Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Travel Year in Review: 2013

Brooklyn, NY
Atlantic City, NJ
Reading, PA
Port Chester, NY

Tanzania, Africa

Los Angeles, CA
San Francisco, CA
Chicago, IL

New York, NY

Los Angeles, CA

New York, NY
Washington, DC

Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Diego, CA

New York, NY

Which came out to:
42,342 miles traveled (3,295 by car, 39,046 by air) across eight states, three countries, two coasts and three continents
72 museum exhibitions
5 Morrissey shows
7 other shows (plus a few we had tickets to and bailed on)

For a travelholic, 2013 proved to be a stellar year, with a bumper crop of trips I hardly expected last year at this time.  Not all of them got airtime on the blog, mainly because they were concert-related without much sightseeing or real enjoyment other than the shows themselves.  But it’s still worth looking back to see where I’ve been and savoring every moment, again.
Our first road trip of the year found us winging our way down to Brooklyn, NY for a Morrissey show at Brooklyn Academy of Music.  We were blessed with just perfect driving weather (indeed, we’d be just as blessed every weekend we drove out of state, which is a near miracle in New England winters!) and made it to Brooklyn to check in and head right out to Brooklyn Museum of Art, which was wonderful.  We’d seen some of its collection in other shows (notably, the Monet exhibition in Paris in 2010) but it’s always nice to revisit old friends.  Morrissey’s Brooklyn show was mentioned by him as one of his best ever, and I’m inclined to agree.  The atmosphere was intimate, he delivered a spectacular performance and it was of course helped by the fact that it was our first time right up against the stage, so it felt like we were the only ones there.

The next day we drove to Atlantic City for the next Morrissey show.  It was a fairly quick drive compared to driving down from Boston, and we were both struck by how ravaged the area still was from the hurricane in October.  After walking the boardwalk – hey, we can say we’ve seen it -- we stayed in Trump’s Taj Mahal, which was a ridiculously obscene cookie-cutter hotel (every floor looked like every other, all 40+ of them) and found that schlepping through casinos humming with slot machines like bumble bees was a necessary evil to get to the House of Blues, where Morrissey put on another great show.  We were eager to escape the casino madness the next day and drove directly home.
The very next weekend, we were back on the road, driving first to Reading, PA for Morrissey yet again.  We enjoyed the weather which was almost spring-like and sunny.  We hit “cow country” and were pretty astounded by a whole lot of flat nothingness the last hour into Reading.  We stayed at what was apparently the only hot spot in Reading (read: it served drinks after the show) as the rest of the town was zipped up tight on a Friday night.  Indeed we found out after the fact that the band themselves stayed there.  This show will go down in history not only for our front row seats, but also for my sister speaking to Morrissey on-stage during the show.  Truly, memories being made in Reading!
The next day we backtracked to Port Chester, NY.  This town right on the NY/CT border was a little more exciting than Reading.  It had plenty of restaurants for post-show rehydration and nutrition.  It also was gloriously warm (nearly 60) so we waited outside the venue in the general admission line with no coats required!  After a tremendous show here, we headed home knowing we had a few more shows in our future in San Fran, Chicago and LA.
Most of February was spent on safari.  I was having near heart failure only 48 hours before we left, when this part of the country was clobbered by a nasty winter blizzard.  Snow drifted so high I couldn’t get out my back door, but I was fortunately on one of the first outgoing international flights as scheduled. 
Safari changed my life.  Safari made me realize how lucky we are in a first world nation, how casually we consume water and throw out perfectly edible food.  Safari made me realize that clouds just hang over expanses, thunderstorms really do approach in a cell with sun on either side, and there is nothing more beautiful than a late night chorus of lions around camp.  Yes, I will do this again.  In fact, I am doing it again.
In a fit of insanity, five days after arriving home from safari at the beginning of March, I got back on a plane for a mere 36 hours in Los Angeles, for yes, another Morrissey show.  We’d hardly landed in the gorgeous warmth of southern California when we popped into the Getty to see its massive collection and Vermeer’s traveling work “The Milkmaid” and then headed to the show (culture shock of the massive Staples Center after the intimacy of our four previous shows) and then slept and turned around to head home!  If I didn’t succumb to massive jetlag then, I never would.  My poor body clock.  This was, however, the first time we rented a car and got a convertible (of course!) and how we loved riding around in the warm sun and just breathing in fresh air after being cooped up all winter.  This would get addicting, as you will see.

A week later, we were jetting across the country yet again, this time to San Francisco.  We had tickets to a Morrissey show which unfortunately was cancelled due to illness.  Somehow we managed to still have a pretty good long weekend there, crossing the Golden Gate bridge on the open upper deck of a bus, seeing the Dutch Masters at the DeYoung Museum and enjoying the sea lions on Fisherman’s Wharf.  Despite making the most of it, I think we both knew we were southern Cali girls.  We heard the concert was rescheduled here for the end of May and planned to return, but when we found out the concert wouldn’t happen, we gladly redirected to LA, again.
Two weeks (and a minor surgical procedure) later, we hopped our way to Chicago, where a concert was to have taken place but was cancelled as a result of the San Francisco illness.  We decided to go anyway, as we’d never seen Chicago and were desperate to get to the Art Institute.  Graham Elliott Bistro was our splurge restaurant of this trip, and it was worth the wait.  As wonderful as the museum and the food was, the memory burned into our minds was of how gosh-darn cold it was, and we are hearty New Englanders!  So while we loved the Bean and AIofC, I think it’ll be a much warmer day before we return.
I finally got the time to catch my breath for about six weeks as I stayed home for most of April.  There was a quick day trip to NYC to see Edvard Munch’s The Scream at MOMA.  We worked in a trip to Laduree for the world’s finest macarons, and headed home, stopping in Port Chester for some of the best vegetable tempura we’ve ever had.
In May we were off to LA for a proper (ie: week-long with time to settle in and get to know the place).  We made a point to book some great meals (Gordon Ramsay’s London hotel for his famous Beef Wellington, Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali’s Osteria Mozza, Gordon Ramsay’s Fat Cow for fabulous short rib!).   We were in WeHo for cinco de mayo, which wasn’t all that exciting…probably should have gone to a Mexican neighborhood instead!  But our museum going and sightseeing was exceptional this time, given all the time we had:  Space Shuttle Endeavor, dead celebrity sightings at two cemetaries, LACMA, Griffith Observatory, Norton Simon museum in Pasadena and a day spent riding the PCH from Redondo Beach up to Malibu.  That was the day we discovered Zuma Beach, which was our grounding spot in LA thereafter.  No where did we feel as home as there, I think probably because we grew up on the Atlantic and feel the ties to the water.  But Zuma is a beach like no other, and one we’d return to again on future trips.
July found us winging our way first to DC for a day to take in the 150th retrospective on Edvard Munch at the National Gallery and the JFK Assassination exhibits at Newseum.  Then it was back down to NYC for a few exhibitions (Hopper at the Whitney) and again with the pit stop at Laduree and Port Chester for our favorite Asian stop.

September turned to October and we were back out in LA for a longer holiday still.  This time we hit other museums we’d not seen (Hammer Museum, Huntington Library) and some we’d seen before (LACMA) while also working in day trips to San Diego and Santa Barbara.  Our best meals (ever, some would say) were at Spago, where we got to meet Wolfgang Puck himself, and were treated to the most wonderful food and service I’ve ever experienced.  The next day we were at Nobu, where we had the most amazing shrimp tempura.  I mean really, this was the stuff of dreams.  Of course there is a lot to be said for lunching on a porch right over the Pacific, watching dolphins and seals and sea birds living their lives in the sun…but the food was just spectacular.  We ended our stay at Rick Bayless’ Red O restaurant, sipping $50 margaritas (and worth every penny) and having some very high end, tasty Mexican food.  We of course stopped at Zuma Beach again to say goodbye, but not for long.  We hope.
November had one more trip to NYC in store, as we went to see Johnny Marr (former Smiths bandmate of Morrissey) play at historic Webster Hall and we caught up with Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring one more time as we saw the Dutch Master’s exhibition on loan at the Frick.  We topped the weekend off with a breakfast at the delectable Norma’s at Le Parker Meridien.  I didn’t think breakfast could be so decadent, but it can…and it was.

So after a year filled like that, I’m anxious to see how, or if, 2014 can measure up.  I thank my sister, who was with me on all but the safari, for the many laughs, lessons learned and life experiences we shared over the many miles.  I hope we continue along this line in 2014!