Becky Brown

7th January 2013 - Sunset stroll along Battery Park Esplanade 

After visiting MoMA yesterday, I headed to The Arsenal at Central Park to see the 30th Annual Wreath Interpretations Expedition.

Wreaths in all shapes and sizes and made up of a large selection of materials.

My favourite one being; Cycle of Life (All the Wheels We Depend On).

Today I headed to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art).

Being able to see art by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol and Henri Matisse made the visit worth it.

My highlight was seeing my favourite painting ‘The Starry Night’ by Vincent van Gogh.  

It only feels right to accompany the slideshow of photos from today with music from the movie ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’.

On Monday, I headed to the Le Parker Meridien Hotel where an exhibition was being held called, ‘Gingerbread Extravaganza’.  6 bakeries had created landmarks from around the world completely out of gingerbread and were on display in the lobby of the hotel.

I have never seen anything like this before.  The 6 landmarks were; The Lincoln Memorial, The Sphinx, The Toji Tower, Chichen Itza, Hurri-Crance, Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle.  A little pleased a Scottish landmark made it in to the equation.

I had four things on my agenda for the day:

  1. See the Gingerbread Extravaganza
  2. Visit the Charles Dickens: Key to Character Expedition at the New York Public Library.
  3. Have a wander round the Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair and
  4. Visit the New York Transit Museum’s Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal

All of which were great to see and experience.

I also managed to catch a few snaps of christmas displays from walking to 42nd from 56th and enjoyed some lunch at Celsius at Bryant Park.

HOLIDAY WINDOWS

On Saturday night, Sam and I decided to do a ‘Holiday Window Tour’.  Creating my list on Foursquare, we headed out, firstly starting at Swarovski in Soho before getting the subway to 59th street.  

The first windows to see uptown was Bloomingdales and Barney’s, before making our way downtown by foot to see all the other windows on the list, adding a few as we went.

The windows and themes were;

Bloomingdales; The windows are themed as ‘Cirque du Soleil’ in support of the upcoming movie ‘Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away’

Barney’s; Disney themed, with screens showing a short animated film of Minnie Mouse window shopping before she finds herself on the catwalk.

Bergdorf Goodman; 1930’s themed, all designed in a classic Art Deco style.  

Bulgari; Has a illuminated, sparkly serpent across the outside of the building, which is the houses symbol.

Tiffany’s; ‘Home for the Holidays’ theme.  Miniature home settings with featured pieces of jewellery.

Harry Winston’s; Harry Winston’s Jewellery Salon is decorated with his iconic design called the ‘Winston Cluster.  Featured Diamond above each window making the windows look like presents.

Henri Bendel; 1920’s style with a stairwell packed full of gifts.

Fendi; 2 large illuminated sparkly belts wrapped round the store.

Cartier; All tied up with a red illuminated ribbon and bow.

Saks Fifth Avenue; Not only having a projected 4 minute show on the building, Saks Fifth Avenue also had winter themed windows of snow globes and outdoor scenes.

Lord and Taylor; Christmas Traditions around the World theme

Macy’s; ‘The Magic of Christmas’ - Not only having the ‘Believe’ word illuminated across the front of the building, the windows are traditionally themed - windows of The Nutcracker, The Macy’s Day Parade, etc.

Holiday Under the Stars

Not exactly doing it justice due to the camera exposure, but you can see the colours of the stars changing better in the reflection of the glass.

On Wednesday, after meeting Sam for lunch, I headed to South Street Seaport.  

After looking through lists on Foursquare the night before, I found out that there was a Titanic Memorial Lighthouse situated just before the South Street Seaport, and thought it would be worth a look.

Walking down from Fulton Street Station, I came across the lighthouse pretty quickly.  Reading the plaque and getting a few snaps, I headed towards to the seaport.

South Street Seaport is situated at Pier 17 on the east side of Manhattan.  I had seen pictures of it through Foursquare and looked intriguing - cobbled streets, cafes, shops, large boats.

However, when I got there, it was a little disappointing as all the shops, etc were closed and there was work men everywhere.  Hurricane Sandy.  Hurricane Sandy’s brute force had sadly destroyed everything and all is currently being reconstructed.

Hopping back on the subway, I headed uptown this time to The Shops at Columbus Circle.  Within the shopping centre, twelve 14 feet stars are hung from the ceiling and slowly change colour until 5pm, which is when the stars are choreographed in time to Christmas Music.

I was a little early, so I headed for a walk before 5pm.  As my friends had informed me that they were watching Home Alone 2; Lost in New York, I made my way to The Plaza to get a photo for them.  

I also took a wander round the outside of Bergdorf Goodman, admiring their festive windows, which are all vintage styled.

Heading back to Columbus Circle, I watched the stars ‘dance’ in time to two festive songs before making the journey back home - video to follow.

On Wednesday, I headed to the Rockefeller Plaza to attend the 80th Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting.

Back in 1931, the first Christmas Tree was placed at Rockefeller Plaza by workers who were building the Rockefeller Center.  There wasn’t one the following year, but in 1933, the first tree lighting ceremony took place. 

I had heard that it gets busy pretty early and after our experience at the Thanksgiving Day Parade, I knew I would have to be dedicated and get there early and wait it out.

Dedicated I was - I arrived just before 5pm and it was already busy, but I had a good location, looking at the tree from the west side.  The only down side was, being on my own with such a long wait before the ceremony started and how cold it was, but I was super excited.

The ceremony started at 7pm, and there was a wide variety of performances from;  Scotty McCreery, Rod Stewart, Cee Lo Green, Il Volo, Trace Adkins, Tony Bennett, Victoria Justice, Brooke White, The Muppets and Mariah Carey.

Minutes before 9pm and after a countdown from 5, the tree was finally lit by the New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.  

You can see for yourselves how beautiful it is.

This years tree had come from Mount Olive, N.J. and belonged to Joe Balku.  The tree had been chosen for the Rockefeller Center two weeks prior to Hurricane Sandy’s arrival and had to be secured with cables to protect it.  Luckily it survived.

The tree its self is 82 feet tall, 55 feet in circumference, weighs 10 tonnes and is lit by 45,000 lights!

Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving was on Thursday 22nd November, so with Sam being off for the long weekend, we decided to make the most of his time off and explore some of New York that we hadn’t experienced yet.

On Thanksgiving morning we headed uptown to see the annual ‘Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’.  We stupidly underestimated how busy it would be. Due to our arrival time it meant that we didn’t have a great viewing spot.  We got to see the massive character balloons but nothing else really, although, the balloons alone were impressive.

We headed home afterwards and in the tradition of Thanksgiving, we cooked a turkey dinner with all the trimmings - Good practice run for Christmas.

On Friday, we headed to ‘Roosevelt Island' via the Air Tram.  Taking a walk down the promenade, we headed South towards The FDR Memorial Four Freedoms Park, passing the Smallpox Hospital.  We walked back up the east side of the island before boarding the air tram again.  A second trip will need to planned to explore the north end of the island.  We then headed to Williamsberg, getting a stunning view of the Manhattan Skyline before heading for a German Beer and Pretzel.

Saturday morning, we headed once again uptown, this time to Central Park.  Entering the park on the west side around 81st Street.  Our aim was to see some of the attractions within the park that we hadn’t seen before.  Climbing to the top of Belvedere Castle, we got some snaps over looking the Great Lawn before heading to the Ramble.  

Venturing over the beautiful Bow Bridge, we then headed to the Bethesda Fountain and Bethesda Terrace.  This I recognised from many movies such as; Home and Alone 2; Lost In New York, Elf and Friends with Benefits.

Walking down the Mall, we walked past two fellow Scots; Statues of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.  This part of the Mall is apparently called the ‘The Literary Walk’ and also features William Shakespeare.

Heading back to the west side of the park we walked through Strawberry Fields and viewed the memorial to John Lennon before heading to home.  

After three days of exploring and so much walking, we decided that Sunday would be our lazy day.  Making pancakes for brunch, we spent the day cozied up inside watching movies.

Hurricane Sandy


Hurricane Sandy hit on Monday 29th October 2012.  To be honest I didn’t even realise that we were in it’s path until the Saturday, when we were on a boat.  Ideal.

This was our experience of Sandy.  We were lucky.  Having no power, hot water and means of communication is nothing compared to what hundreds of people have experienced and lost.

Sunday;

Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, had emergency procedures put into place and had released ‘Evacuation Zones’ for certain areas around the city.  People within Zone A and the verge of Zone B were to leave their properties immediately and find shelter with friends and family or at designated shelters that were put into action.

Looking up the Evacuation Zones, thankfully we were in Zone C - there’s a little black dot on the Evacuation Zone picture to mark roughly where we stay.

During the day, we headed out to get cash out and supplies in to see us through the storm.  At night, we headed out for dinner to a local pub called GMT Tavern, it was a little windy, but nothing different from a wintery day back home in Scotland.  

The storm wasn’t due to hit until Monday evening, yet everywhere was totally eerie.  Transportation was closing down from 7pm and shops had closed down early to allow staff to get home and windows across the city were taped up.

We settled down and enjoyed our meal at GMT Tavern, watching the baseball and enjoying several drinks.

Monday;

Waking up in the morning we decided that we should really get more supplies in and maybe some form of cookware to make dinner if all places close down.  Getting some pans from Sur La Table, we headed to the Foursquare Office to pick up Sam’s laptop before heading back to the apartment to hibernate until the storm is over.

Placing everything electronic we own on charge, we sat and watched the news all afternoon/evening on the comfort of our mattress.  As we hadn’t long moved into our apartment, we were still awaiting our delivery from Ikea.

At around 6pm we decided to cook our dinner in case power failed - this was the first home cooked meal since arriving in New York 38 days previously.  Quite disturbing that a Hurricane caused us to cook our first meal.  Although, we still weren’t even prepared, we had failed to get crockery, which meant eating our dinner out of the pot with forks!!!

The lights began to flicker around 7pm and we could hear the wind picking up outside.  With our apartment facing out the back, we couldn’t really see anything but the sound of the wind was pretty fierce.

The first thing to go at 8pm was the internet, which put a stop to us watching the news and the live announcements from Mayor Bloomberg and it was only half an hour later that we lost power also.  

Lighting our only trusty Ikea candle, we stood in the living room listening to movement in the apartment block corridors.  We decided to head downstairs and have a look out the front door and just as I grabbed the handle of our front door with the candle in the other hand, there was a knock.  One of the residents was doing the rounds and making sure everyone was ok and had some form of light.

Heading downstairs we had a look outside.  It was windy, dark and the street was covered in leaves.  We noticed that the bar right across the road from us was still open so we decided to head across for a drink.  

Before we did this though, Sam wanted to check the road that runs past our block.  Pitch Black.  No traffic lights, no traffic, no noise.  Apart from 2 drunk guys running up the middle of the road shouting - “We rule the road” or something to that effect.

The Room was business as usual, minus the music and it being cash only.  It’s usually only lit with candles so there was no difference there.  It was buzzing with people talking about the storm - people had come in for a drink in their pyjamas - it was pretty surreal.  There was a guy sitting opposite us using his iPad and he clearly put his boots on in the dark as they were on the wrong feet.

Heading back to the apartment, we settled down for the night and I guess we would see what damage Sandy would cause in the morning.

Tuesday;

Bizarrely, we both slept great - the storm hadn’t disturbed us at all.  

Throughout the night, cell service had failed also, which had caused the batteries on our phones to almost be non-existent.  With no hot water, we just got dressed and headed out to see the damage and try and find cell service so we could inform everyone that we were safe and well.

Heading towards the East side, it was like a scene from ‘The Walking Dead’.  Very little people and vehicles on the streets and everywhere closed down.  We were able to find cell service to text/e-mail people before walking back to the west side towards the Hudson.  

Not really knowing the extent of damage around New York; all we could see was a few downed trees and rubbish having been blown around - this was not the case.  Areas were hard hit and we had no idea due to the limited access we had to power and internet.

A local convenience store was open to cash only payments so we bought some more supplies and by supplies, I mean beer and snacks.

Using our laptops reserved battery power, we charged our phones and headed out once again and found an area close by where we could receive cell service.  Sam managed to access his e-mails and found out that foursquare had managed to get office space further uptown where there was power.

Wednesday;

Washing with ice cold water, we got ready and headed out to the spot to check our e-mails, etc and got the address for the temporary foursquare office which was uptown on 50th Street.

Due to Sandy, Subways were all closed down due to power and flooding, buses were put into place for free but as you can imagine, they were packed.  So we walked 50 blocks to the office.  

Everyone was walking North - nobody was heading South - people with rucksacks, suitcases, children and pets in tow.  Once over the threshold of 33rd St, it was like another world, people were heading to work, businesses were open and people were out shopping.

Up on the 42nd floor of the ‘Time and Life Building’, the temporary foursquare office had a killer view.  Sam got some work done as I charged my phone and caught up with everyone.

As far as we were aware, power was going to be off until at least Saturday, so Sam contacted a few hotels across the city but with airports closed and a high demand for rooms, we were unsuccessful, so we stuck it out in our apartment for the remainder of the week with no power, hot water or cell service, making the journey uptown each day.

A few blocks over, there was a restaurant/bar open, being powered by a generator. We had a drink in their before walking back to the apartment in the pitch black.  It was a little daunting but with presence of NYPD officers standing in the darkness on street corners, it also felt safe.

Thursday;

After being uptown, we headed to Jack and Paige’s apartment where we finally got a hold of them after shouting and whistling at their window every morning and night after Sandy.  On route though, we passed a crowd of people all gathered round a skip, where one guy was rummaging and handing food out to people.  It got us thinking, if people had no means of communication, did they think the whole of Manhattan was in darkness and pretty much closed down?  Did they know if they walked 30 odd blocks there was electricity where they could access cash machines, restaurants, cafes…

One thing that I had noticed with the traffic was how courteous drivers were to one another and pedestrians with there being no traffic lights.  Hardly any honking of horns and one driver stopped to let us cross the road and stuck his hand out the window to warn a driver coming up in the next lane that we were crossing.  Uptown where there was traffic lights - HONK, HONK, HONK!!!!!

Friday;

Meeting Jack and Paige at their apartment, we all travelled up to the office together via bus.

We decided that the four of us would spend the evening uptown where there is power rather than down in the darkness.  We hit several bars and had dinner at Bobby Van’s before we headed down to join Sam and Jack’s foursquare colleague’s in the East Village where power had finally come on.

Walking home with light assistance from the ‘Emergency Glow Stick’ that Sam had been supplied, it was apparent that Soho and West Village were still in darkness.  One last night we hoped.

Saturday;

Let there be light!!!