosing) and made our way to Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. The kids loved looking at all the boats and bridges. Plus, Anna was able to run off a little energy before being strapped back into the stroller. I was crazy about keeping them strapped in – it was the only time I felt like they were safe.
We decided to head toward Little Italy. Mellie had made dinner reservations for us at her favorite restaurant, and we didn’t want to be late. While walking up Beekman Street, we passed a fire station. Their door was up, and I was pointing the fire truck out to the kids when the firemen invited us in to see the truck. Anna instantly turned shy (happens to me too when I’m around hunky firemen). They dressed her up in one of their coats and she got to sit on the truck. It was actually one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in New York City. See, bringing kids to the city isn’t all that bad!
We said our goodbyes to our firemen friends and kept heading toward Little Italy. We happened upon Canal Street. For those that don’t know about Canal Street, it’s where you go to buy the really good knock-off purses and jewelry. I will say, the process to buy them is a bit seedy. It’s the closest thing to drug dealing that I’ll ever do in the foreseeable future. You go to a shop and express interest in buying the ‘good stuff’. They figure out if you can be trusted and send a runner for you to follow to another location. Our runner actually took us to another store a few streets over (we actually ended up in Little Italy). Alex was instructed to wait down the block with the kids and stroller. Even the criminals hated our stroller. Mellie and I were escorted into a purse store where a hidden door was opened to let us into a back room. The door is controlled by a magnet which can only be released by a lookout person in front of the store. The back room is filled from floor to ceiling with designer purses, bags, clutches, and wallets. If you choose to buy something, all negotiations are done there and you can only pay in cash. The bags are put in solid black trash bags and you are buzzed back out to the street to go on your merry way. I won’t say if I bought anything, but I will say it was an adrenaline rush. Apparently Alex wasn’t left out of the fun either. A guy kept pulling out ‘Rolex’s’ from his pants for Alex to look at. If you are heading to Canal Street, read this to be completely prepared.
We gathered ourselves and headed toward La Mela, in Little Italy. Another friend from college, Rosa, met us there too! I haven’t seen her in years, so it was awesome to catch up a bit over some fantastic food. And when I say fantastic, I mean freaking AMAZING. I have never in my life eaten pasta that was that good. I would have taken pictures of the food, but I was too busy completely stuffing my face. I could have filled a bathtub with the fettuccine and eaten my way out of it. I’m still having dreams about that pasta. So, so good.
After I was pulled away from the pasta, Mellie insisted that we go to a bakery to grab some cannolis. It wasn’t just any old bakery, Mellie wanted us to go to Ferrara Bakery – the bakery her family has been getting their cannolis for as long as Mellie has been alive. She almost fell out of her chair when I told her that I had never eaten a cannoli. Not so surprising, neither has Anna. It seems fitting that we experienced our first cannolis together at the best Italian bakery in New York City.
By the time the cannolis were gone (they were SO good – why have I waited this long?), it was late and we were a ways from our hotel. Over our dead body were we going to attempt the subway again. I told Alex to find a cab for us while I said goodbye to Rosa. Alex came back and announced that a limo driver was going to take us to our hotel. Mellie was planning on tagging along until we got to the train station. She was almost too embarrassed to get in. I grabbed Luke and Anna and piled in. The limo driver proceeded to fit the entire double stroller, not collapsed, into the limo through the side door. Finally, a New Yorker who wasn’t intimidated by our stroller! Anna had a blast – probably one of the best things about our trip for her. We probably could have let her ride in a limo in St. Louis, saved a ton of money, and she would have been just as happy. But, then we would have missed out on all these experiences. Ah, the memories.
After breakfast the next morning, we packed and loaded the car. Alex took a turn driving in the city to get us on the road. The first day of driving was long. We got stuck in several areas of road construction and bad traffic. It took about 11 hours to get to Columbus to our hotel for the night. The kids were SO over it. We were all pretty tired and grumpy at that point. After a night of rest, we were at it again early the next morning. The second day of driving seemed to go quickly. Before we could get tired of driving, we were rolling into St. Louis. It felt like we had been gone for years. We had a pile of mail to sort through, clothes to wash, and things to put away. But, the trip was a blast. We did some really fun things, and we did them as a family. It was our first real family vacation, and it.was.awesome!