Tag Archives: travel

50 before 50

Have I seriously never posted about the 50 before 50 aka visit all fifty states before I turn 50 challenge? Maybe because as of last year, I didn’t think it was going to happen:

States visited as of July 2014

States visited as of July 2014

But 2015 has been very good for my progress:

States Visited: May 15, 2015

States Visited: May 15, 2015

States Visited: September 15, 2015

States Visited: September 15, 2015

With this past week’s trip to New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado (amazing! pics to come), I hit the 30 state mark. If it wasn’t totally cheating, I could even count Utah, but I won’t.

at the Four Corners Monument in September 2015

at the Four Corners Monument in September 2015

The craziest thing? If Labor Day were August this year it would have been an insane number of states as between 7/31 and 9/7 I was in:

  • North Carolina (airport only)
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Colorado

Repeats in August, but still! Also with my 2015 progress I have:

  • hit my first “A” state
  • Finished off the “C”s with Colorado

I don’t think I’ll hit any other states in 2015 so it’s time to think ahead to 2016. I have the National Parks Pass valid through the end of September 2016 so that’s a likely starting point. I could:

  • finish off the Anna Pigeon parks in states I haven’t been to. Would give me: Utah (Glen Canyon), Michigan (Lake Superior’s Isle Royale), Mississippi (Natchez Trace) and Minnesota.
  • Do a spring trip to a location where I could easily get more states, such as Memphis
  • Do others that have been on my bucket list which are a combination of the above and other factors: Yosemite, Salt Lake City, Mt. Rushmore, Glacier. That could definitely/partially be done via the Zephyr, although driving back on the table.

Park hopping is definitely an option, decisions, decisions

2014 revisits 2004

while looking for something else on my ancient LiveJournal, I found this “travel itinerary” from August 18, 2004.

Nearly ten years on, time to revisit it.

Walk El Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Still on the list, although I’m not as passionate about doing it as I once was. It’s now more of a curiosity than a priority/bucket list item. Interesting that it was then atop my list.

Visit Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park and Great Barrier Reef.

Done and done. While I didn’t end up working near the Reef, I snorkeled it twice. By far I preferred the snorkeling off Port Douglas to Cairns. The latter was just too crowded and too cloudy. Prior to my move, the Bungle Bungles weren’t even on my radar and they awed me as much/more than Uluru/Kata Tjuta probable because I hadn’t been over exposed to them.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway … Also really want to do Cape Point and Cape Peninsula National Park.

This didn’t end up happening because I went back to Japan vs. continuing on to Africa. But it’s still atop the bucket list. The cultural history even within my lifetime with the fall of apartheid fascinates me.

Galapagos Islands

Like Santiago de Compostela, this has somewhat wandered off my bucket list. I like the idea of it, but boats and I don’t get along. At this point I’m more fascinated by a friend’s pictures of her trip to Macchu Picchu than I am of Galapagos.

and then I had the less well defined. The more less well defined “dreams”….

Middle East; specifically Jordan, Isreal and Egypt. Also Greece and Rome because the whole idea of visiting areas that have seen so much history amazes me. Regardless of what religion/gods you believe in, these regions have so much living history.

So somehow I managed to think that Greece and Rome were the Middle East. I did Israel for my 30th birthday and we saw Wadi Rum and Petra. Sometimes a place you’ve dreamed about lets you down… that was not the case with Israel and Jordan. I spent our time there in awe. I did Rome in 2007 while in Prague and it was amazing. A perfect example of “if these buildings could talk”. Living history. Greece is still vaguely on the bucket list.

Orient Express; would love to travel SE Asia.

Over two stints in Japan, I never visited any part of SE Asia besides transiting through Singapore. I don’t know why. I think this is now unlikely given travel time, but we’ll see.

St. Petersburg

This almost happened. I wanted to come home from Japan the second time via the Trans Siberian but then life happened. Life is good at that. Russia is still something I really want to see.

Misc Europe: Poland/Krakow (almost made it there when I was in Prague, in the end it fell through), Bosnia/Sarajevo—inner history buff again, Italy

I finally made it to Auschwitz/Birkenau in summer 2007 and it remains one of the most poignant moments. Awe inspiring. Haven’t made it to the former  Yugoslavia (yet) but doing Poland and Germany within a week? Wow.

US: Mt. Rushmore, Drive Route 66, Grand Canyon, Badlands of South Dakota, Painted Desert, Las Vegas
Well I did Vegas. And now I have a giant US Bucket List map and a goal to see all 50 states before I turn 50.

To be revisited in 2024

99 places to go

well at least that’s the challenge I saw upon reading Daniel Smith’s 100 Places You Will Never Visit, one of the titles I’ve finished in a recent reading marathon that is bringing my 2014 total toward respectability. I’ve been to one, and if I can get there on a whim (albeit with a tour group), they can’t all be that inaccessible.

While the majority of the military sites are of no interest to me, from a history lover’s point of view, I loved this book. The vignettes about each location tell you enough about each to pique your curiosity without getting too detailed. While it skewed American, I like that he included a range of international locations. My only complaint was that in ebook conversion, the photo captions were rendered almost too small to be legible and increasing font size had no effect as they were treated as part of the image.

Continue reading

Iraq in my Shoe

Did I love this book? Did I hate it? In truth, I’m really not sure, but I finished it to make 22 books finished on the year. Progress!

I think I might have gotten more from this book if I’d read/seen Gone with the Wind since comparing herself to Scarlett O’Hara was Berg’s favorite past time in I Have Iraq in my Shoe by Gretchen Berg. I chose this book for the silliest of reasons: the title made me laugh. Within the first chapters I saw some of myself in Gretchen – teaching in Asia and a passion for travel. It was also the perfect book to read on a flight, one in which I luckily did not pay nearly $5K in overweight bag fees.
I’ve also been where she was professionally – didn’t lose my job but was miserable in my FT gig, quit it in 2004, temped and then went to Australia and back to Japan because, why not. That said, I have less than no interest in living in Iraq, The Iraq or otherwise. I admit, I needed to look up Hawler/Hewler/Erbil (Wikipedia, if you need a few more spelling options) on a map.***
He loves me and means well, but my dad and I have extremely opposing views on how to live life. My dad subscribes to the “work at the same job for sixty years, never spend your money, never take any risks life plan. That plan sucks. The longest I have ever worked at any one company was three and a half years, I never met a balance-transfer option I didn’t like, and I have indulged in behavior that could be considered risky, including bungee jumping, skydiving, and drinking tap water in Indonesia
I loved how she handled other people’s reactions to her job plans. that’s something only those who have traveled/lived somewhere “exotic” gets. Myself? I want to ask why people spend their honeymoon down the Shore. Indonesia, yeah, why not? Let me grab my passport. This is also very much a generational thing. While Asia is more exotic, the Middle East is infinitely more complicated due to the cultural and religious differences being polar opposites vs. just a little different.

Living, dressing, and driving were all very important things to me, a girl born in the era of Gloria Steinem. I was raised on Free to Be You and Me and Our Bodies, Ourselves and, as far as I know, neither of those has been translated into Arabic. But you know what has been translated into Arabic? Gone with the Wind

Oddly, Gone with the Wind provides me with one of my funniest Japan memories. We were working on a lesson on books/movies with students and they were asked to name their favorites. One older man’s choice? Gone Through the Wind-o

The national bird was a plastic bag. It was mountainous. Not desert-ous.

Ahh made up words and first impressions. In Japan it was futons on a balcony!

Since these were conversation classes, when some of the students would come into the classroom early, I would conversate with them (and teach them not to say “Cœconversate” since it wasn’t a real word.

It’s not? Could have fooled me — seems to have made it into every English language learner’s vocabulary. Then again, I live in a state where English is the native language and trains “platform” at stations…

I had finally, also, understood that I wasn’t really living in Iraq. Kurdistan was a completely different place. So different and so separate from the rest of Iraq, in fact, that Awat made an emphatic statement that put it into perspective for me: I HATE Iraq. I HATE it! When Iraq football [soccer] team play? I hope they FAIL! That was serious. Kurdistan versus Iraq. It was like the Yankees /Red Sox

*** back to what she alluded to above about location. If she was so uninterested in the region, why did she go? I realize it was about paying off the debt and the tax free salary, but in her time there she always traveled outside the Middle East with the exception of Oman. Why not live/work somewhere she was interested in, or curious to learn about. Also, The Iraq got old, quickly.

She seemed to realize that, if belatedly in her epilogue. Paying off north of $40K in debt in one year would be great but a place that’s only average, I don’t know that I could do a year there and be any happier than she was. Berg’s style of writing is fun to read and I look forward to reading more of her work.  Did I learn anything about Iraq? No. I’m not sure if she didn’t explore Suli/Erbil at all, or just chose not to focus on it — but the book was good for what it was.

PS: I could not live without Diet Coke

Jewish Upper West Side and Riverside Drive

so how, exactly, does a walking tour of the Jewish Upper West side turn into an 8.9 mile walk that includes a long overdue visit to Riverside Church and Grant’s Tomb? Pretty much the same way a “quick walk to Bennett Park” turned into a walk to Inwood Hill Park last Friday. The tourist side of me gets a bee in my bonnet and, I’m there, so why not?

I love long been fascinated and intrigued by the architecture of the Upper West Side. I’m sure a significant portion of my Instagram photos are tagged with either “Looking Up, UpUpUp and/or Archigram”. It’s just so different: historically, culturally and architecturally. So when the Conservancy announced this new tour for 2013, I was instantly excited. This tour was distinct from other Conservancy tours in that we were able to go into one synagogue: the modern Orthodox Jewish Center on W. 86th St. While not as architecturally distinct as the other congregations we saw, it’s interesting to see a multipurpose building really serving the needs of the community. What made the tour also more interesting was that some of the attendees were members of the synagogues we saw so they were able to fill in some of the questions that people asked.

It’s interesting how many buildings built as churches are now synagogues and vice versa and, to me, how many times some congregations moved. I also realized how many times I walked past gorgeous buildings like Shaare Zedek and had no idea the history I was passing by. Most interesting to me was how well the synagogues in the area meld in well with the churches and amazing 20th Century architectural masterpieces like The Cornwall, The Belnord, the Apthorp, etc. I’d really like to do a tour of the “lower” Upper West Side to see Shearith Israel, among others.

Among the non-Jewish sites, I was in awe with The Belnord for its amazing opulence, the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, which looks like it belongs in the Mediterranean with its architecture; The Cornwall for its architectural detail and Virginia O’Hanlon’s (Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus) home on W. 95th Street**.  As an aside, why on earth do the Wikipedia pages for The Belnord, Cornwall and Appthorp have such horrendous photos of amazing buildings?

The weather ended up being an order of magnitude better than expected and I began thinking about where I should head when the tour wrapped since the gym wasn’t so interesting anymore. I was originally leaning Marcus Garvey Park, but then the light bulb went on. I was at 95th & Amsterdam. Where have I been talking about since last Memorial Day Weekend? Time to head north along the river.

Until I recently, I had no idea how many monuments and memorials there were along Riverside Drive and in Riverside Park. I’m sure I walked past quite a few without realizing it. Last week, I mentioned the pluses and minuses of traveling with a smart phone and last summer I mentioned how the Great Manhattan Loop does allow me to see NYC as a tourist. So what do I need to do to not miss things I’m seeing along the way? Get a guidebook. Ideally I’d love to find one that focuses on the history, monuments and architecture since that’s what most interests me … but I’d settle for anything with a (location based) index since what I can’t do with the travelogues and social histories is easily find the author’s section on the area I’m walking on a given day. Any suggestions? ***

Missed Eleanor Roosevelt, again. Should figure out a way to have a Roosevelt Day in NYC and do Four Freedoms Park and then head west to her statue. But I did see:

  • Joan of Arc at W. 93rd St. – possibly the first statue made by a woman to be installed in NYC, installed in honor of her 500th birthday. It includes stones from the Tower of Rouen where she was held before her execution and was unveiled by the wife of Thomas Edison who, apparently, doesn’t warrant her own name. Its base includes a small copper box containing a letter from President Woodrow Wilson to George Kunz  one from the vicar of Rheims Cathedral and from the Cardinal of New York and “fairy stones” that symbolized the tears of Saint Joan. Thanks again, Daytonian.
  • Firemen’s Memorial at W. 100th St., which my brain keeps making “FDNY memorial” which makes it really hard to Google. Its history goes back to 1908 and the death of the Deputy Fire Chief. It was opened in 1913 and is now home to a ceremony, held annually in October, marking those who died in the line of duty.
  • a memorial to Louis, or maybe Lajos Kossuth a hero of Hungarian Independence. The statue is well maintained, but I’m not certain why it’s where it is — or in NYC at all. That’s a thought I’d revisit later.

You can’t not look at the architecture when walking up Riverside Drive. From The Colosseum (now owned by Columbia), The Mansion House whose exterior belies its long history, and the Hendrick Hudson which isn’t sure if it’s Spanish or Italian. I really need to take the time to come explore Riverside Drive properly rather than solely as a road to get elsewhere.

Oh yeah, elsewhere, the point of this elongated walk. I honestly feel that one of the down sides of the internet and digital cameras is that you lose the sense of seeing something for the first time. I think back to a family trip upstate when we went to Letchworth State Park. I was in awe of the waterfalls there and asked my parents how I’d know the difference between photos there and of Niagara. I had no idea what Niagara Falls looked like before I went to realize that, while beautiful, Letchworth couldn’t hold a candle.

This was not at all the case with Riverside Church. I’d read about it, knew it was the tallest church in the US but had no idea of its scale until I first saw its base. It’s HUGE. It’s a city block or more. It’s also far more than a church. It’s huge hub of social justice,  its history can be told in many pieces and with many connections to other key players in NYC history (excuse the mid 90s quality digital photos). Its carrillon is among the world’s largest and most storied. It’s amazing… and I didn’t get inside. I actually had no idea it was open to the general public, but wasn’t dressed for it anyway. So, a good excuse to go back.

From the church it was a short hop to Grant’s Tomb aka General Grant’s National Memorial which was all decked out for Memorial Day. “Let Us Have Peace” was resonant in Grant’s time…as well as now. The Tomb has been on my NYC Bucket List for much more than a year, yet I found myself woefully unprepared. To start, I had no idea the tombs or Grant and his wife were “not buried” (yes, that’s the answer to the endless who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb riddle), nor did I realize it was and still is the largest mausoleum in the United States with a significant public art component. While Riverside Drive still retains some elements of old New York, it’s amazing to see how much it has changed since the days it was a stroll through the park. I was disappointed that I wasn’t aware of (and consequently missed) the Tomb of the Amiable Child (Ephemeral New York, Daytonian) So glad the child’s memory lives on.

I needed Dad to see and understand the Tomb properly, but I’m so glad I went. It felt like a pilgrimage. It, sadly, was a quick visit. while the Tomb is beautiful, it doesn’t have a lot of information and I was tired by the end of my walk so I made a quick trip to the gift shop for a souvenir for Dad, and headed home.

** Daytonian in Manhattan is joining Untapped Cities’ New York section, Infrastructure and Curbed’s Camera Obscura as my go-to look stuff up blogs until I actually get a guidebook. Oh and of course sources of additions to my Bucket List because they’re all so well researched and photographed.

*** non guidebooks I’m now curious to read:

14.8 miles through DC

More photos here

Back. Had an absolutely AMAZING time. Couldn’t have asked for better weather. Of course the map ended up wildly ambitious, which we expected. It still served as a good set of choices for things to do. Especially if you’re a history nut like I am. Part travel guide, part blog…

We arrived around noon on Friday and headed to the mall after dropping off the car. It’s nearly impossible to find something healthy to eat on the mall that’s not from a cart, so we ended up heading to the food court at Union Station after dabbling in the Museum of the American Indian and
Air & Space. The National Postal Museum is tiny, buy fun if you’re into history and of course, the famous taxidermied dog (thanks MeFi!). We then wandered down Pennsylvania toward the White House, found some things we wanted to see later in the weekend, and were penned in on the Eclipse as Obama took off from the White House.

Saturday morning, breakfast with a former professor who then gave us a lift into DC where we queued up for the Holocaust Museum. For future travelers, either get your tickets online in advance, or line up at 10am or shortly before to get your tickets for later in the day. We lined up about 10:10 and got the last tickets for the 1pm entrance. I didn’t care for the layout, however, as it essentially forces you to choose which side of the corridors you want to read. It’s information overload, but very well done. Having previously been to Yad Vashem, Auschwitz, Birkenau and Terezin, some of the material was a repeat but always good education.

Reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln is empty and under construction, so no Forrest Gump moments :-( I found the WWII memorial to be slightly out of place, but awe inspiring. Due to the construction related fencing it’s currently impossible to get to the Korean from Vietnam, vice versa, or to either if you’re walking on the inner path next to the former? reflecting pool, so plan wisely there. Found the Lincoln (and later the tidal basin monuments with the exception of MLK) to be surprisingly uncrowded on a beautiful Spring Saturday. As a history buff, I loved Arlington. It needs better signage though because the first time, we missed RFK & Teddy Kennedy’s graves.

If you head out onto the Tidal Basin for the monuments there (Jefferson, FDR, MLK and George Mason (missed him)), bring water. There’s only one small stand open between Jefferson and FDR and it’s already getting quite warm. The views over the tidal basin are phenomenal, and now I really want to get back during cherry blossom season.

Seeking an upgrade over Friday’s Cold Stone, for dinner, we ended up at Johnny’s Half Shell (warning, auto play video with cheesy music) between the Capitol and Union Station. Absolutely delicious if you like seafood. Some of the places on our map were booked out, so definitely worth planning ahead for dinner reservations

Newseum was nice, but you really need to take advantage of the two-day access with your ticket as it’s information overload in only one day. Not sure if either are part of their permanent collection or rotate, but First Dog and President’s Photographer exhibits were very cool. I also liked seeing Tim Russert’s desk. The view from the Newseum’s Terrace is phenomenal and depending on the weather, nearly worth the price of admission alone. Speaking of view, didn’t make it to the top of the Old Postal Pavilion, but I’ve heard it’s amazing especially with the Washington Monument closed for the foreseeable future.

After the Newseum we ended up checking out of the hotel & taking the car to go back to Arlington because the history geek in me badly wanted to see the Changing of the Guard. So worth the trip back and parking fee.

Those who say you can do DC in two days aren’t really seeing anything, IMO. We barely touched on the Smithsonian and didn’t even get to all the monuments. And bring your walking shoes. We walked 14.8 miles in the three days.

Memories: Travel and Otherwise

in which we briefly return to this blog’s origins as a travel blog inspired by Yom HaShoah

I reread some of the posts from my Holocaust summer that included Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Terezin, among others. I learned so much that summer, but I was also saturated. After doing Poland, I couldn’t do the Berlin memorial. One day, I’ll do the DC one. Almost feel due, in an odd sense.

The camps were really the final determinant in the Israel trip. Somehow I don’t have a single photo of Yad VaShem. Not sure how that happened. Holocaust has always been moving to me, and I look at the news and I realize not a damn thing has changed. It may not be European Jews, but it’s in Rwanda, Cambodia, Sudan, etc.

One day we’ll learn. I hope it’s not too late.

Yom HaShoah also inspired these two collages: