Monday, September 29, 2008

Tap Water, Please

I drank water from Norway on Saturday. But I didn't want to.

Paul and I went to a sushi place in our neighborhood for supper. Like I do whenever we go out to eat, I asked for a glass of water.

"Sparkling or still?" the waitress asked.

Still, I responded. Though I obviously should have said "tap."

What I got was a $4 water in a sleek glass bottle. A double whammy-- bad financially and bad for the environment.

Anyone who knows me even slightly knows I hate buying water/pop at restaurants, so it almost killed me when we got the bill

I've found that beverages are an even worse deal in New York than in Ohio. At many restaurants around here, refills are *not* complimentary.

Not everyone realizes this, of course. For example, Paul and a friend from out-of-town went out to dinner several months ago. His friend kept asking for refills and ended up paying something like $8 for tea.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My First Celebrity Sighting (Sort Of)

How's this for a random New York experience?

I normally eat lunch on the benches in the Trinity Church cemetery. Today, however, I decided to make my way toward the steps of a nearby building I sometimes sit at instead.

But a large crowd was gathered at the base, and I could see some video cameras at the front. A few more steps and I saw they were all pointed toward Hillary Clinton. And I was about 20 feet away.

She was addressing the cameras and not the crowd, so I couldn't tell what she was saying or why she was there.

I consider this my first "celebrity sighting" in New York. I know, I know-- it would have been more authentic if I just would have passed her randomly in the streets. But I'll take what I can get.

Hillary Clinton: Center Right in Picture (if not in politics)

Monday, September 15, 2008

There Goes the Sun #1

New York is on the far edge of the eastern time zone.

I like the sun waking me up in the morning, but I hate that it gets darker about 30 minutes earlier here than in Ohio. In fact, the sun had already set by the time I got home and exited the subway station after work today.

With that in mind, I'll be unearthing some photos over the next few weeks of New York City in the sun. I'm already counting down the days until next spring.

Here's the first installment:

Central Park, March 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sept. 11 in the City

Working under what used to be the shadow of the World Trade Center towers, I'm confronted with reminders of 9/11 nearly everyday. Today, of course, those reminders were even more poignant.

I stopped at the 9/11 memorial ceremony for about 10 minutes as I walked from the subway to work. I could hear the names of the deceased being read one by one- the entire task was to take the entire morning. The streets were crowded but surprisingly calm. A Mennonite choir sang behind me.

Obama and McCain were supposedly at the ceremony, but it was impossible to get close enough to see anyone or anything. I couldn't even tell for sure where the stage was.

Police officers were everywhere, and it seemed like the bulk of their job was keeping tourists and city-dwellers alike from parading down closed-off streets. Unlike most days, today you couldn't get closer than a block or two from Ground Zero. I tried.

For tonight only, the twin towers of light again shoot skyward from the site of the center. Paul and I walked to Shore Promenade to see the beams against the city skyline. Only when we returned to our apartment did I realize we can also see them from our living room window.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Montreal: Day 3

Last Monday was our last day in Montreal, and all I can say is that it could have been worse.

After one last serving of poutine, we hit the road. I expected the trip home would take longer because of the holiday, but traffic was surprisingly normal. However, we waited 1 hour and 40 minutes in line at the border.

That wasn't the worst of it. We handed the guard our passports and licenses. When she gave them back, we immediately noticed that she didn't give us back Paul's license. We told her this, but she claimed we never gave it to her.

We pulled over and searched the car, even though we knew we had given it to her. No luck finding it, of course. Paul politely approached the guard again, but she continued to claim she never saw it.

We couldn't do anything but continue our drive home and hope it would be found. And -- surprise, surprise -- it was. The second day of our return Paul called the lost and found at the border, it was there. We were relieved- not least of all because Paul wouldn't have to stand in the horrendous line to replace his license.

The drive was uneventful until we got to Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was late -- near 11 -- traffic was heavy, and I think we missed a turn. All in all, the trip home took something like 9 hours.

But, as I said, it could have been worse.

After Paul parked the car and turned off the ignition, we decided to move it back a few inches. But the car wouldn't start. We knew about this problem the week before, but Paul changed the battery and we thought it was fixed. No such luck.

It started fine the next morning. Aggravation!

Here's a few more Montreal photos for your viewing pleasure:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Montreal: Day 2

Like Saturday, we spent Sunday eating, drinking, walking and climbing in no particular order.

First thing in the morning we walked down to the St. Lawrence River port area. And I literally mean we walked down. Montreal is surprising hilly. Me and my non-existent French didn't realize the city was actually named for a (small mountain) in the city.

It was a hot day, and the terraces and decks were crowded with people eating brunch and people-watching. We winded our way through the narrow side streets and even narrower sidewalks looking for a coffee shop.

Instead we sat on bar stools at the window of a small cafe, watching a commercial shoot. We had no idea what they were shooting, and neither did our waitress. Paul guesses a hair-care product. I think it was make-up.

The only place we absolutely wanted to visit in Montreal was the Notre Dame Basilica. I had read that the architect actually converted to Catholicism after creating the church in the 1800's.

I'd rarely seen a Catholic church so colorful. The ceiling was a green-blue with gold stars. The columns had multi-hued designs. And the woodwork at the front of the church was amazing. I didn't get any good photos inside the church, but take a quick look at rotating pictures on the official website. Pay particular attention to the nearly-spiral staircase on the left.

Of course, we also found time for some snacks throughout the weekend. In addition to crepes, we had two additional foodstuffs we wanted to try: bagels and poutine.

Montreal claims its bagels are superior to New York's, but I wouldn't quite go that fair. Montreal's are smaller, denser and sweeter- more like a donut. Definitely tasty, but not what I would call a traditional bagel.

During our short trip, Paul managed to squeeze in two orders of poutine- french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. Not bad, but I'd take a Nutella-filled crepe over that any day.

Late in the afternoon we walked along the river . . .

. . . and happened to come across Montreal's clock tower.

A sign on the door said you could climb on up. There were only 192 steps. So we did.

The steps started out very wide-- room enough for three people or so to climb side by side. About halfway up the stairs narrowed, but there was still plenty of room for two. The last 50 steps, however, was the smallest , narrowest spiral staircase I'd ever seen.

There was barely room for six people at the lookout at the top. But the views were magnificent.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Montreal: Day 1

We spent 6 hours of our fifth wedding anniversary in the car.

That wasn't too romantic, of course, but our destination was. We spent Labor Day weekend in Montreal.

I had never visited a French-speaking locale, and neither of us had been to Quebec. The drive straight north also took us through the Adirondacks, which we also had never seen.

Of course, I booked our room through Priceline, and Paul and I agreed that the Doubletree was one of the better hotels we've stayed at. Mostly because of the view. We could see most of downtown, the St. Lawrence River in the distance, a bridge or two and even the roller coasters of a nearby Six Flags.

I also like Doubletrees because they give you a warm chocolate chip-walnut cookie when you check in. And since Paul is allergic to nuts, I got two. (Of course, I would rather that Paul not be allergic, but sometimes my stomach doesn't mind.)

This trip, much like Maine, was all about the food and microbrews. Crepes were at the top of the list, and I had two the very first day we were there. Usually I opt for crepes filled with Nutella or fruit, but this time I went for the savory. Can't really go wrong either way.

Our hotel was about a block from the Latin Quarter, an area similar to the Short North in Columbus. Lots of restaurants, lots of bars. Paul was pleasantly surprised with the artisanal beer selection. Paul ordered two of the more unique drafts we had ever seen: a ginger beer (yummy in small doses) and a gummy beer (bright green and garnished with a gummy bear).

Montreal was in the middle of a world film fest while we were there, but since neither of us can speak, understand or read French, we didn't pay too much attention to it. But it made for some nice photos.

Absolutely everyone we encountered spoke excellent English. Signs in store windows were obviously in French, but they often had small English translations underneath. It was common to be greeted in restaurants with "Bonjour-Hi" and the server would speak in the language you responded in. Many restaurants also had English menus.

But I also enjoyed trying to use my rusty Spanish to figure out some basic French words. I could read the days of the week and quite a bit of the menu. And some signs didn't need much of a translation.


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