Secret Spots of Central Park

My name is Kaitlin and I’m a history geek.  I grew up with a family that would make a detour in order to tack on an extra Civil War Battlefield or museum so I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Right now I’m working my way through New York City via a walking tours book and some spontaneous running adventures.  November Project has been a huge help since the workouts range from Battery Park to deep into Harlem.  But the most wonderful place (biased) is that of Central Park and it turns out that there’s a lot more to this grand oasis than I ever realized!

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This amazing plot of land is smack dab in the middle of the concrete jungle, it happens to be the most visited park in the U.S., and it tops out as one of the most filmed locations in the world.  I can easily say it’s one of my favorite places in the city and I make sure to run some form of the loop at least 1-2x per week.  I also happen to work near the park but the reality of me leaving the office during the day is bleak…so I rely on the epic views we have from the kitchen and cafeteria.  Anyways, enough about me.  The important part is that this park should always be on your NYC bucket list whether you are here for the 1st or 100th time.

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Last Sunday my friend Maura and I went on a jogging tour of the park with a group called Jane’s Walks.  Maura tends to stick to the West Side Highway during her runs and as her time in New York is actually coming to a close (off to grand adventures in D.C.!!!!) so we thought it would be good to accomplish some bucket list items.

Now I have taken many many pictures of the park and posted them here.  From the Great Lawn to the reservoir, they are all pretty note-worthy places.  Today’s post will be more about the more secretive spots that blew me away.  Who knew these lush gardens could be found by simply walking an extra 10-40 yards off the main path?

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It was established back in 1857 on a portion of city-owned land and the design was picked out of a design competition.  With the expertise of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, a design was picked, construction began, and the first public area was introduced to the public in 1858.  The construction continued through the American Civil War and in 1873 was expanded to the 843-acres that it is today.

 The park had been home to a number of shanty towns – Harsenville, the Piggery Disctrict or Seneca Village that needed to be rid of in order to continue construction and there was even a convent on the upper right side of the park called Mount St. Vincent’s Academy.

We started around 72nd near the Daniel Webster statue and ended up around 102nd.  We passed through the west side of the park, through the gardens along 5th avenue and up on the hills of Harlem.  We didn’t run through the Zoo but did pass the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir (<< one of the most difficult words for me to spell).

We crossed over and under countless from back in the 19th century and are still standing.  Along with those bridges are waterfalls, which are flowing a plenty now that it’s spring and we’ve had our fair share of rain.  Then you have the above picture (right), which is a blockhouse, the second oldest item in Central Park next to Cleopatra’s Needle, and was created back in 1814 for defending the park.

Now when writing this post, I spent some time bopping around Wikipedia.  Yes, I was using Wikipedia because all the information is there and I don’t have access to encyclopedias.  Anyways, since I can’t copy and paste and am not going to link back to every single thing, I highly recommend spending some time reading up on Central Park.  It’s fascinating what you can find and if you would rather take a walk in the park, then be my guest and come explore the wonder of New York City!

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Have you been to Central Park? Do you have a favorite place in the park?

 

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When in Charleston, Visit a Plantation

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Now, when given the opportunity to explore something gorgeous and historical, I am totally game.  So, when we decided to visit the south for Labor Day Weekend, we realized there were oh so many options and opportunities.  We never did make it into one of the Charleston house tours, but set our sights on a plantation tour.

We tried our best to go with the flow on this trip and only plan out a few things we wanted to see.  I was trying to balance the types of trips where it’s go-go-go and then the trips or beach days where all you do is lounge.  I don’t really know how to “do nothing” but know my travel companions aren’t always about the “go-go-go.”  Healthy medium, right?  So, while we didn’t really plan out our restaurant reservations, we did find Boone Hall Plantation as one of the top plantations in Charleston, thus it became an absolute must see item on our trip!

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IMG_7964These picturesque oaks are years and years old.  In fact, they were planted back in 1743 by the son of Major John Boone.  When you see these trees lining the driveway, you know you are deep in the south and for some, right out of a Nicholas Sparks’ novel.

We had just finished off brunch at the Hominy Grill, delicious review to come soon, and scheduled an Uber to pick us right up from the restaurant.  The plantation is a quick 20 or so minute drive away and we were able to see some of the local sights on our trip over.

IMG_7968 IMG_7975We had fun exploring around the garden prior to our schedule tour.  There really is no need to purchase tickets ahead of time and as a matter of fact, your $20 entrance fee pays for the tour!  Do note that the plantation entrance is a solid 1/2 mile from the Visitor’s Center, house, and parking.  We didn’t realize that but did have the opportunity to walk under the gorgeous oak trees.  See what we did?  Found the silver linings 🙂

IMG_7984Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset IMG_7985The house that stands there today was built in 1936 and guides will take you through the first floor of rooms and share the evolution of owners since 1681.   One of the current owners lives out in California (hey hey west coast!) but enjoys spending time at home every once in awhile.  When she travels back, she stays right there in the plantation home, occupying the second floor, thus tours are a no-go.  We weren’t allowed to take any photos inside the plantation mansion, but I couldn’t help myself with this gorgeous patterned brick floor.

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 Post-plantation tour, we headed out to the gift store and listened to there was a talk or rather entertaining presentation of the “Gullah Culture” – or culture adapted by the African slaves.   Definitely insightful and worth the extra half hour!

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Boone Hall Plantation
1235 Long Point Road, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

March 9, 2015 – Labor Day Sept. 7, 2015 
Mon-Sat:  8:30am-6:30pm
Sun: 12pm-5pmSept. 8, 2015 – Jan. 1, 2016
Mon-Sat: 9am-5pm
Sun: 12pm-5pm

So, I was supposed to write up a recap of my actual historical trip to Fort Sumter as well buuuuuut seeing as I dropped my computer last week and the screen went black and I didn’t upload the pictures to the web and now it’s in the Grand Central Apple Store, that won’t be happening.  But, for what it’s worth, it was neat to see the place where the Civil War started and I did enjoy the boat ride and Fort tour.  I certainly brought the average age down by a lot, seeing as I was touring among 100+ folks, all aged around 60+.  Oh, and I saw two college students on a date there.  Odd choice but when in the south I guess?

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“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

Boston’s Freedom Trail

What better way to explore a town you are visiting than by walking around?  Well, if you happen to find yourself in the northeast, you are in for a treat.  Boston’s Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile path, takes you along 16 different historical sites, past countless museums, and other cultural sites.  If you are looking for a city wide tour, I recommend picking up a ticket for a hop-on and hop-off bus, but I find that walking or running the streets gives you a more in-depth look at it all.

A few weeks ago, my friend Lindsay and I happened to be traveling to the Beantown and of course on the day we had planned to walk the Freedom Trail, it was raining cats and dogs.  After finishing brunch and wandering a few stores, the rain started to ease up.  We decided to check out Boston Commons in hopes that the sun would shine through.  Slowly but surely we found ourselves at the start of the trail and the rest is history.  Really though…

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The tour itself (self-guided or guided) starts at the visitor center in Boston Commons and travels along a noticeable brick path. Here you can pick up pamphlets, maps, and other guides of things to do in the city.  You can even take a tour by a guide dressed in historically themed garb if you are so inclined.

 Note: there is another visitor center at Faneuil Hall where you can select a tour.

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Stop #1
Beacon Hill – Black Heritage Trail – Otis House Museum

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King’s Chapel – Historic Burying Grounds – Park Street Church

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 The idea for the trail was created by a local  journalist William Schofield back in the 1950s.  When it was finally created in 1953, almost 40,000 started walking the trail each year.

IMG_6230Because in our society, placing a popular chain steak house within a historic monument (or area) is totally normal.  Just dining alongside Paul Revere’s grave – no big deal.  Here you pass along the Old South Meeting House and Old State House before arriving at Faneuil Hall.

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Faneuil Hall – a marketplace and meeting spot that has been around since 1742.  It has even been the spot for many famous speeches by Samuel Adams, James Otis, and others that supported independence from Great Britain.

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Quincy Market – a tour in itself.  This place is stacked with eateries and I guess you could call it Boston’s food court.  There are some classics such as chowder (shall I say “chowda”?) and lobster rolls, as well as good ‘ol ice cream and pizza.  This could certainly serve as a nice lunch spot and on a nice afternoon, there are plenty of places to sit outside and soak up the sun.  The ground was still a bit damp and the air a bit chilly, so we weren’t as lucky, but still lots of fun to people watch.

The path winds in and around the North End, where you will soon find yourself in the Italian district and if you are still hungry, I highly recommend picking up a cannoli from the well-known Mike’s Pastry shop.  We saw person after person heading back towards the center of town with a white box that read Mike’s Pastry and knew we had to give it a shot.

IMG_6238Don’t be alarmed by the length of the line.  They know how to turn customers over and make those customers happy – or at least their stomachs happy.  

IMG_6246Hungry enough to fill an entire box?  How about some to take home?  Nope, we decided to eat ours then and there.  Plus as a couple of gals from California, we were trying to be green and reduce waste 😉

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I selected the double chocolate flavor while Lindsay went with cookies and cream.  Hands down – best cannoli ever.  I’m just salivating as I think about the sweet ricotta and crunchy pastry dough.   Sweet tooth satisfied and it’s time to continue along the trail.

IMG_6252Old North Church past the grand ‘ol Paul Revere statue and the Revere household

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As you continue along the Charlestown Bridge, check out all view over the Inner Harbor

IMG_6255 Sun starting to set over the Zakim/Bunker Hill Bridge

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The most adorable houses leading up to Monument Square and Bunker Hill, which means you have made it to the end!

Bunker Hill was the first mega-conflict between the British and Patriot forces during the American Revolutionary War.

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As we headed back on the trail towards the North End, we stopped by the USS Constitution.  The ship was closed for a private event, but we were still able to watch the nightly ceremony where guns are fired off of the ship at dusk.  If you happen to be in the area and don’t mind waiting outside the gates, it is one beautiful way to watch the sunset.

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The Freedom Trail
~ Sites ~ Map ~ Tour ~

“The traveler sees what he sees.  The tourist sees what he has come to see.” G.K. Chesterson

A Tribute To Manzanar

There’s a certain feeling when one visits a spot such as Manzanar.  It’s not a place known by many but has significant historical meaning.  For as long as I have been visiting Mammoth Lakes, which is over 23 years, we have driven up the 395 and passed what used to be one of ten Japanese internment camps during WWII.  It’s not a pleasant period of history, but one that has always fascinated me.

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This area of the Owens Valley, located at the base of the Sierra Nevadas, was originally home to Native Americans.  Miners soon came along and created the town in 1910 but left in the 1920’s when the city of Los Angeles obtained the land and its water rights.  Following the start of the war, it became a forced relocation area for Japanese families and was open from about March 1942 until 1945.

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It encompasses about 6,200 acres, all of which is completely desolate.  When the camp closed in 1945, the land was left to degrade on its own.  We would drive by the lone watch tower and a few scattered walls, but it wasn’t until the mid-early 2000’s that a museum was created and the site was opened to the public.

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 Today the site has evidence of numerous building foundations, parts of the water and sewer systems, and leftover landscaping by the incarcerees.  Additionally, there is evidence of the ranches and of the town of Manzanar and some artifacts from the days of the Owens Valley Paiute settlement.

This visitors center was opened back in 2010 and is housed inside a restored WWII mess hall.  This area now exists with a complete museum to share the history of the site and the stories of those who were unjustly incarcerated on the premise and throughout the United States.

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Inside you can find a 20-minute video about the camp as well as numerous walls filled with information and stories about the camp.  It truly is in the  middle of nowhere and it’s almost incomprehensible how people would live through the extreme heat and extreme cold.

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Manzanar now features restored posts at the camp entrance, a mock guard tower, and informational markers.   The National Park Service is working to reconstruct one of the 36 residential blocks as a demonstration block.  There will be one barrack to replicate those at the beginning of the war and one to replicate what remained at the end of the war.

Manzanar 2There is a mile-long walk along some of the camp sites, areas that are being re-constructed to model what it was like and to extend the museum.  This walking path also leads you to the Manzanar cemetery.  This particular monument was built by incarceree stonemason Ryozo Kado in 1943.  

IMG_5575Written into the two sides of the monument are the following: “Erected by the Manzanar Japanese” and “August 1943”

Travel to Tarrytown, NY

It’s not every day that you take a trip to visit a great literary figure’s estate.  However, when your mother happened to be an English major and English teacher, this stuff happens.  One of the items on our to-do list during her stay was to visit the great Washington Irving’s estate up in Sunnyside, New York.

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Irving is best known for writing the short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow” (both of which I am guilty of not reading…yet).  He was not only an author, essayist, and biographer, but also a historian and well known 19th century diplomat.  As a matter of fact, he was one of the first well-known and respected American writers across the Atlantic in Europe.

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I had considered traveling up to Sleepy Hallow last fall for a spooky-themed half marathon, but felt intimidated by the directions.  The trip north is actually much more manageable than I had first anticipated.   Simply make your way to Grand Central – 42nd Street and find a ticket booth for the Metro North Train.  Locate the Hudson line towards Croton-Harmon and off you go. (~$18.50 for round trip/per person)

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Recommendations had been given to stop at the TarryTown train stop, which we dutifully followed.  In our minds, we pictured a quaint main street with cafes and a deli where we could create a picnic lunch.

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While the town was indeed cute, we found ourselves struggling for lunch options.  Again, we were searching for a cafe or deli with to-go options and maybe it’s just a California thing.  Thankfully we did walk past an Italian deli where we picked up two sandwiches.

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The other dilemma was that Tarrytown was a solid hour’s walk along the busy highway or exorbitant cab fare from the estate.  We wanted to sit and enjoy our lunch on the estate, so we settled for a $12 cab ride.  The issue with cabs is that they don’t fall under the NYC rules and regulations and can charge pretty much whatever they please (I’m honestly surprised they didn’t charge us $20).

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Once on the estate, the view is breathtaking.  So different from the crowded city of Manhattan.  Greenery overwhelms the estate with hundreds of plant species, all meant to model the romantic style of landscaping.

IMG_5171The tour itself was quite lovely and informative.  Each guide is dressed in time-period garb (hoop skirts for the women and woolen getups for the men…so glad I’m not a guide).  Fun note about the tree above – this beauty has been around since 1776.  Imagine that!

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What’s funny is that my mom and I almost decided to spend the night up here.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely location but seeing as we had pretty much accomplished everything we set out to in about 4 hours, that would have been a loooooong night.

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Obviously the gift store is one of the most interesting parts of a tour. Here we found the typical array of books, coffee mugs, ornaments, and yes, shot glasses.  Who knows, maybe Irving was a fan of whiskey.

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This time we decided to test our luck with the other train station, Irvington, which was only 1.3 miles away from the estate, and a much more manageable and scenic walk.

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Funny enough, when we entered this Main Street, we found 3-4 delis, which would have fit our needs perfectly.  Oh well, a lesson learned and at least we were able to explore another New York town.

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Also, now that I know how to get out of the city, I will certainly be making the trip north for this fall’s pumpkin festival.

Washington Irving Estate
3 W Sunnyside Ln, Irvington, NY 10533

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Admission by Timed Tours Only
10:30am, 12pm, 1:30pm, 3pm
(Also 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm, 3:30pm on Saturdays & Sundays)
Visiting Sunnyside – Tours
Adult: $12 ~ Senior (65+): $10 ~ Child (3-17): $6

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“One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more.” – Washington Irving

Happy Birthday Gaudí!

While I’d like to think I can shut myself off from technology while on vacation, it’s not true. Sad to say I’m addicted. However, today’s post is quick and semi-informational. My friend alerted me to the fact that its Antonio Gaudí’s 161st birthday! The Catalan architect was extremely influential in the designs and architecture of Barcelona and obviously had a big impact on my time in Barcelona. Continue reading