017 | 365 I’m attached to a map that made me cry

After almost two weeks, I still have the map that gave me grief on my first day in New York City. Suffering with jet lag, this map that made me cry when I first set eyes on it (see Transformation in a day).

I can’t go anywhere without this map. I have others but this is the one I refer to all the time. I thought I had lost it one day and panicked.

I have others but I want this one.

It is about to fall to pieces. I could get another the same. It won’t be this one so I don’t.

It is a two sided map. Midtown, Downtown and Financial Districts on one side and Uptown (where Central Park resides) and Harlem on the other side.

Three more days is all I will need it for. It is the best and most trustworthy map.

I depend on it. It hasn’t failed me so far. I can’t leave without it.

016 | 365 A big day out in NYC

View of NYC from Empire State Building

The city of New York, and in particular Manhattan, has surprises every turn you take. Today was a big day full of them.

It started with a visit to the Library. Well, this library is one mighty beautiful place. Inside you can forget the roar of the city just outside. It is so big, it feels more like a museum or grand hall.

The next stop was to meet a tour guide from Manhattan Walking Tours for a walking food tour of Greenwich Village. This was not a tour where you would have a bunch of people rabbling along with you; this was an intimate one with only two other tourists. What a treat. We continued the tour with a historic walk around Downtown NYC, or what everyone calls the Financial District. Not only did we find out that the island was extended using landfill from rubble dug up when other buildings and also from flattening out the island (Manhattan translates to hills and is mainly rock. The rock was blasted to flatten it so they could set up the grid), but also some surprising little old streets hidden behind the large skyscrapers.

Our tour guide was great too. Being such a small group, you got to know each other quite well when parting it felt like an old friend had showed us around the city.

Next stop, the Empire State Building. This marvellous building seems to be watching me from every angle I travel around this city so it’s time for me to see the view that this building has of the city. Luckily I have tickets so can pass the queue and make an express way up to the top. Still, the observation deck is packed with everyone fighting for prime positions as they move around the building. I stay until after the sunsets, the almost full moon shining above and wander down the beautiful art deco building into the night.

For the evening entertainment was a show at The Duplex after a quick Mexican meal next door (called Ofrenda which was divine). The show scheduled at the Duplex for this night was put together via Twitter with a composer, two pianists, a poet and a tenor with a few weeks planning. The concept was quite interesting and something that I would like to touch on more at a later date and the show was very unique and entertaining. After the performances, we took our drinks to finish at the bar downstairs.

What fun this bar is!! The Duplex is a very tiny, almost triangle shaped space with a small bar with a few tables and a piano squeezed in the corner. Randomly, people come up and sing a song. This includes the bar staff, customers and invited guests. Anyone can get up and sing and they can sing whatever they like. It wasn’t like Karaoke. These were very, very talented people. My friend Naomi said it felt to her like being with the cast of Glee. We stayed for a little while and could have stayed well into the night had it not been for our early morning plans.

Such a full and fun day, every part of this day was so awesome. A marvellous day that will be remembered for a while!

015 | 365 It only takes one person

The High Line

Every person has the power to start a revolution.

If there is something, no matter what, that you can see making a difference, do something about it. No idea is too small to be considered.

In San Francisco there were many examples (see A City with a lot of heart and soul), of how people have made significant changes in the community by standing up for what they believe in and fighting for what they feel is a better solution. This is the same in New York City.

For example, today I spent a lovely few hours walking along the High Line. This walkway used to be railway tracks that took meat from the abattoirs to the meat-packing district. The railway had not been used since 1980 and was set for demolition. In 1999, two residents thought that this part of New York history should be preserved in some way so they set up the Friends of the High Line to advocate for the preservation of the railway. In 2002 the City of New York committed to transforming the High Line into a unique park. This park was opened in 2009 and is still being extended on.

Buildings, art installations and businesses are being built or transformed through the influence of this unique park. It is enjoyed by locals and by visitors. With the roar of the city in the background, there is some tranquillity on the park while at the same time you can view the contrasts of the old and the new of the city. This park is creating new vibrancy in areas that were run-down and adding extra life into the already creative areas like Chelsea.

It’s great having an idea but if that idea isn’t put into action it is just that, an idea. To generate change, action is required. It doesn’t have to be a huge task or be undertaken on your own. If you think something is worth doing, get people on board who agree with you, who are influential and see how you can be part of something new.

Imagining what could be and resolving to do something to make a difference only takes one small step. The rewards for all come in abundance.

To all those people that act upon their ideas, I thank you.

014 | 365 Reflections

9/11 Memorial Pool

In Manhattan, New York City, there are many reflections. This includes buildings reflecting other buildings and traffic sounds reflecting off these buildings. It also reflects stories of its history, through its art and architecture. There are reflections of hard times and of good times in abundance, as this city is all about being big. It is the Big Apple after all.

Today, I visited the 9/11 Memorial with its two reflective pools on the sites where the two World Trade Centres stood. It is a beautiful place with the water sparkling and moving in it’s own rhythm as it falls. The noise of the water almost drowns out the noise from the street and building works around it.  And it is not only the two pools that offer reflections. There are reflections all around, in the buildings, in the water, in the erection of new World Trade Centres, the Museum around the site and the people who are visiting.

It was a moving place, but not a sad place. One thing that became apparent when going into the visitor centre on the way out of the memorial, viewing the photos and videos of survivors or loved ones of those who did not survive was a story of determination, respect, courage and love. It was a very positive place, on looking forwards and upwards.

This city is built on rock and its inhabitants are rock solid.

New Yorkers are lovely, friendly and warm. They will stop what they are doing to ask if you need help or to chat. As I haven’t been here before I wonder if this is how they were before September 11, 2001. In such a busy city where there is so much happening and so many people, locals go out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome.

New York City should be referred to as the Big Heart instead of the Big Apple.

013 | 365 Cheers: where everybody knows your name

Cheers, Boston

Today was a whirlwind tour of Boston and from the time I woke I’ve had the theme song from the television series Cheers in my head.

I can’t say that the tour was a pleasant experience. My expectations were not met; in fact I got less than that. The lesson learnt here for me is that when you are unsure on whether to do something, it is probably best not to do it until you are certain. Only three and a half hours (out of the 13 hour tour) was spent in Boston when I thought it would be five hours at least. The remaining time was spent getting there and back with two stops in roadside stops for refreshment breaks, which wasn’t really needed except for short stretching of legs.

After walking part of the Freedom Trail, our tour guide said we had a two-hour break for lunch and free time for exploring. The two hours was from 1.35pm and we had to be back by 2.45pm. I’m not the greatest with figures but that’s a short two hours.

One of the spots I wanted to see was the pub that was the inspiration for the television series Cheers. I was told before I booked that stopping here was in the itinerary, however someone forgot to tell the tour guide. We did go past this spot but the bus went to fast past as he said, “on your right, if you’re quick…”, so I spent my lunch and free time getting a map and sprinting there and back before the allotted time was over. I didn’t want to be late, as the tour guide had already gone off without a number of the group a short time earlier.

Now as this blog is meant to be about things that have inspired me for the day, why have I told you the above? Well because it is what has been my day and it wasn’t a disaster only disappointing.

The best part of my day was going to Cheers. I am really glad that I made the effort to go to the original Cheers even if it was extremely brief. I only had a few minutes so took a few photos outside, went into the bar and asked the doorman if I could take a photo, to which he said of course. As I turned my iPhone to the bar, all the people inside raised their glasses and smiled at me. It was bright and cheerful for sure, everyone was happy. You know, I nearly risked missing the bus home just to join them for a nice cold beer. I certainly could have done with it.

And I’m sure they all knew my name.

012 | 365 Falling in love again

I was in love

You couldn’t find New York City boring. You can however fall in love with it. It’s not the same as San Francisco, which is still in my heart, but at every turn you find something different, something surprising, something beautiful (even if it might be in it’s own way at times).

I started my day slow. A nice sleep in, but not too late, before going to Birch Café to enjoy a bowl of fruit (you will never get a more delicious bowl than what they serve here), a fresh croissant and a large soy latte. It’s a good breakfast to have before setting out to explore NYC on foot.

I start with a walk to the Gray Line bus office to book a ticket for a day trip to Boston. As I need to be at the pickup spot at 6.45am tomorrow, I decide that it might be wise to find that pickup spot and then walk back to the hotel to time how long it will take me. The pickup spot is just near Grand Central Station so I explore that big beautiful place first.

I find the pickup spot then set off to walk back to the hotel down Park Avenue with a turn off to walk past the Empire State Building. It is so beautiful, day and night. There are very few people here today, in fact no queue. There are people going up though. I’m not sure if the events from the day before has put people off going or not (a shooting outside). There has been shootings in my home town and this has not stopped people from going there so I’m not going to let that bother me. If it’s going to happen, it will happen and I can’t stop doing things just because of something that might or might not happen.

I get to the hotel (25 minutes walk from bus pick up, with distractions and stopping at every walk light), I’m hot and sweaty so decide to get a coffee and a big bottle of water before heading off again.

After I have cooled down a little, I head to Union Square. Their regular produce market is on. It’s fabulous. If only this was my home, this is where I would shop. There is no fridge or cooking facilities where I am staying so I just admire and then sit for a while in the park and work out my next destination and roads I will take to Washington Square.

On my way I find a fabulous bookstore, The Strand. I love it. In this shop there are new books, old books, rare books you name it and over three floors. I make note to return.

This isn’t the only shop that stands out. There are so many fabulous places. My friend Naomi arrives tomorrow night and I think I need to save a journey back down this way for when she is with me.

I also look in a realtor’s window at some apartments for sale and for lease. I’d love to buy one. They look gorgeous.

Then I get to Washington Square. Well, I love it! There is so much going on. It’s like it’s having its own festival. There is something happening all across the park and it is beautiful. It has also cooled a little with a breeze so sitting to savour what is going on around me is a joy.

Then I get to the other end of the square and there is another market. This time not only food. I find a couple of treasures to take home with me and then set off back to the hotel as they begin to pack up their stalls.

I walk a different way home and find more lovely shops in a fairly quiet area. This is where tourist buses and sounding car horns is not allowed. The streets are also narrower and have an old-world feel, almost like London. Another place to return to with Naomi.

For now, I must get to bed early ready for my long day ahead traveling and walking Boston. It’s a four hour journey each way and five hours in the city walking the Freedom Trail and a stop at Cheers of course.

I’m looking forward to savouring more of NYC on my return tomorrow night, this time with a friend. I can’t wait!

011 | 365 Ithaca to NYC and feeling refreshed

Moosewood Restaurant

After a good night sleep last night I am feeling refreshed and no longer have that jet lag feeling.

This morning I head off to find Moosewood Restaurant and it is just around the corner from where we had dinner the night before. It is located in what used to be a school. The hallways in the bottom floor of this old school have been turned into a “mall”. It’s a very quirky setting and matches each of the stores within it. With a large bookshop selling out of print and rare books (of only I had more time to browse), craft shop, grocery store and a cafe (as well as Moosewood).

On the walk to Moosewood I passed a cafe called “gimme coffee”. In desperate need for coffee, I go there on the way back. America isn’t know for good coffee but if you find somewhere that promotes fair trade, organic, recycling etc my experience is that they will also usually have good coffee as well. And this one does too. Yay!

The drive to NYC is lovely compared to the rest of the drive. Little town of lisle looks like a great place to stop. This country is so quirky. No place is the same- except the boring shopping outlets.

After what seems to be an eternity to get to our drop off spot, we take a taxi ferry from Liberty Park, New Jersy to Battery Park, Manahattan NYC to try and find the subway to our respective homes for the evening. After walking a few blocks and feeling very sweaty and horrible, I decide on a taxi. What a ride – loved it! The way the taxi driver weaved through traffic what seemed to me to be a two-lane road ended up being a free for all squeeze between anyway you can, which was four aside at times.

Arrived at hotel and after booking in, I grab a take away coffee and glass of red to take up with me to my room to enjoy while I refresh ready to go out for a late dinner.

For dinner I consider either going to the 7 Eleven, Eataly (no spelling error) or back to Shake Shack in Madison Square Gardens park. I decide on Shake Shack. It is a warm night and park setting with a burger and glass of red is perfect. The queue reduces relatively quickly and within half hour I am eating my dinner (10.30pm).

I’m going to take it easy tomorrow, if that’s possible in New York.

010 | 365 Niagra Falls to Ithaca

Niagra Falls

What an exciting experience seeing one of the wonders of the world, Niagra Falls, and getting close and personal with them on the Maid of the Mist. Hardly a midst when you get close to the falls, more like a monsoon.

Note for next visit – go to the Canadian side for better views and access to go behind the falls.

Then driving through Finger Lakes wine country.

After a walk in Taughannock State Park, a Finger Lake park with Janet, our tour guide (while the younger crew on the tour swam in the lake), we move on to Ithaca. A hip, hippie college town at the bottom of one of the Finger Lakes.

To my joy, I realize this is the place where the famous Moosewood restaurant is located. I have a couple of the Moosewood cookbooks, which I have a number of favourites that I’ve cooked a few times. Unfortunately the timing of our arrival and departure of this town meant that there was no chance to eat there.

There was no disappointment in the location we went for dinner though. The Bandwagon Brew Pub, very hip with a great menu and a tasting of beers including a number they brew themselves. Great artwork for sale on their walls too (nearly took one home with me).

This made for the start of a good night. A great bunch of people on this trip. So glad I experienced this with such a lovely group. They would be welcome to my home anytime.

009 | 365 Moments of pleasure

Niagra Falls

After a very long day in a car driving from New York to Niagra Falls, the dinner at the Hard Rock Café and a walk across the Niagra River to Canada to see the Falls lit up at night was a real treat.

Sounds of joy came from the tour group when:

  • Dining at Hard Rock Café
  • the Falls lit up was first sited
  • we crossed the border into Canada to get our passports stamped, then turning straight back into the USA.

It’s not just children that get moments of pure joy from small things.

008 | 365 Humour and the tour guide

Tour Guide citing literature as we cross Brooklyn Bridge

Over the past week I have taken a number of bus tours, first around San Francisco and now around New York.

What I have noticed is that they all have a good sense of humour and it is added into their commentary as if they are stating facts. Sometimes, I think it is their way of checking to see if anyone is listening to them.

A special treat on the night tour of New York and Brooklyn, the tour guide even cited from famous literature. It was beautiful. I was struggling with jetlag so unfortunately I can’t remember the works he quoted but I might remember with some help. In the photo above, this same tour guide is citing from a piece of literature as we cross the bridge about the Statue of Liberty and what it meant for those who entered America here.

I had the seat next to that tour guide so he was able to hear at least me laughing at his jokes. For example: we went past the library and he was talking about the history of the two lion statues sitting each side of the stairs leading up to it. Within this commentary he added that people sitting on the steps always get asked “Are you trying to read between the lions?”. It’s the kind of joke that my brother Peter would make.

They are very good at what they do. It must be so tiring talking all day long and going around and around the same route all day week in and week out. But what they have all shown is a passion for their city, even if they are not born and bred there.

The tour guides not only tell you about the history of buildings and the town, they also tell you about the community spirit. How residents have influenced change, or how visitors have brought something new to their city.

I wonder what they talk about when they get home from work?