Friday, September 26, 2014

Governor's Island

Governor's Island is one of those summer activities that you promise yourself that you're going to do when the weather starts getting warm and then suddenly it's snowing and you wonder if summer even really happened at all. Last year I went a few times and loved it so I vowed to go back. This year an entirely new portion of the island opened to visitors—including a magical land called Hammock Grove—so of course I had to go check it out.

Jim and I were finally able to make it by the end of August, and this weekend is the last chance to see Governor's Island before it closes again until May. We were lucky enough to grab two (out of the fifty) hammocks when we first arrived, and they're just as relaxing and fun as you think they'll be. The only problem with Hammock Grove is that there is absolutely zero shade—you are surrounded by trees, but they're tiny and new—in a hundred years it will be amazing. Although we roasted and got awkwardly sunburnt, we were still laying in hammocks in the middle of New York City.

The rest of the time we spent just walking around the island (it was Jim's first time there) and I always manage to see something new. A lot of the old military buildings are abandoned and I almost got up the nerve to slip into the open window of one, but I chickened out like usual. I settled for sticking my camera through the window to creep on the incredible layers of peeling paint while scolding Jim for being such an upstanding, law-abiding citizen (the nerve).

The only bad part about Governor's Island is the excess of children, especially around the part of the island that houses a huge bell (oh god, that bell), but maybe that's just the spinstery, get-off-my-lawn old lady in me. There are a ton of food trucks to pick from, and we had delicious Philly cheesesteaks before hitting up the iconic Mister Softee (the first time for both of us!) because rainbow sprinkles always make an already-wonderful day even better.

We also both tried coconut water for the first time because they were handing them out for free. Turns out we weren't missing much, because no one told us that coconut water is terrible. But we did drink it while sitting in rocking chairs on the porch of an old dormitory overlooking men in Civil-War-era costumes, so I can't really complain.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Downtow Newpot

Last weekend Jim, Katie and I went to Newport, RI for two days of mansion tours, delicious food, cemeteries and general New England-y delights. I'd been to Newport once before, but I never turn down a chance to explore and there's definitely a reason why Newport was the summer destination for anyone who was anyone in the Gilded Age.

We bought a five-house mansion tour ticket and chose the Breakers, Rosecliff, Kingscote, Chateau-Su-Mer and the Isaac Bell house. The Isaac Bell house was my favorite on my first trip, and it still manages to hold onto that title 7 years later. It's a shingle-style lovers dream, with a wraparound, two-story porch that I would probably never leave.

We also walked a portion of the Cliff Walk, which overlooks the ocean on one side and the backyards of gorgeous mansions on the other, and features some of the best warning signs I've ever seen (totally to scale). We had breakfast at Ma's Donuts and More, where I had one of the best sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches I've ever had (bold claim) and I took an apple cider donut to go, which I did not regret.

Saturday we saw the Newport Casino (now the International Tennis Hall of Fame), designed by Charles McKim of the famous architecture firm McKim, Mead and White, and ate lunch at the La Forge restaurant that overlooks the tennis court. Sunday we ate lunch at White Horse Tavern which was founded in 1673 and claims to be America's Oldest Tavern (definitely haunted).

We drove along Ocean Drive, stopped for a Del's Frozen Lemonade—always delicious, despite Jim's having a bee in the bottom—and of course I made sure there was time for a stop at the Common Burying Ground and Island Cemetery, which is on Farewell Road (!). I couldn't find the colonial-era slave grave portion of the cemetery, but there were a lot of very old tombstones, which I can't get enough of—the winged skulls are my absolute favorite and this cemetery had quite a few in relatively good shape, especially considering they were from the early 1700s.

Newport was the perfect weekend trip and getaway from the city, which I definitely appreciate, despite my love of all things New York. Every time I go to New England, I fall in love with its charms a bit more and I take comfort in knowing that when I eventually tire of city life, I can start the next chapter of my life in New England—where I will buy a rambling haunted house, fill it with cats, tie cornstalks to the porch, pretend like it's always Halloween and live happily ever after.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Magic Forest in Lake George, NY

At the beginning of September we went on a weekend road trip to Vermont to see a play on a Saturday night and I knew I wanted to find something weird and roadside-attractiony to see on the way back to New York. A bit of scouring on the Roadside America app led me to the discovery of the Magic Forest amusement park, in the resort town of Lake George, New York.

Opened in 1963, Magic Forest doesn't seem to have changed much—if at all—since the '60s and I was super excited to spend the day there taking photos of all of the Muffler Men, rickety rides and fairytale-themed buildings nestled amongst the pine trees.

Well, thanks to Google horribly misrepresenting their hours, we drove two hours only to find out that the Magic Forest was closed for the season. I spent a good deal of time walking around the fences, trying to decide if I could overcome my annoying law-abiding nature and break in, but I eventually decided against it. From what I could see through the fences, the Magic Forest looked even more spectacular than I had imagined—creepy and kitschy and just the right amount of run down to make me devastated that I have to wait almost an entire year before the park opens again.

They're open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and I've already vowed to return for opening weekend. They have the World's Largest Uncle Sam, a train, a tram, a mile-long safari, a magic show and the only remaining diving horse attraction in the country, not to mention all of the statues and fairytale cottages—Magic Forest might be my favorite place and I haven't even stepped inside of the gates yet.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Photos of People Taking Photos

Yikes. It's been a while.

I spent more than half of August seeing (nearly) every single famous piece of artwork, extravagant church and ruin that Italy has to offer, courtesy of my amazing Uncle Steve who was my travel companion, guide and historian—all of which he does with ease and expertise. Five days after I returned to the States—incredibly cultured, fancy and exhausted—I moved out of my first New York apartment and into a much bigger, better and (inexplicably) cheaper apartment 15 blocks north.

I was also insanely busy at work, designing (among other things) a double-page spread in the New York Times, which was a crazy dream come true to open up the paper of record and see something I more-or-less created staring right back at me. BUT none of that is really important because this is a blog about adventures, and I have so many of them to recount that even if I stayed locked in my apartment (with my two fireplaces—!) for the rest of this year I would still have things to blog about. So, although I have barely had time to unpack let alone make any significant dent in the more than two thousand photos I took in Italy, I came across a group of photos I took in Florence that I just had to share immediately.

Florence was the second city on our itinerary and after the grand scale and ruin of Rome, it was a welcome change of pace. Florence was beautiful and significantly more compact than Rome, so we had more of an opportunity to focus our time.

One of our stops was the Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's masterpiece, the David. Arguably one of the most, if not the most, famous statues in the entire world, the David is the Accademia's main attraction. There isn't much more in the museum, although my uncle and I both found Michelangelo's unfinished slave sculptures to be equally as intriguing and worthy as the more polished and idealistic David.

Once I got over the initial, surreal feeling of seeing such a crazy-iconic piece in real life, I shifted my focus to the crowd's behavior in the presence of such a famous work. There were a lot of selfies which are always incredibly awkward to witness—I feel the same way watching people take selfies as I do when I accidentally make eye contact with a dog that is mid-poop. Both activities seem intensely intimate and out-of-place in a public setting. But just because I'm uncomfortable does not mean that I'm not also fascinated—with how/if people smile, how they arrange themselves in front of the backdrop of choice and what they do following a successful capture (presumably Instagram it?).

Most people, however, immediately took out their phone and quickly snapped a photo of the David, because we all know if you don't photograph/Instagram it, it didn't really happen (I'm completely guilty of this, by the way). I spent the rest of our time in the Accademia basically stalking people—with the kind of zero-fucks-given attitude that can only come with being a tourist very, very far from anyone that could possibly recognize you—and trying to capture the David through their phone screen, or if I was really lucky, their iPad.

There was just something so removed and automatic about most of the people's photos—many didn't even take a moment to consider the statue without a screen between their eyeballs and the marble masterpiece. I wonder what Michelangelo would think if he suddenly walked into the future and saw girls posing with their best duck-face or people trying to figure out how to best fit his nearly 17 feet-tall statue within the Instagram frame?