A Travellerspoint blog

Day 1: The Big Apple

sunny 68 °F

I arrived to LAX at 12:00PM for a 1:45PM flight to learn that the flight was delayed until 5:00PM. Fortunately, I was able to get on the 3:00PM flight which didn’t end up taking off until 4:20PM. Long day, but the good thing was the nice check in attendant didn’t charge me for the extra bag. Yes I took an extra bag with clothes specifically for NY.

My good friend John Sprei, was kind enough to pick me up from the airport and still agreed to do so even after he heard that I wouldn’t be arriving until closer to midnight. That is a true friend; especially since he had been working the graveyard shift the previous two nights. And he still proceeded to go for a drink at one of two spots open on Austin Street in Queens.

Conveniently, Queens is also where my family lives, and no trip to NYC is complete for me without a visit to my favorite Aunt Esther and Uncle David. They are an inspiration for commitment, married 64 years, they have the magic formula. David’s humor is infectious and still makes Esther laugh. Esther stands 4’11”, gets her hair done every Thursday and although she has never driven a day in her life, she continues to tell David the route. Mind you, David was a taxi driver. Unfortunately, both are getting frail and David isn’t driving anywhere these days. He actually just had a defibulator implanted in his chest and my aunt has the family Alzheimer’s gene. Even in declining health David takes care of his wife with such patience and together we enjoyed some quality time over chopped liver and hard-boiled egg sandwiches. I’m glad I got to spend a beautiful day in Queens with them. Sorry that I didn’t have more time with my cousins (Hope, Andy, Adam and Mathew) but Hope I am going to hold you to a visit in California upon my return. I am terribly sad that I don’t have a photo from this trip because genius me managed to wipe my SD card clean rather than download, but here is a photo from a few years back.

Next stop was into the city, upper west side, to stay with a new friend, Alan Gardner. My friend Staci Furman mentioned that I should contact her first cousin Alan when I got to NY, because he is a triathlete and a foodie. Well not only is he the aforementioned but he is a wonderful host who made my visit special.

What I love about New Yorkers is their willingness to grab a drink, no matter how tired they are or what time it is. Alan and I found a wine bar, and were joined by my buddy Sheldon as we nibbled on some cheese and had a few cocktails while.

Alan continued his hospitality, not only by providing a very comfortable couch and all the accoutrements, but he graciously included me in his trip out to Rocklin County with a few friends. Crossing paths with three trail races: a marathon, a 50K and a 50 miler; good to see that New Yorkers are just as hard core as us in Cali, we proceeded to ride 45 miles in Harriman Park. Did I mention that I brought the California weather with me to NY? All week was in the 70’s, gorgeous. Anyway, I was prepared for the ride, sine I had already intended to do the Gran Fondo race on Sunday, a 108 or 71 mile race so I had already arranged for a rental. Thanks again to Alan’s suggestion to try Toga Bikes, conveniently located just 16 blocks down from where Alan lives, I located a 44” specialized Dolce with Sora gears. The guys at Toga were very cool and were able to set me up based on measurements I brought with me from Cynergy. It still took the first 10 miles to get used to the rental bike but by mile 45 I was ready for another 40. I kept the bike on Sunday and opted for an easy spin along the Hudson to Battery Park and back up to GWB. If I had had more time I would’ve cruised central park but I had to get the bike back and honestly, I’ll take riding on PCH over fighting the crowds in Central Park any day.

If you caught it, I mentioned that I accidentally erased the SD card from my SLR camera. Well, it was during the bike ride that Alan offered to take a photo with his phone when I mentioned that my point and shoot battery was dying. I replied, that’s OK, I have the mental picture. Meanwhile the lesson has been learned that it really is about the experience that will be indelible in my mind rather than the million snapshots I’ll take. So rather than stressing over getting that perfect photo, I am reminded to relax and enjoy the moment. The second part of the lesson is an essential one that keeps rearing its head for me and will continue to do so, until I change my ways; but the message is loud and clear, “slow the hell down Stacey.”

Saturday night I dined with another new friend, Marjori Bergman. We first bonded at our good friend Sharon Kupchin Stern’s wedding. Marjori is a world traveler and has been a helpful resource on this trip. Together we headed to Columbus Circle to meet up with my other LI cousins: Eileen, Bobbie and Scott. By 1:30AM, I hit my wall and left the crew to party without me.

Sunday morning, I got back to Alan’s just in time to crash his Mother’s Day brunch with his parents and sister. Actually I just spent a little time chatting with them before running errands but as it turned out, Karen, his sister, joined me for a Broadway show that night. We saw Billy Elliot, which was worth the 1.5 hr. wait at TKTS at Times Square. We sat in the 5th row at a sold out show and experienced the laughter and tears as the talented cast, especially the two boys who played Elliot and Michael, danced their heart out. Run, don’t walk, if you have a chance to see it.

That night I stayed with Marjori crosstown and then saw her again on Monday night with Sean Steinmarc and Alan, for my last night in the US. We hit the meatpacking district and found a great underground bar where I got a little photography lesson from a random patron. It was a fun night following a stressful afternoon of Stacey craziness, unable to locate my passport. I was sweating bricks for a good 3 hours until I finally stepped outside, took a breather and was able to recall where I stashed it, which was a logical location all along. Lesson one rearing its head again…slow down, take a deep breath and it will all work out.

So here I sit at JFK ready to kick off Leg 2 to Madrid. The hangover and cold are not the best way to start the journey but hopefully they are both short lived. OK 5 hours into flight and still have headache and runny nose.

Posted by youngstr 22:26 Archived in USA Tagged new_york city cycling Comments (0)

Landed in Madrid

Perseverance

sunny 67 °F

Landed in Madrid and just from the sight of the airport I noticed that things have changed for the better over the last 20 years. I managed to take the three metro train lines to Sol and find my hostel. According to the last message from Concha Hermano, a friend of mine from when I lived in Madrid 20 years ago. Thanks to Facebook we were able to reconnect. It turns out that she is living in Granada now but luckily had a job in Madrid since Monday and was able to arrange to stay for the morning and hang with me. We met up at 10:00 for a quick coffee because Concha was rushing to get back to Granada by 5:00 for her English class. I managed to convince her to stay for the 2:00 bus and practice her English with me instead. Actually this is where it gets good, we traveled by metro to the bus station to learn that it requires a two hour lead time to change a ticket. I wasn’t going to settle for that. It happens that in that moment an Australian couple was looking to buy a ticket to Granada. I quickly overheard them and worked it out for them to buy Concha’s ticket. This way Concha was able to buy a 2:00 ticket. Meanwhile, since it is an absolutely gorgeous day out, we decided to grab the bus instead of feeling like rats and traveling underground. However, since Concha was working on little sleep we accidentally got on the bus going the wrong direction. The end of line was only 2 stops away when the conductor made us get off and re-board and pay again. Cono! So here we are laughing it off, practicing Intercambio and making our way back to Sol, so I can charge the camera and capture at least one photo with my old friend.

Well, we never did make it back to the hostel in time for a photo, but I did manage to buy a sim card for my new unlocked phone. It turns out this week is the Festival of San Isidro which is the Saint of Madrid. It kicked off today with a walking procession down c/Alcala, and the festivities will escalate, with a full blown celebration on Sunday.

It was time to charge all batteries, including my own. I managed to get in a little siesta and then spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around Parque Retiro. It brought back such memories, watching the lovers rowing in the lake, the carp and turtles snacking on whatever bread crumbs the kids tossed at them in front of the Palacio Crystal, and more so, learning that roller blading is quite the popular sport on the west side of the park in 2011.
I exited on the north east end of the park into the elegant and stylish residential area called Salamanca, aka the Brentwood of Madrid. All around me were innovative and pricey restaurants, I chose one for the beautiful display of tapas. Here I sit sipping on my cana (beer) and enjoying a jamon de bellota (acorn fed ham) con brie and championes (mushrooms).

I really am quite taken back by how the city has changed in 20 years. It is flooded with fashionable stores, a super modern feel and 90% cleaner than I remember. The one thing that hasn’t changed is its pure love of life. As described in a recent LA Times article, the one word that best describes Madrid is “energy.” It is a city of night

Posted by youngstr 15:29 Archived in Spain Tagged madrid Comments (0)

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