On the Road: Young at Heart

Gavin and Kathryn Menu in Central Park.

It’s kind of scary as a young parent when you realize you don’t remember how to plan an adults-only vacation. Even a few days without the panic of where to find the next round of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese is hard to imagine.

So, I found myself up against it last month as my wife was poised to celebrate her 40th birthday and made it clear to me that she wanted to exit her 30s in style. We are fortunate to have an apartment to stay in on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which is close enough for us to get home in a hurry should our four-year-old son have some kind of monumental meltdown. It’s also the greatest city in the world, but we’ll get to that later.

We lined up a detailed schedule for our mothers to watch Charlie, our son, and Ella, our 10-year-old daughter. We would pack the kids off to school on Thursday morning (side note: I read recently that getting kids off to school in the morning is like a day’s work in itself, which I wholeheartedly agree with) and Grandma 1 would pick them up from school and handle Thursday evening — TV, pizza, iPads, ice cream, more TV, bedtime. How hard could it be?

In the original plan, Grandma 2 would handle Friday and then kick things back to Grandma 1 for Saturday (see schedule above) and we would be home Sunday morning. As it turned out, my sister and brother-in-law decided to come for the weekend with their three kids, so we had some experts in young parenting and were set for departure. All went smoothly, as far as we were told, and our kids were alive and happy when we got home on Sunday.

View of the Statue of Liberty from the Manhattan II.

Planning for the weekend away — our first together without children in four years — kicked into high gear a few weeks earlier. I spoke to some of my most knowledgeable New York City friends who led us to the Classic Harbor Line tours near Chelsea Piers, and to the Yacht Manhattan II, specifically. This was one of the most wonderful ways to see New York, comfortable and romantic with a friendly staff and a full bar. The yacht is inspired by the classic commuter boats from the 1920s that were owned by the ultra-rich on the shores of Long Island Sound.

The cruise took us up and close and personal with the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. We sipped rosé on the deck and were joined by an army of young international law students who will probably run the world someday.

We meandered across town still glowing from our boat ride and the joy that came from passing pizza and macaroni and cheese-based restaurants before finding our way to Eataly, the marketplace and eatery on 23rd Street dedicated to the wonderful foods of Italy. After a phenomenal meal, including a burrata with spring vegetables that I’m still thinking about, we grabbed a gelato for the road and walked for miles, including a tour of Times Square, which, frankly, has grown kind of creepy in recent years.

The next morning we headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, knowing that some priceless European painting would be safe from the excitable arms of our four-year-old. We toured the galleries and had a drink on the Met’s breathtaking rooftop bar. We lunched on the sidewalk at Café Boulud and wasted away the hours in Central Park. It really is an incredible feeling to just do nothing when your life is so full otherwise.

A view from the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The rest of the weekend was filled with movies, a trip to the “Top of the Rock” at Rockefeller Center and more lovely food and wine without constant demands for our phones and more and more ice cream. It was the kind of weekend that reminded us that, even in our forties, we can still feel young again. And, yes, I know 40 is still relatively young. But it’s also an age that somehow makes you think about your life so far, a moment in time to look back at what you’ve accomplished, or not accomplished, in your journey.

My wife and I spent a similar weekend in New York City when we first met in our 20s. I’m not sure if we appreciated it as much as we do now, but the trips are interesting bookends to our lives together so far. We’ve accomplished a lot, but still so much to go. We are getting older, but we’re still young at heart. And having returned to the land of mac and cheese, cartoons and demands for the iPad, it’s nice to know that we’ll always have New York.