It’s not often I make an effort to do touristy things with my kids, and it’s certainly less likely in my hometown of New York City. I had, however, balked last visit on an attempt to go to the top of the Empire State Building, I just could not stomach the cost and long lines. This visit, in August — the dog days of summer — I promised we would do one super touristy thing, and we opted for a trip to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
I had not been on this tour since the late ’70s and was thinking the boat ride would be pleasant and the breeze appreciated. Having booked the tickets online, I insisted the kids bring hats and water bottles and pack lightly. Of course, it’s one of the most popular attractions in the Big Apple, so the crowds and diversity represented were impressive.
Booking online saved us some hassle, as the will-call line was brisk. The boat was packed, and I almost felt like an immigrant in steerage. I was glad we had snacks and water, because they were pricey on the boat.
I have to admit, on a sunny day I was quite gobsmacked by the proximity of Lady Liberty, her majesty and the thought of generations of immigrants arriving on our shores. My younger son caught me tearing up a bit as we approached. I was mostly moved by the array of visitors from all over the country and the world.
I saw the film Woman in Gold recently, a true story starring Helen Mirren as an octogenarian Austrian Holocaust survivor seeking to reclaim her aunt’s famous portrait. The title painting, called “Woman in Gold” for many years so as not to name her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, and to obscure her Jewish heritage, is now so well-known it is featured on fridge magnets and mugs.
I visited this painting and other Gustav Klimt works in Vienna’s Belvedere Palace Museum many years ago, lingering in front of my favorite works for what seemed like hours. At the time, I was obsessed with his protégé Egon Schiele and his early, untimely death from the Spanish flu at the age of 28 in 1918. Besides the music, Freud’s house, coffee and cakes, these paintings were what I wanted to see in Vienna. Continue reading »
I packed silk long underwear, my warmest pants, boots, socks and other sundry cold weather gear for a last minute trip to NYC. It’s been years since I have visited my home town in February, and this year I was told the relentlessly arctic weather was unprecedented. Multiple images of the frozen Hudson River and moaning on Facebook made me truly ponder what to bring and how I was to survive the deep freeze.
Once there, I was pleasantly surprised that my California outdoor gear was fine, better than fine, I actually enjoyed the blistering cold. I gave up on the outdoor ice skating idea, but one day my sister and her kids and I went sledding in Central Park. For some reason sledding other places is never as fun, and after an hour or so on the slope behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I artfully entered the museum to thaw out, grab a cup of coffee and take in some art—a wonderful New York combo of winters sports and culture.
It was cold. It was a good day if the temperature hit 20 degrees Fahrenheit while I was there. I was lucky to be introduced to multiple cozy spots to warm up and enjoy the inside world of winter in the Big Apple. Continue reading »
On a day when the courageous Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai addressed the United Nations as an advocate for women’s education rights, I am once again reminded of the potential of the United Nations, despite all it’s quirks, to unite the world.
I have a long relationship with the UN and graduated from the General Assembly, an honor I hold dear. On a recent trip to New York for my high school reunion I finally took my younger son on a private tour of the United Nations, thanks to an old friend who works there. It was a walk down memory lane for me, and an educational experience for my son who had just completed a Global Village unit in his 3rd grade class.
A quick hot dog out front staved off impending hunger from my nine-year-old hobbit, and we made our way through the intense security system. The building is going through a much-needed retrofit. The passé style played into my fond memories of UN conferences and multiple visits as a student at a school connected to the organization. Once inside, you do feel as though you are no longer in NYC and really in an international zone as the lobby buzzes with international languages and national dress.
More than one million visitors take the public tours annually during weekdays and tickets can be purchased in advance online. Tickets are less than $20 and well worth it! There are also weekly children’s tours @ 4:15 every Thursday, this is a relatively new offering and tailored to the 5-12 set. Continue reading »
I just spent seven jam-packed days of nostalgia and appreciation of the ever-evolving city of New York. The weather was perfect, the spring blooms at their peak and that dazzling mix of old world and high tech chic on display everywhere.
I try to make it back to New York at least once a year, usually for events, this time my epic High School reunion. I often travel solo but this time my companion was my nine-year-old. There was so much I wanted to share with him and narrowing down our plans was painful…and true to how I roll, the best things happened serendipitously.
We walked by the West 4th Street Courts just a block from my mom’s apartment, a famous spot where Lew Alcindor played before becoming the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an iconic public court where legions of other basketball greats have shot hoops over the years. Tucked in the the back are handball courts — I had forgotten about the New York obsession with the game. A tiny pinky ball, perhaps a glove and a wall, that’s all that’s needed. The sport, now called “American Handball”, is a big draw for beach goers, but as I traveled the city I was surprised to see so many courts in every borough. My son was fascinated and wanted to play. A player at W. 4 Street let him on the court to give it a try and he was smitten. The guy even gave him a ball — I LOVE NY. Continue reading »
As a kid in NYC in the ’80s, the soundtrack to my youth was varied and evolving, but the Beastie Boys were marquee. The three band members were my peers, and as Rap and Hip Hop filled the clubs and airwaves, they were riding the wave of a whole new genre and creating their own sound, combining street rhythms and rhymes with punk ethos and energy. Disco was waning, the punk scene morphing and it was pioneering for three white boys to be doing what they were doing.
I’m no music expert, most of my response to music is visceral and associative, but I do know that if the Beastie Boys had been a fad, they wouldn’t have lasted as long as they have.
As I blasted their latest album with car windows open, to pay homage to the fallen Beastie (Adam MCA Yauch) who passed away from cancer earlier this month, my kids cringed as Mom reminisced semi-publicly. I tend to hate when I pass another car with thumping music blaring, always muttering, “Yeah, I like that music so much” to myself. OK, so forgive me… Continue reading »
Tulips and daffodils, cherry blossoms and birds galore, the charmingly decrepit Central Park of my youth is now ancient history, as I learned on a recent trip. Defunct buildings are now sparkling hotspots like the Boathouse, refashioned and refurbished as a posh eatery with 19th-century Parisian charm.
Civilized cafes have sprouted up and scary bathrooms are well lit and clean, even the carousel seems perkier. Just a few years ago I took my kids on it, and an ex-con type was running the controls. The merry-go-round went so fast I feared my toddler son would fly off. Continue reading »
Part treasure hunt, part spy novel, a New Yorker who went for a cross-country ski in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park after the recent snowfall is trying to find the owners of a roll of film he found lying in the snow. Developed, the black and white film shows young men evidently on vacation in New York taking arty photographs, not just snapshots, of Central Park, street scenes, Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge.
Todd Bieber, the man who found the film, tells a story in his YouTube video of a woman who pushed $26 into his hand that she’d found on the street, saying she felt awkward keeping it and insisted he do something nice for himself with it. He said he’d do something good rather than spend it on himself, and now it’s gone to the film processing and his online efforts to find the owners.
Who knows, as he says on YouTube, maybe they’ll see his video and they’ll become friends. Or not. But the story is going viral and it’s only a matter of time before the men who lost the pictures see themselves caught in black and white in frozen New York in their own film on Todd Bieber’s video. And then maybe the mystery will be solved.
If you’ve ever read the children’s book Eloise or the young adult book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, you probably had fantasies about living alone in NYC as a child. I grew up in the Big Apple and was lucky to have parents who loved art and shared their love of music, theatre and fine art.
I fondly remember visiting the vastness of Metropolitan Museum of Art, marveling at the classics, journeying to Papua New Guinea and Egypt, giggling at the Greek sculptures and noshing at the, then, very fancy café with all the Upper East Side lady lunchers. Most of all I cherished the multicolored little button you get with admission, which I used to save in a jar.
Every time I return to Manhattan I make a pilgrimage to the Met, no matter what is showing. I bring my own kids and rush through, plying them with candy and promises of a ride on the carousel, much as my parents did.
Recently, on one of the hottest days of the year I had a few hours to make my manic tour of the museum. After a whirlwind visit to the American Woman fashion exhibit—that rocked as much as the original song and the Lenny Kravitz cover—we had about a half hour to kill. I was with a colleague who insisted we head up to the roof garden, a somewhat hidden and unknown asset to the majestic museum. Continue reading »
I have visited Harlem numerous times in my life but never really as a tourist. So there I was recently on a big tour bus, heading uptown on a sweltering day, escorting a group of French executives and feeling I was exploring the neighborhood for the first time. We went with the New York Visions Travel Group on the Harlem Spirituals Gospel Tour.
The architecture was majestic, the history epic, but to see the area fixed up and yet still tattered on the edges was uplifting and depressing at the same time. I really got to absorb the information as I was doing some translations into French…stories of freed slaves, rent parties, jazz, the crack years and now the resurrection of the famed quarter.
Our guide was an animated actress/French expat who, despite her arrogant attitude, gave a great tour. We made a pit stop at the Schomburg Library, a public library that is a research center for Black Culture. My dad had done research there in the ’70s and ’80s and I had vague memories of visiting as a child. Then we headed to a church to witness and participate in a gospel-music-infused service. Continue reading »