Colourful Chinatown

Even though we turned our eyes westward for our honeymoon we can’t quite escape our love of all things Asian. So we’re heading to Chinatown for a snoot around.

Manhattan’s Chinatown is home to the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere with an estimated population between 90,000 and 100,000 people and is one of  12 Chinatowns in the New York metropolitan area.

Manhattan’s Chinatown borders the Lower East Side to its east, Little Italy to its north, and Tribeca to its west.


The bustling street scene stretches for several blocks with greengrocers and fishmongers  around Mott Street, Mulberry Street, Canal Street and along East Broadway.

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Then there are also lots of shops selling the obligatory good luck charms, paper goods and other colourful items. Naturally I stock up!!

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Wealth and Wall Street

Our hotel is not far from the financial quarter including the infamous Wall Street. A worldwide symbol of money, stocks and shares.

And thanks to cultural references and films such as the Bonfire of the Vanities, Wall Street’s hideous protagonist Gordon Gecko and the more recent Wolf of Wall Street, it has also come to serve as a metaphor for greed, amoral trading and self-interest.

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Wall Street is an eight-block-long street running roughly northwest to southeast from Broadway to South Street, at the East River.

According to Wikipdia there are varying accounts about how the Dutch-named “de Waalstraat” got its name. One version is that the name of the street was derived from a wall on the northern boundary of the New Amsterdam settlement, built to protect against Native Americans, pirates, and the British.

Another theory is that Wall Street was named after Walloons, a distinctive ethnic community within Belgium as the Dutch name for a Walloon is Waal.

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There’s plenty of buildings dedicated to the literal enrichment of bankers and stockbrokers such as the New York Stock exchange above.

Plus there’s places to spend all those ill gotten gains too – like the famous Tiffanys Jewellers.

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Below is Trinity Church that was finished in 1846. It is the third holy incarnation on the site as previous versions perished first by fire then by severe storm damage. A church has been there for over 300 years.

During the September 11 attacks, people took refuge inside the church from a huge dust cloud produced by the first World Trade Center tower collapse. Some of the chapel pew’s paint was rubbed off from the people taking refuge.

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Other notable buildings in the area include Trump Towers and the Federal Hall National Memorial. The current memorial was built in 1842 on the site of the former Federal Hall.

This building was particularly important as it was the first capitol of the newly created United States in 1789 and on its steps George Washington was sworn in as the first President.

The Staten Island ferry

Next iconic experience on the New York adventure – the Staten Island ferry!

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These super distinctive FREE orange ferries trundle their way from Whitehall in Manhattan to the St George terminal on Staten Island.

The ferry, which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, carries over 23 million passengers annually on a 5.2-mile journey and has been in operation since 1905.

On a typical weekday, five boats make 118 trips, carrying approximately 70,000 passenger and numbers are swelled by hordes of visitors – all eager to catch a free glimpse of Lady Liberty from the boat.

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Each ferry gets its own personal escort out of the harbour by armed coast guards – a little disconcerting! But you also get your first real view of Manhattan from the water.

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And . . . . you also get your first glimpse of that most iconic of women – Lady Liberty… albeit a rather small glimpse!!

However you do get a bit closer to the Green Goddess as the boat floats onwards.

The journey itself takes about 20 minutes from start to finish and is a favourite thing for visitors to do.

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The ferry is instantly recognisable as an icon of New York and has featured in numerous films including Working Girl and The Dark Knight.

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We disembark on Staten Island and, like most passengers, immediately whizz around to rejoin the queue heading back to Manhattan!

In all fairness, Staten Island probably does have some sights to check out, but with time at a premium, and a long list of sights to tick off, we don’t have time!

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So back to Manhattan we head, with yet another stunning view of the Manhattan skyline.

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Just time for another snap of the Staten Island ferry sign for the hubby and me!

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As we leave Battery Park I am distracted, and a little entranced, by the weirdest merry-go-round I have ever seen – The Seaglass Carousel. Enjoy this surreal snippet!

 

Transitions and forward momentum

Onwards with our whistlestop tour of New York’s most famous places. I get excited about the Madison Avenue sign before we spot an unusually attired New Yorker.

We’re headed to Grand Central Station which opened to the public in February 1913.

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This historic world-famous landmark in Midtown Manhattan is not just a transportation hub, there’s also plenty of shopping and dining opportunities

It’s also a well known New York meeting place – ‘meet me at the clock’ is an often repeated phase referring to the opal faced information booth clock above.

After a quick scoot around we’re heading back to our hotel which happens to be a block away from the World Trade Centre.

Here you can see the immense One World Observatory rising above a futuristic looking construction, which despite its space age appearance, is actually a transportation hub that replaced the PATH train station that was destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks,

Its centerpiece is the Oculus, a glass-and-steel structure designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to look like a dove in flight.

The World Trade centre is gradually rebuilding itself from the tragic events of 9/11 with the construction of several new highrises.

The tallest of which is the One World Observatory that stands at 546 metres from ground to very tip making it the tallest building in the Western hemisphere.

As well as the towering futuristic towerblocks, we can’t visit the site without seeing the memorial to the victims of the attacks.

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The memorial is comprised of two 1-acre pools with the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States. They sit on the footprints of the Twin Towers, symbolising the loss of life and the physical void left by the attacks.

The waterfalls are intended to silence the sounds of the city – making the site a contemplative sanctuary

The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 152 bronze parapets on the memorial pools, this includes the 2,977 people killed in the September 11 attacks and six who died in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

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The memorial trust place roses on the names of each person on their birthday as a touching gesture of individual remembrance.

Highlighting the fact that each name was a person, with a life, family and history – not just a victim.

Then it’s back to the hotel, stopping briefly to take a snap of a typical New York street. Complete with ubiquitous sidewalk food stalls.

We also love spotting the steam vents that form part of the New York City steam system.

It’s a district heating system which takes steam produced by steam generating stations and carries it under the streets of Manhattan to heat and cool high rise buildings and businesses

We end a jam packed day at our favourite spot – Pier 15 on the South Street Sea Port.

Top of the Rock

Our first day in New York is a real tick list of iconic sights. We stop off to check out the famous Radio City onroute to Top of the Rock.

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Then we’re up the first of our high rise hotspots – the Top of the Rock and our first glimpse of Manhattan spread out like a concrete blanket beneath us.

The green oblong of Central Park provides a focal point amongst the myriad of grey and glass.

One of the best things about the view from here is that you get to actually see the icon that is the Empire State building within the skyline. When you’re actually up it you can’t see it!

So lots of pictures of the grande dame of the Big Apple – from all angles!

There are three levels to check out at the rock – the first deck includes the Radiance Wall. The second, featuring the Breezeway, is entirely outdoors.

The third observation deck, located on the 70th floor open-air roof deck, is completely outdoors and free of a glass enclosure so gives you uninterrupted views of Manhattan.

Top of the Rock sits on top of the Art Deco 30 Rockefeller Plaza and its upper decks are 850 feet above street level.

The stunning views include some of the city’s most prominent landmarks from the Chrysler Building to the Brooklyn Bridge; from Central Park to the Hudson and East Rivers

The observatory was originally designed to look like the upper decks of a 1930s grand ocean liner and it still retains that feel today.

 

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.