Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Real NYC #24 - Christmas Markets

The Christmas Market is a European tradition that dates back to the 13-14th centuries in what is today Germany. Markets in Europe open with the start of Advent, which begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas for most Christian sects. These outdoor markets are usually stalls selling traditional food and gift items. The markets often also include a nativity scene, carolers and Christmas trees. More recently cities around the world have begun to set up Christmas markets. In NYC we have several.

Union Square Holiday Market

My favorite Holiday fair is the Union Square Holiday Market. Taking up the southern end of Union Square (along 14th street) This market invites to to slow down an wander through its aisles of stalls. With 300 vendors there is a lot to see. The aisles are a little tight, especially on a weekend when it gets crowded.

One vendor I liked was Spices and Tease. Their booth was lined with beautiful bowls of spices and teas. Much like a Middle Eastern bazaar, the spices were out in bowls. Colorful sights and wonderful smells.

Another vendor that caught my eye was Shangrila River. This company sells beautiful one of a kind pieces imported from Asia.

Carolers at the Union Square Market

The Winter Village at Bryant Park

Another big Holiday market is the Winter Village at Bryant Park. This is a much more modern looking market. Vendors are in glassed in stalls, aisles are wide, and the park is filled with tourists.At the center of the market is a skating rink that, on a Saturday afternoon, had a line that snaked through the park.
Juggling class at Bryant Park

Rock and Roll Chorus caroling at Bryant Park

I have been to both of these markets on several occasions over the years and enjoy them both, but Union Square definitely has more of a NYC feel, while Bryant Park feels more commercial and touristy. But next year come and try them both.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Holiday

I am taking this week off.  Enjoy your Holiday, I will be back next week with a new destination!

Friday, December 18, 2015

New York Cooking - Körözött

It is holiday party time and that means many of us are reaching for the instant onion soup and sour cream to make dip. I found an excellent and easy replacement - körözött. Körözött is a Hungarian cheese spread. In The New York Cookbook, Molly O'Neill gives a recipe from Andre Balog, manager at Paprikas Weiss, a spice store on the Upper East Side of NYC.

This type of cheese dip was common throughout the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. It can be made of a mixture of creamy cheese and goat cheese. Spices are added to give individual taste.
The heart of the dip is a mixture of 8 oz. of cream cheese, 4 oz. of Bryndza cheese and a stick of butter. To this mixture add paprika, onion and caraway seeds. Or mix whatever spices you might like. It is easy, fast and tastes much better that that old sour cream dip.

Serve on crackers, or a good, hearty peasant bread. This dip will be the hit of the party.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Real NYC #23 - Open Spaces in the Financial District

The Elevated Acre
As I have written in my last post about the Financial District, there has been a lot of new construction during the past 40 years. One positive aspect of all of these new buildings is that New York City has given developers extra floors in their buildings in return for open space and plazas.

Some of these open spaces are old squares and plazas dating back to colonial New York, some of them are just little spaces at the intersections of streets, and some of them are large, new spaces that just could not be there without the new buildings.

There is a wonderful little pocket park at the corner of Water Street and Pine Street. The park has benches for hanging out and a lovely sculpture by Taiwanese artist Yuyu Yang, called the East-West Gate.

A couple of blocks south from The East-West Gate, Water Street crosses Old Slip. Old Slip gets its name because it used to be a boat dock. Most of the old docks along the East Side of the Financial District were filled in using the rocks from constructing new buildings. Old Slip Park is has comfortable benches under shade trees. At the east end is the building 1 Old Slip, which was built as the 1st Precinct House of the NYC Police Dept. Today it is home of the NYC Police Museum.

Keep going south along Water Street and you get to the NYC Vietnam Veterans Memorial at 55 Water Street. The memorial was built in 1985. On one side is a glass wall inscribed with exerpts from over 200 letters home written by soldiers in Vietnam. Behind the wall is an amphitheater surrounding a reflecting fountain.

Also at 55 Water Street is the Elevated Acre. This one acre park has paths, sculpted lawns and areas that resemble wild growth. From its raised vantage visiter can get a good look out to the East River.

If the weather is good, these open spaces become magnets for those who work in nearby offices. The streets are crowded with food trucks and people come out and enjoy the open air along with their lunch.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

St. Augustine: The Hotel Alcazar - City Hall - The Lightner Museum


St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America. It was also the original home of Florida tourism. Henry Flagler was one of the founders, along with John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews, of Standard Oil. However when his first wife became ill, Flagler traveled to Jacksonville FL. After she died, he remarried and moved to St. Augustine with his new bride.

File:Portrait of Henry Morrison Flagler.jpg
The Cyclopaedia of American biography, 1918
Flagler quickly saw that Florida could become a tourist destination for the rich of the northern United States. To facilitate this he built his first hotel in St. Augustine - The Ponce de León. Today this masterpiece is the heart of Flagler College. He also purchased the Florida East Coast Railway to provide passage south from Jacksonville.

File:1913 Florida East Coast Railway advert.jpg
Advertisement from 1913
In 1887 Flagler built The Hotel Alcazar, as an overflow hotel for the Ponce de León. The two hotels sat across the street from each other. The building is based on the Alcazar Castle in Seville Spain

File:SOUTH FRONT, VIEW FROM THE TOWER OF THE PONCE DE LEON HOTEL - Alcazar Hotel, 75 King Street, Saint Augustine, St. Johns County, FL HABS FLA,55-SAUG,43-3.tif 
Today the Hotel Alcazar is a multi purpose building housing St. Augustine's government offices, some commercial spaces and the Lightner Museum.

The Parking lot in the photo above has been replaced by a beautiful public space surrounding a fountain and a statue of Don Pedro Menendez, founder of St. Augustine.

Park in front of City Hall

Statue of Don Pedro Menendez

Entrance to the Building
 As you enter the building you pass through a walkway to beautiful courtyard.

At the far end of the Courtyard is the Lightner Museum. In 1932 the Hotel Alcazar closed, and the building was bought in 1947 by Otto C. Lightner, the Chicago publisher, to house his collection of Victorian era pieces. 

But pieces does not do justice to this collection. There is a room devoted to music boxes - but think player pianos.

Some of the "music boxes"

 Also a room for Natural Sciences:

They have also set up exhibits as a Victorian street with store fronts representing different types of collectibles:
Doll Houses

Tobacco Jars
 The Lightner Museum occupies what were the health facilities of The Hotel Alcazar. They have left some of the facilities intact including an old steam room.

In its time The Hotel Alcazar must have been a splendor. There are very few of these "grand hotels" left to see. I am really glad that this building still exists.