Recently the wonderful Kate Brabon came to visit me for two weeks! Just to re-cap, Kate and I met through my blog last May when she reached out about also living with Spondylitis. Although she lives in Australia, we've grown extremely close through e-mails, Skype and good old fashioned "snail mail."
What can I say? Our time together was better than I ever expected! Kate's plane touched down on the night of November 26th and, as I waited outside the gate with my parents ("Welcome" balloons in hand), it hit me - we were finally meeting! From that first moment on, it couldn't have been more comfortable; Kate fit into my family like she'd always been there. Incidentally, my family decided to postpone our Thanksgiving dinner until the following evening so Kate could experience this American holiday. It made complete sense to have Kate by my side as we gave thanks, since I couldn't be more thankful for our friendship.
While I risk sounding completely cheesy (something I'm quite
good at), Kate's presence just makes
things brighter. Watching her travel and experience this country for the first time rejuvenated me; through Kate's eyes, everything seems new and exciting! (take the picture of her to the right, for example...this was her first New York city tax ride). Her enthusiasm was exactly what I needed to officially put the past several months behind me. Thankfully my body cooperated with our big plans! Each day was filled with sightseeing, some new experience, a meeting with a friend or family member, or just some good old fashioned girl time. We kicked off our time with a 5 1/2 hour tour of the city!
How could a 5 1/2 hour tour be fun, you ask? After some research, Kate and I decided to go with OnBoard Tours and took their NY See it All! Tour - a comprehensive romp around the Big Apple. We started out in Times Square, made our way up Broadway to the Upper West Side (my stomping grounds) and had our first stop at Strawberry Fields - John's Lennon's memorial in Central Park. After this, we drove through Central Park and past the festive holiday windows on Fifth Avenue. We saw the Empire State building, Chelsea, Soho, Chinatown, Wall Street and more. Our guide, who happened to be in one of the twin towers on September 11th, gave a personal account of this day. We saw Ground Zero, Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange, etc. Kate and I both agreed that this tour company was "Spondylitis-friendly"since we never spent too much time sitting down on the bus (our backs appreciated this) and, just as we started to ache from the cold of outdoor sightseeing, we'd return to the warmth of our bus. Additionally, the day was broken up with a fabulous boat cruise up the East River. We started out at South Street Seaport, sailed under the Brooklyn Bridge, and made our way to the Statue of Liberty! Seeing Kate's face light up as Lady Liberty appeared remains one of my favorite memories of our time together.
The night of the bus tour, we also saw Phantom of the Opera with my parents - Broadway's longest-running show! We visited the Museum of Modern Art (by the way, the MoMA cafe has stellar food!) and we both especially loved the Van Goghs. Of course, we also visited the lovely Rockefeller Christmas Tree - a New York "must see" at this time of year. John came to meet us for several dinners - two near my apartment, once in Brooklyn near my brother and Erica's home, and the final one on Long Island. It meant so much to me that they both took the time to get to know each other! It was a blast. Kate and I also explored a bit of Long Island. We took a small stroll on a my favorite beach and drove through others towns and places that have meant something to me. These are the moments I wont forget - just driving, talking, and enjoying each other's company.
In addition to exploring New York, we also made it up to Boston! After all, what's a trip to America without a good old fashioned road trip? Since many of my close friends from Colby live up there, I figured it was a perfect opportunity to show Kate more of the States and introduce her to some important ladies in my life. The girls hosted an awesome holiday party the night we arrived. The next day, we had a fantastic brunch and I was touched that so many people came out to be with us. We strolled around Harvard and happened upon a great Crafts Fair in the area. Instead of doing the typical "tourist thing", my friends gave me and Kate a pretty great tour of the city from the backseat of their heated car. It was great! We also decorated some pretty fabulous cupcakes - something that's become a tradition whenever I see my Colby girls. This time our theme was "Australian Animals" in Kate's honor (double click the photo on the right to enlarge).
When we returned from Beantown, we had some more time with my family and then headed back into the city to do and see everything that was left on our list (yep, we had an actual list!). We romped around the West Village and ate at a glorious gluten-free restaurant for lunch called Rissoteria. As an avid Leonard Cohen fan, Kate also wanted to see the Chelsea Hotel. As always, her enthusiasm was amazing! We also explored Central Park and sought out Belvedere Castle - the second highest elevation in the park. It was beautiful and, from up there, we had anincredible view of the park!
I could go on, but it's hard to put those two weeks into words. What I can say is that I miss Kate more than I thought possible, I wouldn't have changed one thing about her visit, and I'll cherish that time forever.