Friday, August 29, 2014

Philadelphia, Old and New

29 August 2014

We had an interesting bus ride from New York to Philadelphia, sitting with a young man who had majored in Islamic studies in college, and  a very Orthodox Jewish young woman who wanted to know why we don't visit Chabad centers (Lubavitcher Chasidic centers) around the world, and why we don't light Sabbath candles as we travel.  As I said, and INTERESTING bus ride!!!  We had quite the far-ranging conversation from quite varying points of view - but we were all very polite and not confrontational.

Philadelphia is a very old city - in fact, it was the site of the First and Second Constitutional Congresses, and after the Revolutionary War was the temporary capital of the new country.  In the year 1800, it was the largest city in the USA, larger than New York, Chicago, all those other large cities.

So the architecture is wonderful, full of Neo-classical and Colonial and Federal buildings, as well as some very interesting modern architecture.  

A new law mandates that a certain percent of funds allocated to new buildings must be spent on artwork - now there are all kinds of artworks both in and outside the newer buildings.  We visited an art park outside one of these new places; the center of the park was a mosaic globe, surrounded by two sets of pillars.  And a strange golden mosaic cone that didn't quite fit in with the rest of the park, but was rather amazing all by itself.  

So we've been meeting up with family and doing various things - lunch with some people, dinner with others, playing with the little kids, you know, the family kinds of things.

We also went to see "The Book of Mormon" which is a crazy funny musical comedy - for me, it was almost like seeing a religious version of the Peace Corps singing their way through Africa.  I know that sounds crazy, but the play was a bit nuts, so the description is apt.  If you get a chance, see it - and be prepared to be blown away by sheer wackiness!

Today, we visited the Japanese House in Fairmount Park, a huge park that was the site of the nation's Centennial celebration in 1876.  It's a beautiful old Japanese house in the traditional style, with curving roof and eaves, tatami floors, ikebana flower arrangements in various corners, and of course incredible grounds with a koi pond, sculpted trees, curved bridges, and all that.  It was a wonderful spot to hang out on a beautiful summer day, taking photos of this scenic places that couldn't look bad if it tried.

The koi were kind of creepy, though - they're beautiful when they're swimming around in the water, bright spots of silver and gold gliding around - and then they'd swim over to the boat landing where people feed them.  And they'd stick their fishy heads out of the water, opening huge sucking mouths trying to grasp whatever bit of food people might toss in - they looked like some sort of leech that would get stuck onto an arm or leg and suck the life out of you!  Just really creepy!

Other than the koi, the place was so peaceful, very zen.  The walls and trees shut out all traffic noises, there was a little waterfall as well as the stream gurgling its way through the garden, and the sculpted trees and varied greens were very soothing.  It was a wonderful spot to hang out and relax, which we did for a while.  And overheard the staff talking about plans for a wedding to be held there, perhaps that evening or the next day.  What a lovely place to have a wedding!  Not very big, but oh so beautiful!!

Oh, I almost forgot - Philadelphia has a fabulous mural project and now has over 2500 murals scattered around the city.  This started as an anti-graffiti project, and young people were included in creating the murals.  Plus many of the murals were designed with creative input from people within the communities, so the murals reflect the cultures of various ethnic groups within the city.  Other murals focus on social issues such as chemical dependency, ethnic or racial prejudice, crime and incarceration - the list goes on and on.  This has become a model for other cities that have started mural projects.  There are mural tours, too, and each neighbourhood is very proud of the murals there and happily welcomes visitors who come to see the artwork.

Just one more thing I like about Philadelphia.

We'll continue to enjoy the city as we finish up our time here - we still have one more week, with much to do and much to discover.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm a Featured Interview on Travel Fashion Girl

There's this website, Travel Fashion Girl ( ) that is wonderful, full of all kinds of ideas and advice on minimalizing your travel wardrobe, multi-wear items, all that stuff.

I did her online interview, was accepted, and I'm this month's interview!!!!  I feel famous!!!

Here's the link:

Check her out!!!!

(And I'm working on an article for TFG, will let you know when I get published!)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

It Was a Two Carousel Day

23 August 2014

I started the day with a quick walk around our neighbourhood to check out all the flowers.  I don't know if it's a continuation of an old New York tradition, or if it's for convenience, or what, but somehow businesses are sort of clustered in neighbourhoods.  There's the garment district, the diamond district (which includes other gems and jewelry in general), several other districts.  We're in the flower district.  So while there are little restaurants and convenience stores, most of the businesses are related to flowers.  Plants, ornamental peppers, flowers, vases, baskets, ribbons, florists, all that.  Which of course makes for a gorgeously colourful, or colourfully gorgeous, part of the city.

Then we headed north to the park.  THE park.  Central Park, New Yorkers' back yard.  What a wonderful day in Central Park!

I'm not sure how old Central Park is, other than that it's more than 100 years old.  The stone bridges are lovely, and each one is different.  There are rolling hills and flat meadows, rocks to climb and lakes to sail boats, and the story is that one of every tree in North America is planted here.  There are lanes with statues of famous authors, complete with quotations.  And Tavern on the Green, a lovely restaurant that has changed hands numerous times but is always elegantly charming with delicious food.  So that's where we met a friend for brunch, and had a wonderful time catching up on the past two years, sharing stories and experiences and updates.
We walked around the park for a bit, and headed over to the carousel, which is at least 100 years old as well.  This is part of my personal ritual in New York, to ride this incredible carousel.  I realize it's silly and maybe frivolous, and that's probably why I like to do this.  Plus it has some of the most beautiful horses and carriages in a carousel, and they just don't make them like this anymore.

So we rode our horses galloping up and down in circles, laughing and chatting round and round.

Then on for more walking, this time down Fifth Avenue, with a little window shopping and of course people watching.  And for me, building watching too.

New York is known for its beautiful examples of Art Deco architecture, such as the Empire State Building.  But the Chrysler Building (which has a new name, but no one knows it by that name) shines as one of the most iconic buildings of this city.  It probably is my favourite of all the buildings here - and today, it was shining silver and platinum against the grey clouds blowing in from the west.  So of course I stood in the road (okay, on the edge of the road) taking photos of this building, and as always marvelling at the intricacy of design rendered in steel and glass.

Onward to the New York Public Library and Bryant Park in back, full of flowers and people, for another carousel ride.  This is a much smaller carousel, and the animals are smaller as well.  But it's a lovely little carousel, and yes, I'm riding a white bunny.  Very silly.  But the horses that go up and down were taken, so I was left with a bunny or kitty - and a little girl wanted the kitty so I took the bunny.  She and I chatted, the tiny two-year-old next to me waved hello, her dad said hello, and we had a great time in our little corner of the carousel.

We eventually made our way back to our hotel, and when it grew dark I found out that there really isn't a penthouse here, it's an open roof - so great for night photos of the Empire State Building.  A little fuzzy since this is a night shot, but it captures the look of this other emblem of the city.

So we've done many of the things we love to do in New York.  Never made it to a show, didn't ride a ferry, but we did most of the other things and had a fabulous time.

And tomorrow we head to Philadelphia for more family time.

NOTE:  I kept the photos small, but you can click on them to make them bigger.  I love the carousel photos, as well as the buildings, and would love to have huge photos.  But then there's always that long area of only photos, and some of you (you know who you are) want more to read and fewer photos.  So, here we are with little photos and lots of words.