Hello from Lancaster, Pennsylvania where we are getting ready to have dinner at Elaine’s niece’s home this evening. Denise is married to Steve and has Zack and Kayla still at home. The oldest, Megan, has gone off to college. We are also hoping that Denise’s brother, Chris, who lives nearby, can attend the gathering. They are two of the children of Georgeanne, Elaine’s sister who lives on the family farm in Illinois.
Prior to coming here, we have been having lots of adventures involving sightseeing, which is the purpose of our wanderings on the East Coast. After leaving Foxwoods, which we mentioned in our last blog report, we drove to Fairfield, Connecticut, near Bridgeport and set up at the Elks Lodge there. This Elks Lodge had very friendly people and we enjoyed schmoozing with them on several occasions. Our intention was to explore New York from here, which we did starting the next day. Saturday we took the Bridgeport to Port Jefferson ferry in order to meet Ann & Bill Gomez. They are the parents of Marielle, the very lovely and charming young lady who lives with Elaine’s son Darran in San Diego. Port Jefferson is on Long Island and is a really nice little town with lots of great restaurants and shops, which we had hoped to explore with Ann & Bill. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day so we merely went to a nearby Spanish restaurant and had a delicious meal together and got to know each other better. Ann had brought some pictures of Marielle as a youngster, which we enjoyed seeing, and we heard a few stories of her early years. The food was several types of tapas (appetizers), and two varieties of paella, which is a delicious rice dish with lots of seafood and/or chicken and sausage in it. Bill and Ann were gracious enough to pick up the check, so of course, they made a good impression on us! Actually, they already had done that before the bill even arrived. Afterwards, they walked us to the return ferry, where we got someone to take a picture of us together:
Sunday we took the train in to New York City. It was about an hour’s ride and for senior citizens, a bargain, at $14 round trip. Arriving at Grand Central Station was thrilling, after hearing about it for all of our lives. It is quite a beautiful train station, and there is a food court that serves inexpensive and delicious-looking food on the lower level. We got a map at tourist info and walked down to Times Square. Wow, what a huge event we happened upon there! Police had the streets cordoned off and there was an immense crowd watching all the huge monitors. It was the yearly performance of “Broadway on Broadway”, which is when at least one musical number from each of the currently running Broadway shows is performed on a stage set up in Times Square.
Luckily, there were big monitors high up in the air so everyone could see pretty clearly.
Of course, all of the singers and dancers were really quality performers. It made us want to go and see every show! Realizing that our time in NY was limited, we promised each other that at some time in the future, we will fly into NY, stay in the city, and not only really explore all the interesting places but also attend a few of the Broadway shows.
After several hours of enjoyment, the show was over and we proceeded to Rockefeller Center. We have seen it on TV with an ice rink in the center of the square but this day there was just a beautiful fountain and a bunch of tables with umbrellas set up as an outdoor café. There are lots of flags, nice sculptures, resting benches, etc.
It was recommended to us to go to the Top of the Rock, which is the top of the 70-story building, but it was $18 per person and there was a long line, so we skipped it. On the way to the subway, we passed Radio City Music Hall where there was already activity despite the fact that the MTV awards that evening weren’t even going to start until 9PM.
The subway system is huge and we negotiated it without too much trouble because we have been in so many systems in all the large cities of the world. At the site of the World Trade Center, we viewed the construction area (see below),
and took a picture of the proposed new building that is going up:
It was an interesting walk to the Wall Street area, where we were able to see Federal Hall, which is where George Washington was inaugurated in 1789. Right nearby is the Stock Exchange building, which has wonderful friezes on the top over the huge American flag.
About a block away is the bronze sculpture of the Wall Street bull, which was on a small island in the middle of several streets. There were a lot of people crowded around it which made it difficult to get a good picture. Here is the view that we thought was the most interesting:
Just behind the nearby Bowling Green Park is the old US Customs House. Right in front of it there was a festival going on which was put on by the New Amsterdam association, celebrating their Dutch heritage. This is one of the big charms of New York City – just walking around you stumble on all types of interesting events and/or festivals. When we first arrived this morning we passed a bunch of the participants of the Race for the Cure. Here is a picture of some guys that had just come from some event and who wanted their picture taken in front of a police car:
There are food carts located on a lot of the streets, some of which were quite colorful, like these two.
If we had been hungry we would have eaten from some of them because we have enjoyed some very good food from similar carts in other parts of the world, and the food is usually a very good value and perfectly safe to eat. If it wasn’t, the vendors would rapidly go out of business because they would lose local support. Another type of cart we saw were very mobile ones where the vendors spread their wares out on the sidewalk on a big sheet and when they saw the police approaching, they quickly wrapped up all their merchandise by grabbing the corners of the sheet, and escaping as fast as they could. Perhaps they were selling without a license?!!
We proceeded to the South Seaport area, where we got a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge, and had someone take our picture with it behind us.
There are lots of historic ships located there, as well as water taxis, etc. and lots of bars and restaurants. We were ready for some sit down time so we went to Uno Pizzeria and had a Blue Moon Belgian beer, which was delicious.
When we were in Belgium, we learned that they make over 400 kinds of beer there, so we tried them all (almost) and all were very good. Now we try to have a Belgian beer whenever it is available. Friends have told us that if we like Blue Moon, we should try Shock Top. That will be next.
After a bit more wandering around the streets, we took the subway back to Grand Central and the train back to Fairfield. It was a wonderful day and we had been blessed with just about perfect weather for our adventures.
Moving down the road, we stopped in our transit across part of New York state to see Hyde Park. Here there are at least 4 national historic sites, which means we can get into them FREE with our oldie but goodie Golden Access Pass. Of course, the most visited is the FDR home and presidential library. Ever since I read the book, “No Ordinary Time” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, I have been impressed with both Eleanor and FDR.
Thanks goodness they were at the helm during this important time in our history. There is an excellent film about the role of the Roosevelts during the Great Depression and WWII at the visitor center, and then a tour through the family home called Springwood. The grounds are quite beautiful as well, with a really nice rose garden, which is where the Roosevelt name came from. The next stop we made was about 2 miles away at Val-Kill, which was Eleanor Roosevelt’s home. It is the only national historic site dedicated to preserving artifacts and information about a First Lady.
The Roosevelt’s property was located along the Hudson River, which was a popular area for wealthy families to have a second home usually for use during the time when they didn’t want to be in New York City because of the heat. So there are lots of mansions along this stretch of the river.
Right down the road is the Vanderbilt historic site. In Newport, RI we had visited the homes of 2 of the Vanderbilt grandsons, and this one was the home of Frederick. He was the only grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the founder of the family dynasty and fortune, who actually made more money during his lifetime. The rest of them just spent it. This is a picture taken from the front:
It was quite as spectacular as the two Vanderbilt mansions we toured in Newport.
From there we relocated to Cabelas Outfitters Store in Hamburg, PA. It is a huge store, with an immense parking lot that has been very well laid out because on one side there are parking spaces for RVs, near potable water and a dump station, and even a kennel area for pets and an exercise area for horses. On the opposite side is the parking area for big trucks. Hooray. Trucks always let their engines idle overnight, which is very annoying to the RVers. So we stayed there overnight and spent several hours in the store the next day. Wow, what a store! In front of the entryway is an excellent sculpture of a trapper and an Indian in a canoe.
There is a huge aquarium area full of fish, mostly species that fishermen want to catch. The walls are covered with the heads of animals that have been shot and preserved, including a lot of the animals we saw last year when we were in Africa.
There are also areas where they have stuffed animals arranged in very natural looking settings which resemble the environments where they live when alive.
Of course, because this is after all, a retail store, there are also lots of displays of sporting goods, clothing, guns, camping equipment, etc. There is also a restaurant, shooting gallery, and I’m sure other goodies, which we missed. No one could leave this place without buying something!!
From Cabela’s, we drove to Lancaster. We have now had some experiences while here but this report is already way too long, so I will post that information in a day or two.