Lewis is the pastor of a congregation in Connecticut, so we often have the opportunity to head out of the city and see some sights in our neighboring state. On Sunday we had the chance to meet up with a friend for a picnic lunch just outside of New Haven. We picked up Chipotle because it’s almost always delicious (it was this time too) and met up at the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop in East Rock Park.
It seemed like the museum was closed so we sat at the picnic tables and enjoyed the beautiful weather and a great view of the waterfalls behind us.
The area is an historic site known as Whitneyville, with Eli Whitney Sr. coming to the area in 1798 to use the water’s power to run machinery. In part, the dam’s size and the natural limits of the water power, the site, and settlement remained relatively small and prevented further industrial development. In 1860 Eli Whitney, Jr. turned the river into the first public water supply for the city of New Haven, it still supplies water to the town to this day.
After our lovely lunch, we crossed the covered bridge into the park for a short hike. The original bridge was designed by Ithiel Town in 1820 and was an innovation in strength, simplicity, and economy. Unfortunately, the bridge was destroyed in a flood around the turn of the century. In 1979 students from the Eli Whitney Vocational-Technical High School reconstructed the bridge from Town’s design, though with some abutments from an earlier factory bridge, giving it some additional supports.
Thankfully, the museum was actually open because we needed a bathroom break before heading home. We didn’t have time to tour the museum, but it smelled wonderfully like fresh-cut wood. The museum is, essentially, a workshop where things are collected, studied, experimented on, and built creating a unique learning experience.
This would be a fantastic place to bring the kiddos for an educational and fun afternoon.
One of my earlier posts detailed the history of the Highline, which provided transport for the butchers that lined the streets below the train tracks. These butcher shops provided the lard for the National Biscuit Company and their late 1800’s, early 1900’s products.
In 1890 several local bakeries merged to create the New York Biscuit Company; they went on the build their factory (now known as Chelsea Market). In 1898 the New York Biscuit Company merged with the Chicago-based American Biscuit and Manufacturing company and changed their name to the National Biscuit Company or NaBisCo for short (hello Oreos!).
In 1958 Nabisco fled to the suburbs for more space, abandoning their urban home. Chelsea (along with the neighboring meat-packing district) fell into disrepute and became known for violence and crime (three murders occurred in the basement of the building while it lay in disarray and foreclosure). The building was purchased in 1990 with the idea of turning it into an attraction tourists would want to visit.
The building didn’t open until 1997, but it paved the way for a period of transformation in the area with restaurants, hotels, and eventually the High Line crowding into the space.
If you like architecture, history, or bougie restaurants or shops, then Chelsea Market is the place for you. You’ll find an array of restaurants (we can vouch for Chote Miya — Indian street food; Ayada — a family-owned Thai restaurant; Miznon — an Israeli restaurant; and Creamline — American food), international grocery stores, hipster clothing stores, pop-up art installations, and a handicrafts/artisan flea market.
The market is close to Little Island, the High Line, and the Starbucks Reserve shop; making it a great place to go for dinner or lunch while taking in the sights in the area.
On this particular trip, we met up with some friends for a late lunch and then walked the High Line and then over to Little Island. It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon; the market always has great food, and with over six million visitors each year, there was plenty of opportunity to people-watch.
On a beautiful, sunny, cold and windy day Lewis and I headed out to Long Island for an eye appointment. Since we were going to be out there, and it was Lewis’s birthday, I decided to make a whole day of it, and concocted a “choose your own adventure” day for Lewis. I’ll map out the choices Lewis had and the ones that he chose.
First up: Lunch or activity first. He chose an activity; I had two ideas ready, either a) a movie or b) an outdoor activity. He chose the outdoor activity. So we went to Hempstead House, which is located in Sands Point Park and Preserve.
Undeveloped land was purchased by Howard Gould (son of the railroad robber baron Jay Gould) in 1900 and 1901, where he built a gigantic 100,000-square-foot medieval castle (modeled after a castle in Ireland) for his wife… however, she did not love it. So he built a much more manageable (I hope you can feel my eye-roll) 50,000-square-foot mansion across the property — the Hempstead House. It did not help, they divorced in 1909.
In 1917 Daniel Guggenheim purchased the property from Gould, in part because two of his brothers owned neighboring properties. In 1923 he gifted his son with 90 acres and the third “house” was built on the property, Falaise (meaning cliff in French since it was built on the bluffs overlooking the Long Island Sound). Daniel and his wife (Florence) utilized the property until his death in 1930, at which point she built a smaller mansion, Mille Fleurs, on the property and relocated there. The house boasted a garden with a “thousand flowers.”
In 1940 the Hempstead House was opened by Florence as a refugee home for 75 British children who were fleeing the war in Europe. Retaining her home, and her son retained his, Florence donated 62 acres, including Hempstead House and Castle Gould to the Institute of Aeronautical Science in 1942, which was then sold to the U.S. Navy in 1946. It remained in the employ of the Navy until 1971 when the land (and three mansions — Hempstead House, Castle Gould, and Falaise) were acquired by Nassau County and turned into a recreational area.
Alas, the Castle isn’t really open to the public, other than a small anteroom where they have a very tiny giftshop. You can tour the Hempstead House, but only during certain times. It was closed for our visit because they are already in wedding season; you can rent out the Mansion for weddings or other activities. Falaise is available for tours three days a week from June until October.
Not getting to see the houses was a bit disappointing, but the grounds are still beautiful. We walked around the Hempstead House and then walked along the pond to the beach. Like I said, the sun was shining, but it was crazy windy, we had a nor’easter a couple of days before and the winds really hadn’t died out despite the sunny weather.
It’s $15.00 per vehicle to enter the park, and then $10.00 per person to tour Hempstead House and $15.00 per person to tour Falaise. Since we didn’t get to do the tours, I can’t say that it’s worth the $30 per person to do the tours, but the $15.00 per vehicle isn’t terrible, especially if you bring a whole care load. The preserve is pet friendly, but leashes are required, so we got to see lots of dogs getting some exercise.
I’d recommend the preserve, especially if you have a whole day to kill and a car full of people to entertain.
After hiking, Lewis had to choose the next part of his adventure: Lunch: a) picnic or b) restaurant. Lewis chose restaurant, so then he had to decide if he wanted to a) eat in Long Island or b) eat in Sheepshead Bay (where we live). Lewis chose Long Island, so we drove to “the view grill” in Glen Cove. The view wasn’t spectacular and the food was just okay, but the staff was friendly, and they had a lot of regulars, and they comped Lewis’s drink since he turned down a dessert for his birthday.
From there, we had to pause the adventure because we both had to work. We were going to take the day off, but that rarely happens for pastors and I had some unexpected work things come up as well. Next, Lewis had to choose a) movie at the theater or b) movie at home. He chose to watch a movie at home The last option for Lewis was dinner: a) I cook or b) delivery. He chose delivery so we enjoyed sushi while we watched a movie.
It was a fun day. “Choose your own” adventure might turn into a tradition for Lewis’s birthday. When I ask him what he wants for his birthday he usually says he wants to spend time with me, so this is a great way to give him what he wants but forces us to go out and have some fun.
I’m back! Honestly, the weather the last few weeks has just been gray and dull, and I had zero motivation to get out of the house, plus I’ve been super busy at work. But I couldn’t go another week without heading out for somewhere touristy.
Of course I picked the day we had a nor’easter blowing through. We were just starting to see signs of spring too!
Since we were on the Upper East Side I figured I’d start my series on Central Park. Central Park is massive! It’s 843 acres, and there is a ton to see in this park, so there’s no way to see it all in one day. So I might feature other sites in between, but expect a bunch of posts on Central Park. Starting in Midtown, the park continues to Harlem in north Manhattan. The park covers six percent of Manhattan’s land area and is 2.5 miles long and half a mile wide. There are 42 arches and bridges in the park (30 are ornamental and 13 that are unnamed that carry park traffic over transverse roads).
The first landscaped park in the United States, the New York state legislature authorized the acquisition of land in the center of Manhattan in 1853 (the debate began three years prior). The Reservoir was built in 1862, it was to supply the city with clean water. The Reservoir covers approximately 1/8th of the park, and holds over a billion gallons of water. It’s not used to supply the city with water any longer, but does distribute water to other Central Park attractions (the Pool, the Loch, and the Harlem Meer).
There is a 1.58 mile track encircling the 106-acre body of water, which offers awesome views of the city. The Reservoir was officially named after Jackie O (a frequent jogger around the track) in 1994.
So back to today… it was so windy, and so cold; we ended up only walking a small portion of the loop, enough to get some photos and enjoy the view of the city before hightailing it for the subway home. Once springtime really hits and we’re not in a Nor’easter, I definitely recommend a walk (or jog) around the reservoir. However, be prepared for hordes of people; as I’ve mentioned before, New Yorkers flock to the outdoors at even the slightest hint of nice weather. If you like the snow and wind, it’s still a pleasant walk in the wintertime.
On Saturday night we attended a “Pride and Prejudice” dance in Massachusetts; it was a fun night, and I got to buy a regency dress to wear. It was mostly a success, except people kept tripping on my train, and by people, I mean mostly me, I kept tripping on the train, but other people did too. It was still a lot of fun. The next day we got the opportunity to visit Louisa May Alcott‘s Orchard House. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures, since they are prohibited in the home, but I’ll share the link to the museum’s website where you can find some photos.
Concord, Mass is an adorable little town, that happens to have been the home to a number of famous Americans! In addition to the Alcott family (Louisa had several sisters — Little Women is loosely based on her and her sisters — one of which was a rather well-known artist in her time), Ralph Waldo Emerson was a resident, as was Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau. There are other more contemporary famous people from the town, but these were historical contemporaries with Louisa.
In addition to the museums and homes dedicated to these literary giants, there are a ton of really beautiful historic homes, and really beautiful less historic, but still impressive homes. After our tour we took some time to just drive around and admire the architecture. As we did so we found a rather cute bridge to stop and take some pictures from. There wasn’t any traffic so we were able to stop for a couple of minutes; when we did a lady driving the opposite way saw us put our window down and assumed we needed to ask her a question. She stopped and told us a little about her town. She was so, so nice, and really seemed to love her little town. You don’t always encounter such hospitality, it was refreshing.
Back to Louisa. The museum gives a fairly thorough history of the life of Louisa, her parents, and her sisters. If you like history, you will appreciate the level of detail they share.
Louisa, unlike the character she based on herself in Little Women (Jo) , she was a “free spinster;” meaning she was free to live her life as she wished without the encumbrance of a spouse. She truly seemed to prefer it this way…she often wrote in her journals about never needing or wanting to get married… except for one instance, where she said she would have gotten married just to receive a kiss from Thoreau (who had kissed her sister on her wedding day).
Sadly, Louisa died at a relatively young age due to a stroke, that was believed to e caused by mercury poisoning she suffered working as a nurse during the Civil War.
I highly recommend visiting the Orchard House if you ever find yourself in Massachusetts. It’s worth the entrance price ($15 or $10 if you get a group price) to spend an afternoon learning about the lives of this interesting family, though the inability to take photos was a bit disappointing. Also, certain Covid-19 measures are still in place for the visit — they still have timed entries, and they require masks to enter any of the buildings. I’m not sure if this will change in the future, but it’s good to come prepared so you can mask up when asked.
This past week was my last few days with my family in Texas. So I took Monday and Tuesday off so I could maximize my time. My sister (Rita) was a total rockstar these last few weeks trying to make sure I had somewhere to feature on my blog.
I am not originally from Texas, nor is my sister, but she married a Texan and she is a Texan through and through. She’s very proud of her state, and the small town where she has made her life. I love that about her. I also love that she actively seeks out interesting things and places where she lives. That’s really what this portion of my blog is about, appreciating the places around you. Be a tourist in your own town and find the hidden gems that make your home your home.
My sister was super excited to take me to Mrs. Lee’s Daffodil Garden. It was it’s first weekend open of the season and it’s definitely a unique experience for Gladewater. On Sunday they had proclaimed on their Facebook page that they were open for business, so Monday morning we took care of some errands in the morning, then picked up a couple of pizzas to eat as we drove through the beautiful daffodils… only to discover that they had decided that morning not to open. It was so disappointing.
My three year old nephew was really disappointed that he didn’t get to see Mrs. Lees, so we decided to regroup at Gladewater Lake and let Brayden get some time running around in the sunshine. The weather was beautiful, the lake was pleasant, and there was a decent playground for the kiddos. My sister thought Camp Ford would be a great place to visit for Tourist Tuesday. So we picked my niece up from school before heading out of Gladewater to Tyler.
Camp Ford is an historical park where a Civil War P.O.W. Camp once stood. I really want to say that it’s a beautiful park and totally worth the trip to Tyler… but I’d be lying. Maybe sometime in the past, but it has fallen into disrepair; a couple of the trails were closed off for what appeared to be pretty unsafe conditions (one bridge had completely collapsed). Obviously it’s the end of winter, so the trees were still dead, and the ground was covered with fallen leaves, my guess is it’s quite beautiful in the spring and summer with all the foliage on full display.
In spite of the rather dilapidated appearance of the park, it’s historical significance is interesting, and there were plenty of plaques with information regarding the usage and history of the camp. I had never considered prisoners of war during the Civil War, but they existed, and (apparently) the South held more prisoners than the North. The Union would have preferred to execute them for treason, but they were compelled to hold prisoners for exchange since the Confederacy held so many prisoners.
If you’re interested in reading some of the history I’m including photos of the plaques here:
Well… that’s a mouthful. I am still traveling, so I’m featuring another new city! After having a mini-reunion with my former roommates down in Austin, I headed to the piney woods of East Texas to visit my parents and my sister and her family. They live in the thriving metropolis of Gladewater, TX… and by thriving metropolis I mean cute little town of 6,134 (actually probably 6,133 since my nephew is currently living in Ohio for school) haha!
It’s definitely smaller than any town I’ve ever lived in, but it’s a great place to raise a family. My brother-in-law grew up here, and my sister moved here 21 years ago after they got married. My parents moved here about eight years ago, and live right next door to my sister, which is super convenient for visits.
So, when I first arrived in Texas it was freezing… I was so annoyed. But by Sunday it was sunny and 70°F (21°C), which was a perfect excuse to get outside! So we headed to the Mineola Nature Preserve on the Sabine River. Construction on the preserve began in 2002, it encompasses 2,911 acres and it home to native species of animals and plant life. There are hiking trails, mountain bike trails, horseback riding trails, camping, playgrounds, wetlands, woods, and frisbee golf. There’s even a swampy area that they warn you to beware of alligators. We didn’t see a single alligator, but we saw lots of cute turtles sunning themselves.
There’s pretty much something for everyone. We were there just to hike, especially since we had a little one with us. We walked less than I thought we would, but more than my sister thought we would, partly because a couple of trails were waterlogged, so we had to just backtrack rather than making a circuit around the park.
The preserve is actually ranked in the top 15 city parks in the nation for it’s size. I highly recommend checking it out if you happen to find yourself in the piney woods.
I’m featuring an attraction from a new city! I had the opportunity to meet up with some friends in Austin, TX. One of my former roommates is pregnant with her first baby, so I, along with my other former roomies, traveled to Austin to celebrate the coming baby and reminisce about the old days.
I was excited to be escaping the NY winter and head to Texas for sun and warmth. Alas, Texas had other plans and it was colder in TX than NYC when I arrived on Thursday. Because of the less than ideal weather, we decided to check out an indoor attraction. Austin, much like it’s West Coast counterpart, Portland, prides itself on being “weird.” There are plenty of hipster bars, trendy restaurants, and weirdo donuts, but we decided to lean into the weird and visit the Museum of the Weird. If you’re disturbed by images of mummies or possibly authentic shrunken heads, I don’t recommend viewing the pictures at the end of this post.
The Museum actually started out as a gift shop in 2005, only after they realized that there were items they didn’t really want to part with, and that people enjoyed coming to see some of the oddities displayed, but not buy them, they decided to expand into a museum.
In addition to some authentic items, and some authentically weird items, there’s also a wax museum.
I’m not sure that the attraction is worth the $12.99 price, but it was a fun way to kill a couple of hours, especially if you’re interested in fanciful theories, and curious oddities.
So last week, I wrote a little bit about the subway system in the city. I’m going to talk about it a little more this week. I had visitors this past weekend (yay for not being all alone while Lewis was in Zimbabwe), and one of these lovely ladies necessitates the use of a wheelchair. This presented a much greater challenge than I anticipated.
First, New York City has a great option for residents with disabilities, it’s called Access-a-Ride. If you are disabled, you can avail yourself of on call vehicles for the same price as a subway ride ($2.75). Also, most buses are accessible. However… and that’s a big however, buses are pretty good within neighborhoods/boroughs, not necessarily for traversing the entire city. And access-a-ride is not available to out of town visitors.
Second, the NYC transit app is completely useless. Google maps, Apple Maps, and CityMapper are great options for navigating the city, but there is no option to search by stations that are handicapped accessible. There is a “quick reference” page (https://new.mta.info/accessibility/stations) that is helpful in identifying stations that are accessible, but it’s definitely not ideal.
I was trying to get to the Staten Island Ferry from our apartment. The two closest stations to us (Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay) are not accessible, so we ordered an accessible Uber to take us to the closest accesible station (Coney Island/Stilwell Avenue). From there we had to go three stations past the Ferry and then we had to walk to the station (which was fine, we did some sightseeing as we made our way south).
Ferries have serviced Staten Island since at least the 1800’s. The first documented ship was commissioned in 1852 and was a steam paddle wheel boat. Almost all the boats commissioned prior to 1860 were sold to the U.S. Government and put into use for the Civil War.
The Staten Island Ferry is one of the last operating ferry systems in New York. There are four boats that make a total of 117 trips a day. The two best things about the Ferry: it’s free! And it sails right past the Statue of Liberty.
On this particular day it was cloudy and cold, so we stayed inside for the first leg of the trip. On the return trip we rode on the second level and went out on the deck to take photos. You can see some really beautiful views of the city. I love riding the ferry, even when it’s cold. I like the feel of the cold air blowing on my face. I love watching the seagulls fly alongside the boat.
If you get a chance to visit this iconic attractions, it’s worth the fifty minute investment of time.
I had Monday off this week, and an extra day off is a perfect excuse to head out for another installment of Tourist Tuesdays.
Lewis is out of town for work right now (he’s in Zimbabwe finalizing some details of the purchase of some land for the congregation there), so I had to head out alone.
Whenever I do anything alone (driving, grocery shopping, taking the subway) I always feel more grown up… to be clear, I’m quite obviously a middle aged woman, but I don’t feel like a grownup. It sneaks up on you kids, one minute you’re a young adult trying to figure life out, the next you’re on the other side of “over-the-hill” wondering how the heck you got there. So anyway, I always feel like a grownup when I take the subway by myself.
Some things to know about the subway. In Manhattan it is fully subterranean, but when you get to the outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx) some of the lines are subterranean, but other parts of the lines are elevated, but it’s still the same system. So, when we have visitors we’ll tell them to catch the subway at the such and such stop and they get confused because it’s elevated. Don’t ask me, I didn’t design the system.
I don’t know how people navigated the subway before smartphones and GPS. I mean, I know the lines in my neighborhood, and how to get to lots of places in the city without using GPS, but going outside of those very specific train lines gets very confusing. Apple Maps works quite well, Google Maps also. I like to use CityMapper, it tells you what part of the train to sit on so it’s easier to access transfers or exits.
Also, the subway is relatively cheap to ride, it’s $2.75 no matter where you are going in the city. Southern Brooklyn (where we live) to northern Bronx, still $2.75. Need to transfer to multiples lines to get where you’re going? As long as you don’t leave the station, still just $2.75. And if you take more than 12 rides in a week (using the same credit card) every ride after that for the week is free.
So enough about the subway already! For Tourist Tuesday I caught the B train to Manhattan, with a transfer to the D to the Meatpacking district (just south of Chelsea and northwest of the West Village) to visit Little Island.
Little Island is a new park in NYC that opened in May 2021. But the area, like most places in the city, has a long history. Built on the Hudson River, this area of the Meatpacking district has been been a busy port of entry and/or trade dating back to the early colonization of the area with the Lenape tribe using the area as a seasonal encampment for hunting, fishing, and trade along the river. Multiple piers up and down the river were establish in the 19th and 20th centuries. Pier 54 (the site of Little Island) operated the British Cunard-White Star line. The Titanic was supposed to make port at Pier 54, instead the survivors arrived aboard the RMS Carpathia rescue liner. Just three years later the RMS Lusitania departed from Pier 54, only to be sunk off the coast of Ireland five days later. Because of this, superstitious people claim that the pier is cursed.
In 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, leaving heavy damage in her wake, including Pier 54. In 2013 the Hudson River Park Trust partnered with the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation to begin development on a whole new kind of park. The park is literally built in the river; comprised of 132 “tulip pots” (giant columns with bowls at the top sunk into the river to form the base of the park). The park covers 2.4 acres filled with trees, shrubs, grasses, and bulbs. There’s an amphitheater, trails, tables and chairs, in the summer there are a couple of food trucks, and some benches scattered about.
The park has fantastic views of the river, New Jersey, and Manhattan (you can see the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center from the park).
I highly recommend checking out the park, but be prepared for big crowds, especially when it’s warm… really any time that it’s sunny, there’s going to be a crowd. Personally, I love the river when it’s foggy and overcast, it’s magical to see the fog floating over the river, shrouding the buildings mist. On this day it was incredibly sunny. I’ll try to post photos from the park when it’s foggy if I ever get the chance. The park is free, and opens at 6 a.m. Closing time varies throughout the year.
So… for Tourist Tuesday, sometimes I’ll go the day of, or sometimes I’ll go earlier in the week and just post about it on Tuesday.
I’m going to get a little personal here. In November I had a mammogram done (get your checks done ladies) and it showed an anomaly. Of course, they didn’t have any open appointments for my follow-up until January. Let’s just say December was a lot of sleepless nights with a lot of what-ifs running through my head. So, I had my follow-up on Wednesday last week. I’m happy to say that the sonogram and second mammogram detected a lump that (and this is literally what the official report says) they “have characterized as probably benign (not cancer).” How’s that for confidence? When they actually told me the results at the hospital they said, “it’s not cancer.” It wasn’t until I got the official report that I found that little nugget of reassurance. Anyway… because of all this, I was like, I’m going to wait to go touristing (I know it’s not a real word) until Sunday or Monday, or maybe even actually Tuesday.
And this weekend started out so lovely (how’s that for foreshadowing??!)! We had friends over for dinner on Thursday, and then on Friday, we drove to Connecticut to spend the Sabbath and weekend with our brethren in the Hartford congregation. On Sabbath, we had a really rewarding Bible Study, followed by a potluck and services.
Often, when we go to Connecticut we stay with our deacon and deaconess in Stratford, and we were this past weekend. We had other visits planned as well… and then. and then. Three out of four of us came down with food poisoning. The next 12 hours were so disgusting. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, there was no touristing this weekend. But that’s life, eh? Even living in a big fancy town, we still have real life. Which sometimes means real-life food poisoning.
If there is a specific place you’d like to have me write about or post pictures of, leave a comment!
Known to be a fishing village in pre-colonial times, in the early 1900’s it had developed into a yacht club haven. The tradition of sailing and boating in the bay continues to this day.
Along the north side of the bay you’ll find a row of restaurants and fishing charters. It’s always vibrant and thrumming with life. Along the south side of the bay are ridiculously expensive homes, with the peninsula terminating in the Kingsborough Community College. A pedestrian bridge connecting these two sides of the bay was first built in 1880.
But at the top of the bay sits a beautiful and sobering tribute; a Holocaust Memorial. In the Spring and Summer the area feels almost secluded with trees and foliage forming a barrier around the memorial from the car and foot traffic surrounding it. In the late Fall and early Winter the ground plants get cut down, giving a more open view of the beautiful memorial. Conceived in 1986, the park was officially dedicated in 1997.
It’s worth a visit if you can make it to the neighborhood, and if you’re a bit peckish after your visit there are tons of restaurants to choose from along Emmons Avenue (burgers, bakeries, Turkish, crepes… pretty much anything you can think of). Also! There are swans in the bay! They’re beautiful and peaceful to watch.