Scott turned over in bed this morning and found me reading. "You could go out and walk around, you know?" Duh. He was right. Why am I reading in bed in Boston?? So by 7am I was happily reading plaques in Paul Revere Plaza that I would never have time to read later!
After pushing the last few morning, we planned a late start today. Trouble was, this gave the boys enough time to get started on a show and they were convinced they had seen enough. It was time to spend a day just watching TV. Hahaha.... no. Well, actually we gave them an extra hour and then got on the subway to the Boston Tea Ships Museum where we caught an 11:15 tour. They did a great job! We started in a meeting space where the actors set the stage for why the tea was causing issues and needed to be dealt with (without being brought on shore!) and what it would mean for those caught destroying it. After that we were issued feathers (the real participants dressed at Mohawk Indians) and were lead to the ship where we each got to through "tea" into the harbor. After the on-ship time we went back inside where holographs, "live" portraits" and a film walked us through the rest of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. It was actually a great summary of all the places we had seen so far! Outside a few minutes after noon, we stopped on the bridge for a while to heckle the next tour as they were throwing tea ("You're committing treason!") before making the quick trip up to Boston Common, where we had lunch and then started our journey on the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail goes 2.5 miles and connects most of the major historical points in Boston. It is well-marked with bricks making it very easy to follow - we had a blast! We had already decided we weren't going inside.
Whew - this pace is not sustainable, but luckily we only have a few days left!
Up again with a 8am goal that went to 8:30 when Mike offered to make breakfast and Anne Marie and I got started chatting:)
We left New Jersey, drove through New York and into Connecticut, where we stopped for a brief visit and drive-through of Yale University just because.
Back in the car, through Rhode Island and into Massachusetts, our last state for the trip. We made our way off the freeway and arrived at Plimouth Plantation around 1pm. Not bad time really!
Plimouth is a re-creation of the original colony at Plymouth Rock, built by the Pilgrims a few years after they arrived in America. It starts with a native village, showcasing what native life looked like in the early 1600s, staffed with local natives who were extremely knowledgeable about building, cooking and craftsmanship skills. We watched a "Summer home" be built with reeds that would contract when dry (letting a breeze through) and expand in the rain, saw a man burning out a log for a canoe and ground corn with a young woman cooking suck and corn mash. Then we followed the path to the colony.
The actors in the colony each took on the persona of a pilgrim. They knew the background of their person and could speak knowledgeably to why they came to America, what they brought and what their experience had been so far. It was very interesting to go around and chat with each of them. They did a great job. Scott and Nolan even got called to muster and trained for a bit with spears! We definitely could have spent more than a few hours here, but (of course!) there was some place else we were trying to be and had to move on.
We were just under two hours from Minute Men National Historical Park at Lexington and Concord, where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired, and trying to make it by 5pm when the visitors center closed. We arrived at the North Bridge site with ten minutes to spare! Scott ran the boys' passports over for stamps, while the three of us read the plaques, played on the bridge and splashed a bit in the edges of the water. It felt good to be out of the car! With no other timelines looming we hung around for a while, before getting back in the car and heading to Boston.
On the way into town we drove through Harvard's campus, and then through MIT before making a quick stop at Kenmore Square to find the sign that marks the other end of Hwy 20 before finding our AirBnB for the night! Turns out, finding the place wasn't the problem. The problem was parking! A playoff hockey game was taking place not far way and every parking structure was full for blocks. Scott ended up circling the block while the boys and I pulled bags out with each passing until the car was unloaded. Then he took it back and returned it at the airport. We were back on foot, which was perfect since our place was right in the middle of everything we wanted to explore for the rest of the trip. Everything upstairs to our second floor room, and we brought another successful night to a close.
Our goal was to be on the road by 8 this morning so we could try to get same-day tickets for Independence Hall - and we almost made it! More like 8:30:)
We had tried to reserve tickets in advance, but again, four months advance planning only produced one ticket for a morning tour. Lacking any other options, I grabbed the ticket we had reserved for the 9:20 tour and headed over. So cool to be inside Independence Hall!! The tour started in the judicial room, and then moved on to the assembly room, where the Declaration and Constitution were both written! So cool taking in the history that occurred in the room, and seeing the chair where George Washington sat and presided over the room. (Benjamin Franklin said, "I have often looked at that [sun] behind the
president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting.
But now I... know that it is a rising...sun.")
I left the room with the last of our group - only to see Scott and the boys entering the judicial room with the next tour! I quietly followed them in where Scott told me the ranger who admitted people into the tour waiting area had been appalled that the boys were there and unable to get tickets. She'd told them to wait until she could confirm a few no-shows on the next tour and then waved them in, even without tickets! YEAH!! I listened to the details of the two rooms again, this time with my family!
When we were done, we walked around the corner to where a long line had formed for the Liberty Bell. The boys and Scott had walked right into the center when there were making their way to Independence Hall, so they were not impressed with the 30 minute line, but understood that their mother still wanted to see it first-hand. A family picture and a few "Am I really here?" minutes, and it was time to make our final stop in Philly: Ben Franklin's grave. We found it just around the corner from the visitor's center. I love old cemeteries... they boys were less impressed, but still wandered through and tried to find the birth dates on the old stones.
By 11:30 we were back on the road, returning to New Jersey and heading north to Thomas Edison's workshop in West Orange. This was a "Plan B" stop for us - one we wanted to do, but would skip if we ended up spending a lot of time in Philadelphia. I'm glad we made it because it was incredibly interesting to see how Edison had sectioned off his experiments, as well as how many people he had working for him! After a couple hours, we were one the road again, until Scott finally turned off the car GPS and said we'd reached roads he knew by heart - his old home! We spent the next few hours exploring his favorite bakery, finding this grade school and playing on the swings in the park. By 5pm, it was time to head to our space for the night: Uncle Mike's house in Ringwood, NJ. More family, more laughs... and pizza! Within a few minutes of our arrival, John, Tom, Chris and Kathy had joined us for the evening. So great to see them again! And the boys (who were feel rather anti-social, or exhausted?) got to add a few more faces to their collection of "Gruncles" (Great-uncles).
We were all up around 9am and, oh, doesn't it feel good to have some real sleep behind you!
We were almost human and able to think through problems that seemed insurmountable the day before. (Like Nolan wanting an NYC sweatshirt, but expecting it to only cost about $3.)
We packed up our bags, and stored them at the desk downstairs before going back out to some shops for NYC souvenirs and then heading to Battery Park to pick up our Statue of Library tickets. We had booked tickets to climb to the crown back in January. (We were actually only intending to check on the tour times, but had quickly realized there were only two tours left we could get four tickets for on this day.) So we were some of the lucky few that actually got to enter the pedestal or statue, which have tight security since re-opening after 9-11. The ferry took us out to Liberty Island where we had to leave everything except cameras and water in lockers before entering the statue. It was such a great experience! I doubt the boys will ever forget climbing the (very narrow!) steps to to the windows and looking out over the water. Very cool.
Back down where we walked around a few more times at the pedestal and then at the ground level, before re-boarding the ferry to Ellis Island. We hadn't talked to the boys as much about Ellis Island, but they knew the general story of immigrants coming past the Statue of Liberty to the vast falls where they were processed and allowed, or not allowed, through to the United States. We looked up Scott's great-grandpa William Burke, and then finally headed back to Battery Park.
Once we swung back through to get our bags another Uber took us to our car rental place, just a few blocks from the entrance to Carey Tunnel, which allowed us to exit Manhattan ASAP after picking up our car:) On the road, traffic was heavy at first, but continued to lighten as we got closer to Scott's Aunt Patti's house in south New Jersey - just about 25 minutes outside of Philadelphia.
So good to see family again! We ate Chinese food and spent the night catching up with Patti, Neal, Katie and Joey before crashing for a second good night's sleep.
Wheels down at New York's JFK around 5:15 this morning. Whew. We each managed a few hours of sleep on the plane - now we get to see if it's enough to get through a day in New York City.
Scott called and Uber to take us to our hotel, the DoubleTree in the Financial District. To our pleasant surprise the hotel was willing to give us our room despite our arrival 8 hours before check-in time at 3pm! With an hour to settle in, and take the world's briefest naps, we were back out the door around 8am, heading from the Financial District to midtown on the subway with roughly 5,000 of our closest friends. (It probably wasn't the best "first-impression" of the subway for the boys...)
When we told the boys we were going to NYC, they each got to pick 3-4 things for us to do. Together their list includes the Empire State Building, Central Park, the New York Public Library (we had just finished reading The Land of Stories
series, which ends at the library), Times Square (Nolan wanted to eat at the McDonalds) and the Statue of Liberty. (We later added the World Trade Center.)
So with those stops in mind, our first stop was the Empire State Building! Luckily the line wasn't too long so we walked through most of the waits for elevators and security without too much delay. And then we were on top of the world! Where it was very cold. Almost too cold to really be out on the balcony. But there are plenty of things to see from inside the observation area and, in the end, we were there.
Next we walked a few blocks to the New York City Public Library, where the boys started complaining about their feet hurting. (Well, that didn't take long! Clearly we should have walked a few more laps on the driveway before we tackled NYC.) The library is impressive! It's almost funny to think about our small city library in comparison. We explored the different rooms, found the original Winnie the Pooh animals and the map room (I love maps), before moving on toward Times Square.
We had tried to warn the boys that Times Square can be a little bizarre sometimes, so they were a bit nervous about scam artists or being approached by performers, but it was fine. We stayed in the zone where you can watch the performers without being approached and slowly made our way to McDonalds, where we took a lunch break.
By this time the kids were starting to really protest their feet, so we agreed to grab a taxi to Central Park, where we surprised them with an hour-long carriage ride through Central Park. (We knew in advance they were going to be dragging by this point, so we can set it up in advance.) The carriage took us right past all the sites they wanted to see (mostly from movies): Bethesda Fountain/Steps, the Balto Statue, and Sheeps Meadow. The driver also pointed out all of the places famous people had lived on the east and west sides, as well as where movies had been filmed (Elf, Enchanted, etc.). It must have been good, because we all manged to stay awake the entire time (or maybe that was the Starbucks stop before we climbed on board).
After our ride, we coaxed the boys into trying the subway again and found it considerably less crowded at 1:30 than it had been at 8am. Back at our hotel we all took another catnap to recharge our batteries. Afraid that too much sleep would make it heard to ever get used to the time change, we pulled ourselves back to our feet around 4pm, and headed out to the World Trade Center site, not far from our hotel. We spent an hour looking into the pools at the bottom of the sites where the two buildings had once stood and reading some of the names engraved on the sides. After some more sitting and people watching, it was time to find some dinner and head back to the room, via a few shops. Our intent had been to ride the Staten Island Ferry after the sun went down to take in the lights of the city, but once we got back to our room, we were all done. It was time to get some real sleep. Good night NYC - you hold a lot of sites for these Oregonians!
Our bags are packed and we're off to spend the next week on a major field trip for the boys!
Flight AS450 leaves PDX at 9:30 tonight and the questions is: Can we all make it through a day in NYC with whatever sleep we can manage on the plane tonight?
Time will tell - we're counting on adrenaline to help get us through!
The boys just finished their first year of The Art Conspiracy
- a two-week day camp that focuses on bringing the arts to the rural districts of Sheridan, Willamina and Amity.
Last night was their "Art Show" and - wow! - we were impressed at what they could do in two weeks!
Nolan studied Polymer Clay sculpture in the morning, and learned Taiko drumming in the afternoons.Here is his performance
, along with the pieces he made in class:
Carson did afternoons only, and studied digital photography. His favorite shots are posted here
Here is his best picture, "The Sad", on display and in full, along with a shot I snapped of him during the portraits session
The early light of being way far north finally lulled us out of bed around 8 this morning, which was perfect because the viewing deck at Hallgrímskirkja
(the church right across from our hotel) opened at 9am. Once again we enjoyed our free breakfast at the hotel, said good-bye to the Hótel Leifur Eiríksson
and ventured out for our last day in Iceland. Hallgrímskirkja is the highest building in Reykjavik, so the viewing deck of the church offer the best views of the city. We got there a little after 9am and found a little sign that basically said, "If we haven't gotten here yet to receive money, please just leave about 900KR each and go on up." I love Iceland. The trust... the simplicity... the baffled crowd gathered around the sign wondering if it can really be that easy. On top of the church it was not only beautiful, but someone, even more windy (which was hard to believe possible). We read the signs, admired the views from all sides, and returned to the lower levels before we froze to death!
The only other item on our to-do list for the day was shopping. Neither of us are big shoppers, but we had avoided picking up things for the kids, family or ourselves until we'd seen what different place had to offer. Now it was time. We took a few hours to stroll down the main shopping streets like we had the first day, but the reality is that most shops have exactly the same things for sale. And nothing was jumping out at us. On the advice of a few websites, we decided to try a different approach and headed to Kringlan
, the largest shopping mall in Reykjavik. And we discovered where the locals go! The mall included some standard shops (Subway, The Body Shop, etc.), but Flying Tiger
was our favorite. We probably spent an hour there! Of course it's also fun to just see the locals in action and window shop a bit, so this last minute decision turned out to be a really interesting addition to the trip.
Shopping done we returned to Reykjavik for some fish and chips! After strolling around a bit we finally settled on Icelandic Fish and Chips, located near the bay. Everything was a la carte, so we ordered two different types of fish, sides and sauces for our final Icelandic meal. Super-yummy!! And a bit bitter-sweet. It was time to head for the airport.
45 minutes later we were returning our car to the rental place - doors in tact. (Thank, goodness!)
The owner of the company was the only person around, so he offered to drive us back to the airport. It took about 15 minutes and along the way we got him started chatting about tourism in Iceland and the overall economy. Apparently, 3-4 years ago they had around 400k tourists visit. This year they are
anticipating 2.5M! By comparison the entire population of Iceland is
330,000 (about twice the size of Salem). There are a lot of
conversations going on about how to manage the numbers, but essentially the economy of Iceland tanked around 2007 and tourism is what brought it back. So it needs to be managed, but also continued. (I'm not sure if that means we were part of a growing problem, or part of a solution!?) I do know that basically EVERY attraction we visited had construction going on to accommodate the crowds anticipated this summer. We also read blogs with detailed descriptions of how to find trails and sights that were "unmarked" only to find parking areas and marked trails there when we arrived. So not only are they recognizing some of the issues, they are taking steps towards resolution at a much faster pace than we would likely be able to take in the states. It will be interesting to watch Iceland in the coming years to see what other adjustments they make in order to balance livability and local culture with the throngs of tourists who want to catch a glimpse of this intriguing little island.