August – Vacation/Staycation – Reflection

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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

Travel – Schuyler Mansion [Albany, NY]

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​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

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Following Alexander Hamilton’s Footsteps in Albany, NY

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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Those are actual books belonging to Phillip Schuyler.

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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.

A Mini Writing Retreat

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Never make plans. They never work out. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I planned a mini-retreat for this week. Take some time for myself to get my head on straight and my spirit centered before the kids are home for the summer. I planned for the part of the week after Memorial Day since there was only one appointment on my calendar and no school obligations after everyone went back to school and work after the Memorial Day holiday. Our house has been pretty clutter-free for the past couple of weeks, so I enjoy being there again. I mentioned to my husband last week while I was sitting in my corner office that I didn’t want to leave the house. I really liked being there. But let’s be real, if I stay home to write, I’d end up watching Supernatural or The Walking Dead reruns on Netflix. I have the rest of the month for that.

I started thinking about what I wanted to do this week and separately what I wanted to accomplish. I’d attend Mass on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’ve been missing the daily masses both by not attending and also missing them deeply. I’d start my day with G-d, leaving the house at 8:30 and planning to return by 3 when the kids came home from school. It sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it?


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