Sick in New York City. Again.

Guys. Guys. GUYS! It happened again. A stomach virus from hell invaded our family while visiting the city that never sleeps (read about the first time here). While in the grand scheme of things getting sick on vacation isn’t that big of a deal, the fact that our family was at the mercy of norovirus in New York City has me wanting to muster my best Nancy Kerrigan “wwwwwhhhhhyyyyyy????” and stomp my feet in frustration. We had originally planned to go to New York City over MLK Weekend but a snowstorm derailed our plans (perhaps that was a sign?) so we rescheduled our three-night stay for President’s Day weekend. We’d been looking forward to our trip for weeks.

Washington Deluxe

We decided to take a bus up to New York City for the first time – we ended up choosing Washington Deluxe and booked our tickets a week out. On Friday morning we took an Uber to Union Station in downtown Washington DC to pick up our bus. The boarding processes couldn’t have been easier. Weston and Violet sat next to each other and Clay and I were across from them – we settled into our sets and before long, we were on our way. We weren’t even 15 minutes on the road when we heard a woman say, “Ummm – your daughter threw up.

::record scratch::

We look across the aisle and our five-year-old daughter is covered in vomit. We had a change of clothes, wipes, and bags – unfortunately, they were all in the cargo hold of the bus and not accessible. Thinking fast, I took off my thin sweater (thankfully for the other bus riders, I was also wearing a tank top) and used it as a rag to mop up the mess. Clay grabbed toilet paper from the bathroom on board and I smothered Violet (and her clothes) in hand sanitizer. I spent the next four hours holding her as she drifted in and out of sleep. She didn’t get sick the rest of the ride and she was her normal vibrant self when the infamous skyline came into view so when our bus pulled into the Garment District, we chalked it up to car-sickness and hopped in an Uber to our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen – the Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan Central Park.

Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Manhattan Central Park

Our hotel room was nice – albeit a little small but that is to be expected in our price range for New York City. Would we love to stay at The Plaza Hotel? Of course. Can we afford to? Hell no. So Fairfield Inn it is! Our hotel was a short walk to Columbus Circle so we were close to a major subway station and I loved the old-school attitude of Hell’s Kitchen. After resting for a bit (and washing up!), we set off on foot to explore and eat dinner.

We ended up eating at Mama Mia 44sw on (you guess it…) 44th Street. Clay and I enjoyed some well-deserved glasses of wine and we had a great Italian meal. The kids really wanted to see Times Square at night so Clay and I yielded to them and braved the commercial and cliched tourist Mecca. Our kids loved seeing the off-brand Disney characters and going to M&M World and the Disney Store. The bright lights captivated them and they commented how it reminded them of our visit to Las Vegas. I’ll admit that I am a huge snob when it comes to Times Square but even I caught myself smiling despite the abundance of chain restaurants.

New York City Taxi

On Saturday morning, we were rested and ready to take on the day. We took the subway to the Upper West Side so we could visit the American Museum of Natural History. We opted to purchase our tickets that day rather than online ahead of time – something we’re glad we did because all four of us received free general admission due to Clay being in the Army.

 American Museum of Natural History

We were blown away by the generosity of the American Museum of Natural History and grateful to experience such an amazing museum free of charge. Because we live in the Washington DC area, we have access to the Smithsonian and go to the various museums multiple times a year – they are wonderful. But the American Museum of Natural History is in a class of it’s own – we could’ve spent multiple days there but because time was of the essence, we limited our visit to three hours.

Central Park
 Central Park Plaza Hotel

After the museum, we walked through Central Park down to 5th Avenue to ogle at the hotel we can’t afford (the Plaza) and to make our way Rockefeller Center. While there, we visited the LEGO store and the new FAO Schwarz, which opened in November 2018. While it isn’t nearly as magical as the original – the clocktower is back, as well is the iconic giant keyboard.

Rockefeller Center
FAO Schwarz

We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at Sean’s Bar and Kitchen and then went back to the hotel to rest before heading back out after the sunset.

New York Public Library
Empire State Building at night
Chrysler Building at Night

We then walked, walked, and walked. There is something magical about New York City at night and I will never tire of seeing the iconic buildings lit from within and under the moonlight. We then got hot chocolate and hopped on the subway to the Financial District.

September 11 Memorial

While this was not our first visit to the National September 11 Memorial, it was our first visit at night. If you only do one thing at night with your children in New York City – take them here. We quietly walked around and had the place almost to ourselves. Our kids asked questions and we answered them to the best to our ability. I also shared one of my favorite quotes..

What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” – David Levithan

September 11 Memorial

Around 10pm we decided that we probably should make our way uptown again. If it were just Clay and I, we totally would have stayed downtown and enjoyed the nightlife but kids. So we got on the 1 train at the Cortlandt Street station, which was completely destroyed in the attack – it only re-opened this past September.

Ann Hamilton Chorus

On the platform is an Ann Hamilton installation, titled Chorus, which has text from the Declaration of Independence and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I was in awe and wouldn’t have minded waiting even longer for the train so I could look at the installation more.

We stopped and picked up some desserts on the way home and ate them in our pajamas. Little did we know that all hell was about to break loose that night…

Don’t worry – I’ll spare you the details but this was the only picture I took on Sunday – we didn’t even leave the hotel room. Weston was the first to fall. Then me. Then Clay. And there was Violet (likely patient zero), who kept herself occupied thanks to electronics. It was not a pleasant day – being trapped in 150 sq. ft. space with multiple sick people pretty much solidified that 100% tiny house living is not for us.

Heckscher Playground New York City

By Monday morning we were feeling okay. We were so disappointed to miss an entire day in one of our favorite cities. However, we weren’t getting on our bus until 12:30pm so spent a few hours walking around and getting some fresh air in Central Park.

Heckscher Playground New York City

This picture pretty much sums up how Clay and I felt on Monday. We were well enough to go about the day but utterly exhausted. We took an Uber back to the Garment District and met our bus. Thankfully – the bus ride back was uneventful and dare I say, even enjoyable. Clay and I were able to relax while the kids kept themselves occupied and I was able to keep my shirt on this time, which was nice.

Traveling with kids isn’t for the faint of heart. Clay and I have a saying about a lot of things in our life together – “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” But if I have to get violently sick with someone in a shoebox hotel room, I’d want it to be the man I’ve loved for 18 years. This trip to New York City wasn’t what we’d hoped it’d be but we’re thankful that we at least got one good day in one of our favorite places as a family. We’re planning another mulligan to New York City. In fact – we learned that once you get Norovirus, you’re immune for 14 weeks so we will likely be going back sooner rather than later. You know – just in case it’s three times the charm for us.

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New York City (Why We Want a Redo)

It’s Spring Break (check out this Mental Floss article about how Spring Break got its start)! Clay left the country for a handful of days so the kids, Lucy, and I are making our way to Florida to join my parents at their beach place. It’s impossible to think of this time of year and not be reminded of our disastrous Spring Break vacation to New York City a few years ago. The 2400 mile trip we made over the course of 10 days in effort to escape middle America during our Fort Leavenworth, Kansas tenure was a journey that involved a gastro-intestinal virus so intense that clothes were incinerated, hotel parking lots eternally scarred, and a shared car-puke-bucket that became the sixth member of our road-trip family.

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The trip began innocently enough. As a family, we decided to go to Philadelphia and New York City for Spring Break and because Clay and I planned to vacation in Scotland later that year, we knew that driving to the East Coast was the only way we could afford to do both trips without forgoing IRA and 529 contributions. So whenever one of the children complained about being stuck in the car during the 1150 mile journey to the Philadelphia suburbs, we would just remind them that we were saving them from the frustration of having to begin their adult lives with student loan debt. And because they were six and two at the time, they seemed befuddled by our response and would then just ask for the iPad. Lucy (our elderly chocolate lab) also joined us on the journey, because you know what makes a multi-state road trip even more fun? A dog.

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By the time we reached Ohio, the children were slightly delirious and happily proclaimed this particular rest area “the best ever!” because we let them run up a hill and buy a candy bar from the vending machine. The bar was set low for this trip from the beginning, apparently.

img_1198.jpgWe were sure to eat at Skyline Chili before stopping for the night in West Virginia. Had we known that 3/4 of us would be channeling our inner-Regan McNeil’s later on, we would have settled on a more neutral dinner choice.

The following day, we arrived at my sister’s house in suburban Philadelphia and hung out, being sure to head to bed at a decent time because the four of us were going to leave for New York City in the morning while Lucy stayed behind at my sister’s.

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Despite Violet getting sick overnight a couple of times (we chalked it up to her stomach not agreeing with something she ate…spoiler alert….we were horrifically wrong), she woke up her normal rambunctious self so we continued on with our place to drive up I-95 toward New York City – Staten Island, to be exact. Because why stay in chic Manhattan when bargains can be found on Staten Island at The Navy Lodge (e.g. see comment above about IRAs and 529s)? After checking-in early, we drove down to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and parked the car in a municipal garage a couple of blocks away.

 

 

 

Now the ferry is nothing glamorous but it is free, fast, and great for spotting people who may have been extras on Law & Order SVU. Since this was our kid’s first trip to New York City, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t just expose them to the swanky parts of the city. And because we don’t have access to a time machine in order to show them 1970s-era Times Square, the Staten Island Ferry is a nice alternative. In case you were wondering – the Staten Island Ferry and the stomach flu make horrible bedmates but luckily, we wouldn’t discover that little factoid until the following day.

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Despite whatever feelings you may have toward the Staten Island Ferry, it does offer a nice view of the Statue of Liberty along the journey.

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And the financial district upon the approach to Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

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We spent our first afternoon and evening walking around Lower Manhattan.

 

 

We spent a lot of time at World Trade Center. The little guy was (and still currently) obsessed with architecture and world records for building height, so he was in awe to be in the presence of One World Trade Center. Weston has basic understanding of the events surrounding September 11th so while sitting near the memorial, he asked Clay some difficult questions about his deployments to Afghanistan and about the attacks themselves.

 

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We then took the kids to Wall Street – where Violet proceeded to puke right near the Stock Exchange, much to the horror of important people in expensive suits. It’s like they could sense we came over on the Staten Island Ferry.

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We used this as our cue that we should probably head back to the hotel. Once back on Staten Island, we ordered food to-go from a nearby Italian restaurant and went to bed, deciding that if Violet (or anyone else) woke up sick, we’d cut our losses and head back to Pennsylvania.

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Thankfully, we all woke up feeling okay so back to the ferry we went! We decided to take the subway uptown and then use the rest of the day to work our way back to Whitehall Terminal.

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Clay now admits that it was on this subway ride that he realized that the sickness had crept it’s way into his body but being the trooper (ha!) he is, he put on a brave face and didn’t let on that he wasn’t feeling 100%. It is also why this post is lacking my typical food/drink pictures because we really didn’t eat or drink anything of value during our time in the city.

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We spent time in Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and of course, the Empire State Building. We then took the kids to Times Square, which I absolutely loathe. And it was after Radio City Music Hall that things went south. Fast. I won’t go into detail what  happened at the restaurant during dinner to protect all parties involved but I was only one with dinner left in my stomach as we rode the subway during rush-hour back down to the Financial District, boarded a ferry (Weston spent the entire ride puking into a trash can…not one other passenger even batted an eye), and crawled our way back to the hotel.

 

 

 

 

I remained the only healthy one during the night, so I cared for my family (and cleaned up after them) in the Staten Island hotel room. In the morning, we waved the white flag and forwent the rest of our time in New York City. I drove back down to the Philadelphia area while the rest of my family shared a puke bucket…my sister’s house never looked better as we pulled into the driveway.

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Needless to say, we want a mulligan of our trip to New York City. Now that we’re stationed on the east coast again, we have plans for a redo – hopefully this summer. However, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, that trip was a not-so-gentle reminder of the G.K. Chesterton quote – “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” While getting sick wasn’t in our plans, it certainly added to our family-lore and honestly, the trip would have been less exciting if there wasn’t the added fear that one of us could throw up at any given time. Additionally, the trip only confirmed what I’ve known since I was 18-years-old…Clay is the peanut butter to my jelly. There is absolutely no one else I’d rather drive over 2400 miles, board ferries, ride subways and trains with over the span of 7 days than this guy – all with two kids in tow. I’d even hold his puke bucket. If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.