Nice is Nice

We have made our first significant change to our plan (remember when I said our plans were firmly set in Jello?). We, like the French in World War 2 have abandoned Paris. We were persuaded by two factors: First, the weather will be pretty nasty in October and November — cold, damp, wet. If we wanted that, we would go to London, where you can get it all year round. Second, we could not find an AirBnB or other short term rental that really seemed to fit us. Everything had drawbacks, and we seemed to constantly be compromising to fit ourselves into expensive places, none of which really fit.

Our solution? Let’s go to the Côte D’Azur! We looked first at some places in Provence, but in the end, the draw of reasonably warm weather, a beach and an interesting city has drawn us to Nice. We spent a couple of days looking at tour books and making an outline of what we would like to be near. Then onto the short-term rental sites for places to live. We found a very nice two bedroom just outside the old part of the city and after a bit of back and forth about the price and whether it was suitable, we booked it. Boom! Done.

Here are a few photos of our place:

We have also started to deal with some of the more mundane issues. At least we are making a list of them so that we can remember all of them. We arranged for trip insurance so that we are covered for any medical issues that arise (Yes, I do remember Costa Rica!) and trip cancellation. Next week, I want to organize our Global Entry applications and we have started to look for storage places for our stuff and cars.

Our trip to France has been cancelled

My wonderful wife was a journalist in a previous life, and I am pretty sure she will accuse me of burying the lead (I would spell it lede) on this one. Yes, we are cancelling our France trip in July. However, the real lead is that we have decided to spend nine (and maybe more?) months abroad.

The whole insanity started when Sue’s friend, who lives in Burgundy said that we could rent a place in her village really cheaply. Sue looked at me and said: “Want to live in France?” I looked up from the Yankees game (pretty sure they were losing – it has been that kind of season so far) and said: “Sure, how do we make that work?” The answer, believe it or not, was pretty straightforward. All we really need to do is:

  1. Decide when we want to leave, where we want to go and for how long
  2. Ensure that we have enough income to cover the costs
  3. Find a place to live
  4. Go.

Ok, so maybe not so straightforward, but as someone once told me. Solve the first problem first, then move to the next one…

Step one.

Figure out when, where and how long we would want to live abroad.

The when was pretty easy. Our lease is up on Aug. 31, so after that day we have nothing tying us down. September 1st seems like a good day to get started.

On to where: Our starting thought was that it had to be somewhere our cost of living was not higher than our current spend. In reality that isn’t very hard. We pay nearly $3k per month for rent, utilities etc. We hopped onto AirBnB and started listing the places we wanted to live…Fez, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Almalfi Coast, Istanbul, Israel, Amsterdam, Copenhagen….and that is just Western Europe (and Morocco and the Middle East). We found reasonable places in our price range wherever we looked, so we put price aside as a limiting factor.

How long was next on the list. We decided pretty early on that we didn’t want to be away for longer than three months – at least for the first tranche. In part because we want to be home for Thanksgiving, in part because that seems like a nice amount of time to spend in a place. That means tranche one will be 10 weeks long (Sept. 1-mid-Nov.). Our initial thought was to go to Fez to start. Sue is very keen to live there and it seemed like a great place to kick off the adventure. Our second choice was to go to Paris and Burgundy. Might be nice to be near someone who knows our name and speaks our language (neither Sue nor I speak French yet, we are Duolingoing: Je m’appelle Susan). After a bit of negotiation, review of weather and letting it marinade in our minds, we decided to start in France, come home for Thanksgiving then go to Morocco for Dec.-Feb. This decision is firmly embedded in Jello – so who knows if we will change our minds.

Decision one made….now move to can we afford this foolishness

My consulting work is doing reasonably well. I have a few clients and with the amount of projects they have asked me to do, I should be reasonably (25-30 hours per week) busy for the foreseeable future (is foreseeable redundant in this context? yes, I don’t believe in foreseeable except that I have picked up the matriarchal saying, “Mark my words”). In addition to teaching, Sue has been doing some freelance writing, 10-15 hours per week right now. (If you or anyone you know is in the market for a writer, I am available!) All in we are pretty comfortable that we have more than enough income to keep the circus on the road.

Step two down…Time to find a place to live

Sue’s friend in Burgundy has been helping us with areas in France. Once again, after much discussion, we decided to split the 10 weeks into 4 weeks in Burgundy and 6 weeks in Paris. AirBnB or VRBO seem like the best choices as houses/apartments come fully furnished including kitchen utensils and linens. We have both been trawling through the sites looking for appropriate places (interestingly, while we both put in the same filters we do not always see the same places – especially in Paris as the how close in/far out the zoom on the map is seems to effect the listings shown). Our first stop is a town called Clamecy (shown on the map with the big red(ish) balloon. It is about two hours by train from Paris and in the heart of Burgundy.

Here is an aerial photo of the town; it is at the confluence of the Yonne and Beuvron rivers. Read more about it on the Wikipedia page. Please remember that Wikipedia will tell you that it is not a reliable source, so do not use it as a reference for any scholarly materials. (This blog falls well short of scholarly…I personally am hoping for nearly cogent).

I really have no idea what the photo to the left is, but I found it when I was searching for photos of Clamecy, and it was too weird/cool not to include in my ramblings. Anyway, back to the story…

We found a nice little apartment in the center of town and Sue took care of booking it. One place to live organized.

We have looked at a bunch of places in Paris, but not booked anything yet. You, dear readers, will have to login in next time for updates on Paris. Following our six weeks of Parisian indulgence, we are going to return to the States to celebrate Thanksgiving. We are flying home mid-November, stopping first in Chicago to visit with friends, then back to Baltimore for a few days of overeating and watching football – American football that is.

Next stop: Fez! Before we started this blog we did a three-week tour of Morocco. It was fabulous and I would highly recommend a visit there to anyone who has even a little bit of an adventurous spirit (although spirits themselves are hard to find there as it is a predominantly Muslim country). We stayed in Marrakesh, Fez, Tangier, climbed the 13,671 foot Mt. Toubkal (well more accurately Sue climbed it, I tapped out at 11,000 feet), visited Ouarzazate (one of the worlds largest movie studios (Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator, Game of Thrones (Season 3) were filmed there) and glamped in the desert (our tent had running water). As with Paris, you will have to tune in next time to see where we will be living. Our goal is to live in the Medina (the old walled part of the city) at at the moment, we think we have found a place, but until we book it, it isn’t firmly set.

Everything after Fez is up in the air, other than we have from end of February until the middle of May (we have a hard stop in Mid May as it is our granddaughter’s birthday and we will not miss that!) to wander, we may come back to the states for a week, or maybe not. Currently high on our hit parade is Istanbul, but for no reason other than it seems interesting. Suggestions are always welcome.

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. 😉

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. ;-(

 

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. ;-(

 

 

Working in the Sunshine

I woke up today to see snow on the ground; true, was only a light dusting, but I am reminded once again, that I live in Chicago in the winter (my feeling are summed up by this song). On the bright side, tomorrow will be mid-40s and more importantly, I have started the countdown to our first trip of the year.

Our trip to Costa Rica starts on February 1, so at this time I have 28 days to get through—really 27 because it is already evening here and we leave very early in the morning on the 1st.  I am counting the days. As Sue mentioned, she will be learning to Scuba dive, sitting on the beach, taking day trips who knows where and living the Pure Vida while  hitting the cerveza. (I am really hoping to have some work. Honest!)

I will be working.

I am in no way complaining. I will sitting (hopefully outside) at Karl’s place in shorts, a T-shirt and wearing sun screen—not bad for February. However, since I will be working, I am beginning to worry about being connected and all the things I will need to lug down there in order to be able to work.

my laptop
My new laptop

Let’s start with my laptop, of course. I will need power, micro and USB-C cables for various peripherals, and a long Cat-5 Ethernet cable in case the WiFi isn’t so good. I am also thinking I might bring along a WiFi repeater that I have stored in the junk box downstairs. We don’t use it at home, and if the WiFi isn’t so good, perhaps I will set it up somewhere to get a boost (so I can sit outside of course). In the next week or so, I will have a look at Playa Flamingo to see if there is a coffee shop that says it has WiFi, so that if the coverage isn’t good at Karl’s, I can head there and get connected. Then me being me, I will need backups for pretty much of everything—just in case.

Brick phone
Only the latest cell phone for me!

I will need a working mobile phone.  Like most people these days, I live on my phone. (He is worse than the Millennials and Gen Z.) My company does not have a phone system; we all work on our cell phones and have a soft number assigned for work.  I hope we have decent phone coverage there, but if we don’t it works fine on WiFi (see the discussion above about the WiFi extender).  I will contact my provider and arrange for an international call package. I get a half gig of high speed data per day on the plan for $10, so unless I need to use the phone as I hot spot, that won’t be an issue.

 

All in I am really excited for the trip. This post has taken me 30 minutes to write, which means I am 30 minutes closer to the warm sunny weather. In my head, I see this:

me working

But I do worry about it being this…

me not working

Maybe I need an extra backup plan….

I Figure We Can See All of Alaska in 10 Days….

denali picture

I know that I have not been writing very much recently.  I have been distracted by work and somewhat depressed by the thought of spending another winter in Chicago.

One part of my trip to Florida to surprise my mother that I did not mention was that during the time down there she announced that she wanted to take us (my brother, sister and myself) and our respective spouses on an Alaskan cruise this summer.

Princess-AKWe have spent the last few weeks trying to get agreement on which cruise would work for the seven of us. Imagine the hunger games for cruises…Shouting on phone calls, imaginary use of swear words, minor fistfights, a smallish stabbing and the usual hysteria–all of which was just between Sue and me ;-). (Hey, I thought that was private!) We decided on a seven-day northbound cruise on Princess lines out of Vancouver.

denali-mapOnce the cruise was decided, everyone expressed an interest in going to Denali National Park. We figure three days in a wilderness larger than the state of Massachusetts should give us just enough time to know that we have not spent enough time there.

We began by looking at three options.  First, go with the cruise line and stay in their lodge.  That got a hard no from Sue and me. Second, go to a private hotel/lodge/cabins most of which are along the outside edge of the park.  Third, do a  multi-day camping and hiking tour. (The tour company flies you in to a remote lake, drops you off and provides the camping equipment, food and a guide).

Sue and I were keen on the third option, and my brother, Phil, and his wife, Naomi, were in for that, too. My sister, Judie, her husband, Mario, and my mother are planning on staying at the Princess Lodge.

My cousin Robin has been to Alaska a number of times, so after doing some research on the camping companies, we gave her a call to see what she thought.  She gave us a forceful caution on the camping trip.  As she said, it could be perfect, but it could also be the trip from hell. Twenty-four hours of rain a day, everything gets wet, the hiking sucks because it is cold and wet. You can’t get warm for four days, etc.  She suggested that we look at one of the lodges that are within the park and, while they are expensive, they do always give you a warm dry bed to sleep in. We have not yet made a decision….but are leaning towards listening to the wisdom of someone who has done it before – I know, unusual for us.

Stay tuned campers for updates.