Sunday, September 29, 2013

New York, New York - Part II

On day 2 of our 3-day New York City adventure it seemed that we had a program of 5 days crammed into one, but I sort of gave up the idea of getting any sleep in the city and just decided, as long as I didn't collapse on Times Square, I'd be all right!
The day started around 10 AM by walking through Brooklyn, a part of NYC I hadn't seen before.

Our first stop was one of the best things about Brooklyn: a gorgeous view of Manhattan:

Williamsburg Bridge

 To call a view of Manhattan one of the "best things" about Brooklyn sounds as snobbish as it is and is a phrase I have taken out of our New York guide book, that had about 300 pages on Manhattan and about 5 on Brooklyn ... Well, Mr. guide book writer, I gotta say, Brooklyn itself is pretty awesome, you might want to add a couple of pages, like one on the probably coolest murals in NYC:

And another one on some freeeeaky stores you can find in this hood ... seriously, number 1 slave??? Only in Brooklyn!

And then we crossed one of these to tourists invisible borders, from the hipster side of Brooklyn to ... well, see for yourself!

It turned out to be Yom Kippur that day, the Jewish New Year, and the streets were just full of Jewish families. I am not talking one or two or three or four families. I am talking about walking down the street for two hours and being the only visibly non-Jewish person!
I don't think I have ever been asked if I was Jewish before, but since it is one of the rituals of Yom Kippur to bless every Jew you encounter, I think many of them just wanted to make sure. Just in case ... (and I still wonder, what if I had said "yes"?)

About two hours later, we had reached our destination: Brooklyn's Botanic Garden. To some it might just be another park, but to me it was an oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of the buzz of the city, as you can also tell from the AMOUNT of pictures I took there, I actually had TIME to take pictures!!!

And this is pretty much as quiet as it ever got on this New York trip. Because after indulging into nature for a couple of hours, it was back to the hectic streets, and into a cab to make it back home in time, just to head right out again, and into the subway (once we figured out WHICH subway to take), and up up up to the Upper East Side for drinks with old friends from Chile while being attended by a Mexican waiter (it seems that if you just start talking to somebody in Spanish in New York, chances are about 75% they'll answer in Spanish), and then rushing back into the subway to the lower East Side (or some place in Manhattan where people look somehow very Japanese), into the next bar, then to a pizza place because we somehow forgot to eat all day, then back to the bar, then out of the bar to another bar where people looked like they were part of a video clip for "The Cure" and listened to surf rock music, then off to the next bar where everybody was dancing to live Balkan/Arabic music ... what am I saying? "Dancing" is not the right word, moving their hips sensuously, is more like it (yes, the boys, too!!!) until the band stopped playing and the DJ decided it was time to play Raggaeton all night long. Which was our hint that it was time to go! 
I am not lying when I am telling you that all I have left of this night is this picture: 

Yes! It's a urinal in the shape of a female behind. Why do I have this picture? Because it's NYC, baby! 

To be continued...

Want to catch up with Part I of this adventure? 

Or to see how the saga continues, read on here: 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New York, New York - Part I

New York City is often called "the city that never sleeps". Well, I don't know about the city, but after coming back from a short trip from NYC, I can definitely say that it is the city where I never sleep. This was not my first trip into the Big Apple but each time the hustling and bustling has the same effect on me: it chews me up, throws me into its digestive system, spits acid on me and when there is nothing left to process, it spits me back out. I am constantly doING something: walking, looking, sightseeing, eating, drinking, going out, meeting up, it seems impossible to just sit and relax. And after the city is done with me, I always feel like I need at least one week to recover from it. 

When I came back after only 3 short days in NYC and tried to remember what I had done and seen there, it all seemed like a big blur and I seriously had to sit down and revise my pictures to remember what I had been up to. (By the way, I was shocked when I saw how few pictures I took, as I either forgot the camera or was so busy with taking in everything around me that I simply forgot to take pictures!). So this is my last New York City experience, according to my pictures:

New York City - Day 1: Manhattan

After riding all night on a Chinatown bus (faaar better than their reputation, if you overlook the Chinese driver who yelled at us in Chinese), we arrived early in the morning in NYC - ready to take over Manhattan!

The mighty steps of the stock exchange on Wall Street

Wherever there is a fountain and some trees in Manhattan, you can find a Jazz combo

Not sure how it happened, but I ended up in the middle of a street dance shows

Would you trust these guys? Well, I had to as they were about to jump over us (see video).

People, cabs, bikes, tandems and even father-son tandems - the city sure knows how to keep its people moving

Little Italy and ...

... its San Gennaro food festival - ñam ñam

So while you finally break down in Washington Square park, thinking you found a quiet spot...

you find yourself having front row seats to another (typical??) NYC spectacle: 


 What you can't see in these pictures, is that after walking around Manhattan for about 8 hours, we ended up going our for dinner in a Bavarian-style restaurant (where the sausages had very little to do with German "Würstchen" but since they were delicious anyway AND you could top them with about 20 different types of mustard - who cares??!!), and just when I thought that after one night on a Chinatown bus, one day in Manhattan, and one evening in Brooklyn, the day had been full enough, there was still this ooone bar that we had to hit up ... oh BOY - what a start! And this was just the first day ...

To be continued

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Goodbye, Summer

I just celebrated my first Labor Day weekend, y'all, and with it the last weekend of the summer! I have to say, whoever came up with this holiday was a genius. Where else do you get a long weekend to celebrate the last warm days before the fall? I know, I know, officially we are celebrating the social and economic achievements of the workers and labor unions in the US, which, don't get me wrong, is a great reason to celebrate too. But honestly, it always seemed a little strange to me that the US and Canada set their own date for Labor Day, while the whole world dedicates May 1st to the workers. I understand that President Cleveland had his reasons, but come on! We all know that the REAL reason behind this date, is to have one last big summer party. People in Cincinnati understand that perfectly by organizing a huge river-fest on Labor Day weekend. Its big highlight: the fireworks! Of course, I had to go and check it out.

It seemed like at least half the city had the same idea. Obviously, this number is a rough guestimate, but judging by the time it took to get into and (especially!!!) out of the parking lot, I am sure it was somewhere close to a bajillion. I have never seen so many cars in Cincinnati before, not to mention the masses of people pouring out of them towards Riverfest. From the parking lot until finally finding a spot to sit down, pretty much everything I remember is tangled up in a ball of people: people strolling around, people looking for food, people looking for each other, people laughing and people yelling, people with mohawks, people with dreadlocks, people in biker gear, people with ties, and even people all a-zombied up. On the one hand: sensory overload, on the other hand: fascinating! I almost forgot that I had come to see the fireworks. Being a little overwhelmed, I took the first free spot that I saw, spread out my blanket, and waited. And there it came, the countdown. Only one more minute until the fireworks (by the way, maybe somebody can tell me why the fireworks start at 9:05 PM, which seems like the most random time in the world to start anything). A final drum roll and the show began: the sky was burning and the river was on fire. There was glitter, there was gold, there were stars and even a waterfall. For 30 minutes I was dazzled by the most impressive pyro show that I have ever seen. What a wonderful way to say goodbye to summer!

In the end, who cares if Americans celebrate Labor Day on the wrong date? If they can throw such a great party, as far as I am concerned, they can celebrate Labor Day any day they want!

Creatures of Labor Day

Majestic view over Newport, Kentucky

Labor Day Weekend sunset over Cincinnati

Let the fireworks begin!

a waterfall made out of fire