Category Archives: Conferences

New York City, Play Edition

Whenever I travel somewhere for work, I always sneak in at least one day’s worth of play.  My most successful work/play trip was to Walt Disney World for the 2010 NCTE convention--though the ‘play’ portion of that trip was made possible by skipping the ‘sleep’ portion of the trip!   I’m proud to say that I managed to sneak some fun into my conference trip this past weekend and that said trip may be tied for first with Disney as ‘most fun work/play trip ever’.

We arrived at our hotel around 11:30 in the morning and were able to check in–a

Manhattan Centre Hotel

New York first for me.  While the hotel wasn’t fancy in any way, the room itself was probably the largest I’ve seen in any major city.  And it was very clean.  I give it five thumbs up…er…well….you know  what I mean.

I had a goal, which was ‘make it to the Met before 1:30’, as I wanted to go on the guided highlights tour.  I got hooked on museum tours after a fantastic tour at the National Gallery in London last summer, and my love for docents grew upon visiting The Air and Space Museum in DC in September.

This tour was not as great.

But at least we made it to the tour, thanks to our amazing taxi luck.  In the past, I’ve disliked NYC because of how difficult it is to get around.  The subway is nowhere near as efficient as any other major city I’ve ever visited and getting a cab is often impossible.  But this weekend it was amazingly easy.  If it’s a side effect of the crappy economy…well then I just found one good thing about the crappy economy!

Cab ride through central park

The Met was beautiful, though in the future I will purchase the audio guide and forget about the guided tours.  Notice I said ‘in the future’, as I will be back.

The view from the cafe

Having learned from past trips (thank god!) I knew that I couldn’t do a whole day of museum-going without eating something first.  So before we even began touring the museum, we found food.  I have to strongly recommend the Met’s cafe and wine bar.  With a beautiful view and only moderately overpriced food, it’s a good bet.  We did walk around the general vicinity for a while, and didn’t really find anywhere we were longing to dine–though my husband did stare at the street vendor hot dog cart for quite a bit.

Mushroom flatbread

We somehow managed to get yet another cab upon exiting the Met–and at 5:00

Happy hour

on a Friday!  I was beyond thrilled, as after walking around a museum all afternoon, I was in no shape to walk 30 blocks.  We met my husband’s friend for drinks at a bar on Broadway, and I again had a great time.  It was a normal, human sized bar, which is not what I was expecting at all.  Additionally, I awarded it five toilet paper rolls for restroom cleanliness, which is the maximum number of toilet paper rolls an establishment can earn (in my imaginary world where toilet paper rolls are awarded).

We were having such a good time we almost missed our 8:30 dinner reservations at Brasserie.  Somehow we managed to leave the bar at 8:00, walk to the hotel, fix my husband’s hair (yes,

Appetizer one of three--tuna tartare

you read that correctly) and walk to Brasserie in less than 30 minutes.  I was impressed.

I chose Brasserie as our low budget selection for the weekend…yeah, that didn’t happen.  By this point we were so hungry (and, ok, a little tipsy) so we ordered EVERYTHING on the menu.  This was a good call, however, as everything on the menu was amazing.  It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.

It was at this point that I agreed to take city break weekends to New York rather than return to Vegas year after year.  My New Yorker husband is thrilled.

Up next–New York City, Work Edition: My experience at the ASJA Annual Convention.


Another Metro Area Apology

Last summer I was forced to apologize to London after bashing it quite brutally in several blog posts.  Though, to be fair, the London-bashing was nothing compared to the Paris bashing.

I also wrote a fairly scathing review of New York City, a place I’ve been to many, many times and have grown to dislike as an adult.  It seems I must be regressing to my youth, because on this trip, I freaking LOVED New York.

I honestly contemplated buying one of those I ‘heart’ NY t-shirts.  Don’t worry–I didn’t.  Though I did stare longingly at a coffee mug.

Tomorrow I shall share all of my reasons why I now love New York City, and my thoughts on how this impacts my return trip to Paris.  But for now I must sleep, because apparently having fun is VERY tiring.

A Mini Travel Re-Do

For those of you amused by my return-to-Paris plans, here’s another good one–I’m leaving for NYC tomorrow.  I’ll only be there for the weekend, and I’m going to attend a conference, but still.  You may remember my I Hate New York post from last July, which turned out to be merely the amuse bouche of the eight course tasting menu of suck that was my Europe experience.  If you do remember that post, you are likely laughing and, again, rubbing your hands together in anticipatory glee.

Fortunately, I think I’ve learned from my mistakes.  We’re staying at a hotel that is walking distance from the bus station and from my main destination–a conference I’m attending.  We have dinner reservations for both nights–at Le Colonial tomorrow night and at The Modern on Saturday night.  I’m super excited about the second one–I’ve wanted to go there for some time.

Another exciting part of this trip is that I may finally get to visit the Met.  It is open late on Fridays, so depending upon what time we arrive tomorrow, it may be possible.  This is me crossing my fingers.

If you can’t wait to see how badly…er, well…the weekend goes and  want to follow along, check out my real-time travel blog, Virtual Passenger.  You can subscribe, and my updates will appear in your inbox in all of their awful…er…awesome glory.

Ok. That worked.

Whew! I thought blog on the run was done for. I’m having some odd connectivity issues in this hotel, even though I’m only using the 3G. Hmmm. Could be the lovely ‘inside room’ we were given–I thought those only existed on cruise ships. I was wrong.

Anyway, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–the key to travel blogging is travelling alone. I love my husband, and as such, refuse to spend my time away with him writing my most random thoughts–though I so love writing said thoughts. And as it took me the entire duration of his shower to write these two short paragraphs, I’ll be breaking my own rule again tomorrow. Unless he does not mind me writing as he drives the 180 miles back home. But I think he just might. I sure would.


My post from Friday disappeared, after spending lots of time typing it with my thumbs! And worse, I have no idea what I wrote! This is now a test post; if it does not work this time, I’m finding a new iPhone blogging app.

Reflections from a First Time NCTE Convention Attendee

Well, the first thing I learned was that blogging while AT an actual convention is not very likely.  There simply was not any time, and any spare minutes I had I spent in the exhibition hall and/or standing in line for the restroom (anyone reading this, do not despair, it was not that the lines were so very long, it was that I was so very busy).  But I learned lots of other things, too…things about teaching, teachers, the way conventions work…all kinds of great things that I can’t even make up categories for.  So I will revert to my favorite way to keep something short and sweet…the list.

What I Learned At the NCTE Convention…

1.  I am a shitty teacher.  Well, to be fair, I started to think this probably my second day teaching (seven years ago), but I’m sure of it now.

2.  I can be a better teacher.

3.  I WANT to be a better teacher (that’s a big one).

4.  I now understand why people go to church.  Not that I’m equating the NCTE convention to church, and no, Nancy Atwell is NOT my god.  Nor is Kylene Beers (though Chris Tovani is up there, as is Junot Diaz, oddly…) BUT–people go to church to feel like there is hope in the world.  To be refreshed.  Inspired.  That is what this convention did for me.

5.  There is no way I can organize all that I learned in any format, not for administration to approve, and especially not for this blog, though I really did want to provide some sort of guidance for English teachers thinking of going in years to come.  BUT–the good news is–I can answer all of your questions in one simple sentence–If you are thinking about going for the first time–DO IT!  It exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and was worth all of the time and money it took to get there, and then some.

6.  Aside from all of the touchy-feely crap, I also learned to take really comfortable shoes and a VERY comfortable large bag…or bagS.  Ok, to be perfectly honest, for the very first time in my life, I wished I was the type of person who would be caught dead rolling around one of those wheel-y suitcases when not even in an airport.  To be even more perfectly honest, when I go next year (and I’m going next year), I WILL be taking such a wheel-y suitcase.  Empty, on the plane, to fill up with books.  I spent $8 on books.  That is EIGHT.  No I did not type that incorrectly.  $5 for a hardcover I wanted signed, and $3 for another I thought I was going to get signed (but the line was too long).  I came home with somewhere in the area of 70 books, all young adult, all for my students.  More than half of them are galley copies, which to me is even better, because my kids will get to read the next batch of up-and-coming books before they even, well, ‘come up’.  I could not be more excited about this.

7.  Standing in line is a good thing.  I stood in line for several book signings, and learned a lot just from the people around me.  It is truly great to be surrounded by so many smart, enthusiastic, yet down-to-earth people.  Sorry…I said I was done with touchy-feely.  I’ll stop now.

This is me stopping.

Earlier in the week–via facebook post–I made a comparison between the NCTE convention and Disney World, stating that the former is BETTER than the latter.  Well guess what folks…next year’s convention is in ORLANDO!

NCTE Convention, Philadelphia–Day Two

The first thing I did on my second day here was kiss Doug goodbye for the day. He was spending the day several blocks away at the National Writing Project portion of the conference. And I was genuinely sad to see him go and to know I was to be on my own for the whole day. That feeling lasted…about four minutes. I suddenly realized ‘I was to be on my own for the whole day!’ I could go and do whatever I wanted, and I had a color coded schedule to follow–or not follow, if I chose. What could be better?

The answer to that question–the actual day was better than I could have ever hoped. I found that, with my afore mentioned color coded schedule, I could go from workshop to workshop as I pleased if for any reason I didn’t like the workshop I was in. I strongly suggest the color coded schedule to future conference attendees.

And…here is where I give up typing this on my phone at a convention. There is just too much going on, and Doug just texted me, which caused the last three paragraphs I typed to not save (I’ve decided to let him live…for now) I’ll be breaking my own rule again later, when I return to my precious computer (which I miss very much!)