Staycation Travels

Standard

​As we wound down our staycation, I kept trying to make things interesting. We were all a little depressed that we weren’t able to go away this year, and really, after the wonderful time we had in Ireland last year with family, there really was no way to attempt to equal that, but I did want the kids to feel that they’d gotten a break before school returns next week.

I gave them each a journal, and began to dictate topics to start them off. They were not thrilled.

Then I hit up the I Love NY app, and found a perfect (on paper) idea to both give us a tourist opportunity, and remind us of our Irish adventure.

We discovered the Irish-American Heritage Museum. I had misread the website, so there really isn’t a large exhibit space. They typically have events, and in fact, later that week, they were hosting a Celtic cruise on the Hudson. They did have a display of Saratoga Race Track Travers’ Race posters by Greg Montgomery.


They also had a couple of small spaces of interest, both in current Irish-American life, history, and the diaspora. There was a table of Kennedy family photos, which I thought their prominence so clear that there was no label as to who they were. I did recognize one photo of the President and his mother.
Another section told the story of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Honor Guard, and still another was some religious items and artifacts, including a relic of St. Columba.

All along the walls depicted the history of the Irish-American beginnings especially in the Albany-Saratoga region with several track photos as well as Honorary Diplomas from the Educational Institute of Scotland for both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.

We spent a lovely hour looking around and asking questions.

Admission is by donation, and there was also a little gift shop.

After that, we stopped at a local Irish pub for lunch.


It really was a nice way to end our summer before going back to work and school, and offer homage to our once in a lifetime trip last year, which still calls to my heart.
Next week, I will surprise the kids with Irish candy as a before school treat. It’s been too hot to get it even the short distance to the Irish shop in town.

What adventures have you found this summer?

August – Vacation/Staycation – Reflection

Standard

We won’t be getting a vacation this year. My husband will get the time off, but we don’t have the finances to go anywhere, so what special thing can we do before school starts up again in a little more than two weeks.

This certainly won’t be the first time we have a staycation. To be honest, most of our “vacation” time was spent traveling the two hundred fifty or so miles to and from our parents’ houses. When my father was ill, and before my oldest started school, we would drive down one weekend, my husband would take my father’s car home so he could work, and then return the next weekend. We did this at least once a month.

In those ensuing years, I was able to travel a bit with help from friends, and my husband went to his mom’s with the kids for a weekend or to ComicCon, and we did many road trips – day trips – just to get away from our four walls, which always seemed to be in need of housekeeping. It still does.

What’s a family to do?

We are fortunate to live in and around the capital of New York, and so there are many options for day trips from amusement parks to historical sites, horse racing, and shopping. We recently did a quick overnight to Destiny USA, the largest mall in New York, and very similar, if not in size and scope, to the Mall of America. It was like a mini-vacation, and my husband and son checked off nine new comic stores (in less than twenty-four hours) while my daughter and I went shopping at Lush and drank bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea. We’d never been there before, and so it was nice. It was different. And it was really not expensive at all.

Where to start?

AAA

Tour books, maps, they can even make reservations for you. I actually prefer to do this myself since we rent our car from Enterprise, and this trip was free because of points accumulation.

Priceline

We booked our hotel (in the carr on our way to Syracuse) online. We didn’t find out the hotel until after we chose and paid for it, but we got a comfortable $78 room with free breakfast for $46.

Know before you go

In NY, we have a wonderful I Love NY app that offers you suggestions on where to visit, where to eat, and what to do. Google your own state, and discover what’s right in your backyard.

Look for discounts

Again, use AAA. I always forget to ask about a AAA discount when I’m at home, but it’s available in many places. Military, senior, and student discounts are also often available. Look online for special offers, coupons, and recommendations.

Make memories

Buy an inexpensive journal in the dollar section of Target or any dollar store. Use your cell phone camera to take photos of the places you’ve been, and the family you’re with.

One of the things that amazes me is discovering the “tourist” things to do in my “hometown”. We spend all of our time traveling somewhere else that we forget that people often are traveling to our neck of the woods, and we should take some time to explore our own environs.

Here are some suggestions for the central New York region, whether you’re local or visiting from afar:

1. ESAM – Empire State Air Museum

2. Erie Canal Cruises

3. Six Flags Great Escape and the Lake George Area

4. VIA Aquarium

5. Grant Cottage

6. Saratoga Race Track

7. Schuyler Mansion

8. Niagara Falls – New YorkCanada (You will need a valid passport for travel to Canada. Visit the State Dept. for more information.)

9. Destiny USA

10. National Comedy Center

Inside Lock 17. Erie Canal Cruises. (c)2018

Downtown is Pawsome (Albany, NY)

Standard

Downtown is Pawsome is a sculpture installation throughout the streets of the capital city in homage to Nipper, the RCA mascot who currently resides in Albany. It will remain in place through May 2018.

This event hit my radar quite unexpectedly in the beginning of August, right about when I was looking for something to do with my kids. This came up in my Facebook feed (thanks, Fran!) and I immediately woke my two youngest ones up, and off we went beginning with a McDonald’s breakfast and then surprising them by taking them all the way to downtown Albany.

I also got a parking ticket for our troubles, but considering the rest of the day was free, this was a sacrifice (and a lesson learned) that I have accepted.

(c)2017

(c)2017

(c)2017

Continue reading

Travel – Schuyler Mansion [Albany, NY]

Standard

​Spurred on by the Hamilton phenomenon and knowing that Alexander Hamilton was a New Yorker, albeit a transplant, I went in search of his local ties of which it turns out there are many. When I looked up the Schuyler Mansion, my intention was to see a little of his past through his in-laws, Phillip Schuyler and Catherine Van Renssalaer Schuyler. It wasn’t until taking advantage of the recently added tour, When Alexander Hamilton Called Albany Home, that I got a better glimpse into Alexander Hamilton’s time in New York’s capital city of Albany.

Schuyler Mansion, front view. Vestibule was not there during Phillip Schuyler’s time. (c)2016

Continue reading

Following Alexander Hamilton’s Footsteps in Albany, NY

Standard

The Hamilton phenomenon is more than breaking records on Broadway and changing the face of the Great White Way, but it’s also reminding history buffs like me that we have a great and storied past to explore, often in our own backyards. As a child and an adult, I’ve been to Gettysburg, Williamsburg, St. Augustine, but I’ve forgotten that we have history from the same time right here in New York. In fact, much of our national Revolutionary War history took place in New York, from the battles to the newly formed government. This is especially true here in the capital region, near where I live.

Hamilton, the musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first treasury secretary, the first political sex scandal, a man murdered by the Vice President of the United States.

image

1 of 4 remaining smaller versions of a statue that stood on Wall Street in Manhattan.

Alexander Hamilton, who made New York his adopted home, who was married in Albany and spent summers there with his family, Chief of Staff to George Washington, traveling everywhere with him has made a resurgence in the Albany Capital Region (among other places including cementing his face on the ten dollar bill).
I’m a history buff, living in the heart of it, and I missed all of this in school; or I’d forgotten it. I don’t know which.

Lucky for us, however, sites in the area have jumped on the Hamilbandwagon and have set up special tours and exhibits. I recently went on a new tour at the Schuyler Mansion: “When Alexander Hamilton Called Albany Home.”

image

The front of the Schuyler Mansion. The porch and vestibule pictured were not there during the Schuylers' time in the house, but was kept during the restoration because of the renown of the architect.

The Schuyler Mansion is the home of Hamilton’s in-laws, Phillip and Catherine Schuyler, Catherine herself a member of the equally impressive Van Rensselaer family. It is also the place where Alexander married his dear Eliza, a small room about the size of my own living room in the magnificent expansive English manor house.

image

The Room Where it Happened. Alexander wed Elizabeth Schuyler in this room in front of a small group of family and friends.

A smaller room off the second hall served as a study for General Schuyler and was where Hamilton and Aaron Burr pored over legal texts when they worked together on a case. I have to admit, with the colorful green and the writing desk and books and maps, this was probably my favorite room and one I wouldn’t mind spending some time in behind the velvet rope.

image

Study where Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr looked over General Schuyler's massive book collection for their work as lawyers.

image

Those are actual books belonging to Phillip Schuyler.

image

In a recent article in the Albany Times-Union, a trifecta of Hamilton events were highlighted and the ones I’d like to share with you here today.

Put together by the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau, it includes information on the tour at the Schuyler Mansion that I mentioned earlier. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 518-434-0834 or visiting their website for more information.

The second part is a Free Walking Tour. Go to their website and download the PDF. This is the next item on my to-do list for this summer.

The third is an exhibit at the Albany Institute of History and Art titled, “Spotlight: Alexander Hamilton. Their information can be found at their website or by telephone at 518-463-4478.

Hamilton isn’t the only history to explore in this area. I hope to bring you a few more as the week progresses.

Shaker Settlement

Standard

This Shaker Site was the first permanent Shaker settlement in the United States. It was settled by Mother Ann Lee in 1776 when she leased 700 acres in what is now known as Colonie.

The Meeting House, pictured, dates back to 1848 and the Barn complex to 1915.

image

image

image

Washing House

 

image

Fenced Herb Garden to left, small outbuilding in foreground

 

image

The creek

 

The quintessential Shaker philosophy is Hands to work, hearts to G-d.

The Shakers are known for their value in the simplicity of life and doing the works of G-d. Simple Gifts is a frequently sung hymn or dance. I was required to play this on the Lap Dulcimer in college.

image

image

image

image

Click here for more information on visiting this history location.

Henry Johnson, Medal of Honor Recipient, 2015

Standard

Watch it live here at 11:15am:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/president-obama-awards-sergeant-william-shemin-and-army-private-henry-johnson-medal-honor

image

These are photos that I took about three years ago on a visit to Washington Park in Albany, NY of the Henry Johnson Monument, commemorating the bravery and valor displayed by Sgt. Johnson during his service in World War I.

Later today at the White House, President Obama will award two posthumous Medal of Honors, one to Sgt. William Shemin (who was Jewish) and one to Sgt. Henry Johnson, both of whom fought in France during WWI.

Henry Johnson was born in 1897 in Virginia and moved to Albany, New York in his teens. He enlisted in the all Black National Guard unit, which was called up in the 19-teens. Because of racial tensions and white soldiers’ refusal to work alongside Black soldiers (even though all were Americans), General Pershing authorized their loan to the French government where Henry Johnson fought valiantly and unendingly. He fought off a 20 person raiding party of Germans. That is such a watered down one-sentence does-not-give-it-justice summary of the real story.

The French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre for his service and selfless bravery. He was the first American soldier to receive the Croix de Guerre with star and Gold Palm in World War I.

He was finally awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 by President Bill Clinton and the Distinguished Cross in 2003 was awarded to his son on his behalf. Sgt. Johnson’s son, Herman Johnson was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

It was thought that Henry was buried in a pauper’s grave in Albany after his death in 1929, but is buried in Arlington Cemetery, and that, as they say, is also another story.

Finally, President Obama is rectifying a wrong almost one hundred years old.

image

image

Find more information at these links:

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/henry-johnson.htm

http://news10.com/2015/06/01/harlem-hellfighters-visit-henry-johnsons-grave-ahead-of-medal-of-honor-ceremony/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/06/01/it-took-97-years-to-get-these-soldiers-the-medal-of-honor-heres-how-it-happened/

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/us/two-world-war-i-soldiers-to-posthumously-receive-medal-of-honor.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0&referrer=

The Grave Site of President Chester A. Arthur

Standard

I recently took a drive out to the Albany Rural Cemetery outside of the New York State capital of Albany to visit the gravesite of President Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States. The cemetery is much larger than it appears upon driving through the gates. I’m told that the cemetery itself is 400 acres and I found it to be one of the more peaceful  places I’ve been to. It is spaced in a rolling way with hills and winding dirt/gravel narrow roads, large and small headstones and monuments, mid-19th century (some from before that had been moved there) to modern era as well as above ground burial areas. There is an abundance of nature with trees and creeks with natural stone walls, deep wooded areas and cool shaded spaces with benches and statuary. It felt a bit like some of the Gettysburg cemeteries for anyone that’s visited them, but I only felt the peacefulness rather than the spirits and ghost-like feelings reaching out that I feel in the Battlefields and Cemeteries of Gettysburg.

This cemetery began with 100 acres in 1841, and had its first burial in 1845, although some graves are from before that having moved from their original site at Washington Park. It is an active cemetery, and other than very famous names, I recognized my former Congressman’s father.

When I arrived at the President’s grave site, there was a groundskeeper trimming the grass. He chuckled and said to me, “My boss was right. Always weed whack over here first.” He then moved off so that I could get pictures. For all of the visitors you would think they get, there are no signs pointing the way. I did see one about the size of an interstate shield sign, but other than that, nothing. I ran into a jogger with her dog, and I asked her for directions to the President. She was not surprised that I could not find it on my own.

DSCN6368

DSCN6381

DSCN6432DSCN6367

Below is the Arthur family plot.

DSCN6375 DSCN6374

DSCN6363

Behind the monument with the angel and Presidential Seal is the actual grave where President Arthur is buried alongside his wife.

DSCN6373DSCN6377 DSCN6376

It took me three tries to get the flag to wave just right behind the angel’s wings.

DSCN6370

I also have an affinity for taking pictures of things with a tree in the foreground.

DSCN6384

Some more photos from my day. The next two were where I happened upon the jogger. I saw a stone wall and flowing water and I needed to stop and get out of my car. I was really glad I did.

DSCN6355 DSCN6357 DSCN6385 DSCN6387

This stone was under a copse of trees. There’s a stone wall layered behind it, the topiary plus a few statuary pieces. This person really liked frogs apparently. The bench right across from this has that little stone path and is under its own tree; it is also missing the seat. I can imagine that this person’s spouse or parent would come to sit and visit. Sometimes, I wish that there was a bench by my parents’ graves; something that my mother wanted to put in had she lived longer to visit my Dad.

DSCN6392 DSCN6393

These last two are good examples of unexpected angles. Stand in just the right spot and it gives way to gobs of creativity and writing prompts. There is so much in the simplest photograph.

DSCN6399 DSCN6430