Hi everybody…Paul here!  As you may have surmised, Michelle and I have not been doing much traveling and therefore, have neglected our blog. We are grounded for the foreseeable future due to family health issues. So, I decided to put up weekly photos to keep our blog alive. Michelle is busy working, so you will have to deal with my lousy writing for a while…sorry about that! Once we hit the road again, Michelle will be back at the helm here, and I will be back behind the camera.

This image was taken on my ride in to work in Belmar, New Jersey. I retired this past June, and for 28 of my 29 working years, I always took the most direct route to my place of employment. I suppose I was always worried about getting to work early and thinking of only my job during that time.  This past September I decided I would stop and smell the roses (or sea air as it were) and drove in every morning by the beach. I wonder how many great scenes I missed over those 28 years? 

IMG_6924-Edit-Edit-Edit-Edit (1)© Paul and Michelle Shappirio and Bringing Down the White Picket Fence, 2007-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul and Michelle Shappirio and Bringing Down the White Picket Fence with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Weekly Photo – March 10th 2019

This is an image I made on my way to work last year. Those who live by the shore will recognize the location as Avon.

 

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Weekly Photo March 3rd 2019

Hi folks!

Sadly, we have not been keeping up with our blog of late. We had planned to blog our trip to New Orleans back in December, but that never materialized. Michelle has been very involved with work, so once agin you will have to suffer with my lousy writing. 

This photo I took with my brand new camera…the Canon EOS R. It’s very different for me because it is a mirrorless camera. That means it’s much lighter and great for travel. I captured this image through a window in a pizza place called Harry’s  Italian in lower Manhattan. 

I plan tp keep posting photos once a week until Michelle gets back to blogging. I hope you enjoy them!

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This is one of our favorite memories from San Francisco.  We took a tour on a Volkswagen bus with the company Vantigo.  The bus takes you all over the city and you get to see stellar views like this one.  We highly recommend this tour when visiting San Francisco, but we can’t promise that you won’t want to go in search of buying your own bus and living the van life afterwards.  It’s just so tempting…

It’s Christmas time in the city, and Paul and I made sure to kick off the holiday season with a Seastreak cruise into downtown New York.  We’re committed to getting our SPG stays in before January 1, and the city gives us plenty of opportunity to move between hotels and rack up our stays.  We enjoyed a stellar upgrade at the W Downtown on Friday night.  They gave us a luxurious corner room with a magnificent view of the Freedom Tower. Saturday night we traded the room with a view for a Four Points Downtown broom closet.  It’s the small price you pay for staying at a sold out hotel in New York City at Christmas time.  We really can’t complain.  How lucky are we to be able to hop a ferry to New York City for the weekend?  It is truly one of the best perks of being a Jersey Girl.

Paul took this photo at Trinity Place Restaurant and Bar, a place we’ve walked by about a thousand times but never noticed until this trip.  We didn’t eat here, but we did find the atmosphere to be pretty unique considering we were inside of a bank vault dating back to 1904.  

Aside from our usual trips to Harry’s for pizza, Felice for pistachio gelato, and Fresh Salt for Sunday breakfast, we added a few additional stops to this weekend getaway.  We started our Sunday with a subway ride to Grand Central Station, and a walk from there to the Howard Greenberg Gallery to see the Vivian Maier exhibition.  If you don’t know about Vivian Maier’s photography, I highly recommend you do a quick Google search and read about her life.  To put it simply, she was a nanny (Phil Donahue’s nanny actually) who led this secret life of street photography.  Her photos were discovered at an auction after she died, and the secret was revealed.  She should of (could of) been really famous for her work.  If only, she let people know about it while she was alive.  Her photographs are incredible, and it was great to be able to view them up close at the gallery.  If you want more information about her, there is a great documentary that tells her story.  It reminds us a lot of the Rodriguez, Searching for Sugarman story.  That’s another good Google search.

After the gallery, we headed to the Mason Jar to watch the last South Carolina game of the season.  This is the Gamecock headquarters for the New York City Gamecock Club.  It’s a great place to see a game because the game is on every television complete with surround sound audio.  Carolina beat the Akron Zips 28-3, and now they are headed to the Belk Bowl to play the University of Virginia.  

Next, we visited O’Hara’s Pub.  Before 9/11, it was the local watering hole for many professionals who worked at the World Trade Center.  After sadly losing many of their regulars on 9/11, they opened their doors 7 months later and welcomed the workers at Ground Zero.  One of the regulars ripped a patch off a man’s uniform and stapled it to the wall, and now the inside walls of O’Hara’s are covered in over 6,000 police and fire patches from all over the country.  Here is another place we’ve walked by more times than we can count, and knew little of the history beyond the pub’s doors.  

The ferry ride home was a bumpy one today (Paul almost ran for a life jacket), but despite the weather, we were sad to say goodbye to the city this afternoon.  It’s always sad to say farewell to another great weekend in New York City.  

This is my Paris.  

Several years ago, Paul and I rented an apartment in the 1st Arrondissement of the beautiful city of Paris.  We stayed for the entire month of July.  If you travel back in time on our blog, you can find many posts about our experience and learn about how it significantly changed our lives for the better.  

This weekend angry protesters lit the Champs Elysees ablaze in response to an increase in tax on diesel fuel.  Unfortunately, the protests turned violent, and the city we know and love looked nothing like the one we saw every day outside our apartment window.  If you’ve never been to Paris, this weekend’s news might have made you think twice about ever visiting.  

Let me assure you that Paris should not be missed.  We’ve traveled there several times since our month of living there, and we fall a little more in love with the city every time we go.  Baguettes and wine by the Seine, falafel in the Marais, and bicycle rides through the Tuileries are just some of the memories still playing through our minds.

This photo reminds me that every time I want to stay home in my pajamas on a rainy day, that perhaps I should take it like a Parisian and go outside.  Unlike other cities that can look dark and dreary in a downpour, Paris wears the rain well.  They put up their polka dot umbrellas and stroll right on through.  Despite this, I hope the sun is shining on Paris the next time I see it on the news.  

If any city deserves a little sunshine, it’s this one.  


IMG_7644-2-Edit-Edit.JPGNew York City and pizza.  Two of the best things in America.

So, let me tell you a little story.  I know nothing about the pizzeria in this photograph, but I’m going to use this photo as my excuse to tell you about the pizzeria I LOVE in New York City.  Harry’s Italian on Gold Street is just about the best thing on Earth, and unfortunately, we only recently realized it.  Paul and I adore weekend getaways to the city, especially when we stay at the little Four Points Downtown on Platt Street.  It is not a fancy hotel by any means, but it’s affordable, clean, and close to a lot of things we love: Governor’s Island, Felice, Fresh Salt, Bacaro, and now, Harrys.  The Four Points has always been two doors down from Harry’s, but for years, we never ventured inside.  And then one day, we did.  The discovery led me to believe that one should NEVER trust Yelp for anything, nor should you ever judge a restaurant based on how empty you THINK it is.  Chances are it’s bustling inside and you can’t see it.

Harry’s is square pizza heaven.  It is so good that on our last trip into the city we had dinner there on Friday AND Saturday night.  I’m pretty sure Paul would agree that we’d trade just about any fancy New York City dinner for a few of Harry’s steaming squares of cheese perfection.

Follow them on Instagram for food photos worth drooling over, and GO get a Harry’s square pizza as soon as you can.

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This week’s photos are just a glimpse of our recent getaway.  Early this morning, frigid Philadelphia welcomed us home for winter.  For the last few days, we soaked up the sun in 84 degrees of Miami heat and returned to the shivering 48 degree reality of waiting for The Parking Spot shuttle to find us in Zone 3, Terminal A.  They found us, shivering with just a touch of glow left over from each of those phenomenal days by the rooftop pool.

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Royal Palm on Wednesday, Kimpton Angler’s Hotel on Thursday and Friday, and just the right upgrade at the W Miami on Saturday to reinforce our everlasting belief in the #SPGlife.  Although I could go on and on about those Kimptons…

Yardbird, Pubbelly, The River Oyster House, Employees Only, NaiYaRa…

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I will have to devote an entire post to the delicious food at these restaurants and their incredibly informative and genuinely friendly bartenders.  I promise to do that when I’m not so incredibly tired.

For now, we’d just like to thank our American Airline’s pilot for the opportunity to be a part of his last flight this morning.  Just after we touched down safely in the City of Brotherly Love, the flight attendants announced his immediate retirement.  They also announced that his wife was aboard our flight, and that he was passing the reigns to his co-pilot, a man the same age as his son.  It was a great honor to be aboard his last flight, and I’m sure there are thousands upon thousands of curious and adventurous travelers like ourselves that would like to thank him for the safe and responsible transport around this fascinating world.

If there is one thing I can say about this trip it is this: I allowed some time for myself.  I’m not ashamed to say it was just what I needed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Last August, Paul and I took a trip to California.  It was one of those trips that I so badly wanted and needed, but I was so torn about taking.  My mom was ill, and I wasn’t completely sold on jetting off to the other side of the country for a week.  Paul convinced me that everything would be okay and that if I needed to, I could hop on a plane and fly back to NJ at any time.  Looking back, I am so happy that I didn’t let worry get in my way. This trip was something to remember.

It all started at Newark Airport when we were notified that our delayed flight to Phoenix would cause us to miss our connecting flight to San Francisco.  “We can fly you to another city in California,” they said.  After suggesting just about every city other than Oakland, I said, “How about you fly us into Oakland?  You know, the city closest to San Francisco?”  Geography.  Don’t ever doubt its importance.

Since our original flight was going to get in around midnight, we had a reservation at a hotel at the San Francisco airport for our night of arrival.  Paul quickly got on the phone to cancel it, while good ol’ EWR claimed none of this was their fault.  They blamed all of our problems on the Windy City of Chicago.  If they could only get their planes to Newark on time…

Once on our flight to Phoenix, we started to realize we might not make that connecting flight to Oakland either.  And, we were hungry.  Real hungry.  This was because Newark didn’t have any real food to eat in the terminal we were in, so we were surviving on Southwest pretzels and nuts.  Secretly, we hoped we’d miss the flight to Oakland so we could have dinner in Phoenix.  We’d worry about California in the morning.  After all, we didn’t have a hotel room anywhere.

But that didn’t happen.  Our plane touched down to Phoenix just as our flight to Oakland was scheduled to depart.  We ran off the plane to hear our names being paged across the loudspeaker.  Our gate was clear across the airport in a different terminal, so we ran.  I always thought we’d make a good pair on The Amazing Race, and in my heels, I proved that we just might have a chance at winning on that show.  We turned the corner of the long terminal and at the very end stood our pilot, waving us down!  When we arrived to the gate, they said, “How come you didn’t take the cart we sent for you?”

What cart?

Our bottoms hit the seats while the plane backed away from the gate.  As we each took a minute to catch our breath we looked at each other and said, “Where are we staying tonight?”

For the first time ever, we booked a hotel in the sky.  Thanks to Southwest Wifi only being $8, we were able to snag a room at the Westin for way more than we wanted to pay.  The flight attendant even gave us a price quote on an Uber, all the way up in the clouds.  Special thanks to the passenger who gave us her kid’s bag of grapes to eat too.

We arrived at the Westin San Francisco around 3 AM, the same time the police arrived to take care of the smashed glass window at the entrance of the hotel.  We were too tired to care who crashed into the place.  At 4AM we were checked in and waiting desperately for room service to arrive.

The rest of the trip was grand.  Besides San Francisco, we made our way to Carmel and Sonoma for a few nights outside the city.  I’ll save all of the details of the rest of the trip for another post.

Until then, I’ll be looking into the application process for The Amazing Race.

Paul took this photo of Lady Liberty on the ferry ride back to Manhattan after an afternoon on Governor’s Island.

Governor’s Island has become our go-to place for fun in the city.  The short ferry ride costs $3 a person, which guarantees incredible views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.  Once there, we recommend renting a bicycle and cruising around the island.  Afterwards, grab a seat at Island Oyster to bask in the glorious view of Manhattan’s skyline.  A glass of wine and a dozen oysters makes for an unforgettable day in New York City.

Governor’s Island is open from May 1-October 31, so you only have a few more days to check it out before they close for winter.  If that’s not in the cards for you, check out their website here, and don’t forget to put it on your list for next summer!

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Michelle here…

Paul and I prefer downtown New York.  It’s quiet and narrow and our weekends often include walks from the East River to the Hudson.  There’s a little Four Points hotel on Platt Street that isn’t fancy, but simple, clean, and comfortable.  It’s our respite from my workdays, and we’ve come to call it ours.  Sometimes we also stay at the W, like we did this Friday, but I was relieved to know that Saturday we’d trade that swank for our little Four Points.  That’s how much it’s ours.

Every trip downtown includes a walk past the pools.  It is here we always pause to reflect on what’s most important.  When deadlines and “gotta do’s” cloud my brain, this memorial always brings me back to reality.  It is where my perspective shifts, and I realize how minuscule all that stuff can be.  And that’s all it really is, right?  Stuff.

This Friday while I ran my fingers over these names, a woman tapped my shoulder.  I turned with tears in my eyes to see her surrounded by family.  She said, “When you’re ready, would you mind taking our picture?”  Normally, I would take their phone in my hand, click, and hand it back.  Yet, this time, I found it my duty to ask them where they were visiting from.  “Boston,” they said.  “New Jersey,” I replied.  “Enjoy your visit.”

It was just a few words, but it was more than most would converse on the streets of New York.

Yet, it forced me to think.  Why did I find it necessary to converse with them?  Would I have done the same say, in front of the Brooklyn Bridge?  Probably not.

In fact, that theory was tested the very next day.  I took an iPhone photo of a dad and his son, the Brooklyn Bridge looming between them in all it’s glory.  I handed the phone back and walked away.  Paul heard the dad say, “She takes a good picture.”  I didn’t ask them where they were from.  I just assumed I must look like the most nonthreatening and approachable amateur iPhone photographer.

On Saturday, Paul and I made our second visit to the 9/11 museum.  A special exhibition, Comeback Season, Sports After 9/11 was running, and the role the Met’s and Mike Piazza played after this tragedy, inspired our visit.

It was moving.

I read a letter sent to parents of a woman who was scheduled to run a marathon in Philadelphia.  They retired her bib number and sent it to her mom and dad.  It’s now on display at the museum.

Ironically, a few days before this, I attended the NJ Principal and Supervisor’s Association Conference and listened to Kevin Carroll speak about the importance of play.  It helped me understand that sports bring us together more than we realize.

We needed Mike Piazza’s home run after 9/11.  I learned that for the first time, some children who lost their dad, smiled.  That was Earth shattering for me.

I have a Met’s jersey, given to me by someone who lost their dad in 9/11.  The player’s name that dons the back no longer plays for our team, and I’ve always kept it hanging in my closet.

I’m pretty sure, I’ll wear it to Citi Field for the rest of my life…

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