Spring Break Stateside
23.03.2013 - 30.03.2013 54 °F
Students and staff burst out of AHS at the end of last week (24th March) eager to begin Spring Break - a week of freedom for personal travel and indulgence. Amid clear blue skies and bright sunshine, we made our way north to Gettysburg, where we had booked accomodation at the Herr Ridge Inn, a historic building which had witnessed the advance of Confederate forces marching past towards the town of Gettysburg. Our room's guest journal, revealed occurrences of unexplained "happenings" both in and outside of the room:creaks, voices, ethereal figures, misplaced objects etc. The only "spirits" which John and I experienced however, were those amber ones which come out of a bottle!
The Gettysburg battlefield site, managed by the National Parks Service, is fascinating as well as being deeply moving given the immense devastation and carnage which was wreaked on both forces and community during those three days in July, 1862 (1st-3rd). Our wonderfully charismatic and knowledgeable guide, James Martin, brought to life for us the real horrors of war and the ultimate sacrifice made by so many for a deeply complex cause. The National Parks Service is gradually restoring much of the natural landscape and recreating the original appearance of the area as it would have looked prior to the Battle through purchasing battlefield land as it becomes available, a major undertaking as the battle took place over a ten mile radius.
Snow...snow?!! A Christmas card landscape greeted us on the second morning of our stay. It was the most snow that I'd seen
since arriving in D.C. and so the spring outfit was hastily replaced with winter boots,(fortunately, they were still in the "trunk" of the car),and our heavy winter jackets-bizarre! Poor Mr Lincoln,whose statue in the town square greets visitors to the David Wills House,(where Lincoln put the final touches to his "Gettysburg Address"), was festively covered in snow!
One day's rest back in D.C. and then we were heading north again but this time by "Bolt Bus" to reaquaint ourselves once more with the "Big Apple." After familiarising ouselves with the workings of the NY subway system, we headed uptown to Upper West Side. After dropping off our luggage at the Belnord Hotel, we headed off via Central Park in the direction of the Guggenheim Art Museum, zig-zagging through runners as they made their way round the Reservoir, a lake rimmed by a 5km running track. Opened in 1959, the building, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is like no other in the city. From the outside, its circular external appearance makes it a readily identifiable NY landmark. Stepping inside, its spiralling open plan galleries, flooded with light, draw the visitor's eyes immediately upwards to the stunning occulas in the centre of the ceiling. The current exhibition in the open galleries is "Gutai" an exhibition showcasing an avant garde collective of Japanese artisits, established in the 1950s and who exhibited their art through performance, painting and installations in outdoor spaces.
That evening we took our seats in the balcony of the Metropolitan Opera to be enthralled by a stunning performance of Verdi's "Othello", memorable for both exquisite singing and sets. (Desdemona was hard done by!).
Thursday morning we set off downtown for a round trip on the Staten Island Ferry, by-passing Ellis Island (where my Grandmother had to disembark for immigration checks in the 1920s en route to visiting her brother), and giving a wave to the Statue of Liberty. Back on Manhattan, we passed Ground Zero with the One World Trade Center building under construction. Sauntering up and around Wall Street, we stopped at Federal Hall National Memorial where a bronze statue of George Washington on the steps, marks the place where the nation's first president took his oath of office. It's hard to imagine tall ships in NYC but walk down to South Street Seaport and there they are, "Peking" and "Wavertree", floating exhibits of the South Street Seaport Museum. A few steps further on, and the iconic Brooklyn Bridge was in our view, spanning the East River over to Booklyn.
Feeling peckish, we headed north into Chinatown and found ourselves at the "Great NY Noodletown", 28 Bowery, where we feasted on steaming plates of seafood and spicy beef with noodles, accompanied by copious cups of hot tea. For dessert, we headed onwards to Little Italy where we tasted the best gelatto ever (pistachio and caramel) at Ferrara's, a traditional Italian cafe.
For Seinfeld fans, "Tom's Restaurant" is a favorite meeting place for the show's characters and so we made our way on Friday morning to sample its famous breakfast, (it's a favourite spot for students from the nearby Columbia University). Blueberry pancakes and Florentine omlette were duly ordered, served with juice, toast and hot coffee! Yes, John did get the t-shirt and a few other goodies besides!
The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, begun in 1892 and still incomplete, is the largest catherdral in the world. After admiring the magnificent bronze Peace Fountain adjacent to the Cathedral, which is surrounded by minature bronzes of interpretations of "creation" designed and sculpted by school students (K1-12), we made our way into the cathedral to attend a Good Friday service. The cathedral serves as a venue for leadership, learning, and celebration for people of all faiths, as well as avant garde musical and theatrical events.
On leaving the cathedral, we made our way to the north of central park and meandered through the park's many pathways, enjoying clusters of daffodils, hyancinths and crocuses passing the "Strawberrry Fields" memorial in view of John Lennon's Dakota apartment building and exiting near the Bethesda Terrace.
For dinner, we dined at "Shalezeh" a Persian restaurant where we enjoyed a beautifully presented meal with exotic flavours and colours. We still had one more stop:The Metropolitan Museum of Art! So much to see and so little time to indulge but we tried our best and marvelled at the art on view as well as the building!
Saturday-a day of contrasts! From soprano's at the Met to Sopranos in New Jesey?! John set off with other "Soprano" series afficianados for a five hour bus tour of "Soprano" haunts! I meanwhile, headed to the Chelsea district where the "High Line", an elevated former train track, now a walkway laid out with trees, shrubs, flowers and art installations, has transformed the area. I also stopped by the Chelsea Market, a former Nabisco factory where the first "Oreo" cookies were made, now redeveloped as a food market.
Mid afternoon, we boarded the "Bolt Bus" on 33rd St and headed back to D.C., Manhattan's skyline drifting out of view but forever imprinted on our memory.