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Home Away From Home

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Ireland was so welcoming, that it felt like our home away from home. When we checked into Flannary’s and saw that the room that the staff thought was ready for us wasn’t quite ready, we went back to tell the receptionist. We ended up getting a larger room with an extra bed. Now we had one double bed and two twin beds. Dad said, “One for each of us:  Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear!”

Since Papa Bear and I had traveled for hours and were awake most of that time, Papa Bear stayed in the room while Baby Bear and I went to the hotel restaurant. The restaurant was crowded for that time of day. Everyone seemed bubbly as their conversations seemed to bounce off the walls. As we looked at the menu, even though we longed to try an Irish coffee just because of its name, we decided to get a Bailey’s coffee instead.  We knew it would taste better to us.

The waiter looked our way every once in a while in between waiting on tables. When he checked in with us, I admired his lilting voice. Most times I could understand the Irishmen, but when the men talked very fast, it was difficult for me to understand. I was glad to have Katie there to translate for me, even though they were speaking English!

Because Katie and I hadn’t had a good sit down chat for quite a while, we talked for a couple of hours! Lately our only means of communicating had been through Skype or sending in-box messages every once in a while. Not knowing what was new in her life was quite a change for me since I was used to hearing from Baby Bear almost every day.

When Papa Bear joined us, we decided to stay at the hotel restaurant for dinner since the food appeared to be quite good. When Sean delivered our entrees, it was like the comforts of home to sit down and eat a warm meal of roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies. Papa Bear liked his fish and chips, and Baby Bear enjoyed a plate of pasta.

As we munched away, a gentleman who was sitting at the bar, suddenly busted out in song. We had no idea what he was singing, but the Gaelic words and melody were a hit amongst the crowd.  His act of bursting out in song didn’t seem like it was anything out of the ordinary to the staff or customers.  His serenade only lasted a short while, and then he was gone.

As we finished up our meal, it felt like a blessing to have the car safely parked in the lot having survived the travels of our first day.  We were glad to get ready to settle in and get a good night’s sleep on a bed!

Mama Bear’s bed was “just right!”

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A Really Good Show

“Good morning.  How are you?” a lady asked as we entered the elevator.

“We’re tired,” said Susan with a laugh.

“That’s good.  That’s how it’s supposed to be when you come to New York!” she said in a chipper voice.

“Yes, we’ve been keeping really busy,” said Susan as I tried to stifle a yawn!

The doorman also greeted us with a friendly “good morning” as we left the hotel.  We walked the short distance to Sarabeth’s.  Some customers were sitting outside, but since the temperatures kept climbing each day, we decided to eat inside.  The host escorted us to the same table where we sat a couple of days before.  I ordered the French toast and patiently sipped warm coffee.  When the food arrived, I generously poured maple syrup over the large stack.  I thought the extra sugar would do me some good since my stomach was feeling pretty empty after the Miserable Outburst.

Susan and I talked about how sad we would be if one of us got sick enough where we wouldn’t be able to go to the shows.  We bought our tickets long before we got to NYC.  I had thought about how sad that would be even before we left on the trip.  That thought helped us decide that our fifth day was going to be a more relaxing one.

After breakfast, we waited for a bus on the corner of 79th Street and Amsterdam.  If it would have been any other day, we probably would have walked the short distance to Riverside Park.  When we got on the bus and noticed that we were the only customers, we told the bus driver that we were visiting from Minnesota.  He jokingly asked, “Do any people live there?”

The Lucerne (Side View)
View of The Lucerne (on the Right)
from the Bus Stop

“More people live in Minnesota than South Dakota,” I said.  He wondered how come we didn’t just walk because it was only a few blocks, but we ignored his question.  We really just liked the idea of using our bus passes!  When we got off, we walked down to The West 79th Street Boat Basin Café, which looked like a fun place to eat overlooking the Hudson River.  As we walked along, we enjoyed the quiet park and being shaded by large trees.  A lady walked towards us with a little dog, and both Susan and I said, “Aww.”  Seeing the dog made us realize how much we missed each of ours.  After the dog met us and figured out we were all right, he laid down flat and panted.

Since the dog needed a rest, the lady told us about how in the day she is a nanny to a little boy and the dog, but at night she is an actress.  She just auditioned for a show.  We wished her good luck and continued on after the lady tried to get the dog to move.  People zoomed by on bikes, and we passed others walking along the path.  When we came to the 91st Street Garden, we named off some of the flowers.  The foxgloves looked beautiful.  We could hear many little children at the nearby playground.

Riverside ParkMe at the 91st Street Garden

We walked down a beautiful path:

Riverside Park

We saw the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument:

Soldiers' and Sailor's Monument, Riverside Drive

The buildings were quite pretty:

Upper West Side, Manhattan

The warm day had us visiting Café Lalo again.  I ordered a delicious smoothie.  Susan told me about the scene in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” where Meg Ryan is patiently reading her book while waiting for her email buddy to join her at Café Lalo.  That movie ended when Tom Hanks met Meg Ryan at the 91st Street Garden!

We walked some more, visited a few shops and admired the neighborhood.

When we got back to the hotel, we took our time getting ready for “The Jersey Boys.”  Before we knew it, it was time to go on the subway.  We decided to go to Victor’s Café, a very extravagant looking Cuban restaurant.  We sat in the small bar area and ordered Papa Rellenas (stuffed potatoes and meat puffs) from the Tapas Menu.  The appetizers were so delicious; we decided to order another round.  We were glad that we were both feeling just fine.

As I read the playbill in the August Wilson Theater, I was surprised that I knew all of the songs.  I didn’t realize that Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had such a long list.  The order of the songs conveniently told the story of their lives together.  The play was quite funny until it got to the part where Frankie Valli’s wife decided that she wanted a divorce because Frankie wasn’t home very much.  When Tony Winner John Lloyd Young sang “My Eyes Adored You,”  I tried to hold back the tears.  I realized I would never think of that song the same way again.

At times the show had me stomping my feet to the music, laughing, and a moment later trying to hold back the tears.  When we left the theatre, I felt like I was leaving some good friends behind.  That’s when I knew I saw A Really Good Show.

We looked forward to going to see the Statue of Liberty the next day.

To be continued…

A Lucky Gal

When I first woke up on the third day of our trip to NYC, I couldn’t believe that later that night I would see Tom Hanks in The Lucky Guy.  I felt like a Lucky Gal!  Some of my favorite movies are Big and all of the Toy Stories.  There seems to be a sort of humbleness that shines through in Mr. Hanks’ performances.  I was happy that still held true after I saw him in the show.  But the day was young, and there were a lot of things we wanted to do before being in the same room (even if it was a theatre) with Tom Hanks.

Since rain was in the forecast, we planned to visit some museums right after a leisurely breakfast.  We grabbed our umbrellas and walked to Sarabeth’s, a bakery and restaurant, across the street and up a block on Amsterdam.  We sat in a booth in the back, and I ordered the garden omelet.  Susan ordered the lemon ricotta pancakes.  We both sipped our very delicious coffees with cream until our food came.  We decided our food was delightful and would keep us full for a long while.

Little sprinkles began to fall as we walked back to our hotel.  We packed up some necessities, left the hotel and walked over to the American Museum of Natural History where the movie Night at the Museum was basedMany other people thought it was a good day to visit the museum too.  The lines seemed long, yet moved fast.  We picked up our New York City Passes, which Susan ordered ahead of time on-line.  The pass that we chose was a booklet that contained six admission tickets to various attractions and was valid for nine consecutive days.  It cost a little over $100, which we thought was well worth it.  One of the advantages of having the pass is that you don’t have to wait in line to purchase your tickets.

Journey to the Stars was at the planetarium.  The film was narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, and there were many well-behaved school groups in attendance.  I learned about those little balls of light and imagined them being born.  I was glad to learn that scientists believe that the sun will last many more millions of years.  Whew!

After that we walked around and saw a lot of stuffed animals, creepy crawlers and such.

After seeing the dinosaurs and being glad that we were never alive the same time they were, we decided to go across Central Park and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Now that the raindrops were really falling, we hailed a cab that took us over to Fifth Avenue.  We walked about half a block as the drops made noises on our umbrellas, and I suddenly felt like a New Yorker!

Since we had our passes, we went right in.  Susan studied the map and tried to figure out how to navigate to her favorite paintings.  When we were admiring the Rodin statues, we came across a beautiful painting of Joan of Arc, by Jules Bastien-Lepage (French, 1848-1884).  Susan and I admired the artwork for many, many minutes.  We were fascinated by how Joan of Arc seemed so lifelike.  It was if she could pop off the canvas.  Her eyes seemed to tell a story.  Seeing the painting reminded me of the stories I heard as a child and how I admired her bravery.  You can see a photograph of the painting if you click here.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures at the Met until we got to the stained glass artwork and the angels:

We also saw the painting of George Washington Crossing the Delaware and the Egyptian Temple.  When we came to the gift shop, we realized that there was a coupon in our New York City Pass booklet.  We tried to decide if we wanted to buy anything and realized that it was almost 5:00.  I felt a little stressed and worried if we would make it to the show on time.

I was sad to leave the museum because I enjoyed it so much.  The traffic was heavy, big raindrops still fell, and we knew that at that time of day we wouldn’t be able to catch a cab.  We looked over at the commuters filing on the bus across the street and decided to ask some questions.  The people were so friendly and told us that the bus would drop us off right by our hotel.  We were thrilled that we learned another way to travel about NYC.  We used the same $30 pass that we used on the subway.

It was nice to have the doormen greet us.  Our hotel room looked so tidy, but we didn’t have time to stay.  We headed out the doors again, but this time we walked in the other direction to the subway.  When we got to our stop, and went up the steps, the crowds were much heavier in Times Square.  We passed by many shops.  We picked up our tickets at will call, and Susan led me over to Sardi’s.  We went to the upper floor, sat at the bar and ordered watermelon cosmopolitans and crackers and cheese.  People were standing in line in front of the Broadhurst Theatre.  A gentleman at the corner of the bar said, “I can’t believe the line.  I always wait up here until just before the show starts, and then go into the theatre.”  It sounded like a great idea to me as I munched on crackers and sipped my cosmo.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sitting at Sardi’s doing just what I was doing at that moment.  A picture of Lucille Ball smiled at me from across the room.

The man told us about his grandson who was in a play at the adjoining theatre and how his family members took turns being the actor’s biggest fan and making sure he got home safely.  We chatted for quite some time and noticed that the line was getting shorter.  We got up to leave around the same time.

I thought theater goers would dress up, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable wearing my jeans since the majority of the audience did too.  Some dressed like one would expect going to a Broadway show.  We read our playbill and waited for the show to start.  The play was written by Nora Ephron who also wrote When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, just to name a couple of things she did during her very successful career

Tom Hanks played a newspaper columnist, Mike McAlary.  McAlary’s career blossoms when he becomes the reporter who the criminals tell their stories to about the police.  It was difficult for me to watch Mr. Hanks puff on cigarettes and say the F-word because I always think of him as Woody or Josh.  It was a different role, and he played the part well.  I admire how he likes to be different characters.  The audience saw his humbleness shine through when he graciously bowed at the end.  It seemed like he truly appreciated the audience being there.

We went to Juniors Restaurant after being in the same room with Tom Hanks.  I had a ham sandwich which looked like it could feed my entire family.  I didn’t think I was very hungry, but I ate it all!  We talked about what a great job the cast did, and how much we enjoyed the performance.

Junior's Restaurant

When we walked through Times Square on the way to the subway, it was 10 times more crowded than the most crowded Minnesota State Fair that I ever attended.  I couldn’t believe that it was around 11:00 at night because the lights were brighter than a lot of Minnesota days!  I could have worn my sunglasses and been fine.  The subways were less crowded than the streets, and I felt comforted by the music of the man playing the steel drum.  He did an awesome job every time I saw him that week!

We made it back to our hotel, and planned the next day.  Even though I felt like a very lucky gal to have seen The Lucky Guy, little did I know that it would not turn out to be my favorite show of the trip.

To be continued…

Starbucks Helped us Make it Through!

The streets were very quiet Memorial Day morning.  The neighborhood wasn’t busy like it was the day before.  As I left the hotel, I asked the doorman if he knew where Starbucks was, and he pointed the way.  It felt a little strange to be walking all by myself.  Sometimes I felt like I should be afraid because I was in the Big City.  Then I realized that I didn’t have a reason to be.  I took a right turn by the DSW Shoe Store and walked a couple blocks down Broadway.  When I entered Starbucks, I was the only customer, and it was nice to have the individual attention!  On my walk back, I saw a few moms pushing their little ones in strollers.  People were busy working and moving boxes from trucks to buildings.  Only a few cabs and cars traveled along the road.

When I got back to our room, Susan and I ate protein bars and washed it down with some coffee.  We didn’t have time to stop for a leisurely breakfast because we were heading down to the 9/11 Memorial.

The subway was only a block away.  By the time we got to the bench to finish our coffees, the traffic had picked up, and more people wandered about. The bench was by a big grate and we heard the trains pass underneath.  After we finished, we walked down the steps.  As we went down each step it got darker and colder.

?????????????????Artwork at a Different Subway Station

I followed Susan’s lead.  I watched her slide her subway pass through the slot and push the turnstile to get through the gate.  Just a few people were waiting.  I stood back, and when I heard the loud rumbling coming closer, I stood back a little farther just to be sure.  The train stopped, and the doors opened wide.  We found a spot to sit right away.  After the doors closed, we sped up faster and faster.  The train swayed from side to side.  Passengers unknowingly bobbed to the rhythm.  The rumblings from the inside of the train were not as loud as they sounded when it first started to approach.  When we made it to our destination, we only had to walk a few blocks to the Memorial.  The taller buildings cast longer shadows here.  Susan, who I referred to as “My Tour Guide,” had taken care of the required reservations, which had no charge.  We pulled out our passes and entered the gate.  We joined the zigzag line of people.  There was quite a wait because we were told a film was being produced for military personnel.

No buildings shaded us.  We soaked up the warm sun because we knew at home everyone was suffering through more rainstorms.  Susan struck up a conversation with the couple standing in line in front of us.  The lady was originally from Reykjavik, Iceland.  She and her husband were on vacation, but were ready to go back home to Sweden to their two children.  She commented how nice it was to see so many people at the 9/11 Memorial on Memorial Day.

When the line began to move, we were told that we would have to go through an airport-type security.  Thankfully we didn’t have to take off our shoes.  We passed through the security check, and went back outside.  The first thing I noticed was the sound of water running.  The very large pools stand where the Twin Towers used to be.  The names of the people who died there are carved into the beautiful stone.  I watched the water fall.  Where the sun shined, the water sparkled.  The water fell down the upper walls, fell down another level and disappeared.

We were not able to visit the museum because it is scheduled to open next spring.  You can see the museum in some of these pictures.  It’s a short, lopsided building.

Being there reminded me of the scenes we saw on TV and the stories that we read in the newspapers.  It reminded me how we felt about the lives of the people who were lost, and how we grieved for them and their families.  I thought about how frightened they must have been and how heroic the firefighters and policemen were.

We also saw St. Paul’s Chapel.  Even though the church is very close to where the Twin Towers stood, it didn’t get damaged.  This is where the fence was, where people left mementos of their lost loved ones and where the recovery workers slept on pews and received round the clock care.

The old tombstones in the back of the church have been there so long that the names and dates have worn away.  Inside the church a choir sang.

We walked around that area and saw more sights:  The New York Stock Exchange Building, the Wall Street Bull, and Battery Park.  We also walked halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge, even though parts of it were under repair.

We ate Panini’s and found our way back to the subway.  We stopped to see Grand Central Station, visited Annie Moore’s for a cold beverage and then went back to our hotel.

That night we went to Chinatown.  We briefly tried to find Wo Hop, a very good Chinese restaurant.  We didn’t stay in Chinatown very long because we felt claustrophobic.  Many people surrounded us and asked if we wanted to buy a Rolex and other such things.  Thankfully, Little Italy was only a few steps away.  We found Di Nico, one of Susan’s favorite restaurants, and relaxed while we ate dinner outside.

When our orders came, we realized that one of the ladies next to us ordered the same pasta as I did, which led us to start a conversation.  Kate and Maddy, a mother and daughter, were visiting from London.  Maddy shared how her parents told her that they were going to send her on a trip to Ireland with her Mom, but then surprised her with a trip to New York City instead.  They had plans to spend a lot of time shopping.  It was great to meet them, and I loved listening to their wonderful English accents.

Kate and Maddy told us how they waited in line for 90 minutes just the other day to eat at Wo Hop.  They said that it was very good, but it was a very small restaurant.  If Susan and I would have found it, we never would have met Kate and Maddy.

A Band Marching Down the Street in Little Italy!

The eventful day had us feeling quite tired, and we were glad that Starbucks helped us make it through!  The next day we had tickets to see Tom Hanks in The Lucky Guy, and we were really looking forward to that!

To be continued…

Too Many Dogs!


Bernese Mountain Dog.  Photo Courtesy of www.praisephotography.com

“Want to come with us to the dog park?” I asked Katie.  The words “dog” and “park” are just a couple sounds that make Lila’s ears perk up.

“The dog park stinks,” said Katie.  Not only did Lila’s ears bounce again at the sounds of those words, so did she.

“Plus, I need coffee.”   Luckily, there is a Caribou Coffee on the way.

“We can get coffee on the way!”  I said.  Lila and I can count the number of times Katie has been to the dog park on one paw.  We were happy to have the company.

Lila continued to jump up every once in a while as she watched us search for our sunglasses, hats, mittens and boots.

Lila went straight to the van after I opened the garage door.  When we arrived at the coffee shop, we had to leave Lila alone for a few minutes.  I try not to leave her alone in the van, but she handled the short abandonment very well and the inside of the van was intact after we got back.

Lila started her whiney cry as we got closer to the park.

“What’s the matter?”  Katie asked.  “Is she always like this?”

“Yes, she’s excited.”  The closer we get to the park, the louder the whining gets.

“It’s crowded,” said Katie.

I opened the door, and instructed Lila to go to the gate.  I’ve learned to just let Lila find her way by herself once we arrive.  The times I’ve tried to leash her up and hold her back have not been very good on my sciatic nerve.

Lila barked at the gate as if she were instructing me to hurry.

“I’m coming,” I said while I watched her jump, almost as high as the top of the gate.

“Did you see that lab jump?” a lady commented to her friend.  People are always amazed.

Lila ran fast towards the pink tennis ball after I chucked it across the park.  Even though we haven’t had any snow for a while, the snow at the dog park is still a bright white, all except for the little yellow spots that can be seen here and there.  We followed Lila along the worn away path.

“Do those boots have any sort of grip on the bottom?”  I asked Katie as I looked at her Uggs.  It seemed as if I could walk faster with my unfashionable boots that didn’t slide about.

“No, they’re kind of hard to walk in on the snow,” said Katie.

Lila still does not drop the ball for me, but when other dogs greeted Lila she abandoned the ball and forgot where she left it.  I was able to grab it quick, and Lila noticed right away.

“Don’t even try to keep up, Howie,” a man said to his little dog.  Howie and the man watched Lila run after the tennis ball.

It was nice to be outside and enjoying the day.  All the hustle and bustle of the holidays didn’t leave much time for me to be outside with the dog.  The sunny, blue sky and the white snow made the dog park seem fresh and clean.  One of the joys of winter is that the usual bad smells are frozen.

As a Bernese mountain dog came running towards us on its way to Lila, Katie commented on how she liked the smaller dogs.  Another lab joined us all at the park and had somehow gotten Lila’s pink tennis ball.  For a minute I had a hard time telling the two labs apart.

“Ricky, that’s not yours,” I heard a lady say.  Ricky dropped the ball, ran and jumped up to lick a lady on her face.  I remembered back to the day when Lila used to do that to practically everyone she met.  Ricky made Lila look like a good girl!

“Can we go now?” Katie asked.  “There are just too many dogs here!”  Lila was ready to go too.  We went on our way, Katie still holding her Caribou coffee cup in her hand.

My Turn to Pay it Forward

“I hope I don’t see anyone I know in here today,” I said to Katie as I pulled open the door to our neighborhood Caribou coffee shop.  The smell of coffee beans wafted up and camouflaged any other odors.

“Me either,” she said.  We both had the same sort of outfits on and were both out in public without one smudge of makeup.  My sweatpants were not as cute as Katie’s leggings, but our grubby T-shirts complimented each other’s.  I guess you could say we were the closest that we would ever get to matching mother-daughter outfits.

The lady behind the counter patiently waited as we scanned the menu even though we knew all the latte and cooler combinations by heart.   She smiled as we quietly talked about whether we should order drinks for Laura and Matt or wait and order on our way out.  We decided we needed to sit down and chat for a while.  We quickly glanced at the customers and were relieved that we did not know one soul.

“I’ll have a small skim latte,” I said, and Katie ordered one of her favorite coolers.

“Is that all you want then?” the lady asked with one eyebrow slightly raised.

“Yes, that will be it.”

“The person who was here before you left this money,” she said as she held up a $10 bill.  “They said that I was to use it to pay for the next customers’ drinks.”

Katie looked amazed, and I mirrored her expression.

“That is the nicest thing!”  I said.  “We could really use a surprise like that today.  Thank you.”

I heard of things like that happening, and I thought that the timing was just perfect because inside I was feeling how I looked on the outside, and I think that feeling could have been gravitating over to Katie.

Right away, this gift of a cup of coffee got me thinking about how nice humanity can be.  It wasn’t only the caffeine that took me out of my grumpy mood that day.

Now, it’s my turn to pay it forward…  Who knows how much I could brighten someone’s day?