Our New York Trip

Husband and I returned last Monday from a week long trip to New York  City. We were there with four other members of our church handbell choir to participate in a massed handbell choir of 275 ringers. We were the opening act before a performance of Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall.

Everything that could go right on the trip did, and there were no disasters. We slipped past three major snow storms in our travels.  All our rental bells were there as ordered, hotel reservations were good, and our names were in the program. What more could a person ask for?

In addition to the Dec. 1 Carnegie Hall gig, we had the options of playing in Central Park on Saturday afternoon, and with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall at various times during the weekend. Here are the players at the Naumberg Bandshell in Central Park.

The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular featured the Rockettes in numbers like “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”, during which the dancers collapsed on one another like dominoes. They also did a number called “Sleigh Ride” in which the dancers were featured as precision-stepping reindeer. In between the dance numbers were high tech visual effects and bell numbers. It ended with a tableau of the nativity complete with three live camels, a donkey, and a sheep. All the animals had been blessed by Cardinal Dolan at the start of the season. No unsanctioned animals in this production! I haven’t any photos. Photos were prohibited. This will give you an idea.

The Carnegie  Hall concert was really fun.  We entered the hall through the stage door, just like all performers do. There were a few ringers on stage with the conductor, and the rest of us were in the boxes on Tiers one and two on either side of the Hall.  The following photos were taken during dress rehearsal.



We played  well. The acoustics were good, but we had to be as precise as possible given how many of us there were.  Given the size of the hall, we couldn’t use our ears to make sure were were together. We had to watch the conductor as much as possible for the timing. The conductor was so excited as they used “the Bernstein podium” for him.

The Messiah performance was wonderful. The two male soloists were on loan from the Metropolitan Opera, and there were more than 300 singers in the chorus. Half of them sang from the boxes we had played in.  We had to vacate to the nosebleed seats in the balcony during the oratorio.

So many things could have gone wrong, but nothing did. We were all so grateful for this opportunity.


Tell about your best and worst vacations and trips.

61 thoughts on “Our New York Trip”

  1. What a fantastic experience, Renee, thanks for giving us a little peek behind the scenes. An experience of a lifetime, no doubt. I think it’s so cool that you and husband had the opportunity to do this together.

    When I think of America as an abstract idea formed in my head long before I ever set foot on American soil, the image of the high-kicking Rockettes fits right in there.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I will weigh in on this later. I am working a bit today and have to head out soon.

    Blevins Book Club at my house tomorrow at 2pm.

    Who plans to attend—just looking for a head count so provisions are in place! Looking forward to it.


  3. The hallway walls were lined with framed pieces of handwritten musical manuscripts by famous composers. I saw a couple of lines of framed manuscript in Dvorak’s hand. There also was a framed letter penned by Charles Ives.

    Outside the doors into the boxes and balcony and floor seating areas were gallon sized marble urns full of Riccola throat lozenges, free for the taking , to reduce audience coughing and throat clearing
    I thought that was clever

    Liked by 4 people

    1. There are free throat lozenges, don’t know what kind, at the U of M’s Ted Mann Concert Hall as well. It seems like such an obvious preemptive strike against annoying hacking and coughing that you wonder why it isn’t offered at more venues.

      Which reminds of a solo guitar recital I attended many years ago by Andrés Segovia. After performing his first piece, he stopped, obviously annoyed at all the hacking, coughing and blowing of noses, took out a kitambaa – Swahili for handkerchief – and said, “OK, let’s all get his over together.”

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I hear the livestock for the nativity tableau is kept somewhere underground during the day and walked through the streets in the middle of the night. That would be something to see!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. One thing we wanted to do but couldn’t was attend jazz vespers at St. Peter’s ELCA Lutheran Church in Manhattan on Sunday Evening. The church ministers to the jazz community. Duke Ellington is said to have written music for the service.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I have too many great vacations to be able to pick one as the best. But I definitely know the worst. Six months prior to my break up with wasband number one, we had a horrible vacation. It was a camping vacation out west. We fought all the way there and back but in small passive aggressive ways. This is back when you still had film for cameras and we were very cheap and stingy about how many pictures we took because it cost so much to get them developed. There are two photos from every vantage point on that vacation, the one that I liked and the one that he liked. Because we couldn’t agree on even that.

    And he lost more things on that vacation than our whole marriage put together it seems like. He was really smart but didn’t have a lot of common sense sometimes. Every time I turned around there was something that we needed that he had lost, matches, sponge, razor, towel, you name it. And then of course there was the great Wall Drug debacle on the way home from that trip.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. To broadly paraphrase Tolstoy, all good vacations are alike but every bad vacation is where the good stories come from. I feel certain that I’ve already told the tale of our trip to Groundhog, Colorado here on the Trail, so I won’t tell it again unless you really haven’t heard it.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I agree, Bill, let’s hear it. Perhaps at some point we’ll nod in recognition, but a simple pleasure in that as well.


      2. Back in the late ‘80s, we made a plan with some friends living in Pasadena to meet halfway for a vacation. The place we chose, after some research, was called Groundhog on account of its location on the Groundhog Reservoir, roughly in the four corners region. Recommended by the local chamber of commerce, it promised cabins on the reservoir, in the high wilderness, with opportunities for hiking and trail riding in an area of pristine beauty.

        None of us were avid campers but, with a cabin, we could engage in as much roughing it as we liked, we assumed. We had two young daughters, our friends had one. It took us two long days of driving to get to our destination. Groundhog Reservoir is forty miles on a dirt road from the nearest town, the town of Dolores, which in Spanish means “Sorrows”. We arrived in the late afternoon, ahead of our California friends. As we approached the cluster of shacks and derelict camper trailers on the shore of the reservoir, we could see a group of people hunkered around a campfire in front of one of the shacks. They were mostly men, but I noted one woman in the group. One of the men had a hook on one hand. As we pulled up, we rolled down the window, intending to ask where the cabins were. One of the men rose from the campfire and came over to the car. He thrust his hand in through the window, his hand holding a large slab of raw meat and said, “Welcome to Groundhog! Have some bear meat!”

        It transpired that the shack in front of which these folks were having their campfire was to be our cabin for the next week. It wasn’t much to look at- low to the ground and covered with an asphalt material stamped to simulate bricks which was peppered with holes made apparently by woodpeckers. By this time, it was beginning to get dark and our friends had arrived. We let them absorb the situation and then took stock of our “cabin”.

        To explicate what we found in a narrative format would make this story even longer than it already is, so I’ll itemize it in bullets:

        – The shack was one main room, which included some of the sleeping facilities, a sitting area and a kitchenette. In addition, there was a small bedroom area and a bathroom.

        – In the sitting area, there was a couch, one end of which was supported by a log.

        – One of the first things we did was to heat up some water on the small electric stove to make tea. It took about an hour for the water to boil. We learned why that was the next day.

        – The bathroom was carpeted; the shower, we discovered, tended to overflow; the toilet was not bolted to the floor, so it would tip unless you braced your feet against the wall.

        – The sleeping accommodations for the girls was the couch and a fold-out bed. When we unfolded the bed we discovered a dead rodent and bloodstains on the mattress. The girls at that point retired to sleep in the cars with the doors locked.

        – We and our Pasadena friends slept on side-by-side rollaway beds in the “bedroom”, but scratching all night at imaginary vermin.

        – In the morning, we discovered that all of the electricity supplied to the cabin was tapped (illegally) from a nearby power pole, the wire looping casually across the ground to the cabin, but not running though a meter or a fuse box.

        – First thing in the morning, there were men with a beer in one hand and a rifle in the other roaming about, giving us the distinct impression that this place was part hunting outpost and one part survivalist camp.

        – It was clear that we wouldn’t be staying, despite our reservations for the week. The idea of checking out early, however, was scary given the prevalence of guns.

        I volunteered to be the one to tell the proprietors that we had decided to leave. I went to the office, which was an extension of their living quarters and told the woman of the couple that, given the rodent and the bloodstains and the untethered toilet and the inadequate stove, etc., that we were leaving. We had made a deposit and I wasn’t, under the circumstances, contesting that, but the rest of the week we would be elsewhere.

        The proprietress looked at me, sniffed, and responded, “Well, this isn’t the Holiday Inn, you know.”

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Don’t believe I’ve read that horror story before, but man, that sounds awful. I’ll put that on my list of places never to visit.


  7. Renee – it’s great to see these pictures and hear about your adventures. You all have some kind of charm to have missed all those snowstorms.

    The best is usually the most recent vacation trip – in this case, Maui wedding in April, which I’ve written about. Still thinking for worst one…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. It’s a slow day, so I hope you don’t mind if I regale you with a long reminiscence about a trip we took early in our marriage.

    Each trip that I’ve ever been on has had some high and low points. I regret none of the trips, but there are some places I wouldn’t go back to.

    Jamaica is one of them. In general, I have no interest in staying in ritzy, touristy hotels, far removed from how the locals live. On the other hand, you need to be prepared for some rather strange experiences if you don’t.

    In Negril, we left the small “hotel” we had booked through Campus Travel after the first night. The hotel had been recommended by a local woman who happened to be hanging out in the waiting area of the travel agency. She spent most of each winter there, she told us. The owners were friends of hers, and it was a wonderful place. She neglected to mention that it was in the Red Hills in a neighborhood where it was not safe to walk at night, miles from the beach, way overpriced, and that you needed a cab to get to anywhere.

    We managed to find another place to rent for the remainder of our stay, and were cussed out by our first host when we went to collect our stuff and settle for that first night.

    The new facility consisted four or five individual two-story structures, within a private compound, across the street from the beach. Our unit was atop a first floor “apartment” rented by three young Canadian college students who were in Jamaica to smoke ganja, drink beer and play dominoes with their Jamaican buddies. The clack, as they slammed the dominoes onto the metal table bellow our bedroom window, jolted us awake throughout the night. Every so often they’d give the dominoes a rest and break into song accompanied by guitar. They were nice enough “kids,” they just had an agenda different than ours. On our last night there, we ended up joining them sipping beer and singing in the middle of the night, we couldn’t sleep for all the ruckus anyway.

    Our unit consisted of small room with a bed and a rather spartan bathroom. Water was shut of each night at ten, so no flushing toilet or shower after that. The mattress sagged so badly that we had to pull it onto the floor beside the bed to sleep on it. Neighboring dogs barked throughout the night, and in the morning the local roosters greeted the new day at the crack of dawn. By 8 AM local women came knocking at our door offering fresh squeezed orange juice and fruit for sale.

    We set out to explore the place on foot and discovered that the locals are expert hustlers. As a white person, there’s just no way to avoid being targeted for their various schemes. One fellow trailed us a we walked toward town. He was a local goodwill ambassador he told us, and was prepared to show us the local sights. We kept rebuffing him, we wanted to explore on our own, but he was persistent. He would take us on a hike to the biggest tree in the area, just a short distance into the hills. From there we would be able to see for miles, the best view of Negril. Eventually we relented, and followed him on what turned out to be a five mile hike. When we reached the tree, there just happened to be a shack occupied by a friend of his with a small child, and she had soft drinks for sale at an exorbitant price. He was right, the tree was large, and the view was great, and we did enjoy our hour-long visit. But by the time we had paid him for his guided walking tour, husband and I both came to realize we had just taken our most expensive walk ever.

    By now, you’d think we had learned our lesson, but you’d be wrong. The following day, while sunning on the beach, I was accosted by three young women who insisted on braiding my short blond hair into corn rows! Another $20 spent on something that I didn’t really want.

    On day three we went to town to rent a small motorbike so we could explore the countryside. At the rental place they said that they didn’t recommend driving into the hills without an escort. Of course, they just happened to have a young fellow handy who’d be the perfect guide. So, we negotiated a price and rented a bike for him as well. On the way out of town we swung by his house to pick up a buddy of his!

    After about an hour’s drive into the hills we stopped at a roadside shack for refreshments. The “bar” was full of friendly locals, who were all very interested in talking with us. But, wouldn’t you know it, when we came back out to our bikes, ours had a flat tire! Not to worry, the locals in short order produced everything needed to fix it, and under much palaver undertook the repair needed, and soon we were on our way again.

    Our destination was an underground pool in a dark cavern. When we arrived we discovered that it was another expensive proposition to just enter the cave, but we had come this far, so we did. We were trailed into the cave by a bunch of kids holding candles. Luckily I was wearing my swimsuit under my shorts and top, so I could slip into the cool water when we reached the pool without further ado. That’s when a bunch of instruments suddenly materialized out of nowhere, and we were treated to a candle-lit mini concert by a band of singing youth. At this point, we were beginning to wonder if we had enough cash to pay for it all, it was clear that none of this was free. We managed to escape unscathed, and still had a few dollars left.

    On the way home, through some of the most lush and beautiful countryside I have ever seen anywhere, we were caught in a torrential downpour. We sought shelter in another small shack along the road. The shack turned out to be a local mini-mart of sorts. It was no more than eight feet by eight feet, with sparsely stocked shelves. Four old gentlemen were leaning on the counter inside and motioned to us to come on in. At this point we were rather skeptical of anyone’s motives, but what were our choices? So we joined them. That turned out to be a delightful visit. We treated everyone to a Red Stripe beer, and chatted until the rain stopped.

    As result of the day-long ride on the motorbike under the Jamaican sun, the sensitive skin between my cornrows was burned to a crisp. I suffered for days, but learned the lesson to wear a hat.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Jamaica is a very interesting place. When we were there it seemed there were a lot of local people trying to scam tourists and hanging around recommending hotels, T-shirts, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. There is only one person who confirmed that she intends to attend book group tomorrow. Are there more coming that I don’t know of. This seems small.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim and Cathy are coming. I know tim is in London. I believe Caroline had something else on the books. That’s all I know about at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. In 2004 we took a trip to Italy. It was a three city rail tour that all went well. We started in Venice, moved on to Florence and ended the trip in Rome. We so enjoyed then entire thing.

    Our flight home occurred on March 11, 2004, leaving from Rome and having a layover in Frankfurt, Germany, then to Chicago where we had a connecting flight to Minneapolis. When we arrived in Frankfurt we disembarked from the plane. When we arrived at the end of the gate, guards met us there and commanded us to stand on a yellow line and we could not move. We had no idea why this was happening. We stood there at least 30 minutes, unable to use the restroom or get food or water, nor could we get food or water out of our bags. Finally we were escorted to the next gate without any information what was happening. We boarded the next plane and they announced there were mechanical problems but we could not get off the plane. We sat there for 3-4 hours without information. I was in the middle seat of my row and sat next to a gentleman who chose to entertain himself by masturbating publicly. Yuck.

    We finally took off, still with no information. By that time we knew we would miss our connecting flight to Mpls from Chicago. When we landed in Chicago we saw the news on a TV monitor and saw that in Spain there had been a train blown up by terrorists while we were in flight between Rome and Frankfurt. The terrorists were celebrating 3.5 years since 9-11. We deduced that this was the cause for the undefined delay. We got a connecting flight home, but the friends picking us up at the airport wondered where we were, and we could not reach them either. No information made it hard to understand what was happening.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I remember being in the Rome airport in the summer of 1976 just before an Italian election, and there were soldiers with machine guns patrolling. It was unsettling.


      1. When we were in Edinburgh in 1990 and visiting the castle, there were young soldiers with automatic weapons flanking the entrance. I think that must have been ordinary practice, since we weren’t aware of any special circumstance, but I found it off-putting. The soldiers were dressed in jungle camouflage, which struck me as ridiculous. Shouldn’t their outfits have simulated hunks of gray rock?


        1. You know, I hadn’t really thought this before, but doesn’t a military’s choice of camouflage signal its notion of where its enemies are?


        2. Apparently not. That jungle camouflage is what troops wear everywhere when they’re not in dress uniforms. You see them at many airports, and in Mexico riding around in the back of army trucks. Their mere presence with their automatic weapons is meant to scare the crap out of ordinary folks. Can you imagine living in an open carry state where you encounter similarly clad men at Walmart?


    1. I got the pebernodder recipe from The Nordic Baking Book by Magnus Nilsson. It actually has black pepper in it. It was the only recipe with pepper we could find.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The recipe I posted in the Kitchen Congress has white pepper in it, plus a bunch of other spices. You might want to take a peek to see how they compare.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Your recipe had an egg. Mine had Lyle’s syrup. The spices and the butter and flour are the same. They are intensely spiced nuggets of flavor.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. I can’t think of a disaster that’s happened – there have been disappointments, like the Viking River Cruise where we couldn’t really cruise much because of the high water (boats couldn’t get under bridges). But we still got to enjoy the cruise life, and saw most everything via bus. And once en route from Seattle to Mpls on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, we had to fly home from Minot (on our dime) when spring flooding knocked a bridge out.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I suppose the worst start to a trip for us was when we were going to Europe with our son and DIL
    We were to meet up in MPLS and fly to Paris and then Hamburg together. Son and DIL got to MPLS on time from Sioux Falls. Our flight from Bismack was delayed due to low ceiling in the Cities, and we missed the flight to Paris. We managed to reroute through Amsterdam. There was a mix up on Paris, and DIL had to take a different flight to Hamburg than our son. At one point, we were in Amsterdam, son was in Hamburg, and DIL was in Paris. We managed to meet up in Hamburg only a little later than planned.

    Liked by 2 people

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