Goth Panda

March 3, 2016

Metropolitan Opera and New York City Plans

The Metropolitan Opera.

For the past few years, I have been a season ticket holder at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Until about a year ago I lived in the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, and this meant it was a relatively easy day trip up to New York. I would take the train up, meet my fellow opera-loving friend who lives there for lunch and an opera matinee, and get back in time for a late dinner.

Then I moved to central Pennsylvania, almost the exact middle of the state, and this has complicated my New York City-going habits. Because of the longer travel time, I’m now going for overnight weekend trips, and ideally for three day weekends. I used to live in New York, and it is still one of my favorite places to visit, so I always find plenty to do. Since my visits are usually built around opera performances, I started planning my next year’s visits to New York when the Met’s 2016-17 season was announced a few weeks ago.

Metropolitan Opera House.

This year I had six New York City trips planned, four of which have already happened. We saw Turandot and Tannhauser in October, Die Fledermaus in December, right before we left for New Orleans, and Manon Lescaut a few weeks ago.* In mid-March, we have tickets for Nozze di Figaro (I also have tickets to Hamilton for that trip, which I am very excited about), and in May for Elektra.

This has all made for a lot of back-and-forth short trips to NYC, though, and I learned that going up to NYC on a Saturday and back on a Sunday was not ideal. It felt like I arrived in New York with just enough time for dinner, the opera, brunch the next morning, and then it was time to go. I think for next year I’ll be able to combine at least two performances into one weekend. So the plan is to go for four three-day weekend trips to see five operas, which will give me some more time in the city.

The ones we are planning to get tickets for next season are Tristan und Isolde, Don Giovanni, Salome, Rusalka, and Der Rosenkavalier, so I’m planning four trips for October, December, February, and April. I usually choose the operas based mostly on the cast, but this also worked out well since the only one of these five I have seen before is Don Giovanni, and I have wanted to see both Tristan and Salome for a long time.

*Mini-reviews of the Met performances so far:
Turandot: This is the first time I’ve seen a production of Turandot, and I learned that outside of the show-stopping arias, I do not much like Turandot. When we saw it, Goerke was not in good voice, but Alvarez and Gerzmava were great. For some reason Gerzmava (or the conductor) took Signore Ascolta at a quick tempo, which I object to. I think this is the one where the old man next to fell asleep and SNORED, while also periodically leaning on my shoulder. I am not kidding.

Tannhauser: Also kind of a dud for me, although the cast was fine. I am not a huge Wagner fan.

Die Fledermaus: I have seen Fledermaus before and I’m pretty sure after this time I don’t need to see it again. The cast was great, the production was fine, the music was pretty, but even with all that, there was not enough there to make it worthwhile for me. I need to remember that in the future.

Manon Lescaut: We saw Massanet’s Manon last season, and had a compare-and-contrast discussion during the intermissions. We agreed that Massanet’s Manon is more sympathetic, but Puccini’s has the better music. Jonas Kaufmann was supposed to sing Des Grieux, but he cancelled, so we saw Roberto Alagna instead. I was a little disappointed, but I thought Alagna did a great job. This is the first time I had heard Kristine Opolais, and I liked her a lot. She has the perfect voice for these mid-weight Puccini roles. However, I greatly disliked the staging in the last half of the third act, which made me worry about the singers’ safety instead of concentrating on the music.

January 28, 2016

Long Term Travel Goals

By the time a new year starts, I usually have my travel plans and destinations in mind. But I also have a running list of long-term travel goals. What can I say, I am a planner by nature.

My number one goal for the next five years is to finish the 50 States Project, which is to say that both Mike and I will have visited all 50 states. The current state of our map is below:

VisitedStatesMap 01.14

I figured out that although we didn’t set out for this to happen, we have ended up going to most states together. I think the only one we have both visited, but at separate times, is Florida. Every other state we have been to together at least once. I am still counting Florida for the purposes of the project, but I do want to go back with Mike, at the very least for Harry Potter World.

My plan to finish up the states involves four separate trips:

  • an Oregon roadtrip. I envision this as a loop down the coast from Portland and then back up through Crater Lake.
  • a Great Lakes roadtrip. This will include Mackinac Island, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Isle Royale National Park, and the Northern shore of Wisconsin, the last remaining Midwest state.
  • a Dakotas roadtrip, which will hit the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, with a short detour into Wyoming for Devil’s Tower.
  • Alaska, which I’d like to do as half cruise, half land, but Mike is not enthusiastic about the idea of a cruise. We might end up just flying there and making that a roadtrip, too.

My 10 highest priorities after that, at this moment, are:

  • Italy
  • Switzerland
  • Glacier National Park
  • Europe River Cruise
  • Scotland, especially the Highlands and Outer Hebrides
  • Mediterranean Cruise
  • Canadian Rockies
  • Japan
  • Galapagos Islands
  • New Zealand

Runners-up: Yosemite, Vienna, Ireland.

I say “at this moment” because things can move on and off this list depending on my mood. It will interesting to see if this list is the same in 2017.

January 21, 2016

2016 Travel Plans

We have one trip planned for sure this year, to Utah in May for more National Parks. We are in the planning stages for two more: one at the end of July to Nova Scotia with Mike’s parents, and our annual Christmas trip, which is shaping up to be London this year.

Big Bend

Big Bend, from the Zion National Park Flickr

For Utah, the plan is to fly into Las Vegas, drive to Zion National Park and stay for four nights, move on the Bryce Canyon for four nights, drive to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, since I didn’t get a chance to see it when we were there in 2014, and then end up with a final overnight in Vegas. I’m hoping to have more fun than the last time we were there.

Peggy's Cove

Peggy’s Cove, from Tourism Nova Scotia

For Nova Scotia, I have a few things at the top of my list: Cape Breton National Park and the Cabot Trail, Hopewell Rocks, Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, Annapolis Royal, and Halifax. But I haven’t finalized an itinerary yet – I keep moving things around and rearranging. Part of the fun of traveling for me is the advance planning and working out the details.

We were in London in 2008 for a week, but there are still a lot of things we didn’t get a chance to see. Number one on the wishlist for next December is getting tickets for a Premier League football game, which as I understand it is next to impossible if you are not a club member, and even difficult if you are one. We’re probably going to try to accomplish this through a travel agency to guarantee we can get them, and we will need to keep some flexibility in our itinerary since the match dates can change. I haven’t decided if we will stay the whole time in London and make day trips, or if we will add on another destination. I do know my plans will call for a lot of afternoon tea to be consumed.

June 29, 2015

Plans for 2015-2016

When we got back from Australia two weeks ago, for the first time in years, I did not have the next trip planned. In the beginning of April, we moved from the Philadelphia area to Central Pennsylvania, where I’d gotten a new job. Although just about everything having to do with this move, including the new location and my new job, have been terrific, I had to give up my stored-up vacation days and start over. So for a few months, we are going to be homebound. This is not as bad as it sounds; we have several weekend trips planned, and several weekends hosting houseguests. But my next chance for a long trip is over the holiday break.

In keeping with my new theme of wanting to go somewhere warm, we decided to knock out a state that Mike hasn’t been to yet and visit New Orleans. This is also fulfilling another goal of mine to take an overnight train trip, since we will arrive via Amtrak. We will drive up to visit Mike’s sister in Arkansas for Christmas, then return to NOLA for a few days before flying home. I have been to New Orleans, but it was more than 10 years ago, and not for very long. I’m going to have to come up with something interesting for us to do, since my favorite things (beignets and French Quarter houses) are not going to interest Mike very much.

We decided almost spur of the moment to make our May/June trip next year to see some more Utah National Parks. The real impetus was when I checked the National Park hotels at Zion and Bryce Canyon and found out they had (very few) rooms available. I’d already had the basic plan for the trip mapped out, so I snapped up the reservations, and also added an overnight stop at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, which I didn’t get to see last fall. My obsession with National Parks and National Park hotels continues. I thought about making our next goal (after achieving the 50 States) visiting all of the National Parks, but I’m not sure because there are a few I am just not interested in. But we might get almost there without making it an explicit goal.

In late summer, we have two possibilities: Nova Scotia or back to Bar Harbor. We’ve never been to Nova Scotia, and usually a new place would win out over a repeat, but I loved Bar Harbor so much that I view these as almost even.

For next year’s holiday break, I am thinking of going back to the Southwest: specifically Big Bend National Park, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. I will not pretend that the regional cuisine is not a major reason for this plan.

February 11, 2015

Plans for 2015

I’ve booked the big trip for June 2015: Australia. I modified the itinerary I was considering here a little bit. Instead of driving from Sydney to Melbourne, we are going to take the train, and then do two day tours from Melbourne. This is so we don’t have to worry about driving, which I am always nervous about in another country. I also changed the flight back to just leave from Cairns on Saturday morning, and I’m not sure why that didn’t occur to me in the first place. Although it might have been nicer to split up the flight times with a break, it is much more convenient to just get it all done in a row. There is no way the flights back and forth are going to be anything like pleasant, anyway.

I’m not sure what else we will do in 2015. I can’t schedule anything before Australia because of work, but I might be able to take another week off in the summer and extra time around the holidays, as usual. If we get the chance in the summer, I’d like to do an upper midwest/Canada road trip that I’ve been thinking about for a while. For the holidays, I have a few ideas but I’m not sure at this point which is my top choice: Italy, Spain, or possibly a river cruise in Europe if the dates work out; a road trip to New Mexico; California for Palm Springs/Death Valley/Yosemite/Lake Tahoe. I’d really like to make this year a warmer-weather holiday, and some of these are better than others in light of that. But I haven’t settled on anything yet.