Monday, December 13, 2010

Pt. Reyes Lighthouse

Even trips close to home counts as an adventure and there are so many great options in the Bay Area.  Point Reyes National Seashore is a really great example of the Northern California coast.  Growing up my image of California came from the tv shows of the time (CHiPS anyone?!) so I thought that all of the coast was warm water and sandy beaches.  Wow, was my move to the Bay Area an eye-opener.  The norm is rocky edges at the base of cliffs where the ocean crashes spectacularly and if you get in you better be wearing a dry suit!

On the Friday after Thanksgiving E-- and I met up with a couple friends and her folks who were visiting from Michigan.  We met at the original Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station.  It is a tiny little town that lots of folks love because it is quaint.  That means that it has a a couple of restaurants, a few small stores selling whatnots and some artist studios.  Not actually the type of place I visit a lot because I get bored with that after an hour.  But Point Reyes Station has cheese and that is awesome.  We purchase bread and cheese and head on out.  If you plan ahead though you can get tours of the cheese making process.

To get out to the lighthouse you have to drive the tiny winding roads that pass by historical ranches-huh, who knew that ranches can be historical!  Once out there though it is worth it-the ocean view is amazing.  First we take some time to see it from the top from a couple of different vantage points.  Then we head down to the lighthouse.  They warn you that you will have to walk back up the 300 steps, but that is really no reason to stop you as put in some nice little benches along the way.

The lighthouse itself is interesting and there will be a ranger there to answer questions about the Fresnel lens, the foghorn, etc.  But the amazing thing to think about are the men who ran the lighthouses-what a harsh lifestyle.  They have some neat documentation about the rules and regulations they had to follow.  They were in charge of keeping the light going even in the stormiest weather.  But at least stormy would be interesting-consistency was the most important attribute in a lighthouse keeper.  You can't just take a 'mental health day'.  I'll keep that in mind the next time I feel like whining at work :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

NYC cont.

Monday-we head home later today, but there is still time to get in a few visits.  First is a nostalgia tour of the Columbia University campus where we went to school.  Good spots to visit are St. Paul's chapel, the whispering bench across from the chapel, and the Steps.  On a nice day sitting on the Steps and people watching is one of the best ways to pass the time.  We visit the last nostalgia food stop, Famous Famiglia's pizza.  This was my introduction to pizza bianca-no red sauce and glops of garlic infused ricotta.  I LOVED this stuff as a student.  Plus the counter guys were actual italian guys which was novel to me. They are not as good as I remember, maybe because they became a chain or maybe it is my memory.  Still, it has a nice crisp crust and satisfies the craving for cheese.

Now it is time to do something we never did while we actually lived in the area-visit Grant's tomb!  It does not take much time, though the building is relatively large for NYC, inside are Grant AND his wife, and a few small exhibits.  I was surprised by how many people were visiting, but if you are in the area it is worth it.

Finally we get our gear and head out.  This time we take the LIRR, just because we can-pretty nice but not really much faster than the subway.  Coincidentally a good friend will be landing about 2 hours before we leave, so we meet up and chat for an hour.  That's it-a reasonable flight and our quick NYC weekend is over :(

Thursday, December 2, 2010

NYC Nov 2010 cont.

Sunday morning is clearly for sleeping in.  I generally pack a lot of activity into a small space, but never neglect sleep!  Lack of sleep makes everyone cranky and less fun.  After E-- and I finally get going, the first stop is another nostalgia food stop.  Amir’s falafel-they have a super decadent tahini on the schwarma that we’ve not found elsewhere.  Fortified we head to Brooklyn for the New York Transit museum  We’ve been meaning to go pretty much forever-the subway system is so cool and living in New York it’s a necessity so you come to know about your little piece of it that you take for granted while keeping in the back of your mind that the possibilities are endless.  Anyway, turns out we don’t think we ever really have been to Brooklyn.  I mean we’ve been across the bridge, we’ve been on the Long Island railroad to the beach and of course the airports….but never Brooklyn for its own sake.  Finally we are going there for the museum.  Which is just right-not too small, not too big, not empty, not packed.  There are exhibits on how the subway was built, the history of the ticket system (from paper, to tokens, back to paper), the improvements in turnstiles, the money (this was amazing-the amount of $$ in the system-wow), the trolleys and buses, and of course the subway cars themselves.  And all of it is in an old subway station that still has working controllers.  Probably not a must see on your first visit to New York, but if you ever lived in the city, like trains or transit in general it is worth a stop.

To get back to Manhattan, we walked back over the Brooklyn Bridge.  It is quite a popular attraction for tourists, plus some folks actually use it to get back and forth, so it is busy with people and thus good people watching.  The bridge ends near city hall and our plan is to wander up to China town to catch the subway.  On the way, we stumble across a National Monument that we didn’t even know existed.  It is the African Burial Ground National Monument and it’s quite moving.  It is a tiny little plot of land in Lower Manhattan where burial grounds were discovered during a construction project.  During the 1700’s this area was outside of the city and since Africans weren’t allowed in the cemeteries, they formed their own.  The symbolism is nicely explained in the brochure and you can get more information from the Park guide.

Once we wander through Chinatown, we get on the 6 train heading south.  Which is odd because there is only one stop left and it is City Hall, and we just walked up from there….hmmm.  I’d read online that there is an old stop at the end of the 6 line where the train turns around.  It was designed to be a highlight with beautiful mosaics etc. but because it is on a sharp curve it is not safe.  So at the last stop they ask everyone to get off, but they don’t enforce it, so you can stay in the car, ride past the stop, and be on the Uptown 6 when it stops again.  So we take the short ride, sit put when the canned announcement asks everyone to leave and look over at a father and son who are also sitting put.  We admit to each other that we heard about this online and wanted to check it out.  The doors close and off we go.  It is a short ride, and sure enough, midway through we can see out the right hand side that there is a subway stop.  It is dimly lit so hard to view all the great work that is there, but worth this quick detour to see something usually reserved for the conductor!

And we’re off to Times Square!  The whole reason we are here is to see Pee Wee’s Playhouse on Broadway.  We meet up with our friends and grab a quick dinner at Mars 2112, a space themed restaurant.  Is it good?  Well, it all depends on what you are looking for!  Entertaining?  Yes.  Food?  Decent, a tad pricey (remember that you are paying for atmosphere).  American style?  Most definitely!  I would call a novelty place, almost on par with Casa Bonita.  And finally we get to the show.  It was fantastic!  Now, obviously we are fans of the original.  Which is why we went and it was exactly what I wanted.  Enough of the original to do fan service (the set, the cast, the word of the day) but with current events (including suggestively naughty bits) as well so it is not just something you could have seen on tv.