Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday in NYC: Central Park and Broadway

Blue Sky. It was a perfect day to visit the iconic urban park in the middle of Manhattan.
We've all seen, heard or read about Central Park in movies, music or literature, and this is definitely one of the must do things in NYC. We came with a small list of places to visit in the park, but we had no idea how to find them. So we just walked and walked and walked. 


Central Park is an urban park in ManhattanNew York CityU.S. state of New York. It comprises 843 acres (341 ha) between the Upper West Side and Upper East Side, roughly bounded by Fifth Avenue on the east, Central Park West (Eighth Avenue) on the west, Central Park South(59th Street) on the south, and Central Park North (110th Street) on the north. Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States, with 40 million visitors in 2013, and one of the most filmed locations in the world.

We started at the 5th Ave and 59th street entrance, right at a subway exit. 
 Since we all have seen Madagascar, the Central Park Zoo was on top of our list of places to visit in the park. 

Here is a rare Red Panda showing off. Apparently, according to a zoo keeper, Rohan - the Panda - was "extra cute for the tourists today."


The Central Park Zoo is a small 6.5-acre (2.6 ha) zoo located in Central Park in New York City. It is part of an integrated system of four zoos and the New York Aquarium managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The zoo began in the 1860s as a menagerie, thus making it the first official zoo to open in New York. The zoo was modified in 1934, with the addition of many new buildings ranged in a quadrangle around the sea lion pool. (The zoo from this era has been commonly known as the "1934 Zoo" or "Robert Moses Zoo".) The zoo was renovated in the mid-1980s and reopened in 1988, replacing cages with naturalistic environments.

Camera generation.

Best friends. I just love this combination.

The green area is huge and very beautiful, but you can't forget this is still New York with its skyscrapers.


The Central Park memorial was designed by Bruce Kelly, the chief landscape architect for the Central Park Conservancy. Strawberry Fields was dedicated on what would have been Lennon's 45th birthday, October 9, 1985, by New York Mayor Ed Koch and Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who had underwritten the project. The entrance to the memorial is located on Central Park West at West 72nd Street, directly across from the Dakota Apartments, where Lennon had lived for the latter part of his life, and where he was murdered in 1980. The memorial is a triangular piece of land falling away on the two sides of the park, and its focal point is a circular pathway mosaic of inlaid stones, with a single word, the title of Lennon's famous song: "Imagine". This was a gift from the city of Naples, Italy. Along the borders of the area surrounding the mosaic are benches which are endowed in memory of other individuals and maintained by the Central Park Conservancy. Along a path toward the southeast, a plaque on a low glaciated outcropping of schist lists the nations which contributed to building the memorial. Yoko Ono, who still lives in The Dakota, contributed over a million dollars for the landscaping and the upkeep endowment.

I am not sure why we didn't try the traditional Central Park House & Carriage Ride, although I think it would've been fun. I think prices vary from US$50 (20 minutes) to US$120 (one hour).  
I like the fact that people are not trying to sell you anything at the park and the services are pretty downplayed. On the other hand, it can be a bit tricky for tourists to find where things are - like bike rental or cafes. So, if you visiting the park for the first time, do your research before hand and find out exactly where things are. It is even hard to find a map of the park - paper or signs.

Spring time.

Juju really wanted to ride the Carousel. Why not? 


The current carousel is officially the Michael Friedsam Memorial Carousel, It is the fourth carousel in the park since 1871, all located at the same site, and is part of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's Central Park Scenic Landmarks.
The original 1871 Central Park carousel was powered by a mule or horse under the carousel's platform, signaled to start and stop by the operator tapping his foot. Two succeeding rides were destroyed by fires in 1924 and 1950.
The current carousel, which was restored in 1990, has 57 hand-carved horses — 52 jumpers and 5 standers — and two chariots. It is open seven days a week when weather permits and serves around 250,000 riders every year. 

We also spent some time at the playground, of course. We liked how they have structures that are meant to be climbed and they connect to big rocks - inviting kids and adults to climb those too.

We thought the place was great to finally open the letter that Fifi sneaked inside our luggage just before we left home, wishing us a good trip.
How sweet, Fifi! Thank you! 
We'll definitely come back here with you one day.

I had to register this. I absolutely loved this T-shirt.


After taking a couple of hours of rest at the hotel, we got ready to go out again. With tickets in hand to see Juju's first Broadway show, we were waiting for a taxi. Suddenly this man stoped and offered us a deal: to take us to the theatre style for US$20. Within seconds Juju and I were taking a ride on the back of this guy's bicycle, going uptown among crazy cars on 6th Ave. I have to admite that I hopped in because I felt bad for him at first, but soon after we starting having so much fun, laughing all the way. It was another NYC's surprises. 

We didn't have too many options of plays for Juju to see because most of the big productions take a day off on Sundays. Really, we had only two options: School of Rock and Stomp. I knew both were good, but Juju really wanted to see this and I am glad she picked it. We loved every minute of it. The play was perfect for her age, since the story happens in a elementary school. The kids were amazing and as someone mentioned to us at the theatre "we are so done with the princesses, right?!"


School of Rock is a rock musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes. Based on the 2003 film of the same name, with a screenplay by Mike White, the musical follows Dewey Finn, an out-of-work rock singer and guitarist who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. After identifying the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-graders, in an attempt to win the upcoming Battle of the Bands contest.

Juju loved it so much that we had to hang out outside the stage door waiting for cast members to come out and getting their autographs. 

The kids - about 10 years of age -  were so adorable and friendly to her.

Before we went back to the hotel on a regular taxi we made sure we walked up to the Rockefeller Center and took this shot for the record. 
You might never sleep, NYC... but I am dead! 
Good night.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

NYC on a rainy day

New York woke up gray... and wet. 
We couldn't even see the top of the Empire State Building from our hotel room window. 
But we are in the world's show business capital, and the show must go on. 

After a surprisingly satisfying breakfast at the hotel we started a full day of activities in one of the many sightseeing bus companies in the city. We got the Downtown tour  - the simplest one available - fromTop View.  It was hard to find a covered spot in the hop on hop off bus, so we braved the elements and rode on top of the bus... with one broken umbrella.

Our first stop was at City Hall and soon we got to see the Brooklyn Bridge. We didn't go too far because of the heavy rain and cold wind, but Juju got to see one of my favourite bridges. 


The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York City and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States. Started in 1869 and completed fourteen years later in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, spanning the East River. It has a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m) and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed. It was originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and the East River Bridge, but it was later dubbed the Brooklyn Bridge, a name coming from an earlier January 25, 1867, letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and formally so named by the city government in 1915. Since opening, it has become an icon of New York City and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972.

I love to just look up once in a while here. 
There is always a fun and different angle of the city. 

From there we just walked in the opposite direction, towards the area where the World Trade Center used to be. 
The Oculus is this gigantic structure also called The World Trade Center Transportation Hub. 
It looks like nothing I have ever seen before, and it's white floors, walls and structures made me feel peaceful. But it's hard to forget about all the lost lives here in 2001.


The 4 million dollar transportation center & mall in Lower Manhattan

The Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center Mall replaces the PATH station that was destroyed during 9/11 in 2001. This 800,000 square foot building cost 4 billion dollars to build making it the most expensive train stop in the world! Furthermore, they are still continuing to work on this building today. With it’s sleek and modern design, it is an attraction to see when in Lower Manhattan. The transit hall alone is 325 feet long which is 90 ft. longer than Grand Central Terminal! 

We skipped the National September 11 Memorial Museum because the line ups were too long, and we would've had to wait outside, in the rain. Still, I explained to Juju - for the first time - what happened here 10 years before she was born. She had a mix of sad and angry feelings: "I don't like to use this word, but whoever did it was just dumb!"

Next stop was at the heart of the financial district, Wall Street. I visit this area every time I come to New York. And every time I feel the disconnection from the geographic space and what it really represents to the world. It is almost feel fake too me... or Monopoly game.

New York Stock Exchange

Down the street we were in a search for the Charging Bull. 
Actually, we were really interested in WHO is across from it.

My fearless (rebel) girl loved being there, copying the small big sculpture. Juju understand exactly why that girl was there and what the sculpture of the Fearless Girl represents. 
While there was a line up of grown ups waiting to take a picture with the Charging Bull, Juju couldn't care less about it. The Fearless Girl was one of the highlights of her day. 


Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors via McCann New York, depicting a girl facing the Charging Bull (or Wall Street Bull) statue. It was installed on March 7, 2017, at Bowling Green in the Financial District of ManhattanNew York City. The statue measures approximately 50 inches (130 cm) tall, and weighs about 250 pounds (110 kg).
Fearless Girl was commissioned by investment firm State Street Global Advisors (SSgA) to advertise for an index fund which comprises gender-diverse companies that have a relatively high percentage of women among their senior leadership. The plaque below the statue states: "Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference," with "SHE" being both a descriptive pronoun and the fund's NASDAQ ticker symbol.
The original statue is set to be moved three blocks away to the New York Stock Exchange by the end of 2018.

Back on the bus, our next stop was the Chelsea Market, a fantastic arts and food place. 
What a pleasant addition to the day! It reminded me of parts of Camden Market in London... on a much smaller scale.

I am not sure if the place was packed because of the rain outside, but most of the restaurants and cafes were fully booked and some people were just eating standing up in the corridors. I just loved the vibe and look of the place. I will definitely come back here for a meal and beer one day. 


Chelsea Market is a food hall, shopping mall, office building and television production facility located in the Chelsea neighborhood of the boroughof Manhattan, in New York City. It was built in the former National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) factory complex where the Oreo cookie was invented and produced.

Juju having fun with the creative "caution -wet floor" warning sign.

By the time we came out of the Chelsea Market, the rain had stopped a bit.
We just crossed the street and embarked on this amazing elevated adventure, completely new to me: the Highline. 


The High Line (also known as High Line Park) is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) elevated linear parkgreenway and rail trail. It was created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan in New York City. Led by the landscape architecture firm of James Corner Field Operations, the abandoned spur has been redesigned as a "living system" drawing from multiple disciplines which include landscape architecture, urban design, and ecology. Since opening in 2009, the High Line has become an icon of contemporary landscape architecture.
The park is built on a disused, southern viaduct section of the New York Central Railroad line known as the West Side Line. Originating in the Lower West Side of Manhattan, the park runs from Gansevoort Street – three blocks below 14th Street, in the Meatpacking District – through Chelsea to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street near the Javits Center. The West Side Line formerly extended south to a railroad terminal at Spring Street, just north of Canal Street. Most of its southern section was demolished in 1960, and another small portion was demolished in 1991.The High Line was inspired by the 3-mile-long (4.8 km) Promenade plantée (tree-lined walkway), a similar project in Paris which was completed in 1993.


Sable Elyse Smith (b. 1986, Los Angeles, California) examines the complex language and emotional landscapes embedded in systems of surveillance and structures of constraint, and the often invisible ways in which they shape our minds and direct our bodies. For the High Line, Smith creates C.R.E.A.M. (titled after the Wu Tang Clan song), an altered replica of the Hollywood Sign that reads IRONWOODLAND—a reference both to the Ironwood State Prison and to “Hollywoodland,” the segregated real estate development that was advertised by the original sign. The piece draws attention to the contradictory nature of institutions that not only develop real estate, but prisons as well.

Does this look like New York City to you? 
Well, the abandoned train tracks left behind, give it away. Incredibly beautiful, the Highline is home to many different plants, and of course birds and insects. 
I can only imagine how even more beautiful this place can be on a sunny day.

Almost finishing our downtown bus loop, we went back to Times Square and had the pleasure to see the famous Naked Cowboy. 
I am not sure if this was "the real one", but Juju had a good laugh seeing him: "This is the craziest thing I saw in NYC so far!!!"


Robert John Burck (born December 23, 1970), better known as the Naked Cowboy, is an American street performer whose pitch is on New York City's Times Square. He wears only cowboy boots, a hat, and white briefs, with a guitar strategically placed to give the illusion of nudity.
On October 6, 2010, Burck formally announced that he was running for President of the United States in the 2012 U.S. election as a candidate representing the U.S. Tea Party movement.

So, the much anticipated visit for her: the M&M Store.Wow! Three floors of M&M merchandise and hundreds of crazy kids like Juju and all kinds of adults pilled up in THREE FLOORS! Juju was the poster girl of the expression "a little kid in a candy store." Although she doesn't really like M&M that much, this was a dream come true for her.  A couple of t-shirts and two little toys later - for her and her sister - we were out of there... thankfully unharmed.

Gotta have one: NYC's giant hot pretzel's from a street vendor. (US$4)

Well, we finished the day in a NYC style: stuck in traffic. 
As I mentioned in the begging, the rain didn't stop us and the other tens of thousands of people who visited the Big Apple today. 
The show must go on indeed!

Friday, May 18, 2018

NYC - Travelling with my (lovely) almost 7 year old

 I have been waiting for this moment since I became a mom: to take my daughtgers on adventures. As Juju turns 7 years old this month, and my birthday coming up as well,  I thought it would be great for us to celebrate it with a short trip to NYC. Just the two of us. It's the first time the two of us spend more than a day together, alone. A real mom and daughter bonding.

We took a one hour and fifteen minutes Porter flight at Toronto Island's airport to Newark airport. The Toronto part was a piece of cake, but we spent more time going through American immigration in New Jersey: one hour and half in line to check passports.  

As we were leaving the plane a great surprise: both pilot and co-pilot were two young friendly women. They immediately invited Juju into the cockpit AND even lent her the hat to take a picture. 
That made her day!

By the time we checked in at the hotel, it was almost 4pm. And since we hadn't really had a decent meal all day, we went out for dinner. The streets of Manhattan are full of surprises. 
Here is a giant Pikachu.

Close to Times Square we encountered a pacific pro-Palestinians  protest.

Juju was mesmerized with being at Times Square. It's difficult to explain how overwhelming that place can be, but in a positive way. You just have to go with the flow and let your senses absorb as much as possible. 

If you are ever in NYC, make sure you have at least one meal at Ellen's Stardust Diner. What an experience! THANKS FOR THE TIP, BRYN!
The food is not bad, but the whole point is the entertainment. Waiters take turns singing live songs and interacting with the guests among tables. The line ups can be bad, so I suggest you to have a meal between lunch and dinner (at around 3 or 4pm). We waited for about 30 minutes, at 5pm. Reservations can be made only for groups of 20 or more people.

Most of the staff here are wannabe Broadway performers. 
Apparently, some servers do get musical parts and leave the restaurant. Others come back.

Juju had an amazing time, dancing and singing as well. And we got to celebrate our birthdays with other guests. Some of the waiters were walking on this catwalk right behind her, which made her feel even more special. She was so upset when I had to ask for the bill. 
"I wish I lived here and I could come here for dinner every night," she said!!!! 

Juju took a picture of me with my well deserved pint of beer, right when the room light changed. 
I think it's a cool effect, isn't it?

After dinner Juju had a "Fun Time" ice cream from a street vendor.

We stopped for a bit at Bryant Park on the way back to the hotel. 
Lots of people were just enjoying the spring time after working hours.

Bryant Park is a 9.603-acre (38,860 m2) privately managed public park located in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan.[1] Although technically the Main Branch of the New York Public Library is located within the park, effectively it forms the park's functional eastern boundary, making Sixth Avenue the park's primary entrance. Bryant Park is located entirely over an underground structure that houses the library's stacks, which were built in the 1980s when the park was closed to the public and excavated; the new library facilities were built below ground level while the park was restored above it.

A surprise prepared by the hotel staff was waiting for us at the room.
How sweet!


"When I am travelling, my least favourite part is when I go to bed"
"I don't like travelling in a group. I like to be free"
" NYC isn't that bad after all!" (being sarcastic)
"It looks like the whole city is Chinatown" (referring to how busy NYC it is)
"It's ok to jaywalk... we are in New York!"