You’re either on the bus or off the bus. Tom Wolfe

This past Wednesday I was on the bus!  This trip I chose to leave directly from the bus terminal and not rely on the Curbside Pickup service (forever to be known as Curbside Driveby!).   My niece, Judy, who lives in Indiana was spending a week in Connecticut and had a free day to meet up in New York City. Who am I to say no???  We booked a couple tours and kept our fingers crossed for good weather.

I boarded the bus in Wilkes Barre before the sun was up and during the trip I watched the sky turn from violet to red to a beautiful blue.  By the time that oh so familiar skyline came into view, the sun was shining with the promise of a great day ahead.  The bus makes a couple of stops on the way into the city and I always marvel at the number of people who use it for their daily commute.   In addition to the commuters, there are folks like the group of four women who boarded in Scranton, heading in to take advantage of NYC restaurant week.  Then there’s the woman I shared a seat with over a decade ago who was on her way to Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, PA to visit her incarcerated boyfriend.  Along the way she asked to borrow my compact so she could check her makeup before meeting him.  You have to look good for your man.

I met up with my beautiful niece at the lion-guarded New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue for our first tour of the day.  This is something that has long been on my bucket list and I was pumped!  We watched the Visitor’s Film before our guided tour of the three floors of this magnificent Beaux-Arts style building.  This amazing structure filled with marble, soaring arches and incredible artwork did not disappoint.  

The library took ten years to build and opened to the public in 1911. The research collections are unparalleled, including a map collection which includes over 10,000 maps of New York City alone.  Fun fact – During World War II, Allied military intelligence used their map division to research and prepare battle plans.  

After our library tour and a pass through the gift shop, we hot footed it over to the United Nations for our second tour.  Founded in 1945, the four pillars of the United Nations are:

  • Peace and Security
  • Human Rights
  • The Rule of Law
  • Development

Located on a strip of international territory on the east side of the island of Manhattan, this complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since 1952.  The tour was exceptional and I felt humbled in these lofty corridors of international diplomacy and began to better appreciate the work of the UN. 

 I was not aware that in 2015 all the UN Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone everywhere.”  The members hope to meet these goals by 2030.  Progress has been made, but more ambitious action is needed to deliver these goals on time.  To assist us all in helping achieve these goals, they have issued The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.

We walked the city, catching up on family news, until it was time for Judy to head back to Connecticut.  We parted ways at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  She headed downtown and I walked up to Rockefeller Center for people watching and to peruse a couple of shops.  I ended my day in the city by stopping into Morrell Wine Bar overlooking Rockefeller Center for a glass of Sancerre and some delicious French fries.  Then it was back to Port Authority and back on the bus for a quiet ride home, wondering who my next travel companions might be.

C’est la vie.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks…

People who know me well would never describe me as a relaxed, go with the flow person.  I prefer a plan and a schedule.  This past Wednesday I had scheduled a much-anticipated Christmas trip into New York City.  I planned ahead and bought my ticket for the “Curb Side Express” back in November.  This route picks up passengers a short two blocks from our apartment.

Wednesday morning, I arose earlier than usual and was ready and waiting at the appropriate spot five minutes early.  It was a chilly morning, so I was delighted to see my motor coach approaching.  I wasn’t delighted when it drove right past me without stopping!  As a planner, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be at exactly the right time.  I watched to see if he might circle the block to pull up on the side street, but no, to my horror, he was gone!  Frustrated and confused, I called the bus company and kept getting transferred and cut off, so I stomped over to the bus station a few blocks away to tell them my tale of woe.  There I was informed that I was supposed to “wave the bus down”!!!  I tersely –  but politely –  explained that information was nowhere on their site and that I had been at the station previously to check precisely where I should wait for the bus and no one said a word about needing to flag down my ride.

I was put on the next available bus into the city, but that robbed me of the time I would have been there by a few hours.  Needless to say, I had a prepared itinerary for my visit, so the first part of my trip was spent grumpily reviewing my list and deleting some things.  Yet as soon as the New York City skyline came into view, my grumpiness disappeared to be replaced with sweet anticipation of the day’s adventures ahead.

My first stop with the festive Winter Village at Bryant Park located behind the New York City Public Library.   This European inspired open-air market features over 175 vendors offering tasty treats and unique artisanal boutiques, as well as a skating rink that offers the only free skating in the city!  This market always sparks my Christmas spirit.  It seems to have that effect on others too as everyone seemed particularly jolly.  I was charmed by the negotiations between the hot chocolate vendor and the cheese stick folks, trading their wares with each other.  While I didn’t sample the hot chocolate, I can attest to the tastiness of the cheese sticks!

After some time perusing the village, I headed up busy, bustling Fifth Avenue towards Rockefeller Center.  My first glimpse of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree makes my heart happy each and every year.  It is always crowded, but even an introvert like me considers it an absolute must this time of year.  I love every sparkle on this 75-foot masterpiece.

And as always in the city, you never know who you are going to run into.  Although Mr. Smith says the fellow in the photo below is an imposter and insists that he is my personal ole St. Nick!

When I’m in the city for the entire day, I like to plan a break mid-afternoon to revive my energy and decide on how to spend my remaining time.  I received a gift card from my grandsons that has been calling my name, so I had scheduled a couple of spa treatments at The Red Door.  While they may have rebranded and changed their name, the pampering remains delightful and I emerged rejuvenated and eager to press ahead.

On to Bloomingdale’s!  I know that department store shopping is time-inefficient, but it still holds a huge appeal.  Attractive, well-dressed people want to spritz me with perfume, well-groomed folks want to give me a make-over, and one of Santa’s elves in the Christmas section wanted to know if I fancied a visit with Santa!  I am a kid in a candy shop with the vast selection of finery and frippery.  I made a couple of purchases, noted some things to think about, and soaked in the sparkly holiday décor.

It was now time to think about navigating my way back to arrive at the bus station in time to catch my ride back to Pennsylvania.  I walked down picturesque Lexington Avenue and cut up to Fifth Avenue, admiring the shop windows and all the holiday decorations.  This simple window stood out to me amongst all the opulent ones.

My bus connection home went smoothly, we made good time, and I was home sipping a cup of tea with Mr. Smith by 10:30.  Many friends are surprised that I am happy to spend the day on my own in the city.  Without a traveling companion, it is easy to settle into your routine and not venture out.  But a day in the City reminds me it’s a big world – I love hearing the different languages spoken and seeing fashionable New Yorkers.  I also like the sense of accomplishment I get by doing it on my own.  I still remember how I felt over a decade ago on my first solo trip into the City when I was able to easily locate the Sephora where I had an appointment. Over the years, I gotten to know myself better and acknowledge that life can be an adventure if you learn how to flag down the damn bus.

C’est la vie.

A toast to New York!

Happy Sunday to you all.  It’s been a bit crazy here this week, leaving me unfocused as to what to blog about today.  I’m working on some different posts but couldn’t decide what direction to go.  Then I came across this article, A Moet & Chandon Champagne Vending Machine Has Arrived in New Yorkand I was once again in a New York state of mind!  The Stayton Room, a bar at the Lexington Hotel, Autograph Collection in Midtown’s fashionable East Side is now home to this fabulous invention.  

I’ve never stayed there but obtaining the $25 gold coin needed to dispense my drink of choice is now on my “to-do” list.  Pretty sure I’ll choose the Imperial Rose’.  I’ve been aware these vending machines are out there and had hoped to stumble on one.  

This led me to think about other “bucket list” items in New York City.  From Central Park to Battery Park along with all the iconic buildings we recognize from so many films and TV shows, do the attractions live up their hype?  Since some of you mentioned you were thinking about a trip to the City, I thought I would make a list of the top tourist attractions I had visited and give you my thoughts on whether or not they were worth being at the top of your list.  My list quickly grew exponentially, so much to see and do!

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Yes!  Lady Liberty, a gift from our fabulous French friends, stands on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor.  Mr. Smith and I made our way to Battery Park and took a ferry across.  We purchased the self-guided audio tour of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and thought it was worth every penny.

Empire State Building

I would say No. Going up to the top is a lot like being herded through a buffet line at a Vegas hotel, complete with security checks.  It is nothing like you see in the movies.  I have been up top, and the views are marvelous, but these days I prefer the observation deck at the Top of the Rock.  That doesn’t mean I don’t feel a little thrill every time I catch a glimpse of The Empire State Building’s iconic spire while I’m walking the city, especially at night.  I love seeing it lit up, whether in its signature white or another color in honor of various days of celebration or organizations.

Times Square

This is another No for me.  It’s an area I walk through to get to the theater, but not to spend time.  New York is a crowded city, but Times Square is jam-packed!  

Brooklyn Bridge

This is another Yes for me.  Mr. Smith, our oldest son and I walked across the bridge on a very warm fall afternoon.  The views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn side of the bridge are amazing.

Staten Island Ferry

Yes!  You will have stunning views of the Statue of Liberty, Lower Manhattan and Ellis Island.  When going from Manhattan to Staten Island, sitting on the right (starboard) side will give you the best look at Lady Liberty. The ferry has the cheapest beer prices in all Manhattan and the ride is free!  If someone tries to sell you a ticket, it’s a scam.

Rockefeller Center

At Christmas time it can be as crowded as Times Square, but the tree and the skaters make it worth it for me.  I’m sure it has to do with growing up in small town Indiana, longing for the glamour of the big city. But my delights are not everyone’s. Out walking past the skating rink one Christmas morning, Mr. Smith and I watched a mother trying to persuade her young daughter to go skating saying “Everyone wants to skate in Rockefeller Center on Christmas!”  Not that little girl, mom.  She just wanted to be cozy at home in her pajamas opening presents from Santa.  

9/11 Memorial and Museum

This is something I wish everyone could experience.  This tribute of remembrance and honor to the people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 is both beautiful and humbling.  The memorial is free and open from 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. daily. You can pre-order tickets from the museum up to six months in advance.


Some of my favorite are Bryant Park, Washington Square Park, Madison Square Park and the grand dame Central Park.  Mr. Smith and I have devoured a delicious brunch at The Bryant Park Grill overlooking the Bryant Park on a Sunday morning and I always love getting to peruse the Bryant Park Winter Village (open 10/31/19 – 1/5/20) for Christmas gifts.  We had Christmas Eve lunch at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park one year.  It was delightful to sit outside under their patio heaters and dine on a delicious cheeseburger.  And we’ve taken many a delightful walk through Central Park.  Walking through one very cold Christmas morning, we bought hot waffles from a food vendor.  They were delicious!


There are 32 museums in Manhattan alone and we’ve visited many of them.  Museums are a definite Yes for Mr. Smith and me, but we often go our own way according to our interests, meeting up later. My advice would be to do some online research before you go, see what the current exhibits are, and put at least one museum on your NYC list.

Once I started making a list of things to see or do in NYC, it just took on a life of its own.  We love The High Line, Grand Central Station, Blue Note Jazz Club, Chelsea Market, The Cloisters, Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall and on and on.  It’s a very walkable city, laid out in a grid that even the directionally challenged (me!) can negotiate.  And yes, it’s noisy, gritty and crowded, but I love New York!

Thanks for reading and thanks very much for all your kind condolences on the loss of my mother-in-law. 

C’est la vie.

In a New York minute…

I’m not a morning person, but when Mr. Smith nudged me last Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. and said “hey, you’re the one who wanted to get into the city early”, I popped right up and headed for the shower. By 8:00 a.m., Mr Smith, Jeanne and I were headed into the Big Apple.

We had a crisp, clear, sunny fall day and a smooth drive in. Then we hit Midtown. Traffic that morning gave new meaning to gridlock and on top of that the street in front of our hotel was closed for a street fair. With my (unsolicited/unwanted) backseat driving, Mr. Smith persevered and we finally arrived at our hotel.

We had 2:00 p.m. theater tickets so after checking our luggage, we hailed a cab and headed out to grab some lunch at Chez Josephine, a lovely quirky little place on 42nd Street, started by Jean-Claude Baker, son of the eponymous Josephine Baker. Our taxi ride took FOREVER due to all the traffic so we were a bit rushed and didn’t get to truly appreciate the restaurant and it is on the list for a return visit.

After our rushed lunch, we walked over to the Shubert Theater for the 2:00 p.m. matinee of To Kill A Mocking Bird. Based on the 1960 novel of the same name by Harper Lee, it was adapted for the stage by Aaron Sorkin. I’ve read the book and I’ve seen the movie but neither of those moved me like the play. Mr. Sorkin did a brilliant job, including giving new meaning to the words All Rise. Mr. Smith shared that he had always thought All Rise was simply a nod of respect to the judge. Instead, the words are elevated to a higher meaning, making “All Rise” a call for decency and compassion.

The ceiling of the history ShubertTheater.

After the play, we headed over to The Algonquin for a drink. The Algonquin is Midtown’s oldest hotel and was a gathering place for writers in the Roaring 20s. It was designated as a National Literary Landmark by the Friends of Libraries USA in 1996. While sipping my delicious Cosmopolitan, I did my best to channel some of that extraordinary writing talent that used to lunch there daily.

After our cocktail, we continued our walk back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. This posted sign caught my attention as I am a Madame Secretary fan. And it reminded me of being in the city years ago with Mr. Smith and our friends the Pillers. On our last morning there, Mr. Smith headed out for a business meeting and Bob, LouAnne and I headed out to Rockefeller Center to check out the Today show that morning. We walked out of the Waldorf there were large towers of lights set up and several official looking folk with clipboards running around. One of the clipboard commandoes asked “Are you with the TV pilot?” In our trustworthy midwestern way, we said “No” and were quickly asked to leave the area. Later we decided that should that happen again we would answer “Yes” and ask where the food truck was located. We may have missed our 60 seconds of fame.

We returned to the hotel and freshened up for dinner, before heading to DeGrazia Restaurant for a delicious dinner. We toasted Jeanne’s 77 years on planet earth.

Happy birthday eve, Jeanne.

Jeanne’s one birthday request was Sunday brunch at Tavern On The Green. She had fond memories of taking her sons there many years ago. Mr. Smith and I had never been there so we were more than happy to accommodate her request. As former residents of Ithaca, NY in the Finger Lakes Area, we were delighted to see Konstantine Frank’s Sparkling Riesling on their wine list. We had a delightful meal – I had avocado poached eggs. Jeanne had steak and eggs, Mr. Smith had Eggs Benedict but saved room for a delightful dessert of cheesecake.

He did let me have one (very) little bite.
My sister took a picture of me taking a picture of Tavern on the Green.

After brunch, we walked through Central Park, heading to the New York Historical Society to see the exhibit LIFE: Six Women Photographers. From the early 1930s through the 1970s, LIFE Magazine retained a few women photographers who played an important role in creating modern photojournalism.

All too soon it was time to head home but we all felt energized by our time in the city that never sleeps. A fall weekend in the city is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Grab your favorite sweater and stroll the streets. Ride the subway and explore the different sections. And if you have the chance to go see To Kill A Mockingbird, do it. It’s worth every penny. Here are a few of my tips to help you with your own trip.

  1. Bring lots of small bills – $1s and $5s for tipping. All the service employees rely on these tips. The doorman, the bellhops and porters. In the bustle of packing up when we’re leaving, I am sometimes guilty of forgetting to leave a tip for housekeeping and really, where would we be without housekeeping. So you don’t make my faux pas, here’s A Guide to Tipping in NYC.
  2. Allow plenty of time to get where you’re going. Remember that walking is sometimes faster than a taxi – who wants to watch the meter climb as you sit in gridlock?
  3. Wear comfortable shoes. These don’t have to be big, ugly, white sneakers. There is a plethora of attractive, comfortable shoes if you take time to hunt them down. I have spent much time in the city watching women – young and old – shifting from one foot to the other, trying to find a bit of comfort.
  4. If you walk out of your hotel and into a filming, just go with it and act like you belong there.
  5. Don’t give your spouse unsolicited driving advice. They don’t want it and don’t need it. At least that’s what Mr. Smith’s says.

C’est la vie.

I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say “There’s no place like New York.” Robert DeNiro

The Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, Gotham. However you refer to it, it’s my favorite city in the world. It’s like a gift I get to open each and every visit. You never know what you’re going to discover. One of the best things about living in Wilkes Barre is its close proximity to New York City.

When Mr. Smith moved to Wilkes Barre for the first time in 2007, he discovered Isabella’s, a lovely restaurant/bar on his route from work to home. When I joined him in 2008, we were frequent customers, getting to know the staff and owner. In fact, it was the owner who told me about the “Shopper’s Special” bus I could take into NYC. My $30 ticket would whisk me in to the city in the morning and deliver back that night. I was suddenly a much happier citizen of Pennsylvania!

And now my sister Jeanne is here visiting from Michigan. I picked her up at the Scranton/Wilkes Barre International Airport on Thursday and we stopped at Isabella’s for lunch on our way home. There sitting at the bar was the owner! He waived at me but as I’ve been away for five years, I asked if he remembered me. He very smoothly replied “Your face is familiar.” I reintroduced myself and reminded him he was the one who turned me onto the convenient Shopper’s Special.

Even better than the Shopper’s Special, is the Mr. Smith Express. Yesterday Mr. Smith drove Jeanne and me into the city for the night. We are celebrating her birthday! Although we have a couple of things planned, we are always open to the unexpected.

As we eat and drink our way through New York, I’m grateful that the treasures of the city are close enough for an exciting weekend. Next Sunday’s post of New York pics and tips will hopefully tempt you to plan your own adventure.

C’est la vie.


Serendipity, it’s one of my favorite words. It’s such a nice sound for what it means: a fortunate accident.

Sara thomas, serendipity

The impetus for our latest trip to New York City was for me to attend a Blog Writing seminar at Gotham Writers.  I had been looking for a class on my new favorite endeavor for a while when I stumbled onto this workshop. This particular class at Gotham Writers was also offered in July and I did wonder if I should wait until we had our move to Pennsylvania behind us.  Another reason I hesitated before entering my credit card information was that I have attended workshops in the past that left me thinking, “Are you kidding, I paid for this???”  Despite the misgivings, Mr. Smith and I decided a trip to New York City was worth it no matter how the workshop turned out, so I hit the “Enroll” button and we started making plans for our weekend.  We drove into the city on Friday afternoon through rain and snow but were greeted by the sun on Saturday morning. The walk through midtown Manhattan to my class in the Paramount Building on Broadway required sunglasses. When I entered the classroom that sunny, crisp morning, the above quote was stenciled on the wall. I hoped it was a sign.

The view from our classroom on the 11th floor of the historic Paramount Building.

My instructor was stimulating and professional. The other participants were a fascinating and delightful cross-section of women of all different ages and interests.  We discussed concept, content, knowing your audience and much, much more.  The seven hours flew by.  It did feel a bit serendipitous that after months of procrastination on signing up for anything, I had landed with this group.  If I had waited until July, I wouldn’t have met Becky who writes a blog for military families focused on the challenges to the family of the frequent relocations or Elizabeth who writes a blog on China Law and Policy from a perspective other than old white male.  And we are all eagerly awaiting Patricia’s post on the difference between parmigiana cheese and its very distant cousin parmesan. 

I think of myself as a pragmatic person. Merriam Webster defines pragmatic as: Relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters: practical as opposed to idealistic.  Why would a pragmatic person read a movie quote stenciled on a wall and hope it was a sign?  I’m toying with the thought that perhaps the “sign” to me that day was that I have reached the point in life where I don’t need to be so damn practical and can be more open to the fortunate accidents that life presents.  I can follow my fancy a bit more and not worry that I’m not “accomplishing” something.  

Do you believe in Serendipity?  American novelist, Elizabeth Berg, wrote in The Year of Pleasures, “Sometimes serendipity is just intention unmasked.” Could it be that once we find our intention and follow it, all sorts of possibilities will appear?  

C’est la vie.