I am not going to lie to you. Jeg lag is a serious thing when you arrive in a location.
I was taking a course in “Culinary Tourism-How the Culinary Arts play a role in Tourism” for a week in Paris and it was like planning on going to the moon! I have never planned for a trip or watched to many videos to prepare for a trip. I watched every “Les Frenchie’s” YouTube video at least four times before I left and became an expert on getting back and forth from the airport. That and how to maneuver around the subway system.
We all had to arrive on our own time, so we were coming from each direction and arrived at different times of the day. I got in early in the morning on May 21st and then got to Charles LeGault Airport and then had to clear customs when I was half dead from no sleep on a six-hour flight. Actually, I felt pretty good until I stood in line for forty-five minutes and that’s when it hit me. I got a personality minus cab driver at the airport who did not say a word to me and just dropped me off at the University of Paris and then left (mine with me).
When I arrived, I thought we had to stop by security and these three French security guards at the college looked at me like I had just arrived from a foreign planet. One of them actually followed me to my dorm to be ‘sure I got there’. I must have looked strange with all my luggage, totally Jeg lagged and tired lugging those bags. At least check in to my dorm was seamless and I was able to get to my room and relax for a bit.
After I settled in and took a nap and a shower (the two things my father always said to do when you arrive at a destination to acclimate yourself to the time zone), we met for what was supposed to be a short walking tour of campus. It ended up my professor decided that we would take a tour of the Montmartre and we toured the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre and the Square Louise Michel. For dinner, he had tried this restaurant in a very touristy area around the church named Au Clarion des Chasseurs for a light dinner. He had been there many times and wanted us to try it. Thank God I took that nap!
We stopped at the Anvers subway stop and walked up to the square to visit the church. I thought I had arrived at a French version of 42nd Street with all the tee shirt shops and tiny little tourist restaurants. These streets were totally geared to foreign tourists with the “I love Paris” tee shirts, the vendors selling small souvenirs and water and the bracelet vendors who chased after you to put those stupid bracelets on you. I had seen enough videos online where I was watching for them and the scammer cabbies.
We started our walk up the hill at the Square Louise Michel, which was in full bloom in the late Spring. The park was packed with tourists and locals taking pictures, riding the merry go round and buying food. That late in the afternoon people were out and about enjoying the warm day.
The Basilique du Sacre-Coeur du Montmartre and the Sqaure Louis Michel in the front
While the rest of my class took the tram up, I climbed the stairs passing dozens of tourists snapping shots of the church and the vendors who would not stop bugging me to buy things. It was interesting to see the French police walking around with machine guns and these guys running away quickly. I do not see this in Manhattan.
Walking up the Rue du Steinkerque past the touristy spots
One of the tiny restaurants on the Rue du Steinkerque that I admired.
The flowers and the lawn of the Square Louise Michel was so beautiful. All the flowers were in bloom at the same time (Paris seems to be a bit behind New York with the season) and people were out picnicking and talking on the lawn while enjoying the beautiful sunny day.
Each set of stairs led to another level of the gardens and with each I got to set beautiful beds of flowers showing off their blossoms and the beautifully landscaped tiers of the gardens.
The gardens and lawns of the Square Louise Michel
The view from the top of the stairs by the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur was spectacular. You could see an amazing view of the city from this spot and really soak in how big Paris and its surrounding suburbs are in the borders of the city.
The views from the top of the stairs at Square Louise Michel are spectacular.
The fountains below the Basilique were beautiful and reminded me of some of the fountains in New York City that were created by Italian stone crafters during the late 1880’s. The stonework and the carvings were beautiful, and I took the time to admire them as I continued to walk up the steps.
The fountain at the Square Louise Michel
We walked through the Basilique du Sacre-Couer with its quiet elegance and many different dedications to the saints around the exterior of the pews. The church was a nice place to relax and contemplate a thought. People were inside praying, relaxing and taking tons of pictures which, we were asked not to take but everyone does it anyway. The is the power of cellphones today.
The Basilique du Sacre-Coeur de Montremarte at the top of the stairs
The detail work at the top of the church from below
I took my time and walked around the church, admiring the displays to the saints and relaxing myself in the pews. I was exhausted from the trip and could not believe that I was taking this tour when I was still jet lagged. Still, I carried on and figured that we would only be in Paris for five days and I wanted to see as much of the city as I could for this trip.
We walked around the church complex on the Rue du Mont Cenis and then down the Rue Norvins to a little restaurant cafe that my professor had been to many times. I thought it looked a little touristy, but the food and the service were wonderful, and we sat outside on this warm sunny night and the three of us with our professor enjoyed dinner and people watching.
Rue Novins with La Boheme Montremarte in the background in the Place du Tertre across from our restaurant
Another view of the Place du Tertre with the musicians in the background and the La Boheme Cafe to the right.
Since we were on a Culinary Tourism tour of the city for class, I kept snapping pictures of all the food, the service, the people and restaurant. I have really turned into one of those pictures obsessed tourists with a cell phone. I just could not believe how beautiful Paris is and how I underrated it in comparison to New York City. It is just as spectacular but in a different way. It is just older city but with just as many wonderful things to see and do.
We relaxed at the Au Clarion des Chasseurs Cafe and sat outside. It was fun to watch all the people walking by who seemed just as excited to be in Paris as we were that evening. It was a warm sunny evening and the perfect time to eat outside. I like the cafe culture of Paris where people take time to relax and enjoy their food and not seem rushed or have to be somewhere. I needed to sit because I could really feel the traveling catching up to me.
Our waitress spoke perfect English with a French accent and I could tell she was used to American tourists. We kept dinner light. My professor ordered for us, and we decided on a Meat & Cheese tray and a Salmon Pizza. I thought the food would be just okay in a spot like this, but the meal was wonderful, and it was just enough where I did not have a big meal in me before going to bed.
My professor with my classmates at dinner at Au Clarion des Chasseurs on the Rue Novins
The Place du Tertre was said to be a big artist hangout, but I mostly saw tourists walking by with cameras, people eating ice cream and crepes and typical French music being played by accordions as if on cue from a movie. I loved every minute of it. I am not as jaded as I thought I was and soaked it all in. It was just a place for people to gather and have a wonderful time and that’s what dinner was, just getting to know one another and the reasons why we took this class. Also to enjoy a good meal with people sharing an experience.
Our ‘light’ dinner of a Meat & Cheese tray stacked with different meats, cheese and pates and a Salmon Pizza with poached Salmon on top and the wonderful French bread.
The pizza that evening
The Salmon Pizza
Our Meat & Cheese tray which was more than enough food.
The wonderful French baguettes that our table seemed to inhale at dinner.
My meal I really enjoyed.
Part of my dinner: the wonderful Salmon Pizza and the Pate on the Baguette
After a wonderful relaxing dinner, we made our way back to the college for an early evening. I could feel the trip across the Atlantic Ocean catching up to me. After dodging an evening of pickpockets, wristband workers and vendors selling everything under the sun, it was time to go back to the room and just relax. Trying to go to bed was tough.
Just like at home, my window was right next to a highway so I get to hear traffic, ambulances and police cars and people walking around campus all night. Who says that home does not follow you around the world. It really dawned on me as I was walking down the steps at the Square Louise Michel.
The New Kamboat Bakery & Cafe (or just Kamboat Bakery) is one of the liveliest bakeries in Chinatown. I started visiting the bakery after seeing videos on YouTube mentioning it for a great place to have a snack.
Since then, I have been visiting often after class for their Roast Pork and Cream filled buns, Curried and Pepper Chicken Puffs, Egg Tarts and other bakery delights that I enjoy for lunch and for snacks.
The bakery section at Kamboat Bakery
The selection of baked goods and entrees is extensive and there are all sorts of puffs, tarts and twists filled with sweet and savory fillings including roast pork, hot dogs and even breakfast sandwiches.
Kamboat Bakery also has a selection of rice rolls and entrees over…
The Lewes Maritime Museum at the Cannonball House at 118 Front Street
The Lewes Historical Society promotes and advocates the preservation, interpretation, and cultural enrichment of the Lewes region, through museum exhibits, educational programs, historical research, and publications.
About The Lewes Maritime Museum at the Cannonball House
The Cannonball House was built c. 1765 and was once the home of Gilbert McCracken and David Rowland, pilots for the Bay & River Delaware. The Cannonball House has come to symbolize not only the Society, but the town of Lewes as well; previous uses included a restaurant, a laundry store, and, for a time, the mayor’s…
*Bloggers note: It was another successful year. We sold out by December 9th!
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association members at the Christmas Tree set up November 25th, 2022
Christmas is here!
At 8:00am (actually 7:45am), the truck from Canada arrived in Hasbrouck Heights to deliver the 400 Christmas trees we ordered for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale starting the day after Thanksgiving.
The truck arrived early
I was in the middle of eating breakfast when I got the text that the truck arrived a half hour early (after being over an hour late the previous year) and gobbled down my meal and rushed over to help onload trees. Most of the other guys must have done the same as we all trickled in as a small group of us started the take the trees off one by one.
Our President, Steve Palladino, helping onload the trees
One by one we unloaded all 400 trees
The previous weekend (when I was at the Cornell vs Columbia game), the members of the Men’s Association set the Christmas Tree Stand up so that it was ready for delivery this weekend. On top of set up, the guys also had to rebuild part of the shed that we do business in. I think we can another year out of it.
The stands we have been using for years
Keeping every section organized
Each tree as it was unloaded had to be counted, sorted, organized by pile, and then placed on the racks by size, type (Balsam or Frazier), price point and then had to be tagged for sale. We have had the same routine for over twenty years so we are pretty organized. We work in teams with our more seasoned members keeping things organized.
Our Treasurer, Lou Verdi, keeping the piles and racks organized
Tagging and sorting the trees takes time. Thank God it was 55 degrees today
All the Christmas unloaded, organized and ready for selling
We got the racks filled with some of the beautiful and nicely smelling trees. Each tree had to tagged according to its tree type and size and then double checked again. We managed to empty the truck by 9:00am and tagged most of the trees by 10:00am. We had our first two customers by 10:30am and sold two trees before we were even finished unloading and tagging. This broke last year’s record of 11:00am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree stand ready for business
The truck left by 9:15am for its next stop with us having taken the trees off the truck in an hour. Talk about team work!
The truck left on time
After we got the lot organized, sorted, tagged and priced, most of the guys left for the morning ready to arrive on their next shift while a group of us stayed back to make sure that everything was done. There are always a lot of last minute things to do. The press arrived to take pictures of the lot and then we took our annual group shot for the organization.
The men of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association proudly opening the sale in November of 2022
We are at the lot on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ until the last tree sells. Last year, we finished the sale in eleven days. We are hoping for just as good of a sale this year as well.
Last year, we gave over $16,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association open for business on November 25th, 2022 at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
The commercial that I shot for the Christmas Tree Sale in 2015. It must be working as we are getting more people from Manhattan and Brooklyn.
These clips are from the brillant independent film on Christmas Tree selling and relationships from 2015 “Christmas, Again”:
The trailer for the film “Christmas Again”:
The Director talking about the film “Christmas, Again”
Listening to Taylor Swift when selling Christmas Trees:
The Closing of the site on January 21st, 2023:
All good things come to a end and we closed the Christmas tree site down for the season on January 21st, 2023. About twenty of us gathered at 9:00am (some earlier) and took the site down, cleaned it up and put everything away in storage.
The start of the Christmas Clean Up at 9:00am
It was another great season! Thank you for everyone who supported the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas tree sale! The community support is very much appreciated every year. Thank you!
Taking down the shed for the last time.
Everyone working together to take the site down for the season.
The last of the site cleaned up for the season
The site is fully cleaned up (and then some) and we are all set for the Spring and the upcoming sale in November 2023. See you all Thanksgiving Weekend!
My last night of freedom. Maricel took me to the Sheraton Canal Street as a present
I found out the night of the “Rocking it in Rutherford-Be a Tourist in your own Town” event back in April that I had gotten accepted to New York University for my Masters Degree. I had applied months earlier for the college after the initial get together in October of 2019 (pre-Pandemic). I never thought I would get in but there was the email the night of the presentation as almost a gift from God that I had done good work with the students.
My ID card picture
It has been exciting journey so far and this leads to the next stage of my life. For the next two years I will be playing “college student” for the fifth time (Michigan State University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University proceeded it).
I will be graduating in the Spring of 2024 with my Masters in Science in Global Hospitality Management and from there, who knows? I like the idea that there is a new future with a new job and new adventures coming soon. It will be a long ride with a lot of hard work but I look forward to my future.
The blogs may come slower than before but I will be doing a lot more exploring of the City in between classes.
Wish me luck!
Maricel and I the weekend before I started Graduate School
I was very impressed by the Nicholas Gibbon House when I took a tour one Saturday afternoon. There were no large crowds to deal with and the parking is perfect with plenty of room to move around. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with all sorts of seasonal flowers surrounding the house. When I visited I thought I was mistaken and it was someone’s home. There was a lot of care put into both the exterior and interior of this home.
Nicolas Gibbon was a local merchant who moved to Greenwich in 1730 and continued to live here until the 1760’s. The tour guide explained to me that the townspeople would not let him…
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Annual Inspection May 21st, 2022
For the first time in two years (due to the COVID pandemic), the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department stood for Inspection for the Borough of Hasbrouck Heights.
All department members worked during the week washing, scrubbing and cleaning every piece of apparatus, cleaning all the tools and organizing all the cabinets to be sure that everything was in place. Then we cleaned the fire house from top to bottom. Every room was cleaned and vacuumed and shown the pride the department has in our firehouse.
The Department Inspection was led by Chief Tim Moots, First Assistant Chief Kevin Todd and Second Assistant Chief Mike Greco. The members stood attention for the flag salute, a special greeting by Chief Moots and speeches by invited dignitaries.
The Department invited the community to join in inspecting all of the department’s equipment and out of town chiefs judged each piece of apparatus, two engines, the ladder truck, the rescue truck and the two ambulances for appearance and equipment check. The rescue truck won that evening.
After the Inspection of the equipment was over, the members of the fire department and their invited guests joined together for an Italian dinner in our large meeting room. It was nice way for everyone to come together after a two-year gap.
Good luck and Godspeed to all members of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department in 2022!
Fire Fighter Justin Watrel assigned to the Ambulance Squad for “Best Equipment Contest” at the 2022 Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Inspection.
Well after seven years of trying to get to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival I finally got down to the city to get to the tidal basin to see the display. It looks like it will be eight years as almost all the cherry blossoms disappeared almost two weeks earlier. All the leaves were long gone and as I overheard another tourist say to a friend that she was disappointed that she had not known and most of the trees were bare.
The Tidal Basin in April 2023
The festival was in its second week and most of the trees had gone green. I found out later from the Internet that they peaked on March 21st and right after that we had all that rain. It probably knocked the petals off after that.
The festival ran through April 16th, 2022 (the peak of the blooms was March 21st)
It was bummer in that I finally had a free weekend open to visit Washington DC and I had been looking forward to seeing Mother Nature’s show. I even took an early Amtrak train down to DC so that I could spend time in the Basin area when I arrived. The sun does not go down until 7:30pm now (which is a pleasure).
The trip down by train was nice as I love taking my time and just watching everything fly by. The train was packed. I kept forgetting that it was the start of the Easter weekend and people were starting their holiday travel plus for some schools it was Spring Break and college students were coming on the train loaded with luggage. The train was almost completely sold out.
Union Station was a shocker. I had not been in DC since the summer of 2019 when I went down for my Georgetown interview. The station was buzzing with commuters milling around the station and workers coming in during their lunch and dinner hours to enjoy the restaurants and shopping in the terminals. Union Station had a nice selection of restaurants and boutiques to visit, and it was a nice place to spend the afternoon.
The inside of the entrance of Union Station in Washington DC on a Sunday
The place looked like a ghost town when I arrived. The terminal was busy but not like it used to be and so many businesses closed. The lower-level restaurant food court was practically empty. That was really spooky. There was two people downstairs in the about four restaurants open and one was a homeless guy. I could not believe what COVID did to the station.
Still, it was a beautiful day and I decided to walk up First Street to my hotel. I was staying at the Marriott Courtyard DC in the NoMA section of DC (North of Massachusetts Avenue-Frah Frah) and it was only about a twenty minute walk for me. I could not believe how quiet DC was at the time. It was late afternoon and the only people that I saw on the streets were the security guards guarding the buildings. It looked like everyone had left DC for the holidays.
The Marriott Courtyard DC/Capital Building at 1325 Second Street NE
I was able to check into my room early, unpacked and off I went down New York Avenue to downtown. My first stop was Chinatown because I was starved, and I needed the late lunch. Downtown DC is one of the places in the core of the city that really has kept its architecture intact and has lots of character. On D, F and G Streets lots of older buildings from the post-Civil War era to the end of the Victorian Age and the facades now been incorporated into new buildings.
F Street from the White House to the arena used to be the old shopping district up until the 1990’s and you can still see the ghosts of Garfinckel’s, Woodward & Linthrop and Hecht’s Department stores in the architecture of these former grand department stores.
Garfinckel’s Department Store was the inspiration for my novel “Love Triangles”
Sadly, though when the arena was built, it pretty much knocked down the core of Chinatown and what is left now is about five restaurants, a small grocery store, tea shop and a gift shop that I am not sure whether it is open or not. There are still a few hangers on that give it some character but it’s not like the Chinatown’s in New York or Philadelphia.
The Entrance to what is left of Chinatown in Washington DC on G Street
One of the two blocks left of Chinatown in Washington DC on 6th Street
There is one restaurant I still love going to when I am in DC, and I always visit it for sentimental reasons and that’s Chinatown Express Restaurant at 746 Sixth Street NW (see my review on TripAdvisor). I discovered the place several years ago when I was on a location search for my novel “Love Triangles” (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Two: Reading the Prologue of the Novel “Love Triangles”):
The entrance to the former Julius Garfinckel & Company: The inspiration for the novel “Love Triangles”. The entrance is on F Street in Downtown DC. The future cover for “Love Triangles”.
What attracted me to Chinatown Express then as now was the cooks are always making homemade dumplings and noodles in the window of the restaurant. One of the owner’s was making pulled noodles on my first trip there and then after that I was always looking for the chef making the pulled noodles.
The roast meats, noodle and dumpling making in the front window of Chinatown Express
The last time I saw him was when I went down for my Georgetown interview. On this trip, I saw who I assumed was his kid’s wrapping dumplings in the window and I had to have some of those.
Not really looking at the menu, I ordered Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings and Fresh Pulled Noodle Soup with Roast Pork, all of which is made inhouse. What a lunch! The dumplings were crisp and tender on the outside and a well-spiced pork mixture on the inside. This was made even better by the soy sauce mixture that I dipped them in.
Lunch at Chinatown Express in 2022 and 2023 (even in 2007)
The Pulled Noodle Soup had a nice rich chicken broth as a base with large slices of roast pork, fresh Bok choy and long strands of freshly made noodles in the soup.
The homemade dumplings made to order
The soup was a meal onto itself. I slurped the soup with the noodles being sucked up at the same time.
The Cantonese Wonton Soup with Lo Mein Noodles and Roast Pork
The roast pork had a nice, sweet glaze on top and they gave me a lot of it. The soup warmed me up and filled me up after a long journey.
After lunch was over, I had a lot more energy and ready to tour DC. I headed down to the Washington Mall to see the Tidal Basin. What a disappointment! The blossoms were over. There were still some trees around the basin that we a certain species of cherry tree that bloom late (these are the ones we are waiting for to bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden) and these were the ones on the fringes of the basin that everyone was taking pictures of with their families. I guess it is another year before I see them again ( the pictures are from 2023).
The Tidal Basin during the Cherry Blossoms in 2023 after the rain storm the night before
Not all the species lost their petals in the storm in 2023 so the visuals were marvelous!
Talk about over-tourism in 2023 to see the Cherry Blossoms
All the trees around the basin had flowered and dropped their petals. There were a few bunches of late bloomers here and there in groups that my fellow tourists huddled around to take pictures. It was pretty sad because the DC Cherry Blossom Festival was in its second week and the blossoms had bloomed already. Mother Nature had the last laugh!
Still the trees were bursting with green leaves and the start of summer looked like it was upon us. It seems that everything was growing two weeks in advance even up by me and it looked like late Spring all over the Washington Mall. The paths were full of people looking at the trees making the same comments that I did about the leaves. I have to say that the tourists have come back. I heard many languages being spoken as I walked to the Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the basin and people were taking pictures of everything. It was nice to see DC busy and full of people all over the Mall.
The Jefferson Memorial in the distance during the Cherry Blossoms in 2023
The Jefferson Memorial was being repaired but still impressive and makes a statement when you walk around the structure. You can see all the quotes that spoken carved in the walls and reading them I was wondering how far we have come as a society with everything going on today. I had to dodge construction and people taking pictures in every direction.
I walked back to the patches of flowering cherry trees and the groups of people huddled around them desperate to show in picture the beauty of the trees. I have to admit that these patches of trees around the Washington Monument were very impressive.
The Washington Monument at 15th Street NW when I visited in 2007
I stopped for a while, bought a Coke from a vendor selling beverages all over the Mall and sat on the lawn and just relaxed and watched the sun set. Groups of families were sitting on the lawn, chatting, laughing and taking pictures. It was nice to see people again visiting the country and enjoying the city.
As I left the Mall lawn, I walked back into the downtown area. I stopped by the Portrait Gallery, but they were closed for the evening. Outside the Portrait Gallery, they were having one of the Cherry Blossom Street events with food vendors, musicians, people playing video games on the big screen and then they showed a Japanese cartoon film. There was a food vendor named Miguel’s Miniatures, who made homemade empanadas, churros, mini doughnuts and homemade lemonade. The prices were really reasonable.
I ordered the mini doughnuts that were ten for $5.00. These were freshly fried in front of me and then they had a series of glazes in squeeze bottles and sprinkles and candies to top them. It was a really nice concept and the doughnuts hit the spot after a long walk and a good lunch. It was nice to munch away while listening to the music.
As it got dark, I walked back to the hotel to settle in for the night. I have to say that Washington DC is a great walking city. Unlike Manhattan, the streets were really clean and well-groomed, and I did not see the amount of homeless that I would see in New York City. As I walked back up through downtown and up New York Avenue, I just noticed how organized the city seemed. There were a few tent encampments but again they were under overpasses and kept out of view from the rest of the neighborhood.
I walked through most of the Northeast section of the city, just north of New York Avenue and admired all the old town houses. They all look like they had been sandblasted back to like and the fronts of the homes were covered in flowering plants and there were lots of rainbow flags almost showing me the gentrification of the neighborhood.
When I got to around where the hotel was located, I got a little lost and did not realize that there were two First Streets off New York Avenue. I knew that I had not reached the McDonalds that I had passed or some of the street art that I use as a marker to remember where I walked. So, I walked around the block and down another street. That is when the fun began.
I walked down the first First Street and knew I did not recognize anything, so I just walked through this construction site of two new buildings going up and walking through the alley way between both sites and passed a dark church on the side of these construction sites. I thought that might be a good sign. I got to the other side of the street only to walk up a street between the two First Street and more construction only to have a group of 30 bikers without helmets coming at me in each direction.
I was more perplexed on why they were not wearing helmets and doing dangerous wheelies than coming at me in every direction. Even some of the bikers had strange looks on their faces as they surrounded me and went around me. It just said to me “What was I doing there?” and “Who was I?” and they continued to ride down the street and never looked back.
They never came back around to see what I was doing. I ended up in front of a public housing complex where the residents gave me a strange look walking by. Some were trying to hide that they were smoking substances that are no longer illegal.
I just looked back once and then kept walking and found my way back onto New York Avenue, crossed the bridge on the highway and then recognized a piece of art on the street that gave me back my directional sense. I knew my bearings as I crossed over New York Avenue and walked down North Street NE back towards the hotel. It was like another world from the one I just walked through. There I found Menomale Pizza Napoletana NoMA at 35N Street NE.
It was surreal. I felt like I went from one world to another in just a few feet. The restaurant was just going through it first seating and people were leaving. I looked at the menu and decided that I was hungry. That and I did not want to know if I would have enough energy once I got to the hotel to come back, so I entered and got a table. What a wonderful decision.
The menu had a nice selection of appetizers, pizzas, entrees and desserts and I settled on a simple Pizza Margareta ($14.95) with a Coke. I wanted to keep it simple because it was getting late, and I did not want to have to digest a heavy dinner so late at night.
Menomale NoMA at 35 North Street NE
The pizza was excellent with a topping with a fresh tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella and basil with a little olive oil on top. The pizza was also the right size for one person about the size of a large dinner plate. Being a thin crusted pizza and the dough was light and chewy, it was not difficult to devour the whole pizza. I thought the service was very professional, friendly and personal. Several waiters stopped by my table to see how I was doing. Between the food, atmosphere and service, it was the perfect meal. It ended a very strange walk back to the hotel.
The one thing I have to credit Marriott with is that their beds are super comfortable. I hit the pillow and slept soundly that evening. When I awoke the next day and opened the blinds and let the sunny morning inside the room. I felt so relaxed and not a bit tired from all the walking that I did the day before.
I had a quick breakfast at the McDonald’s around the corner from the hotel and had my usual Sausage with Egg McMuffin combination breakfast. It always hits the spot, but I will be pretty honest. Maybe it was all the walking or just I was hungry, but I needed more even after I left the restaurant.
I love breakfast at McDonalds
As I made my way down to the Mall to visit museums, I needed something else to eat. So I stopped at this small Farmers Market on I Street NW right near Milian Park and saw a woman selling empanadas and stopped for one. She said she made them from her mother’s recipes and her breakfast empanada contained Mexican bacon, chorizo, eggs and Cheddar cheese. For $4.00, I thought it was a fair price. The same thing in the Farmers Market in Union Square, they would have charged six or seven dollars for the same thing. It was the perfect breakfast accompaniment.
What I liked about DC was things like this. There were small Farmer’s Markets on the side streets, vendors with all sorts of foods all over the Mall and in front of the Portrait Gallery was the Downtown Cherry Blossom Festival with the movies and food. People have been complaining how bad DC has gotten and maybe it was me but in the two days I spent there, I only saw very positive things to participate in.
I finally got to the Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street to see Yayoi Kusama exhibition that I had seen discussed on ‘CBS This Morning’ a couple of weeks earlier.
The Hirshhorn Museum at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (Hirshhorn Museum)
This was one of the reasons I had come to DC on top of seeing cherry blossoms that were not there. To my surprise, the museum had been open since 10:00am (I thought it did not open until 11:30am) and then the guy at the door says I needed timed tickets that were distributed starting at 9:00am that morning. He would not budge!
Ms. Kusama is a Japanese born artist who was trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts and is known for Avant-guard works and her later use of polka dots as her trademark.
Video on Ms. Kusama’s work
I went back upstairs to talk to the ladies at the desk and God must have been listening to me because in front of me were two people who did not want to go see the exhibition and I was able to grab one of their tickets. Talk about luck! I hate to say it but the guy at the desk downstairs looked disappointed that he had to let me in.
I swear that the Yayoi Kusama exhibition was well worth the trip down to DC. What an interesting way not only to display art but to be part of the art exhibition as well. The exhibition started with a few larger pieces of her work with lots of polka dots and pumpkins until you got to move to the private rooms where you got to part of the exhibition. This is where it got interesting.
The curator told me that this pumpkin belonged to the museum
I got to walk into her Mirrored Room with here soft sculptures and was left inside by myself for thirty seconds when the door closed. It was amazing and mind-blowing that you could see the repetitiveness of yourself in the artform and got to experience what she had seen as well. All those little red and white soft sculptures all over the floor made you feel like you were in a surreal ‘Wonderland’.
The Mirrored Room at the Hirshhorn Museum was like being in a surreal ‘Wonderland’
After leaving the mirrored room, I passed a through a small walkway and then when entering the next room of polka dot lanterns, it felt like you were walking through some crazy dream. It was so odd and exciting at the same time. It was so thrilling to be part of the artwork. It was like being in a usual funhouse.
The Polka Dot Lantern Room at the Hirshhorn Museum is a colorful ‘funhouse’
The exhibition is so engaging I wanted to walk through it again but the lines to get in when I left were so long that I knew I would not get tickets again. It is an exhibition that was worth the wait and the trip down to DC and I highly recommend it.
After I left the exhibition, I visited the Laurie Anderson exhibition and was again memorized by the lines of flags going up and down like a surrealist dream. Her videos of people sharpening knives was pretty weird as well.
Ms. Anderson’s work was just as wild, and she also makes it fun to walk through an exhibition. You become part of the art and that is just as interesting. Ms. Anderson is an American born artist who graduated with a BA from Barnard College and MFA from Columbia University. She is known for her Avant-guard works that spread across many mediums (Wiki).
The Laurie Anderson exhibition “The Weather” was another unusual journey
After spending most of my morning participating in the art of the Hirshhorn Museum, I wanted to walk through the sculpture garden. It was nice to walk amongst the flowers and all the pieces of art.
I knew I would be heading back to Manhattan after I finished at the museums and I stopped for lunch in the Washington Mall, which was line with food trucks. I stopped by a very busy one I had seen the other day called “Ribeye Philadelphia Steak” for a Cheesesteak. I had not had one since I went down to Philly for the Penn/Cornell game.
For $13.00, I got a large Cheesesteak with Wiz and a Coke and ate it on the lawn of the Mall. God, was I in the mood for that Cheesesteak. I felt like I was back at the Reading Terminal Market again. The roll was really fresh and chewy and the steaks were perfectly cooked. They must have made a mistake in the order because I got Provolone inside the roll and Cheese Wiz on top. I didn’t care. The combination was delicious and I just relaxed on the lawn on a sunny afternoon and enjoyed my lunch. Don’t miss this food truck when looking for a meal in the Washington Mall.
I walked past the White House and talk about security. The whole place was cordoned off and security is extremely tight. I had never seen all of this before. For the last twelve years there has been so much craziness with protests and people trying to get into the White House I do not blame them for the security. I have to say one thing, I saw the real FBI guys protecting the perimeter of the area and now understand why people think I look like I am in law enforcement. These guys looked like a younger version of me.
Me in front of the White House in better days in 2007
I walked back to the Downtown area and went to visit The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street for the “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” exhibition.
The National Portrait Gallery at Eighth and G Street in Downtown Washington DC
I still remember the Watergate scandal from when I was a kid. The only importance that it had to the nine-year-old me was that all the cartoons and kids programming was cancelled for the hearings. Learning more about the incident in college and from books was how hard this hit the American public and their trust of the government.
National Portrait Gallery exhibition “Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue” (Time Magazine Cover)
The exhibition had all sorts of illustrations of the scandal and the people who were participants of it. It was funny to see the names and faces of the people who were involved in this event and know now that most of them are no longer alive to defend themselves. Even though the scandal was seen in the form of illustration, it did make a point into the ramifications of what happens when you get caught.
It was a low point for our country, between that and the ongoing war in Vietnam and inflation, you have an idea of why the country was so cynical. I am convinced this is why the Disco era happened. When it was all over, people needed to blow off steam and have a good time. Plus, the Baby Boomers were coming of age and needed time for themselves before starting a family.
It was funny to see how the artists depicted these important people or people who thought that they were important. It is amazing how fast the mighty can fall fast. It was not until the Reagan Administration that there was some pride back in the country and in some ways that was all a facade as well. It takes an exhibition like this to point that out.
After I toured the exhibition, I toured the Hall of Presidents and saw all the portraits. I saw the portrait of the recent president and listened to the comments that patrons made. They were not all bad and some were quite complimentary.
President Trump’s recent portrait was added to the collection
When you are touring this room, you have to remember that everyone is human, and all of these men have made mistakes in the past. Since many people do not know American history or the backgrounds of most of the people in that room, it is hard to comment on.
President Van Buren from New York
Before I headed back to the hotel to head home, I stopped in the Downtown Cherry Blossom event they had in front of the National Portrait Gallery and listened to the music again. The kids were playing a video game on the large screen and parents were swinging in the swings by the tables.
I stopped by Miguel’s Mini’s again and had one of his stuffed Churros with Bavarian cream. If you wanted to ever sink your teeth into something delicious, it was a freshly fried Churro filled with fresh vanilla cream. It was decadent and the perfect snack before my long trip home.
I picked my luggage up and walked back down to the train station and just made the 5:00pm train back to New York City. Talk about luck with the last-minute travel plans.
Even though I got to see just a limited version of the Cherry Blossoms in DC it gives me something to shoot for next year. It was a nice two days in the nation’s capital and told me one thing, not everything in Washington DC is all that bad.
You just have to look for the positives and you will find them!
My trip to Washington DC in 2023:
I arranged my trip to Washington DC in 2023 so that I could finally see the Cherry Blossoms in bloom. I was lucky in that the trees were still in bloom but the problem was that a massive rain storm the day before again knocked a lot of the blossoms off some of the trees before I got there. Still there were about four different species planted and the white cherry blossoms must have bloomed later as they were still up all around the basin so I finally after thirty years of wanting to see them, I got to see the Washington DC tidal basin in bloom.
The Tidal Basin Cherry Blossoms in 2023
I almost thought I was never going to get down there with the amount of homework and classwork and papers that I had to do for both school and work. Even though the load is a bit easier this semester than Fall semester, it has been a lot on me with finishing Midterms (A-, C- and A- on my paper). I have had a lot of long days and I wanted to get my mind off everything.
I took the early morning train to Washington DC on a very sunny morning after a really bad rain storm the night before. I afraid that the petals would be knocked off the trees and I would see bare trees again. I took that risk, had a game plan to see the things I wanted to see again.
Once I left Union Station, I walked down to the Tidal Basin getting lost only twice. I walked out a different door then the last time and walked in the wrong direction going south instead of east. Two turns later I never realized how much of Washington DC has been gentrified.
Union Station in 2023 was busy but not crazy that afternoon
Even the areas around Union Station have really gotten nice and very expensive looking. I took a peek at some of the restaurants that opened just south of the station and could not believe the prices of things.
I made my way down D Street passing all the closed government buildings on a Sunday afternoon and then took a turn around New Jersey Avenue and walked the length of F Street watching people as they went to the stadium for an ice hockey game. There were loads of crowds for that.
As I walked down F Street, I remembered working on my book “Love Triangles” and walking this street thirty years ago when the old department stores were still open. I remember the days when Garfinckel’s and Woodies (Woodward & Lothrop) were still open. I do not remember going into the old Hecht’s store when it was open but I did go to the new one in the mall around the corner in 2002 when I visited my cousin when he and his new wife were living in the capital. That is now a Macy’s.
The old shopping district has gone from being ‘down and out’ to a vibrant shopping, entertainment and restaurant district with many of its historic buildings either renovated or part of a new structure. It is funny to see the exteriors of so many buildings built into a larger more modern structure.
The new and modern F Street shopping district
One by one I passed the old department stores that used to dot the shopping district and remembered how important this shopping district once was to the capital. These stores played such an important role in retailing up until the early 1990’s when they all closed down. The Campeau bankruptcy of Federated and Allied Stores in 1991 doomed all of these retailers. Today many of these same stores have been renamed under the Macy’s banner. So much for traditions.
The original Hecht’s Department Store is located closest to the arena and was the first store to close back in the late 1980’s to move to their new location in the mall on G Street. That left their original flagship empty for years. It is now serving as an office building.
Hecht & Company Department Store on F Street and 7th Street
The next grand department store to close in the early 1990’s was Woodward & Lothrop, “Woodies” as it was called by shoppers. The store was beautiful inside from what I remember on my last trip inside it in the early 90’s before it closed but empty of shoppers and the merchandise just could not compete with Macy’s or Bloomingdales when they entered the Washington DC market in the late 1980’s. The company had merged with Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia and that was another grand department store on its way down in the early 90’s as well. It was a sad ending to such a great store.
Woodward & Lothrop Department Store on F Street and 11th Street
The original Woodward & Lothrop store on G Street which was extended to F Street later in its history.
The historical sign on the store
The details of the original store from the 1880’s
The ultimate luxury was Garfinckel’s Department Store which catered to the elite of Washington DC society and was one of the best known department stores in the nation. This store catered to all the First Ladies and was a favorite of Jacqueline Kennedy and Bess Truman.
I remember shopping at the store for gifts for my parents and sitting down at the desks while my brother and I waited for them to be wrapped. I still remember a woman would not sell a silver salad server to my brother and I because we did not have the extra dollar to pay the tax so we had to buy her something else. We bought my father a bottle of Grey Flannel cologne and I swear my father had that bottle until the late 90’s. The funny things you remember as a kid. I also remember eating in the Greenbriar Room for lunch and having a burger.
Later on in the late 1980’s I used the store for the inspiration for my novel “Love Triangles” where the protagonist, Alan Ballantine Garfinckel finds love in a New York Department store over the Christmas holidays.
The former Garfinckel’s Department Store on F Street and 14th Street
After a walk down the old shopping district and past all the old buildings of the original downtown, it was time to head to the tidal basin. The lines were wrapping around where the White House was and I was not sure if people were touring it but they had tickets in their hands to something and the line wrapped around the block.
The Washington Memorial Lawn was packed with people as it usual is on a sunny afternoon. People were flying kites and walking their dogs or eating their lunch at one of the many food carts. The lawns were overflowing with people.
The tidals basin was packed with people. The storm the day before had knocked off some of the petals of the original blossoming trees around the basin but the rest of the basin was in bloom and was a spectacular view.
The basin in full bloom and after all these years I got to see it in its glory.
Looking back at the Washington Monument
Walking with the crowds amongst the Cherry trees
Spring is coming to Washington DC
We talk in our tourism classes at NYU about ‘over tourism’ and the Washington Mall really suffers from this. There were just too many people packed into a small space. Not only that it was the way people behaved. People with double baby strollers trying to maneuver paths not meant for it or unfortunately people in wheelchairs struggling to get through paths that were not ADA compliant and full of small hills and roots that stood out. It made it for a lot of abuse on the trees.
People were also climbing on trees, pulling down branches and pulling off the blossoms. I never really took into account of these things but now I really noticed how cellphone cameras have just changed people’s behaviors. People have gotten abusive to nature.
Still, I tried to not to be that person and moved along as soon as I took my pictures. It was nice to just walk around the basin and enjoy nature’s magic. I made another stop at the Jefferson Memorial which after a year is still being renovated. There was so much construction stuff around the memorial that it made it difficult to move. That and everyone trying to take the perfect picture created a situation where everyone was on top of each other.
The Jefferson Memorial with all its beauty from a distance
I think we are forgetting this
After the quick tour around the memorial and paying my respects to the president, I continued the walk around the basin.
The beauty of the blossoms attracted so many people
It was a nice walk around the basin on a warm sunny day
After the walk around the basin, I was starved and wanted something to eat. All around the Washington Monument there was an array of food trucks but they were all packed with people. It was all the same thing and trying to find the perfect cheesesteak truck was hard when you see pictures of the hero with lettuce and tomato on it. I decided to go back to Chinatown to Chinatown Express again.
Chinatown has gotten even smaller since I last visited. Three more restaurants closed so it has been reduced to four restaurants, one grocery store and one liquor store. If they knock down this buildings on this block, you will have two restaurants left.
What’s left of Chinatown in Washington DC. One block by a half block.
The ice hockey game had let out by that point and every restaurant around Chinatown and the downtown area was packed with people and Chinatown Express was no different. When I arrived, there was a line out the door and people were on top of each other. In a way, it was nice to see. Everyone was with family and friends and looked like they were having a nice time.
Chinatown Express was packed after the game
I ordered my old standby Cantonese Wonton Soup with wontons and roast pork, a side of steamed dumplings and some egg rolls. I was less than thrilled with the food this time around. Everything either was not cooked all the way through or was tepid. The taste was good but the quality of the cooking was really lacking. When I read the TripAdvisor reviews later that evening this seems to be a trend at the restaurant.
The egg rolls at Chinatown Express were delicious but tepid
I enjoy the same meal when I dine at Chinatown Express but the food was disappointing on this trip
After lunch was over, I walked down to the Portrait Gallery again down on F Street. I did not have much time on this trip so I just went through the Presidential Gallery with all the portraits and got to hear a lot of opinions of certain presidents and none on the ones no one knew or remembered (which was more than half of them). It seems that most people remember the first four and the last four.
The portrait of Pocahontas is always impressive
I was able to quickly visit the museum visiting some of the highlights. I want to be able to spend some more time here on the next trip to the museum.
After the museum, I walked back to the train station to return to New York City. I almost did not make it as every train back to Manhattan was booked. I was lucky that a sympathetic train employee found a way to get me on the Palmetto at 8:00pm. I did not get home until 12:45am that evening.
Still it was worth it to see the Cherry Blossoms around the Tidal Basin. It is worth the trip!
What I love about New York is that one every corner there seems to be a favorite bodega or deli that sells what you need when you need it. Some also just stand out for the quality of the food and the service and selection. S & A Gourmet Deli is one of those places.
A friend and I had just stopped in to buy sandwiches for lunch that we were going to enjoy a few blocks away in Madison Square Park. They had a large selection of sandwiches and wraps, and I decided on Chicken Cordon Bleu hero sandwich ($8.99) with a Coke ($1.99).
The sandwich contained a fresh fried chicken breast topped with Swiss cheese and ham and then broiled for a few minutes…
I had been shopping in the Boscov’s Department Store in Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, NJ recently and I walked into their Candy Department on the second floor to admire all their candy selections.
The shelves were ladened with products from Hershey’s Easter candies which rang true for a department store company based in Pennsylvania. So many wonderful food companies are based in the Lancaster and surrounding communities.
On one table I eyed one of my favorite holiday treats on the display table near the register, a decorated butter cream Easter Egg by the Lerro’s Candy Company. The beautifully decorated egg came in two sizes, and I preferred the larger one that would last until Easter morning.
This sweet Easter Egg was nicely decorated with all sorts of flowers and edible embellishments. The center of…