New York City Skyline

Each city has its own unique skyline and New York City is no different. With skyscrapers that soar to dizzying heights and in different colors and shapes, from a distance, they look almost like they were taken from a pop-up book.

I remember the first time I heard the word skyscrapers. I might have been about 11 then. I could never, not in my wildest dreams anyway, have imagined buildings so tall. When I saw them a few years later, my eyes searched the sky trying to find the top floors.

New York City Skyline
Pop-up-book-style view of Manhattan from Governors Island ferry

New York City has, a various times, had some of the tallest buildings in the US as well as the world. The Empire State Building, at 1,250 feet, was the tallest building in the US when it was completed in the 1930s.

The Trump Building or 40 Wall Street was the tallest building in the world for two months until the completion of the Chrysler Building.

The Art Deco style Chrysler Building, 1,046 feet, was the tallest man-made structure in the world from 1930-31. It is the 50th tallest building in the world.

It’s hard to imagine that the Metropolitan Life Tower, which is only 700 feet, was the tallest building in the world for 4 years until the Woolworth Building was built in 1913. It took a mere 92 feet for the Woolworth to claim the title of tallest building in the world. And it held on to it for 17 years.

All these skyscrapers in New York City and the country have now been eclipsed by One World Trade Center, which you can see on the left in the photo above. It stands at 1,776 feet and is the fourth tallest building in the world.

By far the best way to appreciate the height and beauty of New York City’s skyscrapers is from a distance. My favorite places to view them are from the waterways and islands around Manhattan. Some locations in Brooklyn and New Jersey, especially those that line the coastline, aren’t bad either.


Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday, that Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.


At the Jersey Skyline Wine Festival

Blue skies, with tufts of puffy clouds, and the New York skyline in the distance created the perfect backdrop for the inaugural Jersey Skyline Wine Festival which took place this past weekend at Overpeck Park in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival
Tents at the Jersey Wine Festival

My friends and I arrived at a little past 2 p.m. After we paid the entry fee, the attendant gave us each a wine glass etched with the New Jersey Wine Growers Association logo, a pencil and a list of the 13 participating wineries. They told us to hold on to our glasses as they would replace them only if they were broken and we had proof.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival
At the wine festival

The wineries occupied tents on the edge of the large field; vendors selling a variety of products took up the tents in the middle. We moved from tent to tent, tasting several fruit-infused wines, varieties made from hybrid grapes and Chardonnays, Merlots, Pinot Grigios, Cabernets, Rieslings, and Shiraz.

By the time we got to the fourth tent, I could feel the wine was already going to my head and I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We headed to a stall for lunch. What we lacked here was variety in the offerings. It would also have been great to have food that matched the wines that were available. I ended up with something that called itself jambalaya which only filled the space in my stomach.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival
Band at the wine festival

By now, the band had warmed up and when they started playing the Hall and Oates classic, Sarah Smile, my friend noticed a couple who had temporarily abandoned the tasting and were canoodling, first outside then under a tent. Blame the wine, the great weather and yes, the music.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival
Tasting at Tomasello Winery

Stomachs now full, we resumed tasting at Tomasello Winery. I was intrigued by their Broomstick Brew and decided to try it. According to Tomasello’s description, Broomstick Brew is a blend of red wine and mulling spices, and is served warm. The winery’s server used something that looked like turkey baster to pour the wine into our glasses. Broomstick Brew is really mulled wine with a fancy name.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival
My glass of Broomstick Brew

On our way out, my friend noticed a pepper vendor, Rosetta Farms and since we both love pepper, we headed over. I decided on a Chipotle Habanero mix that I can’t wait to try. Like the wines, it had several tasting notes – a bit salty at the beginning, flavorful in the middle and kick of pepper at the end.

Jersey Skyline Wine Festival
Pepper Vendor

The Jersey Skyline Wine Festival was a wonderful introduction to the varieties of wines produced in the Garden State. Although I don’t like fruity wines, I tasted strawberry, peach, blueberry, and apple but wasn’t bowled over by them. The varieties that were made from hybrid grapes like Vignoles, Chambourcin and Traminette that were produced here in the US were more to my liking. My other favorites were a Cabernet Franc, a Riesling 2010, a White Merlot, and a few of the desert wines. Even with all the notes I took, it was still hard for me to decide what to buy.

I’m looking forward to attending a few more wine festivals before the weather changes. If you’re a wine lover in the northeast, it’s a great time now to enjoy wines produced locally. All the wineries ship to other states as well. 


Linking this week with Travel Photo Mondays that Noel at Travel Photo Discovery organizes.



The Pink Poui Tree

I’ve written about the poui tree in a few earlier posts. I noticed it in my neighbor’s backyard one week, it’s brilliant yellow blooms covering the entire tree, the next, there was a carpet of yellow petals on the ground. I didn’t know what to make of a tree in the tropics that loses its leaves. I was intrigued.

When I did a little research, I discovered that in addition to the yellow, there was a pink poui. Where the yellow is striking, more easily identifiable and more common, the pink is less so. It’s beauty is subtle.

Pink Poui
Poui Tree

So off I went, looking for the pink poui. Each time I noticed a profusion of pink petals, I’d pull out my camera but as I got closer, I’d realize that it was some other tree. Or, I’d see the real thing but there’d be no place to stop safely.

Weeks turned into frustrating months, one season changed into the next. I’d just about given up ever getting a shot of the pink poui in bloom. One morning as I waited for the bus that would take us on a planned tour, I noticed a pink tree on the opposite side of the parking lot. I didn’t want to get my hopes up until I was sure.

Pink poui
Poui, close up

I walked slowly towards the tree, camera in hand. As I got closer, I noticed that some petals had already started to rain on the ground, a few were on the cars parked nearby. Yes, this was a poui.

I snapped away, hoping the bus wouldn’t arrive before I could finish. It’d have to wait, I thought to myself.

Pink Poui

I can’t tell you how happy I was to finally capture a pink poui tree. Nothing could spoil my day after that!



For more photos, please check out Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travel Adventure organizes. Hope to see you there!

Fall in New York City

I’ve always enjoyed the fall and this year, I get to spend part of it in New York City, one of my favorite places.

After being in Jamaica, where the temperature rarely dips below 70 degrees in most places, I have a new appreciation for the cool, crisp air that fall brings. You can almost feel the switch that comes as the last days of August usher in September and the frenetic pace of summer gives way to the gentleness of fall.

Here are a few of the fall activities that I look forward to doing.

1.     West Indian American Carnival – This annual cultural extravaganza takes place in Brooklyn on Labor Day and signals the end of summer. Millions come out to prance and ‘wine’ and enjoy the vibrant celebration of West Indian culture.

Fall in New York - a Carnival Queen
Taking photos with the queen

2.     Brooklyn Book Festival – Started in 2006 by Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, to give voice to the writers who call Brooklyn home, the BBF has since expanded to include writers from outside the borough. The festival, which is free, will be held on September 22nd at Borough Hall and other venues.

3.     Wine Tastings – Each fall, we drive out to Long Island’s North Fork to meet friends for our usual wine country tour. We try to visit two or three vineyards and have lunch then drive back to the city. I’ve always wanted to check out some of the wine festivals in New Jersey, and might do that this year as well.

4.     Broadway comes alive – Fall also means the new theater season begins on and off-Broadway. Here’s what I’m looking forward to seeing: After Midnight, The Glass Menagerie, Macbeth, Richard III, and Waiting for Godot.

West Side Story

5.     Fall Fashion Week – Not just for fashionistas and big name designers, Fall Fashion Week is a chance to get a peek at they styles that will be in the stores in spring and check out the work of designers who’re not yet household names. Fall Fashion Week is on until September 12th.

Fall is not only about the turning of the leaves or the coolness in the air, it’s also the time I celebrate my birthday. The party lasts all month and usually involves a themed event, and a trip north to Toronto to celebrate with my friends from university.

This post is part of the fall blog carnival hosted by Patti at One Road at a Time. Be sure to check out what other bloggers have to say about fall.

Top 5 Spanish Coast Destinations

Spain remains the beach destination of choice for summer holidays. Offering an ideal blend of seaside charm and exotic flavour, it’s hard to go wrong yet, if you’re looking for a bit of guidance, here are five of the best Spanish coast destinations to consider: 

Spain - Benidorm by Night, photo John O'Nolan
Benidorm by Night, photo John O’Nolan, Flickr


Benidorm knows how to do tourism right. Though the destination specialises in catering to British tourists, with seaside resorts offering Brits their favourite amenities from back home, Benidorm isn’t void of local charm. Head to the old town if you’re in search of an authentic Spanish experience, the poniente beach area is usually much quieter and if you’re looking for real seclusion away from the crowds head to La Cala, a world away from the hustle and bustle of benidorms main strip. 2014 Benidorm holidays are the perfect retreat this summer.


Barcelona isn’t just one of Spain’s best destinations, but one of the most beloved cities in all of Europe. Whilst chic, cosmopolitan and rich in culture, the Catalan capital still retains the laid back charm of a seaside city. From relaxing on the sandy shores of the Mediterranean to dining on fresh seafood (cooked Catalan-style), Barcelona will exceed your expectations in every aspect of your visit.


One of the world’s most renowned party hotspots, Ibiza has perfected and defined the Mediterranean club scene. Its clubs, such as Pacha, Space, Amnesia and Privilege, are famous across the globe for their sheer size and always attract big-name celebrity DJs. Beyond San Antonio Bay, the rest of the island’s beautiful beaches and viewpoints offer some much-appreciated tranquility.

Spain - Costa del Sol, Kevin Poh
Costa del Sol, Kevin Poh


This seaside metropolis may reside on the Costa Del Sol, yet it’s vastly different than the nearby resort towns that the famous coastline is best known for. In many ways, Malaga has far more depth, with plenty of historical and cultural attractions making it a class above its neighbours. Must-see attractions include the Gothic Malaga Cathedral, the Museum of Glass and Crystal, and the La Concepción botanical gardens.


A stunning natural gem of the Mediterranean, the island of Majorca offers far more than generic tourist fare. After spending plenty of time on its golden sands, take a break from the beach and explore the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. Hiking and cycling trails offer brilliant views of the winding coastline and lead you to one charming village after the next.

It’s easy to see why, for many throughout Europe, particularly British families Spain comes number one when planning your summer holiday, with a wealth of choice, beautiful weather, and friendly locals it’s the ideal destinations for families and groups alike.




A Colorful Stilt Walker

I was waiting at the airport to pick up a friend when I saw this stilt walker.  With his colorful costume and height — he looked about 10 feet tall — he was impossible to miss in the crowd of people who, like me, had gathered at the arrival entrance of the airport.

Stilt walker, Montego Bay Airport
Colorful man

I’ve seen this particular stilt walker, or someone else wearing a similar costume, in Montego Bay several times since then. They seem to be part of the entertainment for cruise ship passengers.

According to Wikipedia, stilt walking has been traced as far back to 6th century Greece. Stilt walkers have been seen in countries such as France, Spain, Mali and have been used in a variety of situations from farming and jousting. It’s hard to imagine walking on stilts much less walking and jousting, a 600 year old tradition in Namur, Belgium!

Stilts can be hand-held, strapped on, or made with springs that allow the stilt walker to run, jump, and perform other activities. Stilt walkers are popular forms of entertainment, especially at circuses and festivals.

Hilton house
Hilton house

While I don’t remember stilt walkers being part of Jamaica’s cultural history or repertoire, I do remember that at one time, houses, like the one I grew up in, were elevated. Having a house built off the ground allows air to circulate freely and keep it cool. It also helps to keep out insects and other unwanted pests, and protects the house if there is flooding.

July 27th is National Walk on Stilts Day, an unofficial holiday.


Sept. 16th – Linking up this week with Travel Photo Mondays, which Noel of Travel Photo Discovery organizes. 

Pastor Brown’s Eye Catching House

The first time I saw Pastor Brown’s house, I had my friend stop so I could take a photo. It still is the most colorful and eye-catching house I’ve ever seen. My impression then was that an artist or someone equally comfortable with color lived there. Or someone who was absolutely not wedded to the conventions of design, or an eccentric.

Pastor Brown's descending the steps to his house
An Eye Catching House

My first photo was a quick shot, taken as the car rolled to a halt, the engine still running. My friend and I took off as soon as we noticed an elderly gentleman coming down the steps, his hand pointing in our direction. I was sure he would admonish me for taking a photo without his permission, or tell me I needed to pay a fee. And I felt guilty as we sped away. I felt I had invaded his privacy, something I’m very scrupulous about.

A year later, I was once again in Portland. This time, I was with a couple of my friends who I told about the house. I doubt they could imagine what I was trying to describe. It became one of those you’ve-got-to-see-this situations. When we got to the house, we knew we had to stop, and this time I was able to take it all in.

There was color everywhere, every inch of the house, every surface was decorated. There were also signs.

Pastor Brown's wall
Wall at the Brown house
Pastor Brown's gate
Gate to the house
Pastor Brown's sign
Sign and photos of Pastor Brown’s visit to Buckingham Palace
Pastor Brown's colors
Color everywhere

As we approached the gate to the property, a man waved and called out to us. “Come, come in!” he said, as if welcoming long lost friends.

The house is set back a good distance from the road. We walked down a grade, crossed a stream then walked up another grade to the house, which is set on the side of a hill.

Wall detail at Pastor Brown's
Wall Detail
Pastor Brown and Mrs Brown
Pastor & Mrs Brown

As we got to the steps, the man introduced himself as Pastor Brown. He called out and his wife appeared from behind a brightly painted door and joined us on the verandah.  Pastor Brown proudly showed us around his house. He was clearly proud of the work he had done over the years. He was even prouder to show us photos of his travels. Among them, his pride and joy, a faded photo of him standing outside Buckingham Palace. The way he tells it, it sounds like he actually met the Queen Elizabeth.

Pastor Brown's house
The house

For the record, Pastor Brown is a real preacher. He and his wife were so hospitable I even promised to visit the next time I’m in the area.

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

5 Reasons to Leave the Beach and Explore St. James Jamaica

Most visitors to Jamaica arrive in Montego Bay, but I doubt many know that it’s the capital of St. James, the island’s fourth largest parish. Located on Jamaica’s northwest coast, St. James shares borders with the parishes of Trelawny (east), St. Elizabeth (south), Westmoreland (southwest), and Hanover (west). It got its name, in 1655, from James II, who was formerly the Duke of York.

Like the rest of Jamaica, the original residents of St. James were Taino Indians. Sadly, they didn’t survive Christopher Columbus’ landing on the island in 1494. Some succumbed to European diseases, others committed suicide instead of accepting subjugation to Spanish authority, while some died fighting against the Spanish. Remnants of their presence have been discovered in settlements along the coast of the parish.

Mobay Beach, St. James
Mobay Beach

Montego Bay is derived from Bahia de Manteca (Lard Bay), the name the Spanish called it because of the large population of wild hogs that they found there and which slaughtered for lard that was exported to Spain.

During sugar’s heyday, several plantations dotted the parish making sugar and rum the main exports.  Many of these plantations and great houses were burnt to the ground in the 1831 Christmas Rebellion, one of the largest slave uprisings in the island’s history. The revolt was lead by Sam Sharpe, who was born on Croydon Plantation. Sharpe was hanged and now one of Jamaica’s National Heroes.

Monument to Sam Sharpe at Croydon Plantation, St. James
Monument to Sam Sharpe at Croydon Plantation

St. James has developed much in the last several years, due in part to its location and its legendary white sand beaches, which began attracting visitors to Montego Bay and the north coast since the 1940s. Commonly referred to as the Second City, and the tourist capital of the island, Montego Bay welcomes nearly half of the approximately 3 million visitors the island sees each year, making tourism the parish’s main industry and largest employer.

Most visitors who travel to Montego Bay never leave their all-inclusive hotels. If you’re one of them, here are five reasons to get out and discover the diversity of activities that St. James has to offer.

Ahhh...Ras Natango Garden & Gallery, St. James
Ahhh…Ras Natango Garden & Gallery

Ahhh….Ras Natango Gallery & Gardens – A rock garden, art gallery and the best ecotourism spot in St. James. Ahhh…Ras Natango is located about 20 minutes from Mobay, in the small community of Camrose. Entrance $30, includes shuttle pickup. Lunch is available on order for an additional fee.

Greenwood Great House Pub, St. James
Converted Pub, Greenwood

Greenwood Great HouseNear the border of Trelawny in a community named Greenwood is Greenwood Great House, which was once owned by the family of the English poet, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. Greenwood has the Caribbean’s finest collection of musical instruments, antique furniture, china and rare books, which all belonged to the Barrett family. Guided tours are available 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. US$20. 876-953-1077

Rocklands Bird Sanctuary – With more than two-dozen endemic birds, Jamaica is a bird lover’s paradise. If you love birds and are in the Montego Bay area, head over to Rocklands Bird Sanctuary where you can spot up to 17 species, including the humming bird, Jamaica’s national bird, and feed them too!

Rows of pineapples at Croydon Plantation, St. James
Fields of pineapple

Croydon Plantation – Croydon Plantation owes its reputation to pineapples and coffee, as well as its connection to national hero, Samuel Sharpe. Sharpe was born a slave at Croydon. He became a Baptist preacher who organized a peaceful protest in December 1831 that turned into the largest rebellion on the island. Plantation tours with pineapple tastings are conducted on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Cost $70 includes round trip transportation and lunch.

Drummers at the Rastafari Indigenous Village, St. James
Rastafari Drummers

Rastafari Indigenous Village – If you’re interested in learning about the Rastafarians, how they live, what they eat, their philosophy, head to the Rastafari Indigenous Village, a small community of Rasta bretheren, and some sistren too, who’ll give you the 411 on Rastafari beliefs, show you some drum moves and give you a tour of their village. An ital (purely vegetarian) lunch is also offered.

Bonus Option:

Rafting on the Great River – Nothing relaxes more than river rafting. This one-hour excursion down the Great River includes buffet lunch and drinks.

I’m sharing this post with Wanderlust Wednesday, which Dana at Time Travel Plans organizes.

Jamaica Board Signs, I

Signs like this one make me smile. Specifically, it’s the part that states, it is my intention to apply. As long as you intend to apply, you’re golden.

Liquor license sign

Like most places, business establishments in Jamaica that sell spirits must have a license. However, they can begin operating without one if they post a sign like the one above.

There are clear requirements for the sign: it must be in capital letters not below 5mm in height, and displayed prominently.

The business owner must apply for a license and submit the application form ‘21 clear days’ prior to the sitting of the Licensing Authority, but I’ve seen signs like these displayed on businesses for months or even years. I’ve often wondered if the owners just never bothered to take them down after they receive the license or if they ever bother to submit an application. After all, if the authorities ask, you can just say, I intend to apply.

Applying doesn’t mean the license will be issued automatically. Members of the community can object, but it has to be in in writing.

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

FoodieTuesday: Passion Fruit Drink

The passion fruit is a round yellow (or purple) fruit with a very distinctive flavor. It is used in juices, ice cream, pastries and even syrup.

The yellow passion fruit is quite common in Jamaica and is usually found growing on vines in backyard gardens.


Whole passion fruit

I was at my uncle’s home a few years ago when he asked if I’d like something to eat. I figured he’d buy us a meal so I was surprised when I heard the unmistakable sounds of pots and pans coming from his kitchen.

“You said you wanted something to eat,” he said, when I asked what he was doing, “I’m making us lunch.”

He noticed the look of shock on my face and burst out laughing.

“You think I can’t cook,” he said, still smiling.

When I offered to help, he shooed me out of the kitchen.

“I’ve been cooking since before you were born,” he added, chuckling.

Half of a passionfruit

That did nothing to boost my confidence. I never knew Uncle Norris, the baby of the family, to cook. Whenever he came to our house, he’d head straight to the refrigerator for something to drink. If we didn’t have lemonade, his favorite, he’d call me to make him some. I was maybe 8 or 9 and hated having my playtime interrupted.

By now the smell of curry was wafting through the living room.

“What are you making?” I called out.

“Mind your own business,” he replied. “I said I’d make you lunch and I’m making you lunch.”

When I heard the whirring of the blender, I became even more curious. What could he be making now, I wondered.

I couldn’t believe the meal he’d whipped up. It was the most delicious curried chicken I’d eaten in a while. But it was the passion fruit drink that accompanied it that still has me talking almost four years later.

The slightly tangy taste of the passion fruit was the perfect accompaniment to the bold flavor of the curried chicken. It was so refreshing, I poured another glass.

How to Make Passion Fruit Drink


4-6 Passion fruits


Sugar to taste


Cut passion fruit in half, scoop the flesh into a blender. Add water and sugar to taste. Blend until smooth. Strain. Serve chilled or over ice.

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