New York, New York

Chris and I have strategized and planned, schemed and leveraged, and we’ve finally done it – managed to collect points and miles so that he and the kids and I can go to New York for fun for the week after Christmas and before the New Year.

We know, of course, a lot of things that we want to see – and teenagers are interested in seeing a lot of things that adults are as well, which makes it easier to plan in some respects. On our list: the 9/11 memorial; MOMA; some great restaurants to tempt our foodie palates; definitely a play or a musical or both; and some shopping at the Strand and a few other favorites.

A question for dear readers, however, as one issue has stymied us – what should we do for New Year’s Eve? We are staying in Midtown but are firmly against going to Times Square or any other crazy, crowded places that night. We’ve talked about ice skating but I’m not keen on that, and not sure that Rockefeller Center won’t be a nightmare of people queued up for skating too. Going to dinner early, or even ordering Chinese food into the hotel (see my 2014 blog post for more details on why that is one of my favorite NY experiences) and watching movies in the room is something we have talked about. But are we missing something?

Keep in mind anything outdoors is likely to be cold – if not snowy and slushy – at this time of year. And that all four of us like history, great music, and cool art – if any of that inspires you with ideas. Wait, maybe the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis is calling us . . . .

– Laura Flippin

The Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM), held annually in October in Washington DC, is a great way to see people from all over the world traveling to the US capital. Of course, all marathons attract runners from every corner of the globe – but the MCM somehow seems special. First, there are no qualifying thresholds, so anyone can enter and plenty of people do – as proven by the signs along the race course that challenge runners to beat the famous alumni in particular (“You can do better than Oprah!” – yes, she ran it and in pretty good time, too).

Second, because the race takes place in the nation’s capital, many runners want to be part of the excitement that comes in running past monuments, the White House, the Capitol building and along the Potomac River – it’s a well known city and one people want to see even if they are just spectators and not runners.

Third, there is an incredibly patriotic element to the race. It is hosted by the US Marines (guaranteeing it is done on time and without a glitch), and attracts many servicemen and women, both active and retired, both runners and wheelchair. At the end of the marathon – should you finish – a Marine puts the finisher’s medal around your neck while people of all different nationalities look on. Everywhere there are American flags, but also plenty of signs that there are plenty of travelers there – a runner in full Scottish kilt and bagpipe; Australian flags; oompah music from Germany; and lots of chatter in dozens of languages. I saw all of that this year – it was Chris’s third time running the MCM, which means it was my third time as pit and support crew (I’m getting better every year). And on Monday, when it’s over, at the airport, you can see runners flying home — or to their next marathon perhaps – to far flung places, proudly wearing their medal and being congratulated by everyone from gate attendants to TSA agents.

To the Marines, thank you for hosting and providing such a great event – that attracts people from all over the world for a unique kind of tourism. And to Chris – congratulations on sub-four, 3:57 to be exact!

Laura Flippin Washington DC

 

– Laura Flippin

 

Coming Home

I’ve been on the road traveling pretty much constantly since mid-2014 and I am just now able to breathe. Hence, the hiatus in posting on this blog. One weekend recently, I was with my family at our weekend place; my brother-in-law traveled separately from the rest of us, taking the train. In the little town where we are, the train stops not too far from the house, and there is always a busy if small gathering of people waiting to meet the travelers who are arriving. The station is one of those where you can park right next to the tracks and the platform, so you can even sit in the car and see the train coming in and the passengers alight. Sometimes the train is late, as it was that evening, but there is always a tableau. Some families with balloons for college kids returning home. A few kids waiting for their dad or mom. And just people in transit, moving through the old-fashioned station with its covered portico and flickering lights.

A little Norman Rockwell, I’ll admit but there is indeed something moving about it. Many singers and musicians have written about trains and what they mean to us as a sense of place and travel in time – think of Merle Haggard and Train Whistle Blues (“Every time I see that lonesome railroad train, It makes we wish I was going home again”) or Peter, Paul and Mary and 500 Miles (“If you miss the train I’m on you will know that I am gone”). Or one of my favorites, from Marc Cohn, Ghost Train:

Some trains they leave in the morning

Some leave in the afternoon

Some trains they leave here

Right on time

And some they just leave too soon

A few years back, the UK Telegraph even had an article about great train-related songs – you can find it at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/journeysbyrail/6406122/Music-on-the-train-Great-rail-related-songs.html

In a world where plane travel is the fastest way to go, and where the automobile is still viewed as the easiest freedom on the road, there is something special about the train, even when it’s just passing through the station in your town, on the way to another place.

– Laura Flippin

Playing Tourist in My Hometown

I’m a native of the Washington DC area, and over the years have seen most of the famous landmarks and locations multiple times. But more often during the daily commute, I mostly see monuments and museums as they pass by in the rush-hour traffic. It’s been a long time since I spent a weekend or more touring in my own hometown.

During the Independence Day holiday, with some friends and family in town, however, I did the marathon of tourism. With two thirteen-year old boys in tow, neither of whom had been to DC before except briefly when they were too small to remember the trip, we had a lot of ground to cover. We began on Friday (7/3) with lunch at Matchbox in Chinatown – great food but service was slow , followed by the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue and then a late dinner at Minh’s Vietnamese restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. The Newseum is perfect for pre-teen and early teenage kids. First, there are a lot of visual displays like sections of the Berlin Wall and a damaged antenna from the World Trade Center 9/11 wreckage. Second, there isn’t a lot of reading of long descriptions and narratives – many of the exhibits are largely done around objects themselves or speak for themselves, like Pulitzer Prize winning photographs. And finally, the place is huge and has a plethora of gift shops with cool kid-oriented stuff – our purchase was a massive Uncle Sam-style plush hat that one of the boys wore all weekend; very patriotic!

On the Fourth of July itself, we wisely avoided the downtown area and instead spent the day at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum annex near Dulles Airport, the Udvar-Hazy facility. With IMAX films, an observation tower where you can see the big planes taking off from the airport, and plenty of real planes and space vehicles to view, it was the perfect place to spend the day. Highlights of this “museum” – which is really the size of multiple airplane hangars – included seeing the Concorde (ah, how I wish I had been able to fly on it when it was in service!), the F-22 Blackbird, the space shuttle Discovery, and the Enola Gay. The only real downside of Udvar-Hazy is that the only option for lunch there is a McDonald’s restaurant on site. And given that Udvar-Hazy is located pretty far from anywhere else, you can’t walk to another site. We settled for a late lunch at a local Mexican restaurant in nearby Chantilly as the thought of a Happy Meal was not well received by the foodie members of our touring group.

More to follow in Part 2 . . .

– Laura Flippin

#arlingtonva #DLAPiper #WashingtonDC

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