Monday, June 30, 2014

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

For a weekend with no plans ahead of time, it sure was jam packed.  It was one of those rare but great weekends where we didn't schedule anything ahead of time and got to just make it up as we went along.  Probably the only one we'll have all summer.

We started out Friday night with a BBQ to celebrate Holden's birthday next weekend.  All of his friends are out of town for the holiday weekend (a fate he'll encounter his whole life) so we had the usual crew - Maeve's family - over to honor him early.


What I was looking forward to the most was the one thing we did have planned for the weekend - brunch with an old family friend who was in town, Jimmy.  Jimmy's dad Jim, and my dad were best friends for over 50 years.  Jim and his wife Bonnie lived upstairs from my dad and his first wife Maggie in the Cole Valley neighborhood of San Francisco in the 60s.  I hadn't seen Jimmy in over a decade and it was so great to catch up with him.

After brunch we had that weightless feeling of having no plans and all of New York City at our disposal.  We hopped on a crosstown bus to finally check out the Frick Museum on the Upper East Side.  We've always wanted to see the Frick, another museum in the home of a wealthy industrialist turned art collector, filled with old master paintings.  But we quickly learned that we are not welcome at the Frick (see sign below).


Much to the kids' relief and delight, they do not allow children under 10 in the museum.  So guess what Kevin will be doing while we're away in Costa Rica and he's home alone...

Here are the kids pretending to be disappointed.

Well, with our plans foiled we regrouped and decided to play tourists.  What neighborhood have we not discovered yet?  We came up with the East Village and hopped on a subway south. 

But then Kevin remembered that the World Cup was still on.  So of course our first stop had to be a bar.


While in the bar I did a little research on my phone and discovered that there was a real live haunted house just a couple blocks away.  So after watching the end of the very exciting soccer match we walked over to the Merchants House Museum.  


The Treadwell Family lived in this house for almost 100 years from the early 1800s until the early 1900s.  They raised their 8 children there and little Gertrude was even born in the house, lived her entire 93 years there and died in the house.  Her ghost is the one which it is believed appears from time to time.  The kids said they were disappointed not to see her but I believe they were relieved. 

The house is a National Historic Landmark and is said to be one of the finest surviving examples of architecture of its period, complete with furnishings, artwork and artifacts.

From there we wandered the streets of the East Village, surprised by the nice cafes and restaurants that have popped up there.  Kevin says that when he lived in New York fifteen years ago you never would have come to this part of town.  While it's still dirty and probably not where you want to be after dark, it was more quaint than I expected.

We came across an amazing spice shop that had literally thousands of different spices.


We even stumbled upon a real cobbler.  After peeking in their window for several minutes we were invited inside.

It was really starting to feel like we were traveling in a different country, even in a different time.

As we were walking away from the cobbler, a man on the street noticed us (there are few children walking around in the neighborhood) and told us that there were children flamenco dancers performing in the garden on the corner.  We found the garden and unfortunately the dancers were just finishing up.  But we were able to wander around the beautiful grounds.  It turns out that many of the empty lots in the area have been turned into public gardens by the city.  This was the first of several that we discovered on Saturday.

After leaving this garden we wandered down the block and discovered yet another beautiful space.


At first I laughed at this sign - what harm could the children do in the garden?  Why did they need to be so closely supervised?  Then after one stint of hide-and-seek where instead of finding Holden I found a homeless man passed out with drug paraphernalia nearby, I quickly realized that the sign was to protect the children, not the garden.  That was our last round of hide-and-seek for the day.

Luckily, this garden was adjacent to another lovely wine bar that was playing game number two of the day for the World Cup.  Even I'm starting to question our parenting skills with the kids visiting 3 bars in as many days...

And again, several blocks away we discovered yet another hidden garden.  The secret gardens all throughout Manhattan are one of my very favorite things about this city.


As we walked through Tompkins Square Park, the heart of the East Village, we saw a group of people gathered all looking up into a tree.  We rushed over to see what was going on.

It turns out that some hawks had nested there and the baby hawk (which appeared to be a foot tall already) had just left the nest.  We watched for a while as the mama hawk came and went from the nest, bringing food back for the baby.  Wildlife in the middle of the bustling city.

Ella had only two things on her wishlist for the day: to hit an antique shop and eat ramen noodles.  The first one is as much a mystery to me as it is to you.  And while I have never seen an antique store in the city before, it didn't surprise me at all to come across one on our day of wandering.

Oh they crossed it.

The ramen took a little effort.  Not that there aren't dozens of ramen shops in the city, but this being New York, then can have very strange hours.  Like Midnight Ramen for example -

Since we weren't going to be staying up past 10pm waiting for this place to open, we headed to a new, very popular ramen house with very long waits - Ippudo.


We all slept really well that night after our day of adventure (and walking several miles).

Sunday was a completely different kind of day.  We were invited by some friends to go over to a wealthy New Jersey suburb to spend the afternoon poolside at our friend Brian's parents' house.  It made us a little homesick because spending a warm Sunday afternoon by our parents' pool is exactly what we'd be doing if we still lived in California.


And no perfect weekend would be completely perfect without wrapping it up with a BBQ in our backyard.  Complete with World Cup soccer showing right on the table. 

At least we didn't take them to another bar.

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