Sweatshop Tenement Tour

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I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Tenement Museum in Manhattan’s lower east side.  This is an absolute jewel of a museum!!  The mission of the Tenement Museum is to preserve and interpret the history of immigration through the “lens” of generations that have lived in this neighborhood, and particularly this tenement building.

 

For an hour we were completely immersed in the turn of the century lives and struggles of garment working immigrants.  We were in the spaces where they lived and worked and died.  We learned about the intersection of commerce, religious barriers and compromises and striving for the American dream.

 

The stewards of this museum have done a fabulous job of providing a vehicle to teach living social history. 7000 people lived in this tenement at 97 Orchard Street between 1863 and 1935.  The building was shuttered up in the 30’s because mandated renovations could not be afforded.  50 years later the building represented a time capsule because of it undisturbed contents.  The curators claimed it was like everyone just up and left.  Today, we learn the stories of the lives and struggles of some of these residents.

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In light of recent tragedies for garment workers in Bangladesh and India it is good to remember our own experiences with sweatshop workers.  Next time you are in Manhattan, take a trip down to the lower east side and visit the Tenement Museum.

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Brooklyn Bounty

I’m just back from a weekend in Brooklyn visiting my daughter.  I left Denver in a snowstorm and found myself in a green, fresh spring Brooklyn.  Who knew that I could feel more nature in Brooklyn than in Colorado?

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As I walked around the neighborhood I noticed lots of color in the form of petunias in pots, pansies in window boxes, tulips and daffodils in clusters around the base of trees.  The trees were all in bloom with big tulip shaped flowers and some of the smaller blossoms fell like snow in the breeze.  The air was crisp and the streets lively with people, babies and dogs enjoying the promise of spring.

 

We wandered through the Brooklyn flea (best flea market ever).  We enjoyed a huge donut from the local bakery “Dough” and bought an odd collection of stuff.  You can buy just about anything at the flea.  Good selection of second hand stuff and local artisans.   I came home with quite a few treasures, of which my cobbler form for a man’s shoe is my most favorite.

Brooklyn yarn

We had breakfast at the Clinton Hill Café, and dinner at the General Greene.  Dinner was just an excuse to get to the best part of the meal, which is their salted caramel ice cream sundae – complete with cake and salted pretzels.

Pratt trees

 

The more we walked around, the more I had a sense of community.  I felt I had become a part of something.  On this spring morning, no one was pushing and hustling.  No one wanted or needed to be somewhere else.  Everyone wanted to be there, in Brooklyn on this beautiful warm spring Saturday morning.  It was a real treat to see this side of Brooklyn.

Bath: The perfect mix of Rome and Tea

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Roman Baths. Lots of signs not to touch the water……got the feeling it would melt your skin off…..

On a one-day excursion from London to Bath on a frigid winters day you don’t get to see much, but what I did I truly enjoyed.  I ran off the bus, got my token to enter the Roman Bath museum and was transported to ancient Roman times.  I am such a sucker for a good audio guide and I was not disappointed.  I have been to the town of Bath 3 or 4 times since childhood, but they have done a superb job of renovating and making the visitor’s center interactive, I saw the “Baths” with fresh eyes.  I spent most of my allotted time “soaking” up the idealized version of the baths.  I still get a chill walking on the stones thinking that ancient Romans walked here (even though I know that there is a better chance that one of Jane Austen’s characters walked on the current pavers).

 

After wandering around the town for a few minutes (did I mention how cold it was) I decided to have a proper cream tea.  I ducked into a local teashop with rough hewn floors, creaky steps, low ceiling and a distinct smell of decay.  I enjoyed a pot of tea with a scone and real Devon cream.  Yummy!!  This was my true Jane Austen moment.

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I liked this ladies hair……

 

So for my 2 hours in the town of Bath I entered two fantasy worlds.  After tea, I jumped on the bus, in which we did a quick tour of some beautiful Georgian Terrace houses and drove back to London with the sun at our back.  No time for cocktails, but did I mention it was warm in the bus……

 

Cocktails in London Town

I was recently reminded about the great cocktails we enjoyed on our trip to London.  I have always worked on the assumption that I might not be able to afford to stay in the best hotels in European cities, but I can always afford the luxury of a good cocktail in their bar.  Not only do I enjoy a well-made drink, but I also get unlimited people watching.

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Gin and Tonic at Claridges

Claridges is an iconic 19th century landmark hotel in the Mayfair district of London.  It started as a boutique hotel and quickly became popular with royal visits by Queen Victory and Prince Albert.  During WWII it became a refuge for exiled heads of state.  The Kings of Greece, Norway and Yugoslavia all stayed at the hotel during their exile.  During the 50’s it was considered Hollywood’s home from home with the likes of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and Audrey Hepburn all being frequent guests.   I feel this is a good crowd to be associated with so I enjoyed my gin and tonic very much and even splurged on some sushi.

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Signature drink at the Rivoli Bar in the Ritz Carlton

We wandered down from Piccadilly Circus and discovered the Rivoli Bar in the Ritz.  For this outing the drink did not take center stage.  What did was the connection with the staff.  They took a liking to our little cast of characters and gave us a tour of the main floor of the hotel.  Like Claridges, the Ritz is a favorite for the current royal family and we toured the private dining rooms that the Queen uses upon her visits.  Dripping with elegance and sophistication.  The Palm Court is the main attraction for the Ritz with elaborate afternoon teas in the elevated central dining room.  A great place to see and be seen.  The bar is tucked in a corner, and the drink was less than memorable, but I enjoyed the glimpse into royal life.

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Outside of the expensive cocktails, we visited many pubs and sampled many different beers.  There is nothing better than a warm beer and a bag of crisps!  I’m still a Guinness fan, and I really must get myself to Ireland for a grand tour of the local brews.

Visiting London Town

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is where kings and queens walk…….  This is where traitors are killed…..   This is where you get the best fish and chips…….  These are the words that kept coming to mind as I wandered around some of London’s most famous landmarks.  London in February is not for the faint of heart.  The weather was frigid with a light sleeting snow falling, but as a big city it is totally navigable with a good map and a Oyster subway card.

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As a history buff I marvel at the depth of history in this place.  In one afternoon you can go from a 4600 year old stone ring (Stonehenge) to a roman bath (Town of Bath) to the halls that Henry the VIII walked (Hampton Court) and end up riding the London Eye (Ferris wheel off the Thames River).

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The clash of cultures in London is evident everywhere you look.  Immigrants from the previous empire states has always been the backdrop of the city, but recently I have noticed even more continental Europeans in the shops and restaurants.  The international flavor of the city just gets better and better.

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The cost of visiting London also gets more and more expensive.  A taxi ride from Heathrow to Central London will put you back £90.  In central London it is getting even more difficult to find a cheap meal, but I still find pubs the best deal – plus the beer is always a plus.  I’m sure you can do London on a budget, but I save it for a special splurge and treat myself to some of the luxuries the city offers.

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Bikes and Windmills……only in Holland

We stopped and investigated many 18th century windmills along our ride.  Many of them are still occupied by families and still function as mills.  One especially memorable view from my bike was when you could see the windmillsmassive modern day windmills used for energy production today in the background and in the foreground a cluster of 18th century windmills that literally made the country through draining the lowlands of water and abating the flood waters.  You can’t help but be awed by the contrast.

windmill angleWindmills in field

Setting out on the Inca Trail

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Setting out to hike the Inca Trail for 4 days.  4 days with no showers, no proper facilities and thankfully no mirrors!! Wilbur, our head guide has trekked the Inca Trail for 25 years, and he claimed that this was the first all female group he had guided and coincidentally, this was the first group to run out of toilet paper – hmmmmmm.    Our porters and guides took extra care of us and always seemed to anticipate our needs.  We had minimal personal belongings but it still required 16 men to carry all our gear, food, water, and propane.  Under such careful supervision we had no injuries or mishaps, not even a blister!  As an example after a torrential rain/hail storm at the top of Warmiwanusca, “Dead Woman’s Pass” (we appreciated the irony) we were invited to hang all our wet clothes in the kitchen tent to dry – this just proves you can’t keep some of us out of the kitchen even on a camping trip!

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