Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

Grand College Tour 2012

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Family, School, Vacation

The boys did some great things this summer. Jake attended soccer camps both with John Smith Camps at Merrimack College and with Soccer Plus at Northfield-Mt. Hermon School. Josh participated in a six-week architecture program for high school Juniors at the Syracuse University Summer College and then spent a week as a volunteer at North Woods Camp.

But… What really capped off the summer was the “Grand College Tour of 2012” – 11 states, 10 colleges, 2500+ miles, and one Waffle House. Along the way, we threw in some fun too!

It all started in New York City. We left on Saturday morning, found our hotel, kicked around the city a bit, and then took the train to Yankee Stadium. We’d all been to the OLD stadium during its last season so it was fun to check out the NEW one. We were even treated to a flyover by the USAF Thunderbirds.

Since the Red Sox won, we think this may have been a plot to confuse Boston fans…

We also had a chance to check out the 9/11 memorial! We’d seen it from the outside before but this time we planned ahead and got passes to go inside.

The “college” part of GCT2012 got underway with a “drive by” at Cooper Union. No campus here, just a cool building or two. This is a pretty elite school and would be a stretch for Josh, but it was fun to check it out.

We got back to earth with a tour of the campus at Pratt Institute. A true campus within the city of New York was pretty cool. We enjoyed all of the art around the campus.

Next we were off to Philadelphia. We stayed in a great hotel right next to Independence Hall so we got to play tourists a bit on our arrival and later quenched our thirsts at Rotten Ralph’s.

In the evening, we celebrated Shawn’s birthday with a meal at Buddakan. Awesome asian food here in an upscale setting!

Next we visited Drexel University and had a nice chat with one of the Professors there about their unique program. Josh liked the urban setting and the proximity to the city.

Then we were off to Penn State. We toured the campus and had dinner at the Corner Room in the great town of State College followed by ice cream at the Berkey Creamery. We talked with the Architecture department and toured the studios. Josh was more impressed here than he expected!

The University of Virginia was next.  We strolled Charlottesville’s pedestrian areas, checked out the South Street Brewery, and enjoyed a nice dinner at the Blue Light Grill while being serenaded by the Mennonites.

We took the standard UVa campus tour and enjoyed the history and tradition. After that, we tried to sneak into the architecture building and happened upon the Dean of Architecture who set us up with a great tour of the facilities and information on the school. Josh was less impressed than he thought he’d be here.

Virginia Tech was added on the fly based on some feedback from other schools. We checked in at the visitor’s center and then took a self-guided tour of the camps and wandered our way through the architecture building.  Josh liked the campus a lot.

Next we arrived in Charlotte which was a much cooler city than we anticipated. We toured the downtown area and the “Music Factory” (including some great beers at VBGB) and were really pretty impressed. We even found a pizza parlor where we celebrated Jake’s 16th birthday with a ride on Muffin!! Later, we discovered TACOMAC and its great beer selection!

We found the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to be pretty impressive with it’s expansive recent construction. Clearly a growing school!  It’s large commuter population was a bit of a turn off though.

We checked in at North Carolina State next and found our way around the big campus. Some neat stuff going on in the architecture department here!

The Southern terminus of our trip was Clemson University in South Carolina. A great campus and a beautiful new architecture building but both mom and dad were happy to hear Josh say this seemed too far from home. We dined at the Pot Belly Deli before starting our drive back north.

We stopped for dinner in historic Fredericksburg and happened upon the Capital Ale House for a nice dinner before wearily pulling into Baltimore.

The next morning, it was back South a bit to the The University of Maryland. John and Josh managed to sneak into the locked and deserted architecture building for a bit of a tour and watched the traffic snarl as the freshmen moved into the dorms. Another campus that Josh seemed to really like.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the city of Baltimore. A nice lunch at Tír na nÓg, overlooking the harbor, was followed by a nap for the boys and a couple beers for mom and dad before heading to see Cirque du Soleil perform. Josh stopped for an iced mocha after that and that was followed by a traditional crab dinner at Captain James Crabhouse – a fun experience but we all agreed that lobsters are superior!!

Finally, on our way home the next morning, we made the ultimate stop… The Waffle House. We found the omelets quite fluffy and the waffles much to our liking!

That was our trip! We learned a lot along the way – about being a family in a car together for nine days, about college towns, about campuses, and about what Josh might and might not like about these schools.  And all the way, Jake was a good sport and maybe got some ideas of his own. For now, we’re happy to be staying home for Labor Day weekend.

Spring Break Punta Cana

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Travel, Vacation

Once the boys were signed up to participate in their spring school trip to Italy, the next question became, what should Shawn and John do? Of course! Punta Cana!!!

So… Off they went for a week in the sun at the Riu Palace Bavaro. A new hotel just opened this past December, the place was much to their liking.

Their room had a view across the pool to the ocean – even from the shower!

Bavaro is on the Atlantic (north) side of Hispanola and, as such, is exposed to wind and sea. The first couple of days were a bit rough at the beach but all smooth at the pool. Particularly at the swim-up bar.

The pool was the center of focus most days. Lots of sipping and dipping, many books read and people watched!

John did some scuba diving – both in the Atlantic off the beach and then, on an “excursion” day while Shawn sipped champagne on the beach, on the Caribbean side of the island from the resorts at Bayahibe.

All in all, it was a decadent and relaxing week!  What fun!

Land of the Tiger

Posted: December 11, 2011 in Vacation, Work

In December, John made a business trip to Bangalore India to visit a customer there.

Departing on a Saturday night, the first stop was Sunday morning at London’s Heathrow Airport. John was here just long enough to catch a nap and a pint.

From there, it was on to the city of Bangalore and the Blue Petal hotel.

After a nap and a trip to the local mall to do a little Christmas shopping, we had the first of many Indian meals and settled into a routine of working with the folks back in the USA as their day began in our evening.

Work occupied the next days. We did have an exciting trip to a cell tower…

Of course, every trip in Bangalore is exciting because of the notorious traffic. It’s not just the cars, it’s the plethora of motorbikes, auto-rickshaws, trucks, buses, and even cows that make the roads really exciting! Here’s John’s video excuse for being late for an evening conference call – pretty typical in Bangalore.

There is an amazing range of culture here – from the poorest to the richest. We tried to see the full spectrum!

On our last night in Bangalore, our hosts treated us to an outstanding dinner at the absolutely gorgeous ITC Windsor Hotel. The building had served as a British government headquarters until India’s independence in 1947. Today, it’s a magnificent hotel with restaurants including the Royal Afghan where we dined in luxury by the pool. What a treat!

It was up early the next morning for the marathon trip home. Up at 3:30 AM for a 4:30 departure from the hotel, a 7:50 AM 11 hour flight from Bangalore, a quick beer at Heathrow, and another 7-1/2 hour flight before arriving in Boston, 26 hours after waking, at 7:15 PM.  Talk about a long day!

It was an exciting trip but it’s good to be home.  Give me Massachusetts any day!

Chile Isn’t

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Vacation, Work

John traveled to Chile at the end of October. It was mostly a work trip but he got to tack on an extra day at the front to play tourist a bit.

He spent a good part of a weekend in Santiago, the capital city, enjoying the Chilean spring. After arriving on Saturday morning and a cab to his hotel to drop bags, John set out on walking tour of the city.

After catching the tail end of the changing of the guards at the federal building, the first adventure was in the Municipal Park – a great elevated pastoral respite with awesome 360 degree views.

Next came an exploration of the shopping district and it’s vendors. Halloween costumes were in big demand!

Though the name confused some, the Hotel Plaza de San Francisco, so named from its proximity to the Iglesia San Francisco below,  provided comfortable lodging and a fine Saturday night seafood dinner.

More walking on Sunday led to the discovery of the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM) and its striking architecture. The stained glass-like skylights and the metal superstructure were particularly impressive.

A bit further down the road, John discovered the Funicular San Cristobal and it’s $4 round-trip ride to the summit of Cerro San Cristobal in the Parque Metropolitano. The summit was impressive with its chapel, amphitheater overlooking the city, and statue of the virgin Mary.

John also observed the effect of “El exceso de información” or “Too much information.” Reminded him of Midnight!

A cool beer at Pio Nono’s “Blue Bar” was called for…

Then it was a two-hour flight north to Antofagasta and a drive to the mining community of Mejillones where he’d spend the week working on his company’s new storage installation there. Though on the coast, the landscape was mostly dirt and electrical wires – the community exists to support the mining operations off in the mountains with port operations, electricity generation, etc.

The rest of the week would be spent on the Angamos Power Plant construction site where’s John’s company, A123, is installing a 20MW grid stabilization battery system. Pretty exciting to be there when the first of ten battery containers arrived!

It was a great trip! There are many more photos here for the strong of heart!

A Weekend in New York

Posted: October 3, 2011 in Family, Vacation

With mixed moods (Josh and the Varsity team had lost 0-4 to Newburyport while Jake had a goal and an assist leading the JVs to a 3-1 victory) we piled into the car and set off for the Big Apple on a rainy Friday night…

We arrived safely at the Wyndham Hotel that would be our home for the weekend but it was late enough that we just enjoyed the views from our room and a quick stop at the hotel bar. But the next morning, we were up and ready to go!

After some breakfast, we set out to walk Broadway to the South to see what we could find!

Along the way we found a Korean street fair, a farmers market, numerous vendors selling discount goods, and even Andy Warhol in the form of The Andy Monument. We thought the tomato soup really added something.

Next stop was Chinatown where we marveled at the fresh seafood and produce and the men playing Xiangqi (Chinese chess) in the park.

We next happened upon NYU’s main campus and since it’s on Joshua’s college radar, we stopped in to the Visitors’ Center to pick up some brochures and just check things out. Pretty cool urban campus!

Pretty soon we reached the financial district and the Occupy Wall Street protest that was going on near there. We talked with some of the protesters about what they were trying to do and some of the challengers they face. It was pretty interesting!

Along the way, Jake found some cool things to photograph- he has a good eye for such things!

We couldn’t get tickets for the new 9/11 Memorial – they’re booked way in advance. But we did get to walk around it and check out some of the new buildings going up and see some of the surrounding memorials. Very moving.

We ate our lunch at P.J. Clarke’s on the terrace behind the World Financial Center. This is a gorgeous new area with views overlooking the marina and the Statue of Liberty.

Next it was back uptown for a walk around Rockefeller Center and the NBC studios.

It began to rain a bit hear so we ducked into some of the stores in and around Times Square and just had fun exploring!

After a quick nap back at our hotel, it was time to head out for the evening!  We had a nice Spanish dinner at Sangria 46 before heading to the Foxwoods Theater to see Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark.

The show was a live comic book. Though we didn’t leave with a truly memorable song in our head (OK, maybe Rise Above), we were taken by the spectacle and the kids seemed to really enjoy it!

On Sunday morning, we headed down to Battery Park to catch a ferry out to Liberty Island. It was a gorgeous morning for it too!

We’d booked tickets in the spring to tour the crown of the Statue of Liberty and boy were they ever worth it! Not only was it a bargain ($16 for adults including the ferry), but we were treated like VIPs as we passed through security and were ushered through the special entrances.

It’s 354 stairs to climb to the top – many of them on two tightly wound concentric spiral staircases. Total fun!

The view from the top was AWESOME! If you have the chance, do this!!

We even got to see the Liberty Bike on display on Liberty Island! Cool!

Our last stop was Ellis Island. We didn’t spend a lot of time here – but did start to get a sense for what it must have been like for folks arriving in New York from far away lands!

 

Then it was home. Tired from all that touring – it was nice having three drivers to trade off between on the way!

North Country 2011

Posted: August 28, 2011 in Family, Vacation

To cap off the summer of 2011, once all the kids had returned from their summer camps, we planed a family getaway to the North Country! But once we saw the fall soccer practice schedule, we contemplated a cancellation as we knew the boys would not want to miss practices. Instead we decided on an abbreviated itinerary and began to pack…

Things kicked off on a Friday night with our celebration of Shawn’s 30th birthday (again!) at The Shoe. Happy birthday Mom!

The next morning, we were off bright and early for Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. We arrived early in the afternoon at the Oceanside KOA and checked into our comfy little Kamping Kabin that would be our cozy home for the next few nights.

Our next step was to hit the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, buy our Acadia park pass, and plan some of the places we’d want to see in the next couple of days.

A reconnaissance tour of Bar Harbor followed including a stroll on the Shore Path and a nice harbor-side dinner at Stewman’s.

There was a scary moment when Shawn was very nearly abducted by a rogue lobstah…

We’d later finish the day with a campfire near the foggy bay, a few S’mores, and a beer or two…

The next morning, we were out for a tour on the lobster boat Lulu with Captain John! We were expertly piloted through the rolling fog for a tour of the harbor seals’ favorite resting places followed by a lesson on lobstering. Very interesting stuff!

We’d spend the remainder of the day exploring. We walked from Otter Point to the obligatory but disappointing Thunder Hole and then toured the summit of Cadillac Mountain.

We had a nice dinner overlooking the park in Bar Harbor where a great band was playing as part of the Bar harbor Jazz Festival.

We started our next day with a leisurely brunch, played some Pirate Golf (Josh won!), toured the Western side of the island, and finished the day in Southwest Harbor with a cocktail at the Cafe Drydock and an awesome lobster feast at Beal’s on the pier.

Next morning, we were off to Quebec!

Our hotel was fantastically located in the heart of the old city.  Our room was behind that little round window in the upper right of the photo…

We strolled the city to get oriented – and found some great street performers to watch!

We dined in an Italian pizzeria in celebration of Jake’s 15th birthday. He was pretty happy to score a new iPhone!

There may even have been a visit to a local pub to finish the day…

We started the next morning with a walking history tour of Quebec led by our guide in period clothing, Sarah. We learned a lot about the history of the city, its French and British periods, and its battles for freedom!

We then took ourselves a tour through the Irish part of the city, past an overpriced hockey exhibit, and onto the fresh produce market. Though we couldn’t bring any of it home with us, the fruits and vegetables were delightful! One farmer even gave Jake a free apple in honor of his birthday!

That afternoon, we’d take a trip to nearby Montmorency Falls. Quite the drop! And good fun.

That night we’d dine in the Irish section of Quebec – we loved all the open air cafes!

Later that evening, we watched the Image Mill presentation on the Bunge grain silos. Pretty amazing stuff!

The next morning it was home to the USA so the boys could attend the first soccer practices of the year and be ready for the fall season! Back to the rat-race!

For the strong of heart, there are a gazillion more pictures here.

Crusin’ 2011

Posted: March 1, 2011 in Family, Vacation

With what seemed like more snow on the ground than we usually accumulate in an entire season, we were ready to get out of Boston’s snowy winter. So, on the morning of February 20, our good friend Bob once again showed up at our house ready to drive us off to the airport! Our first stop was Miami where we began to feel the heat – especially Josh!

After a little Cuban-style lunch, we continued on to San Juan. The hotel room we’d booked blindly at a bargain rate through Priceline turned out to be an awesome resort on Puerto Rico’s North shore just outside of downtown San Juan. We had a great room overlooking the Atlantic. We found a Mexican place down the street, burned our lips on the salsa, and soaked in the warmth of Saturday night in San Juan.

Sunday morning, we explored the beach and tried out the resort’s pool before taking a Taxi to Old San Juan’s Pier #4 and the Carnival Victory. We boarded the ship shortly after noon and settled in for a nice lunch at the buffet before touring the ship and hitting the pool!

Monday was our first port day at St. Thomas. We had a low key day here with a bit of a sleep-in and some shopping about town. Jake had taken in the shopping lecture on-board the night before and arrived armed with a bagful of coupons for discounts and complimentary items – so we all had fun tracking those down! Before re-boarding our ship, we visited the newly opened Señor Frogs just next to the ship for a swim in their pool and some cool drinks.

Tuesday was a day at sea. Shawn was up early and scored some prime deck chairs for a nice relaxing day. We swam in the pools, slid on the slide, watched the deck activities, played mini-golf, and enjoyed tropical music and bright sun. The kids checked out the clubs and arcade, mom tried the spa, and dad had another beer. This night, like most, we visited the sushi bar before using the Your Time Dining option to have dinner at our leisure. We’d later check out the show or visit the casino or surf the ship’s bars before retiring before most of the guests!

Wednesday was Barbados and we were off on a family adventure with Silver Moon. Our guide met us at the pier and we had a nice tour through downtown Bridgetown before boarding our spotless catamaran and heading out. Our first stops were in Folkestone Park and Marine Reserve at Carlise Bay. We first snorkeled off near the beach on what was meant to be a turtle encounter but apparently the turtles had not been notified. So we moved to a great reef area where we could snorkel above some shallow wrecks and see many fish. From there, it was nice sail up the coast to our lunch spot in Paynes Bay where we did in fact encounter a bale of turtles to swim with. Great fun!

Thursday was St. Lucia where we would divide and conquer. Shawn and the boys took a zipline tour through the forest. Their adventure included platform-to-platform slides, a Tarzan swing, and a vertical drop at the end! Shawn got stuck a couple of times but Josh and Jake really enjoyed their day with her!

Ever the acrophobic, John instead went diving with Dive Fair Helen. Though the boat was a bit crowded and the food only fair compared with Silver Moon’s, he had a nice reef dive at Anse Chochon and a really pretty drift along the wall of Grand Caille off of Soufriere. Making it back to the ship with minimal time to spare, John found Shawn and Jake waiting nervously by the gangway but all was well!

Friday was St. Kitts where we all went to Bird Rock Beach. John took off with Captain Crabby and Alex from Dive St. Kitts for a bit of first class dive treatment. As the only guest, he had the boat, the captain, and the divemaster all to himself! Now this is the way to dive! He enjoyed both the wreck dives at the Corintian and the River Taw and was really treated to excellent service. Back at the beach, he joined Shawn and the boys as they were snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing. They all had a nice lunch before John and the boys tried out the kayaks and we all headed back to the pier for a little shopping.

Saturday was St. Marten where we took the 12 Metre Challange. As part of the crew of the Stars & Stripes, we were charged with defending our country’s honor and we took the challenge seriously. We ground and trimmed, heeled on the windward legs, and drank beer on the leeward. Though it was a close finish, we were slightly behind True North at the line and had to settle for second.

We finished the day with a tour of our favorite port and some refreshments on the beachfront before heading back to our ship.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and such was the case with yet another cruise. Our disembarkation was quick and smooth and we were at the San Juan airport in plenty of time to make our flight back home.

We made a lunch stop in Miami where it was 81°F before our final flight to Boston where it was 24°. Thanks to our kind neighbor, Eric, our driveway had been cleared of the morning’s 6” of snow but Monday morning’s icy rain, lousy commute, news of issues, and school and work backlogs made the re-entry no better than usual.  Let’s go again! Now!

PS – Many more photos here for those interested.

 

With what seemed like more snow on the ground than we usually accumulate in an entire season, we were ready to get out of Boston’s snowy winter. So, on the morning of February 20, our good friend Bob once again showed up at our house ready to drive us off to the airport! Our first stop was Miami where we began to feel the heat!

After little lunch, we continued on to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The hotel room we’d booked blindly at a bargain rate through Priceline turned out to be an awesome resort on Puerto Rico’s North shore just outside of downtown San Juan. We had a great room overlooking the Atlantic. We found a Mexican place down the street and soaked in the warmth of Saturday night in San Juan.

Sunday morning, we explored the beach and tried the resort’s pool before taking a Taxi to Old San Juan’s Pier #4 and the Carnival Victory. We boarded the ship shortly after noon and settled in for a nice lunch at the buffet before touring the ship and hitting the pool!

Monday was our first port day at St. Thomas. We had a low key day here with a bit of a sleep-in and some shopping about town. Jake had taken in the shopping lecture on-board the night before and arrived armed with a bagful of coupons for discounts and complimentary items – so we all had fun tracking those down! Before re-boarding our ship, we visited the newly opened Señor Frogs just next to the ship for a swim in the pool and some cool drinks.

Tuesday was a day at sea. Shawn was up early and scored some prime deck chairs for a nice relaxing day. We swam in the pools, slid on the slide, watched the deck activities, played mini-golf, and enjoyed tropical music and bright sun. The kids checked out the clubs and arcade, mom tried the spa, and dad had another beer. This night, like most, we visited the sushi bar before using the Your Time Dining option to have dinner at our leisure. We’d later check out the show or visit the casino or surf the ship’s bars before retiring before most of the guests!

Wednesday was Barbados and we were off on a family adventure with Silver Moon. Our guide met us at the pier and we had a nice tour throw downtown Bridgetown before boarding our spotless catamaran and heading out. Our first stop was meant to be a turtle encounter but apparently the turtles had not been notified. So we moved to a great underwater preserve where we could snorkel above some shallow rocks and see many fish. From there, it was nice sail up the coast to our lunch spot where we did in fact encounter a bale of turtles. Great fun!

Thursday was St. Lucia where we would divide and conquer. Shawn and the boys took a zipline tour through the forest. Their adventure included platform-to-platform slides, a Tarzan swing, and a vertical drop at the end!

Ever the acrophobic, John instead went diving with Dive Fair Helen. Though the boat was a bit crowded and the food only fair compared with Silver Moon’s, he had a nice reef dive at Anse Chochon and a really pretty drift along the wall of Grand Caille off of Soufriere. Making it back to the ship with minimal time to spare, John found Shawn and Jake waiting nervously by the gangway but all was well!

Friday was St. Kitts where we all went to Bird Rock Beach. John took off with Captain Crabby and Alex from Dive St. Kitts for a bit of first class dive treatment. As the only guest, he had the boat, the captain, and the divemaster all to himself! Now this is the way to dive! He enjoyed both the wreck dives at the Corintian and the River Taw and was really treated to first class service. Back at the beach, he joined Shawn and the boys as they were snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing. They all had a nice lunch before John and the boys tried out the kayaks and we all headed back to the pier for a little shopping.

Saturday was St. Marten where we took the 12 Metre Challange. As part of the crew of the Stars & Stripes, we were charged with defending our country’s honor and we took the challenge seriously. We ground and trimmed, heeled on the windward legs, and drank beer on the leeward. Though it was a close finish, we were slightly behind True North at the line and had to settle for second. We finished the day with a tour of our favorite port and some refreshments on the beachfront before heading back to our ship.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and such was the case with yet another cruise. Our disembarkation was quick and smooth and we were at the San Juan airport in plenty of time to make our flight back home.

We made a lunch stop in Miami where it was 81°F before our final flight to Boston where it was 24°. Thanks to our kind neighbor, Eric, our driveway had been cleared of the morning’s 6” of snow but Monday morning’s icy rain, lousy commute, news of issues, and school and work backlogs made the re-entry no better than usual.  Let’s go again!