What's Wrong With Their Home?

That's the question people might ask if they took a look at our travel schedule in 2017! Luckily, we love our home...but we also like to explore the world.  We especially love to explore it with people we love and meet new friends all over the globe. Travel is all about connecting with people all over the world, and we feel very fortunate to have met and traveled with so many incredible people. We are grateful to all the people who followed our adventures and those who shared their corner of the world with us! We especially want to thank the folks who shared THEIR trips with us in our GoSeeIt People interviews. (You can find the interviews here)  We love hearing about your travels too! THANK YOU! We hope you have many safe travels in 2018 and wish the very best in the coming year!

Over the last year here are some of the places we've been able to explore.  Click on any link to see more photos in our posts and learn more about each destination! (Next week, we will share where we are headed next!)

What A Year! 

Shanghai, China

 A trip to visit our daughter in NYC took us to some of the less visited places in NYC...Flatbush, Harlem, DUMBO. See our trip report here! And about the more popular places in  NYC here  and  here .

A trip to visit our daughter in NYC took us to some of the less visited places in NYC...Flatbush, Harlem, DUMBO. See our trip report here! And about the more popular places in NYC here and here.

 Exploring Venice from the water

Exploring Venice from the water

 This small country offers environment from coastal to alpine, as is seen here at Lake Bled, as well as one of the prettiest little European capitals, Ljubljana. 

This small country offers environment from coastal to alpine, as is seen here at Lake Bled, as well as one of the prettiest little European capitals, Ljubljana. 

 Gentlemen outside a cafe in Cavtat

Gentlemen outside a cafe in Cavtat

 The gorges leading to the port of Kotor in Montenegro. 

The gorges leading to the port of Kotor in Montenegro. 

 Candles outside of the St Spyridon's Orthodox Church in Corfu, Greece

Candles outside of the St Spyridon's Orthodox Church in Corfu, Greece

 A Maltese balcony on Republic Street flies the EU and Matlese flags. 

A Maltese balcony on Republic Street flies the EU and Matlese flags. 

An incredible day hike up Mt Etna with 3 mountaineers, wine and homemamde parmigiana!

 A local character in Nocello greets visitors who hike The Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast

A local character in Nocello greets visitors who hike The Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast

Rome

Bernini Old Boat Fountain at the Spanish Steps in Rome

Montreal

Montreal put on a warm welcome before the Christmas holidays. 

What To Do with Two Gammy's and a Graduate on an Epic Road Trip?

Day Trip in the Finger Lakes

Story and Photos by Kathy Klofft

Ok, maybe not THAT epic, but when you pack your septuagenarian mother and octogenarian mother in law into a van along with a 20 year old college student and a newly minted college graduate for a day trip in the Finger Lakes District of upstate NY, you have the what sounds like the trailer of bad buddy movie!  Fortunately for us, it had a happy ending, and we were treated to a beautiful May day in the Finger Lakes! Here's our itinerary and some ideas for things to do in this "gorges" area!

The Finger Lakes are actually a series of 11 lakes in narrow, deep gorges created by the glaciers, and they are also "gorgeous"!  (That's the end of my geology puns, I promise!) With vineyards along the steep slopes of the pristine lakes, the views are breathtaking at every turn. Because my family was in town for a busy weekend of graduation activities, we had only one day to explore the area, so we stayed close to the college, and visited the western shore of Canandaigua Lake.  Even just visiting a small area and during the quiet spring season, it was easy to see why this region is popular with tourists! 

 A boat launch near Naples NY

A boat launch near Naples NY

We started our day early with a visit to the Sonnenburg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park.  The park is located in Canandaigua, NY, not far from the NY Throughway, and makes a nice start to a day exploring the Finger Lakes.   One could easily spend a whole day here. There are 50 acres of gardens and green houses on the property, in addition to the beautifully restored mansion built in 1887 for Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson. 

At the admission booth, you'll get a map of the property and can plan your visit.  We decided to start in the Green House Conservatory Complex with the orchid house.  The Nectarine House was filled with orchids, succulents and cactus.  Incredible statuary is mixed in among the plants, and there is a fun scavenger hunt for the children, to look for "faces" among the artwrok in both the gardens and in the mansion!

 The Nectarine House with Sonnenburg Garden's collection of prizewinning orchids

The Nectarine House with Sonnenburg Garden's collection of prizewinning orchids

 Garden statues are tucked among the lush foliage in the orchid green house.

Garden statues are tucked among the lush foliage in the orchid green house.

If you are visiting with anyone mobility challenges, or just want to save some energy, with you can take a complimentary golf cart shuttle from place to place. I recommend taking the shuttle to the mansion at the top of the hill and then meandering downhill through all the gardens. If you start in the green houses at the beginning, cooler part of the day, you'll enjoy them more!

 A view of the Gardens from the mansion

A view of the Gardens from the mansion

The mansion is very well preserved. Docents offer tours or you can wander around on your own.  In addition to the spectacular distant views to the lakes , the Victorian era furnishings and antiques are beautiful.  Unlike some historic homes open to the public, you truly feel as though you have stepped inside the Thompson's home as a guest and that they still live there and might step out to great you at any moment!

(click on any image above to expand)

Be sure to ask your docent to explain the significance of this poster...it seems the homeowners caught a lucky break when they canceled their passage on the Titanic to tend their gardens!!

We left behind the Sonnenburg mansion and gardens long before we could explore everything they had to offer, including an enticing outdoor cafe, and a gift shop.  We will need to return to see more of the gardens, and one could visit several times in a single summer and see different things blooming!

The lake views beckoned so we skipped visiting the town of Canandaigua, which has plenty of shops, and lake front restaurants to offer. We took a drive along Route 16 and enjoyed views of Canandaigua Lake to the east.  The lake banks in many places were terraced with grape arbors and we saw lots of places offering wine tastings and tours! 

 Canandaigua Lake

Canandaigua Lake

It was too cold for a swim, so we decided to take in some of the recommendations we had crowd sourced from the parent Face Book page at our daughters university. Our first stop was Roots Cafe.  A popular farm to table restaurant set in a roadside home hard by the Inspire Moore vineyard.  

 Roots cafe in Naples NY

Roots cafe in Naples NY

We chose a table on the porch, and perused the menu of locally sourced specialties, including three unique daily salad, mac and cheese and soup specials offered.  Not being able to narrow our choices we ordered nearly one of everything offered on the menu and shared!

 Bright colors, real flowers and a real vineyard next door add ambiance to the excellent food.

Bright colors, real flowers and a real vineyard next door add ambiance to the excellent food.

(click on any image above to expand)

Despite the tempting offerings, we skipped dessert because we had been advised to check out Monica's Pies for dessert.  Beginning our trip back north from Naples to Canandaigua we stopped at Monica's Pies, which came highly recommended by everyone we spoke to about the area. This famous pie shop doesn't offer a spot to dine, but you can pick up pies and other yummies for the road!

 In addition to delicious pies, and other sweet treats, Monica's offers some grape related gifts.

In addition to delicious pies, and other sweet treats, Monica's offers some grape related gifts.

While Monica's grape pie is the claim to fame, I can attest that the strawberry rhubarb and caramel apple pies were also delicious.  I should have taken a photo of the pies, but they simply didn't last long enough for photography!

After a wonderful lunch at Roots Cafe and some goodies from Monica's Pies, we made our way back to campus via route 64, which gave us some lovely distant views above the lake and offered more tempting wineries to visit. Additionally, had our group been more fleet of foot and less tempted by all the foodie delights the area had to offer, we could have hiked several of the lovely trails and parks in this area. Next time we will plan to stop at Honeoye Wildlife Management Area.  We would also have liked to see the beautiful falls at Grimes Glen.  And we visited New York's Wine Country and never even got to do any wine tasting!

Whoever is in the cast of your road tripping buddy movie in upstate NY, there is something fun for everyone to do along the shores of Canandaigua Lake!

Broadway Con...yes, its a thing!

And our friend Sara E. went and wants to tell you all about it!

A GoSeeIt People Interview

Sara E as "Elle" from Legally Blond at the first Broadway Con in NYC Jan 2015

We dance with Sara E. about once a week at Zumba class, so it's no surprise to learn she's a big fan of Broadway musicals.  When she told us she was attending the first BroadwayCon in NYC, we said..."Wait? What?  That's a thing?" (see we can speak millennial when we have to!) Well, it IS a thing, and Sara went last January and graciously shared her experiences and photos with us. If you want to Go See It...this years BroadwayCon (click for a link) is being held January 27-29th in NYC.  It's described by organizers as "the theater's answer to a Comic con" for fans of theater. Enjoy Sara's interview and photos, and if you decide to go, you'll probably need to pledge your first born child for Hamilton Tickets, but it costs nothing to get dressed up as Hamilton!

 

1- How did you decide on this destination? Why did you want to go? 

SE: There were a couple factors that lead me to the first ever BroadwayCon in New York City this January. First, I had recently returned from the fourth season of ATX, the television experience festival held in Austin, when I came across an announcement about a convention for Broadway fans to be held in January. The festival was a fantastic way to engage with fellow fans and really embrace the fandom in person. I knew I had to go and immediately put the ticket release date in my calendar. Second, being from Massachusetts, I try to visit New York City at least twice a year, usually with a Broadway show or two on the itinerary. Third, Hamilton. If you are not familiar with the Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about the founding father, I highly recommend you check out their performance from the Grammy’s and be ready to listen to the rest of the cast recording on repeat for the next several weeks. And this was a great way to get to see the cast, since the show is so difficult to get into these days. Fourth, it just seemed like a lot of fun.

 

2- How did you plan your trip? Did you use a travel agent or tour? 

SE: I planned my trip around the Con, booking the accommodations at the Hilton where it was held for the entirety. Amtrak was very convenient for the trip to and from Boston.

 

3- What did you do while you were on this trip? 

SE: While on this trip I immersed myself in Broadway fandom. And it was an action-packed weekend. The Con had a variety of panels and workshops and sing-alongs and games and goodies encompassing all aspects of what brings a show to life and available for an audience. There was, of course, the Hamilton panel with the cast. It concluded with the entire room singing the Schuyler Sisters without errors (you can find it on YouTube). There was a Rent 20-year anniversary panel, as this event was within a couple days of the anniversary of the first off-Broadway performance of the show, with many of the original cast sharing memories either in person or through video. Several members of the cast and crew were kind enough to put memorabilia from the show together in a museum exhibit for attendees to view. On the not show specific end, I attended several panels about the history of certain shows, decades, and theaters. One morning I participated in a fitness workshop. There really was so much going on, I can’t list it all here.

 

4- what surprised you about this place? Is there a "don't miss it" attraction? 

SE: BroadwayCon has so many “don’t miss it” moments that you have to skip some in order to catch others. It was all about prioritizing and exploring. For example, taking a break for lunch and still finding time to slip into the back of the Waitress panel just in time for an unplanned performance by Sara Bareilles on the piano. (Ed Note: Sara described this as a highlight! We  attended the show Waitress with Sara Bareilles in June, and can attest she's an incredible performer and this is a wonderful, somewhat easier ticket to get if you can't get into Hamilton if you are looking for a show!)

 

Don't forget your costumes!  Sara as "Brooke" from Legally Blond.

5- what tips would you give for someone who wants to visit? Anything special you should pack? 

SE: Most important things to pack are show-related items. Cosplay is huge at this Con. Here is the place to display appreciation for shows both classic and modern. This year there was plenty of the instant modern classic Hamilton, with a number of King George IIIs, Schuyler Sisters, and Hamiltons walking the hallways. I went with two characters from Legally Blonde the Musical, Elle Woods and Brooke Wyndham. It was a great experience being recognized as these characters and being asked to pose for photos with fellow fans. I even got a chance to go on the Main Stage with others in Cosplay to show off our looks.

 

6- is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your trip? 

SE: This trip happened to coincide with the blizzard that shut down NYC. While this is something that can’t be planned, it was an experience like no other and I recommend it. All the public transportation was shut down for the day. No yellow taxis were whizzing around city corners. There were no sit down or take out restaurants available not associated with a hotel. It was out of a sci-fi movie. With mountains of snow on the sidewalks and few vehicles on the street it was safer to walk in the middle of the street, and that is a very rare experience in Midtown.

Sara E (@_Miss_Sara_E) is a twenty-something life sciences professional from Massachusetts who loves to travel. This January she attended BroadwayCon, the convention for Broadway fans held in New York City. (ed. note: she's also a darn good Zumba dancer!)

A Bike Ride Around Manhattan

"You rode a bike in New York City?!! Are you crazy?!" We heard this more than once when we returned from a recent NYC summer weekend visit. We may, in fact, BE crazy, but you don't have to be to ride a bike in NYC.  Amazingly, it's not as difficult or perilous as it sounds! I had found this idea in a newsletter from the travel agency, Active Travels, (http://www.activetravels.com/explore/ ) which specializes in personalized membership travel planning services for people looking for active vacations. (Full Disclosure: I am a member, but receive no compensation from their business for writing about my experiences) 

 

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When we decided to visit the city on a sunny June weekend, when nearly every NY resident was headed for the Hamptons, I knew the Hudson River Greenway (http://www.nycbikemaps.com/maps/manhattan-waterfront-greenway-bike-map/  ) ride mentioned by Active Travels would be the perfect way for us to see the city! I googled to find a bike rental shop within walking distance of our hotel and located Central Park Tours (https://www.centralparktours.net) which was well reviewed on Trip Advisor. The small store front on Broadway organizes guided tours, but it was also easy to go on our own and rent bikes for the day or by the hour. We reserved online ahead of time and our bikes were ready to go when we arrived at 10 AM. (I had contacted them ahead of time and received a timely response, and they had a bike big enough for Jeff, who is quite tall!) Although it's easy to use the Citibikes  (https://www.citibikenyc.com) stationed in various locations around the city these seem better for residents and visitors making point to point trips. We preferred to rent bicycles we could use for multiple destinations and also be provided a helmet and bike lock and a phone number for support should the bicycle break down. 

Its also possible to completely circumnavigate Manhattan by following dedicated bike trails and lanes along the East River and around Harlem. Since we wanted to make multiple stops, we only did a partial circle around the city from midtown to Battery Park on the Hudson River Greenway and back to Midtown via the East River Greenway. 

 

 Navigating weekend crowds near Broadway on a bike can be challenging, especially when roads are shut down to traffic! The Hudson River Greenway, is a relaxing way to circle Manhattan, and explore many NYC sights. 

Navigating weekend crowds near Broadway on a bike can be challenging, especially when roads are shut down to traffic! The Hudson River Greenway, is a relaxing way to circle Manhattan, and explore many NYC sights. 

We fought our way through the crowds Times Square on foot and then made our way to the Hudson River Greenway at 51st street. One of the thing I told my incredulous friends was that because traffic is so thick, riding with the traffic isn't that difficult because all vehicles are traveling at about the same speed (about 10-20 mph)

My Tips for Riding in NYC

1- It's best suited for people who have some comfort with urban bike riding, although the the Hudson River Greenway is a dedicated bike path, it does have multiple traffic crossings, shares the trail with pedestrians. The East River Geeenway and Harlem River Greenways occasionally follows public streets where dedicated bike lanes that are not always clearly marked. While a short ride on part of the greenway might be suitable for children, a full circuit could be challenging with young children on their own bikes. 

2-It's not a crazy idea to wear a helmet! Bring your own water bottle, unlike other rental places, we weren't provided water bottles at Central Park Tours. 

3- NYC is easy to navigate with a clear grid of numbered streets and avenues.  Ride with a good map or plan your route on a map routing app. Be sure to move completely off the paths to check the maps and even though we saw it happen, it's not safe to use your phone while riding unless it's hands free.  Central Park Tours provided an excellent free map. 

4- Be sure to observe all rules of the road. Every city has different laws, and we were told that in NYC, bikes are not allowed on sidewalks and pedestrian walkways, except where clearly marked as allowed. We walked out bikes anytime we needed to be on the sidewalk and we were careful to lock the bikes anytime we stopped and stepped away from them even for a few moments.

 After joining the Hudson River Greenway, we came upon the Intrepid Museum, located on an aircraft carrier.  

After joining the Hudson River Greenway, we came upon the Intrepid Museum, located on an aircraft carrier.  

Our first stop was the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum ( http://www.intrepidmuseum.org) although we didn't "board" this aircraft carrier museum, we took some time to explore it from the dock. 

We traveled a bit inland hoping to ride through Greenwhich Village and find Washington Square Park, with its arch, made famous by its appearance in many popular movies! 

 The arch in Washington Square Park

The arch in Washington Square Park

 A busker creates bubbles for children to play with in Washington Square Park

A busker creates bubbles for children to play with in Washington Square Park

We rode a bit further south to lower Mahattan to see the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorials built to honor the victims of the events of 9/11. It was our first time seeing this magnificently made memorial and we paid our respects at the walls and waterfalls which with the dark granite and waters falling into the ground, beautifully convey the massiveness of this tragedy while respectfully honoring the thousands of victims. Timed tickets for the observation area at One World Trade Center can be purchased (https://oneworldobservatory.com), as can tickets for the 9/11 Memorial Museum  (http://www.911memorial.org), but we just took time to see the outdoor memorial fountains in the footprint of the original buildings which are free and open to the public.

 The dramatic 9/11 Memorial waterfall fills the foot prints of the original buildings.

The dramatic 9/11 Memorial waterfall fills the foot prints of the original buildings.

 Black granite walls surrounding the falls are engraved with the names of those who were lost in each tower and the plane that hit the tower.

Black granite walls surrounding the falls are engraved with the names of those who were lost in each tower and the plane that hit the tower.

After the moving 9/11 memorials, we made our way to Battery Park. Bikes are required to be walked in the park, or can be locked up at the entrances. From here we were able to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The tour ferries to these attractions can be accessed from the park. we didn't take the ferries to the islands, but based on the lines we saw, it would be best to book timed tickets for these on a busy summer weekend. 

 We weren't done with emotional memorials, we saw this one for the Merchant Marines in Battery Park.  

We weren't done with emotional memorials, we saw this one for the Merchant Marines in Battery Park.  

 A view of the Statue of Liberty.  

A view of the Statue of Liberty.  

Throughout Battery Park, there are food carts of all kinds- this one appealed to me! 

 The grilling crew at Luke's at the Battery

The grilling crew at Luke's at the Battery

 Lobster by the sea! Like most of the food in New York, even when (maybe, especially when) it comes from a truck- excellent! 

Lobster by the sea! Like most of the food in New York, even when (maybe, especially when) it comes from a truck- excellent! 

After touring the park on foot, we carried on to the East River Greenway and took a harrowing bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge. While the views were worth it, the pedestrian crowds made it challenging to use the dedicated bike lane. The little bell provided on our bikes got quite a workout! The attendant at Central Park Tours suggested an excellent route in Brooklyn to see the Manhattan skyline from across the Green River. 

 Views from the Brooklyn Bridge

Views from the Brooklyn Bridge

At the UN, the trail joins public streets. This section requires some comfort with urban riding, as we were on streets in a bike lane riding with city traffic. Rather than continuing all the way around the north end of the island, we headed into midtown to bike in Central Park. (http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/ )

Quickly running out of time on our bike rental,  we didn't get to see much of Central Park. Most of the paths are dedicated for walking only, so we were only able to ride around exterior parts of the park. We didn't find many signs in the park to help visitors understand where they were and found it difficult to navigate inside the park. Because Central Park Tours offers biking tours of the parks, that might be something I'd like to try one day to see more of the park! 

 The Bethesda Fountain- another iconic NYC site used as a setting in many major films.

The Bethesda Fountain- another iconic NYC site used as a setting in many major films.

Despite our friends concerns about biking in NYC, we found it to be a pleasant experience overall and an excellent way to see much of the city during a short period of time. NYC is certainly known as a walking city, and it is! But on a short, busy summer weekend visit, we were able to cover twice the distance on a bike than we could on foot, and probably moved at twice the speed of a taxi or Uber to get there! 

If you are planning a trip to NYC- I recently learned about a local blogger, The New York City Native, who shares her insider tips about the city (http://thenewyorknative.com) I found out about her 2 weeks too late to take advantage of her expertise for my trip, but her blog offers a variety of in-the-know entertainment options, including lots of free choices! Regular readers of my blog know how I love local guides, and a good local blogger can help with planning a visit that includes those special insider experiences you can't get from reading a guide book! 

Photo Walk in Albany, New York

Albany New York

 The New York State Capitol building. Architects were Thomas Fuller and Henry Hobson Richardson

The New York State Capitol building. Architects were Thomas Fuller and Henry Hobson Richardson

I'll try avoid making the joke that it's a "capitol" idea! (But then I just did, didn't I?!) But Albany had more to offer than I was expecting!  Albany is the capitol of New York, but of course New York City is the largest city by a huge margin.  Albany, with it's population of less than 100,000 people (according to the 2013 census) is really a small town with big architecture.  In the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century, when it was popular for capitol cities to show off with architecture and hold expos, some of the country's best architects came to Albany flex their muscles.  With the city was growing, banks and other industry booming, beautiful buildings went up trying to mimic iconic avenues of NYC.  Of course the city suffered in the middle and end of the 20th century, and buildings sat empty.  The advantage of this stall in Albany's fortunes was that the old wasn't cleared away for the new and now that things are on an upswing again, the gorgeous architecture remains, waiting for a responsible hand to return them to their former glory.

Although more than a few gorgeous buildings sport "available" signs, many developers have renovated buildings with respect for the original architecture. These renovations have married some modern "cool" (in particular with lighting and interiors; there seems to be a lot of neon lighting accents) with the traditional. The over all effect is that State Street is a delightful place to see some incredible architecture,  in just over an hour, we did a short photo walk up and down State Street and the area. It would also be a good place to spend a relatively inexpensive weekend. (To see our Trip Report for Albany click here

Note: As is often the case, Jeff decided to share architectural photos in black and white to better highlight the architecture

 A view down State St Albany to the SUNY Administration Buildings

A view down State St Albany to the SUNY Administration Buildings

 View up Washington St towards the Albany City Hall

View up Washington St towards the Albany City Hall

 This little building on State St is available, with incredible details, it sits all alone!

This little building on State St is available, with incredible details, it sits all alone!

 This Philip Hooker building houses the Bank of America today

This Philip Hooker building houses the Bank of America today

 A beautiful trio of organ pipe buildings on Eagle St housing shops and an Irish pub our concierge recommended. 

A beautiful trio of organ pipe buildings on Eagle St housing shops and an Irish pub our concierge recommended. 

 At the far end of State Street, the SUNY Administration building dominates, it was a former railroad building opened in 1913.

At the far end of State Street, the SUNY Administration building dominates, it was a former railroad building opened in 1913.

Our experience during our short visit is that Albany is full of architecture that lives larger than the size of the city.  As such, it's a fun architectural museum to take a photo walk. Here are some of Jeff's tips for an architectural photo walk.

Some  photography tips for shooting buildings:

-Shoot (or process) architecture in black and white to highlight the architectural details. On an overcast day the sky isn't an interesting color in any case.

-Get low, and shoot up; it cleans up the clutter on the street (cars, parking meters) and the sky gives creates a clean background. 

-Be patient, wait for cars or pedestrians to walk by- although this is a rule to be broken if you see an interesting pedestrian walking by, it can give the photo a sense of place.

-Take some close ups of interesting details in the architecture. 

-Take the "post card" picture first, you can't move the building, but if you move YOU, you might get a better shot! "Work" the building by moving around it for other interesting angles or frames and to remove distracting details like poles and wires. 

-With all urban photography its a good idea to have a partner to watch your back for traffic or street thieves (we encountered very little of the first and none of the latter on our weekend trip in Albany!)