Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New York, New York

We wanted to make a trip to New York and the Columbus Day weekend made for a good opportunity. The cheapest way to get to NYC is by riding one of the many buses that run from Chinatown in DC to Chinatown in Manhattan. These buses started out several years ago mainly to transport Chinese immigrants between cities on the East Coast, but now everyone uses them and they have pretty good reputations...other than the stories about them being run by the Chinese mob.

We stayed with our friends, Karen and Steve, so that allowed us to spend money on more fun things. We ate at the best Greek restaurant we've ever found, including when I lived in Greece. It's called Pylos and we highly recommend it if you're ever craving Greek food and are in the East Village.

We also did a pizza comparison test between two New York institutions - Lombardi's and Grimaldi's. We'd eaten at Lombardi's on previous trips since it's in Little Italy. Grimaldi's is a little harder to get to since it's under the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn, but a friend highly recommended it. Lombardi's is really good, but Grimaldi's wins hands down!

On our last night, we saw Next to Normal and had great seats in the third row. It was a great show with really catchy music that I enjoyed more than the previous musicals we'd seen.

We hadn't planned to see any tourist sites, but we decided to go to the top of Rockefeller Center and the Museum of Modern Art on a whim. We had amazing weather and the views were great. I really enjoyed some of the pre-1940s stuff at the MoMA, but I guess we really just don't get modern art. The newer stuff was just weird.

Oh yeah, and while we were eating a giant sandwich from Carnegie Deli in Rockefeller Plaza, we saw the guy who plays Kenneth from 30 Rock walk right in front of us. Hillary waved to him and he hesitated to try and decide if he knew us...then he smiled and kept walking.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Home Leave

One nice thing about the Foreign Service is that they give you an amount of "Home Leave" in between assignments. We had almost 6 weeks off to spend with family and friends in Texas. It's surprising in a way that the government will allow us this much vacation time, but it is needed after being so far away for two years. (They also want to make sure you get "reacquainted" with the US after living abroad).

On our way back to Texas from Indonesia, we stayed with our friend Ellen for a few nights in San Francisco. We did another wine country trip while we were there, which was absolutely gorgeous after leaving Jakarta's polluted skies. While we only made it to Austin for about a day and a half, we got to see my relatives in Michigan and make a trip to Vegas during our home leave. My aunt and uncle live on a lake near Grand Rapids, and we were able to rent a cottage next door while we were there. It was great to relax, spend time on the lake, and see all of my relatives we hadn't seen in awhile. My sister Brooke had never been to Vegas, so along with our friends Eric and Ashley we showed her a great time in Sin City.

We had a lot of fun being back in Texas and seeing a lot of people, but after a month or so we were ready to get back into a routine. That routine now is full-time Portuguese language training here in DC. We will definitely write more about how our language classes are going, but meanwhile here are some pictures from our home leave.

John and Ellen tasting some vinho

My mom and two of my cousins during fireworks

In Vegas with Eric and Ashley

On our way to Cirque du Soleil's "O"