Archive | June, 2012

New York City – The Parker Family’s Second Home

22 Jun

New York’s Number One Family on the #1 Train

(New York City, June 22, 2012) Manhattan got hotter and hotter throughout the week. On the first day of summer, thousands of New Yorkers closed down Broadway for blocks on either side of Times Square for a gigantic yoga fest. The Yankees were back in town, playing the Atlanta Braves. And someone put Salvador Dali’s “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio” in a brown paper bag and walked out of an East Side art gallery with it. Another typical week in the big city…

Andre Parker and his grandmother Pauline walk along 34th Street, with parents Patrick and Amy in the background

But if you paid very close attention, there was a small bubble of joy moving north, south, east, and west, both on and just offshore from the island, showing up in all the best places. It was the Parker Family, on their Road Scholar Charter Program, sharing the fun with each other, and those lucky enough to be traveling with them. Count us as members of this elite group.

Jim Parker talks about his family’s charter program looking west from the Empire State Building

Selecting their own destinations and taking everyone along for a fantastic ride were Jim and Pauline Parker. “In other years, we’d rent a big beach house and have everyone there for a week. But this was so much more special. We decided where we wanted to go, matching the places we’d visit with what we knew our family would enjoy. Tim was in the military, so we picked the Intrepid Museum. Andre studies musical theater, so we arranged a behind-the scenes tour of the New Amsterdam Theater. Stefanie is an architect, which is why we booked the cruise around Manhattan. And we all love boats,” explains Pauline. “The best part was that Road Scholar made all the arrangements and took care of all the details. We just showed up and had a great time.”

The fun we all had on the Parker Family Charter Program needs no explanation. You had to be there. Thankfully, we were.

An Island of Joy, Overlooking Manhattan

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All Around the Town

20 Jun

Ships and Buildings of All Descriptions in Lower Manhattan.

The Conning Tower of the USS Intrepid

(New York City, June 19, 2012) The Parkers have an enormous love affair with boats, as it turns out. Today began with a visit to the Intrepid Museum on New York’s West Side, with its dozens of aircraft and three huge decks to wander. We’re one month early for the Space Shuttle Enterprise’s debut. It’s there, under a huge tarpaulin, with one wing peeking out – a great reason to come back, along with all the other exhibits and the British Airways Concorde waiting to be explored. But we did ride the virtual roller coaster and piloted a jet fighter simulator before lunch.

Laurida Reesman and Nathan Parker on the Flight Deck of the Intrepid

After lunch, Jim and Pauline arranged for an architectural tour of Manhattan by boat. We boarded the SS Manhattan, a beautiful old yacht, with a great name, of course, and began a three-hour cruise around the entire island. Heading south, we learned about every building the architect could find the time to describe, and he never stopped talking for the entire journey. His enthusiasm was engaging, and many of his stories were unforgettable. For example, the Broadway Bridge from Manhattan to the Bronx was recycled. When the City decided to extend the Broadway Subway line over the East River, the old bridge became too small, so they built a new one. Instead of dismantling the original, they disengaged it, floated it down the river a few blocks, and set it up on a new street.

Stefanie Baker, Pauline Parker, Laurida Reesman, Shannon Baker, and Emily Parker enjoy the art of New York City.

Then there’s the Chrysler Building, and how it became the world’s tallest in 1931. Its chief rival, the Bank of Manhattan Building, opened a week earlier and, at 927 feet, claimed this valued status. But the architects of the Chrysler Building constructed its tall spire in secret, inside the building, and added it to the top from within, surprising everyone and reaching a world-record height of 1,045 feet.

There are few ways to spend a better three hours than this tour. And, for the third day in a row, we can honestly report that there are also very few ways to have a better time in New York than traveling with Road Scholar and the amazing Parker Family.

The Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges on New York’s Lower East River

A Harbor Full of History

19 Jun

The Hall of Records at Ellis Island, New York Harbor

(New York City, June 18, 2012) We met Molly Goodrich, our New York Road Scholar Program Coordinator, at breakfast, and all eighteen of us took the #1 Train to Battery Park and South Ferry, where we set sail for Liberty Island, home of the Statue of Liberty, and then Ellis Island, where 12 million immigrants first set foot in America from 1892 through 1924. Getting there, as always, was half the fun, including the ferry rides to these tiny but spectacular landmarks in New York Harbor.

Jim & Hannah Parker, Laurida Reesman, and Mary Parker in Battery Park

For the second day in a row, the Parker Family took Manhattan, if not the Bronx and Staten Island. Later, we established a foothold in Brooklyn, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves on the story of a very busy day.

The Statue of Liberty, June 18, 2012

Lady Liberty greeted us with the same arms she held open for so many other travelers, even if she was undergoing renovations and was not the hostess she has been, and will be again. Still, there are few views like her, and if she needs a little respite after 126 years of standing tall in the Hudson River, well, she deserves it. All of us, from youngest to oldest, were in awe of her presence. How many destinations can compare for the American family?

The Parker family enjoying the Statue of Liberty.

From Liberty Island, we took a short hop to Ellis Island, and even more history. The Hall of Records, beautifully restored, is inspiring. Exhibits record the experiences of people from all over the world who came here, and became Americans. It’s a magnificent story, beautifully told.

The day continued with a visit to the September 11 Memorial in lower Manhattan and St. Paul’s Chapel, places selected by the Parkers for their family to see first-hand the events that have shaped our 21st Century so far. It is an experience our reporters did not cover, in respect of the Parkers and so many American families.

Shannon Baker, Emily Parker, and Laurida Reesman on the Brooklyn Bridge

Finally, we ended the day with dinner at Teresa’s Restaurant, a culinary gem in Brooklyn Heights, followed by a well-deserved promenade across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. Well deserved rest was next on our itinerary for a happy and historic day that taught us many truths about what it means to be a New Yorker.

The Brooklyn Bridge, approaching Manhattan

From the Top

18 Jun

Manhattan from the Empire State Building Observatory

(New York City, June 17, 2012) Jim and Pauline Parker are Road Scholar ambassadors, and decided that, instead of renting a beach house for their family vacation, they’d charter the Signature City New York program for themselves, their three children and spouses, their six grandchildren, and a family friend. After arriving from various places around the country, we met in Manhattan and headed to the Empire State Building for a spectacular view of Manhattan. The world’s most famous island did not disappoint. A nearly cloudless sky greeted us, and we had a great time reconnecting with old views and introducing new ones to the kids.

Jim Parker makes sure we all have tickets for the elevator.

New York is a walking city, and not just for the Parker family. We shared the sidewalks with thousands of people, some tourists like ourselves, others enjoying a hometown early summer evening. Ours included Chinese food, and some final stops for coffee, cake, or, everyone’s favorite: ice cream.

Shannon Baker, Emily Parker, and Leah Baker catch up with each other in Manhattan.

We share stories, like why Jim and Pauline’s son-in-law is named Zeke – their daughter Stephanie introduced him to them as Zeke when she first brought him home from college – and talked about the other Road Scholar programs many of us have taken over the years. And the kids caught up with their cousins as only they can do, enjoying each other at least as much as the city.

You can meet some interesting people in Times Square.

All in all, it was a great way to spend the last Sunday of spring in the greatest city in the world. Tomorrow we’ll ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and then on to the Brooklyn Bridge and other landmarks in lower Manhattan. Who said they don’t like Mondays?

 

 

 

The lights of Broadway bid us a fond good night on Father’s Day.

On the Eve of Our Big Adventure

16 Jun

New York City Glitters on the Night Before Our Arrival

We and our fellow participants are on our way to the next adventure in lifelong learning with Road Scholar. The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Broadway are just three of the places we will visit in the next few days.