Unexpected Nostalgia

We just returned from Pennsylvania where we were attending the wedding of our son to his wonderful fiancée.  Obviously the point of the trip was to spend time with family and attend the ceremony and reception, but we planned a few extra days so that we could relax as well.  Since the wedding was taking place near Valley Forge National Historical Park, we felt it was only fitting that we should take a day and revisit the park.  Shortly after we were married, we had moved to Exton Pennsylvania and on our first wedding anniversary we had gone horse back riding in the park, so naturally since we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, it came as a nice surprise to be able to revisit a location that held dear memories in our hearts.  If it wasn’t enough that we had the opportunity to recapture memories of our first year of marriage while enjoying our son’s wedding, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the town of Phoenixville, where the wedding was being held, was celebrating Blobfest while we were in town.  It was truly a unique experience and something that we didn’t know anything about until we arrived in town.  There was one thing, however, that we were definitely planning on and that was getting a cheesesteak and a hoagie, two things that we either can’t get, or at least can’t get the same, in Colorado as they are in Pennsylvania.

Pete and Dona in Valley Forge
Pete and Dona in Valley Forge
Valley Forge Chapel
Valley Forge Chapel
Colonial Theatre from the Blob
Colonial Theatre from the Blob

It is hard to express how wonderfully romantic it was to walk through Valley Forge National Park, hand in hand, and reminisce about the early years of our marriage.  Although we only lived in Exton for two years before work moved us halfway across the country to Colorado, it has always held a dear place in our hearts.  Even seeing the sign for Chester County brought back memories as that is where our youngest daughter was born.  The fact that the park doesn’t charge an entrance fee should certainly help entice anyone who is visiting the area to make the park a stop on their trip, but the historical significance alone should make it a must to visit.  We highly recommend that if you travel inside the United States frequently or have any national parks near where you live, that you buy an annual pass for the national parks, it pays for itself within a couple of visits.  Lucky for us, the weather for July in Pennsylvania couldn’t have been more beautiful, the humidity had decided to give us a break and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  We chose to walk the loop through all of the sites of the park rather than drive so that we could enjoy the historical markers, monuments, and buildings as well as take advantage of being outside in a truly gorgeous park with rolling hills and lush trees.  After enjoying a wonderful day in the park, we went into Phoenixville for a couple of glasses of beer and wine as well as an appetizer and a burger at the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant.  Whenever we travel, we always like to find places that serve local beers, perhaps because we come from the home of a thousand craft beers, and Iron Hill definitely fit the bill, their Vienna Red Lager was the perfect pairing to our spicy burger.

Valley Forge Small Chapel
Valley Forge Small Chapel
Cannons in Valley Forge
Cannons in Valley Forge
Valley Forge Statue
Valley Forge Statue

While we were in Phoenixville, we learned about Blobfest, an annual celebration that occurs every July to commemorate the filming of original version of the horror movie classic, “The Blob“.  The festival lasts three days and the headline event is the reenactment of the scene in the movie where the blob attacks patrons of the Colonial Theatre, located in downtown Phoenixville, and festival goers participate in the “run out”.  We would return to see the festivities the following day, but not until we had found a place to get an authentic hoagie and cheesesteak.  Although some people think that they are the same, there is a difference between subs, grinders, and hoagies.  Specifically, hoagies are made in a deli where the meat is sliced as the sandwiches are made and the bread is baked fresh daily.  The bread is traditionally softer than that of a sub, but there is something about getting everything fresh that makes all of the difference.  We were fortunate to find a wonderful deli, with a line that wrapped around the store, called the Collegeville Italian Bakery and Deli that made us the perfect cheesesteak and Italian hoagie.

Italian Hoagie
Italian Hoagie
Cheesesteak
Cheesesteak
Collegeville Italian Bakery
Collegeville Italian Bakery

Stomachs full, it was back to Phoenixville to enjoy the walking dead, costume and store front decorating contests, and a variety of street vendors selling horror memorabilia and more.  The streets were lined with vintage cars from the 1950’s and there was even a fire truck that we believe was used in the original filming of “The Blob”.  Although we didn’t know anything about the festival before we arrived, anyone who is in the area in early July should make an attempt to enjoy the festival, especially if you are into horror movies as we are.  It was truly a treat.  With that said, we were off to the main event of the weekend, the wedding.  The bride and groom were glowing and the ceremony and reception were absolutely perfect.  It was the perfect ending to a long weekend that was full of new memories, old memories, and pleasant surprises.

Costume Contest
Costume Contest
Walking Dead
Walking Dead
Vintage Cars
Vintage Cars
Blobfest
Blobfest
The Bride and Groom
The Bride and Groom

 

New York City with No Agenda

Whenever we travel to a location that we’ve never been to before or one that has too many attractions to visit in a single trip, we make sure that we prioritize the places we want to see, but leave time for the unexpected. We just got back from a four day trip to New York City and we made the most of our time, but still left room for exploring. We used to live on the east coast, so we’d been to New York City a couple of times, but just for day trips, in and out with a few hours in the city, so we were excited to spend several days and immerse ourselves into what the city has to offer. We had a few priorities while we were there, the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, seeing a Broadway show, and eating a New York style pizza, but we purposely left room for opportunities that might arise. By the time our trip was over, we had an unbelievable time and have tremendous memories of the sites, the food, and the people we met.

Central Park
Central Park
Dona and Pete on Top of the Rock
Dona and Pete on Top of the Rock
Empire State Building
Empire State Building

We arrived in New York City on Saturday, July the 4th, and obviously the city was abuzz with excitement for the fireworks, but our first destination couldn’t have been more different. Being from Colorado, the heat and humidity of New York was somewhat of an adjustment. As we arrived by taxi, a billboard taunted us with the Minus 5 Ice Bar, a bar where the tables, glasses, seats, and the walls were all made of ice. We dawned fur coats and gloves and a few drinks later we were ready to start exploring the city. We always like to take our first day and try to acclimate ourselves to our surroundings, so we made our way to the streets of midtown Manhattan and worked our way towards Rockefeller Center. After a couple of glasses of wine at the Rock Center Café Summer Garden and Bar, we saw Radio City Music Hall and the theatre for the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, found a little restaurant for some food, and by the time the lights of the city were burning bright, we made our way to Time Square for some pure tourist photo opps.

Time Square
Time Square
NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza
NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza
Minus 5 Bar
Minus 5 Bar

Day 2, now was the time to start making sure that we hit some of the attractions that were important to us. Our first stop was at the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center with amazing views of the city including a view over the roof of our hotel, which was just two blocks from Central Park. Even if you have a little bit of vertigo, seeing the city from these heights simply can’t be missed. After viewing the city in all of its glory, we went to Central Park to get some lunch. As is our typical practice, we asked several locals where we should go. We knew that Tavern on the Green was quite famous, but everyone we asked said to go to Loeb Boathouse on the lake, we were not disappointed. Gondolas and row boats in the lake, a wonderful bar for wine while we waited with the throngs for a table, and as luck would have it, we met Bill Cower and his wife as they too were waiting. Apparently there is no expecting celebrity status here. Fortified with a good meal, we were off to explore Hell’s Kitchen and find a place to watch the finals of the Women’s World Cup. After sticking our noses in a couple of interesting places, we found the Mercury Bar that was right for us, with a good crowd, good food, and plenty of excitement for the game.

Loeb Boathouse in Central Park
Loeb Boathouse in Central Park
Central Park Fountain
Central Park Fountain
Loeb Boathouse
Loeb Boathouse
Freedom Tower in NYC
Freedom Tower in NYC

We’d gotten plenty of suggestions on where to get the best slice of pie in town and one place definitely stood out as far as recommendations. So, on our next full day in the city we grabbed a cab and headed towards lower Manhattan. When we arrived at the restaurant, mouths watering, the sign on the door Arturos indicated that they didn’t open until 4:00 pm, our pizza experience was going to have to wait. These are the little surprises that make a trip that more enjoyable. After walking a few blocks heading towards the 9/11 Memorial, we came across a tiny Italian restaurant and stopped to check out the menu. The owner came out to greet us, full Italian accent, ingratiating smile, and we had to stay for lunch. We couldn’t have been more pleased, Peplino Restaurant was one of the most satisfying meals of our entire trip. Once our stomachs and souls were nurtured, we continued on to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Words cannot describe how emotionally overwhelming it is to relive that horrific day through audio, video, and tactile content that truly moves the soul. Someday soon, we’ll talk specifically about that experience, but it is too much for a single post about New York City. Upon leaving the memorial museum, we were emotionally exhausted, but there was more of the city to be seen and we were determined to get our New York slice, so we headed north towards Arturos. Luckily we arrived just in time, this place definitely has a reputation for a reason and the place was packed with locals, always a good sign. We order a full pizza, knowing that it will likely be too much for us, but every bite was as delicious as the next, and for another few moments, we felt like locals sitting in our local watering hole.  Our day wasn’t done yet, though.  It was a long walk back to the hotel from Arturos (100 blocks), about half way, we were ready for a break and we were fortunate to find the Belgium Beer Café just in time for their happy hour.  Oysters and Manhattans while we were in Manhattan seemed a must.

Pizza at Arturos
Pizza at Arturos
Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower
9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial
Pasta of the day at Peplino
Pasta of the day at Peplino
Ravioli of the day at Pepolino
Ravioli of the day at Pepolino
Manhattan at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Manhattan at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Oysters at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Oysters at the Belgium Beer Cafe

With one full day left in the city, we booked our Broadway show, “Finding Neverland”, and started out for a full day of enjoyment. Today was the day to do the Empire State Building, more incredible views of the city and another stark reminder of the loss of the twin towers. After enjoying such an incredible view of the city, lunch was in order and we lucked out by finding another little restaurant where local’s way outnumbered any tourists. Parker & Quinn was quiet when we arrived, but most of the people in the know knew to make reservations, even for lunch. They wouldn’t be disappointed, featuring a menu of small fares, an English style of tapas, they provided a variety of exquisite nibbles that hit mark.   After an afternoon of roaming the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, we found an Irish restaurant with a good happy hour and excellent food called the Malloy’s Irish Pub and from there we were off to Broadway. The show was incredible, we laughed, we cried, we were thoroughly entertained.

Tapas at Parker & Quinn
Tapas at Parker & Quinn
Scallops at Parker & Quinn
Scallops at Parker & Quinn
Pete and Dona at the Empire State Building
Pete and Dona at the Empire State Building
Playbill for Finding Neverland
Playbill for Finding Neverland

All in all, it couldn’t have been a better trip. We were about to jump in a rental car and head to Valley Forge Pennsylvania for our son’s wedding, but everything about the trip was as magical as we had hoped. We weren’t on a schedule, rushing from attraction to attraction, but we saw incredible sights, met amazing people, and actually decompressed from our day to day lives and enjoyed a completely new environment. As we left New York City, we looked at each other and said, “We could live here, we like the energy, all of the variety that the city has to offer, it is our kind of city”. But we have many more adventures ahead of us, maybe we’ll decide to make a bold move and head to New York City or who knows, we’ll have to see what other locations move us to the point of making an adventurous decision.