What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

I’m sitting on my couch, surrounded by newly washed and folded laundry that really needs to make it’s way to my closet and dresser drawers.  I’m listening to my latest obsession, the Adele channel on Pandora.  Right now Etta James is playing.  Who can quarrel with Etta James?

I just spent a week with my sister Darla, her husband Joe, and the best-est niece and nephew in the world, Audrey and Davis.  We had a blast.   We traipsed all around Boston, Plymouth, and NYC.  My feet are blistered.  I am about two shades tanner than I was before we started.  (Which isn’t saying much.  Winters are long and dark in Boston and I was pale, pale, pale!)

At first I didn’t know how we were going to fit five people in my one bedroom apartment, but since everyone left yesterday, my apartment has felt unnaturally quiet and empty.  So, I’ve been streaming movies on Netflix and pouring through the 302 photos I took while they were here.

So, what to know what I learned on my summer vacation?

1.  Not everything worth seeing can be found on a tourist map.

It just looked like a regular old alley to me, but my sister's fresh eyes saw the cobblestones and cool arch.

After nearly 20 years in Boston, I’ve started to walk past sights that used to amaze me. If I’m gonna suffer through the long winters around here, I really need to start opening my eyes to all the wonders around me. Otherwise, what’s the point?

2. The Pilgrims brought a fishing boat with them to the new world.  How else were they going to catch fish?

Apparently it came over in pieces. After seeing the size of the Mayflower, my apartment no longer seemed small!

I know the Pilgrims weren’t the first to set off for undeveloped lands to try to make a life, but I don’t think I would have thought to bring a fishing boat! I wonder what else they packed? If you had to take everything with you that you thought you’d ever need, and you had very limited space, what would you choose?

I’ve always said that if my apartment was burning down, I’d only worry about saving my family photos. But, how much does that question change when you know you can never go to a store to replace what was left behind?

3. It’s not all about the USS Constitution.

If you’ve ever been to Boston, someone’s probably suggested you go see Old Ironsides. She’s the oldest commissioned warship in the world, but someone would probably have to invent a time machine for her to ever be put to work. She’s got sails. And cannons. And you have to go through metal detectors to get to her.

In the dry dock next to the USS Constitution sits the USS Cassin Young.

The Cassin Young fought in the Pacific in World War II. It was attacked by kamikazis. My grandfather was stationed in the Pacific for the Navy in World War II. His ship was sunk by kamikazis. I think my grandfather’s ship was bigger, but a destroyer like the Cassin Young could have been the one that pulled him out of the water. The USS Constitution is cool, but it was incredible to visualize my grandfather as a young man and to think about all he endured.

4. There really is a castle in Central Park.

Yay for castles!

The last time I took myself for a walk through Central Park, I saw a castle in the distance. I wanted to check it out, but I had a full schedule. This time, finding the castle was the objective.

According to the official website of Central Park, Belvedere Castle was built in 1869 as a Victorian folley.  Which means, for no reason at all.  Just because some guy named Calvert Vaux thought that people needed a beautiful place to climb up and survey the beautiful views of the park.  Belvedere actually means “beautiful view” in Italian.  How cool is that?

5. Real brides don’t sit on the ground.

Her skirt looks like a fluffy meringue cookie!

At first I thought we had stumbled upon a lucky bride and groom. Then I realized it was a Tuesday afternoon. Then I realized there were two brides. Then I realized one of them was sitting on the dirtiest steps known to man. Yep. Definitely a photo shoot. I love snapping photos of other people’s photo shoots!

6. It’s impossible to look up Lady Liberty’s skirt, but there’s still plenty to see.

I love the swoops of her skirt. Pretty!

To be fair, it’s completely possible to actually look up Lady Liberty’s skirt. You just have to be inside the pedestal to do so. I got a good look, but not good photos. This shot from the outside was a little more technically successful, though considerably less revealing.

(By the way, if you want to go all the way up to the crown, book your tickets now! It’s not expensive, but it sells out months in advance. I totally want to go back and do it, maybe in the Fall. Wanna come along?)

Ooh…I thought this was cool, too.

Apparently, the Lady loses a little bit of her patina every time it rains. Don’t worry. According to surveys done during restoration in the 1980s, only 4% of the 3/32 inch thick copper skin has been lost over the past 125 years. I love the effect it’s left on the pedestal.

7. The simplest pleasures are the best.

We took the kids to see the Freedom Trail. Their favorite part was eating gelato in the North End. We took them to NYC, where they loved the subway rides. Life sure would be cheaper if the rest of us could get such a thrill from everyday things.

My niece’s favorite part of the trip? Shopping for hair accessories at the mall with money she earned herself.

No, her mom didn't let her buy this one!

My favorite part of the trip? Getting to spend seven days with my family. It’s a good thing I’m going home in October. I don’t think I could wait until Christmas to see their happy faces again!


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