Our NYCity Octoberfest

What makes October in NYCity so special?

The heat of summer is gone; the chill of winter has yet to arrive.
It’s the weather of course, but so much more.

Φ Archtober all month, all over town

Φ NY Film Festival

Φ Cabaret Convention @ Town Hall

Φ Open House NY Weekend

Φ Photo Plus Expo @ Javits Center

Φ Fall for Dance @ City Center

Φ NYCity Wine & Food Festival

Φ New York Comic Con / New York Super Week

Φ New Yorker Festival

Φ the other Oktoberfest, the one with beer

also Broadway, Lincoln Center, the jazz clubs and cabarets all over town, 
and the world class museums and galleries, too.

of course, we used nycity123.com each day to find out What’s Happening.

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Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise:

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Ferry to Williamsburg for Smorgasburg and Oktoberfest:

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street scenes:

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just a bit of our music.
so much good music every night in this town:

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night scenes:

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at the Bronx Zoo with my buddy Ethan:

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the new NYCity, Hudson Yards – far WestSide Manhattan:

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Open House NY Weekend – first the party, then a peek behind the scenes @ Tom Cat Bakery:

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Open House NY Weekend – Four Freedoms Park / Roosevelt island:

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Open House NY Weekend – new N. section of Bklyn Bridge Park with the chief landscape architect:

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and so ends our Octoberfest Gallery –

Oct. 2015 when we were Seaport Residents

next up – our trips to the Pacific NW in 2014, France in 2013

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San Juan Islands (08/14)

Celia said: “Enough with the mountains, I need to be close to the water.”  So we hopped a ferry to the San Juan Islands. This had been our favorite piece of the NorthWest last time we were out here. It’s sort of like the NW version of Maine – substitute Dungeness crabs for lobster. As we arrived in Friday Harbor we worried  that maybe they had “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Not to worry. Sure, Friday Harbor was more intensely developed, but the rest of the island remained as bucolic as before. Farm after farm on rolling hillsides, with grazing lamb and enough cattle to make you think of Montana. Even our B&B was raising a herd of Alpaca – “the dirty boys”.

On the far side of the island was Roche Harbor, the upscale counterpart to Friday Harbor. This was the place for the Mircosofties, Amazonians and other masters of the tech universe to sail their yachts. We were more interested in the killer whales. One day we studied the Orca (Killer Whales) at the Whale Museum, picked up refreshments at the San Juan Vineyard, then headed across island to Lime Kiln State Park where we were lucky enough to catch a pod cavorting off shore.

Another afternoon we spent time at an outdoor tiki bar overlooking the harbor, watching the fog roll in and out. Two couples, who had retired to the Islands from RochesterNY of all places, told us of the difficulty sailing in that pea soup. When the big ferry boat blows his horn to warn you he’s coming through, it’s tough to tell just where that sound is coming from. Your radar better be working.

The next day we sailed back to the mainland (what the islanders call America) in the dense fog, vowing to return.

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Mt. Baker and the American Alps (08/11)

Mt. Baker was a new peak experience for us and an easy 90 minute drive from our base in Bellingham, WA. In contrast to Mt. Rainier, you can drive most of the way up the mountain before starting your hike. This suited Miss Celia just fine. After safely handling the trails on Rainier, she had run afoul of a gopher hole at the Vashon farm wedding, and was ankle wrapped in an ace bandage inside her hiking boot.

The views from the trails were pretty awesome, but the forest fires in eastern WA. put a haze over everything and made us wonder how much more spectacular those views could have been.

We found kids snow tubing and skinny dipping near our peak, which was pretty cool – but for the rest of us it was pretty warm, even at the top. A lady from Seattle, adoptive mom of my young Ethiopian friend Isaiah, said she often hiked on Baker and this was the warmest she could remember.

Have to give Bellingham a shout out. A small town with a fine gastro pub, The Copper Hog, and nice dining on it’s waterfront, it makes a fine place to bunk when touring the Northern Cascades. And you have to stop at Graham’s in Glacier, on your way down from Mt. Baker. You will run into the same people you were on the mountain with, and every one is there to rehydrate with the $3.50 craft beer pints – a fine way to finish the day.

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Ben & Kelsey – Just Married (08/09)

The Vashon Island grapevine boasted 8 weddings on the island this weekend. It is a pretty place, so it’s no surprise that folks choose to get married here. We had ferried over from Seattle for the union of godson Ben & Kelsey. For the touching story of how they met, and the important role played by Iris the cow, see wedding.dairycouple.us

The festivities started Thursday nite with a smoked salmon & bbq chicken party for family members put together by our LI friends Stefani & Pat. It was a nice opportunity to meet the families and siblings, but the real treat was the food – locally caught wild salmon, carefully smoked by Pat and wonderful side dishes prepared by Stefani.

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day as we headed to Kelsey’s family farm, which had been transformed (with much effort), into a magical place for a wedding. There were horses and cows, and we did have to duck some wandering chickens. Most importantly, we had to make sure not to get too close to the 300 pound pigs, who have a mean disposition when they are hungry.

Last year’s meanest pig had become the centerpiece of the wedding feast. Freshly slaughtered the day before, and slow roasted from 5am, it was on the spit as we arrived and became a mouth watering temptation, until the bride and groom made the ceremonial first cut. Equally delicious were the cheese delicacies and ice cream made by Kelsy, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and a cheese guru and instructor.

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Tahoma (08/06)

Tahoma was an old friend.

We had a wonderful view of the major volcanic peaks in the Cascades, esp. this big guy, on our flight Phoenix – Seattle (hint: ride the right side of the plane). Most spectacular was the view of Mt. St. Helens from the air. The amount of devastation, the amount of the mountain that was blown away is mind boggling!

We had started Tuesday morning in our little village of Northport, on the big island off the East coast, and later that day we were walking into Mt. Rainier NP on the far NorthWest coast. This still amazes me. Poor Lewis and Clark – it took them more than 2 years to make their journey across the continent, and they started in St. Louis.

On Wednesday we hiked up the mountain on the popular Skyline trail, which starts at the lodge at Paradise, elevation about 5400 ft. Celia had some trouble adjusting to the elevation, but she was a trooper. She stopped to catch her breath when she needed to, and after hiking almost 2 hours we made it up to Glacier Point, elevation about 6400 feet.

The change in the weather was dramatic. Initially, we were in full sun and it was so warm we removed some clothing. Later we were in the clouds, it was much cooler, and we put on the fleece. Well, at least Celia did. Two weeks in the Seattle area and I forgot to pack my rain jacket – what a dummy.

Although the clouds kept Tahoma’s peak hidden, we were treated to fields of fresh wildflowers. These flowers were not in bloom even 3 weeks ago. They need the more temperate weather that only arrives on the mountain in August. We look forward to next time, when we hope to see more of the peak, and venture a bit higher on the mountain.

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Pacific Northwest 2014 – the transition.

Time to transition this site from France 2013 to Pacific Northwest 2014.

We have retained all the photos & posts from England 2012 and France 2013, but will update the traveler info that appears in the header with info that is more relevant to Pacific Northwest 2014.

Our preliminary itinerary:
Seattle and Vashon Island for the wedding, the big mountains – Mts. Rainier & Baker, & the San Juan Islands.

Here’s a map of the area where we are headed:

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DAY 14 / PARIS – – 18 MAI 2013

Paris provided a nice change of pace from the smaller towns visited on our journey across southern France.
We had spent a week in Paris about ten years ago, so we knew what to expect – crowds and culture, large boulevards and small bistros.

This time a friend, who lives and works in Paris, joined us one evening.
We climbed the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, which provides a wonderful view of Paris, without the long lines at the Eiffel Tower. Carole gave us the informed native’s rundown on all the highlights. She surprised us when she told us the current mayor seems inclined to do away with the new building height restrictions that make the Paris skyline so unique. Say it ain’t so!

Then, to celebrate this epic climb, we found a bistro off the Champs Elysee and Carole introduced us to “Kir”, a white wine and creme de cassis (black currant liquer) drink, which soon became Celia’s favorite. At dinner we loved the way Carole could interpret the menu and interact with the waiters. After two weeks we still struggled with some of the menu choices. Next time we will come with a bit more French fluency.

After dinner, the three of us strolled down Rue Huchette in the Latin Quarter. This is sort of the Paris version of  Bourbon Street – lively bars and restaurants, but with quite a bit more class. We landed in a piano bar and had a fun evening, especially Greg.

As we left, the piano singer said to us: “You’re not leaving already?” On Rue Huchette “already” means 1:30 AM.

The next day was more cultured. We had missed the Centre Pompidou last time and looked forward to seeing its collection of modern art. We are big fans of MoMA in NYCity, but the Pompidou has a marvelous collection of it’s own. However, I’m still not sure whether that piece of high tech glass and metal architecture, which looks to me like an oil refinery, belongs in Paris.

As we finished our last bottle of wine at dinner in a little bistro in the Bastille arrondissement, we had bittersweet feelings. We were a bit sad to bid adieu to all the tasty food, fine wine, and delicious pastries we had enjoyed for the past two weeks, but we were also thankful we had been able to do this trip, and look forward to next time.

trois amis at top of Arc de Triomphe

trois amis at top of Arc de Triomphe

exterior of Arc de Triomphe

exterior of Arc de Triomphe

interior of Arc de Triomphe

interior of Arc de Triomphe

obligatory leaning tower photo

obligatory leaning tower photo

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

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outside the Louvre

outside the Louvre

i hope that's not low tide on the seine.

i hope that’s not low tide on the seine.

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you know you are in the paris metro, when the subway buskers are an 8 member classical group

you know you are in the paris metro, when the subway buskers are an 8 member classical group

in nycity police are on horseback, here on rollerblades

in nycity police are on horseback, here on rollerblades

friday food market on the streets of our neighborhood near gare lyon

friday food market on the streets of our neighborhood near gare lyon

chief poissonner

with the chief poissonner

check out the foie gras @ 189E per kilo - for you gringos is $113/lb. pretty rich any way you look at it (but it's pretty darn tasty)

check out the foie gras @ 189E per kilo – for you gringos that’s $113/lb. pretty rich any way you look at it (but it’s so darn tasty)

we are in a sidewalk cafe sipping a cup of cafe, she is out for a stroll - it wasn't that cold

we are at a sidewalk cafe sipping a cup of cafe, she is out for a stroll – it wasn’t that cold

centre pompidou with 2 bike share folks riding by. every town we were in had bike sharing already. let's go nycity!

centre pompidou with 2 bike share folks riding by the oil refinery. every town we were in had bike sharing already. let’s go nycity!

the picasso we all know

the picasso style we all know

the picasso we don't know

the picasso style we don’t know

from inside the pompidou

from inside the pompidou

our final bottle of vin on this trip - good to the last drop

our final bottle of vin on this trip – good to the last drop

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out for a stroll on the champs elysees

late friday nite a chantreuse sings in a bar in the Latin quarter

late friday nite a chanteuse sings in a piano bar in the Latin quarter

later friday, she sings to an american visitor

later friday nite, she sings to an american visitor

DAY 12 / BORDEAUX (the photos) – – 16 MAI 2013

opera house  - tres grand

opera house – tres grand

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1st night, Greg makes new friends

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creating a new Bordeaux, under Anna’s watchful eyes

look at tall those bottles. wine class can be hard work.

look at all those bottles. wine class can be hard work.

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chateau pape clement

chateau pape clement

wine aging in oak casks. notice the stained glass windows.

wine aging in oak casks. notice the stained glass windows.

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with our new friends from Oz, Joe & Lorraine.

tasting room with Audrey and new friends from Oz  – Joe & Lorraine

Bordeaux welcomes everyone - even the boat people.

Bordeaux welcomes everyone – even the boat people.

with Louis, proprietor of Bordeaux's first beer pub.

with Louis, proprietor of Bordeaux’s first American beer bar.

celia helped hang this poster in the TI office, so she earned this pix.

celia helped hang this poster in the TI office, so she earned this pix.

parliament house with Chloe #2 (NOT louis' sister). she was concerned that we enjoyed our visit to France.

parliament house pub with Chloe #2 (NOT louis’ sister). she was concerned that we had enjoyed our visit to France.

the end of our long last night  in B.

the end of our long last night in B.

our room key waits for us all alone late at night.  everyone else in our hotel has picked up their key and is long asleep.

our room key waits for us all alone late at night. everyone else in our hotel has picked up their key and is long asleep.

DAY 12 / BORDEAUX (the story) – – 16 MAI 2013

French railway travel is a pleasure: we eat, drink vin and converse as best we can.

On the way from Avignon to Bordeaux, we were seated with a young French lawyer, Marcel, whose English was surprisingly good.  Turns out he had been a high school exchange student in Utah, of all places.  He brought back his love of American football and plays for a team in Toulouse.  He claims to be the smallest  middle linebacker in all of France.  He may also be the best looking.

It was after 9pm when we checked into our small boutique hotel and were warmly welcomed by the lovely Alex. She made us cafe and told us about all the highlights in Bordeaux – she’s a real home town booster and we like that.

On her advice we walked over to St. Catherine Street and wandered around, looking for a wine bar.   Greg made friends with some theater folks, and Celia made friends with a glass of fine Bordeaux from St-Emilion, which was served with exquisite chocolates.  When Celia expressed her pleasure with the wine, and especially the chocolates, the bartender brought a second plateful of chocolates.  Celia was ecstatic and Greg thought she was going to pull a Meg Ryan from “When Harry Met Sally”.

The next morning Alice, another lovely and helpful concierge at our hotel, arranged for a wine class.  We shared our two hour class with one other couple, from Cambridge, MA., via Mumbai. We learned a lot from Anna our instructor, even blended our own wines, and of course, tasted some fine wines.

All wines in the Bordeaux are required to be blended, which is quite different from other wine regions in France. Here’s something to know – the term “Superior” on a bottle of Bordeaux means grapes came from other vineyards in the region, not from one chateau, so maybe it’s not so “Superior”.  Our best piece of insider info – the years 2009 and 2005 were the good recent vintages for Bordeaux wines.

We were determined to use our new found knowledge, and on Anna’s recommendation we went on to tour the Chateau Pape du Clement that afternoon.  There was only one other couple signed up, Lorraine & Joe from Perth, by way of Tasmania.  We had a private tour of the winery with Audrey, who spoke English well and indulged our questions and delays for picture taking.  The Chateau and properties were gems; centuries old, but meticulously restored and lovingly cared for.

We toured the vineyards, each of the buildings, and were shown every step of the state of the art wine making process.  Red wines are mashed in huge oak barrels, blended in stainless steel vats, and aged in very expensive oak barrels, some costing as much as 1,200 euros each!  Chateau Pape du Clement was the owner’s first foray into the wine making business and clearly his favorite (he now owns 40 vineyards around the world).  He has beautiful,  historic, religious art throughout and even created a consecrated chapel for worship in one of the buildings that houses the bottles of wine.  A beautiful, timeless place.

BTW – the biggest bottle they produce is called a Melchior, named after 1 of the 3 wise men who presented gifts to Jesus at his birth. This giant bottle contains 18 litres, which for you gringos is 26 bottles of wine, and yes, it takes 3 men to lift!

At the end of our tour, there was, of course, a tasting, and the chateau let us taste some very fine and expensive wines. They left us alone with the bottles (shades of Del Posto).  We hit it off with our friends from Oz and stayed until the bottles were empty.  We all bought wine and parted. They were headed for a hike through the Dordogne the next day.

During the winter Greg had run into Chloe, a world class traveler, in FL. They swapped stories and she told him that if we got to Bordeaux, we had to visit her brother’s place. He was about to open the first American beer bar in Bordeaux (sacre bleu!). So on our second night we set out on a journey in the rain to find the brother’s bar.  We had some beers, watched some NBA playoff action, and felt at home. Her brother Louis was a bigger NYGiants fan than Greg, which is not easy. Louis immediately sent a phone-photo of the 3 of us to his sister, who is now in Senegal. Hi Chloe!

Our train from Bordeaux is now nearing Paris – Gare Montparnasse, which means the end of this rail trip and the end of this story. Bordeaux photos soon!

Then 3 days in Paris before we head home.

DAY 8 – 12 MAI 2013

The train ride down the coast from Nice to Marseille was scenic, but nothing like the bus ride to the Italian border. Miss those Corniche roads. We arrived in Avignon just in time for dinner, which was always a challenge here. The old walled city is a maze of helter-skelter, narrow cobblestone streets that never hold a straight line for very long. Maps list only some streets in a barely readable tiny font. We got to know Avignon pretty well as we wandered the streets looking for our trusty guidebooks’ recommended restaurants..

We were rewarded for this effort with our best meal of the trip so far at Fou de fafa, a small restaurant with limited seatings and a limited menu. They believe in doing a few things really well. Provencal cuisine at its finest.

Our fancy new hotel was only a couple of blocks from the train and bus stations. From here we day tripped to Arles, Nimes, and of course, Pont du Gard.

Arles was an important capital in Roman Gaul. After lunch in Arles, we stopped at a cafe and found to our surprise a personal museum to bull fighting. This area of southern France has a history of bull fighting held in their Roman arenas. We watched a live bull fight from Madrid, admired the mementos on the wall, and agreed we don’t much like this “sport” – we were rooting for the bull.

Arles is a town made famous by Van Gogh, who painted some of his most iconic works here. Although “Starry Night” gets all the publicity, I am more impressed by his “Starry Night Over the Rhone”. We made a small pilgrimage to the very spot where he made this painting – too bad there were no stars on a late spring afternoon.

Nimes is the reason for the aqueduct at Pont du Gard. A provincial capital, Nimes needed fresh water. We were impressed as we left the train station to see a lovely, wide pedestrian boulevard with running water flowing on either side, that leads to the center of a modern city that just happens to contain the best preserved Roman temple in Europe.

We headed there thinking it was the bull festival weekend. We were told it would be a wild weekend in the old town, which one of us was very much looking forward to. Alas, we were misinformed, it is next weekend. (Celia was relieved!)

Nimes is less a tourist destination than the other cities visited, even though it has wonderfully preserved Roman architecture and an architecturally superb Museum of Modern Art. Go for the art or have a drink on the rooftop lounge and observe the city below.

Avignon brags it was the Pope’s town. Inside the walls, the Pope’s Palace was both a powerful fortress and palace. It was the seat of the Christian world in the 14th Century, where 9 popes succeeded one another. We were fortunate to see the new light show, Les Luminessences d’Avignon, projected on the walls of the palace at night. Very high tech and would have been impressive even back in the states.

Tomorrow we travel to Bordeaux, wine country.

Arles on the Rhone

Arles on the Rhone

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Arles

Arles

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Arles – le jeune filles, Jeanne

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imageArles – Theatre Antique, important surviving Roman Theatre, around 1C BC

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arena where the gladiators fought before 20,000. around 75 AD.

Arles  – arena where 20,000 watched the gladiators.  AD 75.

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Arles cafe

Arles cafe

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Nimes, grand boulevard in front of le Gare.

Nimes, grand boulevard in front of le Gare.

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Carre d'Art, architecturally notable Museum of Contemporary Art

Nimes – Carre d’Art, architecturally notable Museum of Contemporary Art

Maison Carree, best preserved Roman temple

Avignon, across from our hotel

Avignon, across from our hotel

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nice room,  glass wall changed to transparent with flick of switch.

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The Pope's Place, very impressive.Avignon, the Pope’s Place. very impressive.

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imageAvignon – carousel in Place de L’Horloge. the kids loved this.

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after the light show at the pope’s palace.