I won't poo-poo the weekend adventure, despite the fact it cost us what I typically spend on a week-long European trip, and despite the fact there was nothing relaxing about it. I enjoyed having the niece and nephew along, and wished we'd had less tour packages and more freedom to get their feedback about what they wanted to do and see. Danie likes to boss Jesse around, Grammy likes to boss Danny and Jesse and Grampy around, Cha likes to boss me around, and Grampy and I like to hang back and go with the flow. We had many pleasant meals at places where club sandwiches were $17, and hanging out with my Mom and Dad for a few days was actually pleasant fun.
Broadway shows proved more prohibitively expensive than expected, and there was really no free time with all the planned attractions anyway. I insisted on taking the kids for a stroll in Harlem and for a stroll and meal in Chinatown. I also took them to the Met, but probably allowed them to lead me more than I should have. I wanted them to see some specific things (Egyptian stuff, Mayan stuff, Greek and Roman stuff, at least some modern art and some European paintings), but didn't want to be school-trip dry. So Jesse breezed us through arms and armaments, Danie took us through the British fashion show (twice) and into the re-created rooms in the American Wing. I had many butts, boobs, and weenies pointed out to me in paintings and sculptures; a painting of Cupid peeing on Venus was fun to explain; and I had to tell the story of Salome and John the Baptist and explain the difference between that and Judith and Holofernes. While Grammy and Grampy and Cha got to tour my favorite museum at a liesurely pace, I was blowing through ten thousands years' of stuff as a tour guide for hyper wee-ones. I loved it.
My favorite 'cultural' experience for the kids? Danie asked at Fluffy's Bakery what kind of cappucinos they had. The Puerto Rican cashier, popping her pink gum betwixt gleaming lips shaded a sparkly burnt sienna, her finger wagging in full Bronx attitude, said, rolling her eyes: "We got the kind with foam, milk, and a shot of expresso. They only IS one kind!" For this charming rudeness the children received complimentary donuts from the owner. We also took them into Central Park at night to hear a DJ spin techno through his Mac laptop to a crowd of E-heads dancing with glowsticks. Ah, New York. I'd have taken the kids to Soho for more exotic food and shopping more often, but Grampy can't walk so good and Thai/Indian etc. don't agree with him at all. Next time.
Note to self: from now on, make sure when accompanying my parents on a trip to take care of the reservations. Mom said she'd handle the hotel, and she got a reasonably good rate at a nice hotel in Manhattan, but then she added a bunch of Expedia extras that were often a waste of time and money. This is Mom trying to be helpful, trying to have everything prepped ahead of time, trying to pay for stuff in advance, without really knowing the intricacies of the city. Cha built up a lot of mother-in-law resentment over these packages, but was reminded of several instances where her Ma has tried to be similarly helpful with similar results.
A) NEVER buy a 48-hour sight-seeing bus tour package unless you just want to skim across the entire city in a couple of loops seeing stuff consecutively. Mom thought we'd be able to hop on and off buses at will and go willy-nilly through the city to wherever we wanted. No--the buses go one direction. If you're in Times Square and you wish to get to the Met, for example, you have to ride all the way uptown and through Harlem first, turning a five-minute cab/subway ride (or 20-minute walk) into a two-hour ordeal. Mom bought SIX of these passes, which constrained us significantly in our travels, as we tried to minimize the cash wasted by finding Tour stops and waiting in line with Iowans and Nebraskans on their first and only Big Apple adventure. We ended up having to spend hundreds in cabs anyway (a party of six is immediately two cabs), and for some reason were not allowed to use the subway. The tours are a good deal if you're a one-time tourist out to maximize exposure to sites--we actually rode the uptown loop and it was fun. But we could have saved a lot of cash getting a one-day pass, or a couple of rides each, if she had asked me first.
B) Pre-paid dinner at Tavern on the Green? Oh, God. The food was ok, but when you purchase a dinner for six online you are discreetly shuffled into a special dining room where Tourists are jailed for two hours, with a specially printed drool-proof menu translated into Hick. Our gay gorgeous African-American waiter maintained the perfect blend of charming good humor and seething contempt. There are 50 better restaurants where entrees are one-fifth the price outside the vicinity of Times Square. I think the intention was to get her grandkids into a 'fancy' place, but again that could have been arranged for far less money. Tavern on the Green is cool for kiddies, though--what with the stained glass and the Elfin treescape of lanterns and lights.
C) I won't complain about the pre-paid boat package--the tour out around the tip of Manhattan and back around the Statue of Liberty was nice, and we saved money online. I'd not done such a thing before. The kids liked it. Good call Mom!
D) I guess we saved a couple bucks getting Empire State Bldg Observation tix online ahead of time, but we still had to stand in a two-hour line to cash in our vouchers for tickets. All for ten minutes at the top.