Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking
Mt. Constitution

Sunday, April 28, 2013

New York City, Day 13

Another beautiful day in this city! Sunday - our day to attend the theatre.  Julia must've attended the "after the wedding reception" party in a bar last night, scheduled to begin at midnight. "It's just too expensive to invite everyone they wanted to the wedding, so I've been invited to join any late going party goers to a bar, to finish off the celebration." The building where she lives, 310 3rd Avenue, is owned by NYU. The University purchased it four years ago after the owners could not sell condo units. The wood floors, tiled bathrooms, granite countertop, high end appliances, make it seem much more like apartment living than dorm living. NYU has no "campus." The dorms and classroom buildings are scattered throughout Manhattan, Gramercy Park area, and Union Square.  Karen and I decided to take the subway to Central Park.  It was a gorgeous spring day and we wandered through the park and enjoyed our walk.
 We watched hundreds of walkers and saw lots of different kinds of T-Shirts - some for breast cancer, some for MS, some for birth defects.  Eventually we asked a walker who told us, "there is a walk every Sunday and you can walk for whatever cause you like."

 Sunday pictures in Central Park
 I love the planter boxes in front of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America - pansies with a few gerbera daisies sprinkled in.

We met up with Julia after her run around lower Manhattan and ate breakfast near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  
 This looks like an ice cream sundae, but it's really a healthy breakfast of walnuts and yogurt.

 We then made our way to Times Square for an afternoon theatre showing of Roald Dahl's Matilda.

 Pictures in Times Square!  After the show it seemed like a million people were milling around 42nd Street.  Julia left us to head towards her home for music practice for the 7:30 PM Mass at the Church of the Epiphany just two blocks from her home.

 Karen and I walked around looking for a place to eat dinner.  Lots of choices.

 Epiphany Church, 21st and 2nd St., gorgeous stained-glass windows in the entrance to the church.
My heart just swelled with pride and tears came to my eyes as I heard Julia sing in this beautiful church.  The choir director told me after mass, "we love Julia and always let her be our cantor if she comes to this Mass."  As busy as she is, she finds time every week to practice and sing at the Sunday night Mass.  How many college students do that??  Julia shared so much with us - her work life, her relationship with Connie and Garry, her dreams for the future!  It made our time in NYC so much more enjoyable - just being with her and sharing her crazy life.  

 Julia's wall art....
 The Gramercy Dream Team!
Relaxing in her apartment...  She slept on this little couch and gave us her big bed!  Thank you Julia.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

New York City, DAY 12

I guess I'm over my jet lag, because I woke up at 5:00 AM, ready to get up for the day. I knew Karen and Julia wanted to sleep in, so I just got dressed and went to Starbuck's for morning coffee and free WiFi. It was fun to watch this city wake up on a Saturday morning. Julia is the housing manager for one of NYU's largest student housing buildings, over 1,000 student live here on 25 floors. Full time security guards maintain the comings and goings through the front door, so they were my morning visitor contacts. They delighted me with their admiration for Julia, "one of our best staffers." I felt their sincerity as they wished me a happy day! We all enjoyed some homemade granola, purchased yesterday at the farmer's market in Union Square. Julia slept on the couch because she was "on call" and anticipated crisis calls during the night, but luckily had none. We visited for two hours this morning and she shared how her long-term habit of journaling helps her reflect on her experiences. She says she's an introvert because being with people drains her emotionally and she needs her alone time to reenergize herself. She expressed many things - her relationship with her parents, her joy about her work, her strong faith, and best of all, how she experiences God in and through other people.

Julia wanted to do her weekly 10 mile run around the southern edge of Manhattan and then go to her boss's baby shower, so Karen and I walked up to Washington Square Park, getting a slice of pizza along the way. Today we were served by Mexican people in an Italian pizza place. The park was packed with people, many owners of daschunds. We enjoyed just watching people and listening to musicians scattered throughout the park.

Our next experience, along with Julia, was riding the subway to the World Trade Center. For me it was hard to fathom the space where the Twin Towers originally stood and how any buildings nearby escaped destruction. We could see the new tower being built - I even noticed it on our drive in from JFK airport. We joined lots of other tourists in the area, first going in to St. Paul's Church and looking at all the memorabilia on the walls and tables around the church.  The sign says, "Unwavering Spirit."  This church became a  sanctuary of hope at healing at Ground Zero.

Karen was stunned to see her airplane seatmates enter the church the same time we did. These young women were from the Chezh Republic and planned to tour the US for six weeks. What are the chances she would meet them again???

The 9-11 Memorial opened in time to remember the 10th anniversary of the tragic event that took over 3,000 lives and 450 first responders. The reflecting pools occupy the original footprint of the twin towers and no matter where you stand, one cannot "see" the bottom of the second waterfall. People are quiet and respectful in this space. It's hard to imagine what it might mean to someone who actually lost a loved one......

     We then caught a cab and rode up to the West Greenwich area where Julia first lived when she came to NYU. She walked around with us and said, "I just love this area - all these old buildings. It seemed so much quieter than where she lives now. We walked up and down the streets trying to find the perfect place for dinner, finally settling on "The Garage" - with live jazz music. More wine and toasts to Karen's senior wisdom years as we celebrated her 55th Birthday.

 The home of Edna St. Vincent Millay on the left and the token picture of flowers on the right!  No picture of our meal on this night.  Off to bed to rest for another day of sightseeing!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

London, Day Three, Westminster Abbey

We began our day by sleeping in and visiting with our hosts at the Oaks Guest House.  It was so nice to take a walk to the underground and notice flowers and trees blooming.  It took us about seven minutes to walk from our B&B to the Southgate Underground Station.  Today was our day to tour Westminster Abbey, a historic working church with a daily cycle of prayer and worship.  How anyone manages any meaningful prayer time with tourists trapsinging around is beyond my comprehension.  The Abbey was founded in the 10th Century and operated as a Benedictine Monastery.  The Reformation of the 16th Century brought many changes and this monastery became a working Anglican Church, but remnants of the monastery are apparent everywhere.

      The Parliament Building, close up.
 Big Ben
 The Thames River and Westminister Bridge

 The Eye of London - we decided not to ride it. The wheel's 32 sealed and air-conditioned ovoidal passenger capsules, designed and supplied by Poma, are attached to the external circumference of the wheel and rotated by electric motors. Each of the 10-ton capsules represents one of the London Boroughs, and holds up to 25 people, who are free to walk around inside the capsule, though seating is provided. The wheel rotates at 10 inch per second or 0.6 mph, so that one revolution takes about 30 minutes. It does not usually stop to take on passengers; the rotation rate is slow enough to allow passengers to walk on and off the moving capsules at ground level.
After our lunch in the Abbey Cafeteria, we toured the Abbey gardens.  
After lunch we walked along Whitehall Street, passed 10 Downing Street. the home of the Prime Minister, passed the Horse Guard's Parade, and dozens of monuments, including the "Women of World War II."  These guards never moved, but tourists moved in and out to have their pictures taken.  

Trafalgar Square

The National Gallery is in Trafalgar Square.  We didn't have much time to tour, but did step inside.  I noticed the floor covered with these beautiful mosaics, filled with great messages.

Rest and Be Thankful!

A nice visual use for old bicycles!

We walked up to Leicester Square and had fish and chips before walking a little more to Prince Edward Theater to see the Jersey Boys.  The energy of Frankie Valle and the 4 Seasons had everyone in the theatre tapping toes and reminiscing about the music from the 1960's.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

London Tour to Stonehenge, Bath, and Stratford-on-Avon

 Tuesday, April 23 was our "England in One Day" Tour

We took the Underground to Marble Arch and met up with the tour at The Cumberland Hotel.  We found a great coffee shop and our server was from Algeria.  He'd heard about Idaho and wanted to come back to the USA with us!  

 These pictures reminded me of my trip with Joan in April, 2002
We met our tour bus at the Cumberland Hotel, across the street from the Marble Arch

Karen and I were fascinated by the life-size sculptures inside the Hotel.

First we head straight for Stonehenge is the most popular prehistoric monument in the world. We marvelled at the huge 40 ton Sarsens and the volcanic blue stones that were brought from Preseli mountains over 280 miles away. We discovered the mysteries that surround the slaughter stone and see the numerous earth barrows where the beaker people lie buried before we headed through the Salisbury plains towards Bath. Stonehenge is probably the most important prehistoric monument in the whole of Britain and has attracted visitors from earliest times. It stands as a timeless monument to the people who built it.The stonehenge that we see today is the final stage that was completed about 3500 years ago, but first let us look back 5000 years.The first Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes, all probably built around 3100 BC. The Aubrey holes are round pits in the chalk, about one metre wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms. They form a circle about 284 feet in diameter. Excavations have revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk filling, but the holes themselves were probably made, not for the purpose of graves, but as part of the religious ceremony. Shortly after this stage Stonehenge was abandoned, left untouched for over 1000 years. The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 BC. Some 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains, in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It is thought these stones, some weighing 4 tonnes each were dragged on rollers and sledges to the headwaters on Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. They were carried by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again to near Warminster in Wiltshire. The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury.

This astonishing journey covers nearly 240 miles. Once at the site, these stones were set up in the centre to form an incomplete double circle. ( During the same period the original entrance of the circular earthwork was widened and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. Also the nearer part of the Avenue was built, aligned with the midsummer sunrise.)

People were quiet as they walked around these historic stones, probably cherishing the feeling of connectedness to a primitive time.  I definitely felt the sacredness of the space as I listened to recorded messages describing various aspects of this historic site.  

First thing when we got to Bath, was to have lunch, recommended by our tour guide - a Pasty! A pasty is made by placing uncooked filling typically of meat and vegetables, without meat in vegetarian versions, on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular comestible.  We also noticed some dessert pasties.  Yummy!
We enjoyed our lunch, sitting on a bench in the square, listening to a musician singing American Folk Songs

I loved these stained windows in the Abbey Church of St. Peter and Paul.  It once was a Benedictine Monastery, but now it is an Anglican Church.

I spoke to this woman who told me, "It's a labor of love, I come twice a week for two hours and I've been doing it for two years."  She's polishing the brass on an on an old lectern.   She uses Q-tips and toothbrushes to get in all the crevices.  What a labor of love!

Bath was first established as a spa by the Romans sometime in the AD 60s about 20 years after they had arrived in Britain (AD43).They built baths and a temple on the surrounding hills of Bath in the valley of the River Avon around hot springs. Much later, it became popular as a spa townduring the Georgian era, which led to a major expansion that left a heritage of exemplary Georgian architecture crafted from Bath Stone.

The City of Bath was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city has a variety of theatres, museums, and other cultural and sporting venues, which have helped to make it a major centre for tourism, with over one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city each year. The city has two universities and several schools and colleges. There is a large service sector, and growing information and communication technologies and creative industries, providing employment for the population of Bath and the surrounding area.

We boarded this bus (advertising the show we plan to see tomorrow night) for Stratford-upon-Avon birthplace of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language, and home to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stratford is a charming market town set in the heart of rural England. A delightful river winds its way through the town, past the beautiful Holy Trinity church, where Shakespeare lies buried. We enjoyed  iChampagne and Strawberry scones while watching these actors perform a scene from Romeo and Juliet. 

I noticed how small the beds were in Shakespeare's home.  Men and women must've been a lot smaller in the 1564.   The tour guide told us that holes were drilled into the bed frames to hold pegs intended to keep the blankets on the bed so as not to smother the children co-sleeping on a small bed that pulled out from under the bigger bed.

The actors
Primroses in Shakespeare's garden
We visited this historic city, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, on his birthday, April 23rd and there were no celebrations in sight!  Why not?