Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Horse & Carriage Ride Through Central Park

Horse & Carriage circle ride in Central Park, New York City.
The driver took our picture before we took our ride around the Park.
James is trying to dodge getting his picture taken.......... got ya!

I jumped out as we came back to where we started so I could get a shot of the driver with everyone in the carriage. It's a little fuzzy because I was in a hurry.

The ride was short but sweet. The driver was very nice. He pointed out things in the park and buildings we could see in the distance.

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Popsicles & hot dogs in Central Park NY

Katie chose the Spongebob pop.
Derek chose the Rocket pop. He drops it shortly after this picture and loses the red part. Oh well. Mom rinses it off with bottled water and off we go to explore the Park. His lips and mouth are blue for 2 more days from this pop.
James doesn't want his picture taken so I take a group shot. He & I shared a Reese's ice cream bar after a hot dog and we all shared a soda.

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New York Pizza & shopping American Girl & Nintendo

Here we are in New York city, so of course we had to try some New York Style Pizza!

Geoff grew up outside Chicago and loves Chicago deep dish pizza! I've been to Chicago a few times for authentic pizza and love it too.

This was a little hole in the wall pizza parlor that we passed as we walked around New York.

I took Katie to the American Girl Doll store after we went to Central Park.
We went earlier in the morning but didn't buy anything so we didn't have to carry it all day. We went back and she was able to get an early birthday gift..... a Bitty Baby doll and an outfit. She used her dog walking money she has earned the past few weeks to get another outfit for the baby.

Geoff went ahead of us to the Nintendo World store with the boys. He bought each of the boys a DS game. Derek chose Lego Batman and James chose a game too (I forget, I'll have to fill in later.)

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Monday, September 29, 2008

New York City!!

We arrived in New York City around 12:30 a.m. last night.

We got lost near the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Who knew that you are on the 95 and then you have to take the 195 to the 295 to get back on the 95!!!

There are absolutely NO Signs on the interstate and we Never saw a sign the entire time directing us towards New York. So we were off course for an hour.

I had thought about looking into Verizon GPS before we left, but we got trip & map information from AAA and I thought we would be fine.

Miraculously I was able to call Verizon on my cell phone, sign up for the GPS service immediately - only $15 a month........... and find our way out of Pennsylvania through New Jersey and on to New York.

Then, wouldn't you know it but we came out of the Lincoln Tunnel, were on 46th street in NYC and the battery ran out on my phone!! We needed to be on 49th street for our hotel!!

So we made finally made it to the Waldorf Astoria.

It was so late that we didn't get much of a look at the lobby. However, the next morning I was a bit disappointed. I was expecting a glamorous huge marble lobby. And there just isn't that much to see. The actual check-in / reservation area is very dark colors like burgundy & evergreen and darkly lit.

There is a gorgeous clock there.

On top of the clock is a miniature Statue of Liberty. Around the sides are carvings of the presidents: Cleveland, Harrison, Washington, Grant, Lincoln, Franklin, Jackson and Queen Victoria. Every quarter hour, the clock sounds the Westminster Chimes.

We got our first cab and headed out to Battery Park. Our cab just dropped us off at the Ferry Station, next to Battery Park. Right where the cab dropped us off there was a Hot Dog cart. We were wanting to have a hot dog from a cart on the streets of NYC.
We ordered 2 hot dogs and a pretzel. The hot dogs were fine. The pretzel was yucky!
It was from a steam compartment and tasted like old steam if you can even call it that.

We are on our way to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

I had looked online for tickets before we left home, but was not willing to commit to a time and date for the reserved tickets. They do offer a 3 day time period Flex Ticket. And I should have done that. It would have saved us standing in line for an hour to get our tickets and get on the Ferry. Really though it wasn't that bad. It could have been 2 or 3 hours.

But next time, we will definitely buy the tickets in advance and avoid the lines there. If you have a reserved ticket you get to go in a separate - note Empty - line to go through the security tent immediately and board the ferry. However, that would be where the separation would end. Everyone gets whisked aboard the ferry quickly with shouting and urging. Hurry, hurry, but watch your step. They want you to move quickly and get on and keep moving up to let as many people get on as they can.
All those past news stories of sinking ferry boats were freaking me out in my head. I can definitely see how a ferry boat could be overcrowded, sink fast and lose a lot of people.
Well now you can see the pessimist in me! But as you see we made it there and back safe and sound. Well you have to read the next story to see that I might Not have made it .............. when we were on the Statue of Liberty Island.......

American Girl Store NYC

We arrived too late tonight to see the store. They closed at 7 and we were at dinner until 8:30.
We'll be back when they open tomorrow at 10 a.m.!
We can still take pictures in front of the window displays!

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mount Vernon

We checked out of the hotel and got a cab.  Our cab took us from our hotel to the Ronald Reagan airport where we went to the Hertz counter and rented a car.
Then we drove south to Mount Vernon. It is about a 25 minute drive with the traffic and stop lights through the town Alexandria.
We parked and went into the food park because there was no fast food places to be found on the way there. It is so different from California. Here there are fast food places at every exit off the freeway and all over the place when you are in town. So far in Washington, DC there are few places to be found. Inside the food park they were just opening so we chose a premade sandwich for me, a bagel for Geoff and the kids shared a cinnamon roll and milk.


Then we had to leave that building and go to the next for our tickets.  I researched online at home and knew that we wanted to pay the extra $5 to go on the National Treasure II Movie Tour.  After buying your tickets you enter a very nice building with big windows and kind people behind the counters.

There is a waiting area around a “doll house” replica of Mt. Vernon house that raises up the attic level for you to see inside and the walls goes up and down to reveal different rooms over time as you wait for the movie about George Washington.



The movie was very good.   I never knew about GW as a soldier.  There was a graphic battle scene where GW is with his troops and French troops and they are ambushed by Native Americans.  From the French-Indian War.

The higher ranking Frenchman was killed and it was GW who led the men and got them out out here.


We left the building and stared the walk uphill and came to the end of the green lawn with the house at the other end.  I thought it was amazing and so beautiful.

In one scene of the movie GW is coming home on his horse and rides from where we were standing towards his house.  We all thought about the reality that GW and actually walked on the rocks that we were walking on.


About halfway down that pretty green lawn behind the kids, towards the house, on the path on the right hand side, it starts pouring rain.  A downpour!  We have no umbrellas.


Katie & I run ahead of the boys.  I see a small building, it is the outhouse! but it is roped off and there is no over hang to keep us dry.  So we go off the path and under a tree with some other ladies.  But we are still getting dripped on.  They are not letting anyone go inside any of the buildings so everyone is getting rained on.  It lasted quite a while. 

We get in the line to go into the house and just befoe it is our groups time to go in we have to go to the bathroom.  When we return it is 12:45 and we have to be in our waiting area for teh National Treasure Movie Tour that started @ 1:00.   HPIM5166

We get out of line and wait with the others who are going on the tour. 

Above are pictures of the front of the house.  The weather vane on top of the house and this is the back of the house.

I like the back of the house with all of the rocking chairs lined up.  It overlooks a green lawn that stretches downhill and then sharply goes down to the Potomac river.HPIM5174

The back of the house.  People are on the tour going from the dining room, out one of the 3 doors that went out the back and into door #2 into the main entry way of the house where there are 3 rooms – music room game room and a bedroom.  There is also the main stairway to the bedrooms upstairs.

GW’s house was open to many visitors.  If you were travelling around and needed a place to stay the custom was that they would invite you in to stay.  It could be for days at a time.  This happened here at Mt. Vernon before, during and after he was President!  Can you imaging just going up to a former President’s house and expecting them to take you in for a few days or weeks before you moved on with your travels?HPIM5169

Here is Derek facing the house and behind him is the down hill slope, the trees and hillside overlooking the Potomac River.





Derek found this caterpillar.  He named him Fuzzy and did not want to let him go.  He was a quick guy that crawled all over his arm and shirt.

He kept Derek entertained while we were listening to the tour guide.  She was very good.  We enjoyed the tour very much. 




Here she is describing how they decided to do the movie here at Mt. Vernon.  They had not finished the entire script and wrote parts of the movie after seeing the property and discovering the basement, ice house and the hillside to the Potomac.

Disney was very good about being careful with the property.  They filmed in April and it was freezing cold.  The scenes were outdoors and it was in the 20s each night.  They set up tents and a lot of strings of lights.



They were very excited to find the basement of the house.  They went down and found that it is very fragile.  So they took intricate measurements and recreated the basement on a sound stage for the movie. 

For the scene where the secret service agents break through the door, they made a fake door but put it right up in front of the real door.  So it is the fake door they bust through.

Here are Derek & Geoff in front of one of the brick lined storage rooms in the basement.  The basement is not open to the public tours.  It was only a part of this special tour.   Earlier I told you about Derek and his caterpillar.  He was so busy with the thing -- I told him he had to put it down on a tree root outside the basement -- He really didn’t want to let it go.  We all turned around and went down the basement stairs.  The tour guide closed and locked the door.  I looked around…. no Derek…. we hear knocking.  She has to unlock and open the door to let Derek in.  Whew!  HPIM5178

Here we are with the other tour members in the basement.  The ceiling is very low.  Of course during GW’s time there were none of the pipes, wires or ventilation.

I’m not sure why Katie is making a pouting pose there in the blue shirt with arms crossed. 




Next stop is the ice house.

This is down the hill a little bit  But it is at the top of a very steep hill that goes down to the river. 

George was quite the inventor, innovator.  He created this ice house and a deep tunnel.

They still don’t know how he got the ice up the steep hillside from the river into the ice house though!HPIM5190

Here we are on the path that goes along the Potomac River. 

One way – see the pretty blue sky and white clouds.


Now turn the other way.



Grey clouds. 

That’s a boat house way, way down there off a pier.

You can take river cruises.





This garage is built into the hillside to store this fire engine.  It is from the early 1930's.  There is a rope in front of it (behind Derek).

After the Washingtons passed away there was looting going on at the house.  The Ladies of Mt. Vernon was established to protect the house and property. Someone found out there was NO fire protection at the property and gave them this fire engine.  It has never been used.


After leaving the garage we walked just a few yards.  The tour guide was so excited to show us the view UP from the rivers edge toward the house for a view back up from what we saw from up above.  I didn’t even make it to the group and it was another downpour!  This one was even worse.  Everyone else had umbrellas and we didn’t..  Of course they shared with our family but it was BAD.  The tour guide let us run back and go INSIDE the garage with the fire engine!  Here is Geoff way back inside checking out the fire engine close up!!  You can see how wet he his by his shirt is 2 different shades of red.


I snapped a bunch of pictures of the fire engine. and we checked out all of the barrels around us.  I loved the lid of this one.  It was brass and had the carved image of Mt. Vernon and held Rye.

Other barrels were labeled Rum, Whiskey, etc.

Did I tell you that George had his own Distillery??

He also had his own Fishery.  He caught fish and salted it and sold it all over the East Coast and to the English.

George was quite the entrepreneur!  He had many things going on and invented & installed many things on his property.  He was early in the idea of composting.  There was a special area for all of the animal waste.  The outhouse we saw earlier had 3 holes with lids in the round building.  Under each hole was a drawer.  The solid waste was taken out and joined with the compost and used in the gardens.

As you walked downhill from the house to the river he installed underground pipes/tunnels for the water runoff.

I never knew so much about George Washington.  I can’t wait to get home and read more about him.  I think he was a genius. 

OK back to the Rain.  Yes it is still raining in my story.  The tour guide has to get back and she lets us decide to stay or leave the garage.  Everyone is leaving so we decide that all we can do is run in the rain back to the boat house.  Well look back at that picture of the boat house.  We are ever farther from it now that we have gone down the path!

By the time we get to the boat house we are drenched!  My hair is so wet it is like I just got out of the shower.  But it is a fun story and adventure we had on our trip to Mt. Vernon. 

If you can’t tell already this was my favorite thing we did on the trip to the East Coast.

When the rain let up to a sprinkle we climbed the hill up to the tombs of George & Martha Washington.  HPIM5206







The sun is finally peeking through.  Derek & Katie are bathed in sunlight!  Too bad you can’ tell how wet their clothes really are in this picture!

We walked back up to the main house.  James helped pull me along up the steep hill.  I told him it was just an excuse to hold my 11 year olds hand. :)  Derek likes to hold my hand and most always does.  I never get to hold James’ hand anymore.

We made our way back down to where we started and to our car.  Thank goodness we had our luggage so we could put on dry shirts.

Next is our drive up to New York City!!  We are leaving Mt. Vernon about 4 p.m. and don’t get to our hotel room until 1 a.m.

Aunt Fran

Along the way driving from Washington, DC to New York we took a detour to see my Aunt Fran.

She lives near Philadelphia but on the New Jersey side of the river.

We got a little lost on the way, took the 2nd exit after the bridge instead of the 1st exit before the bridge.

But we made it. We arrived around 8 p.m. and could only stay for about 45 minutes.

We chatted while the kids stretched their legs chasing her cats around her house. They acted like they've been there many times. A little too comfortable!
I've only met her once, when I was about 8 when we came through New Jersey on our way from Naples, Italy to Pensacola, FL. My dad was in the Navy and we were transferred.
Aunt Fran was married to Uncle John who is my dad's oldest brother. He is the oldest of the 6 brothers and 20 years older than my dad who was the youngest of the brothers.
I became in contact with her when my dad was ill and I had to contact all of my uncles & aunts about his condition back in Dec 2005.
So we used her bathroom and plugged in my laptop and the DS to charge while we were there.
I gave her some of the souvenirs I bought at the Basilica. She said she hasn't been there since they were building it! Then it was time to go and get back to driving on to New York.
We thought it would take about another 1 1/2 hours and it took 3 1/2! Yikes.

Liaison Hotel Lobby pictures.

Pictures from the lobby of the Liaison Hotel. The reception desk is behind me and I'm facing towards the bar area and the Art & Soul restaurant.
This was the morning we were leaving the hotel so Katie is watching over the luggage while we get a cab.
The cab will take us to the airport Hertz to rent a car.
We are on our way to Mount Vernon for this morning and then we will drive to New York City tonight.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Air & Space Museum and Arlington Cemetry

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Today we left our hotel and walked to the Air & Space Museum on the Mall.
I don't have any pictures to share.
I took video in the whole museum.
I just can't get my camera to take good pictures of large things that are inside a building with little light. The flash is just not enough and it ends up being a picture of a large black shadow. Luckily I knew that and had experience the past couple days and just did video in that museum.
Maybe I can figure out how to upload some of the 4 1/2 Hours of video I took on the trip.

OH wait, I did take a photo of the kids with the Kitty Hawk replica...... It was in a room devoted to Wilbur and Orville Wright.

That was the museum which was Geoff's favorite! He loved seeing the Apollo space ships.
After we took a cab over to Arlington Cemetery.

Here we are at J.F. Kennedy's grave alongside are Jackie Kennedy-Onassis and 2 of their young children.

You can barely see the eternal flame in the picture just above the grave markers. It was windy and cloudy with rain on and off that day.
The graves are up the stairs where all the people are standing. The stairs were very slippery from the rain. One older man fell right at Derek & Me. I had to pull Derek out of the way from being knocked over and try to help the man from falling at the same time.
Robert Kennedy's grave.

We did a lot of walking the entire trip. Arlington is very hilly. You are climbing up and up to the Kennedy's graves and then up even higher to the Arlington House. Out in front of the Arlington house is the grave of L'Enfant that designed, well started to design the city of Washington, DC before he was fired.

Then you get to go down hill, steeply, before going back up hill to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

This is the soldier that was placed on duty just as we arrived.

We stayed the 30 minutes until the next changing of the guard ceremony.
Since we arrived as the previous ceremony ended we had front step place to see the next one.

Here is the view from the stairs across the tombs and forward.