Oh, Boy! OH, GIRL! What a perfect day for driving along, and walking around, the beach! We lived in a house in Huntington Beach for many years before we sold it to travel the world four years ago. It is one of the best areas in the world to live, but we were very happy to be free from owning a house anywhere. Like we did today, we can always go back and enjoy it for a while before we move on to some other spectacular place.
Today felt like the middle of summer, 80 degrees, sunny, and so clear that we could see Catalina Island perfectly. We also saw lots of cargo ships waiting offshore, as reported on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago. The surfers were out, and Main Street was closed for a block. We thought it was for the weekend Farmer’s Market, but it was just for all the extended outdoor patio seating. That is one thing that has changed since we were last here.
We know that most of California is not coastal, as the Central Valley produces much of the fruit and vegetables to feed the US during the winter. But being in California and not being close to the beach and ocean just seems crazy to us. Driving on Pacific Coast Highway is one of the great joys of our traveling life whenever we are back in Southern California. In just a few days we have driven along the ocean several times, and we fall in love with the view – the gloriousness – each and every time.
Funny. Did you know that Albuquerque was famous for things other than being the filming location of Breaking Bad?? It is! It has a long and storied history. It has part of Route 66, the “Mother Road.” It is home to the world’s largest hot-air balloon festival every October, the International Balloon Fiesta. And, it hosts North America’s largest pow wow, the Gathering of Nations.
Six or seven years ago, we took the self-driving tour of most of the real-life filming locations from Breaking Bad. The people who bought Walter White’s home have multiple No Trespassing signs, and they sat in lawn chairs inside the open garage, watching that nobody trespassed! It looked exhausting. We looked, and took photos, from across the street. So, this trip, we did not repeat that tour.
Instead, we visited Old Town and took a walking tour. If we didn’t know we were in Albuquerque, we would have thought we were in Santa Fe. There are many very old buildings with second-story balconies and lots of covered sidewalks. There are bunches of dried red chili peppers everywhere, and we mean everywhere! As we walked around, we kept commenting to each other how hard the merchants worked to keep the area clean and interesting. There is a lot of attention to detail.
There is a pretty park in the center of Old Town with leaves the color of sunshine. One of the most notable landmarks is San Felipe de Neri Church (St. Philip Neri), dating to 1793, which replaced the previous structure from 1706 that collapsed. And Old Town has a Breaking Bad store – if we had a home in which to put our favorite things, we would have bought quite a few favorite things! But photos will have to suffice.
Inevitably, there were lots of sugar skull-inspired pieces of art for sale, including full-size statues. These are here year-round, and one was an entire store devoted to all things sugar skulls, rather than a “pop-up”store for Halloween or Dia de Los Muertos (the Mexican Day of the Dead). And there is marvelous New Mexico cuisine here, centering around the hatch chile – it has a unique flavor and spiciness, which could be said of the entire city. It was great walking around and getting more of a sense of the city’s history. (And, if you don’t know what Breaking Bad is, the last three photos from the store won’t mean a thing to you – if there is anyone alive who isn’t familiar with the best television series ever created.)
🎶 Ohhhhh – O!KLAHOMA!….where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain…. You know the song. And now, we know a small part of the capital city, commonly called OKC. Mike’s mom, and her family, were from a small town near here, Anadarko. But we had never spent any time in OKC.
Our hotel was located in the reconverted, trendy area of town called “Bricktown,” which was the old warehouse district, but we didn’t know that when we booked it. There are lots of bars, restaurants, hotels, breweries, and even the National Banjo Museum! Who knew??
We visited the 1995 Oklahoma Bombing Memorial site, and it is quite lovely and peaceful, as you can see. It was constructed on the site of the bombed Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was demolished several weeks after the incident. A new federal building was constructed in the next block in 2003 to replace this facility. The set of inscribed empty chairs alongside the reflecting pool, one for each of the 168 people killed, is quite moving and haunting.
Mike’s grandmother and uncle were in downtown Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing, at her doctor’s office. They were not close to the blast site and were unhurt. But it reminds us of what a small world it is and how these incidents can affect any of us, no matter how far removed from us they seem.
The Myriad Botanical Gardens were also very quiet and peaceful as we walked along. The biggest attraction there, the Crystal Bridge Conservatory, is closed for renovations, so we walked around and enjoyed the quiet in the midst of traffic and business. There were murals, sculptures, and statues around the city, as usual. We are displaying a few of them. We were surprised, as we walked through the city, to have several strangers greet us and ask how we were doing. This happens in very small towns, but not usually in larger cities. It was nice. We liked it, we liked it! 🆗
Back in New York, we have had a great time for the past two weeks! But the cold has set in, as we thought it might – November in New York is supposed to be cold, right? But it has gotten into the 40s and 50s over the past several days. Prior to that, it was short sleeves and shorts!
We visited some off-the-beaten-path places as well as the most famous. We attended a total of four Broadway plays and one off-Broadway show. They were all very different and wonderful in their own way. The off-Broadway show was “Tammany Hall,” held in an actual social club used by members of Tammany Hall. The setting was election night, 1929. It was interactive, so we talked with all of the actors throughout and followed them up and down stairs into different settings and rooms. In two of the rooms, you could even buy a drink to sit and chat with them. Mike (the Mike of 1929, that is) expressed his learned opinions on the stock market, that the crash of 1929 was short-term and that happy days would soon be here again; and, also in politics, that New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential ambitions were misplaced and he would never achieve anything further in politics. Only history will determine the quality of Mike’s prognostications. It was lots of fun. We would do it again, now that we are more familiar with interactive theater.
Speaking of little-known places, the first few photos are of the Morgan Library and Museum, one of the most stunning places we have seen, as you can see for yourself. Speaking of well-known places, these are followed by photos of the World Trade Center memorial. We have been to the memorial twice before. Both times it was still under construction, and we had to get tickets beforehand and undergo three security checks. Today, it is all in a park setting, and you just walk through on your own, as in any park.
We went on a glorious food tour with Nice Guy Tours. The food was great, and Dante truly was…a nice guy. The Museum of the American Indian is housed in a beautiful old building with a great rotunda…see for yourself! We ate in a historic tavern, walked our feet off just wandering and admiring the architecture, and we greatly enjoyed Times Square on Halloween night. It was very, very crowded, though, much more than we like, in these still-pandemic times. Overall, another great visit to New York, a gift that keeps on giving – we find new things and places every time we come here.
A TV journalist turns toward the camera and says, “Now, from Washington this morning….” and you think very seriously: government, lawmakers, lobbyists, infighting. But we discovered a very friendly, whimsical, and sometimes playful side to this amazing city. Every museum guard/greeter, server in a restaurant, and hotel worker enthusiastically greeted us with a smile, spoke to us at length, and thanked us profusely as we left. We found whimsy in restaurant menus (fried chicken with a glazed donut? – who does that?) and swings where there normally would be plain old boring benches! It has been a marvelous week in the country’s capital.
Our first photos are of the National Building Museum, which neither of us had ever heard of. We saw it on Google Maps, on the path from our hotel to the Smithsonian, so we decided to stop and see it. Are we ever glad we did! It is a magnificent room with gigantic brick columns (covered, of course). The room has been used for inaugural parties and political rallies. We passed a woman with two small children, playing on the floor adjacent to one of these towering columns. If she comes here often, what a great memory that will be for her kids! Sitting on a bench in front of the fountain was magical, as it was so quiet in this gorgeous space with few visitors. We also – finally! – got to the top of the Washington Monument! Over the past four visits to Washington, it has been closed for renovation, cleaning, or a special event every single time. We held our breaths as we approached, sure that it would close just as we got there. You must book your tickets online the day before, as only a limited number of visitors are allowed in the elevator at one time. They are still “free,” but with a $1 booking fee. And if you don’t nab your tickets within a few minutes of their 10:00 am availability, you may have to wait another day. We were surprised that the inside doors were actually vault doors!…very thick and heavy. We were also surprised that the elevator was built in from the beginning. It originally hauled freight and stones to the top, then switched to passengers once it opened in 1885, when it was the tallest structure in the world! (The Eiffel Tower eclipsed the monument just three years later, as it was twice as tall.)
There was still a good deal of fencing around the city, and many streets, sidewalks, and access ways were blocked off. In addition, many government buildings had giant planters along the sidewalk so that cars or trucks couldn’t be driven into the buildings. We “only” went to four museums this time (mainly because so many are closed early in the week, but all are open on weekends) – the National Building Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Natural History, and the Spy Museum. The Spy Museum had lots of interesting information, along with maybe a dozen short films on various spies and missions. There was enough info to keep you in there for an entire day, although we didn’t have that much time!
We enjoyed many of the restaurants we went to, particularly the unusual flavors in two Middle Eastern restaurants. There are photos below from a Mexican restaurant along the waterfront, Mi Vida. It was beautifully decorated, and they take a risk by serving food that is fairly spicy, although we greatly enjoyed it. All in all, it was a most enjoyable week in Washington, and we are left with a good impression, great memories, and satisfied appetites.
Charming. Small Town America. Chagrin Falls and Berea are the definition of friendly, charming small towns. We are here in Chagrin (as the locals call it) for the second time, attending their marvelous documentary film festival. The films we have seen have been powerful and interesting. We have learned a lot! You can see a lot of the town in the photos below. A lot of effort is put into their being so adorable! We have said that it is like stumbling into a charming tourist town like Carmel, California, and you enjoy every second.
The Opening Night film was “War on the Diamond,” about the long-standing rivalry between the local club, the Cleveland Indians, and the NY Yankees. In 1920, Yankees pitcher Carl Mays threw a pitch that hit Ray Chapman in the head. Spectators said it was such a loud crack, they thought the ball had hit the bat. Chapman died the following day, the only baseball player to die as a direct result of playing in a baseball game. It has created a century-old rivalry (but isn’t every team a rival of the Yankees?). So, the first two photos are from opening night, as the film was sponsored by the Cleveland Indians. Next up is a photo of the fabulous Morgan Crawford, never too busy to say hi and help out with questions and problems. She has been a marvelous asset to the festival.
We got to Berea thanks to Gerry Nemeth, who teaches a class on game shows. We attended a documentary on Tiny Tim (which was very good, but all positive, none of the darker chapters!), and got into a conversation with Gerry, who, out of the blue, asked if we ever watch the game show Jeopardy. Since we are missing it this week (and it is killing us!), at that moment we had up a website that gives that day’s scores and statistics. So we told him we were the biggest fans, had met Ken Jennings, and had attended tapings of the show four different times. We then showed him what was on the iPad, and he laughed incredulously. He TEACHES a class on Game Shows in Berea, Ohio, and the next day was doing a class on Jeopardy. So after the movie, he asked what we were doing the next day, and we told him, of course, watching documentaries. He said he wished we could come to his class to talk about our Jeopardy experience of viewing and attending the tapings. We asked what and where, and said we’d love to come!
So we went, and it was a nice class of about 30-40 senior citizens. They played a mock game of Jeopardy, and then he introduced us as nomads that he had met the night before, who sold all their personal belongings to travel the world, blah blah blah. So we got up and talked about Jeopardy tapings, then asked if there were questions. First one: How long have you been homeless, and do you have an RV, or what??? So we answered, and ALL the subsequent questions were concerning our travel and way of life. Jeopardy was left in the dust! Very funny, but they were very interested, excited, and responsive. It was so fun to share our lives and our story! Gerry didn’t mind at all.
Last week, our post was on the Big City, the Big Apple, New York. But all big cities are made up of small communities, areas, and individuals, who are all mostly friendly and down to earth. Chagrin Falls and Berea are likewise made up of very nice folks, so today we are celebrating Small Town America. A toast!
We ♥️ New York! Every single day has been fun! Just walking the streets has been great. The busy-ness, the crowds, the museums, the traffic, the restaurants, the stores, the Time Square billboards, the gorgeous architecture of the late 19th century buildings, the rush….have all been simply marvelous. We can’t get enough of it, so much so that, rather than returning to Chicago later this month, we have rerouted so that we get to spend another 2.5 weeks here in late October/early November. It feels like there is still so much to see and do.
One of our favorite days was a stroll through Greenwich Village, which was delightful beyond words. There are shops beautifully decorated with silk flowers, shops with interesting names, shops selling unusual items, enticing restaurants, etc. It was a fascinating, slow, and thoroughly enjoyable day. We ate dinner at Old Tbilisi Garden, a Georgian (as in the country Georgia, formerly part of Russia, i.e., no black-eyed peas and chitlins) restaurant, which was unusual and good, particularly their borscht, which we had been craving.
The rest of the photos capture little pieces of our walks around Times Square, the East Village, Central Park, Midtown, the Lower East Side, and the Garment District (where our hotel is located). The days were beautiful and weather-perfect. In fact, the only rain we encountered after six weeks on the road was a driving day, from Connecticut through New York. The temperatures here have been in the upper 60s/low 70s, so yeah – perfect. We feel pretty Covid-safe here. Every museum, movie theater, subway ride, live theater, restaurant, retail shop – every enclosed, indoor venue – requires proof of vaccination and that masks be worn. Because sidewalks are crowded, most people wear masks outside, as well. It is a great place to visit right now. We can’t wait to return, even though we haven’t left yet!