Did you know that Pennsylvania has the most covered bridges of any state? There are 219 covered bridges left in the state. I set out to explore some of the historic covered bridges of Bucks County in Pennsylvania courtesy of the very handy covered bridge tour put out by the county authorities.
Covered bridges became a romantic trope thanks to the wildly popular 1995 movie, The Bridges of Madison County starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood based on the novel of the same name. Some people called them ‘kissing bridges’ because courting couples could sneak a kiss on them away from prying eyes.
A more practical explanation would be that the covered part of the bridge protected the actual bridge from the elements. Additionally, a covered bridge kept animals from spooking on the bridge when they were crossing. Of course, covered bridges also protected people crossing from sudden storms.
Covered bridges fell out of favour when metal bridges began to be built in the mid-19th century. Now there are so few left, they are protected and rebuilt if they become damaged.
Covered Bridges of Bucks County
Bucks County in Pennsylvania still has 12 of 36 of its original covered bridges. Not bad considering that there were about 12,000 covered bridges in the United States but only about 10% remain.
I managed to convince the kids to do a mini road trip to see three of the remaining covered bridges of Bucks County. Yes, covered bridges are pretty but of limited interest on a sunny day to 9 year-olds. Luckily, it was a heat wave and they were happy to drive around for a couple of hours in an air-conditioned car!
Cabin Run Bridge, built in 1871, is 82 feet long. It crosses Cabin Run Creek which was so named because there were lots of cabins built along the creek. (Early settlers were not noted for their originality in place names.)
Cabin Run Bridge
The inside tresses of Cabin Run covered bridge
Frankenfeld Bridge, built in 1872, is bigger at 130 feet long. It crosses Tinicum Creek near where it merges with the Delaware River.
Frankenfeld Covered Bridge
Erwinna Bridge is the oldest (1832) and the shortest (56 feet long). It crosses Lodi Creek which when we saw it had pretty much dried up to nothing.
Erwinna Covered Bridge
Fortunately, the countryside provided a beautiful drive as well. We stopped at farm stands and found fresh tomatoes and peaches in season. Although we didn’t run into a Clint Eastwood-type out on assignment for National Geographic, our drive was a lovely diversion in the middle of a hot summer day in Bucks County.
A rustic-distressed red barn
Fresh tomatoes for sale
A Covered Barn over a creek. – that’s different from the usual!
One of the grand historic homes along the Delaware River.
While we were waiting for our table reservation at Serendipity, the famous ice-cream store in Manhattan, we had a couple of hours to wander around. The cheapest and easiest option was to take the kids down the street from Serendipity and take the Roosevelt Island tram. For the price of a New York subway ticket, we got to see Manhattan from a different perspective. Roosevelt Island is a pleasant residential island in the middle of the East River. There are plenty of things to do on Roosevelt Island to occupy yourself for an afternoon such as visit the Four Freedoms Park, the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse and the Octagon Roosevelt Island, all that remains of the former Roosevelt asylum.
The Roosevelt Island Tram
You get great views over the traffic and buildings in Manhattan from the tram as it crosses the East River. From Roosevelt Island itself, the skyline of the East Side of Manhattan is spread out before you.
The Roosevelt Island Tram entrance/exit is located at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue. It only takes a few minutes for the trip and runs regularly.
Fun Fact! – The Roosevelt Island Tram is the oldest tram in North America!
Kids, of course, will be familiar with the Tram from the climactic scene in Spider-Man (2002) where Spider-Man has to choose between his girl and the passengers on the tram dangling 250 feet above the East River.
Fear not, without the Green Goblin attacking the tram, it is perfectly safe. Over 26 million people have rode on the tram since it began operating in 1976.
The tip of Roosevelt Island is being redeveloped into The Four Freedoms Park, named after the famous quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt from the 1941 State of the Union speech.
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedoms of every person to worship god in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want…everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear…anywhere in the world.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
The park is the last work of the late great Modernist architect, Louis I. Kahn. It has taken 37 years to realise!
You can visit the Blackwell Island Lighthouse which is located in Lighthouse Park at the northern tip of Roosevelt Island. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being a New York City Landmark. The lighthouse’s name refers to the original name of Roosevelt Island when it was owned by the Blackwell family.
The Roosevelt Island lighthouse was designed by the same architect that built St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. The lighthouse was built with rock quarried by inmates from the island prison.
According to local legend, the lighthouse was built on the site where one of the inmates of the Roosevelt Asylum built a fort to defend against a British invasion. When the lighthouse was built, the inmate had to be persuaded to turn over the fort. There is a plaque that commemorates his industry still in Lighthouse Park.
The Roosevelt Island Promenade
The views from the Roosevelt Island promenade are spectacular. Can you believe the Blackwell Family sold this island to New York City in 1828 for $32,000 (about $700, 000 today). You would be doing well to get a 1 bedroom apartment in Manhattan today for that kind of money, never mind an entire island.
Spread out in front of you is the prime of Midtown Manhattan – such as United Nations, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.
About Roosevelt Island NYC
I had never actually been to Roosevelt Island before I took the kids.
Where is Roosevelt Island?
This island is located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens.
It had an infamous history as the dumping ground for the undesirables of New York society. In the 19th century, there was a penitentiary (for criminals) and asylum (for the mentally unstable) located on the island as well as an almshouse, workhouse and various hospitals.
Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary
Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary was opened in 832 because the other New York State prison was all the way upstate in Albany. The penitentiary housed serious criminals and workhouses were built for petty criminals who were punished with hard labor. The penitentiary could hold 1000 inmates and the workhouses had capacity for 221.
Fun Fact! – The first prisoners quarried local stone and built their own cells!
The Roosevelt Island Asylum
Unimaginatively called the New York City Lunatic Asylum, the center operated from 1839-1894. There were a lot more women than men in the asylum because it became an easy place to park a wife you didn’t want. Atlas Obscura has a fascinating piece on the history of the island.
The fact that the authorities dumped criminals, the mentally ill and the indigent together on Roosevelt Island tells you exactly what they thought about these people. In fact, in the early years of the Lunatic Asylum, the patients were taken care of by the inmates of the prison under the supervision of medical staff.
Anyway, Nelly Bly in a pioneering piece of investigative journalism, wrote about the horrors of the Roosevelt asylum which helped to close it down.
The Lunatic Asylum eventually got renamed to the less-pejorative Metropolitan Hospital in 1894. It was abandoned by the mid-20th century. In 1972, the hospital became a historic landmark.
An Island Idyll of Residential Housing
In the late 20th century, the island was converted to residential housing. It’s name was changed from (the ironic) Welfare Island to Roosevelt Island in honour of the 32nd President who was from New York.
One of the fascinating things about Roosevelt Island’s 1970’s residential transformation is that cars were not allowed in this apartments-only Communist type utopia. There are now 25+ apartment buildings now on the island.
A Clean and Car-Free 1970’s Utopia
And, Roosevelt Island is remarkably clean thanks to a 1970’s vision of a residential utopia.
There are about 10,000 residents now living on the island. Many diplomats choose to live there because of the easy access to the United Nations across the water.
In 2006, developers turned what remained of the ruins of the Lunatic Asylum into an eco-friendly, luxury residential complex. The Octagon Roosevelt Island refers to the Octagonal shaped building which served as the administrative center of the Roosevelt Asylum. The Octagon was much lauded for the beauty of its architecture in the 19th century, including by Charles Dickens in his travels through the USA.
More recently, Cornell University has built a state-of-the-art technology centre on the island.
A clear view of the UN building
So, in a nutshell, the things to do on Roosevelt Island provide a breather from the rest of New York. Taking the Roosevelt Island tram followed by a meander around the Four Freedoms Park, Riverwalk and the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse is a cheap and easy way to escape the chaos of Manhattan for a few hours. You’ll be rewarded with excellent views of Manhattan and Brooklyn and escape the honking of taxis, buses and cars as well.
We spent a pleasant afternoon in the park and expended enough energy to feel justified in ordering massively-oversized sundaes at Serendipity!
Hudson in New York is the cutest little town you ever did see. I grew up in New York state and I don’t remember anything remotely this pretty in the area. After a little bit of digging, I found out why. Hudson is a trendy little town which has been recently colonised by Brooklynites looking for fresh air and small-town atmosphere.
The History of Hudson in New York
The town has had its fair share of ups and downs over the course of its history. Settled by merchants in the 18th century, the town was very prosperous and lost the vote to become the capital of New York State by one mere vote. It had to make do with being the 4th largest city in New York by the early 19th century. By the late 19th century though, it became famous for a less-salubrious reason – becoming the centre of the drinking, gambling and prostitution in the area. The vice rings were broken up by the mid-twentieth century.
In the 1980’s, antiques dealers moved into the area and began the process of gentrification. Shortly, thereafter it was gays and Brooklyn hipsters and the transformation to full-on cuteness was complete.
Many of the houses have historic architectural value because they were built in the town’s heyday in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The loving restoration of these houses only adds to the charm of the town.
Hudson in New York Today
In addition to the 40+ antiques stores you have art galleries, specialty coffee shops, artisanal food shops and charming boutiques in this town. It is a perfect town for a day trip or a weekend away. We went on a weekday and the town was not busy. Be aware though that the population swells during weekends.
No corporate supermarket here!
The psychiatric help here may be the cheapest thing in town.
You can’t be trendy without the obliquitous food truck.
Nothing practical here but it’s all very pretty.
My son and I had a great time wandering through town on our Hudson Valley Tour. I can highly recommend Lick Hudson for their fabulous ice cream flavours such as gingersnap molasses and salted pistachio. My son had a banana split sundae which I helped him finish. I needed one of their delicious expressos after I came down from my post sundae sugar-high.
We only did a day trip but there’s plenty of accommodation if you choose to stay here. Check out the websites Stay in Hudson for accommodation possibilities and Go To Hudson for what to do when you are there. This article from the folks at The Kitchn suggests staying at The Rivertown Lodge for which you can check out reviews on TripAdvisor. Although the article also has got a walking tour and a downloadable map, it has gotten flack from locals who (correctly) insist that Hudson New York is in the Hudson River Valley and not The Catskills.
Image Credit: Rotem Raffe
The town is conveniently located on the Hudson River with its own Amtrak railroad station. It is 2 hours from New York City and 3 hours from Boston. We drove to Hudson and parking is really easy. We rented our car through Hertz as per usual.
Disclosure – We did not receive compensation of any sort for writing about any of the places in this article. This article does contain affiliate links for which more information may be found on the disclosure page.
Lower Manhattan is an excellent place to explore the melting pot history of New York City. Neighbourhoods such as the Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown and Nolita are all an easy walking distance from each other. And, the best part? This historical exploration involves lots of food!
Susan from the Enthusiastic Gourmet at Economy Candy
We took her Melting Pot Tour from the Lower East Side through Chinatown and ending up in Little Italy. Along the way, we sampled lots of different food and learned about the culture. She did such a good job of keeping the kids’ attention, they didn’t even realise they were learning all about the history of the area.
The Jewish Immigrants
The German and Eastern European Jews settled on the Lower East Side. What did we sample?
Everyone knows about the bagel but there is also the bialys which are a relative of the bagel. Bialys originated in Bialystok in Poland. Although both bagels and bialys are made from unbleached white flour with yeast, bialys have roasted onions in the middle where there would be a hole for the bagel.
Susan was such a thorough tour guide she made us try a bialy as well as a bagel so that we could taste the difference. The bialys are delicious especially if you are a fan of roasted onions like I am.
Another stop on the Jewish food tour was The Pickle Guys on Essex Street. They are an entire store devoted to pickled food. My son was in heaven because he loves pickles. The items are pickled the old-fashioned way by setting them in large barrels in salt for months. It’s not only pickles that are pickled but also garlic, celery, mushrooms, turnips, olives etc.
The Chinese Immigrants
In 1859, there were barely a couple of dozen men in New York City’s Chinatown. At its height though there were 150,000 Chinese people living over an area of 50 city blocks. Now, the Chinese population is about a 100,000 people.
Chinatown in Manhattan is an assault on the senses – the smell of food, the crowded streets, the chatter of people – all make this neighbourhood seem intensely alive. There are more than 300 Chinese restaurants in the area! Everywhere you look there are street stalls selling fruit and vegetables, restaurants with ducks hanging in the window and signs for bubble tea.
The Italian Immigrants
The Italians that showed up in New York City actually self- segregated themselves by their destination of origin. For example, the immigrants from Sicily lived on Elizabeth Street and those from Naples lived on Mulberry Street. You have to remember these immigrants arrived in the days before Italy was a unified country. As far as someone from Sicily was concerned, a person from Naples was from a different country.
Although the Italians from different regions originally didn’t talk or do business with each other, These prejudices eventually broke down. Frankly, they had to. By 1900 there were 100,000 Italians living in the 18-20 blocks that comprised of Little Italy. Not talking to your neighbour was not an option in such crowded conditions.
Nowadays there are only a couple of hundred Italians who live in the neighbourhood even though there are still many Italian businesses. Of course, we stopped by Di Palo, the Italian specialty food delicatessen and Ferrara Bakery and Cafe for their delicious cannolis.
The Podcast Episode with Dish Our Town
On a recent Just Go Places Podcast episode, Andrew Tolentino from the food and travel blog, Dish Our Town, mentioned many of the places that he would rate highly in these neighbourhoods. In case you missed the podcast, here’s an overview of some of the highlights in video form.
I had heard that the French artist whose work we saw on the slopes of Val d’Isere, Robert Orlinsky, was inspired by the LOVE sculptures of Robert Indiana, an American artist. I decided to take a closer look at these iconic pieces of public art which appear in many cities worldwide. I personally have seen two of these sculptures – in New York and Philadelphia – many times.
Philadelphia’s Love Park
Phladelphia’s Love Park, officially named JFK Plaza, is popularly nicknamed for the Robert Indiana sculpture. Although not very big, the sculpture made out of Cor-Ten steel dominates the park. At Christmas time, the official Christmas tree for Philadelphia is also displayed at Love Park.
We saw Philly Jesus at Love Park in Philadelphia. I mean where else would he hang out, right? In fact, Philly Jesus is a regular at Love Park, has trademarked his name and is on twitter. It wouldn’t surprise you to learn that he was at a Bernie Sanders support rally would it?
Robert Indiana actually did the LOVE design for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as a Christmas card in 1958. (I’m telling you the MoMA gift store is wonderful!).
If you wanted to be a romantic, then you would read the O is at an angle in order to lead your eye towards the V on the bottom. Moreover, the tilted O makes the sculpture less than perfect to convey the idea that love is imperfect.
Robert Indiana’s Love Sculptures are found around the world.
Alternatively, the negative space in the O can also be seen as an erect penis or even a cat’s eye.
The cards did so well he created the sculptures. The design became wildly popular in the 1960’s with the countercultural movement shouting for love and peace. The U.S. post office even made it into a stamp.
The Love Sculpture in Philadelphia’s Love Park next to the city’s Christmas tree.
Unfortunately, Robert Indiana did not copyright his work because he didn’t want to ruin the lines of the piece with his name on it. He has made very little money off this iconic piece of art even though everyone assumed he was raking in the money. So for the sake of his craft, Robert Indiana lost a lot of money.
Although the design was famous, few people knew that Robert Indiana was the artist. So he didn’t get public recognition. On the other hand, he lost a lot of credibility in the serious art circles for being a sellout. Robert Indiana should’ve taken the money right?
In many ways, Love for Indiana was the zenith of his success and also the instrument of his artistic decline. Ironic, no? Love can make and break you.
Love Sculptures Around The World
Did you know that Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture has been found all over the world? And, in different languages. Wikipedia has a list of where you can find the various LOVE sculptures around the world.
This sculpture spells out the word, Ahava, which means love in Hebrew. It is located outside of Israel Museum in Jurasalem.
Sort of like the moon landings for a previous generation, I’m sure our generation will remember where they were when the 9/11 attacks occurred. My husband and I had just returned from an amazing honeymoon. September 11, 2001 was the first day back at work for us. Morning in New York City meant we were just returning to our desks after lunch.
When our computer screens flashed up news of a plane crashing in Manhattan, it seemed surreal. I worked in the London office of a New York law firm. Many of us were native New Yorkers. We all gathered in the conference room to watch the unfolding horror on the big screen television. Everyone was equally shocked. Our office closed early that day. No one would have been able to return to work after watching the tragic events happening in our home town.
One World Trade Center
We have talked to our children a bit about the events of 9/11 which occurred before they were born. We have visited friends who lived in downtown Manhattan. They had a birds eye view of the building of One World Trade Center.
The building designed by starchitect Daniel Libeskind is stunning visually. Rising triumphantly over the skyline, the blue sky and sun reflect of the glass, a sparkling testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Now that my kids are 9 years old, I felt they were old enough to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum itself.
The 9/11 Memorial Plaza
The 9/11 Memorial is a plaza with twin reflecting pools. Each pool is set in the footprint of one of the Twin Towers. Needless to say, the waterfall pits are massive – about an acre each.
Names of the victims are inscribed onto the sides of the pools.
The plaza and other buildings are still a work in progress.
The 9/11 Museum
The 9/11 Museum is pretty much underground. The original Twin Towers had foundations with retaining walls that kept the Hudson River from flooding into the building. Despite the destruction aboveground, the retaining walls remained strong. (A mercy or otherwise the flooding in Lower Manhattan would have caused even more destruction). The Museum is housed within these remaining foundations.
You descend down staircases and ramps into the basement. The light from the beautiful atrium overlooking Freedom Tower is soon lost as you head down into the heart of darkness/depths of despair etc. The symbolism is not subtle.
Although the museum is sombre, my children did not find it creepy. Everything is carefully curated so nothing feels overwhelming. The museum is about 110,000 s.f. so there is definitely plenty of room to spread out.
The Virgil quote from The Aeneid is part of an art installation in Memorial Hall. The letters are cut from steel taken from the fallen Twin Towers. Someone (not a classicist) thought the quote was appropriate but many people have criticised the quote for being taken out of context. In the Aeneid, the quote refers to murderous gay lovers who have hacked their enemies to death in their sleep.
Artist Spencer Finch created 2983 pages of water-colour for the installation. The shades of blue represent the artist trying to remember what colour the sky was on that fateful day. Surrounding the Virgil quote, I’m sure some bright spark thought the art could take attention away from the offending quote itself. It doesn’t.
The 9/11 Museum Exhibits
You walk past the remains of the ‘Survivor Stairs’ where many people were able to escape the building onto Vesey Street.
The mangled remains of fire trucks, ambulances etc. are on display. You can clearly see the force of the blast and the power of the heat. All of it is testament to the courage of the people who did not flinch but ran towards the disaster to help.
We looked at some of the portraits of the 3000 people who had died on the day. They were from all walks of life, young and old. My son was struck by the story of one heroic worker who rescued 18 people but died himself when the building collapsed as he went to rescue another person.
My children were a little perturbed by the missing posters exhibition. Someone can go into work one day just like any other day but then never come home. It’s a lot to take on board.
The Last Column was the last piece of structural steel to be removed from the Twin Towers in the spring of 2002.
On this piece of steel, rescue workers and others had attached messages and missing posters. The Last Column was brought back to the museum as a permanent exhibit.
Personal exhibits are also on display of people who perished on the day. This motorcycle was a wreck bought by one of the fireman who died. He had intended to restore it. His colleagues from the fire company restored it for him and placed it in memory of him at the museum.
One exhibition section goes into specific details on the events of the day itself. It is not recommended for children under the age of 10. My children insisted on going inside but I did whisk them through some of the materials.
There are eyewitness accounts, television broadcasts and lots of other multimedia materials. I’m sure the newsreels showed some of the clips of people jumping from the Twin Towers which I did not want my children to see. I am haunted by those images still to this day. And, I am not ready to get into a discussion on when murder becomes suicide.
I’m sure a lot went over my children’s heads but it was a good introduction to the events of the day. I think what happened on 9/11 is so tragic and overwhelming, it is best consumed in small doses. I am sure we will return when they are older and we can discuss in more detail what happened.
Helpful Tips For Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum:
The 9/11 Memorial does not require tickets. Both the memorial and museum are open daily. The Museum is free on Tuesday nights after 5pm. Otherwise, the museum costs $24 for adults and children from 7 to 17 are $15. Other discounts apply as well.
You should get tickets for a timed entry to the 9/11 Museum online. There are lines for either the top of the hour or the bottom of the hour where you can wait. Don’t bother! You can waltz in a few minutes after your allocated time slot when the lines have cleared. There’s plenty of room inside and being the last to go inside on your time slot has no impact on your visit to the museum.
Our visit took us a little over 2 hours. You could easily have spent another 2 hours if you spent more time in the enclosed ‘for older visitors’ only area.
I thought my children at 9 years of age were ready for this museum. They would not have understood as much if they were younger. They did not see all of the exhibits because I managed to evade some parts of the museum. Adult discretion is definitely advised.