Sara Godwin

Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Grandparent Alert: Make This Christmas Unforgettable

In Baby Boomers, Grandparent, Kids, New York, Parent, San Francisco, Travel, Women's Travel on November 29, 2013 at 7:44 pm
Ethereal stalagmites and stalagtites

Ethereal stalagmites and stalagtites

Magnificent limestone  formations at Blanchard's Springs Caverns

Magnificent limestone formations at Blanchard’s Springs Caverns

There’s a delightful way to make this year’s holidays a lot more fun. It does, however, require finding children to play with you. Grandchildren are ideal, but lacking those, your own kids, nieces, nephews, young cousins, or even the kids next door will do very nicely.

There are no shops to forage for gadgetry you’ve never heard of before, no online sites that swear they’ll deliver on time so you can stay up half the night wrapping things that arrived at the last possible moment, and no wrapping gifts in birthday paper because the Christmas wrap ran out. No, this year you’re going to give experiences the children will remember for the rest of their lives.

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Say you live within easy reach of San Francisco — and please note that even Los Angeles is only an hour away by plane.  Now would be a good time to schedule a shopping date with the parent of the chosen child.  Not for the parent, mind you; for you and the child.

One of the leading events of the San Francisco social season is the Nutcracker Ballet, and the stars of the show are not Clara, the Prince or the Sugar Plum Fairy.  No, the stars are the little girls who arrive in their prettiest frocks and shiniest shoes. That’s what the shopping expedition is all about.  Velvet and satin, lace collars and cuffs, wide sashes and petticoats, long skirts and pretty tights, these are the stuff of ‘remember-it-always’ Nutcrackers.  The shopping should end with a special treat for just the two of you: For example,  afternoon tea at the Sheraton Palace Hotel.  It’s the closest thing to ‘Eloise in the Palm Court at The Plaza’  left in America.

There are a number of lovely places in San Francisco to take children for afternoon tea during the holiday season.  Click here for an excellent list:

http://www.sfkids.org/Content.aspx?id=11394

For children six and under, buy tickets for a matinee performance.  Seven to eleven will do fine at an evening ballet.   Should you happen to have a young gentleman in your party, the dress is less formal: A good-looking sweater and pants that aren’t jeans with a pair of recently polished loafers  will do the trick (no, he can’t wear his favorite sneakers/high-tops. Whining is not an option).

Nutcracker performances start December 11, 2013 and continue through December 29th; Here’s the link for tickets:

http://www.sfballet.org/tickets/production/overview/nutcracker

Balcony  seating makes it easy for children to see the whole stage, and be sure to ask about booster seats for the littlest ones when you book.

The Nutcracker itself is always a delight. The San Francisco production has a Christmas tree that always draws gasps as it ‘grows’ magically and majestically, and the little ones dancing in the ballet commanding the stage is a delicious reversal of most children’s routine reality.  On one memorable occasion I took a five-year-old dressed in pale pink backstage to watch the dancers warm up before the show.  The Sugar Plum Fairy walked up to her wearing a green costume.  “That color,” she announced, pointing at the young lady’s pink frock, ‘That’s the color my costume should be.”  So saying, she smiled, pirouetted en pointe, and danced away.  If we hadn’t taken the five-year-old by the hand to go to our seats for the performance, she would be standing there still.   It’s not every day that the Sugar Plum Fairy thinks your dress is prettier than hers.

Winter sleigh rides through the orchards in Door County, Wisconsin

Should it happen that you are closer to Chicago than San Francisco,  an unforgettable Christmas treat may be found there, too. If you’ve never been to Door County, Wisconsin, go.  It’s about a two-hour drive through picture-perfect American pastoral, filled with well-tended farms and orchards that make it feel like you’re coming home even if you’ve lived in cities and suburbs  all your life.   Dress the kids warmly and sign up for a horse-drawn sleigh ride through snow-covered apple and cherry orchards.  This might well be the proper occasion for new caps, mittens, and mufflers of the soft, toasty sort.  When the sleigh ride’s over, the adults can warm up with spiced mulled wine while the children can wrap little hands around a cup of  hot cider or hot chocolate. All parties will enjoy a slice of fresh-baked cherry pie. Pick up packets of chocolate-covered dried cherries to pop in the mouths of all small persons present; it’ll make both of you very happy.

Here are the basics:

Public Group Rides: 30 minutes long $8/person, kids under 2 years free

Private Rides (2-4 people): 30 minutes long $55

Click on http://www.orchardcountry.com/sleigh-rides/ and you’re half-way there. Check the website for dates and times.

Contact owner John Mayberry for reservations and additional information (920) 421-1152.
For dinner, have a fish boil.  Don’t ask;  just do it. The boil is spectacular, and the fish is remarkably good. It will make you grin, and the kids will never forget it.  Just for the record, it’s a reasonably healthy meal: The fish are fresh out of Lake Michigan, not breaded, not deep-fat fried, in fact, not fried at all.  The cooking  method is probably closer to poaching than anything else you’ve seen, but then, you’ve never seen anything else quite like this. Here are a couple of links that will make all things clear:

http://www.doorcountyfishboil.com

http://www.whitegullinn.com/dining/traditional-fish-boils.htm

You’ll want to spend at least one night, probably two, so take a look at these for cosy, comfortable, convenient accommodations:

http://www.thelandmarkresort.com

Landmark  Resort is located at 7643 Hillside Road, Egg Harbor, WI 54209; the phone number is 920/868-3205, toll-free is 800/273-7877.   Two-story two-bedroom suites with views of the lake are available;  It’s like having your own  Door County condo.   Tuck the children to sleep upstairs, and settle in for a very civilized glass of Door County wine before turning in yourself.

Also consider the Door County Lighthouse Inn Bed & Breakfast at 4639 Orchard Road, Egg Harbor, WI 54209; 920/868-9088 or 800/868-9088. Click here to see the website and book:

http://www.dclighthouseinn.com

Another option is the Eagle Harbor Inn at 9914 Water Street, Ephraim, WI 54211

920.854.2121    T. 800.324.5427

For reservations, click here: http://www.eagleharbor.com

The Cathedral Cavern has perfect acoustics. Filled with the soaring melodies of traditional Christmas carols, it's glorious.

The Cathedral Cavern has perfect acoustics.
Filled with the soaring melodies of traditional Christmas carols, it’s glorious.

America’s Heartland is a fine, big  place, and if Door County nudges up close to the northern limit of the Midwest, Blanchard’s Springs Caverns is more on the  southern side.  The Caverns are  120 miles northeast of Little Rock plus another 15 miles northwest of Mountain View.  It’s about two hours driving time from Little Rock to the Ozarks National Forest, and the Blanchard’s Springs Caverns are worth every scenic minute of it.

While the caverns had long been known to local people, the Cathedral Cavern was not discovered until 1963. At 1,150 feet long, 189 feet wide, and a ceiling  65 feet high,  the Cathedral Cavern is spectacular far beyond the ability of words to describe or photographs to portray.  Add to its stunning dimensions the  crystalline stalactites that hang down from the ceiling and the glistening stalagmites that stretch up heavenward from the floor of the cavern.  The Cathedral Cavern’s crowning glory is perfect acoustics, and that brings us to the annual “Caroling in the Caverns”.  All the joy and wonder of old-fashioned Christmas carols fill this ethereal space with the richness of song accompanied by string instruments.  Come in good voice: The best part of the concert is the sing-along.  Concerts commence on November 30th  at 4:30pm and December 1 at 4:30pm.  Shows are scheduled at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m on  Sunday, December 8th and 15th as well as  Saturday, December 21st and Sunday, December 22, 2013. Tickets are $20 per person, and all the concerts have sold out every year for the last ten years. Advance tickets are required so call the  Mountain View Area Chamber of Commerce at 1-888-679-2859 for availability and to order tickets.  The caverns maintain a stable temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, and while you may still want a sweater or  jacket,  it’s not uncomfortably cold by most standards for Midwestern winters.

Should it happen that you live on the Eastern Seaboard,  the most delightful holiday thing to do is Nantucket’s Christmas Stroll Weekend.  This year is the Stroll’s 40th anniversary, and the theme is ‘A Victorian Christmas’.  When  whaling ended in the late 1900s, Nantucket Island went into a deep sleep longer than Rip Van Winkle’s famous nap.  The result is that Nantucket retained its  19th century architecture to a greater extent than any other single place in America.  Despite the island’s reputation as the most desirable summer destination on the East Coast,  much of it’s ‘lost in time’ ambiance can only be properly savored during the Nantucket Noel. Festivities start off on Friday, November 29th, when a crowd gathers at the top of Main Street at Main and Centre.  More than 100 beautifully lighted trees line the centuries-old cobblestoned street, and at the signal, all the trees light up at once in one gloriously magical moment.  Old-fashioned carols fill the air, led by the ‘Accidentals & Naturals’ choral group from Nantucket High.  Should you wish to join in, there’s an app for that:  Download Nantucket Arts App to your Smartphone for the lyrics.

Officially, Christmas Stroll Weekend is December 6th through 8th, but  the annual Christmas House Tour, a self-guided walk through elegantly decorated homes and inns from 19th century seafarer’s cottages to magnificent mansions, is on Friday, December 5th. Most of the homes feature home-baked Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, and eggnog as well as beautifully decorated trees, wreaths, and garlands galore.

Santa himself  arrives Saturday, December 6th,  delivered to the island by the Coast Guard whence he and Mrs. Claus are formally escorted up Long Wharf  by the Town Crier to his own very special conveyance (details are still very hush-hush, but already creating  much curiosity and considerable buzz).  Led by a bell-ringers and a brass quintet, Santa parades up Main Street, across Centre Street, and into the century-old  Jared Coffin House. There he bends an ear close to hear exactly what  eager children most hope to find under their very own Christmas tree.

Santa on Cutter

Throughout the Christmas Stroll Weekend singers in Victorian dress, children caroling, and teen choirs will fill the air with the familiar holiday melodies,  the Magical Talking Tree will hold forth at the top of Main Street,   and young performers from DanceWorks will dance in the streets.

Holiday craft markets, and a variety of exhibits  and performances  all enhance the feeling and flavor of Christmas.  To cap it all off (all puns intended) there’s a Victorian Costume Contest on Main Street at 1:45PM, with ribbons handed out by Nantucket’s famous Victorian Carolers.
The 20th Annual Festival of Trees runs throughout December at the Whaling Museum, and it’s a destination all by itself .
Upon arrival  on  island, go  to the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, located at Zero Main Street, second floor (above the Cape Cod Five Bank) to pick up a copy of the 2013 Official Stroll Program, available starting in late November.
Here’s the link:

For accommodations, check the Nantucket Visitors Bureau first; Here’s the link:

http://www.nantucket-ma.gov/Pages/NantucketMA_Visitor/StrollWeekend.pdf

Many hotels, inns, and bed & breakfasts are already booked, so if you can’t find anything there, try Vacation Rentals by Owner (http://VRBO.com), and search for Nantucket.  Look for houses listed as ‘Nantucket Town’ on the link below:

http://www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/usa/massachusetts/nantucket-island

It’s easy to get to Nantucket by air from  Boston’s Logan Airport, and there are some New York connections, including Manhattan, as well.  Check the schedule for Cape Air here:

https://www.capeair.com/where_we_fly/new_england.html

The ferry is a fun ride all by itself. The regular ferry and the high-speed ferry both run from Hyannis to Nantucket.  It’s $69 round-trip for adults, $36 round-trip for children 5 to 12, and younger children ride free. The schedule for the Steamship Authority is here:

https://www1.steamshipauthority.com/writable/versioned_downloadable_schedules/path/2013_high-speed_sched_page.pdf

Make this Christmas unforgettable for the children you love — and you’ll find that you love it, too.  Love is never a one-way street, especially during the holidays.

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Fashion Forward Fall Fun: Donna Karan & Saks 5th Avenue

In Baby Boomers, New York, San Francisco, Travel, Uncategorized, Women's Travel on October 3, 2013 at 7:45 pm

The invitation offered a champagne lunch with a peek/pique preview of Donna Karan’s Fall Collection at Saks 5th Avenue in San Francisco.  We turned up right on time, taking seats in the front row, “we” being myself, my friend who lived in Paris for many years,  and her ’14 going on 20′ daughter,  tall, slim, beautiful, and bilingual.

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Flutes of champagne appeared on silver trays , as did bite-sized beef sliders,  remoulade  rounds,  vegetarian wraps, and similar dainties.  I attend a lot of events that provide what used to be called hors d’oeuvres ( a friend of mine translates that as ‘hours of work’) in lieu of the complications of a sit-down meal. I know there are many considerations that go into catering for an unknown quantity of people you don’t know whose tastes/food issues/allergies one cannot know, but I do wish that  the criteria for the selection of the menu included ‘easy to eat in public.’  The ladies who lunch — and go to fashion shows — bonded over wry grimaces while fishing bits and crumbs out of their fashionably-attired laps.

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The Fall Collection was notable for elegant dresses and a series of mix-and-match pieces in New York colors — black and a rich dark brown.  Karan doesn’t sketch; she drapes.  Her designs are realized as she wraps fabric around a fitting model to get the line she likes.  The goal is to make the client look taller and slimmer without heavy construction or foundations.  Many of the dresses were elaborately draped to minimize the midriff, waist,  and hips, with a long fluid line leading to a swaying asymmetrical hem.  Her ‘cold shoulder’ top is as well-bred and sexy as a woman who drops her eyes demurely on meeting  an interested glance; the moderator pointed out that shoulders do not generally gain weight in an unbecoming manner.  DK’s body pants are carefully seamed both for a slim line and for comfort.  Indeed,  comfortable would be a fair description of  most of the pieces despite the fact that fashion and comfort have a long tradition of not being seen in the same room at the same time.   Lambskin collars framed the face and  turtlenecks covered the neck in a manner that would have delighted Nora Ephron — her last book was titled ‘I Hate My Neck’.

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Favorite pieces included a lambskin three-quarter length coat with a fur-lined hood — the lamb treated to look like a gorgeous fur, leather from the shoulder through the torso, with a six-inch edging of the same fur-look at the hem.   The look is rich, luxurious fur; the reality is politically correct.

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The show lasted an hour and ended on a high note: a showing of vintage celebrity red carpet dresses.  The Paris contingent yearned for a magnificent burgundy-colored silk gown with a sweeping half-train while the teen longed for a cream-colored leather dress decorated with a silver floral pattern that on closer inspection turned out to be made of 3-inch safety pins.

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The photos here are all the work of the teen — Alessandra Rio, working her first assignment.  To see the 2013 Donna Karan Fall Collection,  please go the Donna Karan website at:

http://DonnaKaran.com

Start the Year Right with the Perfect Travel Wardrobe

In Baby Boomers, New York, San Francisco, Travel on December 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Life is easier when the clothes you need for travel are already in your closet.  The after-Christmas sales are looming large on the horizon, so now is the time to put together your shopping list for the savvy   traveler ‘I can pack in less than an hour’  wardrobe.

Vermette panorama

The Core:

Women: A pair of stretch blue jeans;  a black T-shirt; a black turtleneck sweater;  a blazer; good-looking oxfords and/or riding boots.

Women can add two black skirts, one long, one not, and one pair of black, one pair of  gray tailored pants.  Next pick out a couple of tank tops, one white, one red.  Last are the shoes: one pair of black flats, one pair of black pumps, and one pair of  walking shoes.

Men should have a pair of fitted jeans; a black T-shirt; a black turtleneck sweater;  a tweed jacket (with or without leather elbow patches) and/or a navy blue blazer; black loafers and/or low-cut boots.

Men will want to add a white T-shirt, a red polo shirt, a black crew-neck sweater , one permanent-press oxford-cloth blue long-sleeved shirt, two pair of wool slacks, one gray, one black,  and a bomber jacket or black ski  jacket. For shoes, toss in a pair of loafers, a pair of low-cut boots, and a pair of clean running shoes.

The rest is all accessories. A black-and-white  muffler, a bright red scarf,  black gloves, and a great hat.  For jewelry, all men need is an easy-to-read watch. Women should have the easy-to-read watch plus a pair of pearl studs, a rope of pearls or a gold necklace.  Make it all costume jewelry, please — it looks great, and it will save you a world of worry.   The idea is to look terrific, not to set yourself up as a mark for a grab-and-run robbery.  For a purse, carry a lightweight tote, big enough for your laptop or tablet, your cell phone, wallet/passport, and cosmetics. For men, a good-looking courier’s bag or lap-top carrier will serve the same purpose. A small collapsible umbrella in solid black, bright red,  or a zebra-stripe pattern will ward off wind and rain, and look stylish while it’s doing it.

That’s a little more than a dozen  items plus accessories, and it will all fit easily into a carry-on.  You will probably want some underwear: lingerie and pantyhose or briefs and white T-shirts. Roll them up as small as you can, and tuck them in the toes of your shoes.

A pea-coat or bomber jacket finishes your look, and keeps you warm, too.

How many outfits can you get out of this collection?  It’s pretty amazing.  Here’s a quick list:

For women to travel in:

1. Jeans, black turtleneck sweater, red scarf,  bomber jacket, and boots.

2. Black slacks, black turtleneck sweater,  hounds-tooth scarf, pea coat, and black-and-white oxfords.

For men to travel in:

1. Jeans, red polo shirt, black crew-neck sweater, red muffler, black ski jacket, and black loafers.

2. Gray slacks, black turtleneck sweater, black-and-white muffler, tweed jacket, and low-cut boots.

For casual meetings, women can have a pulled-together look by combining a black mid-length skirt, white tank top,  a chunky gold chain, black-and-white muffler, blazer,  and black pumps.   For coffee with friends, try gray tailored pants, a black turtleneck sweater , the bomber jacket, and black flats.  Lunch with your parents? Black slacks, red tank top, red scarf, pea coat, and boots.  Just out for a walk?   Jeans, a black T-shirt, bomber jacket, and oxfords. Dinner with somebody special? Long black skirt,  black turtleneck,  pearl earrings and the rope of pearls, black-and-white muffler, blazer, and black  pumps.

It works just as well for men.   For a casual meeting: Black slacks, white T-shirt, black turtleneck, black-and-white houndstooth muffler, ski jacket, and low-cut boots.  For a more formal meeting: Gray slacks, blue oxford cloth shirt,  black crew-neck sweater, navy blue blazer,  and loafers.  Lunch with friends: Jeans; red polo shirt; black crew-neck sweater; red muffler; ski jacket; and boots. For a brisk walk on a cold day: Jeans, black T-shirt; black turtleneck sweater;  houndstooth muffler;  ski jacket; and  sneakers. Taking your parents to dinner: Gray slacks; white T-shirt; black turtleneck sweater; black-and-white houndstooth muffler; tweed jacket, and loafers.

That’s five outfits plus the one you traveled in, for six, all together.  These are clothes you can wear in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris or Rome, and fit right in. Best of all, these are all pieces that are as useful at home as on the road.

Pick out the best fabrics you can afford, make sure everything fits well, and don’t buy anything unless it’s comfortable.  Nothing is  a good  buy if you never wear it. Natural fabrics generally look and wear best: Cotton, silk, wool, and cashmere all qualify. Blends of these fabrics also look great. They can all be hand-washed with  mild soap in cold water, and hung or laid flat to dry. In a pinch, ask the hotel housekeeper to toss them in the dryer on the  ‘cool’ or ‘delicate’ setting.  The exception is jeans.  Buy jeans in a stretch blend fabric.  They’ll fit better, be more comfortable on a long flight, and are less likely to be baggy at the knees when you arrive.  Most important, you’ll  be ready to go anywhere anytime, just in case someone you love should happen to call from Paris and say, “Come at once!’

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Ah, New York: Way Too Hot, and Totally Cool

In Baby Boomers, New York, Travel on October 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I’m a California girl. I believe that good weather is my birthright. New York City, specifically Manhattan,  does not feel obligated to acknowledge my birthright.  It is hot — the mid-90s — and muggy.  Not quite so muggy that you could drown by taking a deep breath, but close.  Very close.  On the other hand, California doesn’t have Broadway.  To see Broadway shows, you gotta go to where they live. That being the case, that’s what I did.

The first stop is to drop off the bags at a friend’s Upper East Side piéd-a-terre, easy walking distance from the East River, a longer jaunt to Central Park, straight down 63rd.  The second stop is TKTS (pronounced “Tee Kay Tee Ess” , not ‘tickets’), a subway ride away at 47th just east of Broadway in Times Square.  I use the time standing in what looks like a really long line to review the Broadway shows with seats available for that night.  The TKTS box offices open at 3:pm, sell only seats for that evening, and the line moves surprisingly fast. (Check out TKTS.com before you go to see which shows are offering discounts.) In the category of useful general information, many theaters are dark on Monday nights, and curtain time is usually 8:pm. Discounts range from 25% to 50%. There are separate lines for Broadway musicals and plays. If a play’s the thing, ask to be directed to that line; it’s way shorter.  Me, I’m there for the music.

‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ has music by George and Ira Gershwin, and a seriously silly plot, to the extent that it can be said to have a plot at all. I would listen to the Gershwins if they were playing scales, so a playlist that includes “Someone To Watch Over Me”, “Fascinating Rhythm”,  ” ‘S Wonderful”,  “Lady Be Good”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”,  and “But Not For Me”,  was all it took to gain a firm grip on my attention. There’s also a little sleeper tune I’d never heard before called “Blah, Blah, Blah,” that’s worth the price of the ticket all by itself. (According to a 1983 New York Times review of a Tommy Tunes and Twiggy show (don’t ask), the Gershwins originally wrote it to be a send-up on how to write a love song for “Delicious”, a 1931 Janet Gaynor ( don’t ask) film musical.)  Here it’s used as a love song, and it’s a charmer.

Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara do the best that can be done with the goofy script (O’Hara was nominated for both a Tony and  the Drama Desk Award for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’) and the  dancing is spirited.  Besides, you don’t want to miss Estelle Parsons doing a star turn in the last act as the only sensible person in the entire play.   Truth be told, given the Gershwin music, they all could have stood on a bare stage in front of mikes and read the phone directory, and I’d have stayed to listen.

Having filled my  required quota of grins and giggles, my husband and I swanned off to Sardi’s, the classic Broadway café, for a late dinner. The time between ordering and serving can be spent amusing oneself with the hundreds Richard Baratz’s caricatures of celebrities from both coasts that line the walls from the wainscot to the ceiling. (Baratz is the sole caricaturist at Sardi’s; Al Hirschfeld did caricatures, but none at Sardi’s.)  We were especially pleased to get ‘our’ table, back against the side wall with its perfect view of  of everyone coming in and going out.  Sardi’s is not about the food; it’s about who’s there and who’s not, about seeing and being seen, about who you recognize, and sometimes, about who recognizes you.  Think of it as an extension of the theatre: It’s all about watching.

Speaking of Al Hirschfeld, (see the parenthesis just a few sentences ago), there’s an opulent theatre at 320 45th Street (Built as the Martin Beck Theatre in 1924) that was named for him in 2003.  It was there that Fela! opened for a 32-day limited engagement (July-August, 2012), and if the place still has a roof, it’s a miracle.  That opening night performance was all about the cast trying to blow the roof off the place with Fela’s AfroBeat songs and the wildest dancing I’ve ever seen.  A BioMusical based on the life of the Nigerian activist songwriter, the plot hangs lightly on the highlights of his life and career, but Fela’s politics aren’t the reason to see this.  The singing and dancing have been blowing audiences away since it first opened on Broadway in November, 2009. It received eleven Tony nominations in 2010, and won Best ChoreographyBest Costume Design of a Musical, and Best Sound Design of a Musical .  It starts before the audience is seated, and just doesn’t quit.  Noisy, colorful, and compelling, I walked out with my head spinning.  The touring company has done — and is doing — shows all over the world.  When it gets to your place on the planet, go!

In between shows, we walked the length of the High Line and watched New York’s multi-barge Fourth of July Fireworks, but that’s for another post.