Monday, July 4, 2011

Ode to the States

I'm not really a patriotic sort of person. To me, the Fourth of July means a day off from work and a lot of Twilight Zone. I didn't wear red, white, and blue today and I skipped the end of the fireworks because I wanted to get back to the Twilight Zone. I don't really like fireworks anyway. But I was thinking about what I could do, blog-style, in honor of today. After all, I have a travel blog and I've visited a lot of places in the United States. So I thought I might share a quick memory about all the states I've visited (plus DC) rather than saying "Yay America" or getting all political. I really just mean a I'll write a sentence or two about a particular memory or place, something quick. And random because in some cases I have lots of great memories. Lest you think I'm partial to my own country, I promise to post something nice about France in ten days. I also may make posts like this a regular feature in an effort to post more. I keep coming up with those though my ideas never really seem to work. Worth a shot, I guess. So here goes, alphabetical order, and I'm doing this in stages. DC is last, just cause. I will be skipping Alaska and Hawaii since I haven't visited either. Ditto for all those other places around the world.

Alabama: Driving along I-10 right on the coast. The road is often causeway-ish and the openness with the water is beautiful (well it was, don't know how it looks now, sadly).

Arizona: The Grand Canyon, misty in the August rain. I was cold and wearing a very large t-shirt--long sleeves on a six year old--because the gift shop didn't sell sweatshirts.

Arkansas: Getting amazingly dirty at Crater of Diamonds State Park. It was hot and muddy and so much fun. I still have the rocks though, sadly, no diamonds.

California: Panning for gold/taking a tour of a gold mine. The drive to the mine entrance was terrifying and I really think we almost went off a cliff. Obviously we didn't.

Colorado: Exploring the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Ladders were involved as were steep cliffs, both of which I'm very afraid of. Worth it.

Connecticut: Visiting friends who used to live there. Boring, huh?

Delaware: I remember a very clean bathroom at a rest stop somewhere. Sorry Delaware.

Florida: Wakulla Springs with its alligators, manatees, and lush canopies of trees. Snakes too, but I don't much like them. Cool, refreshing, and beautiful, worlds away from Disney. Not that I don't love Disney... it was a toss-up between this and the original Figment ride at Epcot.

Georgia: Southeastern Georgia is so flat and open it can be a little eerie. During a thunderstorm, I mean. Streaks of lightning light up the purple sky. Driving through that was both scary and incredible.

Idaho: Nice train tracks, very straight and even. I assume, as the train did not derail.

Illinois: The Art Institute of Chicago. Great museum, somewhere I still have a Degas print from their gift shop.

Indiana: The shore along Lake Michigan; the Great Lakes are incredible.

Iowa: Prairie Lights, great independent bookstore right in Iowa City. If you find yourself there, don't miss it!

Kansas: Fields and fields of sunflowers. Words don't do it justice, neither does the picture:

Okay, I'm done for now. I know this was pretty pathetic but, believe it or not, it kinda helps me organize thoughts. So there you have it. The rest to come.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Future Homes: Brighton Edition

Okay, so it's really just one home. But it's one really big, really cool, really tacky home. This home that I'd like to call my own is the Royal Pavilion built by King George IV but before he was actually king. In his case, Prince Regent. His father was mad, you know. As with lots of those great historic homes out there (including some others I'll be posting about soon), pictures of the inside aren't allowed. So I guess I'll have to do some describing.

A little more history: the Pavilion began life as a farmhouse, much more modest than the sprawling giant you'll see today. The Prince Regent wasn't necessarily too terribly wealthy at the time on account of recent unpopular spending and was only able to expand when funds permitted. And when they permitted, expand he did, in several stages over many years. The current building was basically designed by John Nash and completed around 1822. Let's just say George wanted it for the location's health benefits. Now on to my visit, the important part.

Starting from the beginning. My aunt, cousin, and I took the train down to Brighton on our first full day in England. The ride isn't that long but the change in atmosphere is dramatic: Brighton is a seaside resort city with beaches (rocky), a pier, and one fabulous royal home.

It's a little hard to get a picture of the whole thing.

We visited the Pavilion, my future home, first. The inside feels long rather than tall and is filled with lots of elaborate, brightly colored stuff. Some rooms aren't exactly full of furniture, the music room for example, but that's perfectly okay: instead there's a carpet as thick as a really thick carpet and very cool lotus-shaped chandeliers. Speaking of chandeliers, one room has a massive chandelier that basically looks like it's held by a dragon. A dragon, and an enormous one at that. That one's also got lotus flowers. It's amazing and I want it. Even though it probably wouldn't even fit inside my apartment. And you know? People used to eat under that thing. I totally wish I had a picture because it's awesome. There are some online but I'm all about posting my own pictures and stuff so do your own Googling. Seriously.

Anyway, the building is full of great chinoiserie* items and, er, designs like, you know, dragons and lotus flowers. There are also beautiful high ceilings, glass domes, and, of course, passageways so no one has to see the servants.

The Pavilion stayed in the family for a little while but apparently Queen Victoria wasn't such a fan. Great for the rest of the world since now we can all visit! Plus, lots of stuff inside is on loan from the current queen. I totally want this house as is though I admit that's for the chandeliers more than anything else. Also for the fact that it looks ridiculously out of place in England. That just adds to the charm.

If you want a better idea of what this place looks like inside, try Google imaging "Brighton Pavilion interior", there are some results there. I'd do some linking but I'm lazy.

Brighton is one of those places I'd always sort of planned on visiting but for some reason I never actually got there. Until this last trip, that is. While the Pavilion is a major historical attraction, there are lots of other fun things about the city. First of all, the pier. Oh, the pier. Brighton is, well, a bit of a tacky seaside resort. Not as seedy as Atlantic City, certainly, but "classy" maybe isn't the first word to come to mind when thinking of Brighton. I loved it.

So, right, Brighton Pier. Arcade games galore, ice cream with Flake, impossible to unfold sun chairs just there for the sitting.

Note the stack of chairs in the background. And a special thanks to the lady who helped me unfold the chair. Really, it was hard.

The good news: despite being hopeless at the first two arcade games I/we (that's my aunt and I) tried--that included dolphin racing, just for the record --our luck finally turned at the "Hook a Duck" booth. Never mind that every game at that booth wins a prize. I worked hard and my lovely duck, George, was the result. He was willing to pose for a picture but he's, uh, currently visiting relatives so no picture. He's bigger and fluffier than all of these ducks:

This guy operates the booth. How gracious of him to pose for a photo!

The bad news: I was really hoping to find a pinball machine in honor of Tommy. Who's Tommy? Yes, that's right. Sadly, I saw no pinball anywhere, just crazy modern video games. Where have all the classics gone? Sigh.

The day in Brighton ended well, if tiringly. A seatmate on the train ride down told us of the best fish and chips in the world, located just steps away from the Brighton train station. Well, it wasn't steps. In fact, if felt like miles and it was down a large hill (only really problematic when it came time to go back up). But oh, it was worth it. And I don't even especially like fish and chips. I mean, I don't especially like the fish. Love the chips.

One endless walk to the train station later and our Bright(on) day was over. Fortunately, there were more adventures to come and don't worry, I'll be writing about all of them.**

Up next: the theatre post. It has to be.

Er, one last note: I've debated writing with British spellings instead of American for these England-centered posts. Would that make me delightfully quirky or ridiculously pretentious? I'm guessing the second. Note the American spellings.

*Spellcheck tries to correct this word to either miniseries or trichinosis. What?
**Don't even try to tell me you weren't worried.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Week in London

So I really had planned to write and stuff while away (I'm in London, remember?) but I didn't bring my computer so I've been kind of borrowing those of other people plus I've been really tired. I'm only annoyed about all this because I don't want to forget details! So I'm writing this now as a reminder of what I've done over the past week; more detailed posts plus pictures are coming.

So, the highlights: Thursday, Hampton Court. Friday, Brighton. Saturday, Covent Garden. Sunday, British Library. Monday, Cambridge. Tuesday, the V&A. Tuesday, Hever. Today, hopefully the Tate. Britain, that is.

Okay, that's one little thing for each day hopefully to jog my memory. Just a teaser for the rest: I'm bringing home a duck, I saw a famous former doctor up close, and... well, I can't think of much else for now. So thus ends my first and only (pathetic) post from across the Atlantic.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quick Update and a Picture

So, yeah, I've been absent from the internets lately. Luckily no one noticed. I'm trying not to be so absent so here's just a very quick little post. Remember how I made those vow thingies back in like January or something? No? Well, I did. And one of them was that I would go to London this year.

I leave tomorrow. Whoohoooooo! I plan to document parts of my trip on this here blog somewhat as they occur. That may or may not actually happen. It probably won't happen. Seriously, though, I'm really gonna try.

I've done a few kind of fun things lately and I will post about them. To tide my imaginary readers over, here's a picture from one of my "adventures" at a festival that takes place approximately 2 1/2 blocks from my house:

Please tiptoe. And have a happy week! I know I will.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Your Roads Less Traveled

A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that I haven't really been anywhere interesting lately; my life pretty much consisted of going to work, returning home (exhausted), falling asleep watching episodes of Frasier on YouTube, and shoveling snow. Such is life in the wintry Northeast, especially for those of us lacking lots of money and decent, covered parking spaces. In the grand scheme of things, these aren't terrible problems and believe me, I know that. However, they were driving me a little crazy and on one of February's nicer days, I was driven to do something about that; and so I drove. Er, a different way home, that is.
I was leaving work mid-afternoon, the sky was blue, and I had my camera with me. While it wasn't quite the same as going on vacation, not even close, it was a fun and interesting afternoon. I viewed my city in a new way, saw places I had never seen before, and even in places that were familiar to me I found new things to look at. Here are a few of the results:
I drive past this building pretty often, actually, but I had never before noticed the clock. I don't know why I find that so fantastic but I totally do. Someday I think I'd like to own a building with a clock set into it.
I call this one Irony. I know it's not terribly exciting but I had never noticed the sign in the window: "Celebrating 40 Years". Of a boarded up gas station/convenience store? I'd suggest someone remove the sign but I do enjoy that it's there.
That's Nipper, the RCA dog. I'm used to seeing him from a distance but generally not up close. He doesn't live in the nicest neighborhood: it's full of warehouses and old, abandoned-looking buildings. I wouldn't go there at night or anything but I found the area interesting if sketchy during the day. I realized I love taking pictures of old buildings and don't really mind the curious looks from people driving by.

This old church is literally down the street from where I work and until a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea it was there. Again with the old buildings, right? There's just something about it.

Okay, this one's stretching it a little. I live in a city with a port (on a river) but I, like most residents I suspect, don't really think about that. I've known about it for a long time, seen the signs, etc. and, in fact, I remember learning about its existence from my father. But I never thought about its impact on the city or area, what it was like, or even where, exactly, it was. So, knowing full well that ports tend to be kind of gross and have limited access, I decided to sort of kind of check it out. Without leaving my car. Or really seeing anything. I did see a few historical markers but couldn't actually read them. Considering I do actually read those things, I'd kind of like to go back. The whole place felt a little eerie though so maybe I'll stay away. I do think it's strange to think that this place is maybe two miles from where I live and until a few weeks ago, I hadn't actually processed that it's there.
That's it for pictures though I did see a few other interesting things like a drive-in movie theater I always saw listed on Fandango but didn't actually believe existed. All in all it was an interesting experience and one that's convinced me that taking a different route every now and then is worthwhile.
With that in mind, I offer you a challenge. For anyone reading this, I challenge you to, just once, find a new way home (or to work, the store, a friend's house, whatever). This could mean taking the bus instead of the Subway, walking instead of riding, or taking back roads instead of the highway. See something different. And if you do, tell me about it. Comment, Tweet, post a picture, write a blog post, whatever. All it takes is 140 characters. If you do it, you just might win a prize. Plus, you might learn something or find a new favorite store, restaurant, whatever. Or do it because my birthday is this week and therefore I should get what I want.
Kidding. But seriously, it's fun.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy New Year, Late of Course

First of all, happy new year!

Yeah, I know. The year started over a week ago. Well, I've finally caught up and am just now, er, finalizing my resolutions. Because this is my travel blog, these are my Official Travel Goals of 2011; I feel like if I get 'em in writing (or typing or whatever) they'll be more likely to happen. And I'll have a nice little reminder. Also, if you read this and have been to any of the places or done any of the activities I mention, please comment! Or if you aren't crazy and want to join in or something...

First, blog related: I said it last year and I'm saying it this year. I will post more. For me as much as for the approximately three people who read the blog (and like it? I hope?) and oh, I'm pathetic. But really, more posting. Now on to the real list!

1. I'm going to London (England. Not, say, Ontario or Kentucky. England). Yup. Now that it's in typing, it's definitely going to happen. Hopefully in April. Yes, I've been there before but at the moment I have a place to stay there and I must take advantage of that. Plus, it's a really fabulous city. Since I must always incorporate pictures, London-related pictures:

Hampton Court Palace. It's close.

A crappy picture but a special one to me, this was the view out of my window of the lovely New Cross area of London.

2. Related to number one, on that same trip over to London I'll definitely leave the metropolitan area, hopefully to go to Normandy. Yes, I know that Normandy is so far from Metropolitan London that it's across the Channel in another country. I've also been there but not to Mont St. Michel, Bayeux, Rouen, or the D-Day beaches. For example. I have a nice little Normandy rant if anyone's interested. Basically, I went on a school trip to Lille when I was in eighth grade. We went to the aquarium in Boulogne, one random monument, and not much in the way of historical or cultural sites. I do have many fond memories of that trip but I still don't understand why we went to the aquarium. I love a good aquarium as much as the next person but, seriously, there are fish everywhere. The world only has one Bayeux Tapestry.

Monet's Garden in Giverny. It's related.

Again, now that this is all typed out, it's more likely to happen.

3. Walk/hike some part of the Appalachian Trail. I was just thinking about this today (fine, yesterday) as I drove underneath a small section of the trail (where it crosses I90/the MassPike in case you were wondering. You weren't? Oh). I'm not much of a hiker and I'm not totally at one with nature but I do totally support nature and I think the AT is an awesome thing so yeah, one mile, one hundred miles, or one thousand miles (it'll be closer to one), I want to hike part of the trail.

I've actually walked a tiny section of the AT before; part that's on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. But I was young and we didn't go very far. Next time, slightly more.

4. Hike the Indian Ladder Trail in John Boyd Thacher State Park. This is probably the closest to home for me and you've probably never heard of John Boyd Thacher State Park. It's in New York, by the way. I hadn't heard of the park until maybe a year ago and I was pretty amazed when I visited last summer. I actually wrote a little about Thacher State Park on my crappy little website here. The Indian Ladder Trail is pretty famous (supposedly it was used by Native Americans a long time ago) and it's supposed to be really beautiful. I didn't hike it because I'm afraid of heights and I thought I might fall off the edge. Hopefully I'll manage it this year.

5. This one's much more of a maybe. Seattle. I hope to go there (again).

I know it seems a little silly and self-indulgent to write out the whole post of stuff I want to do but there is a reason behind it. Last year, although I didn't post about them, my goals included visiting Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands and Almanzo Wilder's boyhood home near Malone, NY. And wouldn't ya know? I managed to do it. Uh, Laura Ingalls Wilder-themed post still to come. Someday.