On our way home

We’re at the airport now. True to form, we overestimated and arrived with 2 hours to kill (this was after checking-in.)  But, there were no problems on the way, and we have more books than we need to keep ourselves entertained until boarding.

The final day of adventure (now w/pictures)

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And so the end arrives.  We got off to an early start this morning and headed straight up to the furthest tip of Manhattan to see the Cloisters. The Cloisters is a collection of medieval art maintained by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met). Everything from tapestries to religious artifacts, to whole walls and ceilings brought over from Europe (dating anywhere from the 12th-18th centuries) are installed in a big stone, almost castle-like building situated in Fort Tryon Park. One thing the Met does well (which we later discovered by visiting the main building in Central Park) is create atmosphere around their art collections.

P1030766(The Unicorn Tapestries!)

Not only do they arrange their pieces nicely within display cases, they take the next step further and make the entire room one large display case. So while the art is behind glass or cordoned off, you feel like you’re seeing them in old 16th century castles in Europe, or excavating them yourself from archaeological digs in Egypt.

After walking around the Cloisters for an hour or so, we headed to lower Manhattan to visit China Town and Little Italy. It’s impressive how no matter what city you’re in, the China Towns all have similar feelings to them. They are laid out relatively the same; even in relation to surrounding neighborhoods. Like San Francisco, Little Italy fell directly adjacent to China Town here in New York.

We wandered around both cultural locales for a little while, and eventually decided to find some lunch. Little Italy had one main stretch of restaurants all boasting about the same fare and specials. We figured one was bound to catch our interest and fall in our price range. As we walked along the sidewalk, looking over posted menus and narrowing down the options, a host to one restaurant whose menu we scrutinized approached us. Clearly a local, and sporting a neat row of gold teeth above his lower lip, he drew our attention to the lunch specials, and talked up the cooking. The price was right, and we felt bad letting all the old gentleman’s work go to waste, so we went on in.

Through the course of our meal (which was in fact delicious!) we watched the golden-toothed host draw other visitors in with just as much aplomb and casual friendliness.

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Next we headed uptown once again to the Met main art building, which was huge! We went first through the Egyptian art installations, then ended up in a series of period rooms (which were decked out to reflect specific time periods and the styles prevalent in those respective times) and in the course of our haphazard touring, we got completely lost. Which apparently wasn’t rare in this place. In every other room or so there stood a security guard to make sure no one was touching something they shouldn’t be. However, these men and women were much more than just guards, they were guides. Every few minutes a visitor would approach them and ask for directions to any number of places. There was just too much space and too many routes and too many options that following a set line from one exhibit to the next was nearly impossible.

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After a few hours (I think we saw almost all of it), Emily and I decided we were exhausted. Not only that, there was still packing to be done. So we stopped for some sandwiches to fill our dinner needs, and headed back to the hostel.

Now we’re nearly all packed and only have some garbage to throw out and toiletries to store away. Our flight leaves Laguardia tomorrow at 10:40 a.m. and we’re supposed to touch down back in Colorado around 4 p.m. (after another layover in Houston).

It’s been a lovely trip, filled with so much exploration and constant motion that I think we’re both ready to return home and recuperate. Thank you all for keeping up with us on this journey and putting up with our rather odd eccentricities. It’s been nice having you along for the ride.

Until later.

~a.

9 down, 2 more to go

It’s hard to believe we only have one full day left here.  The time seems to have flown by ridiculously fast.

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Today we were up and out later than usual.  The American Museum of Natural History was our first stop of the day, and it didn’t open until 10.  There was a whole mess of people waiting to get in when we got there right before opening. That wasn’t a problem, though, as this place is huge.  And they have an amazing amount of artifacts – just cases and cases of items. You could spend all day in there, if you took the time to really read everything.  We didn’t, so were out in about 2 hours.

Lunch was at a small restaurant called the Papaya King, which is famous for its hotdogs and Papaya juice.  Good food, although the Papaya juice was an interesting taste.

We also strolled through Central Park to get there.  It’s alot like the Golden Gate Park, except bigger, and somewhat cleaner.  We only saw a small portion of it, but it was very pleasant to be out of the business of the city.

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The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island made an appearance in our day when we took the ferry to Staten Island and back in the afternoon.  It’s free and conveniently passes right in front of the landmark. :)  As usual, smaller than one would imagine, but very impressive nonetheless.

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After that, we just wandered.  We revisited the library.  I had discovered that the original Winnie the Pooh toys were located somewhere there and insisted we go back.  Once we found the children’s room, they were right there on display. :) Some shopping along 5th Ave. followed, but that pretty much covers our day.  I hope yours was just as enjoyable!

Parades, Pedestrians and Pizza

Today being Sunday, we started the day at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We had planned on going to the 10:15 mass, we hadn’t planned on there being a parade. New York City hosted the annual Puerto Rican Pride Parade today. I never discovered the exact route of the parade, but a good portion of it seemed to be along Fifth Avenue, right in front of St. Pat’s. The police force in New York was very on top of  sectioning off the parade route early, and keeping a good number of the side streets leading up to the main route blocked. Which meant we had to get creative with our approach to the cathedral. Luckily, we left the hostel early enough that we had time to go off course, and ultimately ended up in a pew on schedule.

Afterward, we decided to put some distance between us and central Manhattan, so we headed to Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridge.

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(I didn’t know she was snapping a picture yet, hence the face!)

Underneath the bridge is a tiny pizza place called Grimaldi’s. Noah and his sister, Cristina, have been telling me of the place since the last time I came to New York two years ago. So, we decided this was the time to give it a try. Unfortunately, a lot of people followed the same brain wave. There was quite a line outside the place, but we were promised a delightful culinary experience should we stick it out, so we did.

I’m happy to report that the Grimaldi brick-oven cooked pizza is in fact delicious. And well-worth the wait. (Emily enjoyed it as well, but remains a fast and true Zachary’s Pizza girl.)  Inside the little pizzeria are jammed about 25 tables pushed together in long rows. They take no reservations, and simply fill the seats as they become available. So you’re eating with your party and about 75 of your closest friends. Though it sounds hectic (which to some extent it was), we enjoyed the experience (and gorging ourselves on 12 inches of pizza – the smallest size they serve!).

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Next we walked back into Manhattan, and meandered around some of the lower Manhattan streets, along the roads of some less touristy neighborhoods. Little shops dotted the way, as well as parks and several festivals (Sunday is the day to go all out in this city it appears).

For the rest of the afternoon, we continued transferring from one area of Manhattan to another via subway. With only two days left before our return home, we’re trying to take in as much of the city as possible. Tomorrow we’re going to the Natural History Museum, Central Park and possibly taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. We’ll see how the day treats us.

In the meantime, I hope you, our devoted readers, are all well.

-a.

Lots of walking and a show

Ok, there is supposed to be more here than just a post title! This will teach me to check when it says it’s published.

Update: Here’s what it’s supposed to say.  Pictures will come later since I need to get ready to go.

New York is actually very pleasant to walk around before noon.  Anya and I were down at Broadway and Times Square around 8:30.  We wanted to get to the box office – which opened at 10 – for Waiting for Godot before it opened to try and get discount tickets, and overestimated just a bit.

P1030543After a quick breakfast, we wandered down Broadway to Times Square.  Like most things that you see on tv first, it looked smaller than I was expecting.  Still, it’s pretty fascinating with the gigantic billboards and neon lights – even the police station has flashing lights.  I hadn’t expected to enjoy walking around Times Square as much as I did – thanks to the early hour, it was empty by NY standards, so you could take your time to look around, and had breathing room.

Broadway was also different from what I imagined. I always thought of it as a street filled with nothing but theatres.  In reality, there are some theatres on Broadway, but a great deal are actually down smaller side streets off of the main road.

We were able to get matinee tickets easily, giving us a few hours to kill until we needed to get back.  So, we decided to explore the city some more.  During our walk, we passed Ground Zero, Trinity Church and graveyard, the place Washington was inaugurated, Wall Street, and the Staten Island Ferry – this we couldn’t go on as we ran out of time.

Waiting for Godot was alot of fun.  One of the leads was played by Nathan Lane, who is one of the top Broadway performers these days. I know Anya really enjoyed it – she’s loved the play for years, but never had a chance to see it performed live.

After the play, we headed back to the hotel after a quick detour to get some food.  We’ve taken to shopping at Whole Foods to cover at least one meal each day – it’s cheaper. Tomorrow will be back to St. Patrick’s for Mass, then who knows what. :)

People watching in New York

So far, I’ve only experienced this city for a few hours, and I’m already exhausted from the sensory overload.  One of the most interesting aspects are the people on the streets.  Here are a few examples:

A mariachi band – imagine my joy – came onto one of the subways we were riding, and began to play moments after it left the station.  Smart move, if you think about it. Your audience can’t escape.

A guy with a cat on his head.  He was walking around with the cat standing on top of his head.  The cat seemed less than thrilled, but it stayed.

Batman and superman.  This was just funny.  Two guys walking down the street in those cheap batman/superman costumes you can buy at Target.

Return to New York City

And so we return to the city where we first began this adventure.  Six days ago we flew into Laguardia, spent a fitful night at the airport, and embarked by bus to Boston 8 hours after we arrived in NYC. Now, we’ve thoroughly explored beautiful Boston, and are back to sweep an entirely different place. It’s odd to think we’re already halfway through the trip; strange because there’s still so much to do, because it’s going by so quickly, and because it seems like such a long time ago that we left Denver. Just one of Time’s attempts to mess with my brain!

Anyway, we arrived back in NYC after about 4 1/2 hours on the bus. As soon as we got within city limits, traffic hit rather hard. Luckily, the bus driver (Bill) was adept at getting into Manahttan, and knew a slightly more efficient way in that didn’t involve the highway/bridge/tunnel system.

After disembarking from the bus, Emily and I hopped onto a subway and headed uptown to our hostel, the Hotel Alexander. I found this place online through a hostel rating system, that takes previous guests’ reviews and compiles them into a score (based on a scale of 100). Hotel Alexander scored in the 80s, had relatively good reviews based on cleanliness and safety, and from what I’ve seen so far, I’d agree with those reviews. We have to share a bathroom with the other people on our floor, but it looks clean, our room is private with two beds (also clean) and though it’s not as nice as the Sheraton we occupied in Boston,  for the price it shall do quite nicely.

Once we checked in and stowed our baggage, we were off into the heart of the city.

First and foremost, we wanted to visit the Strand bookstore. The Strand buys used books from the greater population, as well as from news/media organizations who review books and don’t wish to store them. In this process they have amassed 3 large and packed levels of books. In fact they advertise having “18 miles of book.” (Which I imagine isn’t far from the truth!) It took a lot of will power not to buy up every book we liked. We tried to bear in mind that everything we purchase has to be lugged back to Denver with us, so excercise self-control! (For two book nerds, not an easy feat.)

Next, we headed up to Fifth Avenue. A self-proclaimed “shopping district” (hardly the only one in NYC), Fifth Ave. is home to all the most expensive stores you can think of: Saks 5th Ave., Coach, and of course, Tiffany’s & Co. Obviously, these are all outside our budget, but it was still fun to wander along, and watch things happen. Fifth Ave. is also home to the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (all of which we visited).

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(Emily in the library Rose Reading Room)

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(St. Patrick’s Cathedral)

Ultimately, we were stalling for time. After 5 p.m. on Fridays, the Museum of Modern Art (more often called MOMA, probably because it takes less time to say and everyone knows NYC is a city in a hurry) has free admission. You simply walk up to the front desk and grab a ticket off the counter.

Naturally, it was rather crowded – Friday evening, free admission – but it was still nice to see some of the pieces.

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(These 2 reminded me of Emily and I; not sure why.)

We didn’t stay much longer than an hour. There was a lot to see, but our feet and legs were beginning to protest (remember those 300 steps we climbed at the Bunker Hill monument yesterday – we’re definitely feeling it today!) and the exhaustion of the day quickly set in.

So now we’re back at the hostel. Emily fell asleep about 20 minutes ago, and I think I’ll be following her example before long. Something about this city wears your energy down. I think it’s the constant processing of information. There’s just too much to see and do!

We haven’t laid down a hard and fast itinerary yet, but we’ll keep you up to date!

-a.

On our way

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Currently on the bus back to New York.  It’s a very rainy, overcast morning here, so I guess we picked the right day to travel. I’m enjoying the foggy look everything has as Anya catches up on sleep beside me.  It’s nice to be aware enough to appreciate the scenery this time! :)

3 1/2 hours to go (hopefully.)

I’m lost!

It’s our last day in Boston.  This trip is already half over! :( Today was alot different from what the two of us originally planned.  I think we’ve managed to cover everything we wanted to see in the past few days, so today was dedicated to Bunker Hill and lunch with Noah’s mom and sister.

They picked us up around 11AM, and the adventure began.  The directions google gave them were less than helpful.  The restaurant is within 10 miles of our hotel, so we figured it’d be a quick drive over there.

Two to Two and half hours, three tolls (two different ones; one was repeated twice), and seeing more of Boston and the surrounding areas than we have since we arrived later (not to mention stopping at a Whole Foods and a liquor store for directions,) we pulled up.

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To this.  Now, I think we were all expecting something a bit…bigger, especially after the ordeal to get there, so we all burst out laughing.

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It was fun, though.  We all thoroughly enjoyed getting lost.  The 2 1/2 hours actually seemed to pass by pretty quickly as most of it was spent laughing.  And Belle Isle lived up to its reviews. :)  After stuffing ourselves with seafood, we headed back to – and past – Boston…we got lost again.  We ended up in Cambridge, parked near Harvard Square, and went our separate ways.  Luckily the subway system is fantastic, so it was nothing to catch a train back to Boston, then to Charlestown.

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The Bunker Hill Monument and Museum were pretty neat.  The monument is placed on the top of Breed’s Hill.  I’m still wondering why it’s called the battle of Bunker’s Hill, when the actual battle was fought at Breed’s?  Anyways, the monument actually has a staircase inside that takes you to the top.  We checked it out and Anya decided she wanted to go to the top.

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294 stairs doesn’t sound like alot until about halfway up.  At the top was a very small room.  Great views of the city, but I was more concerned about the metal grate in the middle, which allowed you to see just how far it is to the ground.

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At the base of the hill was a museum about the battle.  It was small, but interesting, with some neat artifacts – Anya took one look at the sword on display and decided she needed one.

Well, that was our day.  Tomorrow it’s back to New York.  We’re checking out at 5:30 in the morning, then catching the bus 2 hours later.  So, til then!

Salem

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Today we headed out of the city to Salem.  It only takes a 30 minute train ride to get out there.  There were very few tourists there, so it was pretty empty – not sure if that’s because of the colder, cloudy weather, the time of year, or because Salem just isn’t that big of a tourist stop.

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First stop was the Salem Witch “Museum.”  We figured it’d be, as advertised, a museum about the Salem Witch Trials.  Um…a better name would be the Salem Witch “Experience,” or something like that.  There wasn’t much museum to it.  The majority is made up of a single, large, dark room filled with life-sized dioramas which line the walls around you.  It’s about a 20-30 minutes show, where you get a narration of the Salem Witch Trials as lights focus on each of the different scenes.  Pictures weren’t allowed, but you can see a couple examples here: http://www.salemwitchmuseum.com/education/index.shtml.  It’s definitely a tourist trap, but since we’re both easily amused, I think we got our moneys worth.  After the presentation, you’re taken through their special “exhibit,” which consists of three smaller dioramas about the history of witches.  It was very corny.

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After that, we headed to the House of the Seven Gables, which is thought to be the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book of the same name.  I want this house. It was built in the 18th century, although rooms have been added over the years.  The original rooms have really low ceilings to help conserve heat – annoying for anyone over 6 feet, but I thought it was neat. It was cozy.  Two things got us really excited.  One was the hidden staircase in the back of the closet in the kitchen. 😀  This thing was tiny, and too much fun to climb up.  The other was the attic room, but that comes as no surprise since we’ve both always wanted an attic room. :) Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed, so I don’t have an photos to share.

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We spent a couple more hours getting lunch, then walking around the town.  There was another one of those great, old graveyards which I had to explore. Overall, Salem is a neat little town.  I enjoyed walking around and seeing both the historical and tourist-trap stuff. :) I only wish there was an actual museum about the towns history there.  It was weird that they had nothing of the kind.