Travel: Things to Do in New York City — Antique Books, Dumplings, Kabobs

One of the perks of living in the New York City area is that we can bop into the city on weekends, but we still have a suburban home that costs less than a two bedroom apartment in the city. Not to mention that we have a driveway, laundry, and a backyard with a grill. We have regular chats about moving back to Manhattan, but then we always do that cost/benefit analysis and then shelve that conversation for a later time.

The quality of food is always on the plus side of any cost/benefit analysis of living in Manhattan. Pretty much any random restaurant in the city is a million times better than any place just a mile over the Hudson River. For example, we had subway dumplings yesterday. Yes, these dumplings came from a shop — Lisa’s Dumplings — that exists in the corridor of a subway. And it was seriously amazing. Highly recommend.

Then we split up. Steve and Ian roamed around Central Park checking out street musicians and Belvedere Castle. I took the subway to the Park Avenue Armory for the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair. I spotted a celebrity and lots of cool old books.

The armory itself was amazing – a turn of the century building with tons of woodwork. The staircase alone was jaw dropping.

Then we got drinks and kabobs at Kashkaval, an 11D favorite.

Travel: Cemetery Adventures in Vermont

On Tuesday morning in Vermont, it began to snow. A lot. But rather than heading straight home when we got into the car, Steve told me to plug in Hubbardton, Vermont into the GPS. He wanted to check out a grave of one of his ancestors.

We spent hours on unplowed rural roads to get to this cemetery. The cemetery was a small postage stamp off a field and up a hill with half foot of snow.

I thought I was going to die several times, no joke.

Old Samuel Churchill, Steve’s several greats grandfather, and his wife, Thankful, had a revolutionary battle fought in their front yard. They survived the battle, but the Indians and Tories burnt down their house and imprisoned the men at Fort Ticonderoga until they escaped. But those hardy folks, who were proud descendants of the second ship after the Mayflower, were too mean to die off. They were fruitful and multiplied and gave me my husband, so I am rather grateful.

Normally a six hour drive from Jersey to Stowe, we spent the whole day in the car. But we met an old relative, learned a new story, and drove through the most beautiful country side. I’ve been Zillowing the hell out of those towns looking for a fantasy vacation cabin.

Travel: Mental Health Break in Stowe, Vermont

Before we left for our long weekend in Vermont, I was wound very tightly. My daily calendar had been packed with family and work chores for weeks. I didn’t realize how burnt out I was, until we walked into the house on Tuesday night, and I realized that I was relaxed. Oh, that’s how relaxed feels! It was nice.

I’m a terrible skier. My urban, working-class parents never took us skiing, viewing the activity with the same skepticism as others might view eating bugs or sky diving. Why the hell would someone want to do something like that? So, I only got on skis for the first time in my 20’s with a friend who taught me how to ski by pushing me down a black diamond. Imagine me head first in a snow drift with my skis skidding down the mountain without me.

But I always wanted to be the type of person who skis. People who ski are blond and athletic and healthy. It’s a great winter activity. So, we try to get our kids on skis every year. Even the autistic kid is better than I am. This year, we went to Stowe, Vermont to ski, and I did some bunny slope action. I didn’t fall, but it wasn’t pretty.

Stowe is a rich person’s town in the middle of rural state where the median income is $57,000. It is problematic. But it’s still beautiful. In -9 degree weather, we bundled up and tromped though the woods, poked our heads into little shops of art and cute purses, and drank local brews next to toasty fireplaces.

  • Links:
  • Stow Ski slope (Don’t buy your tickets at the mountain. Find a good package deal on line, before you show up.)
  • Ben and Jerry tour
  • Stowe Mercantile – Tasteful souvenirs
  • The Boutique – For when you need to get away from sporting stuff, and buy yourself something girlie.
  • I had many Von Trapp beers. We also got a nice sandwich in their bakery. Great grounds at the lodge that you can explore without staying in the hotel, which actually looks a little sad.
  • Downtown Burlington is good for an afternoon. If you overlook the mall stores, there’s plenty of other stuff to do, like outdoorsy boutiques and comic book stores. University of Vermont is up the block and gives you a great view of the downtown and Lake Champlain. Last time, we were there in the summer time and took a boat ride along the lake, which is gorgeous even if is not a Great Lake — a fact that my hubby from Cleveland felt was super important.
  • Ski and Snow Inn. A nicely renovated former motel with a pub and a bowling alley. Across the street from a nice trail, where you can cross country ski (rental place is also across the street). Ten minute drive to the slopes. Would totally stay there again.

(Okay, I know we want to talk about last night’s debate. Let me get finish this post, and we’ll talk.)

Apt. 11D Gift Guides 2019: Camping and Travel

We love camping. We have a large shelving unit in the basement filled with equipment, so we can take off for a weekend trip on a moment’s notice.

Here’s a blog post of one of our trips this summer and another post with products that we use and love.

REI is having a big sale right now. I like their men’s base layer crew top, sleeping pads, women’s jacket, and pullover.

At Amazon, check out the headlamp, tent, sleeping bag, lantern flashlight, stove, and a rooftop car carrier for all the crap.

This year, we traveled to North Carolina, England, Scotland, Toronto, and Chicago. Next year, we’ll do more, because travel is something that binds my family together.

Our current suitcases are ten-year old Samsonites, which I purchased at Kohl’s using Kohl Bucks. I’ll probably upgrade next year. I do love Tumi, but they might be a notch too high of a price point for me. Maybe we’ll do a TravelPro.

As I’ve said before, I love packing for travel. This year, I used a universal adaptor, a travel pillow, travel backpack, packing cubes. I’m looking around for the best travel jewelry case, but haven’t decided which one I love the most.

The Unbearable Misery of Traveling in September

Around here, the schools close for two days in September for the Jewish holidays. Seems like a perfect opportunity for a quick vacation, right? The weather is still nice, but the crowds are gone. The autistic kid doesn’t have friends, so it makes him much more portable. We switched around some tutoring time, and we’re good to go.

A couple of years ago, we used this break for a quick trip up to Lake George. This year, Ian and I hitched a ride to Toronto with Steve, who had a business trip there.

But both September trips were kinda “meh,” because it’s really a bummer to be at a place that isn’t set up for tourists. Sites are closed; others are a little depressing. Meanwhile, both Steve and I are in work-mode, so we’re either feeling guilty about not working or answering work e-mails from the top of CN Tower.

And this trip involved some serious transportation hassles. Toronto is actually very close to us. The flight is only 1-1/2 hours on a tiny plane that flies into a little island in the downtown area. Should be piece of cake. But still, it felt we were traveling for the entire day.

Slightly sleep deprived – I’m a terrible hotel sleeper — we cut corners when we could. We lugged our suitcases to the airport in a cab, rather than waiting 30 minutes for the free shuttle, for example. But still it was a whole day affair. Customs, suitcase weigh-ins (failed/had to check a bag), security, cab rides home, cushion time, taxi home in rush hour. The whole process probably took six or seven hours.

The autistic kid got a gold star and kept his frustrations to himself. Mostly.

On the way back home, the driver of the car service yelled at Steve for nearly the entire 40 minute trip home, because Steve texted him too early. Steve hadn’t considered that it was going to take over an hour to process our passports, pick up luggage, and then go another mysterious 30 minute line. The dude had to circle the airport for an entire hour, because there’s no place to wait with a cab.

Getting from Point A to Point B was so miserable yesterday that I can’t imagine flying again for quite a while. How do people, who travel frequently for work, survive this process without despairing?

Travel: Camping, Outdoorsy Stuff in Roscoe and Livingston Manor, NY (Catskills)

About halfway between the NYC metropolitan area and the upstate New York Colleges is the Roscoe Diner. Now, it’s nothing fancy. You’re safe going for the diner usuals, like the grilled cheese deluxe, pancakes, a burger, but eat at your own risk on the rest of the menu. Still, this joint has always been a ritual pitstop on the way to college with fresh linen and clean notebooks, and on the way back with a killer handover. The Roscoe diner knows its place in the world and is profusely decorated with college pennants from all over the country.

I did my share of hangover pancakes there in the 80s, as my folks drove me back from SUNY Binghamton. Over the years, we’ve camped in the area. So, I can say with confidence that I’ve been visiting Roscoe, NY for thirty years.

It has changed.

Prohibition Distillery, Roscoe, NY

That whole area is infested with Brooklyn and Upper West Side New York people now. In addition to the Roscoe diner, there have a restaurant where you can get brick oven pizza with a ramp pesto. There’s an artisanal gin company. Over priced farmers markets. Ironic furniture stores. The gays moved in and gentrified the place.

Now, I have mixed feelings about all this, because, truth be told, the ramp pizza was excellent. We got loaded at the distillery and bought some excellent gin. But it’s a little annoying to see people on vacation, who probably (let’s just admit it) look a lot like us. Sigh.

And the locals clearly have mixed feelings about the rich folks moving in. On the one hand, they like to sell them overpriced produce and sandwiches. On the other, the new people jacked up property values and have all the wrong bumper stickers.

The locals are Trump voters. Massive banners on the side of barns announce, “Farmers For Trump!” They like their guns up there, too, so they view the gun haters/tourists with major distrust.

Tense politics and questionable fellow vacationers aside, this area of the Catskills is gorgeous. There are a ton of opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and canoeing. It’s hard to take a bad photograph there. We had a marvelous time and will probably head back up there in a couple week for an Octoberfest.

Here are the links to things to do:

  • Camping at Russell Brook. Tents and Cabins. Privately owned. Has a game room for kids and hosts events like Bingo on the weekend for regulars in the trailers and the tent people. A general store where you can buy things that you forgot for double the price.
  • Al’s Sports store Fishing licenses, canoe and kayak rentals, organized trips. We canoed down the East Branch Delaware. 3 to 4 hour trip. Al’s wife followed Steve’s car down to Roscoe and then brought him back up to the sports store, so we canoed to our car. Left the canoes down there.
  • Prohibition Distillery in Roscoe. Super nice vodka and gin.
  • Roscoe Beer Company in Roscoe.
  • Kaatskeller, Livingston Manor. Outdoor beer garden and fancy pizza place. Can hang out for long time and use their wifi.
  • Main Street Farm. This place has been around for a while. Nice earthy, crunchy place. Sandwiches and soups.
  • Brandenburg Bakery, Inc. Seriously must go there. We had the donuts and two or three kinds of bread. Got some loaves on the way out of town for home.
  • The Red Rose Motel. I think it’s a boutique hotel right now. We didn’t see the rooms. We went to the tavern. Nice burgers and beer in hipster joint. Played chess and used the wifi for hours.