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Archives for December 2015

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A Photo Review of 2015

The end of the year usually inspires reflection on the year that’s ending and a look forward to the one that’s approaching.

Maybe it’s getting older, but it seems like time moves more quickly now (I’m beginning to hear myself lamenting its rapid passage just like my mother did. I, however, prefer to think that I’m packing in 1000% more into my life, and this makes the days, weeks and months zip by in a blur). So it’s good to have this time to slow down and look back.

Photos are great for doing that. Think of them as moments of emotions frozen in time, that are re-released each time you look at them.

Unlike previous years, I didn’t have many new travel experiences in 2015 – or so it seemed until I started looking at my photos, a lot of which never made it to the blog because I didn’t post as often as I used to.

Still, whether I’m in Montego Bay or New York, I’m in a prime vacation destination. People, lots of them, leave home to see the things I pass by without noticing.

A Photo Review of New York

Take Times Square, for example. I avoid it as much as I can but every so often, it surprises me. Like the night I was hurrying through after seeing a play and saw this: two giant, colorfully illuminated lights wishing Happy Birthday to the late Bob Marley, the reggae superstar who would have been 70 last February 6th.

Times Square Marks Bob Marley's 70th

Times Square Marks Bob Marley’s 70th

Later that month, during Japan Week, I watched as a bride-to-be (winner of a contest) was dressed in a traditional wedding kimono, called uchikake, in Grand Central Station. Japan is a country steeped in culture and tradition so it was fascinating to watch this demonstration. 

On a personal note: I started learning Japanese this year. Hopefully, by the time I make it to Tokyo, I’ll know enough to get around.  

Bride-to-be being dressed in traditional wedding kimono

Bride-to-be being dressed in a traditional wedding kimono – Japan Week 2015

It goes without saying that the arts are big in New York. Here’s a look back at a few of the exhibitions I saw last year. 

I went twice to Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery to see Romare Bearden’s collages, drawings and watercolors that he based on Homer’s epic poem, The Odessy. I’m a Bearden fan – I even have one of his collages – but this piece touched me to the core. 

House in Cotton Field, Romare Bearden

House in Cotton Field, Romare Bearden

At the Brooklyn Museum, I revisited Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, which is on permanent display. Each time I see it, I marvel at Chicago’s vision and her celebration of womanhood.

The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago

The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago

Also at BAM, I saw Kehinde Wiley’s, A New Republic – portraits of contemporary blacks painted against Old Master backgrounds, like the one below of Michael Jackson on a horse. I also breezed through (the museum was closing) Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Unknown Notebooks

Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson) Kehinde Wiley

Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson) Kehinde Wiley

I rush to see Cecile McLorin Salvant, who at 25, has been called a jazz “phenom.” The Grammy Award winning artist has a voice that recalls Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Betty Carter. She grabs hold of your attention whether she’s singing in English or French, her own compositions or jazz standards.

Cecile McLorin Salvant performing at Ginny's Supper Club

Cecile McLorin Salvant performing at Ginny’s Supper Club

When the Whitney Museum of American Art relocated to its new building in the Meatpacking District this spring, it hosted a Block Party that drew thousands of visitors. Although I hate crowds, I was curious to see the new space. Plus, the warm temperature made it the perfect weekend – the one where you linger over brunch, look at art and take long walks. 

Museum goers at the Whitney Museum's Block Party

Museum goers at the Whitney Museum’s Block Party

We waited on line for close to an hour (the museum handed out bottled water) however, by the time we got to the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See, I was so over stimulated visually, I couldn’t appreciate anything I saw. I just wanted to get back outside. 

High Line Park

High Line Park

We walked the length of the High Line from the Whitney (Gansevoort Street, south entrance) to the north end at 34th Street. It was a glorious day to be out.  

In June, we saw Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, run the 200 meters at the Adidas Grand Prix at Ichan Stadium. 

Usain Bolt after winning the 200m, Ichan Stadium

Usain Bolt after winning the 200m, Ichan Stadium

I love going to Coney Island but I prefer the quiet of the off-season when there are no crowds and I can hear the sounds of the waves crashing to shore, birds cawing overhead, walk the beach and look for shells.  

Luna Park, Coney Island

Luna Park, Coney Island

Coney Island beach. Where's Everyone?

Coney Island beach. Where’s Everyone?

Soon the hectic pace of summer gives way to the calm of fall. This year, we hosted Pope Francis, as well as more than 150 heads of state, including President Barack Obama, at the UN General Assembly.

Since my office is close to the UN and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the Pope celebrated mass, I had to plan ahead to avoid street closures and ‘frozen zones.’ I’ve never seen Fifth Avenue so deserted. 

Fifth Avenue closed for the Pope's visit

Fifth Avenue closed for the Pope’s visit

The first Sunday in November, the city slows down for elite and everyday runners and wheelchair athletes who come from all over the world to participate in the New York City Marathon.  

Wheelchair athletes

Wheelchair athlete – I doubt this is as simple as it looks

Marathoners

Marathoners, photo taken from my window 

New York does it up big for Christmas and the UNICEF Snowflake Star at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue is an important symbol of the season. 

The Star

The Star

A Photo Review of 2015’s Memorable Eats

Aren’t these cupcakes eye-catching? 

St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

When I lived in DC, my colleagues and I would go to Cristfield Seafood for lunch every payday. My favorite thing on the menu: a cup of lobster bisque and a shrimp salad sandwich. The salad was so stuffed with shrimp, I’d save half for dinner.

I returned to Cristfield’s after my White House tour and was pleasantly surprised to find the bisque and the sandwich taste exactly the same as they did the last time I had them – more than 10 years ago.

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

Whenever we visit my friends in Toronto, they always have a hot, new restaurant for us to check out. Last time, it was Quatrefoil and I selected this entree.

Year in Review - Quatrefoil Restaurant, Toronto

Salmon Meal, Quatrefoil Restaurant, Toronto 

The first time I had bangers and mash was at The Shakespeare in New York City, just before my trip to London. My writing group had one of our social events here. 

Bangers and Mash, The Shakespeare

Bangers and Mash, The Shakespeare

My 2015 Travels in Review

So where did I go in 2015? I visited Toronto a few times but my major trip was to London. I’ve written several posts about London, Stonehenge and Oxford. Stay tuned for my posts about Edinburgh, where I spent a day. 

If you read paperbacks, I’m sure you recognize the logo. This plaque marks the location where Penguin published its first paperback. 

Penguin

Penguin

Ede & Ravenscroft, London’s oldest tailor and robe makers, has been around since 1689. In case you’re wondering, they also do women’s clothing.

Ede & Ravenscroft Royal Robe Makers

Ede & Ravenscroft Royal Robe Makers

This needs little explanation.

Look Right

Look Right 

Red phone boxes similar to these probably made their way to all of Britain’s colonies – we had some in Jamaica. But with cellphones so ubiquitous these days, phone boxes are not so necessary anymore. After I took this photo, I noticed that there was a guy sleeping in the middle booth. 

Iconic Red Phone Booths

Iconic Red Phone Booths

I look forward to flying into Laguardia Airport for one reason – this incredible view of New York City.

Aerial View of New York CityAerial View of New York City

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog and for taking this look back through 2015 with me. 

In appreciation for your support, I’d like to offer you a chance to win one of ten GPSMyCity‘s Self-Guided City Walks Apps. The app is available on iOS and Android and you can select one for the city of your choice (Please check the GPSMyCity for a list of cities). 

If you’re one of the ten lucky winners, you’ll receive a promo code that will allow you to download a full, FREE version of a City Walks app. The app includes a detailed, fully functional city map and several carefully selected self-guided city walks.

 
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Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday, hosted by Nancie at Budget Travellers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales, and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations. Be sure to check them out!

Budget Travelers Sandbox

Christmas in Manhattan

Christmas is only a day away but with temperatures in the 60s here in New York, if the city hadn’t decked itself out for the season as spectacularly as it has, you might be tempted to think it’s Spring.

To be honest, I’ve been a little preoccupied with work – and a cold that for the last two weeks has stubbornly refused to clear up. A few weeks ago, though, I read Michele at Malaysian Meanders’ post about Saks Fifth Avenue’s Enchanting Holiday Windows and was inspired.

Saks Lights

I was also surprised, pleasantly so, to see a place I’m familiar with through someone else’s eyes. Instead of rushing past Saks’ window, as I normally do, after reading Michele’s post, I slowed down and looked, not just at Saks but also at the city. 

Saks Light Show6

I started looking at the decorations with different eyes – how long it takes to plan each show, how many people and time it takes to decorate and dismantle each display, what electrical cost might be, etc.  

Saks Light Show4

One Friday evening after work, I walked by Saks to take some photos and was surprised by the crush of people who had gathered outside the store to look at the windows. There was hardly room to walk as people stood cameras in hand, mesmerized by the light show which is synchronized to Christmas music. Being rush hour, traffic practically inched along Fifth Ave. 

Saks Light Show1

But it was worth standing on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-Ninth Street and watch for while. As the music washed over me, I felt my somewhat indifferent feeling towards Christmas lift. I smiled as I remembered Christmases past. 

Saks Light Show2

As I walked towards the bus stop that evening, I decided to get out by 7 a.m. to take some photos without the crowds and the traffic.

The following morning, I hit the main spots: Rockefeller Center, Saks, 59th Street. 

Across the street from Saks is Rockefeller Center and the famous Christmas tree. This is the view towards the Rockefeller Center skating rink.

Rockefeller Christmas

Rockefeller Center Angels

 And the view towards Saks. 

Rockefeller Angels1

Looking towards Saks, from Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Christmas2

The corner of Fifty-Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue is lined with high end stores, like Tiffany, Bulgari, Bendel’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Burberry, Piaget – you get the idea – and they’re awash in lights.

Christmas 2015 Harry Winston

Harry Winston shimmers like diamonds – each window a well thought out setting.

Harry Winston Lights 

Bulgari

Bulgari

Bulgari, detail

Christmas 2015 Tiffany Splendour.

Tiffany’s

Piaget's

Piaget’s

 

New York Star

Christmas 2015 58th Street Lights

59th Street

Merry Christmas!

How does your city celebrate the season? 

Linking up this week with Travel Photo Thursday which is hosted by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations

 

Budget Travelers Sandbox

The White House Tour

Approximately 2000 people visit the White House daily. Last month, I was one of them. I’d been thinking about visiting for a while but kept putting it off because I thought it would be difficult to get in, and I’d have to get up really early.  Turns out it was pretty straight forward. I mentioned it to one of my aunts who lives in the area and she did the rest. 

Once the date was confirmed, we received a welcome note with instructions and a list of prohibited and allowable items.

Welcome to the White House

The White House is the official residence of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in NW Washington, DC. The residence was designed by James Hoban and built between 1792 and 1800.

White House from Pennsylvania Ave

The White House from Pennsylvania Ave

John Adams, the second president of the US was its first resident. He moved to the White House in November 1800 but didn’t live there long as he was defeated by Thomas Jefferson who took up residence in 1801.

View from the Ground Floor

View from the Ground Floor

Prior to 1811, the White House was known as the President’s Palace, Presidential Mansion or President’s House.

Here are the highlights of the self-guided tour.

The Library 

White House Peek at the Library

A peek inside the White House Library

On the ground floor, I drooled over a sumptuous display of presidential china, some dating back 200 years. There’s also the White House Library which has over 2700 books on American life. We weren’t allowed in but the door was open, so I snapped this photo. 

The Grand Staircase connects the main floor to the first or State floor, where the Green Room, Red Room and Blue Room as well as the State Dining Room are located. In addition to the Ground and State Floors, there are the Second and Third Floors and basement, which takes up two floors.

The Green Room

The Green Room

The Green Room

Thomas Jefferson hosted dinners in the Green Room which has been a parlor since James Madison’s presidency. You’ll see John and Abigail Adams’ silver coffee urn and James and Dolly Madison’s French candlesticks. The American furniture was made 1800-1815.  

The Blue Room

The Blue Room

The Blue Room

Oval in size, the Blue Room is used as a reception room. President James Monroe furnished the room in the French style in 1817. Original objects include gilded chairs, sofa and the clock on the mantel. Grover Cleveland, the only president to have a White House wedding, married Frances Folsom in 1886 in the Blue Room.

The Red Room

The Red Room

The Red Room

First ladies receive their guests in the Red Room, which has been used as a parlor since the early 19th century. The Red Room is also where President Rutherford Hayes took the oath of office in 1877. The American Empire style furniture was made in New York, 1810-1830. The marble mantle has been in the White House since 1819.

The State Dining Room

State Dining Room

State Dining Room

The White House hosts official dinners in the State Dining Room. As many as 140 can be seated in this room. The presidents and their families use the smaller dining room.

View of the North

View of the North Entrance

White House exteri

As this is a self-guided tour, you can go at your own pace. It took us about 2 hours to complete. National Park Service employees, posted in each room, are available to answer questions.

White House Tour Essentials

Admission to the White House is free. US citizens must contact their Member of Congress to request a tour, non citizens must contact their embassy in Washington, DC.
Tours are available Monday to Saturday, except on public holidays.
US citizens can use their driver’s license, military ID, or passport. Foreign nationals can also use their passports to get in.

The White House is very strict on what you cannot take in. No bags of any kind are allowed, including handbags, purses, book bags and backpacks. Also, no video cameras, tablets, iPads, camera sticks, strollers and diaper bags. You can, however, take a compact camera or camera phone for still photography only. Texting or talking is not allowed.

The most convenient way to get to the White House is by subway. Take the red, orange or blue line to Metro Center, the blue or orange line to Federal Triangle, or McPherson Square. There is also paid parking nearby. 

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations

 

Budget Travelers Sandbox
 
Also linking with Weekend Travel Inspiration hosted by Malaysian Meanders,  Reflections EnrouteThe Crowded PlanetContentedTravellerAlbom AdventuresSafari 254, and FamiliesGo.
 

 

Oxford, City of Dreaming Spires

Oxford, in my mind, is probably as equally well-known as a university town as it is for the television series about the fictional detective, the opera-loving, often morose, Inspector Morse. 

Despite its strong connections to Oxford and the university – Colin Dexter, the author of the novels that the series is based on, worked at the University of Oxford for more than twenty years – Morse, a brilliant and perceptive detective, surprisingly did not receive a degree from any of the city’s famous schools.

I don’t remember much about Oxford from my only visit in the early 1970s but watching the series, which was filmed around the city and the university, made me long to return and do a proper tour.

I found a free 2-hour walking tour with Footprints Tours  (If you have a good time, leave us a tip. If not, it was nice to meet you! their website declares) and met the group at Oxford City Center – an easy, 15 minute walk from the train station.

I was late joining the tour and was surprised to hear the guide’s American accent. It felt disorienting to be on a tour of Oxford, England and hear the accent I left in New York. That’s not to take anything away from the guide, who was very enthusiastic, or the tour, which was chock full of history, insider information, and not one boring moment.

Oxford – a short back story

Oxford started humbly, very humbly in AD900 as a river crossing. The name comes from the Old English words (ox/ford) which mean a place (ford) for oxen (ox) to cross. Today, it is a city of approximately 160,000 and home to the University of Oxford, the oldest English-speaking university in the world. The university has been around since at least the 12th century, its earliest colleges – there are 30 of them in all – since the 13th century. 

A Few Places to See

The Sheldonian Theatre: Located on Broad Street, The Sheldonian got its name from Gilbert Sheldon, a chancellor at the University of Oxford. The theatre was designed by Sir Christopher Wren (who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral among other notable buildings). Construction started in 1664 and continued until 1669. The Sheldonian is used for lectures, concerts and graduations. 

Oxford The Sheldonian Emperor

The Sheldonian ‘Emperor’

Thirteen heads, called herms, or termains, philosophers and emperors, each wearing a different beard greet visitors to the Broad Street entrance to the Sheldonian. It’s unclear what they mean or why there are thirteen of them.

Oxford, Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera: Built between 1737 and 1748, the Radcliffe Camera (Latin for vaulted room or chamber) is a science library. The library got its name from John Radcliffe, a medical doctor who left the funds for its construction. 

Oxford Hertford Bridge

Hertford Bridge

The Hertford Bridge over New College Lane connects Hertford College’s administrative offices and its students’ accommodations. A popular landmark, it is referred to as the Bridge of Sighs. Just past the bridge, on the left, is the entrance to the alley to Turf Tavern.

Christ Church College: Known officially as The Dean, Chapter and Students of the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford of the Foundation of King Henry the Eighth, Christ Church is the only academic institution that is also a cathedral. Part of the University of Oxford, Christ Church is the alma mater of politicians, including several British prime ministers, scientists, philosophers, academics and entertainers. 

“Find us if you can, and you’ll be back.”

Turf Tavern: Walk down St. Helens Passage, a narrow alley off Hertford Bridge, and you’ll arrive at The Turf Tavern, an Oxford institution that has been around in one form or another since the 13th century. Once a malt house, a cider house in 1775 and an inn, The Spotted Cow in 1790, it became the Turf Tavern in 1847.

Among the well-known who have passed through its doors – I hope none of them bumped their heads on the low beam near the bar – are Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret Thatcher, Oscar Wilde, Ben Kingsley, and Richard Burton. 

The Bear Inn: Dating to 1242, the Bear Inn is the oldest pub in Oxford. It is also well know for its collection of ties from the early 1900s. You can find it on the corner of Alfred and Blue Boar Streets.

I could have spent an entire day walking around Oxford and probably not see the same thing twice. It is a beautiful city with spectacular buildings from all of England’s architectural styles. 

Oxford Travel Essentials

Oxford is accessible by train from London’s Paddington Station, and by coach from Victoria, Marble Arch, Notting Hill Gate, Shepherd’s Bush.  

 

Linking this week to Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Nancie at Budget Travellers Sandbox, Ruth at Tanama Tales, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations.

Budget Travelers Sandbox