Woodbury Common Shopping Outlets NY

Over the last few years people have been raving on about the Woodbury Common Shopping Outlets in New York. They are about two hours North of Manhattan so you really need a car to get there or you can catch the bus from Times Square for around $30.

I have had mixed reviews from people so I was always undecided whether to go. Some people say that the clothes weren’t from that season or that they make specific lines for the factory outlets only. Others said it was fantastic and they couldn’t wait to go again. I wanted to see for myself, so one day on our way back to Canada, we decided to stop in.

The first thing I noticed was how big the entire complex was which of course was accompanied by a massive carpark to cater for all the shoppers. There are maps to find your way around and it is like an outdoor plaza with different shops everywhere. There are a few basic food courts and toilets but the highlight is certainly the shops. I think the key to the place is making a list of the stores or labels you are interested in and go to those stores first. If you have time and haven’t spent all your money by then, you can go and see the rest.

We got there late so we had limited time before it closed but it was fantastic. I love G-Star, and Diesel so when I found those stores I loved it. The prices were affordable and I saved a lot on products that would usually cost a lot more.

G-star in Australia is so ridiculously expensive and I found that the same jeans they had inside the store were the same jeans they were selling in the city so it certainly wasn’t the season before. I think it is worth the trip with a big suitcase and money to spend.


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Italian Food Centre NY

I love heading down to Little Italy in downtown New York City. It’s a nice spot to visit during the day, and even better at night. In the whole time I lived there, I never went to eat at the Italian Food Centre which a restaurant/Bar on the corner of Mulberry St, Manhattan.

When we were there, it was autumn and you could still sit outside. In the past two years, there has been this big move to serve cocktails in old glass jars. I like the idea to recycle things for use.

We ordered the scallops for entree and they were fabulous. The meat balls were tasty but the scallops were the real winner. We shared the pizza and that was great too but the photos say it all when it comes to imagining food.

If you are in the area, check it out next time you are in town as its groovy. The inside of the restaurant looks like an old warehouse style that they have renovated. It’s funky.

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Driving and Parking in NYC

I drive down to NYC when I need to go because it is easy to get there from Canada. When you drive, you get to see some of the cool buildings and tunnels around Manhattan. I must warn anyone that visits New York. If you have to drive, be careful and make sure you are confident to drive there. Many cars and taxis don’t indicate and I really can’t understand how they don’t have more accidents.

Secondly, be weary of the tolls. They cost a fortune. If you get the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey to NYC, be prepared to pay $13.50 US to use it. That’s correct. Rip off. The Ferry across and back costs $18 if you go and come back on the same day, so it is an option, however if you drive, consider traffic and do not leave NYC via the Holland Tunnel between 4-6pm. I left at 4pm, for what should be a 20 minute journey, and I arrived 3 hours later due to traffic. Not a cool thing to sit in. There are car parks around the place to park your car but you are paying exorbitant prices. There is a carpark on Centre and Hester Street, Chinatown and it is approximately $36 for 24 hours. This is actually a really cheap deal for NYC so if you are heading to Chinatown / Little Italy and you are considering driving, then park there. Warning in advance, in any parking location in NYC, if they tell you to collect your vehicle at 1:04pm, than make sure you get there five minutes before and have them swipe your ticket to pay before that time spot clicks you even a second over, because you will get charged anywhere from $20 to $50 more.

Another thing to note is the parking metres. They are called Muni Metres (My Greek friends would love these parking metres, because Muni means Vagina) Clearly the council Mayor was not a greek person. Anyway, the reason there are strict clearing zones is because of the street sweepers. They come twice a week and you mustn’t leave your car there as it will get you a tow and hefty fine. The street cleaners do not come on US Public holidays so if you are parking in NYC, than the parking restrictions don’t apply for that day.  you still need to pay the meters if it says to pay, but you won’t get kicked out or fined on those days.

Below are some of the quick shots I took recently that I just liked for business purposes. I can see the images and location spots appearing in future film projects I may take on.

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Pier 66 Bar NYC

This place is bloody awesome mate. In true Aussie terminology. In summer time, you must get down here on a weekend. It is Pier 66 Maritime. Located off West St, along the Hudson River.

There is a fairly long line to get in that stretches along the fence line of the Hudson River. Don’t let that out you off though because it moves pretty fast. There is a big boat and deck out off the pier and as you enter and walk through the wooden deck walkway, you are greeted by security and id checks. Once you get through, you have a choice to go onto the red and white boat on the left to eat some food and relax, or you can find a seat and table along the bottom deck and mingle, socialize etc. The back deck section is more of a sit down and get served area. If you sit around the bar and sides of pier, or go upstairs to the upper deck area, you can find a little round table and chairs and go to the bar to order your food, drinks etc. A bucket of 6 beers is the most popular choice of beverage as they just serve it that way with ice to keep it cool. A very cool place and everyone there is in a great summer, mingling mood. I just loved the experience of being in that atmosphere. I am certainly eager to  get back there when I’m back. Next time, I will go with a group of people and let loose and enjoy the time.

The food was good too. You can order burgers and fries and typical food like that however, I ordered the blackened salmon with salad and it was fantastic and tasty. When you go to the bar and order, they give you a buzzer and when it vibrates, you go to the back bar and pick up the food. They have trays in case you are carrying too much.

I got my usual cosmopolitan cocktail and I recommend asking for the better quality vodka. It is usually only $1 extra and much better. They serve the cocktail in small plastic glasses and they don’t last long so if you drink beer and wine, I suggest that is the better option to make your drinks last more.

The place has an industrial rustic type look. Old wooden steering wheels lying on steel pipes. I took some shots of the place when I was there to show you.

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The toilets downstairs. Freaky part is, the steel walls have holes in them so the person next to you can see what your doing from your butt downwards. Not cool. Beware.

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Security checking people as they walk through the entrance.

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Wall St and Downtown NYC

If you head downtown to the financial district in New York, you will get to see some things that you have probably heard people mention throughout your life. One is Wall Street, being the stock exchange hub of the world, and the other being shopping.  When you head down there, you can go and see the grand building of Wall St Stock Exchange and the big statue of George Washington standing proudly facing the Stock Exchange. If you can get around the tourists down there, all wanting to take photos standing next to George Washington, than you can breathe.

When you have taken enough photos, you can go to the 911 Memorial at the World Trade Centre and take a look. There are always a lot of people in this area so be warned not to be in a rush. If it gets too crazy, I suggest you walk a few blocks over and head to Century 21. This is a department store that has five levels of shopping. It stocks all the designer brands like Bonds, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Guess, Armani and everything else and you get to go through the different sections and purchase what you need. They have clothing, accessories, handbags, sunglasses etc. Don’t forget, the shoe department is in the building next door and you need a few hours just to get through that.

On the bottom floor. The basement floor is homeware products, towels etc.

I noticed that when I went a few weeks ago, the whole store had changed and the renovations had been complete. They now have all the clothing a lot more spread out and more presentable. There are registers on each floor and plenty of cashiers to buy your purchases. The experience has certainly been a lot better compared to how it used to be years ago. You will no doubt walk out with heaps of bags in hand so be prepared for a wait to get a taxi. If you catch the subway, the Cortland St subway is right there at the bottom corner of the street outside the store.

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Wedding Shopping in NYC

Who can beat shopping in NYC. I mean, women and men from all around the world go there to get bargains and a great selection of designers at your feet. Wedding shopping is not different. You just have to google wedding shops in NYC and a choice of many pops up. This is some of the selection I got in my last google search.

 

This is a typical card you get with info on the back of what you are getting. Hide it and take it around with you so that you can compare quality and price from other places. The diamond district in NYC specializes in jewellery for weddings but be careful because the price they give you when you walk in could mean half of that when you negotiate. If you pick a diamond around the F grade (better) or G grade, it is a better diamond. The different types of clairty determines if the diamond is clear or more yellowy looking. Can’t beat NYC Prices. Rings that are valued at $6000 are on sale for a weekend for a third of the price. 

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Make sure you have your subway map with you so you know where you are going. 
When you have enough shopping, choose a friend and go and get a drink. If you are in times square, go to Dallas BBQ for a cocktail only. Unless you like fried food, then order food, but if you want to keep slim for your wedding, I suggest just drink a cocktail.

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When you taste these cocktails, You may even get excited like Kelly did. Love my friends.

 

 

Stowe Mountain Lodge Vermont

I stayed at the Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont recently. It is a skiing resort. I thought I might actually be able to get some writing done there but I couldn’t. It wasn’t because the place was no good, in fact, quite the opposite. It was busy, there were young people everywhere and very energetic and keen to get on the slopes to ski. As a skiing resort it is perfect, but to write, I couldn’t concentrate so my time there was cut short. I did however get to enjoy the surroundings and swimming in the heated pool whilst watching the skiiers glide down the slopes.

The Mountain lodge is located between New York and the Canada Border in Vermont. It is a nice drive to get there but if it is snowing, you really need to be careful. It has professional ski slopes that are really steep and I wouldn’t dare go down them. On the other side of the resort are the beginners slopes and there are lots of families skiing there. The food at the resort is good. I can’t say it’s fantastic after coming from Mohonk Mountain House for six weeks but it was still good. The room was definitely bigger and better though so it was a nice change.

This is a shot of my room at the lodge.

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Trump Soho NYC

Trump Hotel is located on Spring Street, in New York, Soho. I love this hotel. It is in a great location downtown and there are great boutiques and shopping near enough along Broadway etc. The view of the city is great. You really get to see how big New York City actually is when you take your time and take in the view. At night, the lights are magnificent. I love the view and that alone is worth the reservation. It is best to ask for the room where you can see both the city view and the Hudson River as you get the best of both sides. They have a nice private SPAA facility there. I got the Moroccan Hammam with my partner and it was absolutely a great experience.

They make you change into these tiny disposable black undies and you lie down next to each other on a solid cement round bed. They throw warm water on you both from these silver heating pots. They have towels on you and they scrub your body down and throw more water over you. The whole experience is really enjoyable and I highly recommend it.

We ordered room service in the Hotel and they bought dinner in and set it up for us. We ordered Sea Bass with a side of greens, a tuna appetiser and a side of fries with Herbs.

The whole delivery was magnificent and it always goes down nicely with some Champagne rose. The whole experience was fabulous and truly memorable.

Here are some pictures below of the room and view and us in the taxi.

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Karma Road Cafe New Paltz NY

Karma Road Cafe is on New Paltz Road, New Paltz. It makes organic food of all types and they make really nice fresh vegetable and fruit juices. I go down there alot to eat their food. It is a pretty relaxed atmosphere and the staff are really friendly and serve you with smiles. It is such a nice change from some other places. I recommend if you are in the area that you stop by and pop in. They have these great vegetarian burgers and they are tasty. I had a falafel wrap today with hummus, avocado, tomato and lettuce. It was great. They make nice muffins also with blueberries and choc chips.

 

Krause’s Chocolate New Paltz, NY

Chocolate heaven is what I call Krause’s Chocolate. They are in New Paltz, New York and worth getting the chocolate delivered and even worth the drive. It is amazing when you combine all the different sorts of chocolate they have for variety. The box below is what they serve the chocolates in. There are all different sizes and when you have your chocolate selected, they are weighed.

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These below are my favourite chocolate in the shops. On the far left are the Dark Chocolate caramels. The caramel inside is dark and in between tough and soft. It is a darker coloured caramel inside and delicious. The square chocolates in the middle are called caramellow. They are Dark Chocolate on the outside and inside they have white marshmallow on the top and on the bottom is a thick caramel that’s beautifully soft. It feels sensational. The chocolates on the right are dark chocolate with coconut and they are amazing. They are called Coconut Toasties. I think that is because they toast the coconut on the outside making it lusciously tasty. The entire shop has a huge selection of chocolates as seen in the photos below but these three are my favourites. I love Dark Chocolate and the chocolates you see below are also available in milk chocolate.

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Mohonk Mountain House 3 NY

This is the third and last blog about Mohonk directly. It is Mohonk Mountain house and it is in New Paltz, Upstate New York. I have loved my time here and these shots below have been taken over the past few weeks and some on the weekend of my birthday. I came to Mohonk with the intention to write a book in my own time whilst enjoying the area, and I have accomplished that goal. The special factor around that book was that I wrote it at Mohonk Mountain House and I felt very inspired by the area, and the energy that the place house surrounding it. It may have something to do with the old burial ground nearby but it is a real lovely place to come visit. You can also Ice Skate too but if you are like me, and haven’t ice skated for a while, I would go slow or else you may just face plant onto the ice and feel sorry for yourself afterwards hehe.

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New Paltz Post Office NY

I now have more faith in US postal services since visiting New Paltz Post Office. The staff were friendly and inside the post office they had a section as seen in the photos, set aside for envelopes and things to pack up a parcel rather than line up first for ages and then get the envelopes and then line up again. Maybe it is because it is a smaller country town but they really need to put this system in the city stores. It makes more sense. When they run post offices like small businesses and allow people to buy and purchase things inside, it makes business alot better for them and adds more variety and interest for the customers. The staff were really helpful and it was great.

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Pedicure NYC

Who doesn’t enjoy a pedicure. When I came to NYC it really took me a while to settle in. I wasn’t used to the winter and I would say to myself why bother getting the toes done when I walk around with a million layers of clothing but it isn’t about that. It is about feeling like a woman, feeling good and a little pampering doesn’t go astray.

I’ve found this place on Mott St, Near Prince St and they are a really clean business. Many asian women and men inside ready to treat you. There is this one girl in the pictures below who does a really great job waxing and I would go again.

They charge heaps though. I had a good wax and a pedicure and it cost $200. Pretty steep because that doesn’t include the tipping which is 15%. Anyway, I am just glad I have found a place that is nearby and does a good job I am happy with. When I went to another local place nearby on the Little Italy end, I really thought the woman had waxed my flesh out. I was traumatised. Thought I would show you some photos of the place and the woman in the place.

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Tammany Hall NYC

The thing that I like about NYC, is that when you go out to places at night for a drink or dance, it is all underground. It is like this secret party society network. It’s amazing, if there is no more room on earth, that is okay, let’s just dig down and create a while new world underneath. Well, that is what it feels like anyway.

My friend Nikkis birthday was on and we went for a great dinner in a group and then she wanted to go to a place called Tammany Hall. It is in the East Village I believe. You go underground and there is this cool wall full of pictures and a narrow corridor where I took some funny photos of Nikki and then we went into the club. An average looking bar really and downstairs section but it was intimate once it filled up a little.

What I really liked was the little section upstairs. It was like a private room but you could look over the balcony to downstairs and just ‘people watch’ really.

We had fun dancing and being clowns. On the ceiling upstairs as well, they had this great wall paper of cool images of cameras etc that looked illustrated and with the dim lights shining on them, the place just looked really cool.

Here are some shots below to share the night. My friend Nikki really has this obsession with beards and moustaches so she put on this beard whilst we were walking to the club. Quite entertaining really. As I say, ‘each to their own’. hahahah.

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Mohonk Mountain House 2 NY

This is to follow on from my last blog and show you more photos about Mohonk Mountain House in upstate New York, in the town of New Paltz. The place is just stunning when you see it at different time of the day and through different weather patterns.

This is my favourite part of the whole place. The 25m indoor pool area which is part of the SPAA facilities. This section of the building was only added in the past ten years. It is just divine to swim in a pool that is so nice and warm and outside it is snowing. It’s kind of surreal but just great and I love writing from in this room too. Very inspiring.

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Mohonk Mountain House NY

I am in Mohonk Mountain House for a period of Six Weeks. Most people stay here for a few nights because it is so luxurious and it is an old Historical Castle resort originally built in 1875. There is an old Indian burial ground nearby from when the area was invaded by the Dutch years ago and the tribal people were overtaken. You know, that isn’t the accurate description so maybe it’s best to read up on the history of it. I have put a link here on the Mohonk Mountain House for anyone who wants to look it up or book to stay here.

View from my room below. This is the lakeside view room and at the moment, you can see the lake with a sheet of ice covering it.

 

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Ebony Hillbillies NYC

I love catching the subway because of all the entertainment I find whilst waiting. One day I saw all these women and men walking around in wonder woman underwear and I wanted to know what they were doing but they wouldn’t tell me. I saw a news article later that said a movement had started one day a year where all these people in LA and New York get together for fun and and dress up, walking around the city in their underwear. Americans love dressing up. It is really funny.

This one day I went down there and I saw the coolest band called the Ebony Hillbillies and seeing it is my birthday, I thought I would share them with you because they are a really call black band and their energy is so much fun. They are so active and you can’t help but be energised and smile as you listen to them. Absolutely amazing.

Here is a link to a bit of their performance. Ebony Hillbillies for web

Below are some photos of them too. I love the Cello player. He had such a nice energy about him.

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Town of New Paltz NY

Driving upstate in NY, is a place called New Paltz. It is actually the town where Mohonk Mountain House is located. Mohonk is amazing and I love staying there. It is really pretty when it snows but as you will see by a photo further down, the snow can be a little dangerous when driving and accidents happens. I am always there to capture it.

New Paltz has everything you need really. Little country town feel, a local Chase Bank, and of course a local Star bucks and Mcdonalds and Burger King. It has a good sized supermarket with everything and you can tell you are out of Manhattan because everything is so much cheaper.

When you are right in the heart of the town, there are some great little different cuisine shops. Chinese, Thai, Japanese Sushi, seafood and pizza shops. There was even a Greek shop but I haven’t eaten there yet. I think when you have a greek background and you always have grown up with good greek food, it feels like an insult to my mother, if I was to eat at another greek restaurant. Okay, well maybe not that extreme. Maybe, it is the fact that most of the time, you will get disappointed because no one makes better greek food than my mother and relatives combined. Years of mastery.

Okay, back to New Paltz. The local deli is tiny but manages to have everything in there. It is cute and there is also a little cinema near the supermarket. I noticed they are big with their Yoga as I saw two huge Yoga centres along the way.

When I parked my car to stop along the way, I was with my partner and we went to pay for parking and it cost 25 cents. They have a 25 cent coin here and I just laughed. How affordable is that? If only we could pay that price for all parking everywhere.

The Bridge at the end of New Paltz to head towards Mohonk.

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Driving Upstate NY

Recently I have needed to come upstate New York to get out of the city and write. What a better way to do that then to drive away. I was headed for Mohonk Mountain House. I took some photos on the way because the day I was driving, it had started to snow and I am not used to snow at all so for me it was all very exciting and interesting and I am sure anyone reading this in the same boat will enjoy what I could see out of my window whilst driving. I was on the I87 which is the interstate 87 road and if you need to stop, you veer off and end up going through a little town to stop and eat something. The towns upstate are very cute and most of the people are really friendly too.

It is hard to believe that New York is actually this big. When I would think of New York, it would always be the city of Manhattan and the Bronx, and Queens. There is a lot more to it and it’s fabulous.

Photos below of the drive.

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Hudson in the Winter NYC

I love the Hudson River. It is such a beautiful part of New York. I have written a few blogs about it because I think it is picturesque. I was down there recently now that it is winter and I noticed that the sun sets a little more over to the left which changes the whole feel of the sunset. It is a beautiful spot anytime of year. My favourite is still the summer time because when the sun sets, it sets behind the buildings and changes the colour of the wooden posts. I still like it like this though so though I’d share these photos.

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Hachi – NYC

I like Hachi. I went there for my friend Nickis Birthday. It is at 185 Orchard St, Lower East Side. It is a Japanese infused restaurant. There were ten of us and it was a great night. Actually, I felt the service was very slow but I am unsure if that was because we were in a big group or not. We had to continuously tell them to take plates away and follow up on food.

The food was well presented. I was very disappointed that they only offered Saki, wine and beer as I don’t drink those things but apart from that, I enjoyed the food I ate. I had the salmon and it was great. The birthday girl is obsessed with moustaches so she organised moustaches for everyone to be able to click on your drinking straws. I have put some photos below to show you the food presentation.

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Momofuku – NYC

Momofuku Ssam Bar is located at 207 2nd Ave, New York. I went there with friends and had a great meal.

Momofuku can translate from Japanese as ‘Lucky Peach’. It is owned by the chef founder David Chang. There are several restaurants now in New York, Canada and Sydney.

It is a great restaurant and the food is really great. When I went initially, I noticed the ambience was quite dark and a colder feel inside but very cool and simply designed. You can see the kitchen from the end tables and the chef and kitchen staff are all presented neat with their white chef outfits.

It’s a nice night. I ordered a ginger cocktail infused drink that came out with one huge square ice cube and it had a sure bite to it. One of my friends was a chef and so she wanted to try many of the dishes. She had pre ordered the duck main and it was huge. It was well presented and plenty of food for three. In fact, we had so much left over that I took it to the homeless shelter on Bowery St Mission.

Here are some of the photos below of the food there and my two visiting friends. The way they infuse the flavours together was great and a mixture of textures in their ingredients also.

 

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Museum of Natural History NYC

What a great place to visit. So much to see and do. We entered through the subway section, so you need to catch the C train to 81st Street and then walk straight into the Museum from there. Doing it this way though, you don’t go through the main entrance. The cost is around $19.00 to enter however this is technically a donation. If you cannot afford to pay the $19.00, you don’t have too. As we walked in, we ate something in the cafeteria, then walked in. At first, we were thinking, What is the big deal about this place. Then we found the really cool spots where we walked to the dinosaur section and the found the African Mammal section. I was excited and it finally clicked to me why everyone was bragging about this museum and how great it is. We have nothing like this in Australia. It’s awesome.

Dinosaur Hands:

 

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These three pictures below are a taste of the African Mammal Section further Below. They look like paintings but they aren’t. They are window displays and inside they have animals that look real and seem stuffed and are built in their environments. It is the closest to seeing and experiencing the African animals without actually going. It is pretty amazing and my favourite part of the museum.


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The Ocean Animals Section: A really cool section too with a massive full size whale hanging from the roof which is the size of the entire room. You can lay on the floor and look up at the whale to feel the size of the whale above you. This place is so well set up. Loved it.

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This is a Malarial Mosquito. It is awesome the way it is magnified to see every little thing on it. Wow, wow wow. 

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This Museum is a must see coming to New York.

 

Subway Fun NYC

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subways:

 

There is alot of fun to be had around Subways. Every time my friends come to NYC, I show them around the Subways. Grand Central has heaps of shops. Some subways like 81 st have pictures on the tiles. Other places have random pictures that you can just stand in front of and take photos and the great thing in Winter, is it’s warm and out of the rain and snow. Here are some photos below of some fun Subway shots.

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Below if you look carefully, you will see a common rat located in the bottom of the track coming out of its hole in the wall. 7R1A0020 7R1A0139 7R1A0142 7R1A0144 7R1A0147 7R1A0149 7R1A0155 7R1A0156

Dave and Busters NYC

If you enjoy Time Zones, Fun Arcade Games, Video games, and indoor fun parlours but wish there were no kids there and you could have other adults around you. Dave and Beers in Times Square is the place to go. It has a bar, food and games everywhere. You buy a playing card and off you go. As you play, you collect tokens and then take them to a window to see if you win anything. I love the games in this place. They have Deal or no Deal, Wheel of Fortune, basketball and all the game shows on TV you can think of. Lots of fun for an adult arcade. So take good company and go have some fun. I loved Deal or no Deal and they make good cocktails too.

Here are some photos of the place.

Basketball

Basketball

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The Game below is air Hockey but with four sides to it so four can play. How cool is that. IMG_8396 IMG_8397 IMG_8398 IMG_8399 IMG_8400 IMG_8401

Outside Dave and Busters in Times Square. Local Jewish guy riding with advertisment behind him. IMG_8404 IMG_8405

 

Millennium Hotel NYC

Recently, I got to go into the Millennium Hotel, Broadway, located on 43rd St, off Broadway. It is right next to Toys R Us in Times Square. Very Central and an easy location if you are only in New York for a short stay.

The front foyer is well presented, taxis are easy to come by outside. The rooms are good. They are not as big as the rooms at the Hilton but they are a decent size. The views you get, are of the city buildings. The carpet in the hallways could probably do with a revamp as they seem a little old. The bathrooms are an average size. The bath tubs are those mid deep ones so if you plan on wanting a deep bath tub, you may want to check this first. There is a gym in the building but no pool. :(

Outside the hotel is the mirrored wall and it turns you into all sizes if you stand in front of it.

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View from the hotel. 7R1A1050

911 Towers Progress NYC

The First Twin Tower

911 caused so much devastation and then dispute over who was contributing to what in terms of the building of the twin towers that it has taken quite a few years to get it to this point.

I’ve been watching the progress and when I was in New York back in February they had barely started the second tower. Now they are progressing well with it. If you see the photos below, you can see the man power and huge cranes they are using to build. The gates below both towers are very high and you cant get in to the area. I have a great view when I stand outside it, right near Century 21 Department Store.

The Second Tower

A Different Angle of the second tower

The bottom of Tower One

 

Grand Central NYC

Grand Central is exactly what it sounds like – Grand. It is really beautiful inside and if you walk inside the main concourse section you will notice it will be very familiar to you. That is because it is featured in many movies. That is why it is exciting to be inside the main section to at least say you know what it is like to there. Well, I have been there quite a few times now and I enjoy stopping by each time. Just to see peoples faces when they stand inside it for the first time is very sweet. I took a few shot in there the other day I was there to share the main concourse room with you and also the actual subway area.

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Party City Store NYC

This store is so cool. It has everything you need for your party needs. It puts our Sydney party stores to shame. Now that it is Christmas and New Years time, they have rows of Santa Suits, a whole section of New Years Hats of all colours and some of their aisles are colour coded so that their feather boas and masks, plus everything else, are available in each colour.

When you walk in to the store, there is a whole Balloon section to the left that has every character in the US available for your themed party. To the right are lollies of all sorts in little containers and you can choose 15 for $1. It’s actually not a bad buy. Everything is such a good price. They have party cups, special occasion gear, and they even have everything party like for every football team, baseball team, soccer party sections and all the young kids favourite little character sections.

It’s awesome. I walked around taking photos for you to see what they have in there. This store makes me happy. It’s so bright and so spacious with lots of great vibrant things to choose from.

The Entrance

The Balloon Section

Santa Hats

Christmas Choices

Santa Suits to choose from

Garden Sticks, Scary

Masks

Masks are sectioned in Colors

The soccer accessories

Accessories, tiny glasses and skateboards finger size

Christmas Decorations NYC

I love visiting cities but I certainly like leaving the hecticness that a city comes with. Whether or not you are a city or person or not, you really cannot go past the joys of the efforts that people go to within the city, to make it feel like Christmas. The spirit in this city is alive. There are decorations everywhere. People ice skating under Christmas Trees, big sculptures of Christmas lights and baubles on Sixth Avenue and much more. Here are a few pictures below I took of some Christmas decorations I have come across around the city. Except the photo directly below. This is a photo I came across that I actually love so uch. I would love to own this and go and stay in it during Christmas time with a loved one. How perfectly romantic does that seem?

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Beacon Town NYC

Most people know that I struggle living in a city in terms of all the cement that surrounds it so the moment I get a chance to escape it, I do. This time I went to a little town called Beacon upstate New York. You need to catch a subway train to Poughkeepsie from 42 St / Grand Central Terminal. Tickets are $14.00 one way to get there and you can either get your tickets from the machine or from the ticket sale windows. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes on the train but it goes fast. If you are lucky enough to go during the day, and you sit on the left side of the train, you will be travelling along the river the whole way and it is so beautiful. In fact, during winter, the mountains have snow caps and it is very pretty.

My friend Kelly’s family live in Beacon so when I went there, we not only got to see the town, but also got to watch my now top ten movies “Les Miserable”. That is another Blog. By the time the movie was over, it has started snowing and the next minute, we are caught in a snow storm blizzard and ran into a beautiful little Tea Room, sipping lemon tea while watching the snow fall outside. I think I must have even shed a tear of joy whilst sitting in that cafe, reflecting on how fortunate I am to be experiencing this stuff and embracing every moment of it. I feel so alive right now and for that I am forever grateful.

There is an old train track in the town which I photographed and a little reservoir with a waterfull. It is like a mini Niagara Falls and with snow around on the floor, it really is picture perfect.

The town itself is very arty. There are alot of shops that have artworks and creative objects, Little cafes and a local bar, The whole place is really great. I totally recommend that you go visit the town of Beacon as it is well worth the trip there.

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The Waldorf Astoria NYC

What do you do when you are an adult orphan in New York City for Christmas and you want to have an experience to remember? The best Christmas present for me was to got to the Waldorf Astoria for a beautiful Christmas lunch with two dear friends in town for the week. You must book in advance but it is worth it. The building is so grand. Inside, you can feel the richness within the walls, the clocks, the decor and the atmosphere is very grand.

The food is presented beautifully. The chefs are well groomed and look sharp. The cutlery shines and the Christmas decorations makes it feel like an open palace home with people sharing a meal. The drinks are made with such precision that the mix is just perfect.

I took many photos to show you what the whole experience was like. I am so lucky to have had this experience and it certainly will be a memorable one.

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Century 21 Shopping NYC

Century 21 Department Store is absolute chaotic craziness. There are two stores. One in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn but the one in Manhattan, right across from the World Trade Towers and right outside the subway stop to Cortland St is the best one to go too.

From the beginning, it is best to separate your shoe shopping experience and the rest of your shopping from each other. There are two separate sections. Use the Footwear entrance to check out the shoes. It is much easier than trying to find out how to get there from inside the store. Then when you finish your shoe shopping, go to the other entrance next door to buy your clothing, Bags, perfumes, sunglasses, menswear, bedding, you name it, they have it.

It is basically designer labelled products at cheap prices. I went recently and realised they had done a total refurbishment. It looks a lot less chaotic on the first floor. Everything was spread out better and more organised and it didn’t look as congested as what it was like before. The trick to shopping there is to go first thing in the morning when it opens, avoid weekends and put aside half a day. You will need to filter through loads of crap to find pieces for yourself but when you do, you just fill up your carry around drag trolley.

Getting a taxi from there can be tricky but if you’re patient, they come.

The back entrance

The time in case you are running to make it

The world towers across the road

The ties

The New Counters

The Shoe Section Entrance

Shoe Selection

More Shoes

So, if you like the photos, makes sure you head down as this is seriously just a glimpse of the store. It’s huge.

 

 

Niagara Falls New York

Niagara Falls is a great place to visit. It is situated right on the border of the US, in New York, and Ontario in Canada. I had two friends with me so it was a good opportunity to get a car and split the cost while heading up and having the opportunity to stop by towns on the way up. Only drama is, when you use the GPS, it takes you along freeways and you really don’t see much of interest on the 7 hour drive up there. It can get boring as a drive however, with good company and plenty of chatting, the time goes by quickly.

The thing to decide is whether or not you will actually stay on the New York side of the border or the Canada side of the border. I had no choice, I couldn’t cross the border because of visa restrictions so I stayed on the New York side. The good thing though, was I chose to stay at the Seneca Niagara Casino so I had something to do and I managed to get a five star room for $85 that was really damn nice. I know you wouldn’t get that price on the Canada side. Probably for a good reason too. There isn’t much to do on the New York side so they know you will spend time and money inside the Casino, hahaha. I have been to Vegas and Sydney and Melbourne Casinos so when someone says Casino, I think “Casino”. Not here. It was tragic in terms of quality of games, people that attend (dress code very relaxed) and amount of great games and variety. People smoke inside the casino which sucks but apart from that, and the limited two eateries, the rooms were great. They may tell you there are great views of the rapids, but the truth is, you are too far away, and if you want great direct views of the falls, you need to stay on the Canada side. I didn’t care. I had an awesome camera and my idea of seeing the falls, is to physically walk there and take the shots of them myself and not outside a hotel window.

We went to the falls both days and from as many different spots we could find. We explored the whole area. My friends drove to the Canada side and took some shots from that side and looked around while i enjoyed a nice swim and spa in the hotel. A very relaxing get away from New York City. I enjoyed being right near the falls and being really close to it. Winter is a nice time to go as fewer people and you can take your time and enjoy the whole area without getting trampled.

Here are photos below of the hotel, the New York Side area which is really quite industrial looking and boring, but the main attraction is the falls and they are spectacular:

Plenty of Photos Below:

The road Trip

The road Trip

NEW YORK SIDE

The side of Falls

The side of Falls

View of rapids near Falls

View of rapids near Falls

Building off the Niagara River

Building off the Niagara River

The rapid before the Falls

The rapid before the Falls

The Aqua Jade colour in the water.

The Aqua Jade colour in the water.

The powerful water fall

The powerful water fall

The side of falls

The side of falls

Me at the Falls

Me at the Falls

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Boats in the River

Boats in the River

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The viewing Meter

The viewing Meter

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The edge of the fall

The edge of the fall

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Couple enjoying the Falls

Couple enjoying the Falls

The Rapids

The Rapids

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Sun is out reflecting

Sun is out reflecting

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CANADA SIDE

The River Water. Canadian Side

The River Water. Canadian Side

The viewing Deck, Canda Side

The viewing Deck, Canada Side

Canada Side Views

Canada Side Views

Canada Side Falls

Canada Side Falls

Canada River View

Canada River View

Canada Mist of Falls

Canada Mist of Falls

Birds near reservoir Canada Side

Birds near reservoir Canada Side

Canada Side Reservoir

Canada Side Reservoir

 

HOTEL

Casino

Casino New York Side

Hotel Room in Casino

Hotel Room in Casino

Pool inside Hotel

Pool inside Hotel

Pool area casino

Pool area casino

View of area around Niagara New York Side

View of area around Niagara New York Side

7R1A0295Above you can see the mist from the Falls. The view of the Falls from Hotel Window. Below is one of the Towns right near Niagara with Windmills everywhere used for energy.

Windmills on the way

Windmills on the way

Whatever you do though, when you leave and go home, do not eat take away at Arby’s. I ate it off the freeway and had the worst food poisoning ever. It was 24 hours of hell.

Caliente Cab Mexican Food NYC

Caliente Cab – Located at 61 7th Avenue S #1, New York 10014.

This restaurant is quite cool. Its two floors. The service is great and the atmosphere with good company is pleasant especially if you have one of their margaritas in a tall glass.

We ordered the Mango and Coconut Margaritas and also guacamole. The beauty about Guacamole is that the guy comes out with all these avocados, cut tomatoes and onion and makes the dish in front of you.

It’s great. It gets pretty busy so best to get there early. I love it when you walk in and they have a part taxi sticking out of the wall entrance. It’s cool and very reasonably priced too.

Making the Guacamole

Wall art

Making Guacamole again

Kim Kardashian Store – NYC

I was with friends the other night when someone mentioned that Kim Kardashian had a store in NYC. The next minute I know, we walk past it and thought I’d share my experience about it. It is called “Dash”. It’s at 119 Spring St, New York. There is a security guard inside it and as I began taking photos of the inside of the shop, security asked me not too. I had already taken enough by then.

My friend wanted to buy something from there for her little cousin who is obsessed with Kim K. I don’t get it, but anyway, each to their own right? So she bought her a little Keyring with Dash on it for $12. In Australia, I’m sure that would be $20.

The store presents well. Everything is laid out well. I sprayed her perfume and it was nice although I think the lady behind the counter was allergic to it as she couldn’t stop sneezing. Quite funny. The one thing I liked in the shop was the canvas painting on the wall. It was cool. Apart from that, the store is not my thing. There are some nice things in there though. I think everything is worth checking out once.

The Store – Dash

Security guard inside

My friend Rea in the store

The actual white keyrings

 

 

 

 

Buying Christmas Trees – NYC

Walking around the Upper East Side and Union Square and other major areas, you can’t help but walk along a footpath and experience a strong smell of pine and fresh trees from the recently cut christmas trees on sale in the area. It’s really a time when you realise you are in New York for Christmas.

There are a whole heap in a row and you pick, pay and take it home. They are a little taller than me. To get smaller ones, if you go to Whole foods, you can even buy mini trees in bags and they have a handful of decorations attached and twenty lights so you can out it up quickly in your home. They sell them in 19inch sizes and smaller. The 19inch trees are $19.95.

Here are some photos I took of the trees I came across outside in the footpaths. My experience with real trees in Sydney, is that they are alot floppier and not so rigid. It may be a climate thing. The trees here are so firm, that I seriously thought at some stage that the trees were fake by looking at them. I love the smell of the trees in a home. “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas”.

Upper East Side

My little Christmas Tree at home from Wholefoods

Union Square Trees

The red bases

Whole foods 19inch Trees $19.95 with decorations

 

Lead up to Christmas – NYC

Christmas in NYC is exciting. The lead up to it is exciting. It is very different from what I am used to back home. In Australia, I spend most of my time at the beach during summer, when I am not working on a film that is, and then Ill go and do a few shops, put a few trees up and that’s it really. I never look forward to Christmas that much.

Being here in New York though, kind of feels quite different. You can feel the energy in the air. The whole community and all the shops get ready for the christmas period. There are Christmas shows on every channel. It just feels like a special occasion here so I have a feeling that New York may change my mind about Christmas. Even the talk shows have Christmas themes on their shows every day. It’s a nice thing to be surrounded by people that embrace themselves around these special days. Whether it’s Halloween, an election, thanksgiving, or now, Christmas, each occasion is celebrated and embraced seriously in a joyous way.

I sit and wander whether or not it will snow on Christmas Day. For years I wandered what it would be like having a white Christmas. I may just get one although I kind of imagined that I would see a family around that Christmas Tree, and children, and carol singers etc. It would be great to experience a White Christmas with loved ones.

In Australia, we have a hot, sunny Christmas and it’s mostly spent by the pool, swimming, opening presents, eating alot of food, drinking all day and then just repeating that cycle until you have enough. Some days, you repeat it all over, the following day for Boxing Day. I asked an American the other day of they have Boxing Day and they had no idea what I was talking about. Clearly, they don’t celebrate boxing day.

I went past Macy’s and some other major shops like Bloomingdales and I love the shop front displays. They are awesome. I actually love walking around the city and just going to watch the displays. I also like walking into Christmas shops. They sell so many ornaments and such beautiful christmas decorations. In fact, it makes me want to buy a whole stack of them and take them back to Australia to have for future Christmas’s.

Below, are two of the shop displays I went past the other day. I’ll put more up when I come across them.

Christmas Display One

Christmas Display Two

Macy’s Believe NYC

Everyone knows about Macy’s and if you don’t, you should. It is a huge department store that has so many levels to it in NYC, you lose count after three. The one I mostly go to is on 34th St, New York. You need a map to get around and I recommend you take the escalators because the elevators are just hopeless.

The funny thing about Macy’s is the staff. When you go and buy something there, and you ask them if it’s on sale, they seriously think of ways they can give you a discount. They will pull Membership Sales, Pre Sales, Thursday sales, Black Friday Sales, Happy Saturday Sales, and half the time, I seriously think they make them up just to please their customers.

The products they sell are already much cheaper than what you pay in Australia so if you go there when they have a further 25% off, and then they take another 25% off, it’s great. It’s equivalent to our Myers or David Jones stores but cheaper.

Since Thanksgiving, they have run a huge Believe Campaign, and they have the word ‘Believe’ on everything. I love that word. When I see it on something, I feel like I can achieve everything I set my mind too. I’ve taken some photos outside the store and inside the store. I went just after the Black Friday Sales and it was seriously a packed house.

Outside the store with the Empire State building in the background with thick fog around it.

Inside the store

The Christmas Bauble with lights

Lighting of the Christmas Tree – NYC

Every year, there is a huge ceremony that is in place for finding a huge tree around New York and organising for it to be cut down, and then delivered and placed at the front of Rockefeller Centre Plaza between 5th and 6th Ave, between 48th and 49th Street. It isn’t just any tree. it is huge and they need a huge truck to take it to the spot.

This year, the tree was found in an area called Mount Olive and the owners of the tree and the local community love the fact that the tree is found and selected from their area. It is said that in the last two years, no money was given to the owners of the tree. It is just taken and used and it is more about the honour of having had your tree selected for the main spot.

Once the tree is placed, they spend one week, getting it prepared. There is a huge Swarowksi star on the top of it and then it is dressed with lights. One week later, which this year was on Wednesday 28th November 2012, the lighting of the tree ceremony occurs.

The Swarovksi Star

Thousands and thousands of people go to find a standing place around the rockefeller plaza to watch the show, hear the live performances from selected artists singing Christmas Songs and then be there when they turn the lights on the tree.

It might sound nice but I assure you, if you don’t go there early, like around 3 or 4pm and get a spot, or the most easiest way, is to buy an actual ticket into the plaza and be celebrating the whole occasion with the people watching the show in front of the tree. Well, as I was saying, if you don’t go there early, expect to be elbowed, or squashed, or fighting to get through the barricades to see the backs of peoples heads. It’s crazy and packed. In fact, it was the same around Thanksgiving Parade Time and I could imagine the same around New Years Eve where the ball drops.

Another thing you can do is actually see if you can get pre tickets into the Rockefeller Centre, where you can go up a few floors and have an amazing view of the ceremony.

The official show starts around 7pm when the singing starts and then you stand around until 855pm when they light the tree and everyone cheers.  I managed to find a spot with a decent view and took some photos before the tree lit up which I will attach to this below. It is a beautiful tree. When you are watching it, they shine lights on it.

The red lights flashing on the tree during singing

The whole plaza with decorations

Behind where I was standing, there were Christmas patterns on the building. It was real pretty.

Thanksgiving Day – NYC

Thanksgiving Day was great. The lead up to it was like Christmas. The Americans place so much importance on it. We just don’t celebrate it in Australia, although I don’t know why not. We seem to celebrate mostly everything else.

There was so much emphasis on Turkeys and where people were spending the day. It falls on a Thursday every year. This year it fell on November 22nd 2012. I decided to take up my first relatives offer and spend it with my fathers cousins. They are really lovely and warm and love cooking, which is great, coz I love eating.

I remember standing in the line at Trader Jo’s which was nearly to the front door because everyone was stocking up for Thanksgiving and looking at the big Turkeys for sale which were selling by the pound. I think, maybe 4.99 a pound. Who knows how heavy they are but some lady said that was a cheap price.

On the day before Thanksgiving, people generally head over to their family homes and start preparing the food and spending time with loved ones. I didn’t do that. I left for New Jersey the day of Thanksgiving but when I tried to get to the Ferry at the Port Authority, the whole 6th Avenue was blocked due to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, all the way down to 34the St, that they were not going to let me through. I had my camera on my back and started filming the parade. I’m glad I did. It was nice to experience both sides of Thanksgiving Day.  I couldn’t help but think of all the families affected by Hurricane Sandy and what they were doing but I tried to just focus on the thousands of people lining the streets and taking in the parade. I took a video on the day and made a small online film, and I called it “Gobble Gobble” (watch it via link) as my little cousins kid Alessandra kept acting like a Turkey saying “Gobble, Gobble”.

Anyway, back to the parade. They have these huge character balloons like Spiderman, blown up and held up in the air with lots of strings like a huge balloon kite and people underneath it are managing the balloon. It’s amazing that the balloons are the same size as some buildings. It is a great parade to take kids too because if you can’t see the floats walking on the ground level, you can at least see the giant balloons in the air. It’s awesome.  In fact, the night before the parade, if you wish to go and see the Balloon inflation, you can. Just look it up online and head to it to watch.

The actual parade ends on 34th Street and it starts up in the middle of central park. It goes from 9am until 12pm. Three hours and it’s very energetic. If you are not there early enough, the police wont let you through the other streets to watch. The police on all events are trained to place barricades and stop people going through if the crowds get too much. I pulled the whole “I’m Media” card which got me through.

Here are some Photos below of the Parade. I don’t know who all the characters are but maybe you can help me out with some.

Spiderman

Fireman Sam??

The Macys Ball

Sponge Bob Square Pants

Pirates of the Carribean with Whoopi Goldberg on the front

Green Dragon??

Papa Smurf 1

Papa Smurf 2

Papa Smurf 3

Not sure who this is

Diary of a Whimpy Kid 1

Diary of a Whimpy Kid 2

WORM??

Jar on a skateboard?? No idea who this is

Mickey Mouse

Macy’s Basketball

Astro Boy

Ronald McDonald

Macy’s Baseball

Caspers brother? No idea

Mother goose

Xmas Candy

Xmas Kid Santa

Xmas Santa

Who is this?

Elf

The theme of Macy’s Believe

Where the balloons ended up

My First Thanksgiving Dinner in New Jersey. The dinner was so tasty and juicy. They cook turkeys for six hours in the oven. It’s so tasty. I hadn’t had a proper home cooked sit down formal meal for a while and it was nice.

The Turkey Dinner

Cousin George with dinner

Its cold at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving and bday cake

Nice Desserts

 

Bridges in the boroughs NYC

Since I have been volunteering with Hurricane Sandy, I’ve been able to be out around New York City in a car, exploring the other bridges that I haven’t seen yet. The city bridges, like the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, I can see from the pier and I take photos down there but driving through them at sunset is really just beautiful to experience.

I’ll share with you the photos I took recently of the bridges whilst driving out to Breezy Point and the Rockaways from manhattan and back.

Going Under the bridge

Approaching whilst driving along

Sunset by the Bridge

Image of city as im driving and taking photo whilst driving…. Oops

Snow Storm in NYC

First Snow Storm Video in New York City…. Link here: Snow Storm – Computer

My first real thick snow storm, blizzard is what they call it. It’s November 2012, and I’m sitting in the Grind Office on Park Ave South when I look outside and it’s snowing. I squeal like a little child having seen something for the first time and then realise that everyone is looking at me thinking I’m having a spasm at something they don’t quite actually understand at. I’m like “Hello, I’ve never scene a blizzard snow storm before in a city”. I’ve seen snow before everytime I go to Thredbo or Jindabyne in Australia but not in the city. Infact it dawns on me now as to what Christmas, in fact a white Christmas would be like from this little snow storm.

 

The way the weather has been around here, it may not even snow much this winter. It didn’t last year so who knows if it will be a cold snowy Christmas.

 

So I decide to leave the office early and get out into it to feel it, and let the starry snowflakes fall into the palm of my hand and get caught in my curls. It was so nice. It was also very slippery which I noticed quite quickly I went from walking, to lifting my knees stomping along to decrease the chances of slipping, once the snow settles and turns icy.

 

Such a nice experience and beautiful moment that I got to share with myself and the few office people sitting right next to me listening to my excitement.

Outside the office on Park Ave South

The bike parked outside the office space

Icy Garbage Bags

Park Ave South facing down 29th St

Snow on the Road Barriers

Heading home outside Canal St Station

My little Chinese Midget friend walking home

The Snowy Fire Hydrants

Lafayette St Intersection

The Sidewalk

Footsteps in the snow

The cars covered

Centre St Carpark

The Centre St Car park

Max Brenner – NYC

This is definitely one of my favourite dessert places in Sydney, so when I came to New York City, I had to find it here and it is in Union Square, which as you know, if you follow my blogs, is somewhere I love and visit frequently. In fact it’s right opposite the Regal Cinema on Broadway (Between 13th and 14th St).

There are a few minor differences between Sydney’s Max B and NYC’s Max B. The menu here in NYC is alot more extensive. In fact, they serve breakfast as well, which I know isn’t done at all the Sydney venues. I believe there are more stores in Sydney than what there is in NYC. I have only seen one in my whole time here.

In Sydney, they also allow you to take away there milk or dark chocolate dipping sauce in little take away containers. They don’t let you do that in NYC. That is a shame coz sometimes I really enjoy taking those dipping chocolates home and sharing them as a fondue with friends. NYC does allow you to sample try their hot chocolate for free. You can do that everyday, and it’s set up for that. I don’t see that happening in Sydney.

I’ll share with you the photos of the Union Square NYC store which you will notice is also preparing for christmas and has christmas decorations around the centre of the store.

The entrance window

The chocolate pots

You can eat at the ordering counter

The Staff shirts

Jars in the walls set up

yummo

The Dark Chocolate Italian Hot Chocolate

The chocolate close up

Looking at the Shop from Inside

Christmas Decorations

Wall paintings

The Serviettes – Napkins

The Wall displays

Paying your bill

They come and give you the bill in this awesome tin. I haven’t seen that in Sydney either but it’s a really cool idea. I was here in the morning on this day because usually it’s quite packed inside.

This is the tin that they give you the bill in. How cool is that. You put your money in it.

The Bill TIn

 

The Chocolate Shop

This section is just inside the store before you go into the restaurant section and you can buy their chocolates etc as gifts. They have two people working this section generally.

The Chocolate shop counter

The Chocolate Shop counter decorations

Inside the Chocolate Shop Section

 

 

 

Trader Joe’s NYC

Love this supermarket. It’s the place to go for affordable supermarket shopping and very popular. There are heaps of them around if you know where they are located. None of the supermarkets are really stocked up with everything like Coles or Woolworths which Im used too. These ones just have a selection of things and everything they have is basically made by them as their own brand which is good. It is an interesting system though. The other supermarket I go to is Whole Foods but that is organic and the price of everything is alot more expensive so I guess you need to look at what you want and decide where to go. I’ve never seen such lines to wait for service in my life but the fact they have about 20 registers operating, and in some places more, the lines move fairly quickly.

A fact to know is that wine and beer can be sold at supermarkets in the USA. Spirits though must be sold at a liquor store for the licence.

The photos are the best way to describe the lay out of Trader Jo’s. My favourite items that I get from there is the nacho salsa mix which is tasty as a dip and they stock two of my favourite dark chocolates. The Coconut Bon Bons and the Dark Chocolate Caramels. Absolute bliss. Honestly, between Trador Jo’s chocolates and Max Brenners Dark Italian Thick Hot chocolate, no wander I can’t seem to lose any weight.

Turkey for sale for Thanksgiving

Getting a delivery. All bags are brown Paper Bags

Arrows so you don’t get confused which entrance to take

The checkout area. Around 20 checkouts

Some interesting points because it gets so busy. It’s NYC so you don’t generally get people doing big loads of shopping. Its mostly what people can carry out of there with their own hands. The line to the checkout splits in two. It starts to wrap around down the aisles so when it’s crazily busy like before a storm or thanksgiving when people are all out stocking up, the lines can literally start from the checkout and wrap all the way across the whole store to the fruit and vege section. In fact before the hurricane hit, the line was out the door and it was like a night club with security letting five people in once five came out. Crazy stuff. The line moves quickly. I tend to take my back pack when i go for a shop as then I have to get the subway home, which is all quite close but still, its easier to do little bits of shopping as you go. Totally different life style to what I’m used too, where you drive and fill huge trolleys up of food, which you then take home, wrap individually so you freeze things and put them all separately in the little freezer bags for a rainy day. Well, that isn’t really how it’s done in the city.

Fruit and vege section at entrance

So many employees working

A small range of Flowers

The bread Section

My favourite Chocolate section

The aisles

 

I had to secretly take these photos towards the end as one of the staff members told me I wasn’t supposed to take photos. Oh well, it was too late now after I had taken them and considering these photos are all for positive exposure, I’m saying it’s okay…

Holiday Market Union Square NYC

I love it when I stumble across all the things that New York has set up in each of it’s little suburbs to entertain people.  No wander it is the city you can never get bored in. This Holiday Market has been set up on November 16th until December 24th. It is basically in place from Thanksgiving until Christmas each year. Seeing it from above is amazing the way it’s set up.

The Market from Shot Above

Sturdy stalls set up as permanently as can be right around the main entrance to the subway and surrounding the end of the Union Square Park. It has little stores that sell everything. From unique items perfect for gifts to woollen products, tibetan products, clothes, bags, jewellery, artworks, creative things and designs, food stalls. There was this gourmet meat ball stall set up. Pretty bloody awesome meatballs as the home made sauces they made were quite tasty.

They stores are basically little set up stores from big shops so they already have customers and this is a great way to get themselves known. The amount of locals and tourists that also head down there to check out the stalls is great. It’s a really nice vibe. Enough of the writing, I’ll show you the photos.

The Market from the street in Red, White and Green for Christmas

The stalls set up

The Puppet Shop

The Union Square Subway entrance

Awesome Bag shop called Insiders at Insiders1.com

The Buddha shop

The Buddha Stall other end

The back walkway behind the stalls

Such a cool shop. I bought finger puppets from here

These cards are cool

The fruit and veg market next to it

Mini Pumpkins

The Crowds

 

 

Citi Pond Bryant Park NYC

What happens to NYC’s Parks in Winter? I mean what do people do with them? It’s too cold to sit in them, and the grass is probably all wet too. In Bryant Park, on 5th Avenue, they put a big Ice Rink on there. People can go into the park for free and then they can watch or buy things in the stalls that are set up at the beginning and enjoy their lunch breaks looking around. They have music playing and enough light to see what’s going on. It’s very pretty. It’s just been set up and so I managed to go and photograph it before the crowds actually start using the rink. The whole thing is set up until March 3rd. A long winter ahead.

The Welcome Citi Pond Sign

Skating by the city

I must admit, I love NYC in the winter in terms of things to do. We really don’t have much to do when it’s winter in Sydney. It’s not cold enough to warrant ice rinks everywhere. It doesn’t snow. We can’t use our beaches so I guess, what do we really do? Visit friends, go to the movies, have dinner parties and I guess that’s why we all have lots of friends and great relationships because we enter each others lives and homes and be a part of each others lives. They don’t do that here. It isn’t normal to go to people’s homes. Everyone meets out in a bar or for dinner. No dinner parties etc. I miss having get togethers and having my friends visit etc. It’s such a warm thing to do.

Below are the photos of the stalls set up that you can go and shop at, right at the entrance of the park next to the ice rink.

Crime Scene NYPD NYC

Everytime I walk down the street, there is always something of interest to capture. Something to look at. Usually there are films going on in laneways, homeless people walking around, people shopping, people trying to sell you stolen or fake goods. On this day of the election on Tuesday 6th November, from 1:15pm, there was a crime scene set up on Canal St, between Lafayette St and Centre St. I have put the photo below but blanked out the man from it for privacy reasons and respect for the family. My main focus for this post is about the actual Crime Scenes and how they are set up in NYC.

Basically, a delivery man was crossing a busy road and a National Guard Truck hit him. I got there while the crime scene was still being conducted.  I have seen many crime scenes in my life and usually we keep people quite well away from it all but here in NYC, I mean how can you seriously keep people away from watching and photographing the crime scene.

This is very sad. I pray for the family, that they are supported through this tragic incident and as for what actually happened, who knows. Witnesses saw the incident and say he was hit by the truck and another car was coming the other way. The man didn’t seem to be near the crossing and locals know how dangerous this road is purely because it is so busy.

The one thing I learned quickly is that once the white walk sign displays, you need to wait as cars still come through. They don’t have Red light cameras like we do. If you step out, you get wiped out. This incident happened in the middle of the road though so who knows what happened there. The National Guard and the police blocked off the whole street to investigate the incident which is pretty standard practice for any government body involved in a serious incident.

I was more fascinated by watching the crime scene being operated. They used the roll measurement device to calculate length and the other officer was documenting the numbers.

Documenting the Measurements

Clearly the man’s hat, scarf and blood was still at the scene when I was there so it was obvious he was seriously injured. Very sad.

The rest of the officers there, were standing around as usual, talking, chatting, waiting to do the job they need too.

Crime Scenes take time. Lots of people around monitoring. The National Guard would have an investigation and the police would have their own documented investigation.

The Election USA 2012

It has been a month leading up to the election between Barrack Obama (Democrat) and Mitt Romney (Republican). Just looking at both of them at name value, Barrack Obama is a leaders name. It is strong, it has depth and substance and uniqueness.

Barrack and Mitt Romney

Barrack and Mitt Romney

What does a lead up to an American election look and feel like. It reminds me of many things. A lead up to the Melbourne Cup in Australia that (if you could imagine all the jockeys trying to get people to punt on them from months before, instead of days or a week before)…. In terms of how much attention it gets, the election vote period feels like it literally stops the nation. The Melbourne Cup is a race that stops the nation so that is my comparison. I’m not saying that either Obama or Mitt look like horses or act like them but I guess thinking about it Barrack Obama’s name alone could be an awesome name for a Melbourne Cup horse.

This year Obama won, and now carries out his second term as president. I like Obama. In fact, I don’t know Romney but looking at him alone, there is something I don’t like. An agenda that just doesn’t sit well. My response isn’t very political is it. I guess I live life by gut instinct and how things gel around that. I don’t really read up on politics. It bores me. I’m interested in voting so that the leaders I don’t want, have less of a chance but all in all, the pressure of being a leader, is enormous and for that, I take my hat off for anyone who even tries to take on that role, whoever you are.

Below are all the States outlines and how all the voting is counted by states and how many voters and how many seats in each state. It is all a numbers game so that is why before the count has even been finished, they can tell who is going to win.

The States

The States Red Romney – Blue Barrack

In NYC, unfortunately due to Hurricane Sandy, the election for the first three to four days just didn’t make the headline news and I was relieved that they backed off the campaigns in NYC for that time period and credit to them for doing that. The news kept the attention where it needed to be so the whole hype was missed in the Big City. A bit like Sandy Killing Halloween too. I saw a big sign in the destruction saying how “Sandy Wins”. It sure feels like that. Obama and Sandy this month. But what about Count Dracula and Herman the Monster and even our pumpkins and skeletons? Well they have joined Mitt Romney in grievance.

They couldn’t really stop the hype in Times Square though. I ventured to Bryant Park where they had set up the pavilion there with Red, white and Blue balloons as celebration for the Election parties. They have these parties all through each state. It’s normally a really big deal.

The Party Balloons

The Party Balloons

Balloon Time

Balloon Time

The fact that you don’t have voluntary voting makes the campaigns longer and tougher. Not only do they have to sell themselves, but then they have to convince people to go out and stand in the freezing cold lines and vote. They are waiting there for up to 8 hours. For some, this is not a problem but for those that have commitments, children, elderly parents, disabled responsibilities, it can prove a difficult task to go and attend. Not to mention those that really couldn’t give a shit voting.

The media writes article like this one attached from The Daily Beast about the voting systems and what’s ahead. Leading up to the hype of it all.

As the voting begins, The Empire State Building lights up with Red, White and Blue colours. If the Democrats win (Barrack Obama) it turns blue to reflect the win. If the Republicans (Romney) were to win, it would turn Red. Interesting traditions. I kind of like that though. It would be great if our Centre point tower, or maybe one of our bigger icons like the harbour bridge and / or opera house changed colours like this. That would be quite a cool tradition.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building

In Chinatown, I was woken up by cars from the morning driving around in these utilities on mega phones with VOTE 1 signs on the side of the cars. The first part was Chinese so have no idea what they were saying. Then they spoke in English “Make sure you vote today. It is important you select the leaders that will shape the country”. Due to the hurricane, they allowed people in NYC to basically vote wherever they could get too and waived the “Vote in your area” ruling. This was a necessary move considering extra volunteers and resources needed to go into getting the elderly from evacuation centres and taking them to the polls to vote. It’s a big job dealing with an election and a natural disaster. They got through it and well done Obama. You got your second term.

 

United States Postal Service NYC

I will call this post one in a series of many I’ve written about ‘Improving the systems’ so we can live in a happier space.

Okay, I have written mostly positive posts generally about the States as I love it here but I can’t hold back from writing about a system here that is just terrible for many reasons. When the post is in the mail, it is fine, it get’s there and everyone is happy however, what the customers and the public have to endure every time they have to walk into one of the postal offices and send a parcel or line up for stamps, is absolutely appalling. On a positive note, the buildings that they are in are beautiful, and you feel like you are walking into the white house instead of a business.

The building is Grand

The door way

I’ve gone to four different postal offices and each experience has been exactly the same. Some postal employees are more friendlier than others but I’m not focusing on that. I’m focusing on the system.

The Self Service Machines

I think these have been set up to get rid of window tellers but it’s the postal service and it’s rare that anyway just goes there with one thing and to try and work out the machines can be quite foreign to some so they either need some tutorials for customers running on a flat screen above the windows so that while you are standing there, you may actually learn how to use their self serve machines. The City Hall Post office has three of these machines. The other ones I have gone too on Canal St and Union Square, I could only see one and the one on Canal St had malfunctioned for a customer when I was there.

The Self Service Machine

Inside the building

The Rest

For the majority of the customers that don’t prefer to use the machines, they basically only display priority cardboard mail envelopes and some boxes to choose from on a display and then there are a few benches you can fill out your 15 different forms to choose from on. Everything else you need, you have to line up for. The worst part of it is, if you need to buy a box parcel and you need to wrap it, they ask you if you want it taped and obviously most people do so it stays together. So they give you a tape dispenser that you must purchase and then take home with you. So I bought a tape dispenser and the next fifth time I went to the post office last minute, I couldn’t carry my tape dispenser with me and so I had to buy another one again. Can you believe it? If that isn’t screwing over customers and turning them off, then I don’t know what is. I mean seriously UPS, can you not have a tape dispenser attached to your bench so that customers can use as part of the service, or another point, maybe tape it for them as part of your job, as they do back in Sydney. It can’t be that hard.

This is the only envelope/box selection in the whole space

Here is the bench with forms. The bench space is actually adequate when there are enough pens that work on them

The Line

You basically walk in, line up to get to a window, and there is generally a line of ten or more people. When you get there, you have to tell them what parcels you need and then you have to pay for the parcels seperately. Then you have to take the parcels away, fill them out and then go back to the front of the line to weigh the parcels, pay for them and send them. Twice waiting, two receipts, two payment processes = waste of time and double the work, which leads to less productivity and unhappy customers.

The Windows – this was a quiet moment as two new windows had opened up at the time

Now, from a business perspective, why on earth would you make things so difficult for customers and the experience so unpleasant that they basically don’t want to come back. Why would you not find a more productive business approach that saves the employee from doing double the work, the registers from utilising more paper by issuing two receipts and the customers more time so they don’t get fired when they got to their jobs late.

I mean seriously. Our post offices in Australia have something to offer over the system here and the main business advisor for the company in the states should seriously take a look at their business plans and try to improve it. I am sure the machines were a strategy they have tried but they don’t seem to be working as well and the lines are still so long. Some of the post offices in Australia are definitely better run than others and some are busier than others but you generally know what times to go there so it’s less of a pain. Maybe the point of this all is that it is a thriving service that we need so employ enough staff to run it during the peak periods so that you make it more of a pleasant experience. You may actually help with the unemployment rates.

A local customer had to wait 15 minutes for a book of stamps. I spent one hour in the post office yesterday to send four parcels at the Canal St Office. The line was ridiculous, they had two windows working, as the other window was taken up by a woman who was whinging about the inadequacy of the postal officers and the system. The ladies however were actually nice ladies however, I have never walked into a post office (and I have been in them at least 12 times so far) where any of the customers have been smiling or happy to be there. It is not a good thing.

Some Suggestions:

1. Make all the packages available to customers so that they can select and fill them all out before they approach the windows.

2. The lady at some of the offices that talks to the people in the line can be employed to watch the packages and envelopes that are displayed if they are worried about people walking out with them and not paying.

3. Make sure the staff at the windows are friendly and enjoy their job. Some are exceptional.

4. Have scanners on each item and a buzzer at the door so that if anyone walks out and doesn’t pay for anything, then they will buzz and then no need to employ someone standing in the centre. They will be more productive opening another window.

5. Create one line, purely for stamps and letters so that people with simple purchases don’t have to wait up for long periods of time. If that line is free, then a parcel can go there.

6. Play some music. At least if people have to stand there for so long, they can at least be entertained.

7. Place a free to use tape dispenser on the benches for customers to use and not be charged for and not have to carry it with them.

8. Supply enough pens on the benches for customers to use that are working.

9. Give the staff something to smile about so they are happy to sit there and process parcels all day. It mustn’t be very stimulating I’m sure so maybe a little music could help them feel more relaxed and smily or even some more pay may do the trick.

Some simple suggestions, but ones that could increase the desire for people to send more parcels and use the service more frequently.

To end on a positive note, once you are outside the post office, if you look to the right, you can see the New World Trade Centre being built and it is so tall.

The New World Trade Centre Building with all the cranes