At Sea, Monday, June 8, 2015

image

I woke up about 7 and Tom had brought me coffee – hooray!

We went for breakfast at the good old Garden Cafe then went to a talk about Bermuda in the Breakaway Theater.  It was pretty good and told us a lot about the island and good places to go.

At 11, we had a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet in La Cucina.  The officers didn’t seem to want to be there but we did get cards with their phone numbers, if needed.  No offer of a dinner with the officers like we had last time.

I texted Michael using the iConcierge app and he was napping already so I took the time to get Tom’s app working.

Back at the cabin we found out that Michael had bought shorts and shirt in the store.  He hadn’t known that he couldn’t use his debit card – it was all on the room key.

Then, of course, it was time for lunch.  You know where.

We decided to go on the Bermuda full-day bus tour Wednesday and BAMZ/Crystal Caves on Thursday.  Michael signed up for them during lunch, using the app.

We walked around some and came to the ropes course and zipline. Michael went but didn’t walk the plank.  I had planned to go, too, but I was wearing sandals and couldn’t go. Tom checked everything out and said he’d try it “later”.

 

 

As if the Aqua Park wasn’t enough deck-top fun for one cruise vacation, Norwegian has devoted another generous chunk of the ship’s exterior space to a three-story sports complex with a smorgasbord of gee-whiz amusements.

Among the attractions is a suspended-in-the-sky ropes course that has 40 different elements including The Plank, a platform that extends 8 feet over the vessel’s edge. The sports complex also offers a miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall, bungee trampoline and a 24-foot enclosed climbing cage called the Spider Web.
From http://www.usatoday.com/story/cruiselog/2013/05/01/norwegian-breakaway-five-things-love/2126133/

We went to store for more band aids for Tom. I liked a tshirt but didn’t get it which is pretty amazing for me.
This night we had reservations for the Cirque Jungle Dreams and Dinner.  I had read many complaints about the Cirque dinner so we ate in the Garden Cafe a bit before the show. The food (and show) were great. I told the waitress that I was allergic to shrimp so she offered double filet mignon but I declined. My portion was excellent.

The show itself was fantastic, especially for being at sea. The costumes were very clever.

We wandered outside deck 8 before bed.

All pictures from today:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/cushingshelp/B3g57A

 

 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday was a big rush of things.  We had agreed to skip breakfast due to time constraints, which was fine with me since I never/rarely eat it anyway (I know, I know – most important meal of the day)

As planned, Michael arrived at our hotel and we put luggage tags on his backpack, made sure we had everything packed up and got an Uber.  Tom had checked us out and we went out the door and into the Uber with all our luggage.

The ride to the temporary Steinway Hall was pretty fast and we got there about 10:30 or so.  The doors were locked but Michael’s teacher arrived a couple minutes later and we were inside.

Eddie Strauss, Sales Manager, let us use the freight elevator to haul all our luggage to the second floor/mezzanine where we could leave it outside the Henry  E. Steinway Recital Hall.

Although this is a temporary location while their new facilities are being built, it is very beautiful.

…temporary location at 1155 Avenue of the Americas.

This short-term “pop-up store” will allow Steinway to remain open as the new headquarters is being constructed, allowing for continuous service to its customers.

Steinway, well-known for handcrafting the world’s finest pianos, will now have a gallery space that encompasses approximately 18,000 s/for both retail and showroom, and a small concert hall that caters to the world’s most prominent pianists.

via Steinway Hall, Temporary Location. | MaryO’Studio.

Michael played Johann Sebastian Bach’s Italian Concerto.

This video certainly doesn’t do his performance justice!

We played the first two movements of Peter Warlock’s Capriol duet (also, the video isn’t the best quality):

Speaking of video quality, Eddie told us that the new Steinway Hall will have professional recording equipment in the recital hall and that will make things much better for the future.

We left Steinway about 12:15 and took an Uber to the terminal. The driver left us at the terminal by the Gem about 12:35 but it was an easy walk next door to the Breakaway terminal at Pier 88.

We left our checked baggage and went through the terminal process very quickly. We never even had a chance to sit down and we were on board by 1:00. That was the fastest I have ever boarded any ship.

The Garden Cafe was crowded but we found a table without much effort. Before we finished eating, it was announced that the cabins were ready. Our cabin – 9918 – was fantastic! It was a bit tight for the 3 of us but we made it work.

The balcony was the best part. I had chosen an aft balcony on 9, starboard. We had 2 loungers, 3 chairs and 2 tables and plenty of room to move them and ourselves around.

Looking up to the other decks, we could see from the angle that ours was larger than the others above us.

There was a lot of storage but some was tricky to find. The bathroom was a good size, as was the shower. There were more shelves in the bathroom than usual and I liked being able to leave my  stuff in there. I had read that there was no conditioner in the showers so I brought my own.

I also followed advice from Cruise Critic and brought magnet hooks for the walls and those were great for hanging hats, card lanyards and so on.

The end tables on each side of our bed were pretty narrow but we made that work. The lights beside the bed were a little high up, so I’d have to get up to turn mine off. Luckily, I read a Kindle before bed so I never really needed to use the bedside light.

Our luggage arrived before 4:00 pm which was really nice.

I had been concerned about going on a ship this size but there was really no problem. The elevators were crowded the first day but after that, no big deal. I would like to point out that we mostly always took the stairs going down and walked up if it was only 2-3 decks.

We got the unlimited internet package and it was well worth it for us. On other cruises, I would get the max minutes and always be watching the time – and I would still often run out at the end. I am the web master for a couple companies so I need to spend some time online each day. This internet package was a life-saver for me and we were able to share it between the 3 of us.

We also made good use of the iPhone iConcierge app. We used it as a messenger to let others know where we were and we made reservations for 3 restaurants and 2 shore excursions with it. I also checked how our account was doing. That cost us $7.95 per phone and was well worth it.

While we were waiting to “set sail”, there was a beautiful monarch butterfly that flitted from the next balcony over to ours.  Butterflies always remind me of my good friend, Alice.  I have a monarch butterfly as my phone background.  I’d like to think that this butterfly was a reminder from Alice to have a wonderful trip.

Then, right after sail-away, the traditional First Nap :)  Our bed was great, very comfortable king sized with 2 pillows each. 

Tom went out to a meeting, something that he would do at 5:30 every day.

We ate our first dinner in the Garden Cafe, followed by Guest Relations to get band aids, antiseptic and distilled water for Michael’s CPAP machine

Then, off to an early bed. Our steward, Bradley, turned the couch into a nice bed for our son.

Slideshow of some of our pictures:

All pictures for Sunday:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskaL6Nk7

All Cruise Pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/cushingshelp/6795k6

Saturday, June 6, 2015, Part 2

During Michael’s workout, I wrote part 1 of today’s post.  When he arrived at the hotel, we set out for Tribeca Park on our search for the Sing For Hope pianos.

We found it!

Then, we Ubered (is that a word?) to Michael’s apartment for us to practice a bit.  We dropped by Duane Reade, a relative of Walgreens, for some munchies and actually practiced – finally!

From there, we got another Uber and headed to the Lincoln Center complex.  Our plan was to eat at the same restaurant we’d found before we saw The Marriage of Figaro at The Met.

When we got there, there was some sort of upscale street fair on the grounds.  It turned out to be the American Crafts Festival.

We walked through that to find the next S4H piano, which we located in the Charles B Benson Grove.  Yamaha grand.  There was a woman playing ragtime and a long line of folks who wanted to play.  Turned out the woman played clubs around the city and was using this event to advertise.

Off we went to the restaurant to find it closed for 2 months renovation.  The next place reservations only so we went back to the Lincoln Center and had sandwiches in their coffee shop.  Not bad!

We went to our pre-program Mozart lecture given by Joelle Wallach. Very interesting!

Then, into Avery Fisher Hall to hear an all-Mozart program including:

Piano Concerto No. 21

 

Symphony No. 38, Prague

 

Piano Concerto No. 20

 

 

kahane

Here’s a review of the exact same performance that we attended! The same program had been performed on Wednesday.

Review from the New York Times: New York Philharmonic Gives Mozart His Due

As the festival continues to evolve in directions that have less and less to do with its namesake, the Philharmonic, perhaps sensing an opportunity, offers a Mozart program of its own this week: the “Prague” Symphony and the Piano Concertos No. 20, in D minor, and No. 21, in C, with Jeffrey Kahane as guest conductor and soloist.

The “Prague” must be every opera lover’s favorite Mozart symphony. Composed in Vienna in 1786 and evidently given its premiere in Prague early the next year, it is a virtual caldron of tunes more or less shared with “Le Nozze di Figaro” (1786) and “Don Giovanni” (1787).

More than that, the symphony, played before intermission, evokes the moods and characters of those operas, especially “Don Giovanni.” Mr. Kahane treated all of that a bit matter-of-factly at Wednesday evening’s performance, with little lingering to search out lascivious byplay in dark recesses or to limn a bumbling Leporello.

So it came as a delightful surprise, after intermission, when Mr. Kahane injected the condemnatory sequence of rising and falling scales from “Don Giovanni” into his own cadenza for the first movement of the D minor Concerto. His playing was deft and virtuosic in both concertos, though his fast tempos in the outer movements of the C major resulted in some blurred scalar passages and a slightly hectic feel at times.

You might have feared a certain weightiness from the Philharmonic in Mozart, but Mr. Kahane generally drew stylish playing from a reduced band of 40 or so. The strings had a pliant quality, and the woodwinds were especially fine.

The program was fantastic but we wondered why it was Concerto-Symphony-Intermission-Concerto.  With that type of programming, it started with the piano on stage, then moved out, then moved back during the intermission for the final concerto.

A quick stop at Duane Reade for night time snacks than an Uber home.  We went right by the cruise terminal on our way to the hotel.

Tomorrow’s a busy day with Steinway Hall then boarding the cruise ship.  I may not finish writing these until we get home, depending on WiFi and other activities – but I’ll take good notes :)

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!

Union_Station_Washington_DC

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.

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M207

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

Ingredients

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)

Equipment

Saucepan
Bowl for holding the cooked boba
Measuring cups

Instructions

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!

MaryOColorfulButterfly

Harbor Nights in Hamilton Bermuda

 

When we stayed in Bermuda as a land trip in 2010, we didn’t go into Hamilton for Harbor Nights so maybe we’ll go this time.

Harbor night celebration takes place on every Wednesday during high season (May through September) on Front Street of Hamilton Bermuda.

So what is Harbor Nights? Basically, Bermuda at its best. The front street in Hamilton gets closed to all vehicles after sunset. The shops and the restaurants remain open till late at night. And the street comes alive with sparkling lights and music. Large number of vendors wearing colorful dresses sell various kinds of local arts and crafts. Many of them will be the local artists themselves who are generally willing to chat with you and explain their artwork.

There will also be a number of food sellers selling different kinds of food – both Bermudian and ethnic. And then comes the Gombey dancers with their lively music and rhythmic drumming. They are huge crowd pullers. It’s a great experience even if you just take a stroll along Front Street and enjoy the ambience of the Harbor nights. People mix freely and talk to each other. This is a great family event and gives a wonderful insight into Bermudian culture.

Harbor Nights at Hamilton

If you plan to take your dinner in Hamilton on Harbor Night, make reservations and come early. Choose a restaurant with a balcony facing the Front Street and the harbor. You will watch the whole festive world below on the street with a backdrop of the beautifully illuminated harbor. Dining experience can’t get any better than this. We just love it.

So Harbor Nights at Hamilton Bermuda essentially features:

1) On-street celebrations from 7 to 10 p.m.

2) Shops are generally open until 9:00 p.m.

3) You get to see Bermuda’s local Arts and Crafts

4) Live Music and Entertainment

5) Food Court

6) Lots of activities for Children in the Children’s Court, including fun castles in all sizes, the ever-popular train, face painting, tattoos and hair braiding.

7) You can see the Bermuda Regiment band, which marches down Front Street in full regimental apparel with pipes and drums.

Update May 2015: This year Harbor Nights is scheduled between June 3 – September 2, 2015 (7pm to 10pm). Additional ferries beyond normal hours will be provided for visitors returning to dockyard.

via Harbor Nights in Hamilton Bermuda.

NYC Weekend

This is a real surprise.  I had wanted to see Aladdin for some time but they were always sold out when we were in NYC.

Our son got tickets for Aladdin for this weekend, in addition to The 39 Steps!  He had sent calendar invitations.  My DH had accepted and forgot we were going and I never got my invitation.  :(

~~~~~~

Backing up to Friday.  This weekend was supposedly so that my son and I could practice for our next Steinway Hall event.  This time, we’re playing the duet Capriol by Peter Warlock.

The day that we do this, we’re also heading out for a cruise to Bermuda.  Busy day!

The train ride to NYC was uneventful, if late.  We have a timeshare in NYC but it’s always full so we can never go :(  We had a favorite alternative that we really liked but they converted into a long-term stay hotel.

So, we went to a new hotel for this weekend.  I kept it in the same neighborhood so I’d know my way around a bit and we could eat at our favorite restaurants :)

We got to our new place and Michael was waiting for us.  Hooray!  After checking in, the next order of business was getting something to eat.  We decided to Uber over to Union Square to be close to The 39 Steps show at the Union Square Theater.

Lots of places to eat but we decided on getting a snack at the Barnes and Noble and having a real meal later.

The show was wonderful!  Very clever with only 4 actors doing all the parts with just a few props.

Different actors but you’ll get the idea:

After the show, we walked around a bit and ended up at Paul & Jimmy’s for dinner.  It was a good Italian dinner.  We didn’t have a refrigerator at our hotel, so I sent my leftovers home with Michael.

Saturday

Up early the next morning to go to breakfast at our old favorite – Scotty’s Diner on Lexington.

Michael had been to a place called The Cloisters and thought we might like to go so we Ubered (spell check doesn’t think that’s a word) north of Manhattan up the Henry Hudson Parkway.

The Cloisters museum and gardens is so peaceful and beautiful.  You almost feel like you’re back in the middle ages.  We had headsets as a guide and they used period music to help get in the mood.  The Cloisters is a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art which is  devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, was assembled from architectural elements, both domestic and religious, that largely date from the twelfth through the fifteenth century.

Tom got a ton of pictures.  I just got this one, in the garden:

cloisters

After the briefest stop at our hotel and a too-short nap, we went to Michael’s to actually practice some.  We had a snack at Ramen.co.  I had a bento box and the others had burgers.  The interesting thing about the burgers was that the bun was made of ramen noodles pressed together.

We then walked up past South Street Seaport, although there was a lot of construction going on so we couldn’t go in. We’d been there before, in January 2010 and took lots of pictures so it was ok that we couldn’t go again.  When we were there in 2010 it was way colder and I’d had to buy a new hat and mittens.

After that, we walked along the bike/pedestrian path for quite a ways and it was very nice, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, even though we were walking next to it, and under an overpass!  There was one poor guy out in a rubber canoe or kayak having trouble paddling in the current.

Back to the hotel to get ready for Aladdin!  That was playing at the New Amsterdam Theater.  Both the hotel and theater were on 42nd street so we walked – and made it on time!  What a beautiful old theater, built in 1903.

Aladdin was fantastic!  What can I say?

aladdin

 

 

 

 

 

After the show, we stopped at Cafe Metro for some take-home food, then we hiked back to our hotel to eat that and for much needed sleep.

Sunday!

We made a change in our traditions and stopped at the Pershing Square Café for breakfast.  We’d seen it while we were walking by the night before.  Quite $$ for breakfast. Pershing Square is also on 42nd Street, directly across from New York’s famous Grand Central Terminal’s main entrance and underneath the Park Avenue Viaduct.

Our next stop was Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises for a partial sightseeing trip since we were short of time.  We were 1 pier over from the one where our cruise ship for June 7, the Norwegian Breakaway, was docked.

breakaway2

The Statue of Liberty:

statue-liberty

And, most importantly, Michael’s office next to the Staten Island Ferry

office

A bit of lunch (we eat a lot!) at Mr. Biggs in Hell’s Kitchen then over to Michael’s for more practice – the reason for this trip.

We took the subway back to Grand Central, then our hotel to pick up our bags.  We took a cab back to Penn Station to catch the Acela and head home.

I think that’s it – we did about as much as anyone could do in 48 hours.