Tag Archives: Tom

The Trip Starts ~ Friday, June 5, 2015

I woke up at 8 and still have to pack.  We’re leaving for the train at 11…

So, naturally, I did some online stuff and at 9:08, I posted “We’re getting on a train at 1:02 (love how precise Amtrak is!) today so I guess I should start packing…”

Tom called for a cab to arrive at 11:15.  The cab arrived about 11 and started honking his horn.  Mimi started barking.  I took the first bag out at 11:15.  Good thing – the driver was getting ready to leave.  I told him that we’d said 11:15 – he’d missed that part

We got the 3 finally packed bags to the cab and settled in, fairly early to get to Union Station.

About 15 minutes out, I asked Tom if he had his passport.  He’d been thinking New York, not the cruise to Bermuda so we went back home and started again.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, if expensive.  The driver was fairly talkative and carried on an interesting conversation with Tom about Sikhs and other religions. Also, immigration to the states as opposed to the UK, education here, life in India…

Finally – Union Station.  Hooray!


We only had to wait in line for about 10 minutes before our train was called.  Since the train originated in DC, we were able to get seats together.  Hooray!

View of the next train to our left…

And the trip starts...the train next track

The ride to New York was fine.  No derailments, which was really good.  The train that derailed in May was Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188.  We were on Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 186.  I assume that they retired #188.  It seemed ridership was down a little but we were on an earlier train than usual so maybe not.

We arrived at Penn Station, NY on time and started getting in the cab line.  I hate to say it, but the line was long and we fell for a gypsy cab trip.  The driver didn’t take us out of our way – I was following the trip on my Waze.  The driver got us to our hotel – and wanted an exorbitant amount of money (plus tip), cash only.  Tom convinced him to take a lot less (and NO tip!) and we checked into the hotel.

Four Points by Sheraton SoHo is apparently built on a small lot – it’s very compact, but tall.  Our room is on the small side and I think that there are only a few rooms on each floor.

We’re on the second floor and the view is a next door roof.  I’ll try to get a picture of that tomorrow.

Michael arrived – hooray!  After some discussion – nap or food – we decided to go out to eat.  We walked through Father Fagan Park.  Mimi wouldn’t consider this to be a “real park” but then, she’s not a city dog.

father-faganFather Fagan Park is gem of a vest-pocket park on the western edge of Soho. This park commemorates four local heroes who perished in the face of fire.


The first restaurant we tried could have taken us without a reservation but we’d have to eat quickly so we could be out when those who had reservations arrived.  We left, allowing plenty of time for those who planned ahead.

Walking along, we read other menus until we arrived at Spice.  Yummy Thai food!  I had Pad Thai with tofu and Tom had the same but with chicken.  Michael had rice with mixed seafood – some of the mix was squid.  EEEWW.

As an afterthought, I asked for Thai tea.  I was surprised, and very happy, when it came as a bubble tea.  As far as I know, there are only 2 places near me with bubble tea so this was a real treat.

bubble-teaAt the bottom are yummy boba tapioca pearls.  Here’s why I don’t make bubble tea at home:

How to Make Boba and Bubble Tea

What You Need


1/4 cup dried boba tapioca pearls per serving (NOT quick-cooking boba)
1-2 tea bags per serving, any kind
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Milk, almond milk, or sweetened condensed milk
Fruit juice or nectar (optional)


Bowl for holding the cooked boba
Measuring cups


1. Cook the Boba: Measure 2 cups of water for every 1/4 cup of boba being prepared into a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the boba and stir gently until they begin floating to the top of the water.

Turn the heat to medium and cook the boba for 12-15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, cover, and let the pearls sit for another 12-15 minutes.

2. Prepare Sugar Syrup for the Boba: While the boba are cooking, make a simple sugar syrup to sweeten and preserve them once cooked. Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil over high heat on the stove or in the microwave. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

3. Prepare a Strong Cup of Tea: This can be done either while the boba are cooking or ahead of time. Allow enough time for the tea to cool completely before making the boba. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea bag. Use one tea bag for regular-strength bubble tea or two for a stronger tea flavor. Remove the tea bag after 15 minutes and chill the tea.

4. Finish the Boba: Once the boba have finished cooking, drain them from the water and transfer them to a small bowl or container. Pour the sugar syrup over top until the boba are submerged. Let sit until the boba are room temperature, at least 15 minutes, or refrigerate until ready to use. Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.

5. Make the Bubble Tea: Pour the prepared tea into a tall glass and add the boba. Add milk for a creamy bubble tea, juice for a fruity tea, or leave plain and add a little extra water. Sweeten to taste with the simple syrup from soaking the boba.

Additional Notes:

Very Chilled Bubble Tea: For an extra-chilly bubble tea, combine all the tea, milk, and/or juice, but not the boba in a cocktail shaker. Add a few ice cubes and shake for 20 seconds. Pour into a tall glass and add the boba.

Shortcut Boba: If you want immediate gratification, just cook your boba until they are tender, 5 to 10 minutes, and use them as soon as they’re cool. This kind of boba don’t [sic] keep for very long (turning rock hard in a few hours), but are delicious if eaten right away.

Saving Leftover Boba and Making Boba for Later: Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated with simple syrup for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.

During dinner, we discussed where to go next but that was fairly indecisive.  We thought about going to Tribeca park where one of the Sing For Hope pianos is located.  That was going to be about a mile walk and it was about 7:00 so we went back to the hotel to use the free WiFi and find another activity.  We ended up doing nothing except coming up with ideas for tomorrow.

So far:  breakfast, Michael has a training session at 12:30, Barge MusicAvery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York to hear an all-Mozart program, possibly a talk before that.  Somewhere in there we need to practice some…

We’ll see how that all works out!  Meanwhile, It’s 5:30 and I’m going back to sleep!


New Orleans, Day One

New Orleans

Busy day!  We got up early-ish (it’s an hour earlier here) and decided to check out the sky deck.  Quite a view of New Orleans, including the SuperDome

From the Skydeck

From the Skydeck

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Panorama of New Orleans

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Looking down on the Ashley House from the Skydeck

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Then down to the second floor to check out the laundry room, to see if we needed detergent or anything,  We couldn’t find the laundry room at all so we went to the front desk for directions, then back up to the 2nd floor.

Down to the courtyard,  I didn’t get many pictures because it was raining but here’s what I have…

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From here we went off to Walgreens for stuff we needed, forgot or just wanted.  We took that stuff home, then decided to go the other direction on the St. Charles streetcar.

Lots of interesting old homes.

From http://www.neworleansonline.com/tools/streets/saintcharles.html

St. Charles Avenue has been described most aptly as “The Jewel of America’s Grand Avenues.” It is, indisputably, the most superb collection of great mansions of the South. The Avenue offers to all an open opportunity to enjoy the lofty magnificence of true, gracious living from 19th century New Orleans.

Visitors to our City are able to tour the Avenue by foot, car or streetcar. A ride on the infamous Saint Charles streetcar provides a unique way to enjoy the splendor of the Avenue, from the statuesque monument at Lee Circle to its end point in the old town of Carrollton upriver.

The Avenue is also in glorious state as the place of residence for historic Audubon Park, for the City’s renowned centers of higher education – Loyola and Tulane – and a score of churches and Synagogues that are our City’s major centers of worship.

But above all, it is the place of residential grandeur where the wealthiest, the more powerful of those who built this great City once lived.

audubon-parkTom was looking at a map and saw that the Audubon Park and Zoo was right across from Loyola and Tulane – and it had a free shuttle – so we decided to go there.

Unfortunately, there was construction on the streetcar tracks so we got off at Napoleon and took a bus to Loyola.  We walked about a block and found the shuttle waiting, just as promised.

The Zoo was fantastic. Even though we saw only about a quarter of the exhibits,  we took lots of pictures, so many that Tom ran out of power.

Here are mine:

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Flamingos outside the Flamingo Cafe

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Flamingos. I tried to get this one with his neck extended.
I was fascinated by how they could wrap those necks around to rest their heads on their backs.

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Whooping Cranes

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About the Whooping Cranes

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Sun Bear.

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Tom’s hand inside a sun bear clar

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White tiger sleeping

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White tiger.
White tigers are distinct for the normal coloration in that they lack the pheomelanin pigment that in normal tigers produces the orange color. They still produce the other color pigment, eumelanin, and hence are not considered albino. Compared to normal colored tigers without the white gene, white tigers tend to be somewhat bigger, both at birth and as fully grown adults.

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The he Asian small-clawed otter, is the smallest otter species in the world,[3] weighing less than 5 kg. It lives in mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands of Bangladesh, Burma, India, southern China, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Its paws are a distinctive feature, its claws not extending beyond the fleshy end pads of its partially webbed fingers and toes. This gives it a high degree of manual dexterity so that it can use its paws to feed on mollusks, crabs and other small aquatic animals.

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Feeding the goats and sheep

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More feeding time

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Still more food

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Adding oranges to the food

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Special treatment

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Getting greedy

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Should I or shouldn’t I?

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Where’s Mary?

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Leopard pacing

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Another leopard keeping a lookout

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This was in the Discovery area where we could interact with the birds, snakes and a variety of animals. I chose not to.

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Endangered Species Carousel
This beautiful carousel is decorated with oil paintings of Zoo animals and features a 60-figure menagerie including traditional horses, elephants, rhinos, giraffes and other vanishing species.

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This guy looked like he was meditating – or maybe plotting how to get out of the place!

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Hard to see with the shadows, but this is naptime.

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A peacock just wandering around

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Old trees line St. Charles Avenue

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More about the zoo from http://www.neworleansonline.com/directory/location.php?locationID=1249

Audubon Zoo is a New Orleans landmark and a living museum filled with some of the rarest and most beautiful creatures of nature.

There have been animals at this site since the 1884 World Exposition in Audubon Park. Today, Audubon Zoo is 58 acres of animals in their natural habitats. The Zoo consistently ranks among this country’s best.

Visitors are enchanted to find a unique wildlife haven full of New Orleans flavor, impressive 100-year old oak trees and a cast of animal characters.

Animal favorites include elephants Jean and Panya, the Komodo dragon and the white tiger brothers from California, named King Rex and King Zulu. But also look for bears, monkeys, snakes, orangutans, elks and more exotic animals than you can imagine!

Much of the zoo dates from early in the 20th century. The sea lion pool was constructed in 1928. Its graceful columns mark one of Audubon Zoo’s most romantic spots. Monkey Hill was built by Works Progress Administration workers to show the children of New Orleans what a hill looks like! At 28 feet, it’s the legendary “highest topographical point in New Orleans.” Today it boasts wading pools, a rope bridge and a safari trail.

At the Audubon Zoo, visitors can stroll through a real swamp right in the middle of uptown New Orleans. A Cajun houseboat on a lagoon full of 14-foot alligators faces a pair of playful black bears. A raccoon defies the laws of physics by snoozing on a narrow twig at the top of a tree. At the baby animal nursery, naturalists show visitors baby nutria, explaining why that innocent-looking fuzzy creature is jeopardizing the very existence of the swamps. Further on, the world-famous white alligators float in an exhibit constructed especially for them.

Rocking chairs throughout the swamp exhibit invite visitors to slow down and take in the ambiance of the swamp. An air-conditioned restaurant provides a welcome venue for a sit-down snack and drink.

Finally, after a bit of shopping in the souvenir shop, we found the shuttle bus driver and retraced our journey back “home”  It was naptime!  I was so tired I never heard Tom go out to buy groceries – or come back in.

My back has been bothering me since we got here, possibly from the plane, the luggage, the bed here, just because…  Whatever the cause(s) I took 6 Backaid pills to help but they didn’t really.  Maybe this will lighten up tomorrow.

We had frozen stuff we nuked for dinner then watched an old B&W episode of Perry Mason, the beginning of Drumline (I have it on my iPad so it didn’t matter that I missed the end!) then bedtime!


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