Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Real New York Part 8 - A Walk Through Central Park

The Mall
One of my favorite things to do on a day where I have nothing else to do is to go to Central Park. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Central Park is one of New York City's jewels. I have always loved the park. It has an energy that is unmatched anywhere else in the city.

When you approach the park from the Upper West Side of Manhattan you pass through an area that was built in the era between the world wars. This was a time when architects paid attention to small details on their buildings:

Brownstone decoration

Looking east along 84th street

NY Brownstones

Decorations on a Central Park West building
There are so many things that I love about Central Park. First, there are areas of highly landscaped gardens. One of those is the Shakespeare Garden.

This garden sits just south of the Delacorte Theater - home to the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park performances. It has paths that are lined with wooden fences and wonderful early spring flowers

I remember coming to the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater as a child. I am so happy that it is still in the park and still functioning (info here).

Central Park is still a place where families come to spend an afternoon. It is wonderful chance for children to explore their world.

A future landscape architect?

What could be holding this young man's attention?
Central Park still has interactions with nature that will catch your eye and surprise you -

Turtles sunning in the lake

If you take the time to look up, in addition to down, you might see some other visitors to the park:

A red-tail hawk hanging out by the zoo.

A true Ne Yorker, this bird was totally non-plussed by the crowed that was staring at him(her?), taking pictures.

If you get to the zoo, make sure that you stay until the top of the hour to see the dancing animals of the Delacorte clock.

So, if you are in NY with time to kill, and the weather is nice, head to Central Park, there is always something fun to see.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Beijing off the Tourist Track - Part 2

Chinese acrobats
Beijing is a huge city, even by New York standards. There are around 23 million people living in Beijing. It has been the capital of China for around 700 years. So there is a lot to see and do there. The thing is, if you are on one of those tours that goes to Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and a three day cruise down the Yangtze River all in 10 days.....there are a lot of tourist things that you will miss. So here are some things to do if you have a longer tour or more time in Beijing.

The Lama Temple

Bell Tower at the Lama Temple

Originally built in 1694 as a palace for one of the princes, the building was converted to lamasery in 1722. Its size and place in Beijing attracted many Tibetan Buddhist monks.The Temple is actually a group of 4 main buildings with several out buildings and courtyards. As you move through the buildings the representations of Buddha get larger and larger ending with a statue that is  26 m tall carved from a single piece of sandalwood.

Entrance courtyard of the Lama Temple

Temple Gate

Olympic Park

At some point your tour guide is going to take you to the Bird's Nest and The Cube. These are the Olympic stadium and Swimming venue from the 2008 Olympics. They are interesting to look at, especially if you drive by at night when the light shows are on. We visited on a very hazy day.

The Bird's Nest

The Cube

Hotel - The top is a stylized Olympic flame

 The Hutang

The Hutang is actually the name of the narrow streets and alleys in the oldest parts of the northern cities. The streets are lined with traditional courtyard houses called siheyuan. These houses are four small buildings built around a central yard. One building was for cooking and the other three were living quarters for family, children and servants.



Wall Decoration


Dinning room

Family bed

The tour through the Hutang, including a lunch in a siheyung was done by rickshaw. Today they use a pedicab.

Acrobat Show

You might also get to traditional Chinese Acrobat Show. These are amazing feats of balance and strength