Thursday, June 15, 2017

To Wake Up In a City That Never Sleeps



This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.




What does one do when he enjoyed a weekend in Florida, and wanted to spend a week to fully explore an area? Go to New York, of course! However, a week still was not enough to even scratch the surface of what NYC has to offer.

My wife and I met up with my family to take a trip together to NYC at Midway International Airport in Chicago (they flew from out west), and we flew together into LaGuardia Airport. LaGuardia sucks! It is one of the worst airports I have ever been to. It is falling apart and seems poorly maintained. I am not alone in this opinion either. We flew on Southwest Airlines, which I am also not a fan of, but I seem to be in the minority on this opinion.

Right away, I found an English pub, Jones Wood Foundry, in the neighbourhood that we stayed at. It was even on the same block. I liked it so much, that my wife and I went almost every night. The highlight there was that they offer actual cask ale.

Also a daily experience for us was a French café found a couple doors down called La Moulin à Café. The owner was from France, and most employees were as well. Even most customers were French, and I seemed like I was in the minority as an Anglophone there. It was great. I do wish that I could have gotten to order in French, as I do not get many opportunities to use the French I have learned in Central Illinois, but alas, they knew I was an Anglophone.

Also next door was Gotham Pizza (no website). It was here that I got to experience the famed pizza-by-the-slice to-go. I never needed to leave the block that we were staying at if I did not want to.

First full day, we all went to Central Park. Our apartment was on York Ave, so it was only a short walk away. Central Park hits you like a ton of bricks, because it is a location that is suddenly without a ton a bricks (ha ha). We spent all afternoon here, walking around and taking pictures. We even had lunch at the Loeb Boathouse. We took a quick jaunt to the MET, but they were about to close, so we never actually went in that day. Instead we went to the Guggenheim Museum. That museum is actually pretty small, and you do not need more than 90 minutes to see everything, in at least minimal detail.


View of Central Park from the Loeb Boathouse patio seating
On the second day, we actually explored the MET. The place is so large, that we split up our group into two to cover more ground, and still could not see everything collectively. Something I definitely need to go back to. After the museum, we went to Yankee Stadium to watch a ball game, Yankees verses the Boston Red Sox. I am a Cubs fan, but have an affinity for the Red Sox, so I was happy to see them win that night, though it was very close, only 5-4.



The third day, we went to see Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre. I have loved it since high school, and it was also both my wife’s and youngest sister’s first time seeing it on stage. Then we checked out Time Square, Rockefeller Plaza, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We followed up the evening with a drink at McGee’s Pub, one of four bars, and the only remaining, that inspired MacLaren’s from How I Met Your Mother.



Thursday, we first went to the Empire State Building. I am a huge fan of art deco architecture, so was happy to see one of the most famous examples of it. Afterwards, we went to the see the New York Philharmonic season finale. Yo-Yo Ma was there, as it was also the tenure finale of head conductor Alan Gilbert.



The next day, we took the subway to Battery Park to catch the ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty, and then to Ellis Island. We then went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.



Now that I am home and able to reflect on the trip, New York is not one of my favourite cities to visit. I love urban cities, so that was not it. I am not exactly sure why I enjoy cities like Chicago and Toronto, but I am not a fan of New York. However, I still want to go back and explore more fully. We saw a Broadway musical and the Philharmonic, but we were not able to see the opera or the ballet. I would like to go see those. I would like to get more out of the MET and Central Park. I would also want to visit One World Trade Centre, the Bryant Park Hotel, and the Chrysler Building. Just as two days is not enough for Clearwater, one week is just not enough for New York. I will just avoid Southwest if I can, and absolutely stay away from the armpit that is LaGuardia Airport.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Clear skies at Clearwater


This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.

A group and I went to Clearwater Beach, Florida. There is so much to see and do on the island of Clearwater Beach that leaving the mainland is unnecessary. We drove down, spent two nights there, and then drove back. Overall, it was a successful trip.




We stayed at a yacht on the south end of the island, which was walkable to everything we wanted to see. That was fantastic.

The first day, we spent all day at the beach. The beaches are of white sand, and stretch for a little more than 2 miles. The water is clear and blue. It is no wonder than resorts line the beaches of the island. We spent a few hours at the beach that day, and then went to dinner at Palm Pavilion Beachside Grill. I highly recommend getting dinner there at least one evening. It is a great place to listen to great live music while having a cold drink and watching the ocean.



Day 2, we spent all day walking up and down the storefront part of town, and engaged in touristy things. After breakfast, some of us went to do parasailing and jet ski. Others found a speed boat tour, and enjoyed a time viewing Clearwater at 40+ knots. Regardless, there is a sizeable dolphin population, so everyone got to encounter a dolphin at least once.

Being on the Gulf of Mexico, the cuisine is heavy on the seafood. It is not hard to find a restaurant with freshly caught seafood. The fresh seafood includes: grouper, mahi mahi, shrimp, and then some. Seriously, it does not matter where you go, you will find fresh seafood. Or just stay at Palm Pavilion. That works too. (No, they are not paying me to write this article.)



Clearwater Beach is renowned most for its famous sunsets. When the conditions are just right, there is even a green flash as the sun sets. Almost everywhere you look, there is a countdown to the sunset. Almost every bar has a sunset special (or specials), and there is even a specific dinner cruise for viewing the sunset. We went to a rooftop bar on Night 2 to watch it.



My only regret for this tour was that it was too short. There is so much to see on Clearwater Beach, and the surrounding area, that 2 days is simply not enough. Not only is there Clearwater Beach, but also Clearwater on the mainland, which has a number of theatres, museums, and an aquarium, and the headquarters of the Church of Scientology, but also Tampa, which is only 20 miles away, is also full of things to see. The next time we go, it would have to be a week, minimum. And I do want to go back soon.