Mind the Gap – Changes in Latitude

As a mother of two active school-age children living in the New Jersey suburbs, our family vehicle is very much a part of our family.  We drive almost everywhere with children and gear and friends in tow.  Add office life and social commitments – it’s safe to say our lives as professionals and parents and chauffeurs are full.  So you can imagine my absolute delight and glee when my husband and I left the car and our children in the hands of their loving grandparents and flew off to England for a “holiday”/ work combo trip!

Cheers from London!

Cheers from London!

For 10 ten days we navigated the city of London by foot, train, Underground and river boat and were able to capture the true essence of London.  Staying 25-minutes outside of the city for the beginning portion of our trip, each morning with our Oyster Card in hand, we boarded the train and headed into London.  With a quick exchange in the Underground, we made our way to my husband’s office.  Work first and recreation in the afternoon was our motto and it served us well.

The sun shining and the temperatures in the 70’s was quite unusual for London, but we took advantage of all the city had to offer.  A river boat trip down the Thames gave us a glimpse of the hustle and bustle from both sides of the river.  A walk past Parliament, Westminster Abbey and to Buckingham Palace allowed us to take in the sights by foot.  A stop at the local pub allowed us to converse with the locals and rest my poor feet, who had become slaves to my poor shoe choice.

Each day brought us new discoveries – a ripe enormous fig tree nestled in the middle of St. James Park – and visits to sites we enjoyed on our last trip together to London – a walk across Tower Bridge.   By the end of our first week, we had traversed most of London and I didn’t need to think twice about minding the gap and found myself looking left at each corner!

The weekend brought us to England’s countryside as we carpooled with our local friends to the cities of Ilminster, Glastonbury, Wells and quick stop at Stonehenge.  Thatch roofs cottages lined the country roads and just the most quaint villages welcomed us with endearing conversations and delicious foods.  But like all good things, our weekend came to a close and we returned to the city of London.

With my stint of the trip coming to an end, I did my best to consume every last pound on my Oyster Card.  A trip to Kensington and some last-minute gift shopping in Harrods brought my card to just enough to get me to Heathrow Airport.

The morning of my departure was most fitting.  The rain that is very much England-norm fell lightly as I made my way to the Underground to the Station to the Airport.  This leg of the trip was mine to take alone, since my husband still had work to finish and reality was waiting for me on the other side of the pond.

As my flight took off and we reached higher and higher altitudes, I was thankful for this opportunity for a Change in Latitude.

A Transportation Planner Visits Barcelona – Changes in Latitude

“I, therefore, openly repaired to Barcelona, that repository of politeness…that agreeable scene of unshaken friendship, unparalleled both in beauty and situation!” Don Quixote

It was a beautiful and sunny day as my wife, daughters, and I left our cruise ship to enjoy the beauty of Barcelona.  No tour bus for us.  We wanted to experience this Mediterranean jewel on foot.

We weren’t the only ones.

photo credit: IES Abroad

photo credit: IES Abroad

Everywhere, the streets were filled with tourists, students, businessmen and women, even the elderly walking, bicycling or zipping around on Vespa scooters.  Walking through town, we experienced the history and culture of Spain’s most cosmopolitan city.  The excitement and energy pulsed around us in this city so ancient yet so modern. For me, it was a transportation professional’s dream.

I was fascinated by the mixed land use, marriage of old and new.  Likewise, the commitment to a balanced transportation system proved that a “streets that work for all” approach can work in a large city.  The streets were shared by motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit services.  Barcelona’s population exceeds 1.5 million.  With considerable distance between tourist areas and monuments, the best way to get around is by using the underground subway.  It is clean, on time, and efficient.

The bus system is enhanced with beautifully designed shelters that attracted passengers of all ages.  I noticed city maps, route maps, stop signs, benches and other amenities at all stops along the main routes.

Overall, it appeared that transportation and transportation planning seem to be high priorities for Barcelona’s city officials, professionals, and decision makers.  It works well, and was well appreciated by this tourist.

-MA

SummerBlogPhoto

Each Wednesday, KMM’s staff members share stories and anecdotes about their
memorable vacations, recent and past.  These will be personal
recollections about trips to our beloved Jersey shore, across America,
and around the world.  Changes in Latitude………..

Up, Up and Away – Changes in Latitude

It snowed overnight, but there was hope the white trim on the Red Rock Mountains would melt by the time the birds awoke with their early morning chirping.  In Sedona, Arizona, on an open field, a hot air balloon was waiting.

As my wife an I arrived to the remote location, we could see the crew inflate our chariot – the majestic balloon that would carry us on this sunrise odyssey over the valley of Central Arizona.   It took a bit of effort (as did our newly acquainted companions) to climb into the bucket.  But soon, with the pilot making adjustments to balance the weight of the passengers, we silently and softly rose above the desert floor.

Though the balloon was huge, there was little room in the basket.  Divided into four compartments with four passengers each, the basket was very crowded which we learned was necessary for safety since there are no restraints to hold travelers inside.Hot air balloon

As we glided 100-300 feet above the valley, we were speechless.  The pilot explained as we moved across the sky, he was in complete control of all of the vertical movements, but had no control over its horizontal direction.  The air currents are in charge of that. With the rising sun behind us, the Red Rocks in front of us and the valley below, it was breathtaking.  Although the breezes pushed us in a southerly direction, we didn’t feel the wind because we travelled at the same rate of speed.  It was a calm morning and we felt that all movement was in slow motion.

Forty-five minutes later, it was time to begin the descent and landing approach.  Using a simple cell phone, the pilot alerted the crew to where he though the wind would allow us to land .  But as we gradually worked our way to ground level, it was apparent that the pilot’s educated guess was one mile or so off course.  Another phone call and adjustments were made and we began our final approach. But we still had one final obstacle.

A deep canyon stood between the landing site and our craft.  As the balloon descended into the canyon, the updrafts lifted it to flat land.  Slowly and surely, the balloon sank into the canyon and soon our frazzled nerves dissipated as we ascended  to a perfect landing.

As we exited the balloon on that crisp November morning, a champagne breakfast awaited us as we processed the marvel we just experienced.

-BN

 

SummerBlogPhoto

 

 

Each Wednesday, KMM’s staff members share stories and anecdotes about their
memorable vacations, recent and past.  These will be personal
recollections about trips to our beloved Jersey shore, across America,
and around the world.  Changes in Latitude………..

 

 

 

Changing Latitudes – Jersey Shore

I love my passport.   I love the stamps from far away locations gracing each page (although it irks me when customs randomly selects a page to stamp – seriously, why can’t they just stamp in order!) and the tiny stickers placed on the back of the book.  But most often, these trips, while great fun, involve sightseeing, jet lag and sore feet.  So as much as I love my passport, I also love Route 539 which is my passport and passageway to the Jersey Shore.

American Rock on Route 539 in Lacey Township, NJ.  Photo credit: Lacey Patch

American Rock on Route 539 in Lacey Township, NJ. Photo credit: Lacey Patch

Over the years, much of the route and its fixtures remain the same.  But from time to time, there is a subtle change or a Super Wawa that graces the route along the way.  Even the children have come to recognize the landmarks along the way.  When we reach the American Flag Rock, the kids know that we are half way to our final destination – that is unless we are vacationing in LBI which then means we are minutes away from vacation time.

There is something comforting and reassuring about this county road that stretches the four counties we pass through to reach the beaches of Cape May.  And each year we travel this road, new memories are made and old memories are cherished through conversation and laughter.  Once upon a time, it was just Hubby and I racing our way down the single lane road with a small bag flung in the back seat with the tunes cranking and the windows rolled down.  Now seated behind us are two passengers who vie for their music selections as we sit in a temperature controlled SUV amidst sand toys, suitcases, games and toys. Did I mention, toys?

Yes, times have changed, but so have we.  Despite the ordeal that is associated with packing up for the beach with two

Summer Fun at the Jersey Shore

Summer Fun at the Jersey Shore

children, their delight and absolute glee about vacationing on the beach is far better than days gone by ….although I do miss reading peacefully on the beach with my one towel, water bottle….the pleasant dinners eating bayside…..the late mornings sleeping in….but I digress.

Route 539 captures every essence of the best part of summer vacation – getting there!

SummerBlogPhoto

Each Wednesday, KMM’s staff members share stories and anecdotes about their
memorable vacations, recent and past.  These will be personal
recollections about trips to our beloved Jersey shore, across America,
and around the world.  Changes in Latitude………..