Items tagged “travel&rdquo
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maura @ 10:23 pm
Days Gus had off school for Spring Break: 7 weekdays
Days I had off work for Spring Break: 2 vacation days taken
States or state-like entities visited: 3 (Delaware, Washington DC, and New York)
States driven through in transit: 2 (New Jersey, Maryland)
Cousins who were sick during our visit: 1.5 (out of 5)
Immediate family who got sick: 0 (incroyable!)
Plastic eggs filled by me and Jonathan playing the role of the Easter Bunny: 40
Peeps microwaved: 0 (they were chocolate-dipped, too messy)
People sleeping in my mom’s extra bedroom the one night we allowed a sleepover: 4
Times Gus and his cousin woke up (and woke us up): too many to count
Inches of snow predicted for the day we drove from DE to DC: 6
Inches achieved: 4ish in DE, less as we got there, just raining in DC
Days I attended the US Dept of Education’s Institutional Services grants Project Directors’ Conference: 2.5
Times I walked through Dupont Circle: 7
Times the Dupont Circles’ “Everywhere Girl” was in my head as I walked through Dupont Circle: 7
Museums visited by Gus and Jonathan: 4 (Postal Museum, Museum of Natural History, Spy Museum, National Zoo)
Museums visited by me: 2 (Postal Museum, National Zoo)
Sleepy pandas spotted at the zoo: 1, snoozing mostly behind a log
Spazzy Asian short-clawed otters spotted at the zoo: about 12 (OMG so cute and funny!)
Books read by a 6th grader during the break: 2 (Ender’s Game and Animal Farm)
Hours of 6th grade homework that awaited us upon return from parts south: approximately 8
Days until the standardized tests are over: 19
Most surprising (in a nice way) part of the break: watching Adventure Time *live* in the hotel in DC! Very fun.
maura @ 2:02 pm
We took a trip for the holidays, a longish trip to a warmish place, not the usual for us at xmas. It was lovely, which took me somewhat by surprise: as someone who is especially sunburn-prone I don’t tend to seek out sunny places for vacation. But I’ve also become more and more grumpy as I age about winter’s short dark days (even worse when there’s no snow, which is pretty much the whole point of winter), so I was happy to find myself with the opportunity to relax in a warm place with beautiful scenery and few obligations.
I ended up reading more than writing while on vacation. Partly because I was reading a book about Lynda Barry and partly because I’ve been thinking more about zines recently, I’m mulling over making a zine about the trip, though I might cave and just write about it here. Not sure how I would illustrate the zine since I can’t really draw. I could cut pictures from magazines? The only paper magazines we get anymore are the New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, Ranger Rick, and Science Illustrated, which might actually cover it.
Before that, a couple of weeks before thanksgiving, I took the train up to Saratoga Springs to speak on a panel at the New York Library Association annual conference. It was a fun time presenting with some of my favorite folks in the CUNYverse. Because there aren’t that many trains to Saratoga I ended up having to get one very very early in the morning the day before our panel, and took advantage of the travel (and the rest of that day alone in my hotel room) to finish up our book proposal. It’s been so hard to get more than a few hours at any one time to work on the book that it was just incredible to have one whole day — I got so much done!
Saratoga Springs was quaint and odd and dreamy. I called a taxi and when it pulled up was delighted to find that my cabbie was a lady! The ride was fairly short, maybe 10-15 minutes, and it cost FOUR DOLLARS. 4. $. I couldn’t help myself, I gave her a huge tip and blurted out “you can’t even get into a cab for $4 in the city!” On the cab ride we chatted about the fact that there was no snow at all, nor damage from Hurricane Sandy, that far upstate (this was right after the weird snowstorm). She called me a downstater — not in a mean way! — which I found surprising.
Wandering around the town I came across a carbonated spring and took a picture. Skidmore College is just up the road and I have to say that, now that I’ve been to Saratoga Springs, it brings Steven Millhauser’s writing to a whole different plane in my brain. I mean, of *course* you’d write stories like that if you live in Saratoga Springs. Or maybe you live in Saratoga Springs because you write stories like that? It’s hard to explain, but between the carbonated spring and the huge beautiful public library and the sullen yet charming teens hanging out on the swinging bench in the Ben & Jerry’s parking lot and the carousel on the edge of a pretty park overrun by fat noisy ducks… I could almost see the edges of the flying carpets whizzing by or the dust of the invasion from outer space settling onto the sidewalk.
Anyway, I started writing a blog post on the train on the way up to Saratoga and feel weird leaving it abandoned and unfinished, so here it is:
So much water. The river seems high, seems somewhat threatening now, even though it’s a lovely crisp fall day and the sun shines bright.
I don’t know that I’ve ever taken the train on this route before. This is the way we should have traveled to Montreal last year, but we took the bus instead, silly us. This train goes up up up along the Hudson River. Not through the old brick factory towns in Massachusetts like when we used to train to Vermont. Not through the Eastern cities like when I last took a train to a(n) (un)conference. This route’s all bluffs and cliffs and hills and trees and houses nestled in. And the wide river, I forget how wide it is in parts.
I still feel all kinds of messed up about living near water, the hurricane wasn’t long enough ago, so many folks (esp. in public housing) are still powerless and displaced. But it’s hard not to enjoy a train trip, train travel is just intrinsically delightful, Amor de Dias in my headphones and my laptop plugged in so I can work on the book proposal as the trees fly by. Jonathan called this my traincation, and he’s right.
maura @ 9:58 pm
Vacation! We’ve had some vacation so far this summer, and we’ll have some more still. First we made our annual midwest trip, this time with bonus heat! (not that it was any cooler at home) We had a blast over 2 quick days in Chicago seeing good friends and doing fun things. In order, we: ate Chicago dogs at Murphy’s Red-Hots (mmm, celery salt!), enjoyed a BBQ with ex-neighbor Brooklyn ex-pats, ate a maple-bacon donut at Do-Rite, visited the robot library and the Reg, ate garbage pizza at the Med, geeked out on the giant trainset and Tesla coil at the Museum of Science and Industry, ogled the architecture as we drove around, enjoyed a delicious dinner at Lula Cafe in Logan Square, and got our cinnamon rolls and Swedish sampler breakfast on at Ann Sather.
Then it was off to Indiana where we also ate well, including the always delicious Duane Purvis burger (mmm, peanut butter!) with fried mushrooms and a vanilla coke at Triple XXX diner and brisket + ribs from South Street Smokehouse. What is it about traveling lately that food has become such an important thing? I don’t know, guess we’re getting old. Of course it was lovely to see everyone, too.
We left the sprog in the midwest for a bit and indulged in some more food back home, a newish fancy restaurant and an old fancy restaurant, each with good old friends. Plus bonus art! At the Guggenheim, which I’d have sworn I’d been to in the past but when we got there I realized I hadn’t. The building is delightful (semi-circular elevator wow!) and the art was medium-arty, but the Rineke Dijkstra photography/video retrospective was phenomenal and totally worth a visit. We also rode our bikes to Governor’s Island which is easy-peasy on the way there and around the island and somewhat more difficult on the way back, evenmoreso when it’s 90 degrees. The weird park/museum that is Governor’s Island never fails to make me happy, though, so it was worth the uphill homeward trip for sure.
And now we are home and doing home things. Worky working for the adults, campy camping for the kid. We do have some other vacations planned this summer, family stuff to the mountains and the beach. But I am feeling a bit of traveling envy as well. I want to go to the Grand Canyon, to Yellowstone, to Hawaii. To Scandinavia, always, but especially because two books I’m reading right now are set there, and also because Gus has a friend who is traveling in Scandinavia with his family this summer. This is not the summer for long trips, though: I’m writing a book with my research partner about our big project, which is keeping me busy.
But maybe next summer we can do a longer trip. Certainly if temperatures in the 90s is the new normal it would be nice to flee the city, and Scandinavia in the summertime would be even nicer.
maura @ 10:00 pm
Last weekend we took a short + sweet trip down to the DelMarVa peninsula. After we’d had to cancel our trip to the Baltimore aquarium over Spring Break Gus was bummed, so we checked the calendar and arrived at Brooklyn-Queens Day, otherwise known as the first Thursday in June and a school holiday. We decided to yank him out of school for Friday 6/8 as well and bingo, our quick Spring Break replacement trip was set.
It’s been ages since I visited Baltimore. I spent much of my preteen childhood in and around Philly and I’ve always felt warmly about Baltimore, sort of a sympathetic younger sibling feeling. Like so many Eastern working cities it’s maybe not transitioned as well into the post-industrial age as would be nice. Which is why I can’t completely fault the mallification of the Inner Harbor — as much as it’s not my thing by a long shot, it’s good to see the tourist dollars rolling in.
And in and among the malls there’s good stuff for sure. The aquarium was a good time and holds up well to my memories of long ago. As I sort of feared it’s hard for any aquarium to live up to the touching sharks and wading with rays experience Gus had at the Camden aquarium last year (which I don’t seem to have blagged about, mysteriously). But I still think the Baltimore aquarium has a lovely design, with the moving walkways taking you up up up to the rainforest at the top, letting you look down onto the ray tank further below at each floor.
In the big coral reef tank with the ramps that lead you back down there was not one but two puffer fish, one the biggest I’ve ever seen. I love puffer fish (not just because of The Simpsons) and only just this time realized that the reason they’re so easy to love is that they have big eyes that sort of swivel in their sockets like mammal eyes do, not really flat or fishy at all. So kawaii! All of my pictures came out sort of lame, so instead you can look at this one from a cool aquarium we visited long ago in Auckland, New Zealand:
In the jellies exhibit was a type I’ve never seen before called upside down jellies. They all seem to congregate, flipped over, in a pile on one side of the tank. Occasionally a lone jelly would be swimming around, right-side up, which looked super weird in that context. Some were nearly impossibly small, smaller than a ladybug! They were hard to get a good photo of, what with all the undulating tentacles, but I gave it my best shot:
It was a quick trip and of course Gus wanted to get in as much time swimming in the hotel pool as possible, so other than the aquarium the main thing we did was visit some of the historic ships in the Inner Harbor. First up and coolest by a long shot was a WWII sub. So many levers and switches to flip, dials to turn! Also bunks to lie in (kind of icky). And lots of yelling “fire in the hole!” and “dive, dive!” Only later did Jonathan and I begin to realize how creepy it is to imagine being cooped up on a submarine under all of that water.
We also toured the Chesapeake Lightship, and until then I hadn’t realized that lightships basically anchored themselves to a specific spot off the coast and hung out pretending to be lighthouses. The next day we did the restored Civil War ship USS Constellation, which was a bit less fun and more restored-y, though Gus did like swinging from the hammocks where the sailors slept. We missed the Coast Guard ship (walked by it, but no time), and were able to squeeze in a quick walk through the Knoll Lighthouse, a funky flat kind of lighthouse designed to be out in the ocean rather than on the edge of a land mass. Far fewer stairs to climb, but far lonlier, I’d imagine, too.
Rounding out our tourist experience was chain restaurant food and the waves and waves of red-clad Philadelphia Phillies fans seemingly everywhere we turned. The stadium where the Orioles play is quite close to the harbor, and there was some sort of three-day baseball extravaganza happening while we were there. It was kind of surreal and theme-parky at times, esp. since we as a family are so completely unsportsy. Talk about fish out of water! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
maura @ 9:08 pm
Okay, the train was kind of a bust on the way home last weekend: we had some mechanical problems, were stuck in Philly for 90 minutes, and ended up having to transfer to another train for the rest of the trip. It was kind of comical actually: on the first train I was in the quiet car and had no seat neighbor, which was brilliant, while on the second train I was on a crowded noisy car. Oh well, them’s the breaks.
I discovered on last weekend’s trip that Amor de Dias is the most perfect train music ever. It’s Lupe from Pipas (a band I lovelovelove) and Alasdair from The Clientele (a band I’m kind of meh about). They are poptastic: quiet and dreamy and just perfect for watching the scenery slip by and relaxing your brain and feeling a little sad about Baltimore but also a little happy about the little bit of snow and the waning afternoon light. Go to their website and listen to Late Mornings right now! (Esp. the ‘oooohs’ that start around 0:57 — so dreamy.)
Today is the first day of the semester. It’s been a long month full of deadlines and much, much busier than a January *should* be, I think. Of course there are always deadlines but I think the busiest bit is past, which seems funny to say on the first day of the semester. But I’m optimistic, and thinking of that train ride makes me evermoreso.
maura @ 4:12 pm
Look, I get it that lots of people like cars. But those people are stupid. How can they possibly resist train travel? The scenery slipping by, the ability to read/write/nap, and (of late) plentiful electricity and usable-if-pokey wifi.
Yes, there are other people, egads! But there’s something kind of comforting about the we’re all in this togetherness of a train, as opposed to the hurtling by at high speeds in our own personal metal coffinness of cars.
(Though like a good 49% [or is it 51%?] introvert I am wearing my headphones but not listening to anything because I don’t want anyone to talk to me.)
I can see you suckas on the NJ Turnpike right now! Ha! You are not typing on a computer, you are paying attention to the road! And hoping there’s not any early rush hour traffic in Philadelphia! (And if you were me as a passenger, you’d be feeling barfy and carsick probably right now, too.)
I do wish that the tray tables were a bit lower, though. Or that my laptop didn’t run as hot as it does. Makes for toasty knees.
Dear Amtrak, please don’t go bankrupt. Please figure out a way to score a huge investment of funds so you can build more track and speedier trains and make it so I never ever have to drive or fly anywhere east of the Mississippi ever again.
maura @ 10:26 pm
We’re home today, having only taken the quick trip north. Where quick = the length of time we spent in Montreal, not the length of time we spent on a bus. Lots of sitting, oof.
Tired tonight and lots of TV to catch up on, so please enjoy some of my random photos from the trip!
We stopped at the Duty Free on the American side of the border on the way up, and in addition to cigarettes and liquor there were many somewhat unusual finds:
Who doesn’t love the full set of Lord of the Rings Pez dispensers? Look at that Gollum head!
Enormous candy abounded. I’ve only ever seen a Hershey bar this big at Hershey Park!
Also how would you even eat this gigantic lollipop? Wouldn’t it get all icky before you had a chance to finish it, like Homer’s sandwich? (Okay, how weird is it that I can only find that clip in German? Copyright stinks!)
When we got through Canadian customs we were waiting to reboard the bus near a door with this sign on it. I get that it means first aid, but it *looks* like it means “extra bandage-wrapped hands in here!”
And then there was poutine, and there was beer, and there was great rejoicing. Followed by cafe au lait and tarte de sucre, not pictured here. Candy bars were brought home as well, one Coffee Crisp and one Crunchie for each of us. Heaven forfend we ever move to Montreal because we will clearly become enormously fat!
maura @ 9:17 pm
What’s the prompt? Need a prompt. It’s too easy to write about today, which I’ve mostly spend (and am still spending as I type this) on a bus. A sadly wifi-free bus, which is a bummer because as we’re sitting here waiting waiting waiting to clear customs I’ve had to turn data roaming off in preparation for finishing the ride to Montreal.
So instead I will write about languages. Many of the middle schools in our part of Brooklyn don’t offer languages in the earlier grades or even at all. I can understand why–their time is limited and they do offer lots of other great stuff. But preparing for this trip and listening to folks speaking French on the bus has me thinking about whether we might want to try for some language lessons outside of school, as tiger mothery and scary as that sounds.
I love languages, though I never gained true fluency in any. I had some French as a little kid in Montessori school, then I chose French in junior high and the first 3 years of high school. The last two years of high school I took Latin, which kicked ass–so very excellent & rules based and so helpful for etymology, too. I also had a tiny bit of German in high school, maybe 1 trimester? (We had a very strange high school schedule).
In college I was determined to fulfill my language requirement with the most off-the-beaten-path choice possible, which means that 2nd year found me in the introductory Sanskrit class. It was wicked hard (oh, the extra time of transliteration) but really fun. In some ways taking Sanskrit made me take college itself more seriously–I had goofed off a bit during 1st yr and my grades weren’t great, but Sanskrit was pretty much sink or swim. It rocked.
I flirted with learning Old Irish in archaeology grad school, even bought the books! They are very handsome, we have them still. But it’s really hard and I don’t even know modern Irish and then I changed my research area so it seemed like less of a good idea.
I haven’t had any language study since then, though there are several languages that I’m fond of. Icelandic because it’s so old. Finnish and Hungarian because they’re so non-Indo-European. Japanese would be so practical, since we’d like to visit one day. Spanish is, of course, the most practical of all. It would probably be relatively easy to pick up because of the French and Latin experience of my youth, and would enable me to eavesdrop in my day to day life much more effectively.
Even though I’m far far from able to converse, it’s still amazing to me how much French I actually remember. I’m sure I’ll forget it all when it’s time to order dinner, though as long as I can say poutine I’m sure I’ll be okay.
maura @ 10:50 pm
I’m jumping from task to task right now, having a hard time focusing on getting done what needs to happen: blagging, packing, tech prep, last minute email answering, figuring out where to get poutine.
Tomorrow I’m off to Montreal for the American Anthropological Association meetings. My research partner and I are presenting about one small part of our huge honking research project on Friday morning, yay! It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a really academicy conference. Yes, we wrote a paper, and yes, we will probably read it. But our slides are good, and I think it’s okay to read a paper sometimes (she reassures herself).
Once again I’ll be traveling without my laptop, with just my ipad. I flirted with bringing the laptop for a long long time, because we will be on a bus for a long long time. But it’s just not practical to schlepp it around with me. So we’ll see how much I can get done on the bus with the pad, yo. (Fingers crossed for wifi!)
I’m looking forward to visiting Montreal again, even though it’s only really for one day. Maybe we’ll go to the archaeology museum! And the rad library, too. Right this very minute Jonathan’s verifying the quality of the poutine and tart sucre place we’re eyeballing, yum. Considering bringing an extra suitcase to stuff with coffee crisps.
Ah, go away, I have to pack!
maura @ 11:18 pm
This song used to remind me of working for Amex Publishing, because that’s when I first really started listening to Stars. When I did production on the websites I’d often put something on the headphones on repeat (we had a pretty open cubicle plan so headphones were a useful signal that someone was hunkering down to get stuff done) and Stars went well with HTML. Then we went to Montreal two summers ago and now I only think of Montreal when I think of Stars because that’s where they’re from.
Last week my research partner and I got an acceptance email from the Anthropological Association of America (AAA, but not the car kind) for the conference proposal we submitted as part of a panel on library ethnography. The conference is in Montreal this fall, so it’s been Stars in my head ever since. It’s been years and years since I’ve been to the AAAs, should be an interesting trip. The conference will be in the rainbow-hued Palais de Congres so I will finally get to see the inside, too.