Friday, March 30, 2012

An Adventure to come…

“Not only is New York the nation’s melting pot, it is also the casserole, the chafing dish and the charcoal grill.”

 Mayor John V. Lindsay

Next week I am going on my first business trip, I will be going to a three day conference right in the heart of the most populace city in the country.  I have been there many times before, day trips, over nighters, tours, shopping… but this will be my first trip, ALONE.  Now, you know me – I have already made some plans outside of the work part of things.   I have my ticket to Newsies, my first Broadway show.  I want to check out my friends’ band one night and maybe hit Eatily for a bit of Italian food shopping.

But, I have to admit, I am a bit nervous about making this trip by myself.  NYC can be a bit intimidating.  Dragging luggage, catching cabs, did I pick the right hotel, the night life, dining alone.  Throw in over 8 Million people to dodge, watch or meet AND three days of conference – it’s a lot to think about.

So I will go into this adventure thinking positively.  I will expect no traveling mishaps, I will hope for a clean room with a decent view and I will use my many past trips to the city to make this one a great one… I have this vision of spending an evening with some of the folks from my conference, as they might be locals and want to see some of the exciting night life, but that I won’t know till our first day together.

Any last minute advice for me while I stay in the Time Square areas is always welcome and I am hoping to blog daily while I am there next week.  I am sure that my adventures will lend themselves to a few good lines to share with you all each day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mark Twain House


“Get A Clue”
Live-Action game at the Mark Twain House

Who dun it?  With what?  In what room?  The classic board-game of Clue has come to life at the Mark Twain house.  Last Thursday two friends and I were on the first ever “Get a Clue” tour that took you through an evening of literary mayhem, murder and intrigue.   Between a cast of suspects (provided by Hartford’s own Sea Tea Improv,) a house that embodies the game-board from Clue and 16 sleuths, this hour long “tour” could not miss. 

Starting in the Hall, the scene is set, Pap Finn has been killed and classic Twain characters are suspects, during the course of the hour we meet people like The Prince (or the Pauper), Becky Thatcher, Queen Morgan Le Fey, Huck Finn and more.  If you have ever taken the house tour you might have seen a door under the main stairwell that no tour ever gets to open.  On this unique adventure you get to go through that door, down to the basement of the house and explore a part of this historic home rarely seen by visitors.

Guided, room by room, by a museum docent we visit the Kitchen, Billiards room, Conservatory, Dining room, Drawing Room and more.  In each room you are encouraged to make accusations to find out the killer, the weapon and the space the crime took occured.  Each story-book character can confirm only two facts and if you pay close attention, you will be able to get to the bottom of this crime. 

The improv actors not only brought Twains' characters to life, but also entertained the guests.  Once we worked our way through all the rooms we went back to the museum wing where we gathered to discuss our conclusions and the folks with the right answer were given prizes.  Among my friends, one was cleaver enough to string all the clues together.

I hope this becomes a regular event at the Mark Twain house; it is a great way to see this historical home, meet some great loved characters and spend an evening with friends.

This is the view from the museum to the House

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Food Review
Brass City Diner
998 Wolcott St., Waterbury, CT

I had to go “on the road” for work last week, to the landfill in Waterbury (don’t ask), but I had the chance to stop for lunch at this local diner.  One of those shiny silver places with neon lights.  I love diners, any place I can get pancakes, a rib eye, a triple-decker BLT and baklava all at the same time is good in my book.  But I don’t set my expectations too high.

So I pulled into the spacious parking lot (that continues in the back), the staff was very friendly and accommodating as I was with a friend who has a large service dog.  They made us feel welcome and comfortable.  Place was super clean as were the bathrooms.

With a large menu there were lots of options, from all-day breakfast to sandwiches, Italian, larger entrees, salads, seafood, burgers and grilled pizza.  My friend had the chicken noodle soup which looked out of this world.  Big chucks of chicken and veggies with egg noodles.  He also had a grilled chicken sandwich that he said was tasty and juicy. 

I tried a hot dog, and it wasn’t just any hot dog.  They have 13 different kinds on the menu.  They take a split-grilled hot dog on a Torpedo roll and load it up in all crazy ways.  I had the Bacon Cheddar Dog.  Diced up crispy bacon with white and yellow shredded cheese.   It came with BBQ sauce, but I did skip it.  The toppings were heaping, the fries were cooked great and it also came with coleslaw.  Hot Dogs here include the American, Mexican, Portuguese, New York, Pizza, Chili, Guacamole and more.  If you like dogs, this is a great place to go. 

Though I do not get to Waterbury often, I would defiantly go again and recommend it to anyone in the area. 

 I swear that there is a Hot Dog under that pile of yummy-bacon-cheese goodness!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Love Affair... Part 2

So, picking up where we left off on our trip from Florida to CT. 

We made it to DC in time for a late check-in at a Marriott. Quite the improvement over our bus-depot hotel in Savannah.  Oh, the choices we make to save a few bucks.  We had a good nights’ sleep in a room overlooking the White House (if you craned your neck from the bathroom window) and we were off and running through our Nation’s Capitol. 

While we were there we found out there was going to be a Palestinian Peace Rally near the Mall.  Though I am sure it would have been interesting to watch, we decided to lay low and avoid all protesters/marchers and hide out in the Smithsonian buildings.  A good choice, as it was quite muggy and hot that day.  In the Smithsonian we watched dedicated people repairing the Francis Scott Key American Flag (the one that inspired the Star Spangled Banner!).  Folks lying on mattresses, face down, suspended over the 30 foot by 42 foot flag.  It was amazing to watch them work.  Our tour of the monuments around the Mall (we skirted the rally)  included the Korean War Memorial, one we had never heard about before and is amazing. 

The expansive memorial includes a group of 19 statues that depict soldiers
on patrol facing an American flag. A granite wall has a mural of the faces of
2,400 unnamed soldiers with a reading that states “Freedom is not free.”
A Pool of Remembrance honors all soldiers who were killed, wounded or missing in action.

Onward and Northward!  No trip through PA is complete without a trip to Hersey.  The Chocolaty-est place on earth!!  The main drag in town is lined with street lights shaped as Kisses, and there is always a hint of cocoa in the air.  Being able to tour the yummiest factory and to buy chocolate we can’t get at home was defiantly a highlight.  For a choco-holic like myself, this was like going home to the mother-land!

Now, we may have brought books on CD to help pass the travel time, but we talked SO much, we never got through the first CD of a 13 disc book.  As we were traveling north on I-95, I’m behind the wheel and Heather is on navigation.  Somewhere in NY I ask, “Hey, what exit are we looking for?”  Heather busts out the Triptik, when all of a sudden she starts laughing, uncontrollably… this can mean only one of two things.

Either we have just missed our exit OR we have missed it by a ridiculous amount of exits.  YUP, we missed it by like 20 exits.  Too much talking and not enough paying attention.  I figure I can get us home from Albany if need be…but we did somehow find our way.  It is still a joke that we carry with us on all our road trips.  What exit do we need?”  “Exit 35, give or take twenty exits!”

On this trip we drove through nine states which brought my “states visited” count to twelve.  Driving through America is fascinating.  We are such a large county that it will take many road trips to see it all, but this road trip was the first one I have taken that would introduce me to the unique qualities of each state. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The 41st Annual Hartford St. Patty’s Day Parade

“I’m a quarter Irish” takes on a whole new meaning whenever I attend a St. Patty’s day Parade.  And it’s even more exciting when I get to be IN the parade!  This year I got to help on the float of the Mulcahy Academy, an Irish dance school I plan to spend more time with! 

It was a beautiful day for a parade, sunny but chilly.  On the back of a flat bed truck this float even had a dance floor for two girls who danced the entire route.  Leading our float were students who danced for the crowds, banner carriers, dance moms and fellow dancers who were there in memory of a friend who had just passed away.  This year I was there as a helper for the little kids who waved from the float.  Lots of chilly kids under green blankets shaking pom-pom.  From the back of the float I got to see a handful of familiar faces and that is always a great part of being in the parade.

This parade welcomed groups from a dozen towns, with an expected 65,000 spectators and follows a simple route from the state Capitol, down State St. past the Bushnell and beautiful Brownstones, before turning on to Main Street.  Past the library, local business and the Gold building then turning onto Asylum Ave. where the only Irish Pub on the route is flooded with patrons.  Defiantly the most rowdy part of the day!  Finishing at the Memorial Arch, it is wonderful way to see Hartford, show off your Irish roots and spend a day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My continuing love affair with road trips - Part 1

April 2002

“Let’s fly out and drive back.” 
“That trip to Disney, let’s fly to Florida, get a car and drive back.”
“That’s crazy…. I’m in!”

Now, I’m not sure if it was me or Heather that started that conversation, but that’s how it all began.  So we packed our bags for sunny Florida and met up with our family of friends and had a blast at the happiest place on earth!!! We hit all the parks and hopped from place to place for a week.  The magic of the Magic Kingdom was not lost on us.  I saw my first palm trees and got to hug a Disney princess.  We watched fireworks over Epcot (my favorite stop), rode all the movie rides and Safari’ed through Animal Kingdom.  We went to Seaworld and spent a day at Discovery Cove -- have you ever gone swimming with a dolphin, I did!!  Discovery Cove is an awesome park to check out - you get to swim with the dolphins, cruise the lazy river and feed the birds in the aviary.  This is me and Jenny!!

We aslo checked out a Titanic Exhibit, Medieval Times and a dinner theatre production called Capones!!  So much to do even outside the Disney Parks.   At the end of our Florida visit we wished our friends a safe flight and began our first real road trip.

Packed up in our rental SUV, a cooler full of soda, a box of junk food, a few books on CD, and a AAA triptik for navigation (this was pre-GPS) we hit the road for our first stop, Savannah GA. What a beautiful place Savannah is, the dripping Spanish moss trees lining the beautifully laid out city was only accentuated by the charming trolley cars and historic buildings.  Having recently read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt, I was drawn to the magic that Savannah has to offer, staying primarily in the Historic districts we only had a day to spend. 

We bought a ticket for the Hop On, Hop Off (HO-HO) tour, a narrated trolley tour and we began to explore the area.  From the beautiful Savannah River, through the various squares lined in shady trees and beautiful homes, including the famed Mercer House; Forsyth Park, Girl Scout headquarters and so much more.  One day is defiantly not enough time to spend in this welcoming city and someday I plan to go back.

We began our next leg of the trip, 10 hours north to Washington DC, with breakfast in Clary’s.  A steamily locals hangout, it was recommended by my old boss who frequented there and worth it for sure.  We barreled up I-95 through South and North Carolina making a few stops for food and sites along the way, and it was in Virginia when the trip got exciting.  A rain storm that would have sent smarter people off the road till it passed did not stop us.  The driving rain lasted about 2 hours but when we passed it the skies were clear. 

Traveling in the middle lane of thick, steady traffic, we watched a station wagon playing chicken with an RV.  We backed off as the station wagon tried to go around the RV in the passing lane but the station wagon caught his tires in gravel.  He tried to stay on the road by steering into the middle late but he spun out of control, quickly working his way back right and off the road, head first into a bank of trees.  All this happened in a matter of seconds and it sure does make your heart race and improve your driving. 

With Heather behind the wheel we pushed through.  Next stop, Washington DC….

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How it all began...

I traveled my first three US states in the backseat of a Ford Bronco.  This is what I remember anyways, I am sure my folks will remember it differently.  My grandparents owned a little slice of heaven across the street from Lake Willoughby in Westmore, VT and we would go see them on a regular basis driving I-91 from Connecticut, through Massachusetts and almost all the way to the Canadian boarder.

When my brother and I were little, my parents would pack the truck the night before, put us to bed then wake us in the wee hours and load us gently into the truck.  I am sure they were praying we would sleep for the better part of the four and a half hour drive and for the most part, I think we did.  Now my brother is older than me, so he often got to sleep across the backseat while I got to stretch out on the floor.  Quite a different view from the floor of the truck.  I would look up and see tree tops whizzing by or street lights, depending on the time of day.  Enough to make you nauseous. 

Now, I gotta tell you – I spent the better part of every trip (For the 12+ years I remembering making that trip) CAR SICK.  Yup, I was the only seven year old with a stuffed bunny in one hand and a bottle of ice cold Coke in the other.   I would sip on that bottle as we drove north, keeping my queasy stomach at bay.  I am one of those people who can still get car sick in the backseat, but it’s getting better.  Now I know what you are thinking, how can you get car sick so easy and still love travel?  I’m an anomaly.  (In a future story, I will tell you how a girl terrified of flying got on her first Jet plane and headed to London.)

I must say, the drive up I-91 is quite pretty, once you get through the construction of Springfield.  Lots of hills and turns – just what you envision New England looking like.  I can remember years with lots of snow where the view was blindingly white in every direction.  Sections of 91 through Vermont were forged by taking dynamite to the landscape and blowing trenches through the glacier-set rock.  During the winter, water will trickle and freeze down the flat sides of those rocks and artistic folks would add paint to that ice and create rainbows of color in the ice.  As I make this trip now a days, I don’t see that art very often, but it is something I will always remember.  

What is the best time of year to make that trip North?  I’d say late September.  The iconic changing colors of the leaves.  Reds, yellows, orange painted across vista as far as the eye could see.  And sometimes you could see it for a long, long time.  YUP, explain to me why folks from New York have to come to VT to see leaves.  I can remember sitting in traffic jams in the fall, jams full of Leaf Peepers from the neighboring state.  What?  You don’t have oaks and maples in your state.  How is that possible?  It’s not like you are from California or Georgia, Florida or Alaska – you live within 50 miles of the leaves you have come to look at.  I sit here still shaking my head.

We would play this game (okay, we were competitive about it) of who would get a glimpse of the lake first.  There was this one part of Rt. 5 where the lake would peek out between two mountains and we would all be poised to say “I see the lake!!”.  I don’t often remember being the first one to see it, but that is now fine with me.  Though back then it pissed me off.  We would wind past the camp ground and past the ramshackled buildings that were once glorious.  By the time we pulled into grandma and grandpas drive way, I was ready to get out of that truck, get some fresh air, stop sitting next to my brother, done listening to the Oak Ridge Boys and ready to play behind the little school house, behind in the brook and most importantly, slash around in the cold, clear water of Lake Willoughby.  

So there you have it, my first travel memories that sparked a life time of great places I would get to explore.