An elongated birthday celebration

Friday 5 to Tuesday 9 April

Evan had arranged to take Friday off – all employees get a birthday holiday and he was already booked to go to Chicago on his birthday. Nothing like an elongated birthday weekend.

Unfortunately, the lovely sunny weather of the previous two days took a change and it drizzled all day, which presented a challenge for our day together. The best option was a train ride to Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan to see The Cloisters.

The Cloisters is a part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The original collection was purchased by American sculpture George Grey Barnard in 1925 when he travelled extensively in France. It is housed in a purpose-built museum in the style of medieval architecture.

The collection includes sculpture, stained glass, tapestries, paintings, illuminated manuscripts and metalwork – no need to go to Europe to see medieval artefacts.

Perhaps the most stunning work for me was the Unicorn Tapestries, woven in Brussels in about 1500.

We got back as Steph came home from work. This is TGIF so we were taken to their favourite Friday night bar and then a hamburger dinner.

The weather reversed on Saturday – sunshine and warm. We thought we’d check out the tulips in Central Park, but it had been a slow start to spring and they hadn’t bloomed yet. There was however a wonderful display of daffodils and other spring bulbs.

From there we took the train to Brooklyn to find some beer. Craft beer that is. That was successful. The beer was good at Fifth Hammer and the place was buzzing. While there we had a funny message from Hayden.

I had a vision. You were all at a place called the Fifth Hammer Brewing Company.

USA doesn’t hand out receipts easily but will often email them. Bruce and Evan had impatiently put an incomplete email address in – which happened to be Hayden’s gmail address.

After checking the beer, Evan found an interesting Thai restaurant nearby. There is no doubt that New York is a foodies paradise.

Another clear day dawned on Sunday so I opted for a visit to One World to see New York from up high. I still vividly remember the horror and shock of the 9/11 events and wanted to see the progress made on the site.

The view was amazing, as can be expected but the entry was dramatic – a walk through the granite bedrock that New York is built on, into an elevator with an audio-video introduction, the sides were super video screens. Then we were exited to a platform with more audio-video introducing the city. The screen lifted revealing THE VIEW. We were on the 102nd floor. We were then escorted down to the 100th floor where we were given a sales spin to rent tablets that would introduce the buildings and sights on view. We opted for Evan and Steph’s knowledge.

After watching New York from up high we returned to ground level and explored the Oracle – the metro station rebuilt under One World. It is an amazing space that apparently opens up on 11 September to shine sunlight into it at the time the planes entered the twin towers.

We wandered towards home along the Hudson. The city seemed to be waking up from the winter freeze, people out walking, running, even kayaking. Lawns greening, daffodils abound and blossom soon to burst into flower.

We opted for an in-house meal of roast vegetables and lots of chatter. Our time with our boys and their wives is so precious. It is full-on for a week then Skype chats until the next time. I hate that they both live so far and in such unfriendly time zones. But that’s their choice so we deal with it. We just have to stay fit and healthy to travel and see them.

We had delayed our departure from New York to help Evan celebrate his 34th birthday. As it happened, he had to fly to Chicago for the day, to look at some marquees he’d designed for a McDonald’s installation in Washington DC the following weekend. He was up early but managed a civilised flight home.

We met Steph for lunch – at a Venezuelan restaurant specialising in arepas (flat bread made of ground maize), on Long Island near her office. It was good to see where she works.

We celebrated Evan’s birthday with dinner at their favourite Thai restaurant, just a few steps away. It was an interesting mix of flavours.

We couldn’t resist the temptation to wander down to Times Square and see the night-time crowds.

We finished the evening with a single cupcake we had purchased from their supermarket and a few candles.

Evan makes their bread. It is a weekend chore, making enough to last the week. After watching them toast their bread in their unfriendly oven, we couldn’t resist buying him a toaster for his birthday

Perhaps we didn’t give New York our full attention, but we certainly had a wonderful few days with Evan and Stephanie, and that, after all is why we went.