Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer moments in New York, Maryland and Virginia

I returned to Oslo last week after a wonderful vacation in the USA, where I visited the states of New York, Maryland and Virginia. As always, my trip was full of wonderful moments, all a part of my visits with my good friends and family. I did a lot of traveling on this trip; I arrived in Newark New Jersey by plane on a Thursday afternoon and spent Thursday and Friday with my friend Gisele in Manhattan. We visited the National September 11 Memorial, located at the sites of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. It was a very moving experience. On our way out of the site, we stopped in the gift store and I bought a book called ‘The Survivor Tree’, about the callery pear tree that survived the 9/11 attacks despite suffering extensive damage and burns, and was replanted at the Memorial site in December 2010. We got a chance to see this tree on the site; it has branched and grown quite high. One of the tourist guides told us that it is the only tree in which the birds will nest. I bought the book because it will be a positive reminder of a tree that symbolizes strength, hope and survival; something sorely needed in the midst of the sorrow and personal tragedies that the memorial site honors and asks us to remember. Afterward, we walked through Battery Park and up along the Esplanade (west side of Manhattan), where we had lunch at the Merchants River House restaurant. We then walked north as far as Vesey Street and then took a subway back to the Hilton Hotel in midtown. It was a beautiful day in Manhattan, and I shot some lovely photos of the boats sailing on the Hudson River, as well as some night photos of the hotel and the surrounding area. New York City at night is always a photographic adventure—the colors, the lighting, the digital effects.

On Saturday, I took the Vamoose bus from Penn Station to Bethesda Maryland to visit my cousin Karen and her husband Naj who live in Potomac. The Vamoose bus is the cheapest way to get to the Washington DC area and I recommend it; the wi-fi on board worked very well and the bus made one pit stop during the four hour trip. Karen, Naj and I spent Saturday talking and catching up; on Sunday, we decided to hike in Gambrill State Park, a lovely mountain park located on the ridge of the Catoctin Mountains in Frederick County. After hiking we ate a delicious brunch buffet at The Cozy Inn & Restaurant in Thurmont Maryland, not far from the presidential retreat Camp David. The inn has an interesting history, having been visited by a number of presidents through the years, understandably a source of pride for its owners. Maryland is a beautiful state, with lush green forests and meadows; this was reinforced for me when I took the Amtrak train further south (from Washington DC) to Williamsburg Virginia to visit my sister Renata and her husband Tim (from Monday until Wednesday). The train passed through some amazingly beautiful rural areas and marshes in Maryland and Virginia on its way to Williamsburg. My sister picked me up there and we drove to their home in Poquoson (not far from the ocean), where they were living up until this past week. We had a very nice time hanging out, watching movies, talking, eating and laughing. Their dog Dale ended up with his head in my lap while we were watching movies; this kind of trust from a dog that has been reasonably skeptical to having me around on previous visits. I also had an early morning visitor in the form of their cat Sugar, who spent one hour with her head in my armpit, sleeping and purring. I have not spent much time in Virginia; I remember that we may have visited Virginia on a family vacation long ago when we were children, but details of that trip are mostly forgotten. In any case, it too is a lovely state from the little of it I got to see.

I returned to Manhattan by Amtrak train (an eight hour trip) from Williamsburg on Wednesday; I thought I might go stir crazy sitting all that time but the trip went surprisingly well. Of course I had my iPad with my Kindle books, music and Candy Crush game to keep me occupied. Again, the onboard wi-fi worked well and I was able to write and send some emails as well. So time passed fairly quickly. I was however quite tired by the time the train arrived at Penn Station in Manhattan, and I still had to get to Grand Central Station, where I boarded yet another train to take me to Peekskill. My friend Jean picked me up there, and from then on I was in upstate New York, in Cortland Manor where she lives and where I love being, until I left to return to Oslo the following Monday. Thursday found us in Sleepy Hollow, first to have lunch with my brother Ray and his children (my niece Tamar and nephew Eli), and then to visit the cemetery where our parents are buried. Our friend Maria joined us on Friday, and we hung around, talked, laughed, ate, watched a movie, went to see Menopause the Musical (quite funny), went to her nieces’ birthday party for cake and coffee, then to hear her brother Jim and his three sons play good ol’ rock and roll in their band Crucible (the youngest son, Dean, is fourteen years old and an unbelievable drummer). We also managed a trip to the Garrison train station so that I could see Guinan’s Pub (now closed) which is situated right behind the train platform on the river side. It was the subject of Gwendolyn Bounds wonderful book Little Chapel on the River (I wrote about this book in a March 2013 post--- Someone had written on the pub’s green door—R.I.P., referring to the owner Jim Guinan who passed away in 2009. I took some photos of the pub, and took a long look inside through the dusty windows. The bar has long since been emptied of inventory and furniture, but I could ‘see’ how it must have looked in its heyday. If you walk down to the Hudson River from the pub and look across to the other side of the river, you can see West Point; it reminded me of the parts of the book about the West Point cadets who sneaked across the river in order to visit the pub and have a beer or two. 

On Sunday, another sunny blue-sky summer day, we drove to Poughkeepsie and walked across the Hudson River on the old Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge that was converted to a pedestrian footbridge and opened in 2009 as The Walkway over the Hudson (, and It is the longest footbridge in the world, according to Wikipedia, about 1.28 miles long. A very nice walk, with signs hung up along the bridge with interesting information about its history, the turbidity and pH of the Hudson River at different locations, the bird life in the area, and so on. As we stood on the bridge facing north, we could see and hear the freight trains passing on the Highland side of the river, but we were not sure where they ended up. Each time I am in the vicinity of the Hudson River, it hooks me, and I want to explore it more, hopefully with them. I decided then and there that on future visits to New York, I want to do the Hudson River Walk as well as to take a boat ride up along the Hudson River. This river is in my blood, I grew up in a small town on its banks, and its history continues to fascinate me.

My friends and I always manage to do a lot of interesting things in the time we have together, and it's always enjoyable because we are doing those things together. And the same goes for my family too. I only wish I could spend more time with everyone. That will come to pass next summer, God willing. I will be posting some photos of this trip in my next post.

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