Touring NYC on foot – The Big Apple pt. 1

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Wall Street

I-95 S at the BronxNew York City was not on our planned route heading south, because we had both been there before.  But in this lifestyle we realize that we need to see everything we can while we’re here, and plans can change quickly.  So we decided to tackle the challenging trip to the Big Apple, and yes, it was an unpleasant drive on I-95 S from Connecticut, passing through the Bronx in New York to the New Jersey turnpike. But we made it with the only damage being to our nerves.

Liberty Harbor RV Park

Not an RV park, just a big parking lot!

The only RV park with easy access to NYC is Liberty Harbor RV Park (Steve’s review is here), across the Hudson River in Jersey City.  For $80 a night you get a space in a parking lot with just water and electrical hookups. They are the only game in town, as they are within easy access of Manhattan by ferry or train.  And they know it!

Rosana and I

The two girls back together after 37 years!

Reconnecting with my long lost friend, Rosana – whom I had not seen for 37 years – was a great reason to stop by NYC.  She and her hubby Angelo gave us a wonderful personalized tour around town, and that’s always the best way to experience  a big city.

The highlight of our wanderings was visiting the 9/11 Memorial.  Access is free, but a donation is requested when you get your timestamped pass, which is recommended because of how busy it gets.  The Memorial is surrounded by ongoing construction on several World Trade Center structures, which is amazing to see in itself.  We went on a Saturday, and a large crowd was already forming as the gate opened at 10AM. A security screening was required prior to entry, and we noticed lots of cameras and a large police presence.

Names on the 9/11 memorial

May their souls rest in peace.

The memorial consists of two huge pools set in the footprints of where the original Twin Towers once stood.  The names of the victims are inscribed in bronze parapets around the pools, at the approximate location of each victim when the building collapsed.  Thirty foot waterfalls cascade into the reflecting pool at the bottom.
Thirty-foot waterfalls,9/11 memorial

Thirty foot waterfalls at the reflecting pools

Water in the reflecting pools then falls into a center void intended to convey a spirit of quiet reflection of loss.  The simplistic design of the north and south pools at the Memorial will provide a focal point for the thoughts of people for generations to come.
South Pool, 9/11 memorial

The South Pool

The new One World Trade Center is scheduled to be completed in early 2014, and it dominates the nearby skyline.  It is almost complete at 104 floors, and is topped by a spire that reaches the symbolic height of 1,776 feet – a number commemorating the year of America’s independence.

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

The rebuilding continues, and we observed solemnity and respect among the hundreds of visitors.

9/11 memorial

Pausing to pay homage and respect.

Our friends took us all around town, and for those of you who have visited or lived there, you know that getting around means taking the subway and walking on the streets and avenues.  We learned that In New York City, an avenue block is 1/4 mile long and runs from east to west, while a street block is 1/16 of a mile long and runs from north to south.  Believe me, we did LOTS of walking on this day!

Walking down Wall Street, I caught a glimpse of Trinity Church.  It was positioned very nicely between other tall buildings.

Trinity Church, Manhattan

Trinity Church

In its yard is a two-ton bronze sculpture installed as a reminder of a large sycamore tree. The tree was uprooted on September 11, 2001 from St Paul’s Chapel several blocks away and found lying in the yard of Trinity Church. It had fallen in such a way that none of the historic tombstones around it were disturbed and none of the wreckage reached the Chapel.

Trinity Root Sculpture, Trinity Church

Trinity Root Sculpture

When we arrived at the American Museum of Natural History, I recognized immediately that these were the actual exhibits behind the characters featured in the movie “Night at the Museum”!  The David H. Koch Dinosaur collection alone occupied a large area on the fourth floor. This museum is huge and amazing, and it requires at least a full day (and maybe more) to explore.  A must-see if you’re in NYC.

As you may have guessed, the Rockefeller Center is a tourist destination and we were there milling around with hundreds of other folks.

A visit to NYC wouldn’t be complete without being in Times Square at night!  Our friends made sure we saw it during the day and then again all lit up.

Lastly, they took us across to Brooklyn where we were able to see the amazing Manhattan skyline from yet another vantage point.  Awesome!

Manhattan skyline at night

Manhattan Skyline and Brooklyn bridge at night, viewed from Brooklyn.

It was truly great seeing and reconnecting with Rosana again after so many years. Many thanks to her and Angelo, our gracious and patient hosts for giving us a fantastic tour of NYC – and for the wonderful lunch in Chinatown.   You are the best!

Angelo and Rosana

Angelo and Rosana

Next up:  High Rises and Many Bridges – The Big Apple pt. 2

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Taking it easy in the Big Easy – New Orleans

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French Quarter

Dang, we missed Mardi Gras?  Oh well, let’s just walk around and sightsee instead. 20130304-RV-LA-22

The city of New Orleans is synonymous with Mardi Gras, Creole cuisine,  Super Bowl XLVII, Jazz music, beignets and Hurricane Katrina.  New Orleans is also known by other names such as the “Big Easy” because of its gentle, slow and easy-going way of life.  Or the “Crescent City” because among the many bends and turns in the Mississippi River bordering the city, a small but sharp curve in the river between Esplanade Avenue and Canal Street forms a crescent. New Orleans is also simply known as “NOLA.”

The idea of driving to and parking in the city did not appeal to us, so we searched for alternatives.  We decided to catch the free ferry from Algiers Point (about 14 miles from the State Park).  After paying $5.00 to park the car at a good lot (you can apparently park on the neighborhood streets for free, but we didn’t like the looks of them), we crossed the Mississippi River to town in about 15 minutes, ending up at Canal Street.  It was a non-event, but the ferry and waiting areas on both sides of the river (Algiers Point and Canal Street) could use some cleaning up.

New Orleans

Aboard ferry with NOLA in the background

We dedicated this day to walk, eat, drink and be merry on the streets of the Big Easy.  Let’s go!

First things first, a sugar rush is what I needed before our walking tour.  Off we went to get one of those square deep fried doughnuts known as beignets (pronounced  “ben-yays”) or “French doughnuts.”  No, Steve doesn’t want anything to do with sweets.  His loss – more for me!  Next to Cafe du Monde was a store where pralines are deliberately made behind glass so you can see and smell – and oh, maybe buy some? – of the super-sweet stuff.  It’s a candy made with brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, butter, and pecans, another specialty in NOLA.  I HAD to get some of that, too!  Steve’s eyes rolled once again.

A few feet from where I was munching on my dougnuts is Jackson Square, a historic park in the French Quarter declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.  This is where aspiring artists, musicians, entertainers, horse drawn carriages, arts, mimes and  just people mingle.  We think the entertainment was fairly tame because it was still early in the day.

Jackson Square

That beautiful white building in the background above is the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of Francethe oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States.  New Orleans is instantly recognizable by the cathedral and its position overlooking Jackson Square.

The St Louis Cathedral

Inside the St Louis Cathedral

To begin processing the sugar coursing through my veins, we strolled along the Moon Walk.  Mayor Moon Landrieu installed this scenic boardwalk on top of the levee to reconnect the city to the river; it is known as the “Moon Walk” in his honor.  It was a breezy but beautiful day to stroll.

Moon Walk

At the moonwalk viewing the Century Bridge and the business district

We ended up at a floodgate and entered the French Market.

The French Market stretches six blocks, containing lots of retail shops, outdoor cafes, a farmers market and a flea market.

In the heart of New Orleans is its oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter . This district as a whole is a National Historic Landmark, and contains numerous individual historic buildings.  Strolling along the quaint streets, we noticed the stunning architecture as the dominant feature.  Some colorful homes with balconies are adorned with intricate ironwork and courtyards are filled with lush greenery.  These are the balconied homes that we saw on tv (was it Cops?) where people tossed out beads during the Mardi Gras festival 😦

French Quarter

Bourbon Street was slightly impacted by hurricane Katrina and is in the heart of French Quarter.  We walked its 13 blocks from Esplanade Avenue to Canal Street.

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street

While it is now primarily known for its bars and strip clubs, or “party central” in NOLA, Bourbon Street’s history provides a rich insight into New Orleans’ past.  At night this is where things get crazy and the “unique” people come out to play.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is now a tavern located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Philip Street.  Built sometime before 1772, is one of the older surviving structures in New Orleans and has been called the oldest continually occupied bar in the United States.  We stopped and got our first “Go-Cup” of Voodoo Daquiri.  It’s legal here to drink on the streets, provided the drink is in a plastic container they call a Go-Cup – no bottles or cans allowed on the streets.  It felt a little strange walking down the street with an alcoholic drink, but hey, we like to try something new each day!  So, with our Go-Cup in hand we continued our excursion.

Some of the famous names in Jazz music have their own niche on Bourbon Street, called Musical Legends Park.

Musical Legends Park

Musical Legends Park

At this point in our walk at the French Quarter we got hungry for some NOLA specialties.  Never had a Po’ Boy before, so it was a Po’ Boy sandwich and Gumbo for us, followed by another round of drinks – a Voodoo Rum and a Spicy Bloody Mary.  Whoa!

Notary in NOLAWe carried the drinks and continued our exploration.  Leaving the French Quarter, we headed toward Canal Street where the business section and hi-rise buildings are situated.  One of our to-do’s here was to look for a Notary Public.  Why?  Let me digress for a moment. This is a friendly reminder to all my dear readers to always check your credit card charges every couple of days.  Steve diligently checks our credit charges and caught several transactions charged in Pennsylvania.  He cancelled the card immediately, but to get the charges removed from our account he had to have the paperwork notarized, since we are on the road.  In this area the notaries are usually lawyers, so of course it costs much more.  Well, down a back alley we went to have the friendly lawyer do his thing. OK, back to having fun now!

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Central business district

With our business done we headed to the River Walk Marketplace.  This is a tourist trap located next to the Convention Center and the cruise ship terminal.  Since this is not shopping day for us, we instead went there to learn more about the Mississippi River.  That will be our next story.

Riverwalk