by Rita Ireland
New York City can be a daunting city to explore because it is so huge and expensive. With a 40th wedding anniversary to celebrate, and other cities and countries under our belt, my husband and I wondered why do we keep ignoring this grand city? Was it fear of being in such an overwhelming place? Maybe. But, all that changed this fall when we spent twelve glorious days there. Here are our suggestions:
1. Get busy. Start researching months ahead. Lonely Planet’s New York City was our guide. Online resources like Rough Guide to New York City and Trip Advisor also provided insights. We first created personal lists of our top fifteen things to do - culminating with a new list and a quest to understand “while in that neighborhood, let’s see….”
2. Get goin’. Use credit card miles to obtain cheap plane tickets, of course; or sign up for fare tracker websites like Kayak so you are alerted to deals. JetBlue has consistently lower prices. JFK Airport is the least complicated to reach the city - take the AirTrain for $7.75. And LaGuardia’s NYC Airporter bus is currently $13.
As for new Broadway shows, tickets are hard to get. But, if you purchase from home, you can relax. When there, many long-running shows can be booked for half the price for a next day performance. Lines at Times Square could be unnerving, so head over to the less crowded ticket booth in Brooklyn: http://www.nytix.com/Broadway/DiscountBroadwayTickets/TKTS/.
3. Get creative where you stay. Why pay $350-$500/night in a Manhattan hotel when you can stay in a private home for $180? Using AirBnB (or VRBO) in a neighborhood provides a quieter, homey feel. How about Staying in Brooklyn Heights in a historic brownstone on the top floor with a private entrance? Fantastic! A few blocks from the home where we rented a room was the new Brooklyn Promenade overlooking the breathtaking Manhattan skyline. Subway lines into the city were easy.
4. Get down. Down into the maze of subways. Forget expensive taxis or Ubers. Save money for dinners and plays by using the easy subways. They are cheap, ubiquitous, clean, and crime-free. Free music by buskers is a bonus. Buying an Unlimited METRO pass for a week provides a smart, flexible plan. Avoid buying the pass at crowded Grand Central -- any subway entrance will do.
5. Get moving. Just start walking. Pedestrians are so colorful: it’s a plethora of United Nations, wide-eyed tourists vs. fast-walking Wall Streeters, friendly vagabonds vs spiky-heeled models. Blocks are long: ithe workout is a good way not to feel guilty buying an eclair. Head over to Chelsea to walk on top of an old railroad, called the High Line, a creative path that winds its way through gardens, food vendors and public art.
Biking provides a fun perspective of Manhattan too. Rent a bike from a vendor near the free Staten Island ferry - Battery Park, then ride up the flat Hudson River Trail - to the majestic One World Trade Center- more than the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, its park below is a most reverent reflection of 9/11. If energetic, bike all the way to irresistible Central Park. Then simply return bikes at the park to the same company. Take advantage of the food trucks at the southwest entrance - best juicy gyro ever!
5. Get lost. Where to go? Flip a coin. Or,I instead of taking the subway one way, go the opposite. Locals are so friendly -- we were often asked if we needed help. Serendipity fosters unique memories. Explore a new ‘hood. Harlem is gentrifying, but you’ll be wowed at Streetbird - Chef Marcus Samuelson’s funky restaurant. Or saunter into a Carnegie library, a garden, a Jewish deli like famous Katz’s, or a tiny one filled with locals -- even better. Walk past a Jamaican joint in the Bronx. Ahh, smell the spices and find a booth. It’s the opposite of standing in lines, where there is stiff competition for The Today Show, Jimmy Fallon, or the Knicks. But it’s authentic.
6. Get dressed. Dressed up, that is. What a thrill to get all decked out for an early dinner in the city, a few blocks from your Broadway show. Unlike your comfy hometown, it’s time to add the dazzles, a quirkiness, or a tie, and get swanky! How often do you feel a bit luxurious? Take in a jazz club, an alfresco cafe, or a late-night cocktail at a local pub or the cigar bar at Manhattan’s Peninsula Hotel?
6. Get over it. When traveling, someone is bound to make a wrong move. “Damn….that subway line was on the other side.” Make a pact of quick forgiveness - and move on. Mistakes will be made, but the cool part will be how fast you can laugh or shrug it off. It could be your best story when you get back home.
7. Get inside. The ambience of Manhattan’s majestic New York Library, the art deco of the Chrysler Building, or solitude in the cathedrals: it’s all so ethereal and breathtaking. And the art museums! The smaller Guggenheim and The Frick are easier to manage. But, oh….save a day for the incredible Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA. Lines are shorter in the early afternoon. Here’s our win/win: we leave each other for a while to go our own pace, meet for lunch, separate again, and later show each other our favorite pieces. If off-beaten art paths are your delight, the Chelsea area has weekly exhibits in such fun spaces. http://www.art-chelsea.com
8. Get transformed. Bask in the imagination of creative writers, artists, and politicians over the last two centuries to sift through your head. If you read their histories you may appreciate the beautiful lives which came before you, such as the architects of the Brooklyn Bridge. Stop to hear a local writer at a bookstore which could lead to hearing of an idea you didn’t plan on, which dominos to discovering another part of the city: taking the train to the Bronx! Ahh, the impressive botanical garden is there —with a Frida Kahlo exhibit and a women mariachi band - amazing! Where else, but New York City.
Let the unpredictability of new routes and experiences take over and fill you with awe. Take subways, stroll in parks, and dine at local spots-- this melds your tourist identity into shades of a local. Savor the transformation, take it slow with a sip and a stir.
© Copyright 2017 Rita Ireland
by Tori Peters
I must admit that I have never been a geology enthusiast. During my undergraduate years, I was required to take an earth science course. I chose geology; I can’t remember why. Maybe because the time for the course fit into my schedule better than the geography class. This is where I confess that I earned a “D” grade in that class because I refused to memorize the rocks. As an English major more interested in literature and writing than rocks, I figured if I really wanted to know a rock’s name or what it was composed of I would buy a field guide to help me. Age and travel have a way of tricking me back to geology. Rock names don’t interest me but weathering, anticline, synclines, tectonic forces do.
When Jo, Tom, and Lois, California friends, suggested that we take a road trip to include visits to Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon National Parks. I jumped at the opportunity. Jo and Lois set the itinerary and made reservations. Tom would be doing most of the driving. I bought Your Guide to the National Parks by Michael Joseph Oswald so that I could educate myself on what we could do and see at each park. In the chapter about Grand Canyon, I read about the Grand Staircase. Oh, that is interesting I thought. What exactly does this mean?
Millions and millions of years ago as Earth tried to figure out her role in the universe and after a high mountain range as high as the Himalayas eroded away, deposits of sedimentary materials from the ever changing landscape in this area that we know as Utah and Arizona, layered one on top of another. Earth’s fractured crust, like most humans, does not sit still. It bumps into one another pushing, pulling apart, and sliding. The land tilts up, folds under, or slides one way or the other. These actions cause the layers of collected sediment to look like a layered cake that has slipped around on runny frosting. I have felt earthquakes, I know how this can be both fascinating and scary. Imagine then the Colorado River and her tributaries eating their way through the layers. The waters carry sedimentary rock down river as they dig deeper and deeper into the earth. Canyons are formed. I wish it were this simple but it isn’t.
I read that Clarence Dutton, an American geologist and Captain in the Army, traveled with the John Wesley Powell expedition to explore the Colorado Plateau. As he looked north from the Grand Canyon, he noticed that the geological landscape formed a geological staircase. The top layer, the top step, he called the “Pink Cliffs” and first step. This became Bryce Canyon National Park. The bottom geological layer at Bryce is the top layer at Zion National Park, and he called it “Grey Cliffs”. The third step, the White Cliffs, is the bottom geological layer at Zion and the top layer at Grand Canyon National Park. I have to admit that I had to think about this for a long time. I understood the words that I read, and I could picture the staircase in my head. Did I really understand?
We did not plan the trip with the idea of the geological Grand Staircase. We drove to Zion first. It was probably on our way to Zion that I mentioned the Grand Staircase to my friends. They thought it an interesting concept, but travel experiences and politics dominated our conversation. At Zion National Park, I was more interested in hiking to Angel’s Landing and astonished at the different colors, so different than Western Washington, then the geology of the canyon. Because I thought it might help us understand the sights that brought forth “oohs and ahs,” I bought a book at the gift store titled Geology Unfolded: An illustrated Guide to the Geology of Utah’s National Parks. The book explained the Grand Staircase and Hoodoos. Don’t you love saying that word, “Hoodoo?” It cries to be the subject of a song. A hoodoo is the result of varied sedimentary material layering one on top of the other, forces of plate tectonics stressing the layers, and climate and water eroding those layers. The finished product, “hoodoo,” named for its strange human or goblin shapes, create a rare and beautiful nature sculptured landscape
We became Hoodoo paparazzi before we even entered Bryce Canyon. Our camera’s clicked at any rock sculpture that looked like a Hoodoo. At Bryce I had to remind myself to stop taking pictures and to experience the beauty around me. The fact that we were walking on the top stair of the staircase entered our minds, but the hoodoos had our attention. Every once in a while one of the four of us would mention the staircase or ask to read the Utah geology book to try and take in the information.
The geological variation on the long drive from Mesa Verde to the Grand Canyon entertained our imaginations. We arrived at the eastern end of the South Rim around 3:00 P.M. At our first stop, Desert View, we explored “Indian Watchtower” designed in 1932 by one of America’s early women architects, Mary Colter. From the terrace and the tower, we had our first sight of the Grand Canyon. I was not disappointed with Mary Colter’s Watchtower but with the view: hazy sky, massive landscape, crowded, and not as intimate as Zion and Bryce.
The next morning, we hiked a section of the Bright Angel Trail. The shadows of dark threatening rain clouds chased each other across the canyon walls. Walking down the trail looking at the colored rock layers that made up the cliff faces, I thought about the Grand Staircase and the geological layers. Like a private library with books piled on top of each other these layers contained stories of wild weather, earthquakes, and of life itself evolving. A vision of my childhood visits to my grandmother’s came into my head. I loved pulling out the few photo albums that she kept on an old oval oak table in the living room. I would carefully study the pictures looking for familiar resemblances and trying to make meaning out of this business of life. As the first drops of an historic rain storm (Apparently it never rains in Arizona in June.) touched my hand and then my arm, I thought, “Ah, these geological layers are like my grandmother’s photo albums.” Piled one upon the other, they hold the mysteries and secrets that Earth has been collecting since her creation. At that moment I wished for the knowledge and the time to read the layers of the geological Grand Staircase and the three parks that are keepers of Earth’s stories in that part of our world.
© Copyright 2017 Tori Peters