Monday, October 27, 2014

Albany, New York Walking Tour

While we were in Albany, New York, we stopped at the Visitors Center and picked up a brochure for a walking tour of the city. The brochure highlights 22 significant locations within the city's historic downtown district, with an explanation for each stop along the way. Included are historic churches, a splendid Town Hall building, the magnificent State University of New York building (which was once the administrative offices of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad), the State Capitol (which I blogged below), parks, and various municipal buildings and plazas. Walking tours are a fun way to discover a city, you see so much more than you do from a bus, and you can take as long as you want, lingering at the places you find most appealing. With the looming, ornate, and dark architecture found throughout the city, Albany had a very Gothic feel to me, which might explain the annual Zombie Walk held in the city in October. The official name for someone from Albany is an Albanian, but not to be confused with a citizen of Albania! The unofficial nickname is Smallbany, meant as an insult by some, but Albanians embrace their small town culture. Since Albany was settled as a Dutch trading post in the 17th century, there are still many descendents with Dutch roots. The tulip is the city's official flower, celebrated in Washington Park each Mother's Day weekend. Here are some pictures from our small peek into Albany. 


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Albany, New York

We wrapped up our New England tour at the end of August and headed into New York for our visit first to Albany (then later to New York City). Albany is our 48th capitol visit, leaving only Mississippi and Alabama to finally be able to say we've visited all the capitols in the United States. Because so many of the capitols are alike, with the same style domes, marble floors and staircases, similar architectural styles, and layout, we were pleased to find the capitol building in Albany quite unlike any we'd seen before. And no wonder! Designed by five different architects, the capitol features an eclectic blend of Gothic Revival, Romanesque, and Moorish influences. Construction was completed in 1899 at a cost of $25 million (which translates to more than half a billion dollars today) with much of the interior (especially the staircases) showcasing works of art in their own right. The staircase near the western entrance is famous for the delicate faces carved in sandstone. It took more than 12 years and hundreds of stonecutters to complete, and legend has it that some stone cutters carved the likenesses of friends and family alongside the 77 more famous faces (such as Washington, Lincoln, Grant, and Susan B. Anthony). Speaking of legends, there have also been reports that the building is haunted, most notably with the ghost of Samuel Abbot, a night watchman who died in a 1911 fire, and another of a local fruit vendor who committed suicide in 1890 by jumping off one of the staircases to the Senate chamber below. We didn't see any ghosts during our visit, but with the dimly lit interior and Gothic feel to the building, I'm not surprised there are stories of hauntings. We did, however, enjoy our tour and consider this capitol quite unique. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Block Island, Rhode Island

Our last escapade during our month long stay in East Killingly, Connecticut was taking the ferry from Pt. Judith, Rhode Island to Block Island (also part of Rhode Island) for a bike tour.  On a crisp August morning, we loaded up our bikes, caught the early morning 13-mile ferry ride over, and were pedaling our way around the island with a couple of hours to spare before stopping for lunch. For some reason, I had this idea we were going to a remote and sparsely populated island and would have no crowds to contend with and no traffic to worry about. Don't ask me where this fantasy came from, but it was pretty much just the opposite. A very popular tourist destination, especially in the summer, the island is known for its bicycling, hiking, sailing, and beaches. There are also two historic lighthouses, but much of the island is an undeveloped natural area and resting stop for birds along the Atlantic Flyway. We pulled a perfect day for our visit, though, warm but not hot, breezy, but not windy, with beautiful blue skies.  We were able to see a lot of the 9-square miles of island before getting back on the ferry to come home. Below are some pictures we took that day.