A two week trip featuring New York
  • Day15

    Our Bonus Day

    July 14, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 26 °C

    This morning, shortly after waking up after a good night’s sleep, I opened the curtains in our hotel room and saw a shopping mall just down the street. I checked on my phone to see if I could find out what stores might be in the mall. I didn’t recognize any, however, we’ve been looking for stores we don’t have in our neighbourhood at home and they seemed to be worth a look.

    I also noticed an IHOP within walking distance. I suggested we do brunch there as our hotel room did not include breakfast. So, after a workout in the hotel fitness centre and once everyone was ready, we checked out of the rooms and left our luggage at the front desk.

    We had a short wait because it was very busy at the Hop. The wait was worthwhile! We all had great meals. And, it only cost $US92.

    We then started walking to the mall across the street. Along the way we came across a Collectable Sneaker Shop. I expected one or both of the boys to find something to their liking. But it was actually Laura that bought herself a nice pair of Nike walking shoes. I know now that every time she slips on those shoes she’ll have fond memories of my blunder.

    We found several good stores in the mall and I think everyone bought something. We then walked to a nearby Costco. I always like seeing what Costco’s in different parts of the continent have to offer. Here the highlight for me was watching a Vitamix demonstration. We have one at home and love it, using it almost daily. The one being demonstrated was cool because it has built in Bluetooth and you can use an app on your phone to pick recipes and have the machine automatically mix the ingredients at the best speed and for the required time.

    One more stop on our tour of the Queens area. Another mall about 1/2 km away. It had a Burlington. By the time we had finished inside that large store we were pretty much shopped out. The plan was to catch A cab back to the hotel. $US56 was a bit much so we walked.

    We arrived just in time to gather up our luggage and hop on the shuttle. The driver was kind enough yo take us right to our departure terminal so we did not have to reboard the Airtrain.

    Other than a bit of trouble checking in Aaron’s suitcase/skateboard combination which resulted in us having to pay to get his boards plastic wrapped, it was all good this time around. Now we just need to wait 5 hours for our red eye flight to Vancouver.

    So ends another great family vacation.
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  • Day14

    Last Day in New York - Maybe?

    July 13, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    This morning we have a family tour of the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum scheduled for 11:30. We are driving the car down to a parkade just a block from the site. I pre-booked that online a while ago. The drive from our hotel in Yonkers is easy and takes us about 45 mins.

    We are welcomed by our tour guide and joined by about ten others on the tour. She gives us each headsets so that we can easily hear what she has to say as we tour. We spend about 1/2 hour on the site and learn a bit about the design of the memorial. The two pools in place where the north and south towers once stood are very impressive. The next thirty minutes are inside the museum where we are given information about the terror attack and the extent of the damage and lives lost. We are then left to explore the rest of the museum on our own. It is a very well organized exhibit with lots of photos, videos and artifacts salvaged from the ruins. The museum is deep underground at the level of where the foundations of the original buildings were located.

    From here we began another walking tour. This one was in a travel book of NYC we purchased long before we left. It took us through the heart of the financial district, along Wall Street and ended at Battery Park. We passed many historic buildings along the way. After a short break, we made our way to the nearest Metro station and caught the train to Union Square. The plan now was to see some more sights in the area, but also to find a large, recommended vintage and consignment clothing shop called "Beacon's Closet". It wasn't too far before we found it. Very popular and very crowded. Jaden and Aaron both found sneakers.

    We continued touring the Soho and Greenich Village neighborhoods. Ate a delicious lunch and found a few more shops of interest. It was then time to take the Metro back to where we had parked our car. We initially headed in the wrong direction and got off at a stop soon after finding out. Sadly, at that stop we did not have the option to go back. So, we had to wait for the next train, go two more stops in the wrong direction and then transfer to the train that would take us in the right direction. Luckily, we had lots of time to get to the airport. Lots and lots of time!

    We had to wait a few more minutes to get our car back once we arrived at the pickup location. It is a valet service and I was instructed to text ahead of time so that car would be ready on arrival. I'm not sure what went wrong. There was no apology or reason given. Again, it was all good because we had lots and lots of time before our flight would leave.

    The drive was a it unnerving at the start. It was dark. It was very busy. And, the GPS was lagging making it problematic when you had to make many quick turns to stay on course. Once over the Brooklyn Bridge, however, traffic thinned out and it was much less stressful. We arrived at our car rental drop off location. I had to go in and see the manger regarding a parking violation from yesterday that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the fact that the car did not have valid insurance, or at least did not have a current sticker on the license plate. The manager was very apologetic and told me she would take care of it. So far, this had been a fairly good day, considering it was Friday the 13th!

    From here we hauled our luggage to the Airtrain for a short ride to Terminal 1 where we would check in with Phillipine Airlines. It was still a couple hours before the flight was to leave so I wasn't too concerned about the fact that no one was yet available to check us in. While waiting, I decided to take a look at the recent reminder email I had received for the airline. To my astonishment, we were a day early! When I announced the finding to the family they thought I was joking. Soon, however, they realized that I was not.

    I was not popular. I expected that response. Nobody was happy. Least of all, me! I felt that I had done a pretty good job of planning and organizing this trip. It had all gone according to plan. Until now. I did not want this to be the defining moment of our last, full family trip. All I could do was apologize and go about finding a solution to our problem. It took several phone calls, but eventually I managed to find a hotel nearby with a room for us. They would even send their shuttle bus out to the airport to pick us up and drive us to the hotel. I breathed a sigh of relief. But the dilemma was not yet completely resolved.

    On arrival at the hotel, we checked in and found that there were two double beds and no cot, as promised. I called the front desk and was told that it was not possible to bring in a cot. I explained that I had been promised that the room would be fine for the five of us and that a cot would be provided. The fellow that made the promise worked out of the central reservations, not the hotel, however. To spare you more details, suffice it to say that I successfully plead my case and we ended up getting a second room at no extra cost. Now we could finally relax and get a decent nights sleep.
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  • Day13

    Day 3 in NYC

    July 12, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Our day starts, as most others have on this trip, with the complementary breakfast. The one at this hotel is average. Nothing beats The Embassy in that regard! For reasons unknown, there is no shuttle today to get us to the train station. So, we drive instead. When we get there we discover that it is metered parking. At 25 cents per 1/4 hour we would need a lot of quarters for the day! Fortunately, there's an app for that. All I had to do was download it and enter our location number and we were good to go. Even has a feature built in to help you find your vehicle in case you forgot where you parked it!

    On arrival at Grand Central Station we find our way out of this massive building and start our day's walking tour. First stop, the MoMA. This world renowned Museum of Modern Art has a large collection of works by many great artists including Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Monet and others. Too much to take it all in during a single visit so we choose a few of the many rooms and spend a couple of hours enjoying the art. A free app was available with an audio tour so that you could get insights into many of the more famous works.

    Next not the day's agenda was the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center. Unfortunately, it was going to cost the family over $200 to take an elevator to the top. We decided that Laura and Emma would go up and I would walk to Macy's with the boys. We would meet up again later. Once together, we visited a few other stores nearby and had a lunch. From there we spent a bit more time walking about and enjoying the atmosphere before heading back to the train station by Metro.
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  • Day12

    Back to the Big Apple

    July 11, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Today we drove the short distance from New Haven to Yonkers where we will spend the last two nights of our vacation. It’s too early to check in but we were able to park our car in the lot and catch a free hotel shuttle to a nearby Metro train station.

    From the Greystone station it is a picturesque, 40 minute ride by train to Grand Central Station in NYC. What an amazing building! Huge and so much going on. We all ate lunch st one of the many food outlets.

    It’s still quite hot when we go outside but not nearly as bad as when we arrived two weeks ago. We decided to do a walking tour that includes Central Park, the Guggenheim Museum and Times Square.

    To return home we found a metro station nearby and used it to get back to GCS. From there we trained back to Yonkers. Our hotel shuttle arrived at the train stop soon after we did and took us back to the hotel.

    By now it’s almost 7 pm and we need dinner. The desk clerk at the hotel recommended a Chinese restaurant nearby. When we arrived it turned out to be little more than a take out place, but they had one table for five and nobody was using it so it worked out fine.
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  • Day11

    Into Connecticut

    July 10, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    So far we’ve travelled through New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Our last one on this trip is Connecticut. Our destination today is New Haven, on the Atlantic Coast.

    The drive takes us through the Delaware Gap Park. Quite scenic as we travel through historic towns and along various lakes and waterways.

    We arrived at our hotel just shortly after the start of the semifinal soccer match between France and Belgium. Following the game we drove into town and explore Yale University on foot. We found a small Middle Eastern restaurant where we had dinner before heading back to our hotel.

    The day ended with a visit to the fitness center downstairs in the hotel and a bit of TV watching.
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  • Day10

    The Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania

    July 9, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Laura and I were the first up, as usual this morning. We walked down to the KOA store to grab a coffee and go online to check our emails, play a bit of Scrabble ... . For breakfast we each ate what we had purchased yesterday at the local supermarket and had stored in our styrofoam cooler.

    First up on the day’s agenda was a hike to the "100 Feet of Awesomeness", officially known as Bushkill Falls. On arrival at the parking lot I was not surprised to see a large number of vehicles and people meandering about. After all, this destination was being promoted as the Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania!

    In order to enter the well developed trail system leading to the falls and a number of viewpoints along the way, you had to buy tickets. It cost our family close to $100 Canadian! It would have been more save for the fact that I was able, for the first time in my life, claim a seniors discount which is awarded to anyone over 62. We decided to go for the hike and see these falls. There were three different routes to follow. We decided on the Yellow route, a 45 minute hike.

    We proceeded to follow the graded and fenced path through the woods. We soon reached the first viewpoint. The falls were much like Bridal Falls near Chilliwack. Very beautiful, but not quite Niagara! We then followed a set of steps leading to the base of the falls, across the creek and up another set of steps to the top of the embankment. From there it was an easy stroll back to our starting point. Including stops for photos, it took about 40 minutes. All very nice, but having seen many other falls in our home province and elsewhere, it was a bit of a let down.

    From Bushkill Falls we drove the 10 Kms back to the small town near the campground to pick up a few things for lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the heat and sunshine poolside.

    For dinner, we started at a nearby restaurant, recommended by KOA staff. It was very pricey so we left shortly after receiving our glasses of water and found a much more affordable place called Perkin's. It has the longest menu I've ever seen in a restaurant. All our meals were healthy and tasty.

    To end the day, we all played a round of mini golf and some ping pong back at the campground. There's nothing like a KOA to spend quality time together with your family.
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  • Day9

    From Caboose to Kabin

    July 8, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    We start today with the Amish tour ride we had planned for yesterday. It was a nice leisurely 30 minute ride in a horse drawn buggy. The tour guide was a young man raised in an Amish family but later in life abandoned the restrictive lifestyle to venture out on his own. He gave us lots of interesting insights into the Amish way of life.

    For example, the only type of phones permitted are landlines and they are not placed in the home. They are located in small buildings, resembling outhouses, placed a distance away from the home. They are not to be used for socializing. The Amish value family connectedness and will not adopt technologies that they believe take away from that. If you want to speak to a friend or family member you do it face to face.

    I had noticed the use of scooter bicycles. They have no pedals. I asked about that. The guide told us that the Amish don’t want their young people to be able to go too far too fast, possibly allowing them easy access to towns nearby. The idea is to keep them closely connected to their families and community and away from the influences of modern society.

    A full family summer vacation wouldn’t be complete without a bit of camping! Forgot to bring the rent so we’re doing a couple nights of glamping in a KOA Kabin instead. We’re at the Delaware Gap KOA in Pennsylvania, close to the New Jersey border and the Delaware Gap National Recreational Area. It’s a beautiful, Holiday category KOA, meaning it has enough to offer that families can come here and spend their entire vacations without having to leave the campground. For us, it has a nice pool, which we plan to use tomorrow afternoon and ping pong tables so we can have a family tournament.

    On the drive here we made just two stops. The first at The Pagoda in Reading, PA. A curious building perched on a high location above the town. It was built hundreds of years ago and intended as a luxury hotel. This apparently did not work out, but it is now used as a tourist destination as well as for weddings and other functions.

    Our second stop was going to be to the Martin Guitar Factory but it is closed on Sundays. So, instead we stopped for food at a supermarket and continued on to our destination.

    I’ve been struggling with what seems like a slight flu today and yesterday. I’m hopeful it’s the 24 hour sort and that I will feel better tomorrow. Actually, it already is tomorrow, and the good news is that I am feeling better!
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  • Day8

    A Lazy Day in Amish Country

    July 7, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Our trip is already 1/2 over, but it's been a busy, fun-filled week. Today, we slowed things down with the only planned event being a short drive into downtown Lancaster, PA. First stop was the country's oldest farm market where we bought muffins and smoothies for breakfast. We found a bench alongside the historic market building to eat our food and watch a young boy stacking and unstacking plastic cups with blazing speed.

    We spent about two hours on a walking tour of the downtown checking out a number of eclectic and vintage shops as well as a skate shop for Aaron. This was our first day of comfortable weather so it was very enjoyable. We drove back to our Red Caboose via Strasbourg, a small town nearby with a renowned rail museum and a functioning steam train tour. The train takes you on a 45 min tour of the Amish countryside. We decided, however, it would be more enjoyable to do a tour in an Amish, horse drawn buggy instead. They depart regularly from our Caboose parking lot so it's real easy.

    We arrived back at our Caboose to relax and unwind for a bit just in time for the quarter final match between Russia and Croatia. The plan was to watch the game and then go on a buggy ride. However, as most of you know, the game went into overtime and penalty kicks. By then, we decided it would be better to leave it until tomorrow and go for dinner instead. So, we prepared to walk the mile to Isaac's Restaurant. That didn't work out because there is no sidewalk or shoulder along the road to safely walk there. However, all things happen for a reason. We were positioned perfectly to watch the Pennsylvania steam train go past.

    Dinner was enjoyed by all. It's a bit of a challenge to find eateries when you have one family member who is very fussy and limited in her likes when it comes to food and another who is 90% vegan. I had a good, old fashioned bacon and cheese burger.
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  • Day7

    North to Ronks

    July 6, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    Today we left the Capital, after one last, supreme breakfast at the Embassy Suites. First stop was the Gettysburg Visitor Center and Museum. Our visit there started with a short, introductory film about the events leading up to the important battle that took place there during the American Civil War between the Confederate and Union forces. Following the film, we watched a short battlefield presentation on a large cyclorama. It was an immersive experience in which you are standing in the middle of the battle that is raging all around you. We then toured the museum with its extensive collection of artifacts from the battle. By this time we were all ready for lunch so we drove into the historic town of Gettysburg to find a restaurant. We decided on a nice Mexican place.

    Back in the car, our next destination on the route was an antique store located in Harrisburg, called "The Atomic Warehouse". On arrival, the first thing I saw as I approached the entrance was a rack of porn magazines. I got a bad feeling as I entered that this was not quite what I had expected. Very messy and disorganized. Lots of interesting items but not much in the way of vintage clothing for men that I thought would be interesting for the boys. However, all was not lost because Aaron found a 1970's era skateboard for $20.

    Next stop on today's journey was The Hershey Chocolate Factory in Hershey, PA. We all love chocolate so this was a sure bet. It turns out to be more than just a factory with a retail store. It is a huge tourist attraction complete with tours, an amusement park, make your own chocolates and a restaurant. We take a tour of what I thought would be the factory, but it is actually a Disney style ride with cartoon characters and a simulation of all the steps involved in making chocolate. It was informative nonetheless. We all buy a chocolate souvenir and head back to the car for our final leg of the trip to our destination, Ronks, PA.

    Ronks is just a small community, but it is in the heart of Amish farm country. I wanted to give the kids a chance to see a long lost, simpler life, free of many of the technologies that now complicate our lives. As well, we are staying in a rather unique hotel. The rooms are all repurposed cabooses!
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  • Day6

    Last day in the capital

    July 5, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    My day started a bit differently than it did for the rest of the family. While they were enjoying breakfast, I was visiting the dentist. Last night a crown came loose and I'm having it glued back in place. Fortunately, there is a dentist just around the corner from the hotel and it was a quick procedure. Unfortunately, it cost $US190. I'm hopeful that my investment in extra travel insurance will pay off with a reimbursement after we get home.

    Our plan for today is to explore the National Mall area on foot to see the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Reflection Pool ... The Washington Monument. So, we all head out from the hotel for the Metro shortly after 10:30. It's another hot, humid day but we don't let that spoil our plans. We walk for a couple of hours and enjoy the sites. We then take a well-deserved break for lunch. We find a great, healthy option called Chopt not far from the White House.

    Our last destination for the day is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. On the way we come across a Folk Fair with music, food and crafts. We decide to check out a tent containing very impressive art and craft items from a variety of places including Cuba, Africa and Mexico.

    We arrive at the Smithsonian and decide to start our visit at the Human Origins display. A fascinating collection and display of our evolution from ape to homosapien. Next we take a look at the Mammals display and the dinosaurs. We finish with a visit to the Insect Zoo and a look at the Hope Diamond. There is much more to see, but that will have to wait for another time.

    The rest of the day is spent relaxing at our hotel, taking in Happy Hours, hanging out in our room and doing laundry!
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