We’re Back!

Actually, we’ve been back for a couple of days, but this is the first chance I’ve had to get caught up.  My husband (“Dude”) and I had a wonderful time “up north” visiting my dad and his wife, Fran, and my brother Dave came up from Illinois with my ten year-old niece, Ashley. 

They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Our journey was 990 miles from our front door to our hotel in Hillsborough, New Jersey.  By the time we got there, that first single step was long forgotten, though I do remember stopping at Little Caesar’s before we’d gone too far.  (What worthwhile journey begins without pizza?)

We left on Saturday and arrived Sunday evening.   It was an interesting drive, and by interesting, I mean I will never, ever, EVER again attempt to drive anywhere near Washington, D.C. – not even on a bet.  (Suffice to say it took three hours to travel less than 50 miles.  ‘Nuff said.)

Anyway, the rest of the trip was great.  On Monday we visited the Statue of Liberty, which I was surprised to find out is actually located in New Jersey and not New York.  My dad was just as excited as we were; he’s lived less than an hour away for the past 18 years, but he’d never before visited Liberty Island.  (I can’t fault that, however.  My husband and I have lived less than three miles from a very popular warm springs here in FL since 1989, but we’ve never been.)

Here’s my dad in the old train station where you buy tickets to visit the statue.  He looks great for his age.  (Would you have guessed he’s 74?)

dad at dock

It was so interesting to see the city from the dock. Helicopters flew constantly above (both tours and police, Fran explained) and there was a huge variety of boats & ships leaving and arriving in the harbor.  We waited about 10 minutes for the ferry which took us first to Ellis Island and then to Liberty Island and the statue. The weather was great – sunny and in the low 60s, though it was a little chilly on the windy upper deck. This is my niece Ashley enjoying the ferry ride. (Note she has already managed to talk her dad into buying souvenirs!)

ashley on ferry

My brother and I were concerned we might get seasick as we’re very prone to it, but it was a fairly short ride and we did okay. Apparently that proclivity skips a generation, because Ashley had no problems at all and Dave tells me she’s easily able to read in the car as well. (I can last about three minutes doing that before my lunch wants to escape!) We didn’t get off at Ellis Island because it was super crowded and we were anxious to see the statue, but I did get some photos of the building there; the architecture was beautiful.

ellis island

The ferry then took us in a semi-circle around the statue. I was amazed the boat didn’t tip over as everyone rushed to one side to take photos.

statue from ferry

There’s a fabulous museum under the statue which contains a life-size copper reproduction of her face, the actual torch that was replaced with the gold-plated one (the one that looks like a stained-glass window) and a fascinating collection of statue figurines rendered in various materials.  A security guard explained that the statue was originally going to be used as a lighthouse; thus the windows in her crown.  Another fun fact: Each of the statue’s fingernails weighs, on average, 100 pounds!

Unfortunately we weren’t able to go up “all the way” or even touch the statue itself; the balcony around the edge was as far up as you could go.  Thankfully it wasn’t that crowded, since the balcony is only about four feet wide.  I took this photo looking up from there.

statue from balcony

Before leaving, we stopped in the museum store, where you could purchase every imaginable souvenir. I got a magnet for the fridge and a pale blue “shabby chic” tote bag that reads “Statue of Liberty, est 1886” in subtly sparkly letters, which contains a matching T-shirt. (Have I mentioned I’m a bag fanatic? Totally can’t resist ’em.)

My favorite pic of the statue is one I took as we waited for the ferry back. There’s just something so “real” about the view from behind.

statue from behind

On Tuesday, things turned ugly. And by things, I mean – the weather! We looked outside that morning to see rain turning to snow – big, wet flakes that weighed down the trees whose leaves had not yet fallen, resulting in broken branches and power outages all over the state. As my dad was driving us on a tour of the wealthy neighborhoods in the area, we encountered slushy dirt roads, downed power lines, streets that were closed even as we came to them, and in one instance, a transformer exploding in a shower of sparks less than a block away as a branch hit the lines. We later referred to this as “the tour from hell” – we wondered if we would ever safely return! Still, it was interesting to see all the multi-million dollar homes and the beautiful fall colors. (We don’t get fall colors in Florida, unless you count the grass, which turns slightly less green in autumn.)

The day ended well, though. My dad and Fran (who used to work at a restaurant) know all the best places in town to eat. We went to a Chinese restaurant called Jan’s, where we had the best won-ton soup in the entire universe. (I’m completely spoiled now – no lesser soup will ever do!) After dinner, while the rest of us got the usual fortune cookies, Ashley was given a beautiful beaded coin purse. Fran and I were so envious! (We later told Ashley to make sure she didn’t leave it behind, or we’d have to wrestle each other for it.)

Wednesday was another cold, rainy day; my Dad drove us to New Hope, a town full of little shops and restaurants, where we looked around for awhile before saying our good-byes to my brother and Ashley. They had to leave Wednesday afternoon in order to be back home in time for Ashley to go trick-or-treating with, as my brother put it, “her pals in the ‘hood.” She revealed that her costume is an “elephant princess.” I have no idea what that entails, but I was quite surprised to hear it might actually be something girly! (I’m still waiting on pictures.) That night, Fran made us a “Thanksgiving” dinner – turkey and the works! – because we won’t be seeing them on the actual holiday. She’s a fabulous cook and it was the first time I’d ever had a “fresh” (as opposed to frozen) turkey. It was quite tasty!

Thursday was my favorite day of all – we went to New York City on the train, which was an adventure in itself. I had no idea that conductors still wore those sharp blue uniforms and caps. Unfortunately they took the tickets from us, so I wasn’t able to keep one for a souvenir.

So, if you’re a Project Runway fan, you’ll totally understand in a few seconds why I LOVED going to the city. We walked a few blocks and there it was….

(::cue chorus of angels and heavenly music::)

mood building

OMG! Mood Fabrics! I WAS THERE!!!

(If you’re not a Project Runway fan, you’re probably shaking your head and wondering why this is so awesome…so it’s probably best to skip this part.)

Mood is on the third floor of this building, so you have to go via elevator, which has a real, live elevator operator on it. I was SO stoked! I tried not to look all dumb and touristy and only took pictures when I thought no one was looking.

fabrics at mood

Naturally I had to buy something; I picked up half a yard of a pretty cotton sateen that I think will make a gorgeous bag and some muslin (I can always use muslin for dyeing and painting for collage) and also nabbed a couple of hideously expensive, yet beautiful “coconut shell” buttons. I was hoping I had bought enough to get one of the big bags like the designers on Project Runway always get; turns out I really didn’t, but – yippee! – they had run out of the smaller bags! The clerk actually asked me if it was okay to give me a big bag instead. I was all like, “Oh, I GUESS that will be okay,” while inside I’m screaming, “YES, OMG, YES!!!” (I am so easily amused. Seriously.)

This is my favorite photo from our entire trip; my husband posing near the doorway just before we left. I call this “Dude at Mood.”

dude at mood

Afterwards, we went down the street (which was full of shops selling haute couture) to a bar & grill called Stitches, which features a gigantic sewing machine above the door.  I was totally immersed in the Project Runway experience!  ::sigh::  The only thing that could have made it better would be spotting Tim Gunn himself; alas, I didn’t see him nor Heidi.  Still, it was a great day.

Friday was our last day in New Jersey, and we ended our trip with a bang.  My dad has been a hot-air balloonist for the past 38 years and in fact has made his living at it nearly that long.  Dude had never been up before, and it was high time (no pun intended).  We got up at 5:00 a.m. and met my Dad at 6:00 at the local Elks Lodge, from where he routinely launches.  Dude was pressed into service to hold the “mouth” of the balloon open (that’s him on the right) while I manned the inflation fan.  I hadn’t helped launch a balloon in well over 20 years – but it all came right back to me.

inflating the balloon

Fifteen minutes later, we were in the air. Dude was a little nervous at first, being rather afraid of heights, but he soon realized that a ride in a hot-air balloon is nothing at all like standing on a tall building. He was even able to peek over the edge and straight down without freaking out! My dad’s neighborhood in New Jersey is beautiful in the fall, and even more so from the air.

nj from above

We flew east into the rising sun, lifting off just as it was getting light. After about half an hour, I was able to get a photo of our shadow on the ground.

balloon shadow

A great ending to a great trip!  (I won’t describe the drive home, because that part wasn’t so great!)


6 Responses to “We’re Back!”

  1. Nan Says:

    Welcome home! I can’t believe you went to Mood!!! The “Thank you Mood…let’s go designers” Mood! Oh yeah the statue and balloon stuff was pretty cool too!

  2. Terri Says:

    Chick! Welcome back! Beautiful pictures! I love your second shot of the Statue of Liberty – looks like your trying to look up her skirt. (Don’t even say you wouldn’t think of it.) And the pictures from the balloon are awesome – I love the fall color – how long has it been since I’ve seen an actual fall – years, I tell you! Your dad looks GREAT! As does Ashley! She’s such a cutie!

    OMG!! You went to Mood! And you got a MOOD bag!! How cool is that! I’m in awe!

    Glad you’re back, I’ve missed you.

  3. sherry Says:

    What a marvellous adventure Lisa!! I’m sorry the weather turned crappy but everything else sounded incredible. You’ve got some fantastic photos (I love the one from the balloon of the houses!) and as ever your wit is written all through this post!! Glad you had a wonderful time!

  4. lucy e Says:

    Looks like an incredible trip, Lisa!! Love the photos you got of the Statue of Liberty and the gorgeous fall colors!! Glad you are back!

  5. Lisa Says:

    Welcome back! You were missed! I got to visit the Statue of Liberty about 4 years ago. It was an awesome experience! Your entire trip sounded great!

  6. Gail Says:

    Okay I’m reading this and looking at all the great pictures and then I got real excited because there is a picture of Moon and you actually got to go to MOOD!!!!!!!!! Inside Mood! Pictures and everything! LOL Can you tell I’m a HUGE Project Runway fan? You’re vacation looks like it was wonderful but Mood would have to have been my highlight. 😉

    (thanks Mood!)

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