Birthday in the Big Apple

Before I get to the post, I want to remind everyone that when I write the post, Sue’s comments are shown in italics and vice versa when she writes. This is important today as I suspect that she may have just a few minor really unimportant comments on the post. 😉

Memorial Day weekend is my birthday, and it is kind of a big one (a VERY big one), so we decided that it was time to take a trip. Sue is fully vaccinated, I have had my first shot and will have my second in a week, so we think we should be safe. My birthday present is a weekend in New York, doing something we both love – seeing baseball games. It is our good luck that both the Yankees (YAY!!! GREATEST BASEBALL TEAM EVER! Um, most annoying overblown team ever) and the other team – you know – the ones from the amateur league – what is their name?….The Nots?, The Nudniks? The Queenies?….oh yeah…The Mets (BOOOOO!!!! Meet the Mets, meet the Mets, step right up and up and greet the Mets and please get a bullpen and give deGrom some support!) are both in town that weekend.

So here is the plan – such as it is. Friday night, we will be driving up after Sue gets home from school. It is allegedly a 3.5 hour trip, but on a holiday weekend, we figure more like 6. I suspect we will bring snacks and a picnic dinner in the car. We made reservations at a hotel in Chinatown, so we think we will be there by 10-10:30, settle in and maybe go out for a quick wander and perhaps dessert.

Saturday we have a free day. Our usual methodology is to pick a few places that we might like to visit and just start wandering vaguely in that direction, stopping and changing plans as often as the mood takes us. The other day, I noticed the Museum of Ice Cream on the map, so for me that is a must “see”. Sue is unfortunately lactose intolerant (sorry Sue, no ice cream for you don’t care, don’t like it) maybe they have some of that vegan not really ice cream. Too bad, so sad. You can assume we will be partaking in many of our culinary favorites while on the streets. Bagels, pizza, perhaps a street gyro, and of course, multiple Chinese and Italian bakeries. Saturday night we will find a nice place to eat to celebrate my birthday and if it is possible maybe go out for some jazz.

The Nots, Nudniks, Queenies I mean, Mets, are playing the Braves on Sunday night, and given the antics from a week or so ago (deGrom struck out seven, gave up three hits and he had two hits and one RBI) – we hope to see their bullpen blow another brilliant performance by deGrom (love him!)(or any of their starting pitchers). It is an evening game, and so we will have another morning and at least early afternoon to wander some more. No idea what will be doing, but there are always fun places to visit when you are in New York. If you do not know this, Sue is as ardent of a Nots, Nudniks, Queenies…er Mets fan (this is their year!!!I believe!!!!!) as I am of the the Yankees (GREATEST BASEBALL TEAM EVER. Wrong, everyone knows Yankees suck) I suspect she will write some alternative narrative for this section…Oh well. Let’s see what damage she does. The game is scheduled for ESPN’s Sunday Night baseball, so look for us! We will be the couple engaged in hand-to-hand combat and loudly booing each other. Of course, I will be rooting for Atlanta (I think this is grounds for divorce).

Monday, the Yankees (GREATEST BASEBALL TEAM EVER BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) will be playing the Tampa Bay Rays in the afternoon; our plan is to get up, grab breakfast, get in the car and drive up to the Bronx. With a little luck we will see the Yankees trounce the Rays (although at the moment, the Rays are taking the Yankees’ lunch money yet again. The Yankees look SOOOO BAD, it’s fabulous), in the sunshine in the beautiful house that Ruth built, well, not really because it is the new stadium, but let’s let that go for poetic license. Over the two games I will have my fill of all the perfect baseball food…hot dogs, popcorn, Cracker Jack and beer. Sue will have to make due with some attempts by the plant munchers to simulate these great flavors using plants, nuts and seeds. Following the game, we will hop back in the car, and head home.

Of course all of this is dependent on the stadiums staying open (or even should I dare hope open further), us getting tickets and the whole world not shutting down again.

PS. No spreadsheet needed for this one. 😉

Have spreadsheet, will travel

Ah…the joy of Excel

In the world before the pandemic, Sue had booked a trip to Italy with her niece as a high school graduation gift. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus caused her to cancel the trip and her niece is not available for a trip this summer. We have about $3,000 of flight credits that we need to use up this year, so we decided to go out on a limb and book a trip for the summer. As you all remember, before we go anywhere, I start a spreadsheet and while I am a little out of practice, here is my first stab at a preliminary itinerary for our trip to France.

On an accounting geek side note: Since we are using flight credits to pay for the tickets, I am currently meditating on how to list the price for the flights. One one hand, if we are looking at this sheet as a measure of the cost of the trip, then I should include the price of the flights. On the other hand, if we are looking at this as a list of the amount of cash we will be spending for the trip and since the flight credits are use it or lose it, then perhaps I should exclude the cost of the flights. Just a quick meditation on the accounting for the trip. Feel free to weigh in if you choose.

Preliminary trip plan

I think we previously mentioned that Sue has a friend who lives in Paris. Last year she and her wife moved out of the city to Burgundy. We decided (somewhat uninvited?) to go and visit them. In outline, we plan to fly into Geneva, visit Burgundy, drive down through Provence, along the Cote d’Azur and up into the French national parks to do some hiking in the Alps and then back to Geneva. Our thought is that if we are both vaccinated we can safely travel, but perhaps this isn’t the time to go romping around the cities and visiting crowded museums and windy little streets. So instead, we will plan to spend much of our time seeing Sue’s friend, driving around the countryside (perhaps visiting a winery or ten?), and hiking in the Alps.

Right now we are doing our usual planning process which consists of us reading anything we can about places that may look interesting and writing notes down (usually on little slips of paper or Post-It notes). At some point we will collate them and figure out which ones make the cut. We usually end up with about three times the number of things that we can possibly manage in the time that we have, so hand-to-hand combat between Sue and myself ends up being the deciding factor. Yes, Sue always wins, but that is because she fights like she is from Queens and I fight like a gentleman. I created a very preliminary list of National Parks that look interesting and a few other places I have heard about/see somewhere etc. Sue has begun to read about places and we will, at some point soon start to make a plan. If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to let us know.

Who knows, by the time we finish the plan, for all we know we will spend three weeks in Italy instead. 😉

I know it has been a while

We are sorry that we haven’t written anything in quite a while. We have been wrapped up in lots of changes on the home front, while trying to just get through the pandemic. Let me give you a quick recap of the last few months.

As I mentioned in our last post, we found a new house just outside of Annapolis, MD, and in early September we moved in. The move was fairly uneventful, the movers came on time, packed the truck and decamped. We cleaned up the house a bit, put Rosie (the 75-pound German shepherd) in the car and hit the road. Now for those of you who have not moved across long distances, you may not know that you stuff doesn’t leave your house, and go right to your new one, unless you have a full truckload (which we did not). That left us with a few days to kill between the truck leaving Illinois and getting to Maryland. My sister (who lives in Pennsylvania) was kind enough to let us occupy her mother-in-law suite (technically it is my brother-in-law’s mother-in-law suite as my mother lives there in the summer). We hung out there for about a week and waited for the truck to appear. It appeared on schedule and just like that our house was full of our stuff. We settled in and began to spoil our new granddaughter (a tough job, but someone has to do it) who now lives only about 30 minutes away.

We have spend the intervening months hunkered down trying to keep optimistic about some future travel and exploring the many many walking trails in the area. Here are a few photos that Sue has taken on some of our many walks.

A few more photos from around our neighborhood (once again, courtesy of my lovely wife and her phone).

Not surprisingly, we have not been traveling at all. We have been hanging out in our neighborhood, finding local places to walk , visiting with family and looking forward to the end of the pandemic…whenever that occurs.

That is all for now. We will write again, once we are able to start planning for our travels…

It’s an Adventure

I know, we haven’t written anything in forever so this is going to be a bit of a long post. It has been a tough few months. A quick summary of our travel plans (or lack thereof).  We had lots of travel scheduled for this summer. Sue and her niece were planning on going to Italy in May, Sue and I were planning on going to Baltimore to see my son/daughter-in-law, We also had booked an Alaskan cruise and trip to Denali, Fairbanks and the Arctic Circle in July.

Hannah

COVID knocked all these plans to the curb. So far, the only trip we managed was a road trip to Baltimore in May to see my son, daughter-in-law, and their brand new baby girl, Hannah. Sue and I are both first time grandparents and neither rain nor snow or pandemic could stop us from visiting our granddaughter (regrets to the USPS motto). We left early in the morning and did the 11-hour drive in one quick jump, stayed in our own AirBnB and spent every moment we could with our baby. After two weeks we drove back home and resumed our regular lives.

A ton has happened since then. 

In late July we noticed that the housing market was quite strong and since our plan has been to get out of Chicago, we placed the house on the market. To our great surprise, we had an offer on the house in three days and a deal to sell it on the fourth. Wow. We were both mentally prepared for the house to sit on the market for months, so we did not invest much time and effort in looking for a new place to live. We knew we wanted to be back on the East Coast, someplace warmer than Chicago (not a difficult ask provided we were not planning on moving to Canada!) and preferably near to Baltimore, so we could work on our spoiling the grandchild skills. 

Oh, did I mention the buyers wanted to close in just about a month? The new owners have an elementary-school-aged child and want to get him into school at the start of the year.

So there we are. It is the end of July. We have sold the house, we have no idea where we are going to live, and we have a fairly short runway before we are homeless. There was, of course, only one potential solution. 

ROADTRIP!

We arranged for a dog sitter for Rosie — our 12 year old German shepherd — and we hopped into my car and drove east to find a place to live. We left early on Thursday and drove straight through. We stayed with my sister in PA as Hannah’s parents’ house was full with other visitors that weekend. My sister lives about an hour and half north of Baltimore, so not too far. We spent Friday and Saturday looking for a house to rent.

It was a very frustrating weekend. The rental market is very fragmented, and difficult to work with. We used all the websites, contacted what seemed like a million brokers, saw a bunch of houses, but in the end we did not manage to rent anything. Having a large dog made us a less suitable candidate and while we would submit applications, the places all seemed to go to someone without a dog. Time to suck up a bit: Thanks to both Steven’s family and mine plus our friends for being an incredible safety net. We knew we wouldn’t be homeless. I am grateful and keep thinking about all the people who aren’t as fortunate as we are.

We decided to leave my car in PA. It seemed to make sense to only have one car to drive out there when we moved, to our new (and entirely ephemeral) house together, especially since we would have Rosie in the back seat. (He neglects to mention that that brilliant idea was mine. Braving the plane was a bit nerve-wracking, but we flew Southwest, which doesn’t sell middle seats. Apparently, right after we flew, they decided that cleaning the plane after each flight was taking too long, so hmmmmm.)

Fast forward a week or so, and through the magic of the internet and some good old fashioned phone work we found Janette. She is our Realtor and newest best friend. I spoke to her on Saturday, explained what we were looking for (3 beds, 2 baths, backyard, dog friendly, within 45 minutes of Hannah) and she said the most comforting words I have heard during the search: “Leave this with me. I will find you a place, this is a game and I hate to lose.” Janette was as good as her word. She found places, looked at them, did video tours with us, spoke to the owners to make sure that they were OK with the dog. She is a whirlwind and lo and behold she found us a place.  A nice raised ranch. (This message is for Sue alone: no no no no….It is a not a split level! Let me mansplain this to you {he’s so funny, isn’t he?} [AGAIN]: A raised ranch has the living quarters and the sleeping quarters on the same level and a lower basement area. A split level has the sleeping quarters half a floor above the living quarters and a lower level sitting area — I feel better now) outside Annapolis. 

Whew — no longer going to be homeless, but the clock was ticking. We now started really working. I made a spreadsheet (YAY!) of all the things I figured we needed to do. We hired movers, started to cancel our utilities, cleaned out all the stuff that you never get around to clearing out when you live somewhere for 16 years (read: old paint, old toys, old scraps of wood, metal and ceramic from previous rehab projects and previous owners) and started packing. We dedicated two hours a day to packing and clearing the house. It is really quite surprising how fast it went. After a couple of weeks, pretty much everything that we do not use on a regular basis was packed. 

Happiness is a good spreadsheet

Probably the hardest part of this move is leaving all our friends. We both have been in Chicago for 15+ years and we have a pretty active social life. In “normal times” we would have a great big Labor Day weekend party (in part to help us eat up all the food in the house) with everyone invited. In a pandemic world, that just isn’t possible. We have been meeting with our friends one on one, which is, of course, much more difficult to arrange and much more time consuming. It seems like we are going out (outdoor dining only and with only one other couple) multiple times a week and we just hope we have not missed anyone.

One week and two days until moving day.

Wow…there stills seems like so much to do! But instead, I think I sit on the deck and watch the sun go down…

So Much for Our Plans…

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Wish we were here

Wouldn’t you know it? Just when we thought we were all set with our travel plans, the world goes and gets a virus. Too flippant? Sorry. It has been a rough couple of weeks.  We last wrote about our trip to New York and Boston that ended on March 8. We were home just about a week and our governor, quite rightly, closed down businesses, schools etc. and we were sequestered to our home.

Thankfully, neither Sue nor I show signs of the Covid-19 virus, but we are both going a bit stir crazy from being inside (yesterday we walked 5 miles, just to be out in the fresh air). Our sense of humor is critical to our mental well being and in response to both working from home, we have developed an imaginary co-worker (Ragnar) who is a total pain in the ass. Every glass left on the countertop, every light left on, every door left open is Ragnar’s fault. I know, it isn’t much, but it keeps us laughing and not complaining about each other.

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or here

We should have been in Houston this week. If you do not recall, we were heading to Houston as the last of our one-week trips to someplace warm (or at least out of Chicago) over the ). Sue’s brother lives there and the grand plan was to show up for her niece’s birthday and catch an early season Mets game (so before they were officially eliminated from the postseason (damn Yankees fan)). The quarantine put an end to that trip.

Sue has a trip scheduled with another niece to Italy to celebrate her high school graduation. That trip is planned for the end of May, but, alas, we both expect that they will need to postpone that until who knows when.

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Or even here…

Finally, our trip to Alaska in July is also looking uncertain. Even if we are granted parole from this quarantine, it seems unwise to board a ship with thousands of other people many of whom may or may not have been quarantined. Who knows if they could still be carriers, which makes it seem especially unwise as we were planning to travel with my mother, who is over 80.

So there we go, or there we don’t go. Whatever. We are shifting our thoughts from our travel plans to our attempts to recover the amounts we have already committed to these trips and sighing heavily for the trips not taken and the fun not had.

I hope this doesn’t come off as complaining. It is a bit, but we are grateful that we are all well and looking forward to the simple joys of seeing our friends, eating out, and being able to find toilet paper at the grocery store.

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or watching this sunset.

Can I Spit on Fenway Park?

I took Friday off (so I only worked in the morning) and we set off for a wander around Beantown.  My brother was kind enough to lend us his car, which at the time he did not realize he was doing. Short version of the story: I asked for the keys—he thought I wanted the house keys—we took the car. Luckily for us, he did not need the car and so no harm, no foul.

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Us, not inside the globe because you can’t take pictures of it.

Our first destination was the Mapparium, which is a three-story glass globe (that is approximately 7 Jason’s tall—sorry everyone who doesn’t get that—it is a family joke) that you can walk through. It is in the Mary Baker Eddy Library. For those of you who have not heard of her, she started the Christian Scientist sect of Christianity. The globe is just incredible and I would really encourage you to follow the hyperlink as you are not allowed to take photos inside the globe. The photo on the right is in front of a print of it that they have set up outside the actual globe room. I don’t know why you can’t take photos, I think they told us, but as usual, I was mentally drifting at that point. (The image is copyright protected.) Because the room is perfectly spherical (OK, Jake, not perfectly, but pretty close) and since glass does not absorb sound, the room has two really interesting sonic features.  First, when people stand at opposite ends of the walkway, they can hear each other perfectly even at very, very low whispers.  If you whisper very softly, the people at the ends can hear each other, but people in the middle of the walkway cannot hear them. This happens because the sound that travels around the edge of the glass globe does not fade while the sound traveling straight ahead through the air does.  The person at the opposite end of the walkway hears the sound that has traveled along the edges.  Very cool.

The second feature is when you stand directly in the middle of the walkway, under (and over) the poles (and along the equator), the sound bounces in such a way that when you speak you hear it in both ears as if you are listening to headphones. You can move your head slightly and cause minor delays in one or the other ear. It is hard to describe but still is very cool. The total time in the Mapparium was about 20 minutes, which is only about 5 minutes more than it took me to write about it. Suffice to say that it is very much worth a visit.

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9th largest organ in the world…Please make your own double entendre

As we left the Mapparium, the tour guide mentioned that next door in the church, there was the ninth largest pipe organ in the world. Of course, we were not going to miss that! So off we wandered in the Christian Scientist church. The very nice docent sent us upstairs into the auditorium where another very nice docent gave us a quick briefing on the organ. (13,000 pipes, made in Boston, played at services every week, monthly concerts on second or third Tuesday of the month, five organists on staff.)  Once again, very cool.  He also gave us a history of the building (based on a Turkish church, one full-dome, four half domes, built in 1904, inside was designed by a different architect because the one who designed the outside died, it originally seated 5,000 people and has no pillars).  All in it is an interesting building.  But it gets more interesting…It is called the Extension because it is an extension to the original Romanesque church that was built in 1894.

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Do you need six hands to play this?

The extension dwarfs the original building. Together they are called the mother church as they were the first church built for the religion/sect. We spent about an hour touring the buildings, the tour guide spent most of his time talking about the buildings, but, not unexpectedly gave us a full primer on the religion.  All in it was very worth the time.

We decided to wander over to Boston College (He is so annoying. He does that every time!) University where Sue went to college in the late 1850s (again, so funny). It was a fairly chilly and windy day, but as we do, we just set off (in the wrong direction) and made our way over to Commonwealth Ave. As we passed by all the buildings Sue kept saying either “that wasn’t here when I was here” or “that is so much nicer than when I was here” until we came to the College of Communications (COC?) from which she graduated and she said, “Nope. that looks just as shitty as when I was here.” Having spent so much time inside a church we both felt like we needed some balance to our lives and so we went to a bar called The Dugout, (not just any bar, but a college hangout of mine) which when googled, came up with the following review: “Great dive bar, true Boston legendary hangout!” Apparently one of her professors held class in there. (The floor is no longer sticky and the bathrooms are way nicer than when I went there.) We spent the next couple of hours trying out some Boston beers (mostly Harpoon) and talking to the very nice young bartender who is studying to become an elementary school teacher (so I guess he wants to lose his mind in his 20s).

Once we had our fill and felt rebalanced, we started the 30-minute hike back to the car, through gale-force winds no matter which way we were facing. Then a quick hop up the Mass Pike and we were back at my brother’s house.

Needless to say, Sue didn’t let me get close enough to Fenway to spit on it. ;-(

 

Imposing on Family

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Bye bye New York. Hope to see you soon.

Our last night in New York, I surprised Steven with tickets to Stephen Colbert. We weren’t sure we would get in because we got general admission tickets, not the priority ones, but after luckily standing outside under the overhang for “West Side Story,” since it was raining, we got the coveted wristband. So did a man who had been waiting with us—an actor who plays Vincent Van Gogh in a one-man play by Leonard Nimoy (who also lives right near my daughter in LA). Yes, he did look like him, but no, he was not missing an ear.  A bomb-sniffing dog and metal detector later (How is it that I always manage to be in the line where the person in front of me doesn’t understand how a metal detector works and so needs 4-5 tries to get through it??), we were in the last row at the Ed Sullivan Theater waiting for Colbert.

Aside from the warm-up comedian, Paul Mercurio, who was funny in a get-the-audience-jazzed way, and a round of “Tequila” from John Batiste and Stay Human (who, btw, are really good as far as my untrained ear can tell), the man himself appeared. The show featured Anthony Mackie and Susan Glasser. Mackie was fun and interesting (although he and Colbert spent some time talking in the foreign language of fishing), and Glasser (who writes for the New Yorker about the Washington political scene if you were too lazy to follow the hyperlink) had thoughtful ideas about politics, which we try to not to mention here lest this blog becomes a rant.

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Introducing? I thought NYC was ahead the curve on everything.

After the show, it felt really late. We are used to watching the monologue and Meanwhile and then going to sleep, old people that we are. But, it was really not even 7 p.m. So we walked back toward the hotel and decided that since it was taco Tuesday,  we would indulge. We went to Dos Caminos, because it was around the corner from the hotel. We didn’t realize it is part of a huge restaurant chain (which we tend to try and avoid so we can have a local experience), but it was good and the tequila list was extensive.

We said goodbye to New York on Wednesday and took the Amtrak train up to Boston. I figure with the airport transportation to and from and the waiting etc., the train is an even swap for a flight and it’s more comfortable. (free wifi and more space between the seats made it easy for me to work during the trip- YAY?)

Our lovely niece picked us up at the train and we just hung out with Steven’s brother and caught up.

Steven was working all day Thursday (remember, this is a working vacation) so I worked, too. (I did manage to have lunch with an old friend who lives here and I made sure that we went to a restaurant where I had my choice of MEAT as my brother, his family and Sue are all vegetarians so I am terribly outnumbered.) I did get in a long walk along a path nearby. I forgot the New England look so it a nostalgic few miles for me as I looked at the grand houses, pine trees, and stream. Oh, plus the high school kids practicing lacrosse.

New York—My Kind of Town

It is Monday late afternoon—and if you are from the company I work for—it is after 5 p.m. I am sure. We arrived in New York on Saturday morning after another early morning flight. Every time we book a flight at 7 a.m., I think it will be fine. Just get up early one day and then we will have the whole day to spend in the city. But then the day of the flight comes and we have to get up at the crack ass of dawn and I curse Sue for letting me book an early morning flight. So what did we learn here? That is right—it is all Sue’s fault.

Anyway, we got to the Park South Hotel at about 10:30 a.m. and asked to drop our luggage. Much to our surprise, our room was ready so we checked right in. After a quick unpack and a deep breath, we set out on our way with no particular destination in mind. We wandered down 5th and around and about and stopped in for our first NYC food break—pizza! Afterward, we found our way to Madison Square Park and the National Museum of Mathematics. We were very disappointed to realize that it was a museum for kids. Bummer. We quickly checked the google and re-routed ourselves to the Whitney Museum. It was a bit of a hike, but 1.5 miles and a pretty chilly 45 minutes later we were in line. Steven forgot to mention my favorite thing: We got in free! A man with a corporate account had two extra tickets. Bonus for us.

The Whitney was great. In addition to their usual collection, they had an exhibition of Diego Rivera and others who were influenced by his murals. It was wonderful. We spent a couple of hours wandering through and then headed out. We walked north on the High Line all the way to 30th street and then straight across Manhattan.

We had dinner at an Indian place around the corner (don’t eat Indian food in NYC unless you like it bland. Every time I do it, I am disappointed. The food was good, but not at all spicy.) and ended the evening with a 9:30 show by George Coleman at the Jazz Standard club which is right behind the hotel. Mr. Coleman is a not-so-spry 84 years old. In fact, he needed to be walked onto stage by a helper and there were times that I thought he might fall off his chair. He has clearly lost some of his skills, but his band did their best to make up for his shortcomings. Decent show, but barely an hour and I was really hoping for more. Oh well.

Sunday was another chilly day, but us being us, we didn’t let it get in our way. Once again we laced up our boots and started our journey by grabbing a bagel and schmear at Bagel and Schmear which is next door to our hotel. Yum! Great bagels. We headed downtown to the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street. Very interesting. It is less of a museum and more of a guided tour of a tenement building that includes the history of the residents/businesses in the building. We enjoyed it, but it isn’t something I think I would do again.

20200301_141740We headed west on Delancy on one of our pie in the sky/it seems like good fun searches. I read on Atlas Obscura about a small piece of Manhattan called Hess’s Triangle that the city tried to buy and the owner fought tooth and nail for years not to give up. It is now a small triangle in the middle of the sidewalk on Christopher Street and is still privately owned. Bear in mind it was about 1.5 miles to get from the tenement museum to Christopher Street, solely to take a photo.

We headed back north towards the hotel and realized that we were a bit hungry and in need of a small sit down. We found a bakery just off Washington Square Park that had hamantashen. These were not your usual hamantashen, no poppy seeds and raspberry jelly to be found anywhere. We had six between us. Three halva, two apple and one chocolate. A perfect break. Once we finished, we headed back to the hotel and were back in time for Happy Hour.

For dinner, we headed to midtown to see my Uncle David & Aunt Marcella. We hopped the 6 train up to 59th and walked a couple of blocks to their apartment. We had dinner a very nice French restaurant called Match 65 a few blocks away. It was a great evening full of interesting conversation and great food.

Great start to our trip.  Tomorrow is a work day. ;-(

 

 

Last Full Day: I Don’t Want to Go Home

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Delicious breakfast at Hotel Casa Blanca

We woke up after a good night’s sleep for Steven, finally. I always sleep well, but this is a big deal especially with his muscles aching. Our hotel comes with breakfast, so I ran down to get coffee. The staff is so kind. The waiter/all-around helper, Coca, brought the coffee upstairs for me on a tray.

When we were ready, we went outside and had a delicious, French-inspired breakfast while taking in the view of the Pacific and a big iguana. Ah, this is the life. Oh wait, I meant Pura Vida!

 

We took a long walk on the beach and ended up at an outdoor market/Chicagoesque summer fair. We don’t really need any souvenirs since we already have Costa Rica fridge magnets from our last trip, but we did get some coffee and chocolate grown and made by an American who is from the original hippy generation. A vegan who, with his wife, grows cacao and spices that the sell in the market. He did tell us how not eating dairy wouldn’t show right away, but it would pay off in the long run. He proudly announced that he was 72. I didn’t want to say anything, but I would have guessed 75. So much for veganism when you have spent 40 years in the sun.

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Water apples

We also bought a couple of water apples, which I had never heard of, but which have the texture of an apple but a more subtle flavor and one big pit in the center.

We were chilling on the deck, when we heard that Guiselle and Karl wanted to come over. Excellent! We hung out by the ocean and then luxuriated by the pool before they got hungry. We ended up at Wine & Soul. a wine and tapas bar that was just opening. It seems like lunch places close by 3, but dinner places don’t really open until 5, and we were in that in-between time. We got their just as it was opening, but we didn’t mind waiting. The owner, from Normandy, was very kind and we had a delicious lunch and bottle of Pinot Grigio. Plus, we saw monkeys! First time this trip. After saying goodbye and thanks again to our fabulous hosts, we lounged so more and got ready for dinner. We went to the tiny restaurant Steven mentioned yesterday, Antichi Sapori, where we had delicious plates of gnocchi and were served by the very enthusiastic and very busy owner, who hails from Sicily. His wife does all the cooking and they work nonstop during high season and then return to Sicily to recharge.

We are sad to be heading back to the snow (Sue is sad, I am on the verge of “accidentally” missing the plane and just staying here until the next one leaves… in May).

As an aside: We are not surprised to learn that Tamarindo’s knickname is Tamagringo. As I said yesterday, this is the English-speaking capital of Costa Rica. Beautiful, but very touristy.

The Weekend Begins

20200207_171542Sue and I made the decision yesterday evening that we would like to spend the weekend on our own. Karl and Guiselle are fabulous hosts, and they cheerfully put up with us for an entire week. But we decided that since we were in Costa Rica, it would be nice to spend a couple of nights not imposing on friends.

mapAfter a quick discussion, we decided that we would head to Tamarindo, about 30 minutes from Playa Flamingo. There is a national park just outside of town that is known as a leatherback turtle sanctuary, so it seemed like a reasonable place to head. Sue took up the mantle of travel agent and quickly found the Hotel Casa Blanca which is inside the national park and literally right on the beach.

I worked in the morning and then we packed up our stuff, said our good-byes to Karl and Guiselle and headed off. As I said it was only about 30 minutes, but absolutely a world away. Tamarindo is tourist central. Apparently, there is great surfing and the streets are filled with tourists, ranging from surfer refugees to weathly retirees to 20 somethings on week/weekends away with their buddies. (I decided it is the English speaking capital of Costa Rica.)

We checked into the hotel, dropped our luggage and went for a walk down the main drag

20200207_180845
Sunset from our balcony 

to find something for lunch. Our hotel host recommended a little soda place–soda is the term used for a small lunch stand like resturant–think of a food truck type place, but not mobile. However, all four tables were taken and we were not inclined to wait. We continued down the street and found a local brewery and settled onto a table on the patio that overlooked the beach. About 2 minutes after we arrived two ladies asked if they could share our table. We agreed and after ordering we got to talking. They are from the Netherlands and were spending two weeks touring the country. They are neighbors, both with partners and small kids, but were traveling by themselves. After lunch, we walked back to our hotel via the beach.

The restaurant next door to the hotel was closed for a special event, that we quickly figured out was a wedding as we could watch the entire proceedings from our balcony.  The party started at about 5 p.m. and as I am typing this at 10, it is still going strong. At some point, we will write our thoughts on the music that they chose, but that humorous soliloquy is for another time.

We chose an Italian place for dinner called Antichi Sapori Sicilian Cuisine. It is about 0.7 miles away and right in the middle of town. We walked over, but alas, it was totally full–all six tables. The owner looked heartbroken that he could not seat us and apologized profusely.  We took it in stride, made a reservation there for tomorrow, and I guess Sue will write about it then. We decided to go to another place called The Dragonfly.  We confidently walked about half a mile in the wrong direction, doubled back and found it down a dirt road just past a mini-golf place.  Once again, it was full with an hour wait. We had thought through this possibility when were walking up to it as we passed a taco place called the Green Papaya taco bar. We walked back over to it, were seated right away and had great burritos. The staff there were straight out of central casting for surfer refugees, our waiter was British, most of the others seemed American.

We walked back to the hotel and settled in to listen to the end(?) of the wedding.