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March 2014

On The Road to a Virtual Voyage!

I figured a  “Throwback Thursday” would be a most appropriate time to wax nostalgic and invite you to join me on my next virtual vacation!  This weekend I will set off on a wondrous adventure “across the pond”  touring southern England!  As if that weren’t fabulous enough, I’m traveling with my daughter Sara, just the two of us, as her graduation gift before she heads off to college next month! 

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  During my 25+ years at ABC7, many of you have watched Sara grow up over the years - here’s the nostalgic part - and during that time she has become an incredible traveler! 








She took her first cruise before she was 2 - at 4, she was climbing pyramids in Mexico!

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At 6, Sara accompanied me and my Mom on a trip to Spain - 3 generations in our mother country! At 10, Sara was sightseeing through ancient Greece; at 12 she experienced the glaciers of Alaska!

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I took her to President Obama’s first inauguration - we explored the holy land together with members of our congregation.

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I chaperoned a high school choir trip to Ireland, and back in the states we took road trips to our national parks and the entire stretch of Rt. 66!  Sara’s 18th birthday with a destination party to the “Happiest Place on Earth!”

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I now invite you to join us on our next adventure, as I share our discoveries in London and many other historic places in the UK.  We arrive at Heathrow Airport Monday August 4th; posts on Facebook and Twitter soon to follow!  As this is an “interactive vacation,” feel free to make suggestions, ask questions or give advice - this is the first time in the UK for both of us!

 https://www.facebook.com/RozVaronABC7   https://twitter.com/rozvaronABC7 

One more thing - a heartfelt thanks to my incredibly understanding husband for giving Sara and I this special bonding time while he stays at home.  Besides, someone has to watch the dogs, right?!


Bon Voyage!




On The Road to Liberty Island

Hard to believe it's our last full day in NYC - the week just flew by!  Making the most of our precious time, we started out on a morning rush hour subway ride (and you thought the CTA was crowded!) to Battery Park.

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 From there we would catch the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.  We had plenty of opportunities to take pictures, as the security lines were long, even with reservations!

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The wait to visit Lady Liberty was worth it.  Seeing the magnificent torch, reaching into a clear, blue sky, one could only imagine what thoughts of freedom and opportunity filled the minds of the millions of immigrants as they approached, searching for the "American Dream."   My group of 7 toured the museum, climbed the 215 steps from the lobby to the top of the pedestal, caught our breath and captured breathtaking pictures!

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The visit wouldn't have been complete without a stop at Ellis Island.  Although this historic National Monument is open on a limited basis only, due to the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, it was still worth a visit to see the Great Hall, and look at a nearly one hundred year old ship's registry! An amazing piece of American history.

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As tired as we were, we forged on to meet with the entire group of 70 at the top of the Empire State Building!  Marveling in its 'art deco' style from the outside, we delighted in taking magnificent pictures from the observatory.  It was the world's tallest building from 1931 to 1973 - CHICAGO CONNECTION -  guess what building beat it out as the world's tallest in 1974?!

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To complete the day we went back to the theatre district for an 8:00 performance of "Pippin" at the Music Box Theatre.



 Too tired to pack that night - we'll deal in the morning!!

On The Road to Broadway

Sleeping in is a good thing! Our first two days were so full, it felt like a week had gone by!  Our day started with the students' final concert of the trip, at Madison Sculpture Garden on Madison Avenue near 57th.



We had some early afternoon free time after the performance - the boys grabbed some lunch, Sara and I snuck in a litte shopping.  

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Our next stop - a matinee of "Jersey Boys."  I was so excited to  share this experience with my group, as most hadn't seen it - plus I had scored some pretty sweet seats - 3rd row orchestra!  I don't know if I was over-tired, over-scheduled or just abscent-minded, but I could have sworn the showtime was 3:00 pm. When we showed up at 2:45 and no one was in the lobby, I had a really bad feeling! The show started at 2:00!!  I was SO UPSET with myself, I couldn't hide my disappointment.  The kids, on the other hand, took the high road, and were so kind and appreciative, it just reaffirmed my assessment of how special my group of students was!  Plus, they still LOVED the show (minus the first 45 minutes)!

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Next stop - dinner at Juniors - more yummy New York deli-style cuisine in a fun, sit-down setting.  


Now it was time to get ready for our evening event, La Boehme at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.  The evening had become bitterly cold with wind gusts of up to 50 mph!  I made an executive decision - no walking to the subway that night - we were cabbing it!


The opera was lovely, but I can assure you, with such long, full days, there were many heavy eyelids during the 3 hour performance - mine included!

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It didn't take long to fall fully asleep once we got back to the hotel!  


On The Road to Downtown, Uptown and Midtown Manhattan

Our second full day in NYC was full of surprises! My group had a very early wake-up call! We had to be at the stage door of the Good Morning America studios by 6:45 to see the show from "behind the scenes."  


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My group already knew the GMA visit was in the plans - they didn't know if we'd be part of the local "talk-back" with ABC7 Chicago!  Luck was on our side, and my group of 6 not only got to stand on the set behind Robin Roberts, but they got to sing to her and all of Chicagoland from New York!

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We stayed for the entire 2 hour show, which included special guest Diana Nyad, and the band Karmin! #KodakMoment!

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Once the show wrapped, with continued with our ambitiously planned day, heading downtown on the subway to see the 9/11 Memorial.  


We had to wait in a long security line to get in, but everyone understood.  There was strained sunshine, with a bone-chilling wind, which seemed appropriate during this emotional, yet powerful visit.



The Memorial is beautiful, with 2 large cascading fountain pools marking the locations where the Twin Towers stood.  The new Towers are magnificent, like a phoenix rising with resilience.  I wasn't the only one to shed a tear.












Our day continued on an upbeat note, literally, as we took the subway Uptown to the Church of the Blessed Sacrament for the students' next concert.  Another impressive performance.


My Uncle Malcolm Varon, a native New Yorker, came to see the concert and then gave our group a brief tour of Central Park.  I say brief, because it was SO COLD and brutally windy, even the boys were complaining they needed to get out of the elements!

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We wrapped up our day with another Broadway musical - "Matilda" at the Shubert Theatre.



 A jam-packed, exhausting yet fulfilling day.  At least we got to sleep in on Wednesday!


On The Road To Uptown

Our first full day in New York began with a quick breakfast and a quick subway ride Uptown for the students' first performance at St. John the Divine.




After the performance we had a few hours of free time. Several of the guys in my group had requested a visit to Nintendo World. They checked out the latest video games, I checked my email!

After that grueling game, it was time for some gruel. You know the saying...when in Rome - so I took them to a Kosher Deli!

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I felt the need to top off all that pastrami with some chocolate - how convenient, the M & M store was just a few blocks away!

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For dinner, the entire group met at Da Nico Ristorante in Little Italy. A charming place with authentic food in a historic neighborhood.


Me being me I couldn't end the day right then and there - so I took my group to see "Avenue Q." Of course they loved it! Of course with my group consisting of my daughter and 5 teen guys, no surprise there!

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Yes, it was a full day and a late night. Yes I was getting them up VERY early the next morning for a big surprise. I guess that's why they call it "The city that doesn't sleep!"


On The Road to Midtown

The past two days have been a whirlwind! It started Saturday afternoon with a farewell dinner at the school and some 60 students who could barely contain their excitement!

IMG_9804My group, affectionately known as "Sara and The Boys," were among the first on the bus to Union Station. Still bursting with energy, they found ways to occupy themselves waiting for Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited, which not surprisingly departed an hour behind schedule!



By the time we rolled out of Chicago it was close to 11:00 pm! As tired as we were, those of us who were lucky enough to drift off to dreamland didn't get more than a handful of hours of sleep.  

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Speaking strictly for myself, definitely a "Motrin Moment!"  Sunday morning brought us through Cleveland Ohio, past Erie Pennsylvania, then stopping in Buffalo New York, where a fresh snow storm reminded us that while the calendar said spring, winter still had an icy grip on much of the country.









Eventually, the sun broke through and we were treated to a very scenic train ride through upstate New York!

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By 6:30 pm, after more than 20 hours on the train, the excitment began to mount as we approached our final destination - Penn Station!



For most of the students, this was their first experience in "The City That Never Sleeps!" I took my group to  the Brooklyn Diner, for some gi-normous sandwiches!

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On the walk back to our hotel, we couldn't help but stop for a quick tourist moment near Times Square!


Tomorrow, the students will have their first performance in NYC.  The adventure continues!



On The Road to NYC

After surviving the most brutal winter I can remember, I should be spending "Spring Break" in the most tropical climate I can find!  Instead, I'm heading to New York,  on my final trip as a school chaperone - bittersweet, I know.  I felt the same way when Sara decided not to continue with Girl Scouts, after having been her leader for 8 years!

In just a few hours I will be joining more than 70 Oak Park & River Forest High School Choir students and chaperones on a week-long trip to New York City!  The students will be performing at several locations, as well as seeing several Broadway shows.  Each chaperone is responsible for a group of 5 to 6 students, during show time, as well as free time!  Here's where it gets interesting...my group of students is comprised of Sara...AND 5 BOYS!  How did this happen?  I don't know, but honestly it's turning out to be a blessing in disguise!  These young men want to take in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple during their free time, as opposed to say, shopping!  They were so serious about our group scheduling fun activities, they created a group Facebook page so we could more easily make plans during our "free time!"  Impressive!

As I embark on my latest adventure, I invite you to join me on this "virtual vacation" to NYC! I will be posting pics and videos of our travels and concerts, as well as a couple of surprises I have up my sleeve!

Catch you on the east coast!!

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