Category Archives: Go

I’m a Born Cruiser

We started in Barcelona.  The first day felt so long because of the time change, and I don’t remember that much of the first day.  But I do remember that we stayed at the Gaudi hotel, and I had a refreshing nap.  My favorite food that I ate in Barcelona was paella, to which I give four starts.  Typical paella is seafood and rice but I got one with chicken.  My favorite site I saw there was Gaudi’s unfinished church.  This was a wonder of architecture because all five sides were different, with each looking like a different church.

From Barcelona, we boarded a cruise ship, the Liberty of the Seas.  The first place the ship docked was Marseilles, in France.  I think that out of Barcelona and Aix, Aix was my favorite.  When we got off the ship at 1pm, we got on a bus that delivered us to Aix, where we saw three churches: roman, romanesque, and a mix of gothic and baroque, all built in different centuries.  Baroque means like fancy pantsy and elaborate decorating.  Inside of the church there were two different organs… or at least it looked like two.  One was real and one was fake.  They made a whole fake organ just to make the church look balanced!

The second place we went to was city hall, which inside the gates held a courtyard.  The first floor used to be used — or maybe still used — for horses.  The top two layers were offices.  Around Aix, there are a lot of outside cafes at fountains, exactly 101 fountains.  The main fountain around the rotunda was charming with many carved designs on top of it.  I hope to go back.

From there we went to Nice, where along the way we passed “Millionaire’s Bay” and saw the homes of Elton John and Queen Victoria, amongst others.  We arrived at St. Paul Devence, which is an old walled Renaissance city.  There were once twelve cannons guarding the outside of the city, but only one left today.  Once we entered the city, I was surprised to see that inside of all of these old buildings, there were modern shops.  This showed the mix between the ages, with old stone on the outside and white modern stuff inside right next to each other.

When enemies used to attack the city, the residents would climb up in a tower via a ladder, which was pulled up by the last person.  On the outside of the tower, there were stairs which wrapped around, but were only as wide as one footprint.  I’ve seen this in other places I’ve visited, like Santorini, and it was interesting to see this technique employed in other cultures as well.

As our boat traveled into Italy, our first stop was Florence and Pisa.  That day, we were awoken at 6:30am to get on the bus to drive to Pisa.  It was a beautiful drive filled with sunflowers and countryside and white marble mountains.  Once at Pisa, we walked awhile to the gate of the medieval wall, past some shops, and into the Square of Miracles.  In Pisa, we saw the Leaning Tower, which from different perspectives and views looks to be leaning at different angles.  If you only see it from one place, or the wrong place, it doesn’t look like it is leaning at all. Then we saw the dome with was covering the Baptistry, and the main plaza, the Piazza.  It seems like every Italian city has a torre (a tower), a duomo (a dome), and a piazza (a plaza).

Some of the main sights we saw in Florence were the Ponto Vecchio (the bridge where they sold gold), the statue museum, and the cathedral.  The cathedral was very pretty and had a bit of Michaelangelo’s graffiti, the first place they actually called it graffiti.  It was actually a carving of his face.  The statue museum had the Fountain of Poseidon and the statue of David, and Theseus holding Medusa’s head.  P.S. Never look at her face or you’ll be turned to stone!

The next place we went to was Rome, my second favorite stop on the trip.  Once there we discovered the Colosseum.  In most of the pictures you see, about a quarter of it is not there, but right now they are cleaning it and adding new stone.  Then we explored the Forum and the “wedding cake.”  As we have our Washington Monument, they have the wedding cake, called that because it is all white and has tiers.

Later in the afternoon, we went to the Vatican and saw St. Peter’s Square.  Inside the church was too busy, but we saw the Obelisk and learned how it was originally made for the pharoahs.  We saw the window that was the Pope’s room, and the window that led to his study.

In every place in Italy, we had margherita pizza.  Rome’s pizza was my favorite because it had the best cheese, and a crust that was flaky and not to crispy or too chewy.  It was the perfect amount of everything.

Another place we went to was the Davinci Museum, which held an interactive display of all of his creations.  One of the reasons I liked it was because it was a hands on museum where you could touch all the pulleys and gears and manipulate them yourself.

My favorite place to go was Pompeii, our last port.  This was bittersweet because we were not going to any more ports, but on the upside we would be spending the entire next day on the ship with all of its fun activities.  My order of favorites of the ports we visited were Pompeii, Rome, then a tie between Barcelona and Florence/Pisa, and then Aix-en-Provence, and St. Paul Devence.  Here is why I liked Pompeii the best: the ruins were so intact to the point of it being almost unbelievable.  I always think it is interesting when you know you are standing on history, in this case stones from Mt Vesuvius.  Their water came through pipes made from lead; isn’t that scary?  A style which I saw in many places was also there: there was a hole in the roof where the rain fell into a basin, and made a nice pretty thing when people came in.  It was practically saying, when people walked in the door, “Yay, I’m rich, I have a fancy little pool.”  All of the cement is still holding all of the walls together but the rooms burned doors with the hot lava, so you have to imagine that the roofs are still there.

We spent the last day on the ship, where there were many choices of activities.  I spent my time on the flo-rider, an imitation of a surf wave that you ride on a boogie board.  The goal is to get up on your knees and stay there.  I did it twice, but mostly I wiped out.  Some of the other activities include going swimming, scaling the climbing wall, and the ice skating rink.

One of the greatest things on the ship was the food.  There was always a sit down or buffet option, and there were new choices every night.  I probably ate about 10,000 calories a day!  Another highlight of the ship were the shows.  My two favorites were In the Air, a cirque de soleil type show, and Encore: an Ice Spectacular, because of the sheer wonder of how they do all those tricks on ice.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my Grandpa Walter and my Grandma Shelly, who took me and my brother on this trip around Europe.  It has been a family tradition that when the youngest of the pair turns ten, they take the kids on this fantastic voyage.  I have been waiting a long time for this, and it was even more fun than I could have imagined.

 

 

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FUN-raising at the West End House

Photo credit <a href="http://anm76.smugmug.com">Andrew Morgan</a>
Photo credit Andrew Morgan

I’ve always been asking my mom what she does when she goes to charity events.  Last weekend, because my dad was away, she invited me and my brother to be her dates to the West End House Boys and Girls Club, an event her firm was sponsoring.  I loved hanging out with all of her colleagues, like Allison (below), and taking selfies with them.10003989_832044818473_7878093266181495616_n

The West End House is a place where kids go to do after school activities, like swimming, cooking, arts & crafts, music, and homework. The event that we went to was their annual fundraising gala, which raises the money for all of the kids to do these fun activities.  There was an paddle-up auction which had a twist: every donation was entered into a drawing for additional prizes. The other great thing about the event was that the kids who attend the programs were the tour guides for the night, and they did an amazing job telling us all about the club.  It was awesome that they found a way to mix the fundraiser with the open house.

They also gave me and my brother lots of compliments on our outfits; my brother asked me to dress him, and he looked dashing.

Photo credit Andrew Morgan
Photo credit Andrew Morgan

 

Looney!

In the winter, I love to go skiing. A great mountain to ski is Loon in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Loon has some great terrain parks and, while there, I went off some big jumps and rails. I was nervous, but as soon as I did it one time, my anxiety disappeared. It helped that my friends, Meghan and Ryan Hoffman, go there every weekend and could show us all the right places to go.

Paradise Found

For Thanksgiving, our family went to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.  We stayed at the Club Med, which is about the best hotel a kid could wish for.  They have many activities, including trapeze, bungee jumping, and water activities like kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing.  The trapeze was my favorite activity, but I liked the bigger trapeze better because you can have more momentum.  Check me out here: 

Since it was a French hotel, but in a Spanish speaking country, with international guests, there were many languages spoken all around us, and there wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving dinner either (though the staff said they needed to have a turkey or the Americans would riot). I had the grilled mahi mahi and conch stew instead. One day for lunch I had an amazing rice stir fry with garlic, soy sauce, beef, mushrooms, and onions.  And, there were lots of make-your-own options, like the salad bar or omelette station.  The resort was for all ages and eaters, since there was something there for everyone.

It was my Grandma Shelly’s 70th birthday, too.  When she was 70, my GG Rose’s grandkids (that’s my great grandmother), wrapped her in 70 lottery tickets and, this year, we made it a family tradition by doing the same for Grandma Shelly.  She won $40, but we got the fun of scratching them off.

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Dining with The Globe

logo-bgIt’s been a while since I’ve written, but I have been busy with the start of school.  moving to Upper Elementary has been a real transition and my mommy said I had to focus my attention on my math facts.  (What’s 6×7?  42!  What’s 11X12? 132!  What’s 9×8? 72!  Boom!)

Last month, I had the honor of going to dinner with Devra First, the restaurant critic of the Boston Globe.  She is very nice, and makes great conversation.  Accompanying her was Chris Muther, the fashion writer, with his boyfriend and college friend (whose names, of course, I remember but whom my mom said I shouldn’t identify since I didn’t get their permission).  Chris even told me he might take me to some fashion events… squee!

One cool thing was getting to see a restaurant critic in action, so that I can learn how to do it myself one day.  She has some very important rules though:  1) Devra decides on the final order and 2) she gets to taste everything on the table.  That was fine with me, because I usually insist on both of those things as well!

We had a lot of starters, like calamari pizza (my favorite), philly cheese steak spring rolls (sounds gross, but really delish!), and a lot of other things that you can read in Devra’s review, as well as a ton of entrees of course.  My mother’s dish of angel hair pasta — she claims you can judge a restaurant on how the perform on the simplest dishes — was congealed and gross.  But, my truffled gnocci was something I’d definitely have again.  All in all, I agree that it was a 2 1/2 star type experience; the company was much better than the food which was much better than the service.  My Toby Take: There’s definitely better Italian out there.

P.S.  I’m the nine year old with the stage whisper in the review.  Thank you Devra for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Camper Otting, Back from Duty!

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Leaving sleepaway camp is hard especially if it’s a camp on the beautiful shores of Lake Morey and amongst the wildlife in the woods of Fairlee, Vermont.

This past summer I got the pleasure of going to LANAKILA. Lanakila is an all boys’ camp with tons of activities.  They range from arts to athletics, from woodshop to biking, from sailing and boating to archery and riflery.  It’s totally old school, we slept in tents and not the super modern camping kind either.  They are set up on wood platforms with just a sheet of canvas draped over it.  Let me tell you, I got a lot of mosquito bites!

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One fun thing to do is be in the show.  This year, it was “Danny” (an adaptation of Annie).  I played the coveted role of Sandy the Dog.