Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Making Family Memories in the Adirondacks

July 24 - 27, 2015
Albany & Lake Champlain, NY

Family selfie at Ausable Marsh
Over the weekend, we had the pleasure of spending some quality time with my dad, Steve, and stepmom, Lucia, who live in upstate New York in the highly scenic, green and lush Adirondack Mountains.  Their spacious A-frame home sits directly on the shores of Lake Champlain and boasts stunning lake views.  And we were fortunate enough to be going for a visit!  While still a bit of a trek from New York City, due to the challenges of renting a car and getting in and out of the city, it is much more do-able now that we are living in the same state and we were excited to be making the trip.

We escaped the hustle and bustle of Manhattan on a scorcher of a Friday afternoon, deciding to split the trip in two on the way there.  Getting out of the city in an Uber car and then out of Newark after renting a car at Newark Liberty airport was hectic and a bit stressful in the afternoon traffic but eventually we found ourselves on a pleasant drive up I-87 through the pretty Hudson River Valley.  We approached downtown Albany in the waning afternoon light, nearing dusk, after a brief rain shower. 

Albany skyline, featuring The Egg
In addition to being a bit more relaxing, spending the night in Albany gave us a good opportunity to explore the sprawling Empire State Plaza, situated beneath the shadow of the grand, castle-like New York State Capitol Building, and home of the uniquely shaped performing arts space, simply dubbed The Egg. 

New York State Capitol Building (side-view), overlooking Empire State Plaza
The Egg
Following our brief exploration of the civic plaza, we had a fairly decent meal at The City Beer Hall, a German beer hall-style brew pub housed in a historic-looking building in downtown Albany that had obviously been re-purposed (but from what we could not decipher, based on the interesting multi-level interior, complete with mezzanine).  

The City Beer Hall in downtown Albany
Scott's pulled pork sandwich and fries were a bit more exciting than my (mostly) gluten-free taco trio of pork belly, salmon and mushroom and fried avocado (one of each, not all on one taco!) and the service was attentive and pleasant - we weren't in NYC anymore!

On Saturday morning, we checked out of the Ramada Plaza in Albany (never to return - I don't recommend that particular establishment) and enjoyed the scenic 2-1/2 hour drive to the Port Douglas/Keeseville area, located directly across the lake from Burlington, VT.  We arrived at my dad and stepmom's just before noon, and, as luck would not have it, just as the sun went behind the clouds.  But even with the sun hidden away, the view from Lucia and Steve's deck is magnificent and always a treat to behold.  

Enjoying the view from the deck
Although it threatened rain at various points over the weekend, we saw only a few drops on occasion.  All-in-all, we were graced with some pretty nice weather during our visit, allowing us to enjoy a tour of the lake on Steve and Lucia's boat as well as a driving tour of the area with interesting stop-offs at Ausable Marsh and Ausable Chasm.  

Good times out on the lake!
Picturesque Ausable Chasm
The spaces in between our outings were filled with taking in the lovely, serene lake views from the deck, and lots of storytelling and laughter, over Steve's delicious strawberry margaritas, his simple, yet tasty homemade dinners on the grill and plenty of good wine.

Early Monday afternoon, it was time to climb back into our silver Nissan Versa (that reminded us both of our beloved old Honda Fit...sigh!) for the long drive back to the city.  But at least we were able to do so with thoughts of all the fond memories we created over the past two days.  And with any luck, we'll be back before too long!  

More photos:
The Egg, looking a little alien spaceship-like at dusk
Our state capitol building
The over-sized reflecting pools in Empire State Plaza are quite stunning
The Egg and its reflection

Reflecting pool at Empire State Plaza
Kinetic sculpture in Empire State Plaza, at dusk
The New York State Capitol Building, side-view

The First Mate awaits his Captain and passengers
Out on Lake Champlain
View of Steve & Lucia's house, nestled among the trees, from the water
Enjoying the ride!

Looking across Lake Champlain to Vermont
Scott takes care of a little boat maintenance on the fly
Love, love, love this gorgeous view from the deck!
We  Lake Champlain!
Enjoying the beauty and tranquility at Ausable Marsh, which provides an unspoiled habitat for numerous bird species. Not far from this viewing platform, we stopped on the road to watch a pair of osprey parents with a fledgling in their nest.

And then this happened!
View of Ausable Chasm from the bridge 
At Ausable Chasm - too bad we were standing directly in front of the falls, blocking the beautiful view!
A refreshing dip in the lake was a must after a hot afternoon of touring
Stand-up paddle boarders and kayakers, taking advantage of the calm, late-afternoon waters
Early evening calm on the lake

So hard to say goodbye!!  Enjoying a final morning coffee, just steps from the water's edge, in the same spot where we saw the cutest little wild ferret at close range just the day before. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life's a Beach...Even in NYC!

July 11, 2015
Rockaway, Queens, NY

When you think of New York City, you probably don't immediately think of wide, sandy beaches.  But in fact, there are any number of beaches here in the city and on Saturday we had the pleasure of venturing out to Jacob Riis Park Beach in Queens on one of the most incredibly perfect beach days we've has to date this summer.  We are indeed lucky to have two car-owning friends, both of whom live in Queens just across the East River from us, and we were fortunate enough to get invited along on this weekend beach excursion! 

Jacob Riis Park Beach in Rockaway, Queens, NY.  Photo by Brian Gist

Our friend, Steve, had planned to go on this particular day because there were a couple of bands scheduled to play on a stage set up near the boardwalk/concession area as part of the Riis Park Beach Bazaar that he wanted to see.  The rest of us decided to tag along just to enjoy a day out of the city lounging in the sand and maybe getting our feet wet.  

I was initially skeptical about what we might find upon our arrival at the park, especially after a recent visit to Coney Island in Brooklyn, where the sandy was so dark, rough and pebbly that we weren't even tempted to walk on it, instead sticking the the wooden boardwalk.  I'll admit, growing up on the idyllic, soft, white sand beaches of Lake Michigan has made me into a bit of a beach snob, but as it turned out I was pleasantly surprised.  The sand was relatively soft and clean and we were even able to rent large, colorful beach umbrellas to protect us from the scorching July rays.  The waves were just the right size (for someone who is not an ocean-swimmer like me) and the water seemed safe and clean enough.  We all thoroughly enjoyed splashing in the highly salty, yet cool and refreshing waves (it made me think of swimming in a liquid pretzel!) after racing down to the water's edge on the hot, hot sand.

It was a wonderful day out with friends that we hope to be able to repeat before the summer wanes and eventually fades into autumn!

Brian and Scott showed up in matching outfits...
...And Caroline and Richelle were both sporting basic black bikinis!
"Really??? There's sand in my cup already???"
Loving the beach!
A jumbo bag of Pirate's Booty and bootleg fruit punch Nutcrackers in Greek paper coffee cups is what NYC beachgoing is all about!
Richelle, the Queen of Selfies...
...Strikes again!
I'm anxiously awaiting my knitted hat from Michael for Christmas
Beach bunnies
The boardwalk.  Photo by Steve Rink
Trying on Richelle's sunglasses for size
Longtime pals, Steve and Brian. Photo by Steve Rink
Lounging with Richelle and Steve. Photo by Richelle Gist.
Post-swim selfie! Photo by Richelle Gist.
Watching the band "Beverly" up on the boardwalk. Photo by Steve Rink.
Michael enjoyed the snow from the hammock he managed to snag. Photo by Steve Rink.
Who doesn't love a summer beach day?! Photo by Steve Rink.