Sunday, August 23, 2009

Birthday Vacation Week 2009: Day 7

08/21/2009, Friday

Dear Diary,
Today I had a biketastic adventure planned with one of my favorite gal pals, Elaine (aka Lainykins) - a trip to visit Governors* Island! (the history of which is fascinating) It was another super hot and humid day, like it had been all week, and there were threats of thunderstorms. But that would not keep us away! I rode my bike over the Williamsburg Bridge and along South St in Manhattan (the exact same path I rode the day before) and made my way to the Governors Island Ferry Terminal in lower Manhattan (just steps from the Staten Island Ferry)-

We boarded the ferry -

Boarding the ferry to Governor's Island

which was surprisingly free! It was just a short ride to the island where we enjoyed biking around 5 miles of car free roads. There were so many buildings on the island - some of which had a colonial American vibe, others that made me think of a New England college campus.

Here are some photos from the island-

We could easily see the Statue of Liberty in the distance-

Lovely Lady Liberty

Lainy -

A cool old theater appears to be in the process of renovations-

And several of the homes were housing art exhibits -

After having our fill of history, art and biking, we grabbed lunch on the island. And since we missed the 3:30 ferry out, we had an hour to kill before the next one. So what was left to do but hit Water Taxi Beach for a delicious beer on this hot, sunny summer day!

I'm in sand. This does not happen often.

Here is a view of lower Manhattan. This was taken at 3:43pm. Look at the beautiful sky-

And look at this one, taken at 4:06 - In just over 20 minutes, the sky turned super dark and the wind whipped through the island. There was even lightning (scary!). I felt like we were in a natural disaster movie-

Within minutes, the sky went from blue to this ominous gray

Here you can see the dark clouds over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges -

We finally boarded the 4:30 ferry out and it rained a bit on the ride back to Manhattan -

Approaching Manhattan

...but lucky for me, it managed to clear up just in time for my ride back to Brooklyn.

After getting home, I stayed in my apartment for a short while and then it occurred to me - I had a feeling that because of the short burst of summer rain, we were going to have a spectacular sunset. So I headed back out on my bike and rode around my neighborhood. I was not disappointed! It turned out to be one of the best sunsets I've ever seen in my life!

I rode along Kent Ave in Greenpoint and up to the midpoint on the Pulaski Bridge - trying to capture the amazing array of colors and subtley different views of the sunset sky behind Manhattan. If you can believe it, it was even more stunning in person. Enjoy!

from the Pulaski Bridge

from Huron

from Huron

sunset from Kent St

After that last photo, I stood there, at the end of Huron St just watching until all the colors were gone. I couldn't believe I was lucky enough to have caught that brilliant feat of nature.

When the brilliant colors were gone and it had faded to mostly black, I left my spot and swung by Word Bookstore on Franklin St (one of my favorite local businesses). I picked up a book they special ordered for me. (Thanks, Word!) After that, I headed home and was in for the night.

It was another exhausting but fantastic vacation day to remember!

(All photos from Day 7 can be seen here)

*note: According to the official Governors Island website and its related Wikipedia page, there is no apostrophe in "Governors". This is kind of driving me nuts, but I left it out because they do. I still feel like it's wrong.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Birthday Vacation Week 2009: Day 6

08/20/2009, Thursday

Dear Diary,
I had been looking forward to this birthday for years! As you know, my favorite day of the week is Thursday and I was *robbed* of my Thursday birthday in 2004 due to leap year, so I haven't had one since 1998. 2009 was finally the time that Thursday and my birthday would collide. Yay!

The first item on my agenda: My super secret tour of Grand Central with Dan Brucker! I wanted to look really good, so I wore my favorite new blouse from Banana (it looks better on me), along with vintage 40's hat and gloves-

Vintage hat & gloves for the birthday festivities

I made it to GCT in time and it was just a moment before I found Dan - who loved and appreciated my outfit. There were two men with him that were there to take photos - It turned out that because of a scheduling conflict, the news crew had to film on Wednesday instead. But that was fine with me, I was still included in the tour.

We started off in Grand Central - we rode the Met Life escalators up to the landing that overlooks the main hall and there, Dan instructed the two men to take photos of ME with GCT as the backdrop! I was suddenly in a photo shoot! I was not expecting that, but I can't wait to get the photos from the guys. There has to be something frame worthy in there.

After that, we headed down to the GCT substation. Dan filled us in on the history, and showed off the original equipment (no longer in use) - from 1913! It was amazing. But I wasn't sure if I was allowed to take photos, so I didn't.

After that, we went back up to GCT and got hard hats for our next adventure. I wasn't sure where we were going, but we headed outside on Park Ave. We walked a few blocks, and before entering a door around the corner from the Waldorf Astoria, Dan made us put on our hard hats and told us repeatedly how careful we had to be once we got 'down there'. Then he started going into the history of FDR and how they transported him into the terminal via a special train that held his Pierce Martin, the the presidential limo. I knew this story, having seen it on "Secrets of New York" (which Dan hosted) and I gasped "Oh my god! That's where we're going?!" I couldn't even believe it!

Once down there, I did ask to take photos and I got a couple, but it was very dark (not to mention dirty and hot). Here's the best I could do-

The train that transported FDR's car. I never thought I'd see this in person!

After that, we headed back to GCT where Dan had one more trick up his sleeve. He let us *into* the information booth in the middle of the terminal! I have passed this thing thousands of times and never thought I'd be inside! Here is a view from the inside, looking out-

Inside the information booth, looking out

And I love this shot, looking directly up at the clock and ceiling -

looking at the information booth clock from *within* the information booth!

And Dan unveiled one more secret - the brass round structure inside the information booth is a spiral staircase! I had no idea! I thought it was just storage, or maybe a tiny bathroom!

Spiral staircase inside the information booth

Here's Dan, with a worker inside the booth-

Dan Brucker & Metro North worker

After two truly unforgettable hours with Dan, I took the 7 Train back to Queens and the bus back home, where I got changed into bike clothes and headed back into Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge. To get to lower Manhattan, I rode along South Street, which was a first for me. I got some fantastic shots of the bridges and other things in the area -

The Brooklyn Bridge -

The Manhattan Bridge and a bird! (How lucky did I get on that shot?)

Fulton Fish Market-

Fulton Fish Market

I love this shot -

Between the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge -

When I arrived in Manhattan, my first stop was The Skyscraper Museum on Liberty Place-

The museum was very small and had a lot of references to the Twin Towers, which I wasn't expecting. I didn't spend that much time in there.

After that, I rode around the Financial District taking photos. Here are some of my favorites:

I believe this was on Rector

The Wall Street Bull

I love love LOVE this Bank of NY building on the corner of Broadway & Wall St-

Bank of New York Building @ Broadway & Wall St

The American Stock Exchange building, another beauty-

The American Stock Exchange on Trinity Place

I can't tell you how long I had to wait for the split second where I got no people in this shot-

The cemetery at Trinity Church-

Cemetery @ Trinity Church

After taking photos for a while, I was so hungry. I stopped at Chipotle on Broadway, and after announcing it was my birthday (I'm pretty obnoxious like that), they gave me my burrito for free!

Dinner @ Chipotle

Thank you guys! I love Chipotle!

I took the Manhattan Bridge back to Brooklyn -

And was just in time to catch the sunset on Kent-

I arrived in Williamsburg just in time to see the sunset

I headed up to Bedford Ave, where I knew tonight was the night I would try Van Leeuwen's Pistacchio -


I swear, it was like eating the richest pistacchios that just happened to be creamy and frozen - absolutely amazing! (but ginger is still my favorite flavor)

After that, it was home for showering, a little unwinding and the season premiere of Project Runway. I was *exhausted*. In fact, my whole body hurts. I've been bike riding at least 20 miles a day since last Saturday and my legs are killing me! But I have to go get ready- today I'm riding over to South Ferry and then exploring Governor's Island. I only hope my body can keep up.

xo Sheryl

(All of day 6's photos can be seen here)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Birthday Vacation Week 2009: Day 5

08/19/2009, Wednesday

Dear Diary,

Today started off with some pretty unsettling news. I found out about a death in the family. I don't want to get into it here, so I won't. But it was a shock to all of us. After calling my family and feeling it was ok for me to continue my day, I went out for my birthday adventures. But I found myself thinking about my affected family members throughout the day.

Today's events were all in the West Village. I jumped on my bike and headed over the Williamsburg Bridge -

Me, on the Williamsburg Bridge

I continued west to my first stop: Peanut Butter & Co on 240 Sullivan Street -

The cruiser and I visit Peanut Butter & Co

I blogged about their peanut butter back in May and was really looking forward to my trip there today. The menu was plentiful -

The menu @ PB & Co

And they had plenty of products for sale too-

I ordered these items to go:

Dark Chocolate Dreams™ Sandwich
Chocolate Peanut Butter and cherry jam, stuffed with shredded coconut. It's peanut butter meets black forest cake.
Peanut Butter Sampler
A sampling of our freshly ground peanut butters, served with melba toast and freshly cut carrots, celery, and apple slices. It's crudite our way!

With my peanut butter and co order in my basket, I rode my bike over to the Quad Cinema on West 13th Street. My plan was to eat the sandwich during the movie, but I really wanted to photograph it first, so I didn't. In fact, I have not eaten any of my PB&Co goodies yet, so I can't report on them.

I arrived at Quad -

Quad Cinema

and bought my ticket to see Food, Inc. Before the movie started, I washed my hands and, as usual, photographed myself in the bathroom -

The movie was sad, frustrating and disturbing; but it was pretty much what I expected. Having read Fast Food Nation, and still reading The Omniore's Dilemma, I already knew a lot of the information that was presented. I only wish this film was required viewing for every American.

I left there and headed over to yet another famous brick oven pizza place, this time also in the West Village. I went to John's Pizzeria.

This was not initially on my Birthday Week to-do list, but after talking with one of their workers while waiting for my Grimaldi's pie, I knew I had to squeeze it in.

I ordered the plain, small pie and asked for rope to tie it to the back of my bike (I forgot my bungee cords!). Not only did they accommodate my rope request, but one of the workers came out and secured it for me- and refused a tip! What service!

I took the Williamsburg Bridge back to Brooklyn and said to myself "If the Van Leeuwen truck is parked on Bedford, I'm not stopping" (Note: It's always parked on Bedford). But somehow, my bike stopped there anyway - totally against my will, of course - and I got a small cone of Hazelnut:

Today I tried Hazelnut

(Note: If you are not familiar with Van Leeuwen, it is the BEST ice cream on the planet. That's right, the planet. And they also tweet their locations.)

I continued home and ate half the pie from John's-

John's Pizza

My impressions? I would still declare Lombardi's the best of the 3. Lombardi's and Grimaldi's were very similar in their thinness and topping distribution. John's is a little closer to pizzeria pizza in that the crust is a little denser and chewier and there seemed to be more cheese, which also appeared to be more oily than the other 2. However, it was still wonderful and definitely better than average pizzeria pizza.

I realized I had a little time before punk rope, so I headed over to one of my favorite coffee shops, Gimme! Coffee on Lorimer St in Williamsburg-

Gimme! Coffee on Lorimer St

I *love* their coffee, the service is always fantastic, and the staff is friendly and nice (the cashier even told me she saw me biking over the Williamsburg Bridge yesterday). I ordered an iced coffee and biscotti, which I consumed while reviewing the day's photos on my laptop.

After that, it was back home and time for Punk Rope! Despite the intense heat, I gave it all I had. I kept thinking to myself "This is your last chance to do this as a 37 year old!" and I even laughed to myself when I came up with "38 year old you could kick 28 year old you's ass!" I was feeling pretty good about my workout, and it was validated with this text tonight from the instructor -

Punk rope progress!

Nice! I could tell my crosses really were pretty exceptional tonight, I'm just glad someone noticed.

And it's now the eve of my birthday, less than 24 hours left at my current age. I'm not even close to sleepy yet, but I know I need to be up at a decent hour for tomorrow's plans. But I know I will barely sleep tonight. This happens every year. I spend the night before my birthday cleaning, crying, worrying about my new age, how old I am, and what the hell am I doing with my life. It's sort of an annual crisis I go through.

Off to clean the bathroom... Good night.

xo Sheryl

(All of today's photos can be seen here)