Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Real NYC #43 - Union Square Holiday Market

As an atheist, I must admit that I have a great fondness for the Christmas Season. It is not for any religious reason. My parents, culturally Jewish, but definitely not believers, always celebrated Christmas. They loved giving gifts and spending time with friends and family. So, every December, the season sets off my desire to bring those around me together, and I search for the right gift. That is why I go to the Holiday Market at Union Square in New York City.

Christmas Markets started in the towns and cities of Germany in the 14th century. During the four weeks of Advent, towns would host markets that sold seasonal foods, drink and goods. They would also have music, singers and a nativity scene. The Union Square Holiday Market started in 1995. Today, over 100 vendors sell their wares at the south end of the park along 14th street. As I walk along the several rows of vendors there is a wide range of goods for sale. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Kayrock – is a silk-screening and printing factory that is based in Greenpoint Brooklyn. Kayrock produces stationary, posters, tee-shirts and much more. Many of the goods, especially the tees, have a decidedly progressive message, so you get good quality and good ideas at the same time.



Corkbuds – this imaginative company up-cycles used wine corks as homes for plant cuttings. The corks provide a base for the soil that allows the plants to breath and also holds moisture. Best of all, they are really cute. When the plants grow, they can be replanted into a proper pot.

Some corked succulants
 Black Lamb – Brooklyn based artist Rachele RouquiĆ© creates some of the “punniest” art for sale. Her works are all hand made of cut paper and collage. At the market she is selling mostly greeting cards, although there are some larger pieces available.

Real. Weird. Art. -  Joey Allgood produces wonderful, if surreal art, but then again, the name of hos company proves to be truth in advertising. My favorite is a picture of a banana in a gorilla suit in a shower. All of his work will make you go HMMMMM.

Eve Devore – Ms. Devore would like you to ponder on this idea – “What would you look like if you were and owl?” In fact, she has “owlized” many icons, from The Statue of Liberty to Winston Churchill. Her work shows an excellent sense of humor.

La Muse Kalliope – Artist Jean Lin has designed a colorful universe of lovely beings to help us get through the day. Little musette will inspire creativity. Dragonettes and Unicornettes help make our wishes come true. These eclectic little additions to your home are all hand-made and in fact they are interactive.

Tribal Home – Looking for piece of Middle Eastern style for your home? Tribal Home’s stall is over-flowing with lamps, bowls, and other home accessories that will bring a splash of color to your living quarters.

La Savonnerie – Offering a wide variety of soaps from Provance, France, the stall of La Savonnerie is both colorful and aromatic. Savon de Marseille are produced according to traditional methods dating back to the 1600’s. They are made from olive and vegetable oils, sea salts and the alkaline ash from burnt sea plants. 

These are just a few of the wonderful vendors at the Union Square Holiday Market. But it is just a taste of what you can find when you visit. Head over before the market closes on December 24th.

Getting There: The market is located at Union Square – 14th street between University Place and Broadway. You can take the 4, 5, 6, N, R, Q trains to the Union Square stop. You can also take any of the M14 busses cross town. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Whidbey Island, Washington

“It is oppressively green!”

That is how The Amazin’ Ms. D described what she saw as we drove across Whidbey Island. She was on her way to a two-week retreat at Hedgebrook Farm, and I was going to spend that time driving around the Olympic Peninsula. “Oppressively Green” was a phrase that came back to me time and again during my trip.

For me, there are two advantages to passing through Whidbey Island on my way to the Peninsula. One is getting to visit Whidbey itself. More importantly, I get to take two ferries on the trip. I love taking ferries for the same reasons that I love traveling by train. It forces me to slow down. Waiting for the ferry, I can get out of my car and explore. My first ferry on this trip was from Mukilteo, about 25 miles north of Seattle, to Clinton, on Whidbey Island. This is a short ride, about 15 minutes, but it is still worth getting out of the car. I got a memorable view of the coast of Puget Sound on a foggy day.

Leaving Mukilteo on a foggy morning

Our Ferry

It is oppressively green

As we pass from Clinton WA onto route 525, we drive through the forest for the first time. That is when The Amazin’ Ms. D made her observation. The forest is impressive, especially for two city kids like us. The trees are thick and lush. Mostly evergreen, they hold their hue all year long, and even as the days shorten, the deep green of the forest remains all encompassing.  Route 525 is the main highway across Whidbey Island, and it passes through forests, and past farms. Whidbey’s economy is mostly farming and tourism. It is home to many artists and writers. Our first stop is in the town of Freeland. This quaint hamlet has galleries, boutiques, and other shops. There is enough there to keep you busy for an afternoon or two. There are also several cafes where you can sit and enjoy a good cup of coffee. We headed to Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill, where we had and excellent lunch, a burger for me and salmon for Ms. D. Our lunch came with a picture-perfect view of the inlet that Freeland sits on.

The view from Gordon's

After dropping Ms. D off, I drive north to the Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry. Following the signs, I leave route 525 for route 20. When I get to Crockett Lake, the signs take me off of route 20, and to the north of the lake. The road leads me past Camp Casey, and to the Fort Casey State Park. Being both early, and a sucker for state parks, I decide to explore a little. Fort Casey was once an important piece in the defense of Puget Sound. 

Built in 1897, Fort Casey served with Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island and Fort Worden in Port Townsend, to create what was called a “triangle of fire,” which would effectively block any invading ships trying to enter Puget Sound through Admiralty Bay. Fort Casey had two “disappearing guns.” The 8-inch artillery guns were placed on lifts which allowed them to be hidden behind the concrete fortifications when not firing. They could be loaded in relative safety and then, when ready, they were raised above the walls, fired and then returned to their original positions. This kept the crews and guns safe from enemy fire. But as air warfare developed between and during World War 2 the guns became obsolete and the fort was decommissioned in the 1950’s.

Fort Casey Firing Line

Disappearing Gun

Fort Casey Firing Line

Fort Casey State Park is home to the Admiralty Head Light House. The first light on this site was built in 1850. In 1903 it was replaced with the cement and stucco structure present today. The beacon was in service until 1922. It was restored in 2012, and today is a historical center and gift shop. 

Admiralty Head Lighthouse

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Looking to Fort Casey from the lighthouse

 Finally, Fort Casey overlooks the Coupeville-Port Townsend Ferry. This is my second ferry ride of the day. There is not to to see or do while waiting for the ferry here. There is a restaurant about 100 feet from the parking lot. The ferry ride to Port Townsend take about 30 minutes and is a great way to see the sound and its islands.

Leaving Coupeville
 Getting There: The easiest way to get to Whidbey Island is to take one of the ferries run by Washington State. Either from Mulkiteo to Clinton, or from Port Townsend to Coupeville. You can find information about schedules and rates here.

You can also drive to the island by taking the WA-20 bridge at the north end of the island from Rosario Beach WA through Deception Pass State Park.

A note on Washington State Parks - Most state parks charge a $10/day access fee. You can buy a year long "Discovery Pass" for $30, which I highly suggest if you are going to be in the area for any length of time.