My 1st full day in Easton, PA, a walk to NJ and back to PA

This past weekend, I spent my first full day in Easton, PA. Although, I’d driven through Easton hundreds of times over the past 19 years, I never spent a full day exploring on foot.

This past weekend, I spent my first full day in Easton, PA. Although, I’d driven through Easton hundreds of times over the past 19 years, I never spent a full day exploring on foot. Known to many as the birthplace of former boxing heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes and home of the Crayola Factory, Easton lies on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. The Lehigh River meets the Delaware River just south of the Northampton Street Bridge, which connects Easton with Phillipsburg, New Jersey at no charge to motorists.

Northampton Street Bridge
Northampton Street Bridge

Since I was coming from neighboring Bethlehem, I started by visiting the National Canal Museum inside of Hugh Moore Park. A $12 ticket gets you a 45-minute mule-driven canal boat ride as well as admission to the museum. I started with the boat ride, which went at an amazingly slow speed of 2 miles per hour. During the ride, you get a history lesson and some nice photo ops.

Hugh Moore Park
Hugh Moore Park
Josiah White Canal Boat
Josiah White Canal Boat
Lehigh Canal Lock House 8
Lehigh Canal Lock House 8
Lehigh River waterfall
Lehigh River waterfall

The museum is housed inside of a 14,000 square foot, two-story brick building. I spent less than 30 minutes inside and found the boat ride to be more interesting. Inside the museum, there are exhibits on the history of the canal, which are good for children as well as adults.

Canal Museum
Canal Museum
leaving Hugh Moore Park
leaving Hugh Moore Park

From there, I drove to the Sigal Museum, near Centre Square. I parked behind the museum and stopped at Bank Street Creamery, where I had some raspberry sorbet. In the alleyway (Bank Street), I had a couple of nice photo ops before entering the museum.

bicycle parking on Bank Street
bicycle parking on Bank Street

The Sigal Museum is one of four museums operated by the Northampton County Historical & Geological Society. They were offering free admission and I spent more than 30 minutes exploring. Their exhibits on the Lenape people were the most interesting. Downstairs there was an exhibit about Just Born Quality Confections (Peeps, Mike & Ike, Hot Tamales, etc.), which is located in neighboring Bethlehem.

murals on Bank Street
murals on Bank Street

From the museum, I walked through Centre Square, then followed Northampton Street to Riverside Park. There were excellent photo ops all along the way. I walked northbound through Riverside Park to the Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge. Earlier this year, I walked from New Jersey to New York and back to New Jersey (via the George Washington Bridge). This time I walked from PA to NJ and back to PA, using a different bridge each time.

Centre Square
Centre Square
Northampton Street Bridge
Northampton Street Bridge
Lehigh River
Lehigh River
Lehigh River
Lehigh River

Once I crossed the bridge into Phillipsburg, it was very unexciting and a tedious process to get to the Northampton Street Bridge, which would take me back into Easton. The 560 foot Northampton Street Bridge (known to locals as the “free bridge”) is shorter than the (1,020 foot) Easton-Phillipsburg Bridge and much more aesthetically pleasing.

Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge
Easton-Phillipsburg Toll Bridge

After a long day of walking, I stopped at El Chasqui Peruvian & Colombian Restaurant. This is a nice family-owned place, which will likely be your only meal of the day. The food is excellent (Peruvian is my favorite American food) and filling. I cannot imagine eating this food every day, but the one or two times I eat Peruvian food every month, I really enjoy it. This was no exception. I ordered the Parihuela (Peruvian Seafood Soup) along with Ceviche Peruano and ended up taking some of each home.

after crossing the Northampton Street Bridge
after crossing the Northampton Street Bridge
State Center for the Arts
State Center for the Arts

When I got home, I booked my next trip to a foreign country……………………..

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My 1st NYC food & neighborhoods tour

This past Sunday was my first bus tour. A friend helped me reserve and nearly fill the 36 passenger bus. I designed the tour (and flyer). To say the least, it was an interesting experience and filled with surprises.

This past Sunday was my first bus tour. A friend helped me reserve and nearly fill the 36 passenger bus. I designed the tour (and flyer). To say the least, it was an interesting experience and filled with surprises.

the tour guide entering the bus
the tour guide entering the bus

Bronx & Queens

I put my flyers in over 10 restaurants and grocery stores in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Around 100 of them were taken, but only 1 place brought me any passengers. I didn’t get a single phone call or email from any of the other places. I started passing out the flyers at the end of July with a payment deadline of September 1. When that date came, I had less than 10 confirmed passengers for a 36 seat bus. I was extremely discouraged, but instead of canceling the trip and refunding the few people who paid me, I decided to print new flyers with no payment deadline. The tour date was September 27 and around Labor Day weekend, the seats started filling up. It took until the week before the trip to finally reach 30 passengers.

When the day came, I was a bit nervous, but excited (in a good way). Although the tour company told me if would take four hours to get from Bethlehem to the Bronx, it took less than two. When we got to the first stop (Arthur Avenue in the Bronx’s Little Italy), I forgot how much more quiet it is on a Sunday. A few places were closed and I thought that some people would be disappointed. As our group of nearly 30 started walking along Arthur Avenue, people quickly disappeared into various shops. After 10 minutes, only a dozen people were still following me.

Brian in Bronx - Chris
Arthur Avenue

We walked northeast on Arthur Avenue towards 187th Street, where Alexandra Maruri from Bronx Historical Tours was there to greet us. I had arranged for her to meet us earlier in the month. After introducing herself, she walked my group of around 12 southeast on 187th Street towards Crescent Ave. My two favorite pastry shops in NYC are Veniero’s in Manhattan’s East Village and Artuso’s in the Bronx’s Little Italy. Artuso’s was our next stop and we spent around 30 minutes in there. I ordered two slices of my favorite (tied with Evelyn’s Kitchen in Manhattan’s East Harlem) red velvet cake and just watched everyone enjoying themselves. We were there just days after Pope Francis made his first visit to NYC. Artuso’s made “Pope Cakes” for him. When Alexandra showed Joseph Artuso the size of our group, he came out and gave us all sample cream puffs.

inside of Artuso's
inside of Artuso’s
Joseph Artuso handing out cream puffs 9-27-2015 Alex iPhone
Joseph Artuso handing out cream puffs to the people on my tour

My Uncle and his wife had lunch at San Gennaro on Arthur Avenue (Gennaro was the name of my maternal Grandfather). Others ate as soon as we exited the bus. Half of the group had lunch with me at Antonio’s Trattoria on the corner of Belmont and Crescent Avenues. Earlier this year, I ate there with a friend around her birthday and Joe came to our table sang to her. There was a birthday girl in our group and Joe remembered me from the last time and was nice enough to come and sing Happy Birthday.

Joe singing to the birthday girl
Joe singing to the birthday girl
looking over the menu at Antonio's
looking over the menu at Antonio’s

Our next destination was 31st Street near the northern end of the NQ subway lines in the Astoria section of (northwest) Queens. Some of my group shopped for Greek specialties at Titan Foods, which claims to be the largest Greek specialty store in the United States. The rest of us walked the half-mile to Artopolis Bakery on the other side of Interstate 278 (Brooklyn-Queens expressway). Since I love French macarons and they are more difficult to find outside of Manhattan, I bought four and quickly walked back to Titan Foods to buy octopus and seafood salad. I encouraged everyone to bring coolers since we would be shopping in three different ethnic neighborhoods.

Only one person on the bus had ever been to the Bronx’s Little Italy before. The same guy (and only one other friend of mine on the tour) had been to Astoria before this trip. Nobody else had been to Corona before. Our next destination was the Lemon Ice King of Corona. This is the place you can see at the opening segment of the King of Queens TV show. I never saw a full episode but I’ve seen the opening segment. A few people tried more than one flavor but I managed to buy four small cups. They do not mix flavors, so I always prefer to buy different small ones until I’ve had enough.

Lemon Ice King of Corona - Jenny

Our next (and final) destination was Flushing. Everyone on my tour was American-born except for one German-born woman who I never met before the trip and my Chinese-Malay friend who helped me reserve and nearly fill the bus. We had a dinner reservation for 20 people at Szechuan Gourmet. We got 2 different tables with spinning sections in the middle which makes it easier for everyone to share food. Szechuan Gourmet is known for spicy food, which I cannot eat. I managed to find an entrée which was not spicy, but we ended up being in there for two hours. Experiences like this are so much better when you have a Chinese friend with you. This was no exception as she helped everyone navigate the menu.

I really enjoy the food court at the New World Mall (intersection of Roosevelt Ave. & Main Street in Flushing). I suggested that anyone who was not joining us at Szechuan Gourmet should try the food court there. Nobody ended up doing that, but two other groups of people tried different restaurants and they each enjoyed them.

Like the ride from Bethlehem to NYC, the ride back to Bethlehem went fast. Many people slept, but I was not even tired. My adrenaline was rushing all day. I didn’t eat as much as I normally would because I was (sort of) working. Like I often do, I thought we would need less time at the stops than we actually did. We ran behind schedule all day and with the exception of the ride between Corona and Flushing, traffic was not to blame. The average person just moves slower than I do and no more than two people had ever been to any of the places we visited. Only my Chinese friend had been to Flushing prior to this trip.

It seemed like one minute we were crossing the Whitestone Bridge and the next minute we were at the Bethlehem exit off Interstate 78. I tried to give people as many historical facts as possible. The microphone in the bus was not working properly, so I just went in the middle of the bus and spoke as loud as possible. Although I didn’t make much money on my first trip, it was an excellent learning experience and I got an unexpected applause (and tip) at the end. I handed out a survey on the way back. Everyone wanted more time in the Bronx’s Little Italy, they had mixed feelings about Astoria. I was the one who enjoyed the Lemon Ice King of Corona the most and they had very mixed feelings about Flushing.

My favorite American food!

Thai is my favorite Asian food, Italian is my favorite European food and Peruvian is my favorite American food.

Ceviche Mixto
Thai is my favorite Asian food, Italian is my favorite European food and Peruvian is my favorite American food. When I visited Santiago de Chile in November 2008, there were a lot of new Peruvian restaurants opening up. If I go to South America again, it will likely be to visit Peru. Fortunately, there are now 4 Peruvian restaurants in eastern PA. Here is the Facebook page for the one I visit most frequently.

This time, I’m not in charge!

I’m usually the one making all the plans and this weekend was the total opposite. I was following someone else’s plan. It was not better or worse, just totally different. Like Indian restaurants, I have a nice time when someone takes me, but I would not likely go for Dim Sum by myself.

Earlier this month, I was invited to go to NYC on an overnight trip for a friend’s birthday. I’m used to being in charge, but this time, we followed her itinerary. We rode from the Sand Casino in Bethlehem, PA to Chinatown, Manhattan in a limo and I only knew my friend and her employee. The ride went extremely quick and before I knew it, we were passing the Newport Mall, where I normally park my car and get the PATH train into Manhattan. I hadn’t driven under the Holland Tunnel in years and the last couple times I did, I could have gotten through the tunnel faster on foot. This time was different. Before too long, we were at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant in Chinatown. 
 
 
All I knew about Dim Sum was that it was Chinese snacks/appetizers. Although I skipped the chicken feet, pork dishes and anything spicy, I really enjoyed it. I was enjoying not having to come up with a plan. I was VERY full by the time we got the bill. I was expecting my friend to ask me for $40 or $50, but she said “$14 please” and at first I thought it was a joke. We were in probably the most expensive city in America and I had a pretty amazing lunch for $14! This trip was off to a good start.
 
Since my friend runs bus trips into Chinatown from Bethlehem, PA a couple times every year, she knows the area. We went on a bit of a walking tour and she did some shopping. Hey, this is what I do when I’m showing people around………..”hey I need to go get some of this, some of that!”
 
 
Since none of us could eat anymore, everyone wanted to shop. I couldn’t eat anymore, so with my hour of free time, I walked to the Lower East Side and got some macarons from Bisous Ciao. One box for me, one for my friend’s birthday. If I had to choose 1 favorite macaron, it’s the salted caramel from Bisous Ciao.
 
My next destination was the East Village, which is probably my favorite neighborhood since my cousin in law gave me a walking tour last year. Macaron Parlour was my destination. I got a box for me and a box for the birthday girl (lady).
 
I had to walk quickly back to Little Italy, where everyone had to meet the limo to take us up to Harlem. There were a total of 8 people in the limo and I was the only one familiar with Harlem. My friend wanted to have dinner at a “soul food” restaurant and her friend suggested Amy Ruth’s
 
Although it was not my birthday and the only thing anyone wanted my help with was the subway, I insisted that if they are going to visit Harlem, they have to at least see one historical site. Nobody disagreed and we ended up spending a couple hours at the Apollo Theater.
 
Michael Kimmel was there signing books and I ended up leaving with a signed copy of Angry White Men. The Women of the World Festival was also wrapping up there and we watched Michelle Williams speak about depression. It was a very moving speech from someone I knew very little about.
 
After dinner at Amy Ruth’s, we took the 2 train to Penn Station and walked to our hotels in Chelsea.
 
The next morning, my friends wanted to go to Bleecker Street. I made different plans to meet my cousin at Norma’s inside the Le Parker Meriden hotel. I never heard of this place, but my cousin (who I rarely see, but appreciates some of the same things I do) lives nearby and wanted to meet there. 
 
I had some TIME TO KILL (that’s a Deep Purple song) before meeting my cousin and I had not been to Astoria in a while. I boarded the N train and took it out to 30 Av. I picked up some of my favorite seafood salad at Titan Foods and then got some baklava at Artopolis bakery. With the little bit of extra time I have, I walked up to Ditmars Blvd and made a left towards Astoria Park. After walking around a bit and taking some pictures, I needed to get the train back to Manhattan. Feeling too tired to walk to the Astoria-Ditmars stop, I got on the Q69 bus.

 

 

 
After brunch with my cousin, I met up with my friends at Port Authority. Although it was not my birthday, my friend got me a box of Royce Chocolates, while they were on Bleecker Street. We took a bus back to the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA. As I was explaining to my cousin over a $27 crepe at  Norma’s, I’m usually the one making all the plans and this weekend was the total opposite. With the exception of my trips to the East Village and Astoria, I was following someone else’s plan. It was not better or worse, just totally different. Like Indian restaurants, I have a nice time when someone takes me, but I would not likely go for Dim Sum by myself.