Last week Jenny and I took a short trip to New York, because we had three things to celebrate: Valentine’s day, our upcoming fifth anniversary, and Moonbeam (with Elena we waited too long for the babymoon, so we wanted to have one earlier this time). Several months ago we started planning: we invited Jenny’s mother to stay with Elena, booked inexpensive tickets on the Bolt Bus, and found a good hotel that we could pay for with airline miles.
Our trip was only for two nights and we didn’t make any plans. We wanted to eat good food and explore parts of the city we hadn’t seen before, and maybe go see a show or visit a museum. Jenny contacted a friend she hadn’t seen in years and arranged for us to have lunch. The weather was amenable to our plans; the first two days felt almost like spring, and although there were high winds and snow flurries the day we left, we missed a serious storm that blew in a day later.
Because we hadn’t done much advanced planning for our activities, several times I found myself wondering whether trips like this would even be possible without the internet in our hotel room and even at our fingertips all the time. If we wanted something to eat, we could find something close by and well-rated just by pulling out Jenny’s phone and looking something up. We made our way around with no missteps because whenever we didn’t know where we were or where we were going, we could pull up a map that would show us our current location and directions to our destination. It didn’t always work perfectly–if New York is truly the city that never sleeps, it seemed odd that we couldn’t find an ice cream shop anywhere in midtown Manhattan at 9:00 on a Saturday evening.
Our dining experiences were very fulfilling. During this pregnancy Jenny’s been enjoying bagels, but the ones we have at home are nothing compared to the fresh ones we had for breakfast, warm and loaded with cream cheese. We ate at Empanada Mama, where the empanadas were amazing, but the plantain chips and guacamole stole the show anyway. The second night we had dessert first–at Cafe Lalo (notable for its appearance in You’ve Got Mail)–before enjoying a late Indian dinner. We thought about ordering out, but it smelled so good that we decided to go in and enjoy the atmosphere of a sit-down meal.
On Friday afternoon we went out to the suburbs of New Jersey where we met Jenny’s friend Carolyn and her daughter, who’s several months younger than Elena. Jenny and Carolyn met while studying abroad in England and traveled across Europe together. They had a good time catching up, discussing life and parenting, reminiscing about their travels together.
Our plans for cultural activities did not turn out to be as successful as our food experiences. We put our names in the lottery for rush tickets to Wicked, but didn’t win. The next day we walked by the TKTS booth, but the line was long and it wasn’t worth it for us to wait. Instead, we were able to spend more time on our temple visit that evening. We tried to go to a taping of the Today Show, but got there about ten minutes too late. We walked over to the UN building for a tour, but it would have taken too long and we needed to make our appointment with Carolyn. Besides all that, it took so long to get from one part of the town to another that it didn’t seem worthwhile to make any impromptu museum visits. We did visit Greenwich village on Saturday morning, but there wasn’t much to see so early in the morning. Many of the locals probably went to bed at the time we arrived, and Washington Square park was under construction so we couldn’t even find the famous chess tables. We did have just enough time to do some shopping at a chic maternity consignment store and take action on our final food experiment–falafel from Mamoun’s.
When I was younger, I thought the primary benefit of a vacation was in doing as many new and different things as possible. Now I see the benefit of vacation being instead of doing. By existing, if only briefly, under a different set of circumstances, we change our context and connect with parts of ourselves and our relationships that may have been lost in the daily grind of ordinary living. That is, even though we took a trip without Elena last December, and even though we didn’t do much on this trip except eat and walk, and even though my relationship with Jenny can only be described as wonderful all the time, somehow this trip helped us reconnect and remember a little bit of how we were when we were dating and newly married. It was a refreshing experience.