Sunday, March 10, 2013

Getting Educated by the Big Apple

  With New York City acting like Sin City's older brother, sometimes it can be hard to see all of the educational opportunities and historical significance that this City has to offer.  Fortunately, we made some time to let the City school us.  These are the landmarks we visited this time around, along with a couple "visitor friendly" tips.

 The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
Manhattan, NY

  When we first entered the Morgan Library, we didn't exactly know what to expect.  The museum employees near the front door directed us to the right-hand side of the building and said that we should start there.  In the first room we went into, there was a brochure that included descriptions of the significant items in the room.  We made our way around the room and then went into a second room and wandered from there.  The complex holds an amazing amount of rare artifacts, artwork, books, letters, prints, and manuscripts.  The Morgan boasts the world's largest collection of Mahler manuscripts plus many compositions by Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, and Schubert.  The Morgan can also boast about having the largest collection of Rembrandt etchings in the U.S. along with the only surviving manuscript of John Milton's "Paradise Lost".  During the time we were visiting in December, there was a huge Beatrix Potter display on the upper level of the museum.  The exhibit showed how Potter, through private letters, developed the animal characters which are now so widely known to children everywhere.
  General adult admission to the Morgan Library is $15, however it is free admission every Friday from 7-9pm.  We chose to visit the Library on a Friday.  We arrived shortly after 7pm and there was a line of people waiting to check their bags and other belongings.  We didn't have anything to check so we went right in and started walking around.  Friday is the only day the Morgan Library is open late.  Tuesday through Thursday the Library is open until 5pm and Saturday and Sunday it is open until 6pm. 

The Frick Collection
1 East 70th Street
Manhattan, NY

  Just like with the Morgan Museum, I didn't know what to expect with the Frick Collection.  The "Collection" is housed in the former residence of Henry Clay Frick.  Frick was a successful industrialist who amassed a great collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative art.  Frick's wife outlived him, but after her death in 1931, their house was opened to the public in 1935.  Visitors can view beautiful works by Titian, El Greco, Goya, and Bellini, along with many other great artists.  We were directed to start in the rooms on the lowest floor of the house and then we worked our way around to the main floor.  On the main floor, in the center of the house, there was a beautiful atrium with a water feature and plants displayed for the holidays.  Overall it was a nice experience.  Some of the rooms became quite crowded but I'm sure that's because we came during the "pay what you wish hours".  The Frick is open every day of the week but provides pay what you wish hours only on Sundays from 11am to 1pm.  The difference between free hours and pay what you wish hours is that guests are expected to give something for pay what you wish, almost like a donation.  General admission to the Frick Collection is $18 outside of the pay what you wish hours.  They do expect guests to check coats and large bags.  They have a no photo policy.  I find the no photo policy a hit or miss with museums.  Some museums don't mind visitors snapping photos left and right while others forbid cameras.

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
28 E. 20th Street
Manhattan, NY

  We were walking around the Union Square area when I noticed a marking for Roosevelt's Birthplace on my map.  After walking up and down a couple of streets, we stumbled upon his childhood home and were pleasantly surprised.  We entered his home through a lower level door and were warmly greeted by a park ranger.  Their next home tour was not for another 2 hours (we came during lunchtime) so we instead watched a movie and looked at some artifacts.  We noted the tour times and came back the next day for a 10am tour.  A friendly park ranger guided us and since we were the only ones there, we had our own private tour.  From the lower level of the house (the former servants' quarters), we walked up the stairs to the main level of the house.  We got to see Roosevelt's former nursery, his parents' bedroom, and living areas.  Our guide was very informative and we learned a lot of interesting facts about Roosevelt and his life growing up in NYC.  I do have to say that Roosevelt's Birthplace is a hidden gem.  The National Parks have worked hard to restore and maintain his birthplace and surprisingly the tours are completely free to the public.  If you have a few minutes, take a look at the artifacts.  If you have an hour, I would highly recommend a house tour.  Find Teddy's home tucked away in the hustle and bustle of the Union Square/Flatiron Districts. 
  I found this out shortly after our trip but I just had to add a little fun celeb tie-in.  After visiting Roosevelt's Birthplace, I read in a magazine that Miley Cyrus has a tattoo of a quote from Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 "Citizenship in a Republic" speech.  A 100+ year old Roosevelt speech has found a quirky yet interesting place in our modern culture.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Australia Presentation by Cynthia Clampitt

  Last Monday evening, my husband and I enjoyed another great travel presentation by Cynthia Clampitt at the Schaumburg (IL) library.  This presentation was about Australia.  The first time that Cynthia visited Australia, she spent 6 months there.  She traveled all over Australia including Kangaroo Island.  Her book, "Waltzing Australia", tells about her experience and includes beautiful photos and expert tips.   Throughout Cynthia's presentation, she enlightened us with her vast knowledge about Australia and her good humor.  Here's a list of a couple of the many interesting facts that I learned about Australia during her presentation:

  • Australia is almost the same size as the United States but has a population size close to the population of Illinois.
  • Australia has been nicknamed "The Land of the Parrot" or "The Land of the Orchid".
  • About 85% of all of the world's opals come from Australia.
  • Camels are a big part of Australia's past and present.  Australia has the only thorough-bred, disease free camels in the world.
  • Australia has 2 types of crocodiles.  Their freshwater crocs average about 5-7 feet in length while the saltwater crocs can reach up to 25 feet in length.
  • In the northern part of Australia, there are giant termite mounds with the termites living in an underground tunnel system.
  • The flower for Western Australia is the Kangaroo Paw.  It has red stems and green petals.
  • Kangaroo Island has its own species of kangaroos.
    • The Tasmanian Devil's back legs are slightly shorter then its front legs.
    •  The Australian War Memorial, in Canberra, has a very large collection of Victorian Crosses along with a vast array of other war artifacts.

    These are just a few things I learned at this wonderful presentation.  This presentation made me yearn to travel to Australia and have my own adventures Down Under.
    For more information about Cynthia's book on Australia, please visit her website Waltzing Australia.

    Sunday, January 27, 2013

    Travel Expo Follow-Up

     Today I spent the afternoon checking out the Travel Expo in Rosemont.  It was my first time going to this annual event so I didn't know what to expect.  I love finding out new travel info and hearing about other people's travel adventures.  This expo had a little of the best of both worlds.  The 2 lectures that I saw today were by Rick Steves and by Patricia Schultz.  I also wanted to see Pauline Frommer but her lecture was scheduled on Saturday.  Rick Steves gave a very insightful presentation complete with beautiful photos from all over Europe.  By the time his presentation was over, I was itching to go back to Europe.  He touched on almost all the areas of Europe, including Turkey.  Turkey has been a country that I've always kept in the back of my mind of a destination I would love to explore and learn more about.
      After Rick Steves was Patricia Schultz, author of "1000 Places to See Before You Die".  She also had some wonderful photos and advice for travelers looking to go just about any where in the world.  I think the two lectures that I sat in on made the expo the most worth-while.  There were a bunch of booths set up where I did collect some info for future trips.  Many of these booths were passing out great Visitors Guides and other useful brochures.  For me, the only drawback was that I kept getting asked to fill out raffle drawings.  One raffle even wanted us to give our signature which would "o.k." the company to call us for marketing purposes.  Even after I have signed up on the "Do Not Call List", I still get telemarketer calls so I opted to not fill out any raffle drawings today. 
      There were plenty of activities for children including an area that SeaWorld occupied with 2 live penguins.  They were in a little display case where the glass went up to their shoulders.  Their little heads would look over the glass and their little beady eyes would look around.  I have such a heart for animals and couldn't get enough of them.
      Overall I think the expo was worth the buy 1 ticket get 1 free Groupon that I purchased online.  The booths are good if people are looking for more info for a specific trip or trip idea.  I enjoyed the lectures, especially Rick Steves who has been to so many places that I would love to go.
      People always say that planning the trip is half the fun.  I can somewhat agree with that however for me, the planning part gives me that excited, anxious feeling that I have something to look forward to, something that I can experience and remember forever.
      Seize The Day and Travel!

    Friday, January 25, 2013

    Travel and Adventure Expo in Chicago (Rosemont)

      For Chicagoans and Chicago visitors alike, there is a Travel and Adventure Expo going on in Rosemont this weekend (January 26-27).  It is at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center and includes travel seminars, culinary demonstrations, and lots of info about travel.  A couple other enjoyable highlights include learning to scuba dive in an indoor pool, getting a photo taken with a sled dog, and riding a segway.
      Tickets are $9 a person but Groupon did have a deal for buy one get one free tickets (my friend told me about that one, thank you!)
      Click here to see the website and find out more info.
      If you aren't in the Chicago area this weekend, try to catch a Travel Expo in California in February or in Washington D.C. in March.

      Have fun and get inspired to travel!

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Preparing for Gotham

      Back in December I spent a week in the city that never sleeps, also known as NYC.  I can see why this city never sleeps....there's just too much darn noise.  There's noise, activity, and adventure and I made sure to plan well before the trip to take in as much as I could.  I have decided to split up my NYC trip into multiple blog posts so that I can put more focus on different aspects and highlights of the trip.
      I would like to start my trip review by mentioning a little about what I did to plan for NYC.  For those travelers interested in museums, I would highly recommend "googling" or doing an internet search of free days and free hours for NYC museums.  There are a few museums that are always free or are free with suggested donations.  However for the museums that are charging quite a bit to get in, free days are definitely worth while in this expensive city.  Sometimes travelers only have a couple hours to spend in a museum and balk at an $18 entrance fee.  Visiting during free hours definitely gives the pocketbook a rest. 
      During previous visits, we visited a couple of the "biggie" museums:  the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This trip I found that the J.P. Morgan Library Museum had free hours on Fridays nights and the Frick Collection had free hours on Sundays.  I had also wanted to go to the Rubin Museum of Art, which has free hours on Friday nights as well, but decided to save that for a future visit.
      Since we were staying in NYC for a week, I decided to group activities and sights into the different areas of NYC and try to do a different area on each day.  I didn't want to have every single minute of our trip planned so I left plenty of free time too.  We had a few schedule changes and didn't get to see every thing we had planned on seeing but overall we had quite a wonderful and entertaining trip.  To help cut other costs, I would recommend using a few Groupons or Living Social Deals.  I bought 3 deals in advance of our trip and we were pleased with all 3 deals.  (All 3 deals were for food and beverages.)  I did not want to buy too many deals and then have to spend time running around the city making sure to use them all. 
      Since we went in December, holiday decorations were everywhere and made the city extra enjoyable.  Beware, it's hard to tell from the photos but Rockefeller Plaza was packed with people vying for the perfect Christmas tree photo.

      In my next posts, I want to share our NYC adventures and we'll see if I was able to take a bite out of the Big Apple or if I was the one that was chewed up and spit out.

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Venice Beach - March 2012 - Who am I Watching?

      I've been meaning to post this video for a while.  Back in March 2012, during our trip to L.A., we took a stroll down Venice Beach.  We saw the usual....forlorn looking potheads, "entertainers" jumping on broken glass for money, and beach "bums" chasing birds with palm tree branches.  Then we came across a young group of musicians that looked like they were filming a music video.  I got some of their practice shots on my own video.  Now I'm on a quest to find out who they are.  Can anyone help me?  Gracias!

    Monday, December 31, 2012

    What are you doing for New Years Eve?

      I apologize for being MIA for the past month.  December ended up being very busy for me.  I visited my sisters in NYC and then they came home for Christmas to visit.  I was able to get in some nice family time and now it looks like the year has already come to an end. 
      I had originally thought that I would be in NYC for New Years but we ended up visiting a couple weeks ago.  Really any time of year is nice to visit NYC....well, except for during Hurricane Sandy when my sisters had no electricity for 5 days and there was a fire in their apartment building.  I will have plenty of future posts about my NYC trip but right now I wanted to focus a little on New Years.
      Reflecting back on traveling in 2012, I am grateful that I was able to take some very nice trips.  We kicked off the beginning of 2012 with Ecuador.  We left January 1, 2012 and arrived in Panama City for a 1 night layover.  We flew on to Guayaquil and the Galapagos Islands.  I saw Lonesome George before he died in June 2012.  In March 2012, I visited a good friend in Los Angeles.  It was still a little too cold for beaches but we had fun at an Anaheim Ducks game, hanging out in Hollywood and people watching in Venice Beach.  We did an Oktoberfest weekend in Iowa in September and then ended the year in NYC. 
      2012 had its fair share of negative events like Hurricane Sandy devastating the East Coast and the loss of lives in the Sandy Hook and Aurora theater shootings.  We also had many positive and fun events like the explosion of Gangnum style and Kate Middleton's pregnancy. 
      Wherever you are....Times Square, Chicago, California, or anywhere outside of the United States...I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year!
       Please enjoy my Times Square photo taken a few weeks ago.  I can only imagine how crazy and crowded it will be tonight.  Let the new year be a time of new travels, new adventures, and spending time with both new and old friends.