Imagine ~ Strawberry Fields, NYC

Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one. ~ John Lennon

Above: ‘Imagine’ mosaic in Strawberry Fields, Central Park. Yoko Ono planted this green space as a Quiet Zone in memory of John Lennon.

Banner image: Looking onto Dakota Apartments, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived. On December 8th, 1980, John Lennon was killed outside the building.

Urban Vs Natural ~ New York and California

I read some words today that I’ve been reflecting on ever since. You may read them here: mimokhair, Day 2, Vietnam

Energised by the built; energised by the wild. Constantly revved up by a kaleidoscope of impressions, versus quietly meditating on the infinite. Striving towards a balance.

The thoughts shared by the Native American on mimokhair’s post speak volumes about my love for city life, accompanied by the constant pull of the Pacific Ocean.

Looking towards the horizon from Heisler Park in Laguna Beach

View from my apartment building’s rooftop in Brooklyn, looking towards Manhattan. One World Trade Centre in NY’s downtown (background).

In Search of Cherry Blossoms… Central Park, Manhattan

Rewind. Back to Monday.

No choice but to push aside any notion of those so-called Monday morning blues. A chilly start gave way to a spectacular spring-like day in New York. I don’t know why I felt so unprepared; March 20th is around the corner after all.

Armed with the knowledge that Central Park’s cherry blossoms were in bloom a few weeks too early, I’d planned to walk to the Jacqueline Kennedy Reservoir from 68th Street on Central Park West, up to around 94th Street East, where I know many of the trees line its water’s edge.

An unexpected change of plans.

I had two hours to spare, yet I never made it to the Reservoir. Was I a slow walker? Did I take lose my way within the Park’s criss-cross of pathways? No, and kind of.

Entering the Park, I was immediately sidetracked. My purpose and direction had given way to inevitable distraction and intrigue. From stopping and starting to admire practically every flower in bloom – daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses; to dodging cyclists, strollers, and groups of runners; to stumbling upon a meeting of the minds with some hard-shelled creatures (who won my heart) – I was simply caught up in a seasonal change of pace.

What a far cry from the snowscapes I’d documented in the same area a couple of months ago.

Caught up in springtime musings, I only managed a walk around part of the Lake, and across to Bethesda Terrace – both spots a stone’s throw away from my where I’d started. Yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Such is the appeal of Central Park; so alluring is the unfurling of its changing landscape as the months go on.

That’s all wonderful, but what of those blooming pink cherry blossoms – you might be asking? Whilst I am planning on returning again soon, I saw so much more that I had anticipated during this time-out.

You’ll see what I mean.

Enjoy the stroll!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Flowers line the park’s entryways along Central Park West. The gentle hum of Spring takes over; there’s a buzz in the air. Bunches of gold daffodils make for a jovial welcoming party, as if smiling under the sun’s rays…

… heads bowed in respect of their admirers.

A solitary bouquet of snow-white white crocuses peeking out from the ground; so delicate, new, and pretty.

Early afternoon shadows: lines; asymmetry; a haphazard mosaic design.

Strands of gold form a curtain in anticipation of the big reveal – a theatrical scene. Glimpses of activity on the Lake. Can you see the rowboat?

Getting closer. Rowboat, framed.

Busy is the background scene. Ice skaters have now given way to rollerbladers; cyclists navigate a busy roadway; runners acclimatise to the sudden hike in temps, all the warmer for the lack of shade. In the midst of it all, daydreamers relax on a park benches and soak in the sun.

An inspired artist, sketching…

… and strolling iphotographers, isnapping.

Beautiful yellow blossoms add extra colour along the way….

…as do patches of snowdrops ….

… all the way to the water’s edge.

Only to find, on the other side, a congregation. A meeting of the minds. Under the bare brush and on a couple of rocks – jutting out from under the lake’s surface – a couple of birds and some reptiles have gathered to form a silent ‘council’.

Moving closer, beckoned over, perhaps? What a fine looking pair – a couple of velvety Mallards…

… and a set of statuesque turtles, perched stoically on solitary rocks. Their necks outstretched, not moving an inch. Do they dare blink?

Edging closer; the largest two wear the hardest hats. Yep, they’re obviously presiding over this mind-meeting.

Turtles – just delightful.

Alas, even meetings of the mind come to an end – unfortunately so. Time to move along.

A quick cross over the Oak Bridge, to the other side. From this part of the Lake shore, a view of the El Dorado Apartments flanked by a rowboat and a contemplative soul.

Meandering along a winding pathway and over the Bow Bridge; rowboats float under its archway – they make for a regular sight.

Rowers paddling this way, and that; gliding from this side of the water, to the other.

A garden of crocuses in all shades of purple beckon towards The Boathouse.

The Loeb Boathouse, up close

El Dorado Apartments, aglow; surrounded by an aura of gold.

A little up the hill; a splash of pink against a cloud patterned stretch of blue. Could it be?

It certainly could. A beautiful cherry blossom tree. A search, partly achieved.

Looking through these blooming pink branches; wondering, is this what it feels to stumble upon a pot of gold?

Room with a view.

A panoramic scene overlooking Bethesda Terrace and its still-dry fountain. The Loeb Boathouse is to the right; the main part of the Lake, and El Dorado Apartments – to the left. People, in between.

Turn 180 degrees; look right down the length of The Mall, punctuated by the buildings of 59th street at its end. Spot the tripod.

A monochromatic view, elongated.

Is the time up already? Westward-bound. Pedicabs, already under the eye of their owner-turned-mechanic.

A road leading to the outskirts that is Manhattan.

Departing. The scent of candy-roasted nuts lingering in the air.

Back in Manhattan. Back on Central Park West. Thanks Spring.

Birds and the Bees: Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, Manhattan (Part One)

It’s tough being a tourist in New York.

In a city that is constantly changing, evolving, and generating new talent, there’s bound to be an exhibition, restaurant, or landmark that you’ll jot down on the To Do – Next NY Visit list; it’s too hard to see and do it all in a matter of a couple of weeks, let alone – a few days.

Strolling from East to West; subwaying Uptown and Downtown; taxiing from hotel to restaurant to bar, and back to hotel; you’ll find yourself hard pressed to even make it to the northernmost part of Central Park.

That said, it’s pretty fair to say that the area that constitutes Fort Tryon Park and The Cloisters, located in the Far North of Manhattan, doesn’t make it on many traveler-radars. Speaking from experience, I only visited the area today – as a resident – and I first visited NYC as a tourist in 2001.

PART ONE – Fort Tryon Park

Originally inhabited by the Weckquaesgeek Tribe, who lived in the area until the early 17th century, this densely forested high ground at the northern end of Manhattan was “Lang Bergh” or Long Hill to the early Dutch colonists. The Continental Army called the strategic series of posts along the Hudson RiverFort Washington” during the summer of 1776, until Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British forced the troops to retreat. The British then renamed the area for Sir William Tryon (1729–1788), Major General and the last British governor of colonial New York.*

Exiting the 190th Street Subway, you’ll immediately find yourself in the midst of Fort Tryon Park, located in the Washington Heights region of NY.

Land initially purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1917, in 1935 he donated it to New York City when his vision for the Park was completed; it took 4 years for head designer, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. – son of the architect of Central Park – to design and create the space that is the Fort Tryon Park we are able to enjoy today.

Fact: Fort Tryon Park is one of the highest points in New York. Don’t be deceived by those Midtown Manhattan skyscrapers.

Despite the twisting pathways, stonewalled terraces, steps upon steps, and steepish slopes, this is a manageable and relaxing park to explore. You’ll enjoy views of the Hudson River and the Palisades State Park, located on the other side – Rockefeller also purchased this parkland in order to preserve Fort Tryon’s views.

Rows of benches make the Park an ideal spot for daydreaming whilst overlooking the Hudson River and its Valley.

Fact: Fort Tryon Park fell into decades of neglect and its cleanup efforts were spearheaded around 1995 by the divine Miss M, Bette Midler.

I was so upset; I didn’t sleep for weeks… People were throwing their garbage out the window, leaving their lunches on the ground. Finally, I realized I needed to actually do something – even if it meant picking up trash with my own two hands. ~ Bette MidlerGood Housekeeping Magazine

Initially recruiting friends and family, Bette set about removing garbage from Fort Tryon Park and Fort Washington Park in Upper Manhattan. What began as a grass roots effort led to her founding the non-profit New York Restoration Project (www.nyrp.org).

What a testament to the spirit of New York. Regeneration, restoration, revival, rebirth – reverberations of these words are constant in an ever-changing city.

Stretch the legs and take in the beauty on a stroll through the English-inspired Heather Garden; spring has surely sprung. Listen to the chirping of its birds. It’s all about looking down, rather than skyscraper-up; flowers in purples, yellows, whites beckon buzzing bees and announce the onset of a new season.

Pause at the plaque dedications on those Garden’s benches located in the seating alcoves that punctuate Stan Michels Promenade. It’s impossible not to notice a clay head sculpture, or two, or more; part of a proposed public art project, they flank the Promenade’s benches and demand attention.

FACT: Stan Michels Promenade is named for New York City councilman Stanley Michels – an ardent supporter of environmental reform and park restoration.

Step it up to Linden Terrace at the Garden’s edge, and into the shadows of its linden trees, strewn on the pavement. Pause here – more benches available for daydreaming.

Or simply gaze at the Hudson River; you’ll catch a glimpse of the George Washington Bridge from here too.

See the tops of The Cloisters building through the thick of bare tree branches.

… Your next destination beckons… To be posted in Part Two

The Cloisters opened in the north end of Fort Tryon Park in 1938 after Rockefeller bought sculptor George Grey Barnard’s (1863–1938) collection of medieval art. Inspired by Romanesque monasteries, the museum includes several cloisters, or courtyards, from actual French monasteries. Now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was designated an official New York City landmark in 1974.*

*http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/forttryonpark/history

Musings at The Conservatory Garden, Central Park, NYC ~ with thanks

The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know. ~ Michel Legrand

On a micro level, Michel Legrand’s quote is a good summation of how I feel about Central Park. The more I see the less I know, I thought as I left through The Conservatory Garden’s beautiful cast iron gates yesterday and into the (com)motion of Fifth Avenue’s rush hour. A combination of genius design, thanks to Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and upkeep maintained by the Central Park Conservancy; Central Park will have you returning many times over – to explore a part of it that you may not have known about before, or to simply enjoy its changing landscape with the unfolding of the seasons.

The silhouetted skyline of Manhattan from the northern end of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Photographing around here never gets tiring.

Renowned chef, Marcus Samuelsson, in an interview with a travel magazine that rounded up his favourite spots to visit near his neighbourhood of Harlem, had the following to say: “To relax, I enjoy walking in the Conservatory Garden in Central Park just off East 105th Street.” I’d read this article a while back, and had filed away the Garden-mention in the back of my mind; yet another place to visit and experience in the grandeur of Central Park. 

Main entryway into the Conservatory Garden - the gates once stood at Cornelius Vanderbilt's mansion on 58th St and 5th Avenue

February 1st ~ another warmish 59F winter’s day in New York; a day to make an uptown trip to Central Park North. As I hadn’t done any prior research, I had thought that The Conservatory Garden would be encased in a greenhouse. Not so.

The Conservatory Garden began as a large, E-shaped greenhouse, or conservatory in 1898. It featured an indoor winter garden of exotic tropical plants and outdoor decorative Victorian flowerbeds. In 1937, the deteriorating structure was demolished and this… formal garden was designed in its place.*

Six acres of open air sculpted garden beauty defines its expanse; a triad of stylized gardens, influenced by France, England and Italy. A little bit of Europe in NYC – what a wonderful idea. I’ll let you see for yourself. I hope you enjoy The Conservatory Garden through this pictorial. A mental note: You are entering into an “Official Quiet Zone”.

As an aside, I would like to dedicate this post to my few bloggers: Vidal’sNYC for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award. I hope you may check out Vidal’s photo-glimpses of New York as he sees it. I’m also so appreciative of the support by robertoalborghetti and MiltonJohns Photography for reblogging my posts on Letting Love Rule @ Radio City Music Hall (Lenny Kravitz) and Gated Abandonment on Bowery ~ downtown NYC. I am really humbled by your kind comments and thank you for your inspiration. I hope you may check out the photography and art portfolios of all three bloggers. I’m a keen follower of their work and hope you will be too.

Musings at The Conservatory Garden

Strolling away from the motivated joggers circling Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir on a temperate winter’s day. Approaching the Conservatory Garden from within; along one of Central Park’s meandering pathways. Rules from hereon in ~ observing a quiet zone. Winter’s natural stillness, further enforced.

S’il vous plaît entrez: The French inspired part of the Garden, at its northern end.

Fountains, standing on empty ~ for now. Dancing Maidens sculpture by German artist Walter Schott.

Manicured hedges; swirling patterns of green. Symmetry, order and form. Envisioning scenes from Sophia Coppola’s, Marie Antoinette. The Gardens of Versailles ~ I need to see them.

Winter’s calm beauty, so amplified ~ still trees, late afternoon sun, shadows. Fifth Avenue – steps away, yet unheard and unnoticed, except for its mansions looking over the fence. A solitary bench…

… adorned with a dedication. Love lives on, always.

Hibernating hydrangeas; beds of roses, asleep ~ looking forward to a long awaited yawn and stretch. A blooming prospect: the onset of spring.

Intermission: Lenny Kravitz – I Build This Garden For Us

A stream of late afternoon rays, painting patterns on the pathways, like those of sun-drenched stained glass windows.

Please enter: the English inspired part of the Garden, to the south.

Grassy furry plants; recollections of Mr. Snuffleupagus. Reminiscing about those days of watching Sesame Street as a kid, back in Sydney. Somehow still remembering this shaggy-haired muppet’s name ~ Snuffy, for short.

From this angle, looking like a fuzzy topped bouquet of hay. Inspiration for a lavish centrepiece.

More recollections; this time of those crazy hairstyled muppets on Fraggle Rock. Do you remember? The English part of the Garden may be themed on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic, The Secret Garden, though it is so Jim Henson inspired.

Early bloomers ~ jonguils. Perhaps spring really is closer than we hope it to be.

~ Pausa ~

Generosity of the human spirit. Thankfulness; appreciation for the love bestowed by family and friends.

Inserisci il giardino: the Italian inspired garden, in the Conservatory’s centre.

Entangled beauty; Chinese wisteria, in a winter slumber. Wrought iron details of an ornate pergola against a Fifth avenue vista.

A blue period.

A touch of history ~ the names of the original 13 states, engraved into tile.

The grand gesture ~ an engraved proposal. Time, at a stand-still.

A place to create memories for generations to come.

Imagining being on the terrace of an Italian villa: directly ahead – the jet of the fountain’s thriving 12-foot high geyser; a grand lawn flanked by two exquisite allées of pink and white crabapple trees*; a perfectly hedged and manicured perimeter; birds chirping; the faint fragrance of wisteria in the air; views of Fifth Avenue mansions in the distance. Such is the anticipation of seeing the garden’s beauty in full bloom.

The Italian Renaissance Garden: The Medici, the ruling dynasty of Florence, used gardens to demonstrate their own power and magnificence. “During the first half of the sixteenth century, magnificence came to be perceived as a princely virtue, and all over the Italian peninsula architects, sculptors, painters, poets, historians and humanist scholars were commissioned to concoct a magnificent image for their powerful patrons.” **

Musings, interrupted. Dusk descends, and the grand gate must close.

Entering the real world. Hello again, Manhattan.

* http://www.centralparknyc.org/visit/things-to-see/north-end/conservatory-garden.html

**Wikipedia

The Bronze Statuettes of the 14th Street – 8th Avenue Subway, NYC

Awards season is upon us, and The Golden Globes are one of the first events to kick it off. Having lived in New York for one such season already, since moving back from Southern California, I will inevitably wax nostalgic (again) over Los Angeles as I watch its glorious sunshine light up the movie stars on the red carpet from the other side of the country.

2012 recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement @ Golden Globes

Southern California (Orange County) sparkles in the off-season

I wanted to honour the Golden Globes from New York, so by a (large) stretch of the imagination, I came up with a topic for this post: The Bronze Statuettes of the 14th Street- 8th Avenue Subway. I spotted these little figurines at the stop a few weeks back and have wanted to showcase them ever since. In a nod to the Golden Globe statues, I think I have found the perfect excuse.

 

Rolling dice and playing cards

Pumped!

Waiting, with the rest of us

A resident rat

If you’re not familiar with these squat, bronze sculptures, they are the work of Tom Otterness and are part of his “Life Underground” series, commissioned by Metropolitan Transit Authority and Arts for Transit. They adorn the 14th Street – 8th Avenue subway’s main concourse and its A, C, E and L stops. You may come across a cartoon-like top-hatted figurine on a stairway balustrade as you descend the staircase, only to then find yourself face to face with a large caricature of a man, disguised as phone box, on the platform.

Crocodile’s dinner

“Life Underground” took ten years to create, and includes over 100 cast-bronze works, creatively interspersed within the subway space. There’s humour and fun behind these bronzed characters, and they are so interesting to admire and interpret whilst waiting for your ride. I am sure you will notice a general thread of a theme/s molded and etched into these sculptures, though this is not the purpose of the post.

Caught sneaking under

Money Bags

Enjoy these Teletubby-like works, and their friends. I’m off to have a glass of wine and watch the Golden Globes!

Trunking Around

Tom Otterness’ public works feature in many parts of New York and North America; with a few works on view in South Korea, the Netherlands and Germany. More info: Tom Otterness >> Public Art.

Sweeping pennies

Sheriff

Rich sheriff

Exiting now…

Happy Holidays! xoxo New York City

The Norway spruce that decorates Rockefeller Center this year is 74-foot tall; it is decorated in 30,000 colored lights and topped with a Swarovski star. Though the Rockefeller Christmas tree looks similar from year to year, give or take a few feet in height, each tree to have graced the plaza has told a different story of its origin. The 2011 tree was not selected per the usual application process, as it was scouted by the Rockefeller Center’s head gardener on a property in Mifflinville, PA whilst driving along the I-80 freeway. The tree now stands proudly in the middle of Manhattan, admired not only by its owners (albeit in a different light) but also by throngs of visitors at any one time. This is just one example of the preparation and energy that goes into the creating the Christmas  experience in Manhattan.

Christmas time at Rockefeller Center

Manhattan is one of the best places to immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit, and there’s no doubt that NYC puts on a great show for its visitors and residents. It inspires department store pilgrimages (for the shopping as well as the window displays); ice skating excursions to the renowned rinks at Central Park and Rockefeller Center; Christmas market hopping – from Union Square, and all the way up to Columbus Circle – where you can drink hot apple cider whilst perusing the stalls that sell all sorts of beautifully made handicrafts, intricate fine jewelry, artworks, and everything else in between. As I have discovered over the years – two, three, even four days is not enough to experience the city during this time of year. Despite any compulsive planning that may have been undertaken prior to the trip, there will always something to catch your eye and veer you off of a scrupulously mapped course. I recommend setting aside at least one week to experience New York in its holiday splendor. Unless it’s just gift shopping you’re after – then, a long weekend will suffice.

Inspiration for the gift list...!

The original Magnolia Bakery in the West Village

Having been brought up in Australia, I have never much cared for a chilly Christmas season, with or without snow. I’ll take the festive season in summery Sydney any day. Sure, I understand that a hot Christmas may seem strange to many people – after all, even I think that a decked out Santa Claus is more believable in chillier climates – though as I get older, it’s more about being with my family and creating memories, than anything else. Christmas time, for me, equates to beach weather and long, hot days; indulging in barbequed everything – grilled squid, charred lamb chops, sizzling meat patties – while relaxing in the backyard; enjoying the company of family and friends on rooftop bars, overlooking beautiful Sydney, a glass of Verdelho in hand. I always seem to take a trip to Oz in the middle of the year, and haven’t experienced a Christmas at home in a long while.

"What Katz's is to pastrami, City Bakery is to hot chocolate." New York Magazine

Ice Skating at The Standard Hotel ice rink, as seen for the High Line

As it’s not a matter of going big or going home (my adopted home of NYC always delivers for the holiday season!), I do embrace the result of months worth of festive preparations made by the city. Whether braving the crowds that descend upon Midtown Manhattan, or during a stroll through the calmer parts of the city – be it Greenwich Village or the Upper East Side – it’s easy to spot coloured fairy lights prettying up balconies and storefronts; decorated Christmas trees or Chanukah candles framed by windows; wreaths hanging from doors and adorning brick walls that would otherwise stand bare. It’s a time when each neighbourhood equally embraces the festive season and an underlying theme of embellishment: now, less defined by their individual ‘hood appeal, and more unified in making Manhattan look like one very well decorated and brightly lit Christmas grid.

A Christmas tree

Beautiful West Village

This year being no different, I set the nostalgia aside and took some time to explore New York City in its lead up to Christmas. En route, I became happily reacquainted with New York’s charm despite the droves: the beauty is in its street scapes and their everyday activity. This is the very reason I fell in love with New York City in the first place.

The Strand book stall lines Central Park, Fifth Avenue

A pianist in Washington Square Park

Here is a charting of a festive few days around and about, with some of that old New York charm thrown in. Enjoy!

Wall Street's barricaded Christmas tree

Christmas and hope soldier on in the midst of construction at Ground Zero

Lights against Chinatown

Delights at Dean & Deluca

Washington Square Park Christmas Tree (Empire State Building in the distance)

Fiddlesticks on Greenwich Avenue

Part of the Tiles for America fence (Greenwich Ave and Mulry Square)

Simply decorated

View from the High Line at night

View of the High Line at night

See my post here for daytime images: Above it all: Manhattan’s High Line.

Dinner by a crackling fire

Macy's

Merry Christmas from Tudor Place

Christmas decorations as New York Public Library

Candy Tree at Dylan's Candy Bar Pop Up Shop

A 'wreathed' and bustling Grand Central Terminal

Toy Soldiers

Celebrity ornaments by Christopher Radko, exclusively for Bloomingdale's

Bloomingdale's window

Louis Vuitton for Bloomingdale's

Lady Gaga, for Barneys

Gaga's Crystal Cave at Barneys

Gaga's Boudoir at Barneys

The Plaza Hotel across from Central Park

Bergdorf Goodman, mirror/crystal window

Bergdorf Goodman, paper window

Avant-garde, haute couture, reflections at Bergdorf Goodman

Bergdorf Goodman, metallic window

Shopping at Tiffany & Co

Star light, star bright... make that wish on Fifth Avenue

Have a Happy and Safe Holiday!