Reading Week Diaries: New York, New York!

“These vagabond shoes / are longing to stray / right through the very heart of it, New York, New York” – Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York”

Holly and Michael go adventuring again! The epic long-distance romance of Holly and Michael continues – this time in the big apple, otherwise known as New York City (*cue flashing lights*). I have been waiting to use this cheesy Frank Sinatra quote for so long and my wish finally came true! Thus on February 5th it was a quick bonjour and au revoir to Montreal and hello to New York City!

(P.S. go check out Michael’s blog  here where I’m sure there’ll be more photos of our trip soon!)

5th February 2016

After a harrowing 6-7 hour red eye flight, I was relieved to finally touch down in Montreal and realize a long-awaited reunion. We didn’t take long collecting my bags and picking up our rental car before heading out onto the labyrinth of highways. My faith in Google was momentarily shaken due to the horrifyingly long route it took us on instead of the pre-planned one we had set ourselves before crossing across the border. Note to self: never trust Google.

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Au revoir, Montreal!

Luckily we had given ourselves a few extra hours so we got to see a seemingly endless array of pretty barns, fields, and towns in Vermont and New York (the state) but still arrived at Poughkeepsie with a few minutes to spare.

 

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Me waiting at Poughkeepsie station. Photo by Michael Maclean

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The sunset was brilliant but the exhaustion of the day and slow rumble of the train lulled us into a short nap until the announcer yelled “Penn Station! Next stop!” The maelstrom of New York hit us full force on our first subway train off the island of Manhattan and into the slightly more quiet Williamsburg where we were greeted by our eccentric  air b’n’b hostess.

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Unfortunately the only pic I got from the train was a fuzzy iPhone one.

The excitement of the city  and our growling bellies were calling, however, and we didn’t want to spend our first night in the tiny windowless room we nicknamed ‘the dungeon.’ We re-fuelled ourselves with pho and beer at a hip little vietnamese restaurant in Williamsburg then caught the subway right into the heart of the city, Times Square. We had a lovely night strolling arm in arm, popping M&Ms, and exploring arguably one of the most romantic cities I’ve seen.

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Times Square, NY

6th February 2016

We began the morning bright and early with breakfast at a trendy little cafe in Williamsburg, then traversed the hectic bus system to get ourselves onto the island of Manhattan (almost all trains from Brooklyn to Manhattan had conveniently shut down for the weekend).

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Michael trying to figure out how to get anywhere
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A cool mural in Williamsburg

We spent the day wandering through Soho and Greenwich Village, me drooling over all the shops and Michael snapping pictures.image

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Little Italy, NY. Photo by Michael Maclean
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The old fashioned burger joint we lunched at, across from the Chelsea Market
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Somewhere in SoHo. Photo by Michael Maclean

We walked along the highline – one of the coolest things to see in the city in terms of architecture. I highly recommend it, even just for the wicked view you get. As the sun began to sink behind the Soho skyline we headed back towards the heart of town to Central Park.

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The Highline. Photo by Michael Maclean
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Carving of the island of Manhattan
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My lovely hipster.

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The chill started creeping in so we grabbed the largest hot chocolate we could buy and shared it while strolling through the park, then, realizing the time, hurried through the streets to meet up with Michael’s old school friend, Harley, at Bryant Park. image

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Central Park

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What a skyline! The artifice of the “natural” space reminded me of quote from a Frank O’Hara poem, “Meditations in Emergency” (incidentally set in New York): “I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It’s more important to confirm the insincere. The clouds get enough attention as it is…”

The lovely fashionista took us to a nice and cheap dinner spot and showed us the hilarious silent disco and beautiful skating rink at Bryant Park. After that, we were off to my awesome birthday present, a show on Broadway!!! We saw An American in Paris, a Gene Kelly film come to life. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip!

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Harley, myself, and Michael
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Michael and I at Bryant Park
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The beautiful Palace Theatre, right on Broadway in Times Square!

Still not done exploring, we walked away from the garish lights of Broadway and found ourselves a super busy little donut shop. After sharing a cronut, a genius hybrid of croissant and donut, as well as some old fashioned glazed donuts and coffee we kept exploring a little before heading back to the apartment.

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This place was a gem! My favourite eatery that we went to for sure.

7th February 2016

Sadly, our last day in this vibrant city. With coffee and bagels, Michael and I set out on citi-bikes this time, riding across the Williamsburg bridge, along the East River, under the Brooklyn Bridge, and along to the Financial District. This was such a great way to get around – better than subway or bus!

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Apparently even in a busy city such as New York businessmen rest on Sundays, so we had the run of the place while walking to the National Museum of the American Indian for Michael’s assignment. I won’t even mention how problematic this display was, but it was nonetheless interesting to see.

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We decided to take yet another kind of transport back to Williamsburg: the ferry. We enjoyed another brilliant view of the skyline then picked up our bags from the dungeon.

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The Pier 11 Ferry Terminal, Wall St

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Because of our bags, we were limited by what we could do so caught the subway into town and hung out at central park for a while. We got to see the outside of the Guggenheim, and I even managed to work my way through the revolving door but was promptly turned around because of all our luggage.

 

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The Guggenheim
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Back in Central Park; the view across the lake

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We strolled through central park again with Michael relieving my heavy load, had a somewhat questionable hot dog, then shared a pretzel outside the Met. For some reason we haven’t been able to have one smooth travel time; we made the train back to Poughkeepsie by the skin of our teeth with the help of a lovely old man and fell into an exhausted sleep on the train. The drive back to Montreal was lovely and decidedly less eventful with not one border stop, strange route, or extra hour!

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Outside the MET Gallery
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Michael’s oh so photogenic shot of me LOL
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Meeeee. Photo by Michael Maclean
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The lovely Michael outside the MET, enjoying the calm before the harried rush to the train!

The lights, the food, the people, and the sights were all so cool but it could not have been the same wonderful experience without the lovely company. Thank you Michael for muddling your way through the crazy subway system with me, for staying awake ridiculous hours so we could squeeze the most time possible out of the experience, for bringing me a steaming cup of coffee every morning, for my AMAZING birthday surprise, for eating way too many donuts (among other sweet treats) with me, and for making this one of my favourite memories yet. I can’t wait until our next adventure! xx

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Vancouver Island Diaries: Ucluelet/Tofino

“I dig my toes into the sand. The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds strewn across a blue blanket. I lean against the wind, pretend that I am weightless, and in this moment I am happy.”

– Incubus, “Wish You Were Here”

Just this past week I was lucky enough to have reading break and a visit from my one and only, Michael, at the same time! And what an amazing time it was. Our days consisted of beautiful drives, hikes through the coastal rainforest leading down to the beach, frisbee on the beach (even in the pouring rain!), exploring Tofino, barbecued fresh seafood, much arguing between Brooke and I over Game of Life, snuggles on the couch, $20 worth of M&Ms, and the best conversation and laughter. Thanks so much Brooke, Kieren, and Michael for the lovely memories. ❤

P.S. Here is the lovely place we stayed at if you’re ever that way!

9th November, 2015 – phone camera

On day one we took our time road-tripping to get to Ucluelet, stopping for a quick hike at Englishman Falls and Cathedral Grove along the way.

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Englishman Falls

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Cathedral Grove

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10th November, 2015 – 35mm Konica Pop and phone camera

Day two, a full day in the area! First we had a quick look at the lighthouse in Ucluelet. We were interested to learn that the noise in the night was not my snoring, but the whistling buoy system that warns sailors away from the rocks. My inner Famous-Five-reading-child’s imagination was intrigued! Next we hiked to Halfmoon Bay, an aptly named crescent stretch of beach, then over the other side of the point to Florencia Bay. We lunched at Long Beach, had a beer in Tofino, then bought some fresh seafood which we later barbecued.

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Brooke and Kieren preparing lunch.
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The Lighthouse in Ucluelet, BC

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The beginning of the trail to Halfmoon Bay and Florencia Bay.
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Brooke the pirate.

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We made a friend.

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After a good round of piggy (Kieren) in the middle.

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Lunch at Long Beach

12th November, 2015 – Nikon D5000

Somehow my adventures always seem to go by so quickly! For our last day we explored Tonquin Beach, the town of Tofino, Schooner Cove, and South Beach before making the long journey home.

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The trail to Schooner Cove

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Long Beach again – this time in the sun!

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Yukon Diaries: Tombstone Mountains… Again

“Late last night, I lost track of time and I knew I was waiting for the sun to rise…” Snowmine, Columbus

Perhaps my title is misleading. I am writing another post about the Tombstones Mountains – and trust me, I could do a million posts on this beautiful place – but this visit actually occurred earlier in the summer. A week or so before the helicopter trip, Michael and I realized how quickly our time in the Yukon was running out and made our escape to the mountains again – this time for more than an afternoon!

19th August, 2015

We hit the road as soon as we finished work with a car packed full of gear, eager to escape town. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to Snowmine or Bombay Bicycle Club without thinking of that drive, those mountains, and Michael. One of the great things about Tombstones Territorial Park is that you can camp anywhere. With the campground being full and not really wanting to share our experience of the mountains with other people, we kept driving and found a great little spot just off the road.

One of my favourite sections of the park. This part of the road is where the valley really opens up before you.
One of my favourite sections of the park. This part of the road is where the valley really opens up before you.

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The skies became more ominous the further into the park we got. We should have known there would be snow!
The skies became more ominous the further into the park we got. The way the clouds closed behind us like a curtain was uncanny!

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20th August, 2015

It snowed overnight, though thankfully not where we were and not where we hiked. It was a chilly wake-up though. After a 5-star breakfast (who knew camping food could be so gourmet!?) we drove to a pull out near our mountain, Mt Adney. The journey began with bush-wacking through the willows and downy, swampy flats. Then began the gentler incline up the first ridge. It didn’t matter how many times you looked back at the view unfolding behind you, it was sublime every time. From that first ridge we climbed up to the second and had lunch on a flat spot near the peak. Let me just pause and say that I do not have much hiking experience. Though I am skinny, I am definitely not fit, and as I found out that day, I’m a little afraid of heights. I got close to the top of the peak, but absolutely freaked out on the scrambley cliff. Michael climbed to the top and took some gorgeous shots of the view then patiently guided me back down the scary cliff. This mountain was tough for me, but the immense feeling of accomplishment I found when I got to the top (or as close as I dared) was so rewarding. I’m hooked now! To add to that, the view was just stunning – there’s no words adequate to describe the beauty. We made our way back down the mountain (much more quickly than the way up!), pausing to collect some of the unique purple stones, then kept driving to the edge of the park to check out the views.

You can see the snow on the mountains in the distance to the left.
You can see the snow on the distant mountains to the left.

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It doesn't take long to warm up!
It doesn’t take long to warm up!

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View from the first ridge
View from the first ridge. Photo: Michael Maclean
From Michael's film camera
From Michael’s film camera
This photo reminds me of Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Sea Fog (1818) - fitting in its association with the sublime.
This photo reminds me of Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea Fog (1818) – fitting in its association with the sublime.
Michael realizing how crazy and steep the drop from that cliff is!
Michael realizing how crazy and steep the drop from that cliff is!
Photo: Michael Maclean
Photo: Michael Maclean

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I'm not sure of the name of that range, but the array of shades is quite stunning.
The edge of the park. I’m not sure of the name of that range, but the array of shades is quite stunning.
I got my cheesy sign picture!
I got my cheesy sign picture!

21st August, 2015

Our last morning dawned with warm sunshine, making it even harder to fathom going back to reality. We had one last gourmet camp-stove breakfast and packed up, then drove to our next mountain: Goldensides. This mountain is considerably easier; for starters, there’s a pathway (Mt Adney was back-country hiking) and you drive a fair way up to get to the opening of the trail. On a sunshiney day like we had, you can see why it’s named Goldensides. All the Fall colours were out, with sun highlighting gold, burgundy, russet, and the last green vestiges of summer. Some wildlife made their appearances, including an eagle chasing a smaller bird and some happy sunbathing marmots. We hiked to the end of the short trail, enjoyed a moment there, then made a final stop-in at the visitor centre on the way home.

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Yukon Diaries: Top of the World

“Life was meant for good friends and great adventure.”

– anonymous

Just over a week ago I had the lovely privilege of meeting one of Michael’s close childhood friends. Jean, a homebody turned adventurer, journeyed from the opposite end of the country to visit Michael up here in Dawson City for two weeks. We managed to cram lots of goodies into her visit, including the DC Music Festival, the DC League of Lady Wrestlers, Tombstones (which I will be posting next!), and a spontaneous drive up the Top of the World Highway to see Castle Rock.

Our mini road trip gave us beautiful views, lots of laughs, and a great chance to get to know one another even better. I’m so happy I got to meet you, Jean! I enjoyed our talks, our hikes in wrong (and right) directions, your willingness to participate in my terrible sense of humour, and most of all your lovely presence. You are one wonderful human being. 🙂

Anyway, the adventure begins!

We ended up going right past Castle Rock, instead finding a beautiful spot to view the smoky mountains.
We ended up going right past Castle Rock, instead finding a beautiful spot to view the smoky mountains.
Brooke, searching for monk's hood.
Brooke, searching for northern monk’s hood.
The lovely Jean.
The lovely Jean.
Michael and I.
Michael and I.

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Two lovelies.

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After that mini hike we drove back to Castle Rock and had a picnic dinner.
After that mini hike we drove back to Castle Rock and had a picnic dinner.

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