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Day 37: Boston

Thursday,  October 10, 2013 

We fill up on a hot breakfast before heading out. As we enter Boston, the traffic becomes congested. So different from the rolling hills and easy traffic of New Hampshire. We see parking garages charging $24 for two hours and more. Lonnie hits his EasyPark app and finds one for $20 for all day. We get there and realize they are repairing the entrance and everyone is using the exit for both ways! It’s a block from Chinatown with easy access to other areas. I say, “Go for it, Honey!” Talk about living dangerously! We have to honk before each concrete curve up the parking garage and a couple of times we or the vehicle coming down will have to back up to let the other pass. At the curve, many of the cars have no business squeezing into a small slot at the end, causing great concern as we carefully negotiate around jutting bumpers. “Whew!” We make it up to the top of the 8 level garage. When we tell the guys downstairs our harrowing drive up, one says matter-of-factly, “We all need a little excitement in our lives.”

It's still here!
It’s still here!

We eat at the restaurant we’d eaten at about 15 years ago on a family trip with the New York cousins.

Then, we go by Fanueil Hall and walk the Holocaust Memorial. So poignant …

The Holocaust Memorial is easily accessible to everyone
The Holocaust Memorial is easily accessible to everyone
The horror ...
The horror …
Please remember ...
Please remember …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are plenty of things to see and we just wander around, drinking in the atmosphere.

Samuel Adams watches over present day Boston
Samuel Adams watches over present day Boston
1847 Custom House finds new life as a Marriott hotel
1847 Custom House finds new life as a Marriott hotel
Board of Trade Building embellishments
Board of Trade Building embellishments
Residence Inn by Marriott
Residence Inn by Marriott

We settle in at the Residence Inn by Marriott. It’s a new experience as we haven’t booked at an extended stay hotel before. This is wonderful! We’ve stayed at plenty of Marriott properties on this trip. The Fairfield Inns by Marriott are not up to my expectations of what a Marriott property should be. The Courtyards by Marriott have lovely decors and nice touches. The larger Marriotts have been a lovely experience. But, this Residence Inn would be my choice when we settle down for a bit in Houston between trips. A full kitchen holds dishes, silverware and pots needed to cook meals. And, they have a recycle bin! No cooking this trip as we head to Legal Seafood to see if it tastes as good as it did 15 years ago! Our server is friendly and professional, but my lobster bisque is a BIG disappointment.  A few small pieces of lobster in a pinkish bisque that had no seafood flavor … this one of the very few times I don’t polish off my soup. Lonnie’s seafood platter came out lukewarm. When we brought it to their attention, they made a new platter, hot broccoli included and comped his order. So, however we feel about the quality, Legal Seafood stands behind their food and will make it right!

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People Travel Uncategorized

Day 36: Cavendish, Manchester

Wednesday,  October 9, 2013

Vt. Apple Pie Co.There aren’t a lot of restaurants around, but someone mentions Vermont Apple Pie for breakfast. We recognize the couple at the next table as being at the hotel last night. We strike up a conversation. Another table comes in. They join in on the conversation. A fourth table is seated and asks if we all know each other before jumping into the lively conversations floating around. One of the diners impresses me. He’s 78 years old and used to ski in the area. A couple of weeks ago, he bought skis and will be taking to the slopes this winter! (His wife voiced her concerns with a “What can I do?” shrug.) Lonnie’s breakfast is fine and my breakfast quiche is pretty good. Hmmm … apple pie after a full breakfast? Well, that’s what the place is named for, so we order Apple Pie a la Mode. Another hmmm. Let’s just say that if the pie is not freshly baked or has not been re-heated in the oven to crisp up the crust, microwaving it is not a good way to go.

Sharon, Vermont visitors center houses a Living Machine Center with a 360° view of the fall foliage!
Sharon, Vermont visitors center houses a Living Machine Center with a 360° view of the fall foliage!
Behind the center, visitors are encouraged to sit back and enjoy the view
Behind the center, visitors are encouraged to sit back and enjoy the view

 

When we reach Vermont, it’s time to go by a visitors center. Sharon, Vermont has an interesting one. It has a Living Machine System (with a glorious view of the countryside). There are two tanks – an anaerobic (without oxygen) reactor and a biosolids holding tank.

 

 

The man at the front desk says on Father’s Day, in the valley below, there’s a hot air balloon festival. When they launch, a magnificent mass of brilliantly colored balloons gently rise up past the center!

 

 

Rock of Ages quarry

 

Rock of Ages quarry is a short stop. We go to the visitors center first to watch a video about the history of the quarry before walking across to the visitors’ platform in the factory. The video is interesting, but it’s really an infomercial. We don’t make time to visit Hope Cemetery to see the granite car, soccer ball, etc.  Maybe the next trip around.

Love the tasting tables!
Love the tasting tables!

 

 

 

On to take the Ben & Jerry’s tour and drop by Cabot Cheese. I especially enjoy trying more types of cheeses than the ones I usually buy in Sugar Land.

 

 

 

We'll be waking up on the bright side tomorrow!
We’ll be waking up on the bright side tomorrow!

Arriving at the LaQuinta in Manchester, New Hampshire, we’re pleasantly surprised. The last LaQuinta (New Haven) was the worst LQ we’ve experienced on this trip. Happily, this one was renovated in 2011 after its purchase. It has had at least five owners and was a neglected child in the Clarion family. LaQuinta came in and changed everything! Along with a cheerful, professional staff, it was awarded a 2013 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence. It’s also the #2 LQ in the East Region. (One of my very favorite LQs is in Aurora, Colorado!)

The front desk gives us a list of area restaurants and we Yelp the Red Arrow Diner before heading over. It seats maybe 25. It opened in 1922 and besides a short break, has continued to serve the surrounding community. The third owner created an interesting menu. It even has a favorite of Guy Fieri’s. My husband’s Chicken Fried Steak has a cream gravy with sausage bits. He says the sausage doesn’t overpower the other flavors and it’s good! My Turkey & Rice soup has lots of vegetables, so it’s a pretty balanced meal. Red Arrow Diner has a really nice way of welcoming newcomers. If they find out it’s your first visit, they have a surprise for you! It involves the whole diner and includes a small commemorative memento. Come visit and feel the love!

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Day 35: New Haven, Cavendish

Tuesday,  October 8, 2013

A man soaks up the sun in the park in front of New Haven's City Hall.
A man soaks up the sun in the park in front of New Haven’s City Hall.

New Haven, Connecticut is also called “Elm City” for all those trees scattered throughout town. We stop by Barnes & Noble to pick up a Yale t-shirt before walking around the Yale campus. I love the old architecture!

On the campus of Yale University
On the campus of Yale University

 

 

 

 

I know that some of the buildings were built in the early 1900s and made to look older, but still … it feels like we’re at Hogwarts, waiting for Harry, Hermione and Ron to walk by on the way to class.

We walk over to Hillhouse Street to see the brown house where former President George F. Bush lived as a graduate student.  (At one time, Charles Dickens thought it was the most beautiful street in America!)

Parking tip from a local.  Beware of meter people.  They have been known to write a ticket for metered vehicles that have 5-10 minutes left.  If they think you aren’t coming back in time, they’ve been spotted writing early tickets!

Bedazzled Hello Kittys
Bedazzled Hello Kittys
PEZ Hobbits series
PEZ Hobbits series

We stop by the PEZ factory to take the short tour.  There’s a timeline and other PEZ history.  There are also PEZ dispensers you might not find in your city.  Sorry, I think I got too close to the Swarovsky crystal-ed Hello Kitty collection, so the image isn’t very sharp.  They’re not for sale, but you can make your own using 200-900 crystals!

 

The Hobbit series impressed me too.  A ticket price includes one complimentary dispenser.  Unless you really enjoy learning about PEZ history and want to see what other dispensers you can buy, I wouldn’t recommend taking the short tour.

 

 

 

 

Time to try out Frank Pepe’s pizza! The friendly server says that the clams are fresh so we share a medium pizza with half clams and half sausage with mushrooms. Some of the clams were chewy but the flavor was rich and the crust was crispy. If you like a good char on the crust bottom, they certainly do that here.

Now this is a real coal burning oven!
Now this is a real coal burning oven!
Know your Frank Pepe
Know your Frank Pepe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ask our server about the founder and she brings over a pamphlet and Pepe’s postcard. How generous!  When I ask if they use a wood burning oven, she gives me a look and says, “It’s a coal burning oven.” She walks me over to the counter and asks a worker to open the oven door. He does and there’s a red-hot outline of a pile of coal that shoots a 20 foot burst of heat right across the kitchen into our faces! WOW!!! I’m impressed.

We arrive in Cavendish, Vermont mid-evening. We’ve been in so many mediocre hotels that I have to say how much we are enjoying the night at The Pointe in the Hills. It was a bit hard to find, but once here, I am happy. It’s like a little lodge near Okema Mountain. There are two other buildings in the Castle Hills Resort & Spa. One rents out bigger units and the other is “The Castle.” “The Castle”, built around 1900, is the former home of Vermont Governor Allen M. Fletcher. It was the first home on the mountain to have electricity and an elevator.  The elevator doesn’t work, but the original light switches do!  Downstairs, it’s a restaurant with a library and private dining room. Upstairs are 10 hotel rooms that are always booked.

Dinner at The Castle
Dinner at The Castle

We spring for the dinner and enjoy a romantic meal for two! It helps that our room came with coupons for a relaxing massage and dinner at “The Castle.” After dessert, I’m given a brief tour of the mansion. The original embossed wallpaper graces a portion of the stairway. It feels like tooled leather! The library has it’s original books that guests are welcome to read, but with care, please. It’s been a long day as we drive the short distance down the trail to the lodge. Our room is simply done, but has an elegant feel. The towels are the luxuriously fluffy ones that make me feel pampered.

 

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Day 34: West Point, New Haven

Monday, October 7, 2013

As we head out at 9am for West Point, we see more signs of Fall. Red tinged branches, bright golden hues and fiery orange leaves fight for attention! Leaves drift silently down to add to piles of withered brown discards. It’s a windy day and sunlight reflects off fluttering leaves, creating a glittery dance of tints and hues.

West Point Museum has a wonderful timeline of its place in American history!
West Point Museum has a wonderful timeline of its place in American history!

We arrive in West Point and stop by the visitors center before going to the museum next door. A woman at the front desk says they were supposed to be off (furloughed) but were called in this morning. I tell her we appreciate that! The museum gave an interesting history of West Point, along with the types of weapons that have been used over the years.

Graduate Robert Edward Lee
Graduate Robert Edward Lee
The blustery winds and light rainfall hampered picture taking.
The blustery winds and light rainfall hampered picture taking.

West Point graduates have played important roles throughout American history.

We drive around the campus and I’m impressed by the preserved architecture. We pull over for some pics of the river, but an overcast, rainy afternoon doesn’t yield many good shots.

In town, we stop at Andy’s. The baked chicken lunch special has Lonnie going “M-m-m!” all through the meal.

Andy's at West Point
Andy’s at West Point

The present owner says the restaurant is over 50 years old. He poudly says there have only been three owners and they’ve all been Greek! The owner before him had the restaurant for 37 years and he’s had it for 13.

It’s late when we arrive in New Haven, Connecticut. So glad to stop for the night!

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Day 33: New York – 9/11 Memorial

Sunday,  October 6, 2013

Our son is out of town so we decide not to get lost trying to get to church.  Instead, we head to the 9/11 Memorial ticket office.  (We were told tickets are free, but they have to be picked up at the ticket office.)  A long line snakes through exhibits as we slowly edge our way to the ticket counter.  Merchandise is also for sale.  We stuff a bill in the donation box.  Our assigned time is an hour away.  We wander the streets and head over.  What?!!?  Another line at the entrance is for people without a ticket to go through to get a ticket and walk right in!  Yeah, yeah, I know, life’s not fair. 9/11

9/11 Water Wall

 

 

 

A work in progress, the 9/11 Memorial Museum disappears into the mist.

It’s an awesome sight.

 

 

 

There are two huge, identical square water walls next to the museum.  Visitors next to it seem teeny tiny.

9/11 Tribute

 

 

 

Names are cut through the metal, creating an unexpectedly lovely way to secure flower stems.  A light rain refreshes blooms left to remember and honor loved ones.

9/11 Celebrate life

 

 

 

 

I take a picture with a security guard who was there when the tragedy struck 12 years ago. He doesn’t usually smile for pictures, but I tell him that now is a time for the celebration of life and the resilience of New Yorkers. That got me a small smile.

 

 

It’s time to wander downtown. Famous department stores and lovely displays. Wish we were here in December when everything is lit up with Christmas greenery and lights!

Turkish Eggplant PureeFor dinner, we’re going Turkish. Aroya (?) is a tiny cafe that has maybe 20 seats. They serve complimentary flatbread with olive oil.  Sorry, I have to compare that with Bijan restaurant in Sugar Land.  It also serves complimentary flatbread, but with feta cheese and mint sprigs.  That’s my favorite part of a Bijan meal, honest!  Anyway, the food is delicious, especially the creamy pureed eggplant!  A good way to end the night.

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Travel

Day 32: New York – Subway music, dim sum and a surprise party

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lonnie & I take the train to visit relatives in Flushing.  There are many stops along the way.

One stop entertainers!

Usually we see street musicians and subway musicians, so we are surprised to see (what I assume are) three Mexican musicians hop onto the train along the route.  They play enthusiastically all the way to the next stop and quickly exit!

Dim sum cart
Dim sum cart

 

 

The relatives take us to dim sum in Flushing.  The food is delicious and the restaurant is impressive.  All the columns around the very large dining room turn the same color at the same time – lavender, blue, pink, etc.

 I notice that their Chinatown looks busier than the one in the city.  Cousin explains that after 9/11, many of the Chinatown businesses moved out of the city.  

 

 

 

Flushing’s Chinatown is a thriving community and very busy on a Saturday. 

Just one of the many places Aunt took us!We visit various Asian markets on the way to Cousin’s house.  Everyone follows Aunt as she goes through, picking and choosing the best thinly sliced beef, vegetables, lobsters, tofu, crystal noodles, fish and shrimp balls, etc.  All will go into a hotpot dinner – yum!  We go by a couple of bakeries.  Aunt says they have the best char shew bow and other savory pastries.  We can snack on them late afternoon as dinner will be quite late – some relatives are coming after a long work day.

We aren’t home too long before relatives start coming.  Loud greetings and big hugs ensue.  The calm afternoon morphs into a noisy evening.  Latecomers arrive and steaming hotpots are brought to the table, ready for quick immersions.  Small mesh ladles are loaded with raw ingredients to dip into the roiling broth.  Shrimp and fish balls dance about as they are pushed aside to make room for several ladles at one time.

Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday!

Surprise!  A cake and butcher knife come out, wrapped presents appear and we celebrate an upcoming event!  “Happy birthday, Cousin Eva!”

What makes the meal so enjoyable is the love that glows within, the give and take conversations of a close-knit family.  So nice to be here to soak all this up!

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Time for a Break

There are so many things to see and do on our two month road trip, so I need my rest.  Can’t continue to work on blog entries late into the night after a full day of activities.  It’s time for a break.

I will continue to observe and save photos, videos and thoughts for this blog.  They will just come … later …

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Day 31: New York – The Guggenheim, a Fashion Shoot and Bad Sushi

Friday,  October 4, 2013

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Mueseum
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Mueseum

We visit the Guggenheim Museum.  There’s a major installation going on and they offer reduced tickets.  Visitors can visit three floors.  Whining, buzzing machines seem to amplify as the sounds echo off the walls of the spiral building and make me wish we hadn’t come.  It’s nice that we can ask questions of any of the staff with (I think) “Let’s Talk Art” buttons.  I ask a question and one staff member launches into a perception of what is implied in the gray cast of a particular art piece.  I did enjoy seeing the works of many masters, but the torn paper, scribbles and other haphazard pieces of Modern art is not a favorite.  My husband said I should pull out some of my doodles and practice papers and start tearing!  Suggestion:  Wait until the end of October when that major art installation is finished and you can visit all the floors in peaceful contemplation.

Afterward, we head over to Chinatown. There’s a restaurant that Lonnie wants to visit. We can’t find it and check Tripadvisor before eating at Red Egg. The food is fine and we continue on our quest to seek NomWah Tea Parlor. It’s found! We order. I whip out my camera to take a picture. A man rushes over and says they usually charge for pictures, but since I’m eating there, I can take no more than two. The waitress brings out our desserts. Disappointment. The oversize almond cookie is a little hard and has a cashew on top. The sesame balls were not as crisp as what we get in Houston. Oh, well…

Chinatown fashion shoot
Chinatown fashion shoot

New York is an exciting city. Walking in Chinatown, we run across a fashion shoot.  Wonder what magazine will post it.

Worst restaurant sushi!
Worst restaurant sushi!

We thought we were finished with mediocre food as New York has so many great restaurants.  Yuka restaurant on 80th St. has a sushi special.  For $20, you get unlimited sushi from a set group of choices.  Don’t! Don’t! Don’t do it!  The rice is overcooked and becomes a sticky, textureless blob and there was too much sauce on the eel.  The crab roll was made with sea legs, a fish product.  I consider that false advertising.  As you can see from the photo, the filling is not consistent in thickness or shape so each bite will yield different tastes.  The pieces are also smaller than the regular size.  You have to eat all the rice, seaweed wrap, etc. or whatever you order or you will be charged for what wasn’t eaten.  I forced myself to eat the last handroll as it wasn’t very good but I didn’t want to be charged more – the special wasn’t worth it.

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Day 30: New York – Mobile Marketing Trends, BonChon, The Metropolitan Museum

Thursday,  October 3, 2013

"Thank you, Ryan and Stephanie!!!"
“Thank you, Ryan and Stephanie!!!”

 

 

We visit our son’s office. His very sweet co-workers present me with flowers that remind me of Texas!

 

 

We also meet our son’s boss, a mobile marketing guru.  I can’t let the opportunity pass without asking for an interview!  Twelve years ago, he brought music libraries (ringtones) to America.  In last month’s Mobile Media Summit in New York, he sat on several panels.  He shares his views on the omnichannel, his top three apps, The Internet of Things, tips for marketing students and more:

BonChon crispy goodness!
BonChon crispy goodness!

 

Afterward, we have lunch with a cousin at BonChon, a restaurant specializing in Korean fried chicken.  BonChon is Korean for “My hometown” and has become a very successful international franchise.  The chicken is deliciously crispy and flavorful!

                                                                                                                    We walk off the lunch by visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Massive displays and fabulous collections make for an enriching experience.

Art 3

Funery items of a wife of Thutmose III
Funery items of a wife of Thutmose III

Art1Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking back, I see the wide entrance to a period building.  It’s the Ukrainian Institute.  It seems familiar.  I believe I’ve seen a write-up about the building.  There’s a 20th Century Art Collection on display until October 18.  By now, I’m dying to see the inside and tell my husband we can squeeze in another exhibit.  It is eye-catching and has a beautiully preserve quiet beauty.  Oh, the stories I can imagine it could tell!

Ukrainian InstituteUkrainian Institute 1Ukrainian Institute 2

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Day 29: New York – Central Park, Spider-Man & The Ramen King

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Today we get some Vitamin D!  Central Park has a little fun for everyone.  There are wide expanses of lovely green grasses and walking trails throughout the park.  You can rent a bike or get a pedicab or horse drawn carriage for a leisurely ride under shady trees.  We walk as those bikes, cabs and carriages are not allowed along the footpaths that wind through parts of the park, such as around the lake.

This group is set for a family ride through the park
This group is set for a family ride through the park
An uncrowded day for rowers
An uncrowded day for rowers
Glimpse through the trees along a path
Glimpse through the trees along a path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Spider-Man Turn Off The Light!
At Spider-Man Turn Off The Light!

Our son leaves work in time to meet us for the evening performance of Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark at Foxwoods Theatre.  There have been some serious accidents with the actors as it’s a physically demanding musical.  We bought rush tickets for about half price in the morning.  My considerate son gave me some earplugs as those seats will be in front of the speakers!  It isn’t bad at all.  We sit in the front row, just a yard away from the stage.  I love it when the actors stand a foot away from the edge of the stage as they speak or sing!  In one scene, the men belt out a boisterous song as they lean over the edge.  We couldn’t take pictures or videos during the performance or I would have been able to show you a photo of one of the actors giving my son a fist bump during the song!

Ra-men! Ra-men! Ra-men!
Ra-men! Ra-men! Ra-men!

Our son’s girlfriend meets us for dinner at Ippudo, a Japanese restaurant known for it’s signature “Tonkotsu” ramen.  You might say that ramen is Japan’s “soul food.”  There are two locations and we are at the Westside location.  It’s their American flagship. In the basement is where the hand-pulled noodles are made for both locations.  It’s also where they test new dishes.  Ippudo’s Founder and President, Shigemi Kawahara, “The Ramen King,” brought his complete staff in from Japan with him.  They can be seen around the restaurant in their more colorful garb.  The 61 year-old Kawahara is in town to personally demonstrate his latest vision of “The Universe in a Bowl”.  Mr. Kawahara has been in town all week and just finished a full day of work, which is rare that he works so hard these days.  It all began about 35 years ago, when young Shigemi was at a crossroads.  Should he continue on track as an actor or should he hone his skills as a chef?  Even though his family was not in the food service business, he chose food!  It was after he bought a bar that noodles entered his life.  At the time, ramen was a working man’s dish.  It was a greasy food from simple origins.  Shigemi’s bar must have been a nice one, as single women would frequent it.  He began hearing comments that lit up a lightbulb in his brain.  He kept getting requests for ramen that wasn’t greasy.  He took that idea and ran with it!  Sixty restaurants later, Kawahara decided to open his first restaurant outside of Japan, in midtown Manhattan in 2008.  It was a rousing success and other locations followed – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia, etc.

I ask our server if I may meet the Ramen King.  She in turn brings over a manager who says he will see if that can be.  The Operations Director comes over and explains that Mr. Karahawa has been recovering from a long day and may not look his best.  I don’t mind, so he nods and leads the way.  As we walk, he tells me that “Ramen King” is not a self-proclaimed title, that it was given him by others.  We enter the room and when Mr. Kawahara bows, I bow.  (I hope that is acceptable.  I don’t know Japanese etiquette, but that’s what I’ve seen Chinese do.)  With the help of the Director, we exchange a few pleasantries.  I hand my iPhone over and a quick photo is taken.  On the way back, the Director mentions that he is considering opening an Ippudo in Houston.  Lovely!

With "The Ramen King" at Ippudo
With “The Ramen King” at Ippudo
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Day 28: A Lazy day in New York City

Tuesday,  Oct. 1, 2013

Applebee's, East Harlem
Applebee’s, East Harlem

Today, we take a shopping list and head over to Target.  The only one we know is in East Harlem.  Off we go on the bus.  We eat at Applebee’s for lunch.  This particular Applebee’s is one of several owned by one man.  I like that you can put a radio on the table that can correspond to any one of the bank of televisions on the wall.

It’s a catch up day and we’re lazy!  At night, our son takes us to a neighborhood Mediterranean restaurant.  It’s very busy so I know the food will be fresh.  It’s so nice to be able to walk down the street and have so many varieties of food establishments to sample!

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Day 27: New Yorkers are Really Nice!

Monday,  September 30, 2013

Our son takes us on the subway with him and sends us to the right transfer train before going on to work.  So far, so good.  He hasn’t seemed to mind that we’ve taken over his bedroom and disrupted his sleep pattern!

Our view from the Empire State Building
Our view from the Empire State Building

 

 

 

Today, we meet the “cousins” to catch up on family news as we tour the city.

Empire State art
Empire State art

 

 

 

 

The Statue of Liberty may be closed, but I’ve never been up the Empire State Building.

Use of windows to bring history to light!
Use of windows to bring history to light!

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are displays along the way to give a more detailed view of its picturesque place in history.

Kunjip's wonderful lunch
Kunjip’s wonderful lunch

 

 

It’s lunchtime and we wander around K-Town, looking for a restaurant.  Tripadvisor and Yelp are guides to many of our food choices on the trip.  We slowly wander down the walk and before we get to the menu displayed outside one eatery, a woman rushes over and gives us their credentials – well-established, mentioned in USA Today, etc.  We look at each other, shrug and she leads us inside Kun Jip.  It was the perfect lunch, with all the little side dishes (seconds on the seasoned fish and bean sprouts) and attentive service!

It's grand!
It’s grand!

 

We need to walk off the lunch and head to Grand Central Station. Cousin takes us to the intersection where you can whisper in one corner and someone will hear it in the diagonal corner. Too bad there’s no flash mob at the station today!

 

With Rupert at Hello Deli
With Rupert at Hello Deli

The cousins have to leave and we decide to go by Hello Deli to see Rupert Gee. The business is just steps away from the back door of the David Letterman Show.  For years, Letterman would send Rupert around to say crazy things to people and get their reactions.  One day, they went too far and the victim strongly objected.  Now, Rupert just sells the show’s merchandise in the show’s lobby and his little deli.  Lonnie has an autographed Hello Deli t-shirt and a mug that our son gave him.  A couple of years ago, our son sent a clip of Rupert wishing Lonnie happy birthday.  When we told our son that we were leasing out or possibly selling the house, he called my husband and put Rupert on the phone.  Rupert relayed that our son was quite concerned about what we’re planning to do with the house.  He asked if Lonnie was sure he wanted to do that.  So funny!

Earlier, this photographer made no time for pleasantries
Earlier, this photographer made no time for pleasantries

Anyway, we walk by a barricade near the back door of Letterman, with several photographers waiting.  I ask what’s going on. The two nearest me don’t answer.  I’m pretty surprised as it’s normal in Texas to respond when someone speaks to you.  The third person tells me that they’ve been waiting almost three hours for Sting to come out.  The man tells me about his blog and gives tips on how to find celebrities.  It’s almost time the show finishes taping.  I stick around with my non-DSLR older camera, ready to experience life as a paparazza.  Next to me, a grizzly old man is holding a Sting photograph and a permanent marker.  To make conversation, I say, “Oh, you’re going to get his autograph.”  Without looking at me, he replies, “I’m bakin’ a cake.  Whatta ya think I’m doing?!!?”  I have to laugh!  Don’t bother someone focused on work.

Sting steps out, waves and disappears into the SUV.  After his vehicle enters traffic, the light changes to red.  There’s a rush as fans try to get his attention.  That’s when I leave.  I wouldn’t want people to follow me all over.

"The Patient Bus Driver"
“The Patient Bus Driver”

We take a few photos at Rockefeller Center before catching a bus to Little Italy.  We tell the driver where we’re going and he says we’ll have to walk over a couple blocks when we get off.  We get off and look puzzled.  He opens the door and asks us again where we’re going.  Instead of telling him where, I give him the address.  He looks at us and jerks his head as if to say, “Get back on.”  Several times we think we’re near the destination and each time he says, “Not yet.”  So patient he was with us!  I wave as we cross to the curb and he waves back.

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Day 26: New York! New York!

Sunday,  September 29, 2013

Our son leaves early to wait in line for seats to the noon service at Hillsong NYC.  His girlfriend comes by to take us to the subway and show us how to buy metro week passes.  We three hop on the subway and head out.  Hillsong NYC is an offshoot of the original Australian church.  The New York congregation meets at different venues around the city.  From what I understand, they want to make it easy for those who don’t normally attend church to do so in familiar surroundings.  We must be at the contemporary service.  Today’s worship service is in a nightclub.  It’s different, seeing the lighting system beam color all around, the bright tones bouncing off a large mirror ball hanging from the ceiling.  Our son saved seats in the balcony as he knew the music would be too loud for us downstairs.  The message is about forgiveness, something we can all relate to.  

Baby Boy takes us to sample Joey’s Pepperoni Pizza’s $1 slice of cheese pizza.  Lonnie pays a buck more for meat.  I prefer cheese and am glad I did!  Then, we go to Baohaus to sample their baos.

Baohaus creations
Baohaus creations

If I haven’t mentioned it before, a bao is the breading that goes around a filling.  It’s usually savory.  The bao could be folded like a taco shell or shaped like a round bun with filling inside.  Baohaus is one of the original bao places that started in New York a few years ago.  My fried tofu bao has plenty of sauce and crusted peanuts. I’m not a fan of braised pork belly.  Though I seldom eat pork belly, I like it crispy.

Fat Bao's Crab Daddy - soft shell crab with spicy mayo and Asian slaw
Fat Bao’s Crab Daddy – soft shell crab with spicy mayo and Asian slaw

My favorite place for Chinese buns in Houston is Fat Bao.  It’s good and they have created some interesting combinations.  Their Fat Fries is a favorite – fries with a topping of bulgogi beef or pork belly.  And, Fat Bao has complimentary cucumber infused water!

We go by Union Square and laze around in the sun, eating our baos and soaking in the sounds of musicians on the stage and tourists milling about.

“Family” joins us and we go to a local bakery, Eileen’s Special Cheesecake.  Yum!  So light and not too sweet –  my kinda cake!

Foo Kee Seafood Restaurant
Foo Kee Seafood Restaurant

At night, it’s a multi-course dinner with family at Foo Kee Seafood Restaurant in Flushing.  The meal is delicious!  If you haven’t noticed by now, our family and friends consider it their duty to stuff us to the gills when we come visiting.  They will often greet guests with “Have you eaten?” and proceed to push food on you, whether you just ate or not!

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Day 25: Philadelphia, New York

Saturday,  September 28, 2013

The City of Brotherly Love is sunny and bright.  We visit Benjamin Franklin’s gravesite.

The line to see the Liberty Bell builds
The line to see the Liberty Bell builds

The line to see the Liberty Bell is quite long.  We reason that we’ve seen it and walk around reading and watching the displays outside the Liberty Bell area.

Magic Gardens shines!
Magic Gardens shines!

 

 

 

A feast for the eyes and mind can be found in the Magic Gardens.  The non-profit uses space inside and out to showcase the cool mosaics of Isaiah Zagar, share folk art and tell the history of South Street through creative works of art!  If you cross the street to the grocery store and go up to the top floor of the parking garage, you can get some great shots from above.

We drive into New York in time for dinner.  Our son takes us to a nice restaurant to celebrate our finally coming to visit him.  His girlfriend joins us at Arlington Club Steakhouse.  Baby Boy loves their complimentary popovers!  Mine is a little too crispy and that makes it a touch bitter.  The crab cakes, gnocchi, and other dishes are quite good.  After we leave, our son asks if we noticed (singer-songwriter) John Mayer.

 

 

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Day 24: Lancaster

Friday,  September 27, 2013

Young Amish woman on scooter
Young Amish woman on scooter

We decide to go on a buggy ride and pick Aaron & Jessica’s.  It claims to be the only Amish owned and operated buggy ride in the Lancaster area.  A group of us plod on down the road to visit a working farm.  A young woman flies by on her scooter.

The farm has a new family member!
The farm has a new family member!
Friday is one of the wash days on the farm
Friday is one of the wash days on the farm

 

Life on the farm is calm.  Cows are housed in the shade of the barn.  We’re told that they produce more milk that way.  Drying tobacco leaves fill the rafters of another barn.  A newborn calf is still a bit wobbly.

 

 

 

It’s wash day and clothes flap in the breeze.

 

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Day 23: Gettysburg, Lancaster

Thursday,  September 26

We enter Maryland on US-15 North and immediately curve around a big mound of dirt in the middle of the highway – strange.  Now, if it had been like the Mecom fountain (in Houston) in front of the former Warwick Hotel (now Hotel ZaZa) that would be different.  The Warwick, built in the 1920s, was a gracious reminder of days gone by.  When comedic legend Bob Hope visited, he said that looking down on the cars curving around the Mecom fountain and going straight down the street was a beautiful sight and one of his favorites.

Gettysburg greeter!
Gettysburg greeter!

We park on the street and find out that the parking meter only takes dimes.  We didn’t have dimes and put in a quarter.  It didn’t even register so we went into a business to get change.  So, if you’re visiting Gettysburg, bring plenty of dimes!

George & Martha Washington's hair
George & Martha Washington’s hair

The Gettysburg Museum of History is not all about Gettysburg.  Owner, Erik L. Dorr, has curated an eclectic and just plain weird collection.  There are Civil War artifacts,

political and other military items and odd things like George & Martha Washington’s hair!

All over Gettysburg monuments, statues, artillery and other items can be seen.

On the road to Amish country, we stop by Perrydell Farms and again I am flabbergasted!  Such a nice building puts a port-a-potty for customers across the parking lot!  Now, I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer everywhere.  I will say that the Perrydell Farms store carries an excellent chocolate milk and a delicious (and generous) $1 ice cream scoop with an optional pretzel cone.  I enjoy the peanut butter ice cream, the pretzel cone not so much.

It’s late when we pull into Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  We go by Katie’s restaurant looking for authentic Amish fare.  Turns out that they eat the same foods as the average American – pot roast, chicken pot pie, meatloaf, etc.

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Day 22: Virginia

Wednesday,  September 25, 2013

We drive through the Virginia countryside.  There are horse farms, orchards and vineyards with wineries.  We go by a sign selling fresh duck eggs and past a well-stocked pumpkin patch.  There are so many idyllic rural scenes of grazing animals, red barns and silos along the winding hills.  We mention how nice it must be to live here.  We’re told that Lynchburg would be a good place.  It’s near the University of Virginia and there are enough activities to make it interesting.  Our friend points out the deep valleys and told us how his friend was using a backhoe to dig through the snow.  It was so deep that the backhoe got stuck and needed another backhoe to get it out!  Oh, well, we won’t be moving any time soon.

It’s off season so it’s not busy when we arrive in Harper’s Ferry.  It’s has a significant place in American history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown’s_raid_on_Harpers_Ferry.

There are people walking around, but there’s plenty of elbow room.  This is definitely a tourist area as a large portion of the buildings were just storefronts of old-time businesses.  You can peer in or open the door and walk in for a better view.  Our friend and his wife lead the way as we start the hike up to the lookout point in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.  It was a two hour hike each way.  Teens to seniors occasionally pass us, but no problem, we will get there.  Oh, what a sight!  The whole town was laid out in front of us.

Soldier at ease
Soldier at ease
Walking up to the lookout
Walking up to the lookout
One hiker prefers to feel the ground
One hiker prefers to feel the ground
Old support posts. Could they be from an earlier bridge?
Old support posts. Could they be from an earlier bridge?
Harper's Ferry
Harper’s Ferry
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Day 21: Virginia

Tuesday,  September 24, 2013

Our friend, the walking encyclopedia, gives us a history lesson on the way through Shenandoah National Park.  We will be missing all the apple festivals in Virginia.  The area’s festival promotes vintage apples, like the species that Thomas Jefferson developed.  The October festival sells varieties of heirloom apples to encourage local growers to preserve them by continuing to grow them.  The first apple originated in what is now Afghanistan.  If I remember correctly, it was later noted that one, the Golden Pippin, was the only apple the French Emperor would eat. A light comes on and our friend pulls out the owner’s manual, tells us we have low tire pressure.  The young woman at Boyce Service Center checks the tires and says they’re fine – it’s possible the spare is getting low.  Tires these days have wireless pressure sensors built into the tire that can send out a signal to the car’s system if there’s a problem.  I will say, if you are ever going through Boyce, Viriginia and need a pit stop, Boyce Service Center has a clean restroom.  As the only female there, the young woman says she cleans it every day! Here are some sights as we drive through the park.  The perfect opportunity to see  Two friendsteeming wildlife on a glorious SeptemIMG_9232ber day. Gimlet Ridge Overlook Pass Mountain OverlookHogback OverlookThen, we have lunch in Luray before touring the caverns.  Uncle Buck’s restaurant had decent food, but we had to wait quite a while before it came out.  Found out that the owner came in and wanted lunch, first.  Hmm.. Luray watersWe tour the caverns and hear the usual story of discovery.  The guide then reveals the mystery of finding bones of a young girl, fossilized into the stone.  How could anyone have entered the cavern?  The opening was too small.  And there were only a few bones.  Where are the rest of them?  You’ll have to take the tour to get our guide’s take on what might have happened. Luray caverns vet memorialWe’ve been to Natural Bridge Caverns in Texas, but there is no fallen stalagtite as huge as the one here!  During the tour, we come upon a tribute to locals who went off to war and perished.  I also found it interesting that there is an organ on the cavern floor.  How enterprising.  They book parties down here.  Luray 3-wheeler

Our tickets also get us into the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum next door.  There are some good displays of Rolls Royces, milk trucks, etc.Luray speedster

Owning one of the few automobiles of the time, feeling the open air whizzing by as one tooled down the open road must have been exhilarating!

We start for home.  Pit stop when we fill up at the Mobil station at 63 West 14th St. in Front Royal.  Horror of horrors!!!  There’s no inside restroom, just a port-a-can on the side of the building. Yuck!!! Yuck!!! Yuck!!! Well, that aside, it’s been a long but enjoyable day.

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Day 20: Virginia

Monday,  September 23, 2013

Dave's Seafood & Subs' soft-shelled fried crabs with handmade onion rings
Dave’s Seafood & Subs’
soft-shelled fried crabs with handmade onion rings

We eat lunch with a friend at Dave’s Seafood & Subs.  Loved their fried crab sandwich!  The batter on the onion rings stays put, no sliding here!  There’s also a stop at Willard’s BBQ to take brisket to another friend.  Willard’s has the closest thing to Texas style ribs and brisket!

Mom's Apple Pie shop in Leesburg, VA. sells more than apples!
Mom’s Apple Pie shop in Leesburg, VA. sells more than apples!

We spend several days with another friend.  He missed some things about Texas: Blue Bell ice cream that is made in Brenham and is slowly working it’s way through the states.  His favs are Butter Pecan and Condensed Milk.  Mine are any of the Blue Bell Vanillas and Cantaloupe!  He also misses Holmes Pecan Smoked Sausage.

He takes us to his favorite pie place.  We picked a pecan pie made with brown sugar.  Very good.

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Day 19: Virginia

Sunday,  September 22, 2013

Church service at the Marriot Hotel!
Church service at the Marriot Hotel!
This Marriott Hotel has beautiful features such as quiet conversation areas and a beautiful aquarium
This Marriott Hotel has beautiful features such as quiet conversation areas and a beautiful aquarium

Yaay!  Today is the Lord’s day and we go with a friend to church.  This congregation meets at different locations around the city and I am loving the lighting in a ballroom of the Marriott Hotel.  What joy can be found in singing hymns with gusto!  After service, we walk through the lovely hotel.

We’re coming to the close of week three and enjoying the beautiful, wooded areas and wide open spaces.  The absence of billboards (that litter the highways and byways in zone-free Houston) makes everything visually pleasing!

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Day 18: Florence

Saturday,  September 21, 2013

Leaving Charleston
Leaving Charleston

This is a catch-up day.

An Ava Gardner Weekend!
An Ava Gardner Weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stop at Hinnant Family Vineyards in North Carolina on the way to Viriginia.  This is the poster we saw.

 Awww, we’re gonna miss the Ava Gardner Weekend!  She was a Johnson County girl, so the whole county will be celebrating.

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Day 17: Charleston

Saturday,  September 21, 2013

The Charleston Visitors Center is not an easy place to find.  When we finally find it, the woman at the desk agreed that it could be easier.  We suggest the first thing to do is to cut back the tree that covers the sign pointing to it!  Moving on, it is cool to house it in an old grain elevator.

We wind up on a bus tour because my dear husband talked me into seeing more of Charleston this way than in a horse drawn carriage.  Sadly, he’s right.

Beautiful example of wrought iron artistry
Beautiful example of wrought iron artistry

The “Talk of the Towne” tour guide, Alan, was a Literature major and loves to read.  He rattled off so many facts that were gleaned from accounts of the Civil War, Charleston and the South.

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Day 16: Savannah

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Savannah, Georgia is the first “planned” city in the United States.  It also has the largest historic district in the country.  Founder James Oglethorpe was a member of the British Parliment, so he probably liked things nice and orderly.  The city still maintains 22 of the original park-like squares that make driving a straight line a challenge.  We take a trolley tour and learn things like:  Their theatre is the oldest in the country; in the movie, Forest Gump, Savannah’s Independence Presbyterian Church (established 1755) is where a feather floats gently down to the bench where Forest sits; Girl Scouts of the USA founder, Juliette Gordon Low, was born in Savannah.  We also welcome two visitors to the trolley.

The river walk along the waterfront is packed with shops and restaurants and visitors willing to part with their money.  We take the short ferry ride across to the Westin Hotel and back.  Nice view of the city from the water.  Next, a walk over to the City Market, home to The Lady & Two Sons, Paula Deen’s restaurant.  We were just curious.  She’s asked for forgiveness more than once and I believe in second chances.  Asked a local, and he puts Mrs. Wilkes’ in the top two.  Sorry Paula, you just missed it.  Mrs. Wilkes’ dining room is only open weekdays, 11am-2pm.  We arrive around 12:30pm and there’s a line out the door and down the sidewalk.  When we finally sit down, it’s dish after dish after dish!  Comfort food – mashed potatoes, crispy fried chicken, homestyle mac ‘n cheese, cabbage, collared greens, beef stew, etc.  It’s good, plain, Southern cooking!

Fountain in one of the original planned parks
Fountain in one of the original planned parks in Savannah

It’s time to leave for Charleston.  Savannah and Charleston have a friendly rivalry on who has the nicest historical district.