Saturday, March 23, 2013

First Encounter Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

I've blogged a few posts earlier in admiration of some of the beautiful beaches in my wife's home country, the Philippines, such as Boracay and a few of the beach resorts on Mactan Island in Cebu.  This time, I decided to showcase a gorgeous beach here in the U.S.  Last summer, when we took our family trip to New York City, we also toured Cape Cod, Massachusetts a few days later.   Cape Cod is a narrow "elbow" or "hook" of land in the northeast part of the U.S. that extends quite far out into the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland part of Massachusetts, forming a "protected" bay called Cape Cod Bay.  The area of Cape Cod, while small in comparison to the rest of the U.S., contains some really interesting history and great beauty, and is a famous tourist area for those wishing to enjoy the beaches, watch whales (I will post about our Cape Cod whale-watching tour soon), and much more.    

Cape Cod offers gorgeous beaches on its east side facing the open ocean.  However, these ocean-side beaches have a few drawbacks -- namely the water temperature is cold even in the summer, the current can be tricky with experienced adults and treacherous with little kids.  Perfect beaches for experienced body boarders and surfers and swimmers who like big surf, but maybe not the best for folks with little kids or non-swimmers.  Also, (very unlikely but...) there was a great white shark attack last summer near Truro, Massachusetts, just before we went there.  This latter incident is due to a large extent to new laws that protect seals in the area -- more prey for the sharks.   Given these factors and mainly the fact that we wanted a warmer place to swim, we made the trip of just a few miles/kilometers across the narrow strip of land that is Cape Cod to travel from the eastern shore to the western shore.    The western shore looks inland toward Plymouth, Massachusetts, and the beaches here (near Eastham, Massachusetts) enjoy the much warmer water of Cape Cod Bay, much smaller surf and waves, hardly any current and no dangerous rip-tide, and no sharks.

The beach we chose, First Encounter Beach, was recommended to us by the lady who owned the hotel at which we were staying.  It got that name because the English "Pilgrims" who first colonized that area of what was to become the U.S. landed on Cape Cod in 1620, and first encountered the Native American tribe called the Nauset tribe at this very beach.  It was a fantastic recommendation, and we all enjoyed it so much.   We arrived late in the afternoon, and decided to stay late until after sunset (maybe 8:30 PM or so) because we just wanted to rest and relax after making a pretty long drive that day.   

The beach is amazing in its beauty, and there are cute little typical cedar-shake (wood shingled) Cape Cod cottages built on top of the sand dunes that overlook green reeds growing in the tidal flats. After doing some swimming with Mommy and Daddy, our daughter quickly discovered (and we were stunned to see) the amount of tiny little hermit crabs that were so active right at the shore line... she loves swimming, but became much more interested in investigating and catching the little critters.  She had so much fun catching these little creatures in a plastic cup (all of them were later returned to their natural habitat unharmed)!  

Typical Cape Cod cottages at First Encounter Beach
Crab catching

Clamshell, First Encounter Beach
Sand dune at First Encounter Beach, low tide

Historical marker at First Encounter Beach

Lots of little hermit crabs!

Father-daughter crab catching expedition in the tidal streams

Big fun at First Encounter Beach

Diggin' for crabs

As the afternoon progressed and the sun dipped lower in the sky, the tide gradually went out.  The tidal flats became amazing at low tide, with long extended sandbars that you could walk on very far out into what was earlier the water.   The rippled patterns and texture of the sandbars had an appearance almost like what you would expect to see on the surface of Mars.  

Low tide -- can't swim here anymore 

"Mars-scape":  footprints in the sandbar  at First Encounter Beach

Undulating ribbed patterns in the sandbars at low tide

Sandbar at low tide 

Green reeds, sand bars, and sea gulls

There was a tidal stream that flowed through and around these sand bars and the green reeds, and many tiny crabs and little creatures were in these waters. We spent hours and hours enjoying this, and we enjoyed it so much that we had to go back again the second day.   We saw a barnacle-encrusted horseshoe crab, which judging by the amount of them on its back was pretty old (I suppose).  It was interesting to watch how it propelled itself in the water and how it made tracks in the sand.  

Checking out the horseshoe crab - lots of barnacles on his back!

Ancient barnacle-encrusted horseshoe crab

Cup full of crabs

Certified Cape Cod crab catcher

Family photo on the sandbar
Mommy checking out the tidal streams

Catching critters
Cottages at First Encounter Beach just before sunset

The tide is getting lower

The setting sun and the sunset itself was absolutely spectacular, and my wife made sure to capture some great photos of the setting sun.   We had a wonderful time, and all of us would love to go back there again!


Kids catching crabs on the sandbar
Looking west toward Plymouth, Massachusetts

Finding little creatures

Checking out the sandbar

Crabs in the cup

The low tide sandbars extend far from the shoreline

Someone else's little girl carrying a pail

This is the track made by the horseshoe crab
Someone else's little girl playing frisbee... or is she pointing at a UFO??!!
Yeah, I think it's a frisbee
Remember that famous old black and white faked film footage of Bigfoot -- oh, wait, that's just me.  

Final seconds before sunset

Our favorite star

Digging in the tidal sands
Me stomping around trying to find treasure in the sand

Me at First Encounter Beach - beam me up, Scotty! 

Hunting for crabs in the setting sun
Taking flight at as the sun drops lower

Glaring waters under the setting sun

Sunset at First Encounter

Friday, March 15, 2013

A bite of The Big Apple: stops along 5th Avenue in New York City

Switching back again to our trip to New York City (picking up from 2 posts ago), this is a little glimpse primarily of our second day in the city, and is centered around mid-town Manhattan on 5th Avenue from the Flatiron Building walking north on 5th Avenue toward Central Park.  My wife took these photos, being a far better photographer than I can ever hope to be.

These next few photos are of the world-famous and historical Flatiron Building, which was named because its "footprint" and top-down shape is triangular in much the same shape as an antique cast-iron clothes iron (flatiron) from the late 1800's, which was placed on top of a cooking stove/oven to heat up.  It was one of the very first skyscrapers in the world (completed in 1902) and was an engineering marvel due to its steel girdered skeleton and its innovative use of electrically operated elevators.  It's also a really cool-looking building to this day, with Neo-Classical/Beaux Arts styling.   

Decorative work on the Flatiron Building - cool faces

Chowing down at the Flatiron Building

Modern entrance to the Flatiron Building - too bad they didn't keep the original

5th Avenue Building clock (from 1909), with Flatiron Building in background

People chillin' in front of the Flatiron Building

Empire State Building taken from Flatiron Building

This next part is for the fashionistas - I know that a number of my blogger friends are fashion bloggers, so this post and my older post about my winter parka will be about as close as I (as a dad) can come to writing about fashion.  Our daughter wanted to buy an over-the-shoulder purse, so we tried looking for some in stores, but couldn't quite find what she wanted.  My wife gave her a budget of $25, and our daughter had to stay under budget.  

Well, finally, her luck turned for the better.  Ultimately, on one of the streets intersecting 5th Ave., we found sidewalk vendors selling "Coach" bags...  and I put Coach in quotation marks because of course you know what kind of bags the sidewalk vendors sell!   They were colorful (lots of pink and complete with fake lizard skin), seemed to be made with decent quality, and had nice little pockets and zippered compartments and such.  The vendor wanted $30 for one, but our daughter did a little haggling and got the price down to $25.  Sold... a win-win situation.

Crossing back over to the east side of 5th Avenue and heading north, we came across a bunch of high-end fashion stores - Coach, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, Gucci, etc., etc., etc.  We didn't actually even go inside of any of them, but they had some really cool "eye candy" glass artwork that my wife thought would make some neat photos to post on my blog, just for fun.   Here are a few of those shots:

Take that, Louis Vuitton - my bag is WAY cheaper!

Gucci had a little insect problem.  Actually, these are pretty glass dragonflies.

Louis Vuitton's clever and beautiful octopus tentacles glass sculpture.

Beautiful but kinda disturbing... eyeball-centered glass sculpture flowers look like something from an episode of the original Star Trek.  Set your phasers on stun, Mr. Spock!

I guess Tiffany's is too high-brow, stately, and stolid to put any scary eyeball flowers or tentacles in the front window.

Whatever you do, just don't make eye contact with these hypnotic, psychedelic flowers.

We walked a little farther north toward Central Park, and checked out the famous FAO Schwartz toy store.   We spent some time looking around the store at some toys and trying on astronaut and jester hats and such, but I think the majority of our time in the store was spent in the "FAO Schweetz" section - the candy land which had candy in jars from all over the world.  You can scoop candy out of the jars and pick and choose whatever you want, then pay for it by weight (it isn't cheap).  Interestingly, there were many tourists in the store who didn't quite get the concept that these were not free samples (or perhaps were just taking advantage of the fact that the store was packed full of people), so there were numerous folks from various corners of the world helping themselves to "free samples" that were not meant to be free... oh well.   One of the famous attractions there is the "Big" piano, which was featured in the 1988 movie "Big" starring Tom Hanks.  It's a real functioning piano, and you can hop and dance on its keys.

FAO Schweetz candy inside the famous FAO Schwartz toy store
FAO Schweetz lollipop

Balcony at FAO Schwartz

Like a kid in a candy store

The "Big" piano at FAO Schwartz

Toy soldier doorman at FAO Schwartz.  I think this guy served under Wellington at Waterloo.

Edible Legos (??) at FAO Schweetz 

The guy with the backpack in the center of the photo looks guilty, doesn't he?

Mmmmm -- healthy food choices!

Our daughter in action on the "Big" piano

FAO Schweetz lollipops

Jester hat and Junior Ranger badge from Statue of Liberty

The 'Big" piano keys light up when you tap on them

Interior of huge FAO Schwartz toy store

The "Big" piano from the eponymous 1988 Tom Hanks movie

Balcony view of large stuffed zoo animals at FAO Schwartz

Hopping on the "Big" piano

I heard this stuff is good for an upset stomach.

Dancing to play a tune

Lighting up the keys

The next place we stopped was Trump Tower, built in 1983 by real estate mogul Donald Trump.   He's not one of my favorite persons, but thought we'd stop by and check it out nonetheless.  The building was OK, a fancy and quite beautiful modern building, but without the architectural character, charm, and interest that I find in the older more historical buildings such as the Art Deco masterpieces like the Empire State  Building, Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center.  I saw a display in the middle, though, that I thought would be pretty interesting to my blog friends Robby and Wrey from fasHi0nm0T0, bloggers from my home-away-from-home and land of my lovely wife, the Philippines.  Their blog  fuses fashion and motorcycles, so the display that we saw in the lobby of Trump Plaza brought them immediately to mind, and I asked my wife to snap some shots of it for the blog.  It is a custom (basically handcrafted) built motorcycle made for Donald Trump by  Orange County Choppers under the directorship of Paul Teutel, Sr., who is quite famous worldwide for building such machines.  BTW, Robby's family also runs a custom motorcycle business in the Philippines specializing in choppers! 

Check out how low the seat is on this thing!   It's really cool, but it's not quite my type (if I were to get a chopper, I'd go more for something like the chopper Peter Fonda rode in "Easy Rider").

Orange County Choppers Trump Motorcycle

Donald Trump's bike from Orange County Chopper/Paul Teutel, Sr.

You can see a poster of Paul Teutel, Sr. above/behind the headlight

Clock outside Trump Tower.  I wonder if this is where Paul Teutel, Sr. and OCC got their color scheme for the Trump chopper?



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