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now, why am i in grand central?  yes, it's gorgeous, but i was here for a very wonderful reason- my friend veca (김민영) was in the US for a first time visit.  she spent a couple of days in seattle, then a week in NYC with a friend.  i was picking her up from NYC for another few days outside the city.  a whirlwind tour of parts of new england!


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on a train, on our way out to my aunt and uncle's where i stashed my car.  can't believe veca was there!  aside from driving and chatting and getting to our first destination, we had a special meal composed of foods from different areas of eastern europe (not all of them were veca's new favorite).  there were so many questions she had about the reality of the US versus her previous perception of it. . . i tried to fill in some blanks without running through an entire high school history class.  

she became more impressed with how me and my expat friends survived in korea.  she visited the US for about two weeks and was kind of homesick and missing korean flavors in that short time- it even surprised her.  i did love that i could repay her a bit, for all the times she escorted me to doctors or vets, or wrote me notes in korean to take to stores.  after spending over a week with one of her friends here (who was too nervous to try out her english), it was a nice break for her to have me around to read signs, order food, and make plans.  

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not bad eh?  outside our hotel at howe caverns. (over the evening we watched a few fireflies move about.  tried to catch one and pretty much killed it- accidentally.)

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taken in the morning before we started off.  outside our room people were playing frisbee in front of a fantastic backdrop.  ahead of us: howe caverns, driving, shopping, a stop in a scenic town for a memorable lunch, a bridge of flowers, rainy driving, and an 'american' chinese dinner. 

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the Howe Caverns were more impressive than i anticipated.  it was also really nice to get out of the heat. 

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this stalagmite was nicknamed the leaning tower of pisa.

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getting into our boat for a ride through the cave.

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in the 'chapel' area a special spot with a little back light.

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veca in the caves.

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as lovely as the first two parts of the cave were, this was by far the best part.  i felt like a giant walking through south west canyons!

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obligatory. :)

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what's a trip through the US without a little shopping?  (although Veca had done a pretty good job filling her new suitcase already)  we made a stop at a petco where i contemplated (didn't actually buy, yet) buying some star wars themed apparel for glitchy.

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and why stop in shelburne falls?  aside from it being a cute area, it had a nice area to walk around.

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not a bad place for a pit stop.

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crossing the bridge of flowers.

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(bridge of flowers)

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(bridge of flowers)

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(bridge of flowers)

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after walking around, using the toilets of a cute library, and eating, veca helped me locate (actually SHE located it) a geocache in the town.

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so, our morning whale watched was pushed back into the afternoon.  after a great breakfast at a friendly local diner, what are a couple of girls supposed to do?  how about checking out a medieval inspired castle on the coast.  filled with artwork and artifacts, the hammond castle didn't disappoint.

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the plaque before entering.

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an impressive grand hall.

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a lovely room off the grand hall with a view of the water, a fireplace, and plenty of places to sit and relax.

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one of his inventions- a sound system that controlled sound throughout the castle.

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marveling in the coolest room.

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a nice touch of color and light in my favorite room, a round library.

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veca in the lovely covered courtyard.

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the way artwork and architecture was cobbled together into this castle reminded me a lot of the isabella stewart gardner museum.  something to see everywhere your eyes fell.

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the medieval inspired bedroom.

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this office has inspired me to own a standing valet- don't have it yet, but it will be part of my room!

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veca overlooking the water outside the hammond castle.

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the front with the draw bridge.

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i was concentrating very hard, trying to get that moping grotesque to appear over my head in my picture.

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with the Hammond grotesque.

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we lucked out like crazy.  our morning whale watch was cancelled, but they added us into the afternoon outing.  (so it was a little crowded.)  the day was beautiful and the company was calling nearby hotels to let them know that it would be a great day to go whale watching.  according to our announcer, the day we went had more whales than they had seen the entire prior month.  i can't remember which three we saw, other than humpbacks, but if we didn't have one up and close on the boat we could easily spot sea spray in nearly all directions.  our announcer was possibly more excited than the entire boat, screaming about how amazing it all was the entire ride.

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we have chin break!  all the gulls decent to catch the food that the whale loses as they push out all the water from their mouths.

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cruising along.

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aha. . .the hump.

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headed down.

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a little tale waggle. . .

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and a final splash!

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for the last 15 minutes these two whales swam next to each other and to our boat.  really cool.

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just amazing.

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wegmans are too far from where i live to make the trip often.  luckily, there was one on our way to our next hotel.  (also got to stop at a starbucks where veca collected another city themed bug.) outside boston we walked around this wegmans and filled take out containers for dinner.  we sat right in the lovely store and ate.  (veca had been commenting on how quiet and well behaved american children were.  i explained it wasn't always true, but definitely different from how korean children are expected to behave.  we sat near to a family with a young daughter.  the girl was all over the place, demanding, and noisy. . . and korean.  veca was humorously embarrassed.)