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Surprise! You're going to New York - Trip Report March 23

Surprise! You're going to New York - Trip Report March 23

Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:40 PM
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Surprise! You're going to New York - Trip Report March 23

My parents' 40th wedding anniversary is next month, and they're celebrating with a three-week long trip to Austria and Germany. They're taking my husband and I to Jackson Hole in September for a belated celebration, so we figured we would even the score by treating them to an EARLY (surprise) celebration trip to New York. On tap for the weekend: beer, food, and bodies...yes, bodies.

I prepared my parents for the trip by supplying a packing list, their required time commitment, and their first clue (a book called "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers"). I managed to get a small clue for every event and spaced out the presentation of clues so that they never knew the full agenda of the weekend.

Day 1 -- Virginia to DC

We told my parents to be ready at 9:00, and I figured they would be slow (as usual) and not be ready until 9:30. Imagine my surprise when we showed up at their house at 8:45 and found them sitting on the front porch steps grinning from ear to ear and waving madly at us! They were clearly excited.

We drove from DC to NYC...and it was a long drive made longer by some construction (and lane consolidation) in NJ. We left Virginia at 9:30 and had 2:30 lunch reservations at Otto's that we had to call and delay until 3:00.

HOTEL: Affinia Dumont, 150 E 34th Street

Upon arriving in NYC, we headed straight to our hotel. We had stayed at the Affinia Dumont in February and declared it our new (to us) favorite hotel in NYC. The rooms are simply gigantic for NYC standards, and the service is excellent. We reserved 2 rooms - a 1 BR King Suite for my parents and a 1 BR Junior Suite for us. My parents' room was ready, but ours wasn't. This was a perfect excuse to take them up to their room and see the looks of surprise on their faces when they opened the door to their room. The suite was HUGE and had an excellent view (29th floor) of the river. I had made apologies on my way up in the elevator "you know, rooms in NYC are really small...hope it will suit you well" and they were truly stunned at how giant and gorgeous the room was.

We checked into our room after lunch. We stayed on the 36th floor and had an amazing view of the Chrysler Building. It was such a gorgeous sight to see all of the glorious roof top decks in the daylight, then see the change as the sunset and the buildings were all lit up. New York at night is simply stunning.

Having stayed in room 402 on our previous trip, we were surprised at the major difference in street noise. Room 402 overlooked a courtyard and was super quiet. Our rooms (2901 and 3603) were very loud in comparison. If you're a light sleeper, opt for a lower room ending in 02 and I think you'll be pleased (but beware - these are studio suites and not formal bedroom suites).

Next Up: Let the Events begin!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 06:54 PM
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DAY 1 -- LUNCH

I had solicited some ideas for lunch, but we ended up using New York Magazine's Top 101 of 2006 and selected Otto's Pizzeria. I didn't have any exciting clues for this "event," so our lame clues on the way up were trying to get them to guess the names of chefs on Iron Chef America. I was hoping my mom would say that Mario Batali was her favorite (since Otto's is a Batali creation), but no...her favorite chef is Flay. Strike 1 against me.

Otto's was a nice lunch stop, though I'm not sure I would rush back to it on our next trip. The interior was large and nice, but frankly I like the pizza better at Two Amys in DC. I had a taleggio and mushroom pizza and was sad when it came - I always forget that I don't like white pizza and that tomato sauce is only available when it is specifically listed as an ingredient. Luckily we had some appetizer eggplant caponatina left over, and I spread a bit on my pizza (instant improvement). My dad and husband were uninspired and ordered pepperoni pizzas, and my mom made a dietary splurge (the first of many over the weekend) with spaghetti carbonara. I think my mom was most pleased with her food..and the boys were most pleased with their wine. Otto's does have a huge wine list (and nice wine-by-the-glass list), so that was a definite plus. Other meal highlights: olive oil gelato. I HAD to have this as soon as I saw it on the menu. The gelato really is made from olive oil...it contains a few nice size salt crystals mixed in the gelato and has a drizzle of olive oil on top. I know it sounds bizarre, but it was heavenly!

Our lunch really was a late one - finished eating around 4:30 and headed back to the hotel for a nap before event #1!

EVENT #1: Ultimate Belgian Beer Tasting (courtesy of Ale Street News)

Remember I said I gave my parents clues before each event. Well, this event was one I did NOT have a clue for...but my dad guessed it over lunch because he had googled "Beer March 23" and it was the first hit. Stupid Google! The four of us are self proclaimed beer hunters and have traveled to Belgium for 2 Christmases specifically for tasty beer. We figured this event would be a complete family pleaser, and we were not disappointed!

The original location was supposed to be the Puck Building and original dress code was formal...unfortunately the location changed to Heartland Brewery in Times Square, and the dress code was more casual, but the event was still fantastic. There were over 100 Belgian beers, and many of the Belgian brewers were on hand to pour their own beers. We met the brewers of our wedding beer (instead of champagne we had Malheur Brut) and my mom's favorite beer (Duchesse de Borgogne), as well as THE BEER GOD HIMSELF, Michael Jackson. (No, not the King of Pop..the King of Beer). We bought Jackson's latest book and were the second in line to have him sign it -- he was a lovely gentleman who chatted with us for about 5 minutes before signing our book. We were starry eyed after meeting this beer legend!

Beer tasting were poured in our souvenir 2 oz glass, and I stopped counting after having 17 (34 oz probably doesn't sound like a lot, but many were 9%+ alcohol). Luckily there were excellent snacks on hand and water, so my head wasn't totally rebelling the next morning. We tasted Belgian beer from 6:30 to 10:45, then called it a night and headed back to Affinia Dumont.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 07:17 PM
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Day 2 -- Breakfast!

I had solicited ideas for breakfast near our hotel, and Penelope was recommended by several Fodorites (special thank you to bill_boy). We loved this place. It was a leisurely stroll from Affinia Dumont, and had a very "neighborhoody" feel to it. Very cozy interior and coffee was served in random mugs you would find in your own kitchen cabinets. The menu was short, sweet, and delicious. Dad had salmon eggs benedict, Mom had a farmer's market omlette, I had Sam I Am (scrambled eggs with asparagus tips and feta), and my husband had a pesto egg sandwich on croissant. Excellent homefries of yukon gold potatoes and yams. This is a cash only establishment, so be prepared. Would go back here in a second.

EVENT #2: Bodies the Exhibition

We gave the clues for Event #2 about 2 weeks before the trip and again on the way up. Our first clue was "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" (which is really an interesting read) and our second was a plastic ear. My mom instantly thought that we were going to New York when I gave her the book because it said, "New York Times Best Seller" -- they didn't get that the book was the clue until they showed up at the exhibit.

I won't describe the exhibit here in detail - I recommend you check out the website:

www.bodiestheexhibition.com

I will say that YES they are real bodies and YES your first impression is to feel very creepy and queasy. However, the creepy queasy feeling is quickly replaced with fascination and astonishment...you will not believe what you are really looking at. This was one of the most educational exciting exhibitions I have ever seen. We took about an 1.5 hrs to go through it (in relative peace at 10:30 a.m....was much more crowded when we left at 12:00) and we will probably buy tickets to see it again in DC. I highly recommend it if you have the stomach. Both of my parents were absolutely amazed -- they loved it!!! And they finally understood our clue.

On a side note, the location of South Street Seaport was really fun. We had never been before, and my parents really enjoyed the view over the water and the shops/cafes in the area. The area wasn't our speed (dining seemed ho hum and the shops were chains) but my parents were enamored with it and said they would like to go back and sit with margaritas overlooking the water for an afternoon.

Event #3: The Ginger Man (with unplanned trip to Ground Zero)

Clue #3 was a hunk of ginger presented to them at the end of the exhibition. They figured we were off to have sushi for lunch...but they were wrong.

We had a quick detour to Ground Zero since it was a short walk from South Street Seaport. They had never been, although my husband and I had been before. I was dreading going to it again but knew it would be important to my parents - it's just hard to understand the enormity of it without seeing it in person. I was still surprised to see people posing for pictures in front of the site and smiling from ear to ear...I just don't understand how you can smile in front of Ground Zero like you're standing in front of Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World. The visit affected my mom in particular who left in tears...we were all a bit overwhelmed, but they were thankful to have paid their respects at Ground Zero.

We hailed a cab and ventured to our favorite NYC watering hole: The Ginger Man. My husband was feeling slightly ill (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the beer he had consumed the night before) and took about an hour break before rejoining us. We had several lovely beers and an excellent lunch of bratwursts, panini, and rubens. We love Ginger Man for their HUGE beer selection and super friendly service. If you like beer and fancy a visit, make sure you go during the day unless you really love crowds at night. The daytime vibe is much more relaxed ad quiet than at night.

EVENT #4: Dinner at Wallse

While at Ginger Man, we gave my parents their next clue: a wind up lederhosen. My dad's best guess was that we were going to an Oktoberfest celebration...close, but not really.

Wallse is an upscale Austrian restaurant that is truly a special dining experience. Upon arriving, I welcomed them to Austria, and led them through the curtain to the restaurant. The restaurant is very cozy and small and consists of a bar, a front room, and a rear room. Great art lines the walls, and the service is really excellent.

We had a drink at the bar and then were escorted to a quiet table in the back room. Loved our appetizers of tuna tartare and hamachi with avocado. For mains, everyone but me had veal chops that they raved about, and I had a halibut with truffles that was divine. Desserts were chocolate souffle and a raspberry dish. We enjoyed 2 very different bottles of rieslings and an excellent dessert wine. Dinner here was a HUGE splurge (about $800 with gratuity) but so worth it. My husband made a beautiful tribute to my parents that reduced my mother and I to tears, and the 4 of us enjoyed an hours-long slow meal that was truly one we will always remember.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 07:28 PM
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Day 3: Breakfast and Going Home

I had been lurking on other posts and saw several folks recommend Josie's for a meal. We had Sunday brunch here and enjoyed it, although I liked Penelope's more. My husband had eggs benedict, Mom and Dad both had a prix fixe that included a bloody mary (I had a mimosa), and I had the vegan Denver scramble (with tofu). Service was efficient but a bit cold. The food was good, especially considering that there aren't a ton of choices near the Dumont, but I would still head back to Penelope before Josie's for breakfast.

We headed back to the Dumont to pick up our bags and our car. Said a sad goodbye to the Doorman, Christopher, who indicated that he had caught a cold while burying his dog (who had died from eating the tainted pet food)...as someone who was missing her own dog, Hops, in the kennel, this made me particularly sad! Again - can't say enough about the service at this hotel...they are all just so friendly, fun, and efficient.

We gave my parents their next clue -- a deck of cards with the Mannekin Pis on them. We waited until we passed through the tunnel to give them their next "event" -- tickets to the Smithsonian beer education course (Heavenly Beers -- featuring Belgians) at Brickskeller April 14. So their adventure will continue in April until their main event to Austria and Germany next month.

I ALMOST FORGOT... We also saw Will Smith! We felt very smug like we had planned the perfect weekend, complete with celebrity sighting. Will Smith was in town filming I Am Legend, and we saw him run from one trailer to another...he waved to the crowd and I got a picture of the back of his head.

In the end...we had a fabulous weekend we will remember for a long long time. We had debated buying them a new laptop for their European adventure, but thought we would give them a memory instead...and I think we succeeded. The sweet bonus was that they fell in love with NYC - and they are planning to return. They had had a bad trip there in January 2004 and it was a thrill to be able to show them a piece of New York that we love and for them to love it so much too.

Thank you New York! (And thanks to my Mom and Dad...truly my best friends and such great role models for having a FUN marriage and life together!)
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Old Apr 3rd, 2007, 07:43 PM
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What a wonderful gift - it sounds like your trip was so much fun. Your parents are very lucky to have such a wonderful daughter, and it sounds like you appreciate them just as much.

Thanks for the great report. (I feel like printing it out now and saving it for our kids to see when they're grown as a gentle hint!)
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Old Apr 4th, 2007, 07:39 AM
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What a great trip you planned for your parents! I really enjoyed your report and thanks for detailing your restaurant choices.
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Old Apr 4th, 2007, 08:12 AM
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what a great family! How cool that you all love to travel together, drink beer together and make trips even more special with clues and surprises.

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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 09:42 AM
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boy is my stomach bloated from all that beer. LOL Sounds like a great trip.
 
Old Apr 5th, 2007, 10:01 AM
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What a wonderful trip report beanweb24!
What a sweet daughter you are and your husband too..
Your parents must be so proud!!
 
Old Apr 5th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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Sounds like a fun trip with great planning.

mmmmmm...beer
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 11:52 AM
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I'm actually sitting here with tears in my eyes. This not only sounds simply spectacular, but I don't know who's luckier -- you to have your parents or your parents to have you.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 11:59 AM
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Neo, I am right there with you! What a wonderful trip & what wonderful memories you have created! Your trip sounds absolutely wonderful.

It's wonderful to see all the good beer tips/spots. It's easy to find a nice wine place, not so easy to find all of the hoppin' (get it, hoppin?) beer spots sometimes.

Anyway, I wish I was your parents, to be treated so royally by their daughter! Hopefully my son will do the same for me someday.......

Cheers!
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 12:04 PM
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Neo & Cassidy, I was and still tearing with joys of happiness too!
 
Old Apr 5th, 2007, 12:16 PM
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What a lovely, personal trip! So well thought-out and tailored to their needs and wants. Thank you for posting.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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Thank you, everyone, for your compliments. I think I am the lucky one to have them...they're still talking to me after the purple hair/tattoo/vampire stage I went through in high school and college.



My only regret is that I will now have to outdo myself for the 50th!
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 03:02 PM
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Do you need adoptive parents?? DH and I could apply.

Seriously, what a grand thing to do for your folks. You (and They) must be so proud.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 03:24 PM
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I'm teary too. Not sure who'd more amazing, you, your husband or the 'rents. A long and happy life together for all of you!
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 03:59 PM
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What a fun and wonderful trip report! It is refreshing to see people who are still married after so many years and the a lovely way you honored them. They raised, obviously, a wonderful daughter. You are a blessed family. Enjoy your parents and cherish the time you have together.
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