A two week trip featuring New York
  • Day1

    We Arrive at the Big Apple

    June 30, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    Today begins our 18th consecutive summer vacation. It could well be our last as a full family with Emma moving on to university and the boys both getting busier in their personal lives.

    It's just after 7:45 and we head out for our first stop. The Tim's in Mill Bay. With our food and coffee to go we continue on and arrive in time to catch the 10:00 ferry out of Swartz Bay. From there it's to Park 'n Fly and then to check in with Phillipine Airlines for our 5 hr flight to NYC.

    The flight is awesome. Non-stop to NYC. Lots of leg room. Good food and drinks. Departure and arrival on schedule. Then a hiccup. We are stuck on the plane after landing for about 1 1/2 hrs before the plane reaches the terminal and we can leave. Then we still need to clear customs, board the Airtrain to get to our car rental company, fill in the paperwork to get the car and drive for over an hour to get to our hotel in Jersey. By the time we do all that it is now 1 am! We are exhausted. I am too wound up to sleep so I watch some World Cup soccer before finally calling it a night around 2:30.

    The following morning we struggled a bit to get going but made our way down to the Statue Cruises departure point to catch a boat to tour the Statue of Liberty. The heat is overwhelming already, even though it's only 11:00 am. After clearing the checkpoints and a short wait we are on the boat. The first stop is Ellis Island, the point of arrival for an estimated 12 million immigrants into America. We decide to continue on to the Statue and visit the island later.

    After another security check we walk a corridor and enter the base of the enormous Statue of Liberty structure. We climb the first set of steps to the viewing platform where we take a short break before going up the steeper, spiral staircase that takes you to the crown. Although the inside of the statue has AC, it gets progressively hotter as you climb higher. Finally, we reach our destination and enjoy the view before heading back down. At the base there is a small, but interesting museum outlining the history and work involved in building this amazing structure.

    Next stop for our first day of travel was Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken, nearby. It took a bit longer than expected to drive the short distance because of the heavy volume of traffic and numerous traffic lights. We lucked out and were able to find a free parking spot near the bakery. We each picked out a pastry and headed back to the hotel.

    By now we are all hungry so we head a short distance to have dinner at Top's Diner. We all picked an item off the menu which must have had at least 50 meal choices. Our meals arrived quickly and we were all very impressed with the quality and the quantity of our meals. Most of us struggled to finish.
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  • Day4

    Visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum

    July 3, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    Today we started with our Embassy Suite all you can eat gourmet breakfast spread. Absolutely love the custom omelette offering. Soon after we walked a short distance to catch the Metro train to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. A bit crowded at the start, but a very interesting (albeit, at times, very disturbing) account and display of the events leading up to the holocaust and the atrocities that occurred during that time.

    When we left the museum, although it was still at least 90 degrees outside, it was also raining! Didn't last long though. We walked to a nearby mall where we found a food fair and had our lunch. The Columbia vs England group of 16 game was on and we were able to watch it for a short time. Until a fire alarm went off and we were all evacuated. We headed back to the hotel and arrived just in time to watch the penalty shootout at the end of the game.

    At 5:30 we went down to the hotel lobby to enjoy the free drinks and snacks which are offered daily at Embassy Hotels every day between 5:30 and 7:30. To end the day we walked to Fashion City where the kids and Laura shopped for an hour or so.
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  • Day5

    July 4th in Washington, DC

    July 4, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    Today we continue our touring of the Capital. We have a tour of the Capital Building pre-booked for 11:40. On arrival we encounter the inevitable security check.

    I am told that I can’t bring in fruit. I have three beautiful green apples in my daypack. I can’t bear the thought of throwing them into the trash can so I put them on a ledge, hoping a poor homeless type might come along and appreciate my offering.

    Unfortunately, a stern faced security officer with the build of a jungle gorilla, isn’t so thoughtful and repeats his demand that I throw them into the trash!

    Once inside the building we need to go through an airport type screening. My backpack gets red flagged. After searching frantically through the 14 pockets I have in my backpack, they find my weapon of destruction - a small, but very dangerous pocket knife. They don’t want it. They insist that I go back outside and throw it in the trash can along with my apples. Apparently, they don’t allow knitting needles either!

    By now we are ten minutes late for our guided tour. Luckily, they sympathize and allow us to join the 11:50 tour. We start with a very informative video on the history of the USA and how the current system of government came to be. We then go through the beautiful interior of the building. Our guide is very knowledgeable and we learn some more historical facts. I’m impressed with our guide’s knowledge. But I suppose I’d know a lot too if I did this numerous times a day time for years.

    After the formal tour ends we continue on our own to the Library of Congress. It too is a spectacular building. And contains millions of books and documents, many rare, many dating back to the 1800’s.

    It’s now time to go for lunch. We find a nice little, organic restaurant serving prepared sandwiches and wraps. It is just a short walk away which takes us through a beautiful, historic neighbourhood with heritage houses dating back to the late 1800’s.

    From here we decide to head back on the Metro to Arlington, where our hotel is located, to check out the Arlington Memorial Ceremony where JFK and 100’s of thousands of servicemen and their families are buried. It’s extremely hot but we make the pilgrimage to JFK’s gravesite.

    Back at the hotel, some of us go for a swim or workout and then enjoy the 5:30 - 7:30 Happy Hours. Around 8:00 we walk to Longbridge Park to take in the July 4th fireworks. They were spectacular, however, we were a bit too far away to get the full effect.

    Our day ends with a stop at Whole Foods near the hotel for cold and healthy beverages.
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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