Saturday, June 10, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy @ DCA


 

I may love Christian Bale as Batman and Robert Downey, Jr., as Ironman, but my favorite superhero movie franchise is Guardians of the Galaxy, the fantasy series about a rag-tag group of alien misfits, whose leader, Peter Quill (i.e., “Star-Lord”), was kidnapped from Earth when he was a child. Skilled at saving the galaxy, the Guardians are irreverent, unorthodox and highly lovable. Their cast of characters includes the green-skinned female Gamora, a loudmouthed, gun-wielding raccoon and a warrior tree, who says only one thing: “I am Groot.”

Now part of the Disney universe, Guardians recently got its own ride at Disney’s California Adventure (DCA). The ride involves an elevator that feels like it’s free-falling, so I’ll never go on it. Still, I love all the corollary stuff, including a short “staged” encounter between Quill and Gamora, in front of the Guardians ride, that ends in a dance-off with Groot. We waited in line—for an hour!!—to have our photo taken with Groot, everyone’s favorite Guardian.

 
 Exterior of Mission: Breakout! ride

Quill trying to rouse the crowd, while Gamora looks on unimpressed

Groot and Star-Lord

video
Groot's dance-off

 
With Groot!!
 
We haven’t gone on the ride, but everything else is fun, especially if you’re a fan of Groot.

 
I am bread!: sourdough version of Baby Groot's face--
too cute to eat!

 
Tim eating churros instead 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

NYC Vacation

 
Walking the High Line through Chelsea
 
We love New York City, but hadn't visited since 2009 and so jumped at the chance to go on a Broadway tour with the South Coast Rep, a theater group in Orange County. The tour provided tickets to four Tony-nominated plays—War Paint, about the rivalry between cosmetics mavens Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, Oslo, about the short-lived Palestinian peace accords negotiated in the early 1990s in Norway, Noel Coward's Present Laughter, and Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler—plus we saw A Doll's House, Pt. 2 on our own. We also visited the Rockefeller family estate Kykuit, the 9/11 memorial and museum, mid-town Manhattan, and the NY Transit Museum—all of which you can read about in separate posts below.

We rode the subway, saw friends, ate lots of good food, and walked our feet off. It was a wonderful, and much needed, vacation! 

 
Relatively cheap breakfast at the deli across the street from our hotel

 
New York cheesecake at 11PM—we're on vacation!!

 
Dirty water dog on 43rd & 8Th Ave. I prefered
eating at Chirping Chicken, a great NYC chain.

 
Much finer dining at Mario Batali's Eataly at Four World Trade Center 

 
Trying to decide what to eat at Eataly

 
Pizza!!

 
And, of course, dressing up for the theater 

World Trade Center

 
Photo of Lower Manhattan, taken moments before the first plane
crashed into WTC on 9/11
 
The most moving—and difficult—part of our stay in NYC was visiting the World Trade Center and 9/11 Museum. Tim and I had seen the Twin Towers on previous trips to New York and had witnessed, firsthand, the cleanup efforts soon after the destruction of 9/11. So we were familiar with the area. I was not prepared, however, for the emotional impact of a revitalized "ground zero."

Though never a big fan of the architectural style of the Twin Towers, they, of course, have since transcended any criticism of how they once looked. The new One World Trade Center is much taller and shinier than the original, but it will never loom as large, in my mind and heart, as the towers. Instead, my eyes looked downward to the two reflecting pools marking the footprints of the demolished Center buildings. The pools were somber but beautiful and rimmed with the names of the people who died on 9/11. A simple but powerful tribute.

 
One World Trade Center

 
Detail at top

 
Reflecting Absence reflecting pool, memorializing the former
footprint of one of the Twin Towers

 
Flowers are placed on the victims' names on their birthdate

 
Looking at the south pool from above
 
There are two museums commemorating the events of 9/11: one created by the victims' families and one located in the underground bowels of the former towers. We visited the latter, which was enough for me. I was not the only person openly crying as we passed the few surviving remnants of the buildings. In an interior room—signs warning parents of graphic images—were artifacts and television footage of the destruction. I lasted five minutes before telling Tim I'd meet him outside after he was done. Far too emotionally painful to experience all over again.

 
The first thing you see when you descend the stairs into the
museum are two of the massive tridents that decorated the foot 
of the Twin Towers

 
Several stories tall

 
Trident base looking very much like a cross

 
Photo of the remaining tridents (click on image
to enlarge)

 
Remaining underground wall

 
Remaining column with firefighter messages

 
"Survivors' Staircase," which over 200 people used to
escape the collapsing building

 
Part of the TV/radio antenna on the North Tower—six engineers
died trying to keep the antenna operating as long as possible

 
Elevator part

 
Ladder 3 firetruck, destroyed by falling debris

 "No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time"—the
blue tiles try to capture the color of the 9/11 morning sky
 
After emerging from the museum, we made our way over to the Oculus, an incredibly spectacular structure that houses an indoor mall. To me it looks like an eagle crossed with Statue of Liberty's crown. It also reminded me of the few tridents that remained standing after the towers fell. In the end, I decided the Oculus was a cathedral to commerce—a grand F.U. to all terrorists who think they can destroy the American way of life. What do you see when you look at it?


The Oculus: an eagle in flight?

 
The Oculus across the street from the 9/11 museum (lower 
righthand corner)

 
Inside the Oculus

 
Shoppers and tourists

 
Looking upward at the spine of the Oculus

 
Backside of the Oculus, with One World Trade Center behind

Kykuit: the Rockefeller Estate


 
Kykuit mansion
 
John D. Rockefeller, who founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870, is widely considered the richest American of all time. And yet his 40-room residence, located in Sleepy Hollow, 20 miles north of New York City, is relatively understated compared to other historic mansions, like Hearst’s Castle.

Kykuit, from the Dutch word for “lookout,” was home to four generations of Rockefellers, until the death of former U.S. vice president Nelson Rockefeller in 1979. Today the estate is a National Trust for Historical Preservation site maintained by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and operated by Historic Hudson Valley.

The six-story home sits atop 250 spectacular acres overlooking the Hudson River. The grounds, landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Manhattan’s Central Park, are fabulously lush and punctuated by sculptures, old and new. We were not allowed to snap pictures inside the house, but the outside provided plenty to photograph.

 
Entryway with wisteria climbing up the front wall

 
View from the front of the house

 
Side colonades

 
Bathhouse still stands, though the pools are now gone

 
Statues

 
Hudson River

 
The backyard!

More Hudson River 

 
Spring blooms

 
Tour tickets are available at the Philipsburg Manor visitor center,
a short bus ride from Kykuit 

 
Next time, we'll spend more time here

 
Tulips in bloom