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.

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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…

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.

A slice of heaven

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No… this hasn’t turned into a food blog, but I figured I would share some iPhone pics from our recent visit to NYC – I love having the camera with me (Lori’s iPhone) all the time.

There are lots of cities that lay claim to having the best pizza in the US, and needless to say, New York City is definitely one of them. Luckily we get to visit what I consider to be the most incredible city in the world quite often, and every time we do, we like to sample some of the local fare, especially the pizza. John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village has long been a favorite of ours, and judging by the number of “Top 10 Pizza in NY” lists it is on, we aren’t alone in our admiration. I can remember visiting John’s with friends one Saturday night back in 1989 when Lori and I lived and worked in Manhattan, so now every time we return it brings back great memories.

You wouldn’t believe how many pizza joints there are in NYC… it feels like there’s literally one on every block. In my book there’s no such thing as bad pizza, but to survive the competition in New York you’d better be good! Besides, if you can make it there you can make it anywhere… wait, isn’t that a line from a song or something 😉

Irish Hunger Memorial in NYC

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This city never ceases to amaze me. There’s always something new and interesting to see around every corner, and while exploring the lower west side of Manhattan on a recent short visit, we stumbled on the Irish Hunger Memorial for the first time. An oasis of green in a jungle of concrete and steel, this unique memorial in New York City is beautifully presented and a poignant reminder of constant struggles to provide the most basic of human needs.

A description from Wikipedia:

“The Irish Hunger Memorial, designed collaboratively by artist Brian Tolle, landscape architect Gail Wittwer-Laird, and 1100 Architect, is located on a one-half acre site at the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in the Battery Park City neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, and is dedicated to raising awareness of the Great Irish Famine that killed up to a million in Ireland between the years 1845 and 1852. The memorial was dedicated on July 16, 2002. It is a uniquely landscaped plot, which utilizes stones, soil, and native vegetation brought in from the western coast of Ireland. The memorial contains stones from all of the different counties of Ireland. The memorial also incorporates an authentic rebuilt Irish cottage of the 19th century. The cottage at the memorial is from Carradoogan in the parish of Attymass in County Mayo. The cottage belonged to the Slack family but was deserted in the 1960s. The Slack family donated the cottage to the memorial in “memory of all the Slack family members of previous generations who emigrated to America and fared well there.” “

Between 1846 and 1850, potato blight all but wiped out the main source of food for the Irish people and a catastrophic famine ensued. One and a half million Irish people died, and many more fled their homeland just to survive. The quarter of an acre Irish Hunger Memorial garden is a reminder of An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger), and it also recognizes the many parts of the world still affected by hunger today.

A raised overlook provides impressive views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, significant as symbols of the welcome afforded the immigrant Irish people. The outside wall of the memorial is adorned with almost two miles of poetry, statistics and quotes about the impact of the deadly famine.

Somewhat ironically placed deep within the Financial District of the richest city in the world, this site stands as a simple reminder of past and present issues around world hunger, and in a time when some of us have so much, it seems hard to believe that so many people across the globe still go without. Well worth a visit.

The High Line, New York City

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On our way home from our wild west vacation, we were excited to be able to stop in New York City to visit Lori’s aunt Joan. Joan lives in Chelsea, a really cool part of lower Manhattan. Walk south 20 minutes from Joan’s apartment and you are in Greenwich Village, and the same distance north gets you to the hustle, bustle and energy of mid-town. We had a good visit with aunt Joan, and it was great to see Carlo too.

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Before heading out of the city and up to Northampton for the night to see Lori’s sister on our way back to Maine, we planned a short trip to a new park in NYC. The High Line had just recently opened, and it has a really interesting history…

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. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park. The project gained the City’s support in 2002. The High Line south of 30th Street was donated to the City by CSX Transportation Inc. in 2005. The design team of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, created the High Line’s public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, is projected to open in June 2009.

http://www.thehighline.org

The idea of turning old train tracks into a green area and public park intrigued us, and we were amazed with what we saw. The design and layout of all of the High Line elements – everything from the railings, to the benches, and the wonderful landscaping – though not yet complete, all meshed together in a very stylish way that effectively celebrated both the history and feel of the old train tracks.

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As we walked The High Line 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 undoubtedly a wonderful addition to NYC. If you ever get the chance to wander along The High Line, take it… you won’t be disappointed.

Our Sunday stroll through (over) the streets of New York City was certainly enhanced by our experience on The High Line, and our brief stopover in the city was rounded out perfectly with a couple of pies from the renowned “John’s Pizza” on Bleecker Street. Ahhhh NYC pizza… nothing compares 🙂