Sunday, April 5, 2009
Lazy Sunday, I don't think so....up and at 'em early. Way too early for vacation (or any day for that matter) but well worth the reduced crowds and great pictures. Walked from the hotel, past the White House and to the tidal basin to see the Cherry Blossoms. Most of the people crazy enough to get up and go to the tidal basin at sunrise were other photographers hoping to snap the perfect pic. It really was beautiful, weather was perfect, sky was clear and blue, no wind, absolutely perfect start to the day....of course with a few more hours sleep it would have been even nicer. Moved around the basin snapping photos from all sorts of angles, I couldn't help but take a few of my own pictures but spent most of my time people watching (which is a favorite past time). Part of the Cherry Blossom festivites was a 10 mile run this morning. Of course we didn't participate but we did get to cheer the runners on for a few minutes as they made their way to the 1/2 way point.
With the sun creeping higher we made our way back up to the Washington Monument then down to the World War 2 Memorial. Saw some Irish Wolfhounds...for those of you that don't know what these dogs look like just think small pony. The grown up dogs came up to the waist of their owners and the 4 month old puppies were close behind them. Lack of sleep and empty bellys are starting to win out now. We head back towards the hotel, stopping for an omelete sandwich on the way. YUM! With full stomachs the last few blocks to the hotel seemed like a million miles. We finally turned the corner and there was the hotel - YAY nap time! We had covered alot of territory and it was only 10:30 AM.
Longer nap time than originally planned but this is vacation. Rested we decide to catch the subway and head to Adams Morgan for some food. Apparently everyone in DC decided to ride the subway to Adams Morgan also and no one turned on the AC in the car - hot and crowded just like a subway should be. Not realizing just how far underground we were we come to what seemed like the worlds largest escalator, it seemed like we were riding it straight up. We walked around and found the Ethiopian Restaurant we were told to try....my 2nd Ethiopian experience, it was very good. In keeping with our dining tradition the table next to ours was great entertainment. It's not that we try or even want to listen in to others converstatons but we seem to always sit by the loudest person in the room with the best stories.
Decided to walk around Adams Morgan enjoying some post dinner Lattes. What a cute little neighborhood, very interesting buildings, cute houses and lots of people. After finishing the historic walking tour in Adams Morgan we opt to walk back to the hotel rather than catch the subway. It was a perfect night to walk and we could take in more sights above ground. Made it back to the hotel for the night. We shouldn't have any trouble sleeping tonight after all the fresh air and walking today not to mention the two previous nights of only 3-4 hours sleep. We couldn't have asked for a better Sunday in DC.
To my baby girl....I love you.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
We packed our bags, checked out of our room and left our bags at the front desk during our final excursion. Running low on time we hailed a cab to take us to the Met Art Museum. I thought for a moment we were in the midst of a high-speed chase and was half expecting the bad guys to pull along side. No, apparently swerving into oncoming traffic to get around the truck in front of you while narrowly avoiding the lane changing minivan is customary driving etiquette. We arrived at the Met just as the color returned to Erin's face and knuckles.
The Met was under construction leaving some of the exhibits a bit underwhelming. Not to mention getting around the museum was a rather difficult. One of the photography exhibits was well worth the harrowing experience getting there and all the construction. I was most impressed with the photographers from the late 1800's early 1900's. The pictures themselves were awe inspiring but coupled with the challenges they faced in making the prints and I am still overwhelmed.
One was a black and white poster-sized photo of a forest out west. Simple. Classic. The label and background information revealed the 30 x 20 print was created before there was an enlargment process. The ridiculously oversized negatives were shot on a huge camera and then developed on location with a traveling dark room. All in the unforgiving and untamed frontier west. Unfathomable in an era of pocket cameras and instant gratification of digital formats.
A few more exhibits and we headed across Central Park to the Natural History Museum. A movie (free with our City Pass) and some strolling around the planets for some pictures. (I still can't believe there's no Pluto). Then a few preplanned photo ops from A Night at the Museum and we were on our way
Back at the hotel we retrieved our bags and started preparing for our trip to the airport. My stomach sank. Is that reporter on the lobby tv calling from a plane? Did that scrolling ticker just mention FAA computers being down? I'm not all that surprised knowing my luck with air travel the last few years. We watched in disbelief for a few minutes then headed out the door. Watching the mess televised wasn't getting us home any faster.
The remainder of the trip home was rather uneventful; just us and our fellow travelers sharing the experience of airport delays.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
We grabbed breakfast to go and ate on the local church steps. Everyone had started to work so the people watching was primarily limited to the power walking mom's (with and without strollers) and the nanny's walking the kids. Of course dogs abounded as well.
Stuffed with a bacon and egg bagel we walked along the Jackie Kennedy Reservoir to the Guggenheim. Erin was kind enough to wait in line for our City Pass tickets while I roamed around the lobby taking pictures.
Trying to enter the galleries I discovered my messenger bag had to be checked despite it being smaller then half the women's purses in the gallery. Grrrrr.... This trip was a fine example of Security Theater but that's another post.
The volunteer coordinating the lines to enter and for the coat check took his job waaaay to seriously and was a sign of things to come.
"Come on people the line goes around behind the elevator. It's not that hard to follow simple instructions," he shouted at us.
The museum building is impressive. A ramp winds around the main lobby with art displayed along the inside. Entrances to hidden galleries emerged as we came around turns and corners.
The art on display in the hidden galleries and slowly winding ramp was another story. We didn't get it. The baby/Swiss army knife was disturbing. The stacks of wood blocks looked like a grade school art project gone wrong. I'm fairly certain Erin's favorite part of the museum was the exit.
We walked a few blocks and hopped on the subway to Battery Park. We saw the usual sites from the shore: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Merchant Marines memorial. There was also a sculpture from the World Trade Center; the last surviving structure from September 11th. It had a place of prominence within the entrance to the park.
Of course the most entertaining of our visit was dueling street performers. Both were dressed as the Statue of Liberty and posed for photographs with tourists. This idea was far from novel and had variations all over the city. However, one apparently showed up later than the other and set up shop a few feet away. Then had the nerve to ask for a smaller "tip." Needless to say the shouting match ensued and the masks came off. As entertaining as it was, we didn't stick around to see how it was resolved.
Instead we headed north along the river towards the North Cove. The walk quiet and peaceful; an oasis from the hustle and bustle on the other side of the block. We took in our last breath of fresh air and serenity and headed into the city. Along the way we admired the brass mural to commemorate 9/11. It was well done, but difficult to admire beneath the scaffolding.
Heading towards Wall Street we took the foot bridge along side the World Trade Centers lot. Stopping to appreciate the size of the former buildings and pay our respects. It's a shame the site is mired in such bureaucracy.
Wall Street was the most uninviting mess of construction and people that we quickly made our way out. The Wall Street Bull would allude us that day. Completely turned around we ended up at Seaport. This was rather a fortunate accident since it was our intended destination.
We stood in line waiting for our Brooklyn bus tour and had no idea the character we would soon meet, find frustrating, then grow to love. She reminded me of a German Yoda. A seasoned vet with a certain, strict German style of greeting and coordinating her guests. And if you acted out of turn or did anything outside her guidelines she had no qualms about telling you so. Of course, that assumes you could understand what she said in her thick, German accent. Not to mention her somewhat accurate sense of the English language. We were fortunate to get a seat on top of the bus where we could see her. Our guests below were not so fortunate and didn't have the luxury of seeing where she was pointing, or just looking, as she spoke. Phrases like "on the right" and "ahead on your left" were either missing or replaced with "now over here" and "this building [while pointing]."
An acute case of the giggles were set off early when she described a block of popular stores: "They're very low to the ground so it feels like shopping in the country." Yes, just what I thought as I was in the middle of Brooklyn; like I somehow wandered off into the country side.
There was the history of the Dodgers who got their name from "having to dodge under the trains as they played the base ball." Not to mention that "the Library of Congress in Washington DC is the largest library in the nation." Did I get on the wrong bus at some point?
Foolish enough to stand up and take a picture? "SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN! I only say this for your safety. And I don't wants to have to do the paperwork. I wouldn't know who to calls on your vacation. You're traveling havings fun and I have to call yours family."
Alas, the tour came to an end back at Seaport. Most of the tourists departed to walk around. We stayed on board to ride it back to Times Square. Besides, how could we leave our wonderful guide?
Starving we walked blocks past dozens of restaurants in search of The Queen of Sheba. A quaint Ethiopian restaurant and Erin's first Ethiopian experience. Ethiopian food is fantastic with dishes similar to a thick stew. What makes it unique is the lack of utensils. Instead the food is served on a giant plate (one for the both of us) along with spongy, pliable bread. You tear off a piece of the bread and use it to grab the food eating them both at once. Aside from the great flavor (I'm a sucker for lamb) Ethiopian dining is a very communal experience; definitely only to be shared with family and close friends. To Erin's surprise, she enjoyed both the food and the experience.
Next was a trip back downtown in search of Grumpy's cafe in Chelsea. Grumpy's is a great little cafe with lots of smart-looking people sipping coffee on the benches outside or having heated discussions amongst open books on the tables. The cafe itself was very minimalist and clean; very slick. The barista who greeted us was far from grumpy. He asked what we'd like with a big smile; almost like he's enjoyed too much of his own product. When I mentioned I came for the coffee from the Clover coffee machine I instantly got street cred. No longer was I some Midwesterner with a camera strapped around my neck and bad shoes. Suddenly we were long lost brothers reunited over an expensive piece of coffee equipment. We talked about the Clover and he explained the elaborate extraction process. We talked a bit about my time as a barista and Tony's family history with coffee; three generations of coffee. He seemed impressed that such history and quality could come from such a place as Ohio. As for the coffee and the reason for our excursion: it was the cleanest, tastiest cup of coffee I've ever had.
With coffee in hand we climbed back aboard the subway and headed for the Empire State Building. Having tickets ahead of time eliminated a great deal of the wait as we jumped straight to the elevators; at least the first one. In no time we were atop the iconic building with a breathtaking view. We slowly made our way around the top peering out on the city shoulder to shoulder with some of our closest friends. The night city at night from so far up was almost a different town; quiet and still. Cold and content (and after many failed attempts at picture taking) we made our way back down to the street.
I don't know why, but we decided to stop in to the local comic book store. I perused the aisles and aisles of comics admiring the artwork. Erin whipped out her cell and called home. I answered mine as my brother called. We talked on the phone for a bit as I flipped through some of the Batman comics. Something about a superhero with no super powers has always appealed to me.
With less then one day left in the city of cities we were bound and determined to get an early start the next day. Tired we lumbered back to the subway and our hotel for a good night's sleep.
Monday, August 25, 2008
We began our day with a wonderful brunch at the diner across the street. Salmon eggs Benedict, YUM! As always the people watching was superb: The young enterprising work-aholics eating with one hand, typing on their Blackberrys with the other. The weekend artist sketching on a notepad, snacking on a bagel. The Sunday dog walkers and power walkers. People out for a calm and relaxing stroll. And of course those silly tourists staring at everyone. Oh, wait...
After brunch we made our way to Times Square; an abrupt but welcome change of pace from the relatively slow pace of the Upper West side on a Sunday afternoon. We decided it'd be easiest for Erin to get a feel for the city and lay of the land with a bus tour. I don't know why but the big, red, open-air double decker buses called to me. Making our way to the bus stop we were flagged down by one of the sales reps with a thick African accent. A lot of explaining followed by pointing at the brochures. Each question he answered with an emphatic "Yes, Yes.
We waited in line for a bus with seats available on top. Several buses came and went before we finally deciding to take a seat on the lower level. Our sense of adventure paid off again as most of the upstairs passengers got off on the next stop opening up their seats to us.
The downtown tour took us through and around most of lower Manhattan with the guide's unique blend of history, personal opinion and celebrity gossip along the way. Personally, I could have lived without hearing how he rushed out of his apartment in his bath robe to meet Tina Turner. However, others enjoyed the story and it is part of the character that is New York. A lot of sites, commentary, history (both common and exceptionally personal) and a generally fun ride finished with us back in Times Square.
Along the way we noticed that Madison Ave was closed, what seemed like miles, for a street fair. We decided to meander from Times Square back towards Madison Ave, stopping along the way to do a little shopping. Tiffany & Co, FAO Schwartz and the Apple store. Okay, not so much of the "buying", more the "looking.
FAO Schwartz was a lot of fun. What toy store isn't fun for a couple of kids? The "Giant Piano" from the movie "Big" complete with an impressive performance by a couple employees. The limited real estate didn't allow for the cavernous giganta-stores we're accustomed to back home. Instead it was more a maze of constant little hallways and shelves filled with all kinds of toys; something to smile at around every corner. If we weren't getting a chuckle out of the toys themselves the customers were an equal delight. Everyone else having some level of fascination with various toys. The kids enthralled with the flavor of the moment. The generally good spirits of the employees who (at least pretended) to be having a good time.
A quick stop in the Apple store. Have you met me? The New York store is impressive regardless of what they're selling. A giant glass cube in the middle of the square you walk down in to; the majority of the store beneath. I did have the delight, the day before my birthday, to overhear two of the store clerks talking.
"I couldn't believe it. This guy came in, who was like in his thirties, and he was buying his first iPod. I couldn't believe it. In his thirties and he's never owned an iPod!"
I am now 33. I've never owned an iPod.
We made our way back towards Madison Ave and the street fair, starving. But a quick stop in one of the buildings mentioned on our tour that has a giant indoor "square" complete with live trees. It was an dramatic enclosed space, partly glass walls, partly concrete building. All completely enclosed and tall live trees about. Apparently a compromise for wanting to construct a larger-then-average building in the area.
Starving and dehydrated we inhaled shish kebabs, fries and Diet Cokes from the local street vendor. Our makeshift table: the fountain outside the larger-then-average building. We made our way down Madison Ave as the vendors packed up their wares. Of course, they were all still willing to sell what they had available.
After a few blocks we decided to head towards Rockefeller Plaza, not nearly as big as what I'd pictured from TV. Still a wonderful place to visit. I especially enjoyed the plaques commemorating individualism along with a sense of duty for your fellow man. Apparently you don't chase the ice cream man in New York. He just parks in one spot for hours. So, we enjoyed our ice cream on a hot day and took in all the sites; animate and inanimate.
With dusk approaching we took the long way to Grand Central Station looking at all the sites along the way. We then hopped on the subway (Erin's new fascination) and headed towards Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry. We got to see the Green Lady from the Ferry at night. We had an hour to kill waiting for the Ferry to head back so we walked along the coast and took in the evening skyline.
The Ferry eventually took us back to Manhattan where we hoped on a subway and headed towards Greenwich Village. We wandered around there a bit, hungry again, looking for some food and maybe a beer. We settled on "the best pizza in NY" (according to the Food Network). It was tasty, but I'm a fan of the deep dish style. Tired and wanting a shower we hopped on the subway to head in for the night.
Little did we know such entertainment would be awaiting us on the ride. Since I'm trying to keep this site family friendly, let's just say it was an enriching, cultural experience. We learned a great deal about Russian "entertainment" and employment opportunities for Russian women. It was an interesting exchange as a recent immigrant explained this sector of the workforce to a rather polite (and somewhat awkwardly uptight) fellow traveler. The opportunities that abound overseas.
The train ride had to end for us as we headed back to our hotel. We did debate staying on to hear the remainder of the lecture. However, sleep beckoned us after a long day. Besides we knew more adventures awaited....
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I don't think they get many tourists in our part of the city. They looked at us with a quiet curiosity and were very friendly and helpful. More then once a passerby offered directions without our asking.
Finished our breakfast and hopped on the train heading south. Next stop: China Town. Canal St exit eased us into the experience. Crowded sidewalks. Shops stacked atop each other. Strangers offering bags, watches, sunglasses, "new" iPods; anything questionably legal they can't sell in the stores. This includes the gentlemen with suitcases of knockoff purses they can zip up and zip out at a moments notice. Word and cell phones travel faster then the police.
It didn't take Erin long to brush off the aggressive sellers and start haggling with merchants. It was more the once she had them shouting lower and lower prices as she walked out the door.
"Door" is a bit of an exaggeration. Most of the shops were an open front and the size of a good sized walk-in closet. In most cases I could have touched both sides at once without much effort. Other "Shopping Centers" were a long hallway that ran the width of a city block with litte "shops" carved in the walls.
Everything was for sale. You want it you can find it (or a reasonable facsimile) for a fraction of the price. It was great to see Erin get excited at every other shop.
China Town runs into Mulberry, aka Little Italy. We ventured north and took in the red white and green. Lunch in the main drag is great. Food was superb and you get to know your neighbors. We ate on the sidewalk allowing us to watch the parade of tourists shuffle by. be forewarned: gratuity included.
The included tip was a sign of things to come.
We stopped for a beer, check in with family, rest, review or finds, and set outg our next plan of attack: SoHo.
The boutique shopping experience in NY; quite the change from $5 watches a few blocks south. Shoes on "sale" for $255.00 and blazers off the rack from a sidewalk merchant for $185 took the steam out of the shopping momentum.
Of course we skipped the stores where customers have to be buzzed in and out altogether. But it was funny watching kids with mom & dad's credit cards maintain their status.
After the wind left our shopping sails we headed back to the hotel to drop off our finds and a quick power nap.
Rising several hours later we thought we'd grab a late dinner. The local Chinese place was nice and intimate. And it included a free carafe of wine straight from the finest box. Listening to the conversations at the surrounding tables was the highlight of the dinner. A group of stereotypical "Upper West Side" girls talking about everything from how her mom loves this show "Monk" to roommate's bathroom etiquette to who's vacationing with whom & where. Of course we can't leave out the spiraling diatribes of who's dating whom (and which time). I guess not all that different from any other girls that age, but there's something different about that New York way.
For dessert we stopped by the local gelato shop. Nope, not ice cream shop, or malt shop or the local DQ; gelato shop. I was excited to see it earlier in the evening. "What's that?" Erin asked.
"it's Italian ice cream. But with a different texture," I replied.
Erin's own curiosity and sense of adventure led her to discover a yummy new treat. "Yup, different texture."
A quick potty break back at the hotel before grabbing beers ended with us both asleep for the night within minutes.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Time to get some rest..not even sure how I'm still functioning right now. While I know it might sound cheesy I have to say I love NY.
To my baby girl...I love you!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
"Let me call Dave real fast and ask him how to do this."
No. Seriously, don't. It's not that hard. Read ALL the directions and try. (By try I mean actually clicking on stuff).
"What is this (site)?" Or "What's a blog?"
A blog is a type of web site that is organized in chronological order; listed in the order written. That's it. Nothing more complicated. There are other ways to organize them (tags, categories, etc), but if you're asking the above question, don't worry about those organization methods. Just know the articles/stories appear in the order I write them.
It's grown in popularity recently but the reasons for such growth are another article on another day.
"What's the difference between this site and Twitter?"
Length. As in length of my posts. My Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters. The blog post can be more verbose. You can see my last few Twitter posts on the this site but in order to read them all click on the the link "Traveling Dave on Twitter." Or you can view them directly at http://www.twitter.com/travelingdave. There are other differences, but none that you have to worry about.
"What's a comment?"
You can leave comments/notes at the end of every post. (A post is kinda like an article or story, each with a headline and the article).
"Why would I add a comment?"
Well, we all have our own reasons, but it's a way to give feedback and discuss the various adventures.
"How do I leave a comment?"
There's a link that says "add a comment" on every post. Click it then follow the directions.
"Why can't I see the comments after I post them?"
In order to make sure this site stays family friendly I have to approve all comments. You also need to supply your name and email address. Again, just a way for me to keep the crazy heads out; at least the crazy heads I don't know personally.
I hope you find this little Q&A helpful. What if you've 1) tried, 2) read the WHOLE page and 3) are still having trouble? If you're still having trouble yes you can email, call or ask me in person (if you're so lucky) and I'll help you.