Tantalising Times Square

Hot on the tourist trail we’re heading towards one of the main visitor hot spots – Times Square.

Once a seedy, run down and distinctly dodgy area, Times Square has reinvented itself as a glittering, flashy neon tourist magnet.

From the 1960s to the early 1990s, the seediness of the area, especially due to its go-go bars, sex shops, peep shows and adult theaters, became an infamous symbol of the city’s decline.

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Formerly known as Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the then newly erected Times Building. The newspaper has long since moved on but the name remains.

The whole area is actually less of a square and more of two areas in the shape of a bowtie.

The northern part of the bowtie is known as Father Duffy’s square and features  iconic glowing red steps.

Broadway show billboards jostle for attention alongside Hersey’s commercials.

Times Square has inspired, and featured in, many films over the decades, from the inspiration for Frizt Lang’s futuristic dystopia Metropolis in the 1920s to the gritty underbelly of NYC in Midnight Cowboy.

More than 36 million people per year visit Times Square each year and around one million people gather to witness the New Year’s Eve ball drop.

From it’s crime ridden decades to its resurrection as a high energy, chaotic tourist draw, Times Square mirrors the crazy, rollercoaster ride that is NYC .

We’ll head back to the square later on during the holiday to witness its neon glory in the dark.

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Hitting the High Line

First morning in New York, jet lag is well and truly kicking in so wide awake at 6am and we’re off to the High Line.

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated park, and was created on a former New York Central railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan.

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It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. At 8am in the morning it is still relatively empty and peaceful.

The High Line is sited on a former elevated train line that was designed to go through the centre of blocks, rather than over the avenue, carrying goods to and from Manhattan’s largest industrial district. But the last train used the line in 1980 before falling into disrepair.

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In 1999 the Friends of the High Line is founded by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the High Line neighborhood, to advocate for the High Line’s preservation and reuse as public open space.

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It is now a peaceful, green space that floats above Manhattan’s frantic bustling crowds.

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The High Line’s planting is inspired by the self-seeded flowers and trees that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running.

Sparkling, futuristic glass buildings tower above the serene park – with developers taking advantage of the boom in popularity of the area.

Ironically, what was once a run-down area is now becoming an expensive, sort after area due to the High Line.

The stark difference between the old and new ways are shown explicitly in the architecture above.

The High Line culminates in a stretch along the Hudson River where huge new developments are sprouting to the skies.

Next up we’re heading for our first taste of the neon wilderness that is Times Square!!

New York New York

So after the wedding of the year, what better than the honeymoon!! Now as we’ve already done a fair bit of travelling, and seen some incredible sights, it was always going to be difficult to decide where to go on this particularly special trip.

So we decided to take the plunge and explore uncharted waters, with our first ever visit to America. And where better to start than with the frenetic, melting pot of the USA that is New York!

Or more specifically Manhattan, known by locals as The City. The city so good they named it twice – New York, New York.

We flew with BA and it wasn’t too bad at all. Nice vegetarian meals and good choice of new films kept me occupied for the seven and a half hour flight from London Heathrow.

On arrival at JFK , don’t waste money getting a taxi into Manhattan, the skytrain services JFK airport and gets you seamlessly onto the connecting metro system for a mere $5 instead of the $60 plus that taxis will charge you. Just do a little forward planning about which line will get your to your hotel.

We stayed for eight nights in the Marriott Residence, Downtown, World Trade centre district.

Perfectly positioned, just five minutes walk to the One World Observatory, ten minutes to the historic South Street Sea port and about 15 minutes walk to Battery Park where you can cruise to the Statue of Liberty or grab the free Staten Island ferry.

The hotel is also close to Fulton Street subway which gives you easy access to the whole of Manhattan. We chose to get a 7 day metro pass, which at around $32 was good value as we hopped on and off several times a day.

We dropped off our bags and headed out to explore the nearby area. First up we headed to the South Street Sea Port. This is a historic area that was badly damaged by hurricane Sandy in 2012 and is gradually being renovated.

We can see over the East River towards Brooklyn and the first of our many views of the majestic Brooklyn Bridge.

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This towering edifice is an iconic sight – a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge and one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States.

It’s all rather exciting for us small town folks!

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From our vantage point on Pier 15, along with views of Brooklyn, if we turn around we also get our first glimpse of the towering highrises of Manhattan. When you are actually in the city you can’t quite get a sense of it all

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Then we have a potter along Pier 16 – the Street of Ships, and a nosy at just one of the old boats moored up there.

A good start to what will be an amazing, whirlwind trip of one of the world’s most exciting citys.

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Wedding AKA cheap bride alert

Taking a very very brief respite from the world travels to document something a ‘little’ important to me – our WEDDING!

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Yeap after 11 and a half years the small furry one decided to make the best / worst decision of his life and ask me to be his wife.

The proposal happened on Feb 16th (super romantic, top of the Shard in London) and we spent every hour of every month for several years planning it in meticulous detail…

Just kidding, we got married just over three months later, on the same day as the Royals…. somehow we managed to snag a cancellation at Bakewell registry office!!

It was a small, quick and cheap do as neither of us are big white wedding fans and quite frankly the cost of weddings these days is an almighty mickey take!

Once the word wedding is used you can literally see pound signs in people’s eyes. So most stuff was sourced via the wonder that is the internet! Including this lovely confetti made from lavender and rose petals, the smell was divine.

Being a little bit crafty I like making things myself including this upcycled photo frame found in a local charity shop.

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So . . my wedding dress was off Ebay – £50 of your English pounds for a Chi Chi gold lace tea dress, easily the prettiest and most girly item I have ever owned . . The man wore a navy suit that he already owned.

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The dress was made a little more personal by adding a wide grey satin ribbon and pretty pearl and diamante patch again from Ebay.

Below are my bargain Ebay shoes with possibly the best things ever – clip on ‘shoe earrings’ from China that can be removed and added to other footwear – £2.99 per clip. Gotta love internet shopping!

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The shiny earrings I have had knocking around for years, I think they were from Accessorise many moons ago.

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Also below is our cute little engraved ring box – bargain of the century as when it arrived there was a tiny crack in the lid so I got a complete refund and got to keep the box! Bonus!

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The little gold clutch bag was a steal from the British Heart Foundation for £2.99.

I made all the ladies corsages from individual silk roses from a local florists – Robert Young’s in Matlock and wrapped the stems with charcoal grey ribbon.

I am rather proud of them so enjoy lots and lots and lots of similar pics of them!

And a few more… complete with little pale blue name tags, designed online with the marvellous Canva design app and sneakily printed off for free . . . then tied with hessian string from The Range.

The bridesmaids bouquets were made from artificial silk flowers from Home Bargains and cost a mere £2.99 per bunch.

Again wrapped in charcoal grey, satin ribbon and finished with little lace ribbons. All from a local haberdashery shop.

My bouquet (which I am super proud of) was made by my own fair hands (with no prior floristry practice) from silk flowers from The Range and came in at around £20 in total.

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The Bride and Groom coat hanger decals were a bargain Ebay buy (trend emerging here!) that were 99p each.

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Basically I stole lots of ideas off Pinterest and made them much cheaper myself……..

A sparkly pearl and diamante headband (from China naturally) for £6 finished off my cheapo bridal get up and I have to say, I am pretty chuffed with the results.

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Own makeup done and dusted I wait for the car to come get me. (With a little boogie to Billy Idol’s ode to White Weddings naturally)

Originally I was just going to drive myself but I got treated to a swanky Range Rover Sport complete with wedding ribbons, thanks to a friend of my new sister in law 🙂

So I got the full bridal experience after all… still not very elegant though I am afraid . . .

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At 10.30am we rocked up at Bakewell Registry Office – not the most attractive of buildings but given that we were lucky to have stunning weather, we could get most of our snaps outside in the pretty market town by the river.

We kept the wedding party small – 16 people in total (which was about 13 people too many for my crowd phobic husband)

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Here are a few informal phone snaps taken in the sensory garden by the river. I was incredibly lucky to have my very talented friend take the official pictures and I can’t wait to see those soon!

The large silver helium balloons were a last minute addition, grabbed the day before from Hobby Craft and amusingly transported home in my tiny car. Where obviously they refused to remain tethered and floated up to obscure my rear view mirror.

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This coupled with the fact that, after biting my nails to the quick for the past 25 years, I decided to get full on fake nails for the do, created endless problems as I was basically unable to function in any way shape or form with the acrylic talons on . .

However I did feel very princessy for the day, which is a nice feeling, although not one I would want to do too often!

Following lots of snaps we head for some proper pub grub at The Gate, in Tansley. None of your insipid melon balls and tiny portions for us.

Nope people got to have whatever they wanted, whether it was a mixed grill or a burger and chips. Much better to actually have a choice of what you want!

I’d also made my own favours to pop on the pub table (thanks to Pinspiration! and Hobby Craft . . )

Even though I had not let on that it was a wedding (again, penny pinching) my wonderful sister in law had stepped in and arranged for the table to be decorated with balloons and confetti, again giving me the little wedding touches.

All in all it was a perfect day for us, laid back, informal, small and inexpensive.

Not everyone’s cup of tea and certainly not for anyone who has dreamt of, and planned her wedding day in meticulous detail for her whole life.

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But I’d far rather save those thousands of pounds that get spent on the pointless stuff to fund our ongoing world adventures. Luckily we’re both firmly on the same page with what matters to us.

We’re not young, hopeless romantics that believe marriage is the be all and end all, or that it is a saving grace. In the end we just knew that the time was right for us. Not when other people thought we should do it, not because society told us we should, but because we wanted to.

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That’s why the readings we chose reflect our attitude to love, life and commitment, knowing that it is not the superficial fluff, the staggeringly expensive ring, the big white wedding, the 100 head sit down dinner or the staged first dance. None of that is us.

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your root was so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.

“Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. that is just being in love, which any fool can do.

“Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

“Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.”

And here it is – proof that we are now officially married and all grown up or something like that..

Boo ya!!!

Scaffolding, Seamus Heaney.

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

River Spree cruise

Our final full day of Berlin sightseeing has to include a river cruise as we must always sit on a boat where ever we go.

Before we head off though we indulge in our favourite German tradition – caffee und kuchen.

Then it’s off to board our boat for a float along the River Spree. Taking in some of the most iconic sights of Berlin including the Reichstag.

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The floating man admires the Berliner Dom through the window of the boat.

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The cruise took us through some of the impressive Government quarter with huge glass fronted offices. Below is the Kronprinzenbrücke, designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Below is the Bode Museum – one of the group of museums on the Museum Island. It was designed by architect Ernst von Ihne and completed in 1904.

Later on that day we visit the poignant Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. The original church on the site was built in the 1890s.

It was badly damaged in a bombing raid in 1943 and the original spire and foyer have been left as it is as a memorial with a new church built around it on the site.

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The new church was designed by Eiermann and consists of four buildings grouped around the remaining ruins of the old church.

The initial design included the demolition of the spire of the old church but following pressure from the public, it was decided to incorporate it into the new design.

 

Above is the ornate, damaged ceiling of the original church and to the right is the interior of the new one.

Because of the distinctive appearance of the new buildings, it is sometimes nicknamed “Lippenstift und Puderdose” (the lipstick and the powder box) by Berliners.

 

 

Fernsehturm Berlin

As we have a obsessive desire to venture up every tall building that we encounter it is a no brainer that we have to head up the Fernsehturm Berlin TV tower.

Close to Alexanderplatz in Berlin-Mitte, the imposing tower was constructed between 1965-69 by the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

It was intended to be both a symbol of Communist power and of Berlin.

With its height of 368 metres (including antenna) it is the tallest structure in Germany, and the second-tallest structure in the European Union.

When the sun shines on the Fernsehturm’s tiled stainless steel dome, the reflection usually appears in the form of a cross. Berliners nicknamed the shining cross Rache des Papstes, or the “Pope’s Revenge”.

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The very distinctive city landmark has undergone a symbolic transformation.

After German reunification, it changed from a politically charged, national symbol of the GDR into a citywide symbol of a reunited Berlin.

The view from the top of the tower is somewhat hazy but still incredible. The whole of Berlin is laid out beneath you.

After enjoying the bird’s eye views we head to the Berliner Republik.

It’s a type of beer stock market where prices go up and down dependant on demand. Prices are updated on screen in the pub.

More murals

A few more shots of the colourful East Side Gallery. Whether its pastel positivity or more serious political messages.

In more than a hundred paintings on what was the east side of the Berlin wall, the artists commented on the political changes in 1989/90.

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To get to the gallery either Warschauer Straße and Ostbahnhof railway stations are the perfect starting points for a walk along the East Side Gallery.