Monday, August 6, 2018

A Few Days in New York



Sooo...picking things up in mid-March, I headed to NYC en route to the UK.

View from my room
(Just a reminder that the photos are mostly very low resolution because I accidentally deleted them, then recovered them wrong. sigh.)

I spent 3 nights in New York. I saw two stage shows, one movie and went to the Merchant Museum, which was my favorite activity this trip.

I also got my shoes shined and my eyebrows waxed, but I didn't actually go to any restaurants, which is unusual for me in New York. I ate almost exclusively from the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle. It's located in the Warner Building, and there are a couple of huge statues, one male and one female, that I didn't remember seeing before...which doesn't necessarily mean they weren't there before, of course.

While Whole Foods is more expensive than most grocery stores, their selection of hot foods is not only excellent, but far cheaper than most NYC restaurants. Since you pay by weight, you can mix and match a little of this and a little of that all into one carton, so you can customize your meals according to whatever you feel like eating. I seriously  love doing that.

Entertainment


Both my theater experiences were just slightly disappointing. I saw Hello Dolly with Bernadette Peters, who was absolutely amazing - not just for her age, just amazing, period. The rest of the cast was really good, as well, and the production values were top notch - set, costumes, everything.

However, in my opinion, either that show did not age well or the way they told the story was off. Because, in spite of how well everything was produced and how talented the cast was, I was often bored during the show. Since the original show was already set in the past, I think it was something about this production that just didn't hit the mark. 

I'm not sorry I went, I'm really glad to have seen Bernadette Peters hit this high note of her career. No one deserves it more. It just wasn't one of my favorite theater experiences.


Puffs, on the other hand, had the most minimal production but still kept me interested for the most part. A Harry Potter satire/parody, it was a fun exercise in catching all of the series references. But the story and performers were amusing enough, as well. For the most part, anyway. It ran on a little too long, and the silliness did get a little wearing after a while. On the whole, though, I don't regret the experience.

I saw the movie Death of Stalin because I had less than 2 hours to kill before picking up my bags to leave for the airport, and I couldn't think of anywhere else to go from where I was in that length of time, except for seeing a movie. Given that the tickets were $15 each, I didn't think it was a good idea to see Black Panther for the 4th time, but I wished I had when I saw that Death of Stalin was offered for free on my plane to London.

You know, I often went for many months - maybe even years - without seeing a movie. And it still doesn't seem like I should be doing things when I travel that I can just easily do at home, as though all my travel time should be used for different or "special" experiences. Yet, seeing a movie in other destinations is one of my favorite things to do.

Although, I have to say, I prefer not to have to pay $15 for the privilege. But I will, in New York or London or anywhere else, if that's what it takes. Still, it makes me cringe when I think about the clean, comfy theaters in Mexico City where I can see a movie for under $5 and my popcorn/water is only $3.




I did like the AMC Loews Lincoln Square, though it took me a while to find the ticket office. The signs were not particularly helpful. But it is a colorful and comfy cinema, and I enjoyed myself.

The entrance to the Ladies Room was particularly awesome, I thought, with its black and white photos of legendary actresses from the past. 



The Merchant's House Museum


The photos I most regretted losing from my phone were those of the Merchant's House Museum in New York. It's the home of a wealthy merchant that has been preserved much as it was when the family lived in it back in the 1800s, including china on the dining room table.

As I've said before, I love these kinds of places. Especially when they let us see the servants quarters, so we can imagine how it was run with so many classes of residents under one roof - husband and wife, children, upstairs and downstairs servants.

While it is certainly a spacious house, and easily worth over a million on the current real estate market, it is still a row house and by no means enormous. Since it is the only one of its kind from that period in NYC that is preserved as it once was, I found it fascinating. 

There was a fabulous book, with all kinds of information, even floor plans. I took photos of every page, so I could go back and read it at my leisure, with the photos for comparison. But the low resolution images I'm left with make that impossible now. I may go back again next time I'm in New York.

There's *always* a next time.

Carnegie Hall
No matter what I do in New York, or how satisfied I am with it, I still love being in that city. Even if it's doing nothing special, just running errands, NYC has such a unique energy and there is so much to see just while just walking around. Seeing Carnegie Hall, for instance, never fails to thrill me, especially when lit up at night.

So, while my entertainment choices may not have quite lived up to my expectations, I still thoroughly enjoyed being in New York, and will always be excited to go back.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Zooming through 2018


My last post was about Essaouira, which I left in mid-January. I was very bad about transferring photos from my phone, and when I finally got around to doing it in late March, I accidentally deleted the entire Camera folder from my phone. Since I was too ignorant to just go to Google Photos online to get all of my photos back, I used a free app that not only got them back, but reduced them all to a fraction of their original sizes and returned much older photos, as well as stuff cached from the web.

And then, because I am an idiot, I did it again. Which resulted in duplicates.

It took me forever to dig through them, because there were literally thousands of them, and cull the best of a really pathetic bunch of photos. Even for me.

In doing all of that, though, a couple of things have struck me as really weird.

I decided to slow down my travel and try staying for a
1st time in Oxford - coming soon!
month in some of the places I visit. However, since I left Essaouira in mid-January, I still managed to cover quite a bit of territory. My itinerary from there, in the last 5 months, has been: Paris/London/Vegas/Mexico City/Acapulco/Mexico City/New Orleans/Vegas/New York/London/Marrakesh/Oxford/London/Bath/Mexico City.


I did stay for a month each in Acapulco, Marrakesh, London and now almost that long in Mexico City. But the second weird thing is that I have hardly any photos of Acapulco and Marrakesh, though I stayed in each place a month. It's like the longer I stay, the fewer photos I take. And the less I do.

I did almost no sightseeing whatsoever in Acapulco or Marrakesh. Well, most of the time I was in Acapulco I was recovering from a case of bronchitis so severe that it bordered on pneumonia. I needed an inhaler almost the whole month I was there. 

I did visit the Yves St. Laurent Museum in Marrakesh, but it was a ridiculously small exhibition for a $10 admission, and no photos were allowed inside.

So, hopefully, it won't take long for me to catch up on here to the present. Starting from the beginning...


Paris

Musee Nissim de Camondo Paris
I flew from Essaouira to Paris and stayed only 2 nights. On my one full day, I went to the Musee Nissim de Camondo, which will get its own post...eventually.




Then I took a Eurostar to London for just one night before
Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord in Par
Gare du Nord Eurostar lounge
catching a plane back to the States. I'm sure I've said it on here before, but I do so love taking the Eurostar between 2 of my favorite cities. Not only is it so convenient to go from city center to city center without the hassle of airport transfers, it's also just so much easier than dealing with everything related to flying - particularly security. On top of that, though, I love the Eurostar terminals in both cities. This is the one at Gare du Nord in Paris.

London

London St. Pancras

Princess Hotel, London









Since I arrived and was leaving out of St. Pancras, I got myself a tiny attic bedroom at a hotel just a couple of blocks down the street from the station.




Arriving in the afternoon, and leaving around 7:30 the next morning, I didn't try to do anything at all in London except feed myself. Cheap, filling and tasty is not a combination easily found in London eateries, but one of my favorites is King of Falafel and it was just a short walk from my hotel.

Even that 5 minute stroll was a joy, because Bloomsbury is my favorite neighborhood in all of London.






The train to Gatwick the next day was surprisingly empty when I got on, and never did fill up much. So I had a very relaxing ride to the airport. Unfortunately, between the gate and security agents both putting me through ordeals about the contents of my luggage, I needed every bit of the spare hour I'd allowed myself to make my flight.

Being British, they were both very nice and friendly, and they both allowed me to pass through without making any changes to the contents of my bags, for which I was very grateful. But it is still frustrating that they are the only airport that makes you go through the motions every single time, and I will do everything I can never to fly out of there again. I don't mind flying into that airport, but not out of it.

 Las Vegas



When I flew back to the States on January 15 to visit my younger daughter and her family, I'd been out of the country for 3 months. First thing next morning, I chose to ignore the wide variety of cuisine available in Vegas, and succumb to the craving I'd been having for one of my longtime favorites: breakfast at Denny's.  

The next day, I wasn't feeling well, and by the third day, I was bedridden. The day before I was due to leave, I went to an urgent care clinic and got my diagnosis, then went to a pharmacy to get the inhaler.

I got to the airport a couple of hours in advance of my flight because I'd finally been approved to be interviewed for the Trusted Traveler program. That would get me TSA Pre-check on all of my flights out of a US airport and a quick Global Entry breeze through customs on my international return flights.

Except, the entire government of my country had shut down from midnight Saturday, January 19th to the evening of Monday, January 22nd. Unfortunately, my flight out of the country was on the afternoon of Monday the 22nd. I'd heard the news, of course, but my fogged brain hadn't thought to consider the consequences. So I arrived to find this sign on the door where my interview was to take place. 

I was sick, uncomfortable and had an extra 2 hours to kill at an airport. I was SO not happy.

Mexico City

Needless to say, I didn't get out much during my week visiting my older daughter and granddaughter in Mexico City. However, 3 things struck me enough to take a photo.

I've commented before that one of the things I love best as a traveler is looking at buildings. My preference is for architecture from the past, but I appreciate some forms of modern design, and Mexico City has lovely examples of both.

My kids make fun of me because I was so taken by this parking structure. I thought it was some kind of ultramodern building at first. There is a restaurant beneath it, at the back, where we went to eat. But as you can see, there is outdoor dining in front of it. I just love that this utilitarian structure was designed to enhance the backdrop of the dining area, and I think it was a great success.

Empty subway cars are a marvel in any big city. And with about 25 million people in the greater metropolitan area, you certainly won't find them often in Mexico City. But that's what you get at the beginning of a line.





And, finally, I love Public Bathroom signs that display a sense of urgency. I've seen them in other countries, and here is Mexico City's version.


Acapulco

I was still feeling completely like shit, and having trouble breathing, when I got to Acapulco at the very end of January. There was a pool at the apartment complex where I had an AirBnB, and I optimistically bought a pool noodle so I could relax in it while I was there, because the weather was glorious.

As it was, I only left the apartment to go to the grocery store. The walk back ended in uphill climb at the entrance to the apartment complex that was so steep I was literally bent at an angle as I walked up. Carrying a week's worth of groceries. Including a 6 litre bottle of water.

Since I was gasping for air by the time I climbed a flight of stairs to my apartment, and that bottle of water only lasted a few days, I decided to just start boiling my water instead. 

I never got so much as a glimpse of the beach, but fortunately, my apartment was very nice, with lots of light and a view of the mountains from the dining table where I spent most of the days at my laptop.

Revisiting Mexico City, Vegas & New Orleans

Since there are no convenient flights to anywhere I wanted to go from Acapulco, I decided to wend my way back to visiting my daughters before heading back across the Atlantic. So I spent a few days in Mexico City before going back for another week in Vegas, since I'd been bedridden almost the entire time I was there before.

Though I was pretty much recovered by this time, I didn't get out and about hardly at all, just spent most of my time with family. But it's rare that I get out in Mexico City and not spot at least one thing worth noting. This time it was a huge government building with a colorful art installation in front. One of the things I like best about this city is its use of color everywhere.

I keep saying I will get out to the Strip when I'm in Vegas, and take photos, because I haven't done so in many years - I don't even know half the hotels over there anymore. But, once more, I didn't get around to it. Just hung out with my family and ran errands.

I also have no photos from New Orleans, because all I do there is hang out with the friends I stay with, in their lovely home, and play Scrabble. I did get out a couple of times, to go to a fun toddler birthday party and to see Black Panther for the third time, but that was about it.

From New Orleans, I went to New York for a few days. I've
Columbus Circle, from the Warner Building
managed to recover some photos from that trip, though they are only tiny resolutions, so I don't know how well they will reproduce here. But New York always deserves its own post, and now we are at mid-March here on the blog, so I'll leave this here and continue - hopefully - soon.

I'm in Mexico City for the next 10 days, then off to New Orleans for a week or so. After that, it's a little up in the air, but I'll probably be back somewhere in Mexico into August, before heading back to Vegas.

Just a reminder that, while you will find details here about where I've been, you can check out the Twitter feed on the right to find out where I am at any given time. Of course, there will be a lot of re-tweets of other people, as well, which have absolutely nothing to do with me. But a quick scroll down should yield some information about what I'm up to at the moment.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Essaouira - Moroccan Beach Town


I liked Essaouira a lot, and I'm glad I went there. It's a very inexpensive beach town and the people are wonderful, which I've found to be the case all over Morocco...with the exception of Marrakesh cab drivers, street hustlers and medina merchants, most of whom will take you for as much as they can get. And even they somehow seem to do so charmingly.

Still, as much as I enjoyed my time in Essaouira, I probably won't be going back, for a couple of important reasons. After spending 5 weeks there, I realized that there just isn't enough for me to do. 

I choose places with low cost of living to spend the longest amounts of time because I can work without paying tourist prices. It's actually much cheaper than living and working in the States. But when I come up for air after spending days at my computer, I want something interesting to do - attractions to visit, movies to see, or just going out to eat.

There is no shortage of places to eat in Essaouira -
particularly on and near the beach, as well as in the medina, but not much else that appeals to me. I can spend months in equally cheap Mexico City, and always find something to do. There are so many attractions and cinemas to choose from.


The other thing is that it's not real convenient to get in and out of. The bus ride to Marrakesh is almost 3 hours long, mostly through desert. And while there are regular flights to London and Paris, they aren't every day. Plus, just getting to the airport is convoluted.

There are petit taxis that take you around town, and grand taxis that will take you to the airport. But even though I stayed on the edge of town closest to the airport, I had to take a petit taxi in the opposite direction to the center of town to transfer to a grand taxi that would take me to the airport.


Also, there are no ATMs at the airport. So I had to make sure I had an extra $15 cab fare when I was leaving, if I planned on coming back. It all just seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Still, there were a few things I really liked about the town.



Grocery shopping was a joy. So many things were ridiculously cheap. There was a pastry counter near me where I got these three items for just 40 cents.

A container of pitted olives was only 50 cents. 





What was weird, though, was that I went to Morocco to get away from the holiday hoopla and found it even in a non-Christian country.




Still, the town had a very exotic feel to it. 

Essaouira Chamber of Commerce






Even the modern architecture was very well blended with touches of the past.









It was just a few little touches...










...that made all the difference.













I liked that there were so many open spaces.





They were all over town.






And very well used, for resting, visiting or children playing. 







You did have to be careful where you were walking, though.







And I have to say, finding a pipe in my apartment's utensils drawer felt a bit exotic, too.




The Medina

The Essaouira medina is my favorite of the few medinas I've seen in Morocco. I liked it much better than the ones in Tangier and Marrakesh.







It didn't hurt that I had to walk along the beach to get to the entrance.







Since everything is cash only, it's nice that there is an ATM conveniently located at the entrance.






Though there were some very narrow streets, it didn't have
the closed in feeling that the Tangier medina had.











There were many more open spaces.








The small restaurants and coffee shops that offered free wifi were much preferable than Starbucks.









There were so many places to eat, and the prices were definitely lower than you'd find in most places.






You could splurge on Sole Meuniere for less than USD $8.  










In addition to the restaurants just scattered around the medina, there was a square that was kind of like a food court.





Once you got in, it was just restaurants on every side. 









I liked the merchandise better than I'd seen in other medinas.






I also liked the decor items for sale. 











And I loved all of the artworks.








I don't remember seeing art galleries in the other medinas. 







But this one had some very colorful artworks that greatly appealed to me.










I love the loose, flowy clothes that is found in abundance in Morocco. 










It was even available in more muted colors.











The Beach

Since Morocco is located on the North Atlantic coast, the water will never be warm enough for me to consider going in it. And definitely not the middle of winter.





But like a lot of others, I found the beach, with its wide boardwalk, a great place to hang out.






There are plenty of places to eat. 







Places for kids to play...









...as well as adults. 









Lots of choices for lounging. Some belong to the restaurants, the fanciest one belonged to...






...a nearby spa hotel. 













So, all in all, there was quite a bit to like about Essaouira. But, for me, I think a week would have been plenty enough time there.

I don't think I will feel the same about Marrakesh, but I'll know for sure after spending a month there soon.