Making Merry in Maui, Part I

Who wouldn’t be excited to be headed to Maui for a week?  What if I told you that this was week one of a four-week family vacation to Hawaii?  You see, Stephanie’s dad, generous guy that he is, decided to take Stephanie, her sister, Wendy, and their families (which includes me!) on a family vacation. After much deliberation, a week-long cruise of the Hawaiian Islands was the winner.  With nothing in particular to pull me & Stephanie back to the mainland, we decided to spend some extra time enjoying Hawaii.

Of the whole family gang, we would be the first to arrive, and thanks to our vacation club, we had a condo across the street from the beach in Kihei in South Maui.  We love this part of the island.  The beaches are amazing, and it feels like it’s close to everything.

Our Kihei sunset view

Our Kihei sunset view

As we were checking in for our flight from L.A., we had some unsettling news.  Tropical Storm Darby was racing us to Maui, and was scheduled to arrive at the same time we were. By the time we landed, however, Darby had wandered off to the south leaving Maui almost untouched.  We expected to spend Sunday huddled indoors, avoiding a storm, but by late morning, it was nice enough to head out to the beach and work on our body surfing.  We spent the whole day doing just that!

On Monday, we revisited a hike we had taken once before.  This particular adventure begins all the way in the South of Maui where the road ends and the lava fields begin.  On the Hoapili trail, we hiked over the lava fields to a few secluded beaches.  The lava looks like rich, freshly-turned earth, but it’s really just endless acres of arid, dry rock.  Almost nothing grows there, and the path involves trekking over fist-sized chunks of lava that like to shift under your feet.  The reward, however, is the gorgeous coves, totally empty beaches, and a stunning view of the southern slope of Haleakala – the volcano that formed Maui.  We did some swimming and snorkeling in those gorgeous coves, and I made an ornament to hang on a random tree already covered in sea ornaments.  We also found a driftwood tree trunk to play and balance on.

53 Hangin'10 like a pro

Hangin’ 10 like a pro

On the way back, we had hung our rash guards through a loop in my backpack to dry.  After walking for 40 minutes, we realized we only had one of them.  I let Stephanie talk me into waiting while she went back to look for it.  About four minutes into my wait, I realized I was bored silly, and probably should have gone with her.  I tried working out with lava rocks to pass the time, but those bad boys are sharp!  Eventually, she returned successful, although she slyly kept me thinking she hadn’t found it for a good five minutes.

That afternoon, we checked out a new snorkel spot – Maluaka Beach in Makena.  The edge of the storm had really whipped up the currents, and so floating south was easy, it was swimming back north again that took some effort.  We were rewarded by spotting not only our beloved humuhumunukunukuapua’a ( the Hawaiian state fish) and honu (sea turtles), but we saw some manta rays in the wild; a first for us!  These things are huge. Like, as-big-as-me huge!

In the evening, Stephanie tried her hand at making me a local Hawaiian dish called loco moco. Basically, it’s a bed of rice with a hamburger patty on top, a fried egg on top of that, and the whole thing is drowning in mushroom and onion gravy.  Legend has it that loco moco was born when a surfer nicknamed “Moco” walked into a diner and asked what was the most food he could get with the small amount of money he had.  Don’t knock it till you try it!  It’s delicious, and Stephanie’s version was just as tasty as any I’ve had.

86 Loco Moco!!

Loco Moco

After that, there was nothing to do but stroll to the beach and watch the sun set.

The next day, Stephanie woke up early and declared that we should go check out Heleakala Volcano, the summit of which stands 10,000 feet above sea level.  On the way there, she hit me with the news that rather than hike the eight or so miles we had done once before, we were trying a new, 13 mile hike.  That’s not a typo.  This hike that we were about to do with no training time was the length of a half marathon.  We descended on the aptly-named Sliding Sands Trail, and then crossed the crater floor.  Haleakala’s crater actually has two valleys in it, so we hiked over a ridge to the second valley, across it, and then up the other side which consisted of over 1400 feet of switchbacks going up a sheer and frankly, beautiful wall.  Along the way, we passed through several different types of landscapes including the arid Mars-looking crater, meadows, and roiling clouds. In fact at the top of Haleakala you can actually see turbulence in the clouds.  Here’s a great video of it.

Haleakala is also home to a plant called a Silversword that only grows here in Haleakala – nowhere else in the world.  They can live up to 50 years, but they only bloom once, and then they die.  Last time we were here, we saw mostly dead ones, but this time, they were blooming everywhere.  We considered ourselves lucky to see them.

98 Silversword

Silversword

A mere seven hours after we started hiking, we popped out on the main road about 5000 feet lower than our starting point.  Since our car was still up at the top, we added a new experience to our collection: We hitchhiked to the summit.  Something about hitchhiking inside a national park makes it feel a lot safer than being on a random road somewhere.  We only had to wait about 10 minutes before a nice Indian family picked us up.  They had two kids in the back seat, so we had to squish in with Stephanie on my lap for the 15 minute journey.  That night – another beach sunset and another drink.  Oh yeah, did I mention the drinks?  We toasted the setting sun with Mike’s hard cranberry, passion fruit lemonade.  It may be a red, fruity girlie drink, but that certainly didn’t stop us from enjoying it.

Whew – and we’re only halfway through the week.

L.A.yover

We were only supposed to pass through L.A. for a few hours, but we opted to extend our time there and catch up with my friend Scott – my best friend from high school (like we did here and here). Amtrak deposited us at Union Station around 1:00 in the morning, where Scott picked us up and took as back to his place.  (Whatta guy!)  His kids, Siporah (10) and Jacob (8), were staying with him, so we got a chance to meet them again.  The last time had been years ago, and they didn’t remember us.

On our first day we took it easy by playing games with the kids, taking them to the park and doing a little light shopping.  This was all in preparation for the main event – a day at Disneyland.  (Yes, I knew it was a Friday in July, and crowds would be off the hook. Don’t hassle me, man!)

Perhaps a little background information is in order.  In 1986 when Scott and I were both sixteen and living in Anaheim, our parents gave us each an annual pass to Disneyland.  We spent a LOT of time there together.  I could do my homework, and then ride my bike over for a few hours in the evening.  On weekends, we would hang out at Videopolis – Disneyland’s outdoor, teen dance club. In that one year, I went 107 times! (Yes, I counted.)  When they debuted Captain Eo, and kept the park open for 60 hours straight, Scott and I were there.  When they did it again for Star Tours, we were there again.  We collected all the pins (and the misprints) for Disneyland’s 30th anniversary, became experts at weaving through packed crowds, and basically claimed Disney as our own.

01 TweedleScott and Tweedle Elliott

TweedleScott and TweedleElliott

Since those days, Scott and I had been back to the DL exactly once together, so I was psyched to go again with him.  This time, we could see the place through his children’s eyes.  As if all that wasn’t enough, Stephanie and I go to Disney at least once a year (no surprise there), and this year we opted for the West Coast version.

02 Jake and Sipporah are ready to go

Jake and Siporah are ready to go

The day started off like all family trips to Disneyland do in that we weren’t out the door on time.  No problem!  L.A. traffic isn’t that bad, right?  Actually, it wasn’t bad at all, and we made up some of our lost time. While we were taking the tram in from the parking lot, the woman sitting opposite us had on a t-shirt that Stephanie liked.  Why is this important?  Because Stephanie struck up a conversation with her and her friend.  Her friend, it turned out, was a Disney employee who was signing the two of them in for the day. Why is *this* important?  Because Disney employees can sign in up to four people at a time, and she offered to bring us in with her.  Free Disney! Woo hoo!  We had already purchased e-tickets, but they’re good for 18 months, and so we have plenty of time to come back again and use them.

So we were in the gate, and Disneyland in all its glory was laid before us.  Most important to me were rides that do not exist in Florida.  Namely: The Matterhorn, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio.

We talked Jake into riding the Matterhorn, and that was the last thing we talked him into all day. (Watch the pre-ride interview. You can probably guess why there’s no post-ride interview.) He proclaimed that he was “terrified,” and held off on Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Pinocchio and all roller coasters.  He was a trooper, though as he waited patiently for the rest of us to go on everything.  His sister, Siporah, tentatively joined us on Splash Mountain, and then promptly turned into a thrill-ride junkie, demanding bigger and bigger rides.

05 Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain

Disney was able to accommodate Siporah’s need for speed with Hyperspace Mountain.  We weren’t sure what to expect when we heard that Stephanie’s favorite ride of all time – Space Mountain – had been updated, but let me tell you, this is one of the coolest re-imaginings ever.  Space Mountain now has a Star Wars theme.  As you travel through the darkness, you are part of an X-wing squadron in a heated dogfight with TIE fighters, complete with light effects, synchronized sound, and radio chatter.  My description makes it sound a bit lame, I know, but WOW!  This ride has gone from “fantastic” to “freaking phenomenal.”

Stephanie also got photos of any alligators she saw on any rides.  (Not that Disney is toying with the idea of taking them out or anything.)

So we got on everything we wanted (some of them twice) except Pinocchio which was kind enough to break down right as we got there.  Actually, so did Indiana Jones, but they gave us good-anytime Fast Passes to come back at our convenience.

Speaking of Fast Passes, the West Coast Fast Pass system is still paper based. (Walt Disney World in Florida has gone all digital.)  This means that Stephanie and I were able to put our well-honed FastPass skills to good use and maximize our time in the park.  We stayed until after closing, just like Scott and I used to do in the old days, and a good time was had by all.

35 The happiest place on earth

The happiest place on earth

Our last day, we slept in until the last minute, and then Scott took us to the airport.  It was over as soon as it began, BUT…  We do still have a couple of tickets to use, and Scott has never been to Disney’s California Adventure.

I’ve Been Riding on the Railroad

A few years ago, we attended a conference for frequent travelers. (Yes, there actually is such a thing.)  One of the seminars talked about the places you can go with Amtrak on points. Never ones to fear new travel experiences, we opened a couple of credit cards and racked up the points necessary for a few trips.  Although Stephanie had done some overnight train travel as a kid, I never had, and so I was looking forward to it.  Our first long distance rail journey took us from Denver to Los Angeles aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr.

0 This is us!

This is us!

Our train left Denver at 8:05am. We left ourselves a nice window to get there, but Denver rush hour traffic had other ideas.  We got to the train station with about 15 minutes to spare and no idea where we were headed. As we puffed up to the train with our gear, they told us to relax, that we had plenty of time.  The attendant on our car directed us to our spot, and suggested we visit the dining car.

1 Riding the rails with my baby (and Carlos)

Riding the rails with my baby (and Carlos)

Thanks to the aforementioned credit card points, we were able to do this journey in a sleeper car.  We opted for what Amtrak calls a “roomette,” but used to be called a compartment when cross-country train travel was more popular.  Our private roomette had two nice, wide, reclining seats that face each other, and then fold flat for sleeping at night (or whenever, actually), and of course, a door that closes, with curtains that can be drawn from the inside.  The sleepers are also considered first class, and as such, food is included. I was gonna like this!

So what exactly comes in a roomette?  In addition to the two fold-down seats, there’s an upper bunk. I guess one person is expected to climb up, but Stephanie and I did our standard stuff-two-people-into-a-single-bed thing.  There is a closet in case you have a burning desire to hang stuff up.  We had climate control, overhead lights, reading lights and nightlights.  The upper bunk contained a mattress to lay over the lower seats once folded down, and it was already made up with sheets for our sleeping pleasure.

6 Ready for bed

Ready for bed

There was a waiting list for breakfast, and so we went to wait in the “sightseer lounge car.”  All the cars were “superliners,” which meant they were all double-deckers.  The dining car, the lounge car and our roomette were all on the upper level, and the views were amazing wherever we went.  The lounge also had curved upper windows so you could basically look right out the roof, and get a beautiful panoramic view.

The first few hours’ worth of landscape after Denver is one of Amtrak’s most scenic journeys, and so we didn’t mind waiting for breakfast at all.  Train tracks are something one sees all over America, but it wasn’t until this trip that I realized that they often go where cars don’t: over mountains, through canyons, along twisty rivers, and past tiny towns.

So… having never traveled by train before, I had some questions. I’m sure you do too, so here are some answers…

1) Are there showers on board?

Yes, there are shared showers, but for only a 36 hour trip, we didn’t bother.

2) Can you check your luggage?

Yes, but again, we didn’t bother. Since we travel light, we just used the self-storage area in our car.

3) Can you get off the train?

At some of the stations, we were there long enough to get off the train and stretch our legs, and so we did.

4) Is there Wi-Fi on board?

No

4a) Did I care?

Not really.  There was so much to see.  I don’t think I’ve spent several hours looking out a window at moving scenery since I was a kid.

5) What’s the food situation like?

Ah yes, the food.  The dining car only has limited seating, so it’s first come, first serve, except for dinner which is by reservation only.  If you’re a party of two, they will put you at a table with two other people and let you make friends, which always suits us.  The food itself was surprisingly good. Breakfast was a hot cooked meal – eggs and potatoes and biscuits, etc… We were off to a good start. Dinner turned out to be a little on the salty side, but given how much we were saving by having our meals included, we weren’t complaining.  In fact, we were surprised at the sophistication of the menu.  We were also relieved that the prices didn’t apply to us.

14 Menu on the California Zephyr

Menu on the California Zephyr

So where was I? Oh yes! After the stunning vistas of the Rockies, we were joined on our westward journey by the Colorado River. The river kept trading sides with us – first on our left, then on our right – as it bubbled through canyons and valleys.  We saw many rafts of course, but we also saw kayaks, fishing boats and even stand-up paddle boarders.  We resolved to do a multi-day rafting trip one of these days.

After a while, the river wandered off to the south.  Or maybe we just wandered north towards Salt Lake City and Nevada.  Either way, the scenery leveled out and got more desert-like. Traveling by train, you could almost imagine that you were in the Old West. I kept hoping to spot a stagecoach or a paddle wheel steamer, but no such luck.  The scenery, however, still did not disappoint.

That night, I was excited to try the whole sleeping thing. I think it took all of 30 seconds for the swaying of the train and the surprisingly quiet sounds of train travel to lull me to sleep. Stephanie woke up before me the next morning, and snuck off to get some beautiful early morning shots of Nevada.

The scenery changed again as we climbed through the Sierra Nevadas; through Nevada’s silver country, and into California’s gold country. We went through the famed Donner Pass, and were relieved that no one on our train ate anyone else.

The first part of our train journey ended in Sacramento. From there, we hopped on Amtrak’s San Joaquin to Bakersfield. The San Joaquin has no sleeper section and is more like a commuter train, so there are no interesting photos.  We did see a sunset over California’s wine country, though.

From Bakersfield, the trip was even less interesting. Amtrak put us on a bus to L.A.’s beautiful Union Station.  Our L.A. adventures are the subject of another post, but it’s safe to say we both absolutely loved our first long-distance train trip. We have another one coming up, and we expect it to be even more amazing.

999 Yay trains!

Yay trains!!

MileHighDuo Goes “Home”

Our July and August travel this year has been (and will be) all within the USA, but we did manage to fit in a new state.  After our long weekend in Toronto and our time in Philly and New Jersey, we flew to the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado.  Now how is it we never managed to fit that into our year of travel back in 2012 and 2013?  It would seem entirely appropriate for the MileHighDuo, after all!

Ironically, we didn’t even plan to stop in Denver.  We went there because it was going to be the start of the next segment of our travels (look for our next blog post to understand what I mean).  But going to Denver turned out to be a really wonderful thing.  We loved being at high altitude for a bit during our travels since we’re used to living in Cuenca at high altitude now.  But more importantly, we reconnected with an old face from Elliott’s childhood, and ended up leaving feeling like we’d made a lifelong set of friends.

We stayed with Chuck – the brother of Elliott’s best friend from high school.  As we headed to Denver, Elliott told me stories about Chuck and him; it had been a bit weird when they were kids since Chuck was the age of Elliott’s younger sister Rochelle, but they’d had some good times together when Chuck was living in  New Jersey for a year.  Now, Chuck is married and has ten kids (yes, you read that correctly).  We were a tiny bit daunted, but we figured staying with Elliott’s sister and her six kids just a few months ago had been good practice!

We had a lot of fun with Chuck, his wife Julie, and the ten kids.  They gave us our own space in the basement, including a gated area for our stuff where no curious little kiddies could enter.  On our first day we piled into their huge van for 14(!) and they drove us up through the mountains to the local area of Georgetown, where we picnicked and played in a local park.

Then they drove us around downtown Denver.  I’m not sure which was more fun: seeing the sights, or feeling special as the kids argued over who got to sit next to us!

That night we had an adults-only dinner outing for Mexican food.  Ahhh.  Those kids are great, but so was the Mexican food and adult conversation!

The next day we went to their local pool and just played the day away with the kids.  Since it was plenty warm and I love to frolic in pools, I didn’t mind spending time there at all.  Sightseeing, schmight-seeing!

There was lounging:

There was swimming:

There were slides:

There were bubbles:

There were headstands:

There was general merry-making!

On our last full day, Chuck drove us to Boulder where he works, and we toured his company “plant.”  It was pretty cool seeing all the machine parts they make, especially since we only ever worked in boring IT offices that made nothing but code.  Elliott found the perfect widget and claimed it as his own souvenir of Chuck and our visit to Denver.

Then we walked to a local bike rental rack and kiosk, and checked out some bikes.  This was actually a major milestone for me, as I’ve wanted to rent bikes from one of these kiosks ever since we first saw them in Luxembourg in 2009!  (Lack of foreign credit cards and other similar silly issues always got in the way.)  But this time we had the right country’s credit card, and we got our bikes with ease.  The cost was only $8 per person for a 24 hour rental, as long as we checked in every half hour.  There were many bike kiosks throughout the little city which made that very easy.

We rode all around, finding the next kiosk on the map each time.  We rode through the little downtown area, checked out the University, and rode along Boulder Creek.

We had a picnic lunch and watched the tubers go down the creek, usually with goose bumps on their skin and audible shivering.

Since there was no easy way to rent tubes, we agreed we should wait until next time for tubing.  But when we saw some guys swinging on a rope swing into the creek nearby, we were intrigued.  After chatting with some girls about their tube ride, and then watching one of them try the swing, I was hooked.  After a few minutes of chatting about it, I got Elliott hooked, despite the frigidity of the water (which is REALLY saying something).  Yeah, we could wait a couple weeks and find a rope swing in our next destination, but this was here and now.  We went for it.

The rope swing was awesome.  They always are!  Elliott decided to go first to get the ice pool plunge anxiety over with, and I videoed him.  Only I didn’t actually video him!  It wasn’t a ploy, though it did foil his plan to do the rope swing one time only.  I really somehow screwed up the video, and I appealed to his vanity when I let him know if he wanted video of himself, he’d have to do it a second time.  Then it was my turn.  I gathered up my nerve, held on tight, and swung out as far as I could.  I let go at the top of my swing, and jumped into the water.  Even anticipating all of that cold, there was no way to be prepared.  The water was so shockingly cold that my entire system seemed to shut down.  I tried to swim through the Arctic to the shore, and realized there was a strong current working against me!  Still in shock, I realized I’d just have to get to the closest point on land.  I clambered up some nearby rocks, and, finally, I was out.

Elliott had decided to take that second swing so we could record his adventure.  And then of course I had to take a second swing… luckily the second time in was much less of a shock!  We changed back into our clothes, took a nap in the park, and hopped back on our bikes.  After riding back into town, we parked the bikes and walked along one of the main shopping promenades on Pearl Street.  We found some fun souvenir-filled shops, and Elliott found a great music store.  Before we knew it, it was 5pm and time to return to our friend Chuck’s office.

That evening wrapped up our time in the Mile High City.  We battled a raging thunderstorm as we made our way out to the car with Chuck, and saw a TRIPLE rainbow on the way home.  We had a delicious Italian dinner with the family, prepared by Julie (with help from the kids), and showed off our rope swing photos and video to the kids.  Then it was time to say goodbye.  We all agreed, we’ll have to make Denver a more regular stop in our travels going forward.

A Very Special Place

After our long weekend in Toronto, we took Megabus back to Philly, and joined some friends and family in a birthday celebration for Elliott a few days later.  The next day, we packed the car full of our suitcases, food and toys, and headed to Ocean City, NJ.

Ocean City is a special place for me in so many ways.  Growing up in New Jersey, I went with my family “down the shore” many times over many years.  I remember trying to brave the waves, my older siblings and parents trying to teach me to body surf, eventually always getting sucked under by a “big one,” and trying to ramp up my bravery for the next time.  I remember how delicious-tasting those Pringles and warm-from-the-sun Chips Ahoy cookies were, that Mom had always packed for us along with our sandwiches. I remember Dad always proclaiming he hated the sand and hot sun and saltwater, and then putting it all aside to come and swim in the ocean with us.  I remember building drip castles with my brother, throwing a Frisbee with my other brother and sister, and walking the boardwalks of the various beach towns.  I remember the long drive home after day trips when I was still covered in sand, sitting in the car, and having to wait for five older people to use the one shower when we got home before it was my turn.  The Jersey Shore is about family in a way the namesake TV show never bothered to explain.

Ocean City, NJ is special to me in other ways.  It’s home to the beach where my husband first proclaimed he loved me.  It’s the home of the beach on which my husband proposed to me, on a night with a full moon, a brightly viewable Venus, and even a brightly viewable Mars.  It’s home to a boardwalk we’ve walked up and down countless times, a beach we’ve walked along countless times, a place we’ve eaten hundreds of French fries and dozens of soft ice cream cones.  It’s even the location of my very first surrey ride, and surreys are a VERY big deal in my world.

This particular week, we visited Ocean City with my dad and Ann and Ann’s family, as part of their annual family vacation.  We swam and boogie-boarded, we took walks on the beach and boardwalk, and we ate French fries and pizza and ice cream.

We played games and miniature golf and watched movies.

We celebrated Elliott’s birthday on the actual day, and helped teach some of the grandchildren to ride bikes.

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One of our many, awesome, early-morning bike rides!

It was another special week filled with family and fun.  And through it all, we were reminded that no matter how far we go in our travels, there’s always a place back home that’s just as special as can be.DSC05146 8x10

Muskoka, eh?

We spent the month of June in our home in Cuenca, Ecuador, and then on the night of June 30th we began our two month summer trip.  We were originally headed to Philly, but when we were in Israel for Elliott’s mom’s birthday party in May, his aunt and uncle convinced us we should come up for a visit to Canada, where they live.  It had been four years since we’d been there, and we were happy for the excuse to go again.

They live in Toronto, and have a lakeside “cottage” about two hours north of Toronto, in the town of Muskoka, right on Lake Muskoka.  (Go figure.  And what is a Muskoka, anyway?!)  This addition to our plans worked out really well, as we were originally connecting through Toronto’s airport on our flight from Ecuador to Philly.  (Don’t ask.  Those airline do wacky things!)  Uncle Roger picked us up from the airport and the three of us drove straight to the cottage.  Well, not straight exactly, if you count stops for lunch and the candy store, where we filled our basket with all kinds of goodies!

There we hung out with Elliott’s aunt, two cousins, and one of his cousin’s wife and two year old daughter.  It was a joy seeing the cousins again and meeting a newer addition to the family.  We hiked, tried out the local Y, played games, canoed on the lake, and ate lots of good food.  We dipped our toes in the lake, but the weekend weather was only warm enough for Canadian-born Aunt Rose to swim in.  For some reason, Muskoka decided to have a cooler weather spell while we were there!

Sunday we drove back to Toronto, where we reunited with Elliott’s other two cousins, as well as one’s wife, young son and daughter.  Such cute kids!  Over the next couple of days, we visited with them, Roger and Rose, and Elliott’s mom and husband.  For those of you paying attention, yes, his mom and her husband!  In a wonderful twist of fate, they had arrived in Toronto from Israel just before we did for a month long visit.  It had been a really long time since Elliott had seen his mom on two different occasions so close together like that, and we were really overjoyed with how it worked out.

My only regret about this trip is that we were so busy having fun we took almost no photos – we have only a couple of us canoeing (it was a really cool canoe ride).  We’re so lame!  Sorry everyone, we really had such a wonderful time with you and promise to come back and visit again real soon – and with our camera in hand next time!

Enjoying a challenging morning paddle in the family canoe.

Enjoying a challenging morning paddle in the family canoe.

Elliott's tired and happy the way back is WITH the current.

Elliott’s tired and happy the way back is WITH the current.

Sunny New York

It’s mid-July and we’ve been back on the road traveling again for a few weeks.  But before we share our July and August travels and plans with you, I want to share a goal we achieved: Elliott officially likes New York City!  We took our third trip there in May (after Egypt and Israel), and had a great time in the sunny, warm weather.

On our first day, it was probably fate that kept us from checking into our hotel in the morning – otherwise we’d have been too tempted to take a nap!  Instead, we walked way downtown and across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was filled with people walking as well as riding their bikes, even on a Monday!

All strung up

All strung up

And we found a really pretty park on the other side.

Walking back across the bridge, we were able to enjoy the NYC skyline:

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I prefer to relax!

On day two we went back to the Statue of Liberty, but we went very early this time.  (On our first trip to NYC, we’d spent so much time at the statue that we ran out of time for Ellis Island.)  We climbed all the way to the top of the crown this time, which made it a bit more exciting.

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We made it to the top of the crown!

And we still had plenty of time to get the ferry to Ellis Island.

That being said, there was much more to do on Ellis Island than we had imagined!  There are three sections to the museum these days, and he history in the museum covers a much broader span than immigration.  We read about things like the sad Trail of Tears long before we learned the details of peoples’ journeys to a strange, new land called America.

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Ancestors on my mom’s side of the family came here long ago.

We even found some of my ancestors’ names etched in the monuments.

On day three, we managed to win tickets in the lottery for Wicked, the Broadway show.  We went to the matinee showing and absolutely loved the show, which was written “around” the Wizard of Oz, so many years later.

That afternoon we walked all the way to famous LeVain’s Bakery, and enjoyed some of their scrumptious six ounce cookies at Strawberry Fields.

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I love these gigantic cookies!

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Elliott’s rarin’ to go

On our last full day, we rented bikes and rode around Central Park.  It was a hot day, but the novelty and shade more than made up for the heat.  We rode round and round the park, and had a picnic on the grass.  We even rode through sprinklers when we were hot, and I rode on a hippopotamus in one of the playgrounds.  What a fun day!

We capped off the day with another Broadway show – Fiddler on the Roof!  We love this show, and I had only ever seen the movie, so this was a real treat.  Rush tickets are the best!  And Elliott can’t wait to go back to NYC to see more shows.