While we were in New York we stayed at the comically-named Country Inn & Suites in Queens. It's an incongruous 9-storey building in a slightly seedy area which didn't seem to have much to offer (although we didn't explore) apart from Queensboro Plaza station, from which it's a quick ride to westbound to Manhattan or eastbound to all the cool stuff in Queens which you only know about if you have friends in, say, Jackson Heights.
One of the most important features of a hotel is a free breakfast buffet, and this one didn't disappoint. Well, I suppose if you were looking for high-quality food it might disappoint, but considering the great price we got for the room I wasn't expecting much. There were strange skinless sausage-like objects, patties of that yellow foamy "egg", cheap bagels, danishes, doughnuts and bread, coffee (or hot chocolate or hot water) out of a dispenser, and for the health-minded, bananas and tubs of fat-free yoghurt. But the highlight was the make-your-own waffle station: a dispenser oozed pre-made waffle batter which was then poured onto an electric waffle iron. Two minutes later, uncanny fluffy goodness. The girls and I had waffles and syrup for breakfast every day. (There may have been some doughnut consumption as well.) The "sausages" were savory and sagey, but the egg tasted like the cushion foam it resembled.
After carb-loading we walked down to the station to catch a train into Manhattan. We bought two seven-day MTA Metrocards — that's right: two. The girls rode the MTA all week for free! Not 60¢, not 75¢, but absolutely free. They got to duck under the turnstiles! (Each adult gets to take three children under 44" for free.)
Our first stop was Fifth Avenue, to visit F.A.O. Schwartz and then walk to the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center. Before we got to F.A.O. Schwartz our sight was arrested by the looming glass cube which heralds the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. Well... it was right there; we had to go in! They had the new iPads to play with, and I looked at docking stations for the bathroom (shut up) and Delphine and Cordelia found games to play, but all in all it didn't strike me as any cooler than any other Apple Store, apart from the great glass elevator. The children wanted to stay and play video games all day, but I impressed upon them the utter lameness of that idea and finally dragged them out.
F.A.O. Schwartz turned out to be right next door to the Apple Store, and also turned out to be closed (it was 9:30 am) so we walked down to the Lego Store, admired Lego and made custom mini-figs for a while, then walked back (with a Starbucks detour). F.A.O. Schwartz was big and toy-store-ish, and they had lots of cool stuff there, but the lines they carry are pretty much the same as the stuff at Mastermind, except more of everything and the occasional sales guy/demonstrator. Delphine was swayed by one of the demonstrators, a sweetheart shilling Myachis. That's what she spent her souvenir money on, and Cordelia bought some Playmobil.
Our next stop was the Second Avenue Deli, confusingly not found on Second Avenue at all: it's the new location! There we met up with Sascha, my oldest and bestest Internet friend and my excuse for the whole trip. We all had matzo ball soup, Blake had a brisket sandwich, I had noodle kugel and Delphine had a meatloaf sandwich. I don't think the matzo ball soup was as good as Baba's, and I don't think the noodle kugel was as good as our family recipe, but they were still very tasty. We took some rugelach and hamentashen to go and they turned out to be delicious indeed.
The Second Avenue Deli was the site of my first kosher faux pas of the day: I asked in great earnest whether Cordelia could have a glass of milk. If you're paying attention, which clearly I was not, you will note that the Second Avenue Deli is a meat restaurant and thus not likely to have handy gallons of milk hanging around for thirsty five-year-olds. I'm pretty good with kosher but I always forget about the meat/milk thing. As we shall see.
After lunch we proceeded apace (I'm trying to see how many ways I can say "went") to the Central Park Zoo. We have a perfectly good zoo in Toronto but it's miles and miles away and not easily reachable by transit, so we never go — this would be the first time Cordelia had ever been to a zoo. The Central Park Zoo is fairly teeny but the animals are all interesting: seals, penguins, polar bears, tiny adorable tamarins (my favourites). The best thing was the Tropic Zone, a building containing a rainforest stocked with a breathtaking number of fantastic tropical birds. Everywhere you looked there was another amazing bird. (They said they had fruit bats too, but I didn't see them.)
We also went to the Tisch's Children's Zoo, which was a fairly small collection of the usual petting zoo critters, along with lots of interesting climable sculptures and a giant spider web made of rope. The girls loved it but Blake and I were freezing in our optimistic spring coats. It was one of those days which are pleasantly warm when the sun shines and chilly and miserable when it doesn't, and as the day wore on the sun's appearances became more infrequent.
We finally dragged the children away on the fairly slim premise of going to Macy's to get Cordelia a pair of shoes. (The shoes we had packed for her were woefully inadequate — they kept flying off when she ran because the Velcro on the fake buckle was shot.) The Macy's turned out to be that store with the cool wooden escalators, which we were on for a long time because the kids' shoe department is on the seventh floor. We finally (not without some testiness all around) found shoes which met my requirements for price and fit and Cordelia's for sparkliness, and then set out in search of dinner.
Blake and I were in that horrible state where you're tired and hungry but too grumpy to decide on a restaurant: everything looks too expensive, too seedy, too weird or too chain-y. Finally after blocks of searching we settled on Mike's Pizzeria on 36th Street, a café-style pizza place that looked clean and nice. I ordered macaroni and cheese for the girls, smoked cheese and mushroom pizza for me, and Blake got a slice of thick-crust plain cheese pizza. When we got to the table it came to pass that Delphine didn't want macaroni and cheese, she wanted pepperoni pizza! Blake said they didn't have any but that didn't mollify Delphine any, so I agreed to take her up to the counter and ask if they had any pepperoni pizza.
Well, I know you've all figured it out by now, but I was tired. Obviously, Mike's Pizzeria was our second kosher establishment of the day (you could tell from the kippah on the guy behind the counter, and the black-hat enjoying his pizza and newspaper) but I once again didn't put it together until it was spelled out for me. Pizza ⇒ cheese ⇒ milk ⇒ no meat ⇒ no pepperoni. Sorry, kid. But the macaroni and cheese was sublime, and Delphine got her own slice of plain cheese pizza.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel to get the children to bed at a decent hour, and then we watched TV on my laptop until our bedtime. (The girls slept on the pullout couch in the living room, and we had a delightfully huge and comfortable king-sized bed.)
Here are pictures.