Taking Flight in Bryant Park

Blue Ribbon by Cori B (farflungistan) on 500px.com
Blue Ribbon by Cori B

Spring actually started as early as February in this section of the world and some would believe winter was a very kind one to all of us after how much snow was dumped on us last year.  We had 70 degree days in January and we had very few that went below freezing.  The early spring is a bit confusing but not unwelcome to those of us who are more than ready to lose the winter digs.  It just makes one wonder what kind of weather is ahead of us as summer is rapidly pushing up the eastern coast line.

I’m enjoying the perfect weather here on the island.  There’s nothing better and more refreshing than spending time in NYC’s numerous parks, dining under the sky and being able to lighten the load by leaving the wool jacket, gloves and scarves behind.

My favorite spot is the little piece of green right in the middle of Midtown Manhattan and it’s Bryant Park.  This little park has something for locals, tourists, families and those looking to escape their office/cube for a few.

Lego Lion at the Schwarzman Library in Manhatton by Cori B (farflungistan) on 500px.com
Lego Lion guarding the main entrance of the Schwarzman Library in Manhattan

So many FREE things to do in this lovely little piece of green in Midtown Manhattan


There’s a number of places to enjoy a good read.  This is a place where you can grab a table and chair relax by the fountain with a book from either the Mid Manhattan Library on 5th Ave and 41st Street or the historical Stephen A Schwarzman Library on 5th and 42nd Street. Get to the park in the early afternoon, grab a pint and lounge amongst the financial big wigs inside the Patio sponsored by the Southwest Airlines or the Bryant Park Cafe on the eastern end.

The Patio and a group playing chess in the Park by Cori B (farflungistan) on 500px.com
Chess or a pint at the Southwest Airlines Patio seen here in the background?

The park also offers a number of other free activities for both adults and their little ones.  There’s someone waiting right now looking for a friendly challenge.  For little ones  and others who are not quite ready or in the mood to compete there’s a carousel humming along to classic french cafe music, an area next to it dedicated to kids books and plenty of food vendors who provide the perfect picnic lunch to enjoy in the park.

Friendly game of Pétanque in Bryant Park by Cori B (farflungistan) on 500px.com
Friendly game of Pétanque in Bryant Park

For the sporty crowd looking for some action there’s ping-pong tablesPétanque along with free lessons as well as plenty of chess and backgammon boards  set up at tables lining the park.  These activities provide a way to meet locals and see that there’s more to Times Square then bright lights, chain stores and tour bus hustlers.  One could just about manage to make a full or half day just within the confides of this wonderful little park in the center of midtown.

Late Winter Bryant Park Ground Hog Day 2012
Bryant Park Ping Pong is amongst the many outdoor sports offers in the park and it’s FREE

And did I mention how really nice the bathrooms are?

Bryant Park by Cori B (farflungistan) on 500px.com
Nicest public restrooms in all of Manhattan. Those flowers are real.


The main lobby of the Schwarzman Library in Manhattan by Cori B (farflungistan) on 500px.com
The main lobby of the Schwarzman Library in Manhattan. The rest of the building is even nicer and I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.


Mid day in Bryant Park by Cori B (farflungistan) on 500px.com
Mid day in Bryant Park and a little on the quiet side. Get there before noon to get a good seat with a view. The lawn is the former site of Fashion week tents.


Spring is coming? That’s what Chuck says

Staten island resident ground-hog, Chuck, says that spring is coming soon.  Doesn’t take a groundhog getting woken up from a winter’s nap to be able to see that coming.  Daffodils are already peeking out of the ground in Inwood Park and some  cherry trees have blossomed in Central Park.

The weather is as usual unpredictable and confusing to all.  The two famous groundhogs – Chuck of Staten Island and Punxsutawney  Phil of Gobbler’s Knob – are only right a little over 30 percent of the time and can now sleep in peace for the next couple of months.   Supposedly, Phil did see his shadow and  let the highly disputable ground-hog whisperers, known as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, know that we’re in for another six weeks of winter.  Our Chuck, a little more in tune with what’s been going on above the semi-permafrost or is he probably just using his common sense?

Late Winter in Central Park South
February 2011 in Central Park South – NYC

This is what Central Park looked like last year around this time and what it typically looks like here in NYC:

Bridge in Central Park February 2011
Bridge in Central Park February 2011

A winter storm isn’t out of the question in the near future and I’ll enjoy each mild day as it comes – mild or frigid.   This time last year I was packing for a long weekend in Tulum.  I think that I’ll stop looking for winter travel deals and use the money for the trip to Asia this May.

Table tennis anyone?

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Early Table tennis in Bryant Park on February 2, 2012

Year of the Dragon Parade Celebration – NYC

Flying dragon at the Chinese New Year Parade NYC 2012
Flying dragon at the Chinese New Year Parade NYC 2012

Year of the Dragon – NYC 2012

New York City is a perfect home for intrepid travelers.   It’s the city that historically is known for its candid talk and surly abrupt manners or lack of them.  And yes, Gotham has again been voted  the rudest city in America, but at the same time ranks as Americas No. 1 place for cultural diversity.  Can’t win them all.  Of course, this is all according to Travel + Leisure Magazine.   The  cultural diversity is what makes NYC one of the top travel destinations in the U.S.  We received over 50 million tourists in 2011, and I’m sure we are well on our way to breaking that record again this year.

Each weekend, there’s always a street fair or parade going on which features one of the many individual cultures found in one or more of the numerous neighborhoods that make up the city.  Thousands gathered to celebrate the Year of the Dragon in Chinatown.

Mexican dancers at the Chinese New Year Parade NYC 2012
Mexican dancers at the Chinese New Year Parade NYC 2012

Sunday starting at 11:30am, there were big and small gold and red dragons snaking the streets, high school marching bands, Verizon and Casino sponsored floats, and masked individuals scaring away evil spirits in lower Manhattan yesterday.  This is a day were children and adults can chase each other with spray sting and shot off countless amounts of confetti poppers on top of parade revelers without having to say sorry or caring about the mess.

Little Dragon waiting in Chinatown NYC
Little Dragon waiting in Chinatown NYC
Chinese New Year Souvenirs - NYC
Chinese New Year Souvenirs – NYC
Recycled Dragon in Sara D. Roosevelt Park NYC
Recycled Dragon in Sara D. Roosevelt Park Chinatown NYC

The streets and sidewalks get mobbed with locals and tourists.   The scene at the corner of Hester and Mott is probably as close to downtown Shanghai as one could imagine when the parade was in full swing.  Queen’s gets its go at the parade next weekend.  The older rival will have their 16th annual Chinese New Years Parade in Flushing on  Saturday February 4th at 11:30 am.

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Dragon face off at the Chinese New Year Parade NYC 2012
Dragon face off at the Chinese New Year Parade NYC 2012

The four Iwans of the Jameh Mosque of Esfahan

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
South, East and West Iwans in the Jameh or Friday Mosque in Esfahan

At the first encounter, there is a courtyard of the Friday Mosque in Esfahan is composed of four prayer halls or Iwans, the east and west are similar in hight and frame but the west is more colorful. The north and south are much larger and both compete for who is fairest.  Each iwan design reflects the time when it was constructed.  The north and south iwns contain some of the original pre-11th century  mosque.  The other two brick domed chambers were included when the Seljuks began embellishing the mosque.  The rebuilding and enhancements commenced in the 17th century and today the mosque is a standing and lovely visual history of the Iranian Architecture.

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Detailed Tiles of the Jameh Mosque in Esfahan

The Jameh Mosque or Masjed-e Jāmeʿ is one of two great congregational hypostyle mosques in the ancient Persian center of Esfahan.   Esfahan continued to expand and grow as a city of commerce and trade continued to flow into the city from the Silk Road.  The first mosque was thought to have held up to 5,ooo friday afternoon worshipers.   This original mosque was thought to be burnt to the ground leaving only some of the south and north Iwans intact.  Some historians say that the fire was actually not a fire but just people being ordered to take away pieces of the mosque and use it for wood when the Seljuks first captured the city under Tughril Beg.  Other historians argue that the mosque was in perfect condition in 1052 when the Tughril Beg took the city.  Either way, the original didn’t survive and what stands here today is the largest and oldest mosques in Iran.

The Seljuk invaded and made Esfahan its capital with the Friday Mosque at its center.  It’s admiration and prestige in Persia grew as both its royal and common patrons built and embellished the structure during the Seljuk period.  It’s beauty and geometric precision in design make this mosque one of the best examples of Persian architecture .  It’s hypostyle design became a blueprint for future construction of mosques and buildings in Persia and the rest of the Islamic world.

This grand mosque was originally built around the same time as the Jameh Mosque in Na’in. Today, very little remains that reflects the time connection.   They both contain alabaster lighting systems for prayer chambers below ground,  have similarly designed wooden carved minbar and they were both though to be built on grounds that used to be Zoroastrian Fire Temples.

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan copy
The alabaster ceiling windows of the lower prayer room of the Friday Mosque in Esfahan
Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
Wood carved minbar in the 14th Century Room of Sultan Uljaitu of the Jameh/Friday Mosque in Esfahan

Each leader and conqueror left their mark on the this richly diverse structure of beauty.  The mosque was the first to have a four iwans which all face the central courtyard and built at various stages during the Seljuks period. Further modifications and additions to the Iwans and the surrounding interiors reflected the times and ambitions of each patron.  The Mongols, Muzzafarids, Timur’s and Safavids all left their mark on the walls of the Jameh Mosque. It was the Muzaffarid ruler who get credit for most of the more decorative pieces. The central ablutions fountain is a replica of the Kabba in Mecca. It is used for would-be haij pilgrim to practice the rituals performed there.

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
Jameh Mosque of Isfahan

The east and west brick dome were added on during the Seljuk Period. They were originally unimpressive brick and tile domes but both we decorated with tiled mosaics and geometric patterns by the Safavids These iwan are simple and appears to balance the rest. Behind them lie many prayer halls, finely decorated rooms and corridors connecting them. These are all later additions but the highlights are the north and south iwans which contain some of what remained after the original mosque was destroyed by fire.

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan
South or the Qibla Iwan in the Jameh Mosque in Esfahan

The South Dome or Qibla Iwan

This massive and striking iwan was the first the Seljuks constructed some time in the years 1086-87. It was built by Nizam al-Mulk, the famous vizier of Malik Shah, and it contained the mihrab which is the niche cut out of a wall in the center of the Qibla wall which points to Mecca. It’s dome was the largest at its time and was built by Safavid architect Ebrahim B. Esmail. Inside the dome has been adored with Mongol-era stalactite mouldings and two minerats.

The North Dome

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan copy
The North Dome at the Jameh Mosque in Esfahan

It is known to be “the most brilliant examples of what could may have said to be a Seljuk specialty in Iranian architecture.” The North Dome is more elegant and lighter architecturally to the southern dome across from it. It was constructed a year after it by Nizam al-Mulk’s rival Taj al-Mulk and thought to have a royal function. Inside it is filled with massive cursive Qurʾanic inscriptions beautiful to look at even if you can’t read them.

On this very cold friday I had a visit to a piece of Isfahan.  The Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan has put up it’s collection of Islamic Art which includes pieces of the Great Mosque in Esfahan.  There’s a few pictures of details of the Mihrab on display.

Great Mosque of Isfahan's Mihrab at the MET in NYC
Great Mosque of Isfahan’s Mihrab at the MET in NYC
Great Mosque of Isfahan's Mihrab at the MET in NYC
Great Mosque of Isfahan’s Mihrab at the MET in NYC

May pictures of the World Trade Center from up above

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WTC in lower Manhattan 30 stories above last night.  It’s looking pretty good.  It seems like they are in high gear as the 10 year anniversary is fast approaching.   The big corporations are signing up for a piece of space in the towers. The financial giants now headquartered in Times Square and Jersey could be planning a mass exodus from Times Square towers are open for tenants.  Conde Nast publications has officially announced that they will be the anchor of One World Trade Center and will be moving 5000 workers to their shiny million square foot space as soon as the beginning of 2013.

It’s nice to see that the trees are blooming and the site is coming back to life after all of these years.

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Escape from Manhattan

IMG_3503Biking along the west side of Manhattan is one of the best ways to a break away from city and immerse yourself in the beauty of the green pathway that snakes its way around this big island.  The ride from Midtown to Riverside Park (99th Street) takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes.  Anyone thinking about taking a ride might think that going all the way up to 100th Street seems out of the question, but there is a reward for those who take on the challenge.  They will be both rewarded and possibly surprised when they find the uptown section of the bike path is less crowded and more tranquil then the tarmacs below 40th Street.  Riders here are able to focus more on the beauty of the surroundings and less on the obstacles which may block their path or come out of the blind spots without warning. (strollers, dogs, joggers with headphones, rouge bikers or the occasional rat making run for it)

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Uptown can get really crowded during the warm weekends of summer.   Large groups and families are in full force and stake claim on a pieces of the large open lawns early in the morning and make a day of it. The parks are places where families can picnic, grill and play.  They even take their pets out for the day and these pets aren’t just the usual dog or parrot but of more the exotic type like their friendly pet boa or domesticated rat.

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If you don’t have a bike  then there’s plenty of places to rent.  Bike and Roll most convenient and probably most expensive bike rental company with a couple of locations on the bike path.   Here’s a list of others near by which give more reasonable rates.    The best times to bike during the warm months are obviously during the week and from early morning until mid afternoon.  The weekends aren’t too bad but it’s always good to get an early start.

The Frying Pan is open @ Pier 66…well sort of

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The Frying Pan is summed up the best by this Yelper who said on April 17th this year:

“I like drinking, I like boats, and I like the great outdoors. Ergo, I like Frying Pan. On a beautiful spring day it’s absolutely magical that you can be sipping a beer and overlooking the Hudson.”

The Frying Pan has been open on and off since to some capacity since the beginning of February.  Their twitter handle @Pier66Maritime is the only place to go to find out what’s being served, when it’s being served and if they are even serving.  On February 17th this year they sent this tweet out:

“If anyone’s curious, we are planning to open the flaps Friday daytime. No food. And when it gets cold, we’re going home.”

It seemed a bit early in the season but I felt good just knowing that a little bit of sunshine was on the horizon even though there was still snow on the sidewalks.

Lately it’s been full of encouraging tweets like this one sent :

“Bar and kitchen open… Nice out.”

And this sad but encouraging one sent today at 4pm: 

“Closing down … Too cold. Open tomorrow with kitchen even if it rains open at noon”

The official website of Pier 66 Maritime says they are officially open May-October.   There’s little time left before the crowds show up and the place looks more like a night club in the Meatpacking District  with bouncers, bracelets, lines for the bathroom etc.  Now is time to go – weather permitting of course.  Let’s hope for some a warm sunny days before May Day so we can all enjoy our  brews in a bucket  and greasy burgers without unpleasant distractions and long waits at the bar.

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The piers are quiet and just coming into bloom so head out to the Piers for a nice walk, a beer and a pleasant view of the water and early spring.

Spring NYC…what’s going on at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Now that the temps are rising and the sun has made its way through the thick grey clouds of this winter we here in NYC now look forward to many things that begin to open up and remind us that summer is on its way.  This means we can comfortably dine outdoors without the assistance of gas powered heat lamps and relax as we go from place to place since the winter cold isn’t driving us into the warmer climates of the underground subways, taxis and various building lobbies.  Trees and flowers now decorate the sidewalks and parks with their colorful blooms. This is the best time of year in New York City so get out and enjoy it.

Back to the pleasantries of the way too short New York City spring season.   There’s so much happening now and in the next few weeks that I’m just going to focus on one of my favorites in this post which is the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Sakura in Brooklyn by Cori B (farflungistan)) on 500px.com

The grey days are over for the time being at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It’s been open since mid March but it’s really at it’s best during the warmer months of the year.   The cherry blossoms are in full bloom right now and they have managed to keep there petals on despite the hard rain fall this past week.  The cherry blossoms are a part of the Hanami Festival at BBG is a month-long celebration from April 2 to May 1 that celebrates the Japanese cultural tradition of enjoying each moment of the cherry blossom season.  Too bad that they don’t let you bring a picnic like they do in Japan.  Here’s the latest report from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden site which keeps those who are interested updated on the blooms of the day.  I also want to note that Tuesdays are free for all and Saturdays admission is free from 10am-Noon unless there’s a special event going on like the Matsuri April 30-May 1st.

Other exhibits worth mentioning are the following with links:

Graceful Perseverance – Bonsai Trees

 Natural History sculpture by Patrick Dougherty

and More…

The current hours, admissions and directions to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens are:

Hours

Tuesday–Friday:
8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday:
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed Mondays
(but open Memorial Day, 5/30,
from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

More Information

Admission

Members: Free
Adults: $10
Seniors (65 and over): $5
Students with a valid ID: $5
Children under 12: Free

Special Pricing for Sakura Matsuri

More Information

Directions

900 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225

2 train 3 train B train Q train 4 train 5 train S train
B or Q to Prospect Park
2 or 3 to Eastern Parkway

Maps, Parking, and Directions

Green is the new grey in Central Park this Spring

In Central Park the new spring season makes green the new grey of the season past.   Rain showers are in the forecast today but they don’t prevent me from visiting.  It’s hard to stay away and not see the park when the landscape is at it’s best.  Central Park is in full bloom.  The grey is getting etched out of the landscape by the pinks, greens, yellows and reds of the flowers, plants and trees coming back to life.

First blooms of Central Park Spring 2011

The activity level is pretty low for this time of year but it’s still a great time to visit.  Less people and the naturally filtered light makes for great pictures even in the middle of the day.  The only problem is the constant wiping of the lenses as each rain shower passes.  Besides that, no worries.

Even More Highline Coming this Spring in NYC

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The west-side  High Line has new things to come this spring as it will soon be extending its green paths uptown to 30th Street.  There’s no official date announced but it’s sometime this spring.  The High Line is open to the public until 10pm and this summer there will be food services offered by High Line approved vendors, additional visitor services and events for all to enjoy.

Star Gazing

Grab your telescopes and join star-gazing fun at the High Line Tuesday nights.  The Amateur Astronomers Association of New York‘s will have high-powered telescopes on had with instruction and generally will be offering lessons on what goes on in the sky above New York City.  So come by at dusk and join both amateur and professional astronomers every Tuesday night during High Line’s Star Gazing Event.  Unfortunately, the first ever Star Gazing night this year was cancelled due to bad weather, but the next one is scheduled for April 19th.  Let’s all hope for a clear night.

Before it was abandoned

Food was carried into New York City with the use of large freight trains which ran besides pedestrian and vehicle traffic starting in the mid 1800’s.  As most could imagine, there were many unfortunate and sometimes fatal accidents along 10 Ave. giving it the nickname Death Ave.  The city and state recognized this huge problem and decided to lift the rails 30 feet above the street level traffic.  The tracks were built bisecting avenues and giving the freight trains the ability to directly go inside warehouses and factories.  This eliminated 105 street crossing and the trains no longer interfered with street level traffic.   These trains continued to make deliveries until the last train ran frozen turkeys to one of the remaining warehouses in 1980.  The tracks were then used by club kids in the 80’s and were home to many of New York Cities homeless up until recently.

IMG_3222Here comes the Food Vendors

Visitors have often requested that the High Line offer both food and beverage options in the middle of it all.  I’m sure there is also a need for the High Line to make some revenue to keep things looking nice.   The Friends of the High Line Association announced this March that it would be taking proposals from any vendor would like to fill out an application. According to the High Line the vendors would be chosen by them after prove that they will be appropriate for the High Line Environment.  It will be interesting on who will have the honor of being a part of the  High Line landscape.

In their words: “Friends of the High Line is looking for partners who will create food that is as thoughtful, creative, and interesting as the High Line itself and who want to build a strong partnership and active collaboration with the High Line.”

The choice of vendors will be localvore in nature and ideally will encourage connections between one another and the land around them.  It will be interesting who gets in on the action and how it will enhance the overall experience of walking the High Line.  It sounds simple and a bit utopian.  Hopefully, it won’t mean eyesore scenes like people waiting long lines for a half melted ice cream cone, dirty barrels filled with trash.   The present tranquil environment of the elevated parkway may get lost amongst the hotdog wrappers and vest touting maintenance person equipped with a broom and bucket.  I’m not sure why people just can’t pack a lunch or just walk a few feet to get something to go.  They do mention on there website that the revenue accumulated will benefit in supporting the Friends of the High Line – aka they need to have a revenue stream to keep the money flowing.

Bird Watching, walking tours and more….

Those along with new walking tours, more art work to view from the pathway and festivals with will come and go throughout the season give visitors plenty to do and see on the High Line.  Here’s what is in store so far this season.   The prices are a bit steep for me but the bird walk does sound interesting.IMG_3230

Public Art

The High Line offers activities for budget minded visitors like myself.  The main one is the numerous temporary Public Art installations that are featured along the High Line.  These come in all shapes and forms and usually give those who notice a different perspective of the space around them.  My visit the other day and included listening to the bell chimes in the 14th Street passageway.  They are a part of the Public Art installation created by artist Stephen Vitiello.  My favorite things to do in NYC is visiting Public Art installations throughout the city when ever possible.   The Public Art projects along the High Line and throughout the city are one of the unique features of New York City and literally can’t be missed unless you don’t realize that is what it is.