Archive for ‘Sightseeing’

September 13, 2014

Up, Up and Away!!

What do you do when you find yourself celebrating a 31st wedding anniversary in the glorious wine country of Napa Valley?

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Cool Napa morning getting ready to soar!

It was still dark and quite cool when we met with the rest of the group for a quick bite to eat and the trip to the balloons. They were just beginning inflation when we arrived.

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The balloons were like colorful giants waking up in the cool morning air. We were not the only voyagers that morning.

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The valley was filled with the silent giants moving swiftly over the land. DSC03910

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Their passage afforded novel views and perspectives.

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Time was as altered as our perspective. We were moving at 13 miles per hour on the current of the air, but it felt like we were standing still. There was no wind and no sound, but the far off barking of a dog and sometimes the roar of the colorful giant.

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The air warmed and all the great balloons came back to earth. They landed with a thud and a rough slide over the earth. The graceful giants folded into the earth.

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April 5, 2014

New York Botanical Garden 2014 Orchid Show

It is that time of year. Yes, spring and today truly was one of the first warm, sunny days. But, what I am really referring to is the annual New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show! I clipped the ad from the paper and it has been sitting on the counter for over a week. Probably Jim would rather poke hot needles into his eyes, but yesterday when I got home there was the sweetest blooming phal on the kitchen table and Jim gamely, bravely announced he thought we should head to the orchid show by 10.

Jim's warm up gift to me--a tiny sweet phalaenopsis.

Jim’s warm up gift to me–a tiny sweet Phalaenopsis.

The show was good. The theme was Key West, but it was at best a loosely defined theme. The orchids were amazing. I think even Jim was mesmerized by the infinite variety of unbelievable colors, flower and leaf shapes. It was an unworldly array.

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July 31, 2013

Independence Day in Military City

Fourth of July weekend Jim and I traveled out to Oceanside, CA and Camp Pendleton to visit our firstborn in his Marine habitat. It was our first trip out to see his life and we had a wonderful time exploring the base, a summer weekend in Southern California and the lifestyle of our son on base.

The weekend was chock full of activities. It was a bit odd adjusting to the climate and weather in Southern California on the coast. June Gloom was quite a different experience than our usual sunny and hot summer weather in early July. That was more than balanced by the celebration and excitement which accompanies the Nation’s Birthday on a military base.

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March 31, 2013

Basta Pasta!!

In publishing there are four major trade shows for the bulk of American publishers. These include the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, Book Expo America and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. It is the latter which is renowned for being a fantastic experience. A lot of that positive experience comes down to the locale and its amazing food and medieval character. This past week I attended my first Bologna and was lucky enough to take along a notable photographer and fellow reveller.

The schedule was for Jim and I to head out last Friday. We would have the weekend for travel, recovery and play. Sunday night the week kicked off with the annual Random House Cocktail Party. My colleague and co-conspirator, Wayne, would join us Sunday night for the first of many dinners. Monday morning the fair began. We had a packed schedule with appointments running through the day from 9 to 5 most of the three days we would be there.

Bologna is a smallish city with many very old buildings, cobblestone streets. Landing at the airport it was easy to see that Spring was more advanced there than at home. The grass and trees were greening. The air was still quite chilly and the weather would prove to be uniformly grey and rainy throughout the week. Walking the streets of Bologna in the rain, the cobblestones gleamed with moisture and the streetlights and store signs glittered in the wet air. It made for an even more romantic picture of this very old city. The rain was never a downpour so it was perfectly easy to walk around and see the sights. Umbrellas were necessary equipment and because the city was so small, the best way to get anywhere was to walk. All that walking was just as well as the food was unbelievable and it would have been criminal to abstain from the Primi Piatti–and I promise you neither Jim nor I abstained.

Saturday we were pretty wiped. The flight overnight was fairly comfortable but that first day is always rough. We had a three hour layover in Paris.

Fatigued knitter at Charles De Gaulle Airport

Fatigued knitter at Charles De Gaulle Airport

Post-knitting nap

Post-knitting nap

An amazing view through the window as we flew over the Pyrenees.

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Armed with restaurant recommendations from an experienced colleague, the eating festival began Saturday night with dinner in a unabashedly charming and fabulous restaurant called Da Cesari.

Da Cesare

Da Cesare

Stepping into the restaurant from the dark and rainy streets was both a little intimidating and a transformative experience. At this point in the week we had not yet put our feedbags on and we did not try to pace the couples on either side of us. They were both working their way through the five-course meal with paired wines like indomitable pros. We limped through the appetizer and primi piatti and felt that was the worst we could do. It was all delicious and we shared tastes and took our time. The local Sangiovese wine was amazing.

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October 14, 2012

Frankfurter Buch Messe

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the granddaddy of all book fairs. It is held annually in Frankfurt in their outrageously enormous conference center, the Messe Frankfurt. Easily five times the size of the Javits Center in New York, each of the ten halls are devoted to geographic regions representing publishing around the world. The U.S. publishers are in Halle 8 along with other English-speaking countries including the U.K, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, etc.

Frankfurt takes place in October and the weather is notoriously awful. It is usually in the fifties, grey and rainy. The fair is mobbed with people. For the Germans, the fair is both for the trade and on the weekend for consumers as well. Taxis are notoriously tough to come by and anyone attending should expect to walk and walk and walk both to get to and from hotels and the halls of the fair and to find a cab or reach a restaurant.

My colleague, Wayne, and I decided to attend the fair at the last-minute. This would normally be impossible, but two of our colleagues in the Book Fair business offered us the opportunity to sit in on some of their meetings. Scholastic still had two hotel rooms and, once our flights were booked, we were set. I had not attended Frankfurt since 2004 out of a deep-seated dislike, but this was a different set of circumstances. We made our plans and got ready.

Having decided at the last-minute to attend, we flew coach overnight. The arrival in Frankfurt was only eventful in that the day dawned sunny and bright. Were we really in the correct city? This was a delightful welcome.

We were staying at the Hotel Maritim which abuts the Messe property. This is extremely useful when the weather in Frankfurt is its usual drab and dreary rain. After checking in at the Maritim, we got cleaned up and headed for the fair. This would have been much easier if I hadn’t left my Exhibitor’s Pass on my desk in New York. Happily, my German skills stood me in good stead. We navigated the bureaucracy of replacing this important document and ended up with 50 Euros in our pocket to boot.

Right off the bat our meetings went well. Our app, Storia, is fantastic and there is nothing like it. We had loaded all of our screen shots onto our iPads and launched into the Wayne and Jenny Show at each booth. We shared many meetings with our friends from the Book Fairs and by the end of the fair, we could give each others’ presentations. It was pretty good fun.  The response to Storia was extremely positive. This, along with the amazingly tasty fare at the Exhibitor’s Restaurant, made our two and a half days at the fair great fun.

Thursday night was the Scholastic Family Dinner–an annual event. All attendees at the fair have dinner together and Dick Robinson, CEO, gives a speech. The crowd is mostly the international division and it was a chance to meet some new people. Dinner was fantastic. We ate at a true German restaurant,Zum Gruenen Baum, with traditional decor and wooden tables and chairs. It was echt Deutsch. I was in heaven. Schnitzel, Leberkase, kartoffel salad, weiss wein…they fed us so much and so well that I was almost in pain.

Of course, the flight home was to be anticipated. Since it was the return and during the day, it would be an extravaganza of knitting. There are few better places to knit than an airplane. Complete and total attention to knitting is possible. The movies on Lufthansa were awful, but who cares, I had pink socks with cables to knit.  The pattern was Errant Socks from Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner’s outstanding book, MASON DIXON KNITTING, and the yarn was Spud and Chloe Fine.

The trip was successful for business purposes. We had some very good meetings which will lead to long-lasting relationships. It was so wonderful to be in Germany again and to remember how much I delight in the German language, in the food, the people and just being there. I feel like I had a three-day vacation with a lot of business meetings. Vielen Dank.

May 6, 2012

All-American Weekend

This past weekend was a long-awaited treat. Alex is back in Maryland for three weeks on a special training exercise and last weekend was our opportunity to drive down to Hagerstown and spend two days with him. The only downside was that one of our five would not be with us. Ellie needed to stay at Smith and prepare for exams. Since Peter was closer, it was less difficult for him to join us.

It was good to have Peter along–not just for his native charm–but as a second driver on the five-hour trip to Hagerstown. We followed the same route Ellie and I drove when she visited Dickinson. Once you get past Allentown, the country is very pretty. Lots of farms, stone houses, green fields and cows. I was happy to knit for five hours straight.

We had planned to get to Hagerstown just as Alex was getting off work. We ran a little late and so did he so we met up around 5. He looks fantastic. He is so forceful and mature looking. Peter may be an inch taller, but Alex is all muscle and with his short haircut, it is pretty easy to see he is a Marine–with or without the uniform. Alex just celebrated his 24th birthday so we combined a little celebration with the visit. I baked a rhubarb cake, his father brought some craft beer and we brought presents.

Hagerstown seems to be quintessential America as it stands these days. The town is a succession of malls filled with every big box retailer you can think of. Interspersed with these malls is a complete selection of every fast food place you can think of. There is actually a small historic district in Hagerstown which they are working to ramp up, but it is dwarfed on all sides by interstate highways and the aforementioned malls. It is a major transportation hub and there are distribution centers everywhere. There are also truckers everywhere and the mall parking lots make great overnight stopping places for the truckers. There aren’t many fine dining establishments. This gave us an opportunity to become one with America when we ate. As an example, I include a link here for one reviewer’s top ten restaurant choices in Hagerstown. #1 is Outback Steakhouse.

We stayed in the same Courtyard by Marriott in which Alex was staying. I love these hotels. They are all alike so you always know where things are. They have a little restaurant and serve wine at night. The decor is attractive (and always the same) and the rooms are clean. They even have the same pictures in the bathroom so if you spent too long in the bathroom, you might forget what city you are actually in. I am always insanely happy to stay in these places. It means I am traveling and seeing new things.

Hagerstown has a strong German influence so it was completely appropriate that we dined Friday night at Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant. Most notable were the choices for beer. One could order two, three or five litres of beer. They won’t serve five litres to just one person. The birthday table near us had ordered all the three litre glasses, so Alex ordered a two litre which was actually a boot. He didn’t actually finish which was just as well. Over at the birthday table, things got louder and louder as the litres got lower and lower. One of the attendees was about to head to boot camp and Alex went over to wish him well.

Saturday morning we were up and out pretty early. Since we were deep into Cracker Barrel country, we headed there for breakfast. We love Cracker Barrel. I am proud to say I have introduced several former colleagues and friends to the joys of smoked meats. I thank Jim Brannigan for first introducing me to the dining and shopping wonders at Cracker Barrel on a long ago trip to Ingram Book Company. I was able to mortify my fellow diners, but taking photos and one nice lady stopped to offer to take our picture. I just love torturing my sons.

After breakfast, we settled in at a table in the lobby to get some work done. Peter had a paper to finish for Biophysics, Alex had Marine paperwork to do, I had my final project for my NYU class and Jim is always happy to surf. We worked quietly for several hours. It was a bit grey and cold out and this was a perfect opportunity to hang out together and get something done. Late in the afternoon we went to see Jason Statham’s new flick, Safe. We all love his movies and this one was fun.

The wait at Ruby Tuesday’s was 45 minutes. It was Prom Night and this seemed to be the destination of choice for large tables of couples all dressed up for prom. They were having a good time and it was fun to see them. When Ellie heard this was the pre-Prom destination of choice, she was a bit shocked, but the Hagerstown kids were completely happy. It was actually refreshing as opposed to the over-done, over-expensive Prom events we have witnessed. I think these kids may have been having a better time.

Sunday the weather was gorgeous. The sky was a brilliant blue and the forecast was for a high of 70. Just the perfect weather for a visit to Gettysburg. But first, what would a Sunday morning in Hagerstown be without IHOP? Are you getting the all-American there here? I had a lovely omelette with fresh fruit, but I can tell you most people dining were going for a high-calorie intake. And it wasn’t the first time…It was tough getting the boys to pose outside IHOP, but, I had compromised my long held refusal to dine there, so, really, what could they say?

Gettysburg was about an hour’s drive. It was one of the most impressive–in many senses of the word–things I have ever seen. The battlefield is huge. Seeing it and walking much of it gave new meaning to this pivotal point in the Civil War. They have done an excellent job of creating the experience of understanding the action, the scale of bravery, desperation, death and destruction. We followed the Confederate line and then the Union. Just thinking of the heat, smoke, confusion and horror of the attacks, the difficulty of the terrain, the horror of those days was awe-inspiring. Alex was a tremendous asset as he has done a lot of reading on the battle and we enjoyed his perspective in addition to the information provided on plaques, recordings and memorials. Even Peter was drawn in to the drama walking uncomplainingly for hours until we were too tired to continue. It is not a one day undertaking and I look forward to going back to cover the Union positions more thoroughly.

Happily, we had planned to head home Monday morning so we had one last evening with Alex before we would have to part. Since we don’t know how long it will be until we see him again, every moment counted. Steak was on the menu for our Marine. A tall order in Hagerstown, but we found the Longhorn Steakhouse. Part of a national chain, it was actually pretty good. Lest you think we were drifting from our all-American mall theme, the address was the bucolic setting of 1000 Prime Outlets Blvd. It served us well and was clearly the most upscale restaurant in Hagerstown–out of reach of Prom Night for sure.

Monday morning we had a brief glimpse of Alex before he headed to work and we hit the road home. It was a great weekend with lots of fun, some adventure and the only thing which would have made it perfect would have been having our fifth with us. But you can bet that there were many phone calls, texts and photos shared throughout the weekend to make her as much a part of things as possible.

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November 14, 2010

Let the Holidays Begin!

One of my favorite holiday rituals is the arrival of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Walking to work early in the morning, year after year I have come upon the great tree lying on its flatbed truck waiting to make its debut. There is such promise and excitement surrounding the tree as it lays there. It is easy to think about the thousands and thousands of people from all over the world who will walk past and dream Christmas dreams of toys and Santa and good wishes for the future.

They move so quickly and efficiently to haul the enormous tree up onto its stands, dress its branches and surround it with scaffolding to being decoration. Each day I would walk past to see the progress.

This year I wasn’t walking past early in the morning, but I did detour to see the tree just having been hoisted into position. Crowds were watching with wonder and excitement as men crawled all around the great tree readying it for each successive step.

This year’s tree came from the front yard of a New York firefighter. He and his family were thrilled that their tree would be famous throughout the world and would bring happy smiles to so many faces.

Let the holidays begin! This should be a time of joy and thankfulness and I hope I catch the spirit and that I can share it with as many as possible.

July 21, 2010

Goodbye For Now :~(

Sadly (as I mentioned in earlier posts) I’ll be leaving tomorrow for Wyoming, where I’ll be hiking and rock climbing in the mountains for three weeks…eeek! I’m very excited, but its bittersweet as I’ll be out of touch with civilization and unable to post. Don’t worry though, my mom will continue while I’m gone and you’ll get the odd post from me (written before I leave, of course). As a goodbye I’ve found this cartoon, enjoy!

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May 27, 2010

Touring Manhattan and Its Landmarks

One of the best things about the New York walk I did in 2004 was the amazing walking tour of the five Boroughs which was its byproduct. We walked from Belmont Park through Queens across the Triborough Bridge to Randalls Island back through Queens to Brooklyn across the Williamsburg Bridge down through lower Manhattan to South Ferry across on the ferry to Staten Island across to the very southern tip of Staten Island back up across the Bayonne Bridge through the wilds of Jersey City to our end point at Liberty State Park. Now that was one long run-on sentence and a real run-on walk of three days. I doubt I will ever have such a fantastic tour of the city again.

Networking and job hunting are the perfect training

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