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Starting A New Life & A New Business (Behind The Scenes: Part 5)

Part 5: Final Adventures Abroad

I really attempted to get to as many places as I could in my time off. Finding someone to cover my classes was nearly impossible so the summer months ended up being the best time for me to take time off as most classes were paused until the fall. My last big trip was on my way back to visit family in the summer of 2008. I brought a Spanish friend, Alex, to see Canada and along the way, we stopped in Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco.

Aside from cream cheese and cheesesteak (yes we had some), there is so much history in Philadelphia. From the Liberty Bell and the statues of historical figures to Christ Church Burial Ground (where Benjamin Franklin was laid to rest) and places where history was made (ie. Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence, the Betsy Ross House where the first American Flag was made by Betsy Ross, and the "Rocky Steps", famous after Sylvester Stalone ran up them in that movie :) ), there really isn't far you have to go in this city to stumble on something historic.

Large Metal Bell on display.
Liberty Bell, the iconic symbol of American Independence...notice the crack.
Statue on a pedestal.
Statue of George Washington
Gravestone and $100 bill.
Grave of Benjamin & Deborah Franklin (with his bill).
Table with quills used to write the Declaration of Independence.
Inside Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed (with the white quilled pens).
Small house with flag hanging outside.
Betsy Ross House with her original American Flag.
Standing on steps in a boxer pose, showing my biceps.
The 72 steps that "Rocky" ran up in that boxing movie. :)

After a long day in Philadelphia, we set out for New York City to stay with my friend Megan who I had met in South Korea. Again, a great way to travel and reconnect with friends.

Two people standing at the entrance of a subway station.
My friend, Megan and I in Queens, NY.

We stayed in Queens for a few days while trying to take in the colossal city that is New York, including its boroughs (visiting Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island). Our first stop was the chaos of Times Square, which honestly wasn't as big as I thought it would be. So many people, so many lights, so much happening. The Naked Cowboy and Cowgirl were both there, along with many others busking on the street. We saw advertised Broadway shows posted on every square inch of the buildings. It was another city of history but with more massive buildings and way more of everything.

Then we headed past Bryant Park to check out Grand Central Station. It was definitely quieter than I had seen in TV and movies, but was a nice way to take in the expansive marble and stone building.

Train Station and tall building on a busy road.
Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building
Open space of train station with its expansive marble floors.
Inside Grand Central Station (lighting was terrible).

After our first outing in the Big Apple, we slept really well after getting back to Queens.

The next day was packed with a walk around Central Park, a stroll down 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Centre, walking by the Radio City Music Hall, and an amazing view from the top of the Empire State Building. This doesn't tell you quite how much we walked. But boy did we walk. We were so enthralled with all the sights and sounds of the city that we really didn't notice the miles we were walking.

Large lake with tall buildings in the distance.
The Lake in Central Park looking towards East Harlem.
Towering buildings on the edge of a green space.
Skyline at the edge of Central Park with the Plaza Hotel (from the movie "Home Alone 2")
Overlooking a fountain surrounded by a red brick terrace.
Bethesda Fountain in Central Park (used in so many TV shows and movies).
Outside of an entertainment venue and theatre.
Radio City Music Hall

Plaza in front of Rockefeller Centre
Rockefeller Centre and Plaza

I really thought that Rockefeller Plaza would be much bigger. It felt cramped between the towering buildings.

View from above of the NY Skyline.
View from the 103rd floor of the Empire State Building (1,050ft or 320m).

Another busy day, but we saw a ton and never truly got lost in the big city.

Day 3 was a long subway ride to Coney Island (not sure it was truly worth it, even for street corndogs and a live arm wrestling contests lol), a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge, a solemn visit to Ground Zero where the Trade Towers once stood, and a walk along Broadway for some shopping and real food. We weren't sure what it was all about, but it was unexpectedly funny, although a bit over the top at times.

Ferris Wheel and other rides.
Luna Park at Coney Island, NY.
Eating a corndog.
I never really understood why people like corndogs.

From my dislike of corndogs to this. I'm sure glad I missed the annual Hot Dog Eating Contest...66 hot dogs! Even 39! I'm not a fan of hotdogs, to begin with, but watching that would make me sick.

I thought one guy's wrist was going to break... (it doesn't). Maybe that only happens in the movies...

Standing on a bridge.
Blocking the way on Brooklyn Bridge.

Making our way to Ground Zero was so surreal after seeing the events unfold live on the news on September 11, 2001. I remember seeing people crossing bridges to get out of the city and here I was walking down those same streets and across the same bridges. You had to stand and take a deep breath once in a while to shake the feelings that washed over you from time to time. Seeing the sculpture (below) that had been damaged by the collapse of the Twin Towers really affected me. They were still excavating the foundation of the buildings as we walked by, seven years after the events of 9/11. So many lives were lost. RIP.

The rest of the evening was relaxing and reflective, enjoying a quiet night out in Manhattan.

Our second last day in NY was spent visiting Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty, passing by Ellis Island (that was the busiest immigrant inspection and processing station in the US, and where some of my family passed through on their way to Canada), Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange (to see what all the fuss was about), The Ghostbusters Headquarters (Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8), The Museum of Modern Art (to see what's hot and what's not), dinner at The View (a rotating restaurant near Time Square), and an off-Broadway show called "Avenue Q", which was surprisingly funny, while being pretty risqué for a puppet show.

Holding my right arm up like the Statue of Liberty behind me.
Doing the tourist thing with Lady Liberty.

Saw the quarter-scale replica in Paris while I was there (below).

Large building on an island.
Ellis Island from a distance.
Large bronze charging bull.
Leaning into the Charging Bull of Wall Street with a smile.

Had to stop to get a photo here.

Fire station.
Who am I gonna call?

Top of a building with sunlight making it shine.
Top of the Chrysler Building at sunset. Looks like it's wrapped in gold foil (and entirely made of chocolate).

Sitting at a table with a bottle of wine.
Enjoying a bottle of wine with new and old friends.

After saying goodbye to Megan in New York, we headed to our last vacation destination of San Francisco. We only had a few days here but made the best of it again. On the first day we took it easy walking around downtown San Francisco, then hiking up the steep streets and checking out Lombard Street (with its 8 hairpin turns), and then to Fisherman's Wharf to take in the smell of the ocean and the seals.

Tall pointy building.
Transamerica Pyramid skyscraper.

Windy street.
Lombard Street (at the bottom).

Standing at an angle due to the steep street.
How steep are the streets?
Pier and ships, with Alcatraz in the background.
View of Fisherman's Wharf from above and Alcatraz in the fog..

Big sign at Fisherman's Wharf.
Posing at Fisherman's Wharf

Piers with seals laying on them.
Smelly seals enjoying the sun.

Day two, we stopped at Postcard Row ("Full House" TV show intro), 2640 Steiner Street (setting for Mrs. Doubtfire), wandered to the ocean side to check out Alcatraz Island from a distance (in the sand & wind), and finally met up with another friend, Erin, (who I'd met in Seville) for dinner and drinks in the Castro.

Victorian and Edwardian houses
Postcard Row
Victorian House
2640 Steiner Street (Mrs. Doubtfire's House)

Pointing to a front entry of a home.
A bit too excited to have found this house.

Ocean waves and a prison on an island in the background.
Crissy Field Beach with Alcatraz in the background.

Prison on an island.
Alcatraz zoomed in.

Bridge and beach
Golden Gate Bridge through wind, smog, and glare.
Friends hugging.
Reunited with Erin.

Before we knew it, it was time to head to our final destination. Canada was calling me home to visit family and friends. It was another quick visit to another great city.

If you're along for the ride, check out the next post "Part 6: Home for the After Holidays"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a great long weekend.

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