Our New York Adventure

Everyone got a break from the month of Tater this weekend as my family embarked on a New York City adventure. I’m back!

We had to wait until Friday afternoon to leave as we were waiting for my son to arrive so he could go with us.  We got to the city around 7pm and checked in to our hotel. My wife saw the room and immediately said he was not spending the weekend there. She called the hotel we used last year, confirmed they had a room and then told the front desk to refund our money. I admit that I was really irritated during this. I was hungry and wanted a little time to explore before sleeping. I will also admit that it was a good decision. The person at the first hotel refused to answer questions about parking and the room was tiny. The people at the Chelsea Savoy were very helpful and the room was a good size and cheaper than the first hotel. They recommended a local diner(where they gave us free cookies as we left), we had dinner there and then it was time to sleep.

Saturday was a long, busy and faun day. We started the day walking the High Line, an elevated railway turned in to a park. It was a nice walk and a good way to start the day.

We then circled up to Macy’s and then to Times Square. We wandered around a bit, had lunch and then went to our reason for being in the city: Hamilton!

The show was great. I already knew I loved the music, but it is so much better when watching the show. Such a great experience and I was happy to be able to share it with both of my kids. We left the show, went to the Christmas village at Bryant Park, walked up to 5th Avenue, Rockefeller Center and then headed back to the hotel. It was a long day, it rained for a good portion of the walk after the show, but it was a great day.

Sunday we checked out of the hotel and drove up to Central Park to explore some before leaving the city.  It was a cold and windy morning, but we survived.

We left the park and headed out of the city. We stopped in Hoboken for lunch and some goodies at Carlo’s Bake Shop.

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It was a quick trip and we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to see, but it was a nice break from life and it was really good to have both of our kids with us again. I can’t wait to do it again.

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Tater Takes Manila

My wife’s job takes her to a yearly conference at an overseas location. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to tag along with her on trips to Helsinki, Santiago, Seoul and Livingstone(Zambia). The most recent conference was in Manila last week. I’m really bad at blogging my travels, but I will attempt it here.

The trip from DC to Manila takes 24 hours. We left DC at 9AM Saturday and arrived in Manila at 9PM on Sunday local time. All of our flights were on time and had in-seat movies. I don’t know how people ever flew this long without all of the movie selections to take your mind off being trapped in a tiny seat for this long. The travel experience on United and ANA were the best that can be expected with economy fees.

Our first day in the area, our assigned driver and guide took us to Tagaytay City. We went to a hotel overlook where it was too foggy to see the view, a puzzle museum, a country club and a nice lunch at a Filipino restaurant. The puzzle museum was odd, but it is in the Guinness Book of World Records. In retrospect,  I wish we had not let them talk us out of taking the boat out to the volcano. It was a decent day, but nothing exciting.

The next day we went on a tour of Manila. We went to Intramuros(the historic walled area within Manila), Ft. Santiago, and Rizal Park. This was the only day we really had to deal with rain and it rained quite a bit. The rain did give my daughter a chance to make fun of my poncho. This was much more what I was looking for in a tour. I love walking around historic areas. We learned the history of Jose Rizal, saw his cell, his place of execution and his monument. In the middle, we had lunch at Jollibee, a fast food restaurant based in Manila, for which my wife has a weird love. It was a good day.

The next two days my wife was in conference so we were on our own. We could have asked the drivers to take us places, but we opted to stay within a walkable area of our hotel. It turned out that the only thing within walking distance of our hotel were hotels, restaurants, malls and one small park. The first day we walked around for about an hour and went back to the hotel because the heat index was 115-130 degrees. That night, my wife and I went to the official welcome dinner for the delegates. The food was good, but I found it odd that they had karaoke set up and people sang throughout dinner. They also only served water with the food and only asked if we wanted something else to rink after dinner. The official dinners are usually much more wine filled than this. The second day we went to the SM Megamall(the 4th biggest mall in the world) and another upscale mall across from our hotel. We also went back to the Megamall that night with my wife for dinner and to buy some souvenirs. I made sure to get a picture of the Christmas decorations that were already up.

The final day is always the group social program. They took us to Nayong Pilipino, a theme park dedicated to Filipino history and culture. We were greeted with a parade and lunch with entertainment. We toured replicas of traditional Filipino villages and shopped for souvenirs again. It was interesting, but as with the rest of the trip, it was a guided tour.  I’m generally not a fan of guided tours. I feel like I can see and experience more of I do it at my own speed.  We then went back, packed, slept and headed back to the US. img_2686img_2685-1

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Overall, it was a nice trip and I’m glad we were able to go. I wish our hotel had been closer to more than just shopping. I wish the tours had been less restrictive. Next conference is next summer in India.

Travel Stress

We leave tomorrow morning for Manila. We will be on an airplane or in an airport for 24 hours. While I am looking forward to the Manila, despite the fact that it is rainy season, I am stressed out about the travel portion.

I don’t mind flying. When I am taking simple trips back home to KY or for vacation out west I’m fine. I still get stressed about getting to the airport on time and the security line, but once I’m through security and at the gate, I’m fine. Especially if it is a direct flight. I don’t have any trouble at all with the actual flying part of flying. It’s the process of flying that drives me crazy. Security lines, transferring planes, etc.

This trip will have two connections. Two short layovers. Two opportunities to miss a flight. Then, at the end, we get customs. I wish the government in the Philippines were treating us the way the Chilean government did. We got off the plane and there were people waiting for us at the gate. They took us to a nice room with cookies and TV while they cleared us through customs and retrieved our bags. The same happened when we left the country. Same nice room, they checked our bags and then we went through a back portion of the airport right to our gate. If every country we visited treated us like VIP’s flying would be much more pleasant.

I’m still dreaming of a first class upgrade on a flight. 13 hours on a plane would be so much nicer if I was rich and could buy first class seats. I hope my family realizes I would abandon them in coach if given the opportunity.

I’m sure I won’t sleep much tonight. That might be a good thing. Maybe, for the first time, I can actually sleep on the plane.

 

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I already posted about my high school reunion. The reunion was one of the things I did on vacation, but there was plenty more. We started the vacation by driving to my mother-in-law’s house in Kentucky. We had dinner, went to bed and then got up the next morning to head to Indiana University for a college tour. At the end of the tour I finally found a brain bigger than mine.

Indiana University

We left Bloomington and drove to St Louis. The next morning we went on a tour of Washington University.  It was a very nice campus, but miserably hot that day. They did give the students a free lunch and the entire family a nice water bottle.

 

 

 

We left the university and headed down to Grant’s Farm. I was skeptical and didn’t know if it was worth the trouble of going just to see the Clydesdales, but there was so much more. It was a fun place(with free beer samples) and worth the drive down.

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Grant’s Farm

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Grant’s Farm

 

 

While we were in St Louis we went to the City Museum. It was an interesting place and we had a lot of fun climbing around inside. I did bump my head several times and still have the mark. It’s also very hard on old knees. Everyone in the family chickened out and didn’t go down the 5 story slide.

 

 

 

After City Museum, we went to the Arch. The tram up was a little claustrophobic, but worth it. We were probably in line longer than we were in the arch, but the views were great.

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Gateway Arch

View from the Arch

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The Arch at Nighr

After St Louis we went to Bowling Green, KY for the reunion and to spend time with family. On the way back out of town, we went on a tour of my alma mater, University of Kentucky. We toured the dorm where I lived as a freshman. Well, it had the same name, but it was a completely different dorm than where I lived.

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University of Kentucky

How to Make Vacation Seem Like Work

I will be on vacation soon. I will be away from work for a week, so I will be on vacation. The problem is, this vacation will not be very relaxing. After a good run of trips to places like Lake Tahoe, New Hampshire, Zambia, Norway, Sedona, etc we are only taking one week this year to head back to see family in Kentucky. That could be relaxing, but we took care of that by adding in some college visits. Here is the itinerary:

Day 1 – Drive 9 hours to mother-in-laws house. Eat dinner. Visit some. Go to sleep

Day 2 – Eat breakfast. Drive 3 hours to Indiana University for college visit(do I really want my kid to be a hoosier?) Leave IU and drive 3 and a half hours to a hotel outside St Louis

Day 3 – Head out early to see some sites in St Louis before going to college visit at Washington University. After college visit go to arch, city museum and other attractions. Very tiredly drive back to hotel.

Day 4 – Head out early to go to Clark Farm to see the Clydesdales before driving another 4 and a half hours to my brother’s house.  Spend a little time visiting with family before attending my 30 year high school reunion.

Day 5 – Finally a day with no driving. Hang out at my brother’s house. Hope the weather is good for swimming.

Day 6 – Still in flux. Hang out at brother’s house all day again or spend half a day there and then drive 2 hours back to MIL’s house. I’m hoping at some point my wife tells me what we are doing.

Day 7 – If we are still at my brother’s house, up early to drive the 2 hours to MIL’s house. If already there, a nice no travel day to possibly go to a movie.

Day 8 – Drive 9 hours back home.

I am scheduled to be back at work on day 9. I might need to ask for an extra day to recuperate.

 

I’ve Had It With These Monkey Fighting Incidents on These Monday to Friday Planes

United has a man dragged off a plane. A flight attendant is in an altercation with a passenger after the flight attendant hits a woman with a stroller. Passengers fighting on planes.  This is getting out of control. I don’t get it. I’ve flown quite a bit. Short fights from here to Nashville or Louisville. Longer fights out west. Even a 24 hour trip to Zambia. I’ve never seen any of this happen on my flights. The flight crews have been either pleasant or at the very least blandly competent. There have been annoying passengers, but none that have inspired a fight. I have been on flights where the flight crew had to remind a passenger that they were holding the flight by refusing to take a seat, but it ended with the passenger taking their seat. I don’t know how things have gotten our of control, but I have some advice for flyers.

First, to the flight crews – I don’t now anything about your jobs so I can’t really speak to your experience. I can say, though, that most people who work with the public every day at some point would like to have a customer dragged out by security. It doesn’t make it an appropriate response. The only thing I can say is to be professional and not act in a way that will escalate the issues.

Now passengers:

  • Get to the airport early. No reason to be anxious from the start because you are short on time.
  • Start with the security line – know what to take out of your pockets before you get to the front of the line. Be ready to move through as quickly as possible. A bad security line experience can lead to angry travelers before they ever get to the plane.
  • Board quickly. Get on the plane, store your bags and sit down. If there are things you need out of your bags, take them out before boarding, not while standing in the aisle while others are trying to board.
  • If the flight crew says you need to check an item, check the item.
  • Bring entertainment – books, magazines, music. Whatever will distract you from the stress of traveling. I am an anxious flyer and this really helps me not to focus on the bad parts of travel.
  • Be aware of how your actions affect those around you. Kicked seats, seat reclined in to your lap, etc will not make for happy cabin mates.

I know that it is easy to blame the airlines for all of the issues and I agree that they need to start treating passengers better, but a lot of the issues can also be fixed by the traveler. Just be a decent person and think about how your actions affect others. Or take the bus.

Photo Challenge: Wanderlust

Today’s challenge was to post a picture that represents travel. I have hundreds of travel photos I could have chosen, but I decided this simple sign from the middle of a bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe was the best for this challenge. I was officially standing in Zimbabwe taking the picture and then to a couple of steps back over to Zambia where I was staying.

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via Photo Challenge: Wanderlust