Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields
Strawberry Fields , Central Park, New York City

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Adventures in New York City Part 8- Hop On Hop Off Bus

We used the City Sightseeing "Hop On Hop Off" bus for a couple of days on this trip.  I am usually very big on these type of busses on a trip.  We have had success, and great experiences with them in Savannah, St. Augustine, New Orleans, San Antonio, and other places....

For New York City.......  I will say that these busses were an OK experience...  for the most part.

I will start with the cons- We got on a bus at 8am, when the first ones were loading for the day.  Well, that one got a flat tire before it got going.  They did have another for us to get onto, and we were on the road by 8:25.  Still, that's 25 minutes of vacation time.

One day it was raining, and the bus was full of people on the 1st floor of the bus (these are double decker busses with open tops).  The tour guide/announcer basically gave up on narrating, and stressed out about fitting people on the bus.

Speaking of guides.....  the guides were hit or miss.  Some were great and really made the experience pleasant.  Others were straight up bad.  One told a lot of jokes, and pointed out just a couple of buildings of interest.

On the flip side, there were some advantages.  We were able to get around VERY easily, while seeing all of the sites of New York.  We drove through all of the cool neighborhoods.

AND, we had some great guides...  one being Victor.  Victor was a younger guide who knew a LOT of history, and was full of facts.  Victor is the kind of guide I always want on a tour.

Also, even with some of the issues- this added to our New York experience.  Riding in an over crowded bus with a guide who stops trying to narrate, and just starts loudly mumbling to himself, "I can't fit all these people on this bus" had some value to it.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Adventures in New York City Part 7- Top of the RockTop Of The Rock

I took a ton of photos from the "Top of the Rock"- the top of Rockefeller Center.    The view from this point, and the town itself, are so photogenic.

It is a deceptively easy process to get to the observation decks.  There is a timed entry ticket process, which helps a lot.  There is security which wasn't much of a hassle.  Then, they snake line you through a short film, and you are then directed to go up on an elevator.  Before you know it you are looking out over the city.

And, I THINK in an effort to keep the crowds moving, there are a few levels of the deck, so there are plenty of uncrowded, nice photo ops.  Plus, the final level is literally on top of Rockefeller Center.  You can't get any higher here!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Adventures in New York City Part 6- Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center was another one of those places we hoped to visit while in New York.

We ended up spending a good amount of time there.  In fact, we probably stopped by at some point on each day of our trip.

We went in one day to check out the shops and to see about tour tickets.  I did find some really cool postcards in one shop.  I asked the lady running the place if she ever saw any of the SNL cast come by.  She mentioned that Fred Armisen has been in several times.  She said that he was always very friendly and nice.  I told her I was glad to hear that because I really like him.

We went to get tickets for "Top of the Rock"- access to Rockefeller Center's observation deck area.  On the day we asked about tickets, we were told that there was 0 visibility, so they weren't selling tickets at that moment, though the oddly offered to sell us tickets for the next day.  We did come back on a different day and we were able to make it to the top (more on that later).

Rockefeller Center is one of those buildings that everyone knows, and you realize the moment you see it that you have seen it many times before.  It reminded me of the first time I saw the Capitol in DC, and the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.  The place is so iconic.

AND there are several spots that you recognize pretty immediately.  The ice skating rink area is something we are all familiar with....  the very front of the building, and the statue of Atlas all seemed so familiar.

We actually took a tour of the building (mostly outside and in lobbies) with a tour guide named Pete.  Pete was full of energy, and must have snorted Red Bull before the tour.  He was awesome and knew everything about 30 Rockefeller, it's history, and a lot of the history associated with the building and the area.

This was one of those, "what the heck" kind of tours, it looked like it might be somewhat interesting, and it ended up being a real high point of our trip.

Pete mentioned that some of the actors have interrupted his tours to try out material (unfortunately this did not happen to us).  He mentioned Jimmy Fallon doing this a week or two before our tour.

Anyway, a big focus of the tour was on art.  Much of the art on and around the building had a theme of getting information to people through TV and radio.  Pete explained some of the imagery, telling us about the artists, and what the Rockefeller's wanted to communicate and do with their building.  With Pete's enthusiasm as he described the truly epic art work, I felt that the art was coming through in an almost spiritual level.  Sure, this tour was entertaining, but it was also very deep.

I cannot express how exciting it was to view the Josep Maria Sert work "American Progress" which pleasantly overwhelms anyone entering the building through the main entrance.  Painted giants appear to be standing on the physical columns in the lobby, dealing with elements of the future and the past.  This is such a spectacular piece, I would love to see it exploited more.  Prints and postcards showing scenes from this work should be readily available in the gift shop!

I could go on and on about the art here.  Like I said, we figured this might be an OK tour, but with our guide Pete, the tour was over the top amazing.

There is a Lego store nearby that had several of the Rockefeller Center icons immortalized in Lego.  We thought that was cool.  Plus, who doesn't love Legos?

One morning, we relaxed and watched ice skaters through a window while inside of Rockefeller.  That was very relaxing.

I will get some more photos up from our "Top of the Rock" experience in the next few days.....

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

RCA Building, Rockefeller Center at Night, New York City

Sent from NYC in 1941, the sender says they just saw "Tom, Dick, and Harry" at Radio City Music Hall.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Adventures in New York City Part 5- Trump Tower

We stopped by Trump Tower...  well, because we passed it, and it IS Trump Tower!

It was pretty rainy, and we were excited to get out of the rain at this point!  We noticed that the Trump Grill had a $23 lunch special.  Actually, for this neck of the woods, $23 isn't bad at all for a nice lunch.

We each had a tasty salad, burger, and dessert for our money!

There are some very high end shops here too, but we didn't bother going in to them.

We did explore a bit more of the building.  There is a busy Starbucks on an upper level that offered a nice view of the lower level of the Tower. 

The escalators reminded me of nightmares I have had.  The glass sides kind of give you an insecure feeling, like you could fall off at any moment!

Anyway, we liked hanging out at Trump Tower.  Its a pleasant place, and the Trump Grill was a excellent place to stop for a meal while out and about.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Adventures In New York City Part 4- Central Park and the Dakota

The Dakota was high on my list of places to see while in New York City.  Sure, it is a classy, high end apartment....  but it will forever be associated with John Lennon who lived there from 1973-1980, when he was assassinated there.

They obviously were doing work on the building, as scaffolding was everywhere.  We walked over to Strawberry Fields, the memorial dedicated to Lennon in Central Park, right across the street from the building.  There was a nice vibe going on there.  There was a kid singing and playing John Lennon songs on his guitar.

Central Park was just a nice place to be too.  It was very family friendly, and, like most of New York, we felt very comfortable as we explored.

Victor, one of our tour bus guides on this trip, told us a lot about how Central Park was simply not the place to go to a decade or two ago.  The crime stats were very high, but they have been greatly reduced.  I forget the exact statistics he gave us, but Central Park went from the place you never went to to being the place that is very family friendly now.  We saw it.  Old men and ladies were here and there, pushing strollers.  Kids played.  Young people walked dogs.

We did see some great street performers here too, and I wanted to mention one in particular.  We heard some flawless classical style singing coming from somewhere.  We followed it and found the amazing Shigemasa Nakano.

As we followed the music, I assumed we were hearing a physically large Italian opera singer.  When we found Mr. Nakano, he is a smaller man originally from Japan.  He simply did not look the part!  There was a LOT of incredible sound coming from this smaller fellow!  I eagerly bought one of his CDs, and he gave me a business card.  Check out his site!  he has had a diverse career!

We spent a lot of time just casually walking around the park.  Check out my photos!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Adventures In New York City Part 3- Time Square

Time Square was another area where we found ourselves several times during our visit.

I had read about the issues with various costumed characters in the area, and I thought it was interesting to actually see all of them there.  We had several wave at us and all, but none really approached us or anything.

You probably know the story- people wearing costumes of popular characters would hang out and try to get people to take their photos with them... and then ask for tips.  Some of the costumed characters also got into fights over territory.  Anyway, we saw a lot of those guys.

Another well represented group in the area is tour bus ticket salesmen.  We saw them all over the place.  We chatted with one who offered to make us a deal on some tickets.  We had already researched the "hop on-hop off" deals and knew we wanted to go with another group.

One thing about people selling things on the streets of New York is that it is easy to ignore them.

There is a ton of shopping available to do here too.  I wanted to mention one great souvenir shop we liked nearby.  Gifts & Souvenirs on 8th Inc (at 799 8th Ave) was a somewhat standard souvenir shop... in many ways like the others you see on each block.  We felt this one had better prices though, and the staff was more helpful.  I picked up a few things here and they gave me a nice price break.

This is a great place just to people watch too!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Adventures In New York City Part 2- Grand Central Station and the Grand Hyatt

We got off of our plane at LaGuardia and got a cab to our hotel.  LaGuardia seemed so crowded, especially when compared to the airport we just came from in Lexington Kentucky.

We got in the back seat of the cab, and I realized my seat belt wasn't working.  OK, I thought.  I don't think our hotel is very far off.  I should be safe.

Well, like most people in New York, our cab driver recognized the value of time, and he drove like he was in a NASCAR race.  I appreciated his sense of getting us there quickly, but we were a bit nervous.  He merged quickly and at the last minute.  He honked when it was appropriate, and when it was not.  Many times, I felt there could be no more than an inch or two between him and other cars.

We were happy to get to our hotel safely around 8am.  Our cab ride was enjoyable, and it was a real NYC experience.

We got to the Grand Hyatt and were able to leave our bags there, though our room was not ready yet.  We did have access to their Grand Club area, which included breakfast.  A very nice lady named Lam at the front desk gave us keycards to access the Grand Club area so we were able to enjoy a very nice meal right then!  After our flight and cab ride, we really enjoyed sitting down to some bacon and eggs.

I actually stayed at the Grand Hyatt when I was in town in 1993.  It was a treat going back to this nice hotel again.

I don't want to sound like an old fogy, but there are some major differences I thought about as I revisited this place 23 years after my first visit.  I'm not even talking about the internet, facebook, cell phones or any of that.  It was just a very different time.  I took 2 disposable cameras with me on that last trip.  That enabled me to take about 50 photos....  which at the time was a lot.  On this trip I would end up taking over 1,500 photos on my digital camera.

After our pleasant breakfast, we decided to hit the sidewalks.  We wanted to cover as much of the city as we could!

We spent a little time in Grand Central Station, checking the place out.  We would end up spending a lot more time here later on in our trip.  There are nice shops here, and there is a very cool food court area down a couple of levels.

One place we visited in Grand Central Station was the restrooms.  My pal reminded me of the Weird Al Yankovic song, "One More Minute" which mentions these restrooms.  I am sure they try to keep them up, but there is just a ton of foot traffic going through this place.

A lot of people go through this area.  Along with the tourists and people getting on and off of trains, we noticed a lot of security.  We also watched ballet dancers being photographed as they danced and jumped through the air.  A film crew also set up to do what looked like a music video outside.

The top photos are of Grand Central Station.  The bottom few are from the Grand Hyatt!  Take notice of the giant head sculptures displayed!  They look like holograms, but that is just a lighting trick.  These futuristic looking art pieces are solid and amazing!  I was waiting for their eyes to open, and to hear them tell me to "Obey!"

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Adventures In New York City Part 1

A few months ago a buddy of mine was talking about how he would like to go to New York City again.  He has been there several times, most recently in 2014 with one of his daughters.  He said he likes the city so much he wouldn't mind going every year or two.

I told him I would like to go back too sometime.  We have driven close by a few times over the years, but the last time I was actually there was in 1993.  Sure, I was glad to be there back then, but the place felt so intimidating.  I saw the sights and had fun.  I had a good time, but I was a lot younger then, and just overwhelmed with it all.

I remember the aggressive panhandlers, barkers out side of strip clubs that were openly obscene, and the crazy drivers.

Well, I heard that the place has been cleaned up since I was there last (some have said sanitized and Disneyfied, both in a generally negative way).  Personally, I was glad to hear that the town had made some improvements.

So, my friend and I decided to buy tickets, and venture out to New York City!  We planned the trip kind of quick but I think that ended up being a good thing.  We didn't have time to over think the planning process.  New York is the kind of place where it is good to just get there, and go.

So, over the next few weeks I will try to get some photos up from our trip to New York City!