My 1st time exploring Long Island City on foot

This past weekend, I walked around Long Island City for the first time. The reason for my visit was Gantry Plaza State Park, but I ended up having one of the best Italian dinners of my life.

This past weekend, I walked around Long Island City for the first time. The reason for my visit was Gantry Plaza State Park, but I ended up having one of the best Italian dinners of my life.

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famous “LONG ISLAND” sign at Gantry Plaza State Park

Like usual, my day started by driving to the Newport Centre Mall, parking my car and catching the PATH train into Manhattan. Like I typically do, I got out at Christopher Street to take an obligatory stroll along Bleecker Street. Since I had not been there in more than one month, Royce Chocolate and Bisous Ciao were obligatory visits. At Royce, I bought my usual Champagne and Au Lait. At Bisous Ciao, they had the best selection I had ever seen in my dozens of visits since 2014. I bought a box of 12.

From there, I walked to Jacques Torres Chocolates (SoHo location), where I bought a box of 12 chocolates. Although I’d walked past the NoHo location before, I never bought anything because it was around 90 degrees outside and I had a full day of walking ahead of me.

I typically don’t eat Thai food in NYC because there are so many good places in Pennsylvania, but my friend that was traveling with insisted that we try a Thai place (with a five star rating on Yelp). Since our plan was to catch the F train from W 4 St-Wash Sq station, we found a place off of West 3rd Street with a four star rating on Yelp. Khao Thai Kitchen opened recently near NYU. They offer 1 free Thai Iced Tea or Ice Coffee if you check in on Yelp. My friend and I shared a mango salad with shrimp as well as a seafood paradise. It was just enough to hold us over until dinner time since we didn’t have lunch until after 2:00.

As we walked towards the W 4 St station we came across Kulu Desserts on West 3rd Street. It looked somewhat interesting to me, and my friend insisted we stop. I got the mango Pomelo and my friend got the Mixed Fruit with Glass Jelly. I’d recommend trying Kulu. They also have a location in Flushing as well as one between Sunset Park and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, just steps away from the 8 St N train stop.

We finally boarded the F train to 42 St and then took the 7 to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av. I read about Gantry Plaza State Park on Time Out New York’s web site and had been interested ever since. I wanted to go last month, but ended up visiting Brooklyn instead.

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famous “PEPSI-COLA” sign at Gantry Plaza State Park

We walked west on 50th Ave., which leads right into the park. It was a challenge to put my camera down. Amazing shots of Roosevelt Island, Midtown Manhattan, as well as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge were at every turn. We walked north to the 11th Street Basin and then took 46th Street east back to Vernon Blvd. I’d been hearing about the Long Island City Flea & Food for a while. Unfortunately, it was closing by the time we walked past it. Another example of going to see one thing, but stumbling upon another. Since I love going to Corona and Flushing, I will definitely check out the LIC Flea & Food next time I go in that direction.

Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge
Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge
facing Midtown Manhattan from Gantry Plaza State Park
facing Midtown Manhattan from Gantry Plaza State Park
United Nations from Gantry Plaza State Park
United Nations from Gantry Plaza State Park
Midtown Manhattan from underneath the iconic
Midtown Manhattan from underneath the iconic “LONG ISLAND” sign in Gantry Plaza State Park
looking out at Midtown Manhattan from the bushes of Gantry Plaza State Park
looking out at Midtown Manhattan from the bushes of Gantry Plaza State Park
Midtown Manhattan from the 11th Street Basin in Long Island City
Midtown Manhattan from the 11th Street Basin in Long Island City
Gantry Plaza State Park
Gantry Plaza State Park

Tall Building in LIC

Long Island City
Long Island City

Since my friend chose our lunch spot, I was in charge of our dinner plans. My understanding of Long Island City is that it’s an up and coming area, but I never associated it with a specific ethnic food or group. However, as we walked along Vernon Blvd, the Italian places kept looking better. After passing a couple, I decided we should forget about my idea to take the F train to 23rd St and eat at the nearby Grimaldi’s and instead try a place in LIC. I chose Testaccio between 47th Road and 48th Ave. Our server was from Italy, which is always a good sign. We shared a Carpaccio Di Manzo, Gnocchi alla Sorrentina as well as a mushroom risotto with truffle oil, which was one of their specials. This place was as good as any Italian restaurant I can remember (not including places I only visit for pizza). It reminded me of a place I ate at two nights in a row in Florence back in 2006. Between this restaurant and the LIC Flea & Food, I definitely have a reason to come back to this neighborhood.

Long Island City at night
Long Island City at night

After dinner, we took the 7 to the F to 23rd St to get the PATH back to Jersey City. Well, before we could do that, I had to stop at La Maison du Macaron. Like Bisous Ciao, they had the best selection I’d ever seen there. I love anything with pumpkin and macaron shopping is always great in the fall because most macaron shops offer chestnut and pumpkin inspired flavors.

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Exploring the city that gave the world Little League Baseball

It was a great day exploring the city that gave us Little League Baseball and in the last half of the 19th century claimed more millionaires per-capita than any other American city.

In the last half of the 19th century, Williamsport, Pennsylvania claimed more millionaires than any other American city. With a population of just under 30,000, there is no city of similar size within an hour drive. There’s one small airport, which only offers commercial flights to one city (Philadelphia). The Susquehanna River divides Williamsport and South Williamsport. Although most of the tourist attractions are located in the city of Williamsport, the most famous institution associated with the area is located in South Williamsport.

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Just south of South Williamsport on Route 15 (north)
Just south of South Williamsport on Route 15 (north)

Many people will be approaching Williamsport from Interstate 80. Since I live east of Williamsport, I take I-80 to either I-180 West or Route 15 North whenever I visit. My first stop on my most recent visit was the World of Little League Museum. This is an ideal place to start for anyone coming from the south.

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Every year, greater Williamsport gets flooded with baseball fans attending the annual Little League World Series. Williamsport claims to be the birthplace of Little League Baseball. The museum has ample parking right on Route 15 North. General admission is $5, but there is no charge to view the grounds behind the museum.

Howard J. Lamade Stadium
Howard J. Lamade Stadium

I started by driving around the grounds behind the museum, which include the 40,000-seat Howard J. Lamade Stadium as well as Little League Volunteer Stadium. Every year, Lamade Stadium hosts the Little League World Series. If you visit any other time, it’s hard to imagine the madness that surrounds the event every year as more people attend than live in the city of Williamsport.

scoreboard at Lamade Stadium
scoreboard at Lamade Stadium

After touring the grounds and taking some pictures, I visited the World of Little League Museum. Your tour will start with a brief orientation video. Once inside the actual museum, highlights include a timeline about Little League and the World Series as well as uniforms spanning the past 75 years. I spent around 30 minutes looking around before crossing the river and heading into Williamsport.

crossing the Susquehanna River
crossing the Susquehanna River

For lunch, I headed to Pine Square and ate at The Stonehouse Wood Fired Pizza & Pasteria. I had a classic margarita pizza as well as the grilled calamari. On the next block of Pine Street is Le Chocolat, which has excellent truffles. Owned by Bernie and Bonnie Katz for more than 20 years, I consider this to be a must-visit place for chocolate lovers visiting Williamsport.

margarita pizza at the Stonehouse
margarita pizza at the Stonehouse
grilled calamari at the Stonehouse
grilled calamari at the Stonehouse
inspirational banner on Pine Street
inspirational banner on Pine Street
old City Hall
old City Hall

After getting a box of chocolates to take home, I drove west on 4th Street. I first stopped to take pictures of the murals across from the historic Genetti Hotel, then drove through Millionaire’s Row (4th Street), then on to the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum. Inside, there’s a slide show on the history of transportation in Lycoming County (Pennsylvania’s largest) as well as information on the area’s role in the underground railroad. Out back there’s a Pullman Parlor rail car, which the museum claims to be one of only two remaining in the United States. Visitors can go inside.

Genetti Hotel

murals across from the historic Genetti Hotel
murals across from the historic Genetti Hotel
Millionaires Row
Millionaires Row

Just steps away is the Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society. This was my next destination. The Taber museum has exhibits on Lycoming County’s Native Americans, lumber industry and contribution to the armed forces. There are also period rooms which take the visitor back to the times of British colonialism and up to the present. Downstairs, there’s a toy train exhibition, which contains over 300 toy trains as well as two working layouts. The other basement room is dedicated to farming crafts and industry.

Taber Museum
outside of the Taber Museum
art at the Taber Museum
art at the Taber Museum

Many visitors to Williamsport take a Hiawatha Riverboat Cruise. They run May to October and cost $8.50. Although it’s by far the most “touristy” thing I ever did in Williamsport, I’m glad I experienced it. I found Susquehanna State Park (where the boat docks) to be more exciting as it provided for some excellent photo ops. The cruise itself is narrated and I’m pretty sure I was one of three people under 60 years old on the boat.

entrance to Susquehanna State Park
entrance to Susquehanna State Park

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bridge crossing the Susquehanna River
bridge crossing the Susquehanna River

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Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat
shot from the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat
shot from the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat

After visiting three museums, I decided to visit the “birthplace of Little League Baseball,” which is located across from historic Bowman Field (now Susquehanna Bank Park). Besides looking at plaques and watching some people play baseball, there’s not much else to do at the site, besides take some pictures and say “I was there.” Bowman Field is home to the Williamsport Crosscutters, which are one of the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league teams. It’s also the second oldest minor league ballpark in the United States.

historic Bowman Field (now Susquehanna Bank Park)
historic Bowman Field (now Susquehanna Bank Park)
plaque honoring Carl E Stotz
plaque honoring Carl E Stotz
Carl E Stotz Field (
Carl E Stotz Field (“birthplace of Little League Baseball”)

birthplace of Little League

After a full day of sightseeing, I was hungry for my favorite type of Asian food. From the park, I drove downtown to the only Thai restaurant in Williamsport. Joy Thai is located at 17 West 4th Street. For such a small city, parking can be a real challenge in the downtown area. There is street parking as well as municipal lots, both of which fill up fast. I know how big Pad Thai dishes can be, so I resisted the temptation to try appetizers and ordered the Seafood Pad Thai.

inspirational banner on Court Street
inspirational banner on Court Street
Seafood Pad Thai at Joy Thai
Seafood Pad Thai at Joy Thai

After dinner, I was in the mood to do some walking, so I headed to Pine Square and got some ice cream at Sprinkled Sweet. From there, as the sun set, I headed east to Market Street and walked across the Carl E. Stotz Memorial Little League Bridge (Route 15) bridge to South Williamsport and then back to my car near old City Hall. It was a great day exploring the city that gave us the organization which kept me occupied from age 9 to 12.

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walking from Williamsport to South Williamsport
walking from Williamsport to South Williamsport
sun setting over the Susquehanna River
sun setting over the Susquehanna River

The 16th best small town in the United States

I enjoyed my dining experience much more than during any trip to Harrisburg. Carlisle has things that people travel to the big city for, but is laid back and manageable like a small town.

With a population of under 20,000 the borough of Carlisle was ranked the 16th best small town in the United States by livability.com in 2015. It’s located in south-central Pennsylvania bordered to the north the PA Turnpike (I-76) and to the south and by Interstate 81. Known to many outsiders as the home to the United States Army War College and Dickinson College, Carlisle also has a variety of restaurants that rival nearby Harrisburg.

A good place to start your day in Carlisle is the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. If you are driving south on Interstate 81, you will see the Army Heritage Trail’s cabins and tanks off to your right. The visitor center has ample parking and is located right off exit 49. They open at 10 and close at 4:30 except for Sundays, when they open at noon. You will likely spend most of your time in the visitor center since they have exhibits which date back from the Civil War to the present. The Army Heritage Trail (bordered to the west by Interstate 81) is open from dawn to dusk and covers the same period as the museum itself.

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U.S. Army Heritage Trail

From there you can head west to downtown Carlisle. The most interesting cafes and restaurants are west of the junction of Hanover and High Streets. Although you cannot get French macarons in nearby Harrisburg, you can get macarons, hand-made chocolates, gelato, crepes and other desserts at Helena’s Chocolate Café & Creperie (located next to the Carlisle Theater). They are open 7 days and they can have anywhere between 5 and 12 different macaron flavors depending on when you visit. The combination of all the foot traffic and no other places that sell French macarons nearby means the flavors can sell out fast. In fact, they have flavors that I rarely see in Manhattan such as cinnamon and oreo. They have various to-go boxes, which can hold anywhere from 2 to 10 macarons and their crepes, desserts and gelato are worth sitting down for.

If you make a left out of Helena’s and cross High Street at Pitt Street, you’ll arrive at the Cumberland County Historical Society (closed Sundays). Upstairs, they have exhibits which explain how Cumberland County got to where it is today. Of particular interest are the exhibits on the building of the Pennsylvania Turnpike as well as the Native Americans that occupied the area before European settlers arrived.

From the visitor center, you could walk to History on High (across from Helena’s), which houses the Cumberland Valley Visitors Center (closed Sundays & Mondays). Once inside, you can get info on other local attractions as well as purchase books and other souvenirs. It’s possible to arrange walking tours from the visitor center, but with a map, you can locate 13 of the 18 historical markers in Carlisle without going more than a couple blocks from the junction of Hanover and High Streets. At the corner of High and West Street you can see where George Washington stood in October of 1794. You can also explore the grounds of Dickinson College, which is the Alma mater of the only United States President from Pennsylvania (James Buchanan, who graduated in 1809).

There are several options for dinner. Café Bruges (Belgian), Andalusia (Spanish & Moroccan tapas) and Trattoria Piatto (Italian) are affiliates of Helena’s. There’s also Issei Noodle, which is an interesting combination of Japanese ramen and Vietnamese Pho and also the only place in Carlisle which serves bubble tea.

I chose White Elephant Thai Cuisine for dinner and I’m glad I did! In addition to a standard Thai menu of nearly 70 items, they have specials every weekend. It’s BYOB, but they have some very interesting non-alcoholic drinks. Like some of the other restaurants on High Street, there is parking in the back. I ordered the coconut soup for an appetizer and the garlic scallops (weekend only) for my entrée. For dessert, I had my eyes on the tapioca coco, but at the last minute, I decided on the sea salt caramel gelato. The owner is always experimenting with new options, so it’s a good idea to stop back frequently. When I do, I’ll save room for the tapioca coco.

Although I consider myself a city person, I enjoyed my day in Carlisle just as much as I enjoyed my last trip to Harrisburg, which is more than double the size and the state capitol. Although the Susquehanna River does not run through Carlisle and they don’t offer as many options for museums, I enjoyed my dining experience much more than during any trip to Harrisburg. In summary, Carlisle has things that people travel to the big city for, but is laid back and manageable like a small town.

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.

Walking from state to state

Over the past 2 years, I’ve walked over the the BMW (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg) bridges. Today I decided to walk over the George Washington.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve walked over the the BMW (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg) bridges. Today I decided to walk over the George Washington. I drove to Fort Lee Historic Park  and parked my car there. After spending about an hour in the visitor center, I started my walk to New York.
A walk like this is not nearly as fun without music. I chose Soundgarden’s King Animal. When I think of their latest album, I think of my 1st night staying with a Thai family in Songkhla province (Southern Thailand) the night before my 34th birthday.
After crossing the bridge, I made the not so easy trip to Fort Washington Park with the intention of arriving at Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse.
It was only mid afternoon and I had seen what I came to see, BUT for the past couple years, no trip to NYC is complete without getting some french macarons. Macaron Parlour on the Upper West Side is the closest place to Washington Heights that I’m aware of, so I took the A train to 168th Street, where I transferred to the C train.  I exited at 86th street, along Central Park West. Macaron Parlour is between the 1 line and the BC line, but 86th street is not an express stop on either line.
After buying a dozen macarons, I listened to U2’s War on my iPhone and took the 1 train back to 181st Street. I wanted to get something to eat and as I was getting close to the pedestrian entrance to the GWB, I spotted Bangkok Heights. Washington Heights is not known for Thai food, but besides Los Angeles, Thai people do not have their own areas, so their restaurants tend to be scattered about. I had a bowl of Thom Kha, put on the Rolling Stones Tattoo You and started what seemed to be a much longer walk across the GWB. While King Animal reminds me of Songkhla Provice in Southern Thailand and maybe NYC, Tattoo You makes me think of Cancun (March 2002), Berlin (November 2006) and Songkhla Province (February 2014). Although I like some songs more than others, I listened from start to finish this time. Half the time I might skip SLAVE, BLACK LIMOUSINE, HEAVEN and NO USE IN CRYING).
When I finally made it back to my car, I was happy to be done walking. As much as I take pride in being an urban explorer, that was a lot of walking. I still had the energy to buy a few things at Hmart before taking the long ride back to Pennsylvania. The Henry & Heidi podcast made the long, boring drive on Interstate 80 go quicker.