A Ninja in New York

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There goes my New York Ninja. Jack adapts to the city easily, and although not on the horizon, Lori and I often talk about how well he would do if we ever decided to live there. Though we were sad to be in the city to pack up Aunt Joan’s apartment after she moved to a Northampton assisted living facility, Lori, Jack and I did enjoy being back in the heart of Chelsea – even if it was just for a long weekend. I’ve always felt that life in the city is dynamic, exciting, and full of energy, and our recent visit, though brief, brought back all sorts of good memories from when Lori and I lived here twenty years ago. Knowing that family ties to the city are becoming more and more tenuous, throughout the weekend we felt a sense of wanting to really absorb as much of this lifestyle as possible. I know we will be able to return to the city whenever we want to, but somehow without the family connection I don’t think it will feel the same. The bond and sense of almost belonging here that we have always enjoyed will be harder to find, so I’m glad we packed so much of the city into one of our “last” visits. New York, New York… so good they named it twice.

Madison Square Park, New York City

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After visiting the top of the Empire State Building, Jack and I slowly meandered about the city as we made our way back downtown toward Aunt Joan’s apartment on 25th Street. Reaching the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street, we were greeted by an oasis in the city surrounded by spectacular architecture and filled with historical and impressive monuments and sculptures. Home to a kiosk housing the renowned Shake Shack restaurant, the lively and beautiful Madison Square Park is a wonderful place that Jack and I wandered into and then stayed a while. Kudos to the Madison Square Park Conservancy for all of the work they do to keep this park so vital and alive.

The bridge to Brooklyn

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Spanning the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, this marvel of engineering provides a connection between two famous New York City boroughs. Partly constructed of giant granite blocks quarried off the Maine coast on the island of Vinalhaven, the 1595.5 foot long national historic landmark was completed in 1883. Orginally known as the “New York and Brooklyn Bridge” and also as the “East River Bridge” – this iconic symbol of the urban landscape was officially named “The Brooklyn Bridge” by the city government in 1915. We of course did the touristy thing, and with mid-November temperatures that soared to almost seventy degrees, we enjoyed the stroll from Manhattan all the way across the bridge to the East River State Park in Brooklyn.

As you can imagine, the views were incredible, as was the food we sampled at Smorgasburg, an amazing outdoor “farmer’s market” for foodies located in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. Filled with smells and tastes to die for, there were 50+ vendors selling handmade food with origins from all over the world. As we relaxed under the Brooklyn Bridge (with the view above), we chowed on the best Falafel tacos ever, tasty Texas barbeque brisket sandwiches, the creamiest of New York cheesecake, and a gourmet peanut butter and jelly smore that was ridiculously delicious. Yum, yum…

High above the city streets

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Located on the lower west side of New York City is one of the absolutely coolest public spaces you’re ever going to find. The High Line is a unique park built on an historic but decommissioned freight rail line elevated above the streets on the lower west side of Manhattan. The idea of turning the old train tracks of what was once New York City’s “Life-Line” into a green area and public park was an innovative one, and when we first visited this amazing place a few years ago, we were intrigued by what we saw. Our return visit only reinforced our feelings of admiration for this spectacular preservation project and those who champion its cause.

The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, opened June 9, 2009. The second section, from West 20th Street to West 30th Street, opened in spring, 2011.

http://www.thehighline.org

The design and layout of all of the High Line elements – everything from the railings, to the benches, and the wonderful landscaping all mesh together in a very stylish way that effectively celebrates and incorporates both the history and feel of the old train tracks. As we walked from 20th Street to Gansevoort Street near Greenwich Village, it was almost surreal to be wandering along such a beautiful pathway right above the streets of one of the busiest cities in the world. Kudos to the “Friends of The High Line” who fought so hard for the preservation and restoration of what is a wonderful addition to NYC. If you ever get the chance to wander along the High Line, take it… you won’t be disappointed.

When the lights go down in the city

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New York City exudes a different kind of energy at night. It becomes even more exciting, with what might be obvious during the daylight hours seeming much more mysterious as the shadows reach into dark doorways and alleys. A feeling of anticipation for what’s around the next corner, or further down the street, overtakes every other thought, and the artificial light trying to brighten the streets and avenues provides what I think is a more intense glimpse of city life at that moment. When the lights go down in the city… in addition to being a cool Journey song… might just be my favorite time to wander the ever busy sidewalks of New York.

A New York state of mind

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It’s been a while since I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, and on this visit I was determined to return (and bring Jack up there for the first time). When Lori and I lived in the city, it was one of the first landmarks we always brought visiting friends to, though I don’t remember it being so expensive back then. Jack was incredibly excited to ride the elevator which sped like lightning to the 86th floor, and when we stepped out onto the windy and cold observatory deck and saw the views, this wide-eyed eight year old was more than impressed. I could tell that he was intrigued by how high we were, especially since we had been noticing the top of the tower from just about every part of the city we had already visited, and it was cool to see him literally run from the east to west to north and south sides of the observatory in search of a different view. Methinks this is one experience he will remember for a long time. Once again… everything in this post was Instagrammed.

Two Mainers exploring New York City

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New York City is the greatest city on earth. A family obligation recently afforded us the opportunity to spend a couple of nights on the island of Manhattan, and part of my responsibility on this visit – while Lori was working – was to keep the little man entertained. So, what do two Mainers set loose in the big city do? Well, they explore… and as they explore, one of them Instagrams their adventures. In just a couple of days, Jack and I hit up some of the more famous locations… Central Park (and the zoo), Times Square, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue, the Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway and 42nd Street, Greenwich Village… and that’s what I’ll be documenting in the next couple of blog posts. Let’s start with Central Park and the Children’s Zoo where we saw some awesome critters (in and outside the zoo). I know it’s weird, but I can’t shake the spooky feeling I get when looking at the first couple of photographs from this post. Makes me think of The Shining… here’s Jack!