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The Final Morning

On my final morning in America, wanting to squeeze everything i could out of it and savor the exhilaration of exploration one more time – i boarded the train bound for Coney Island. Travelling south through Brooklyn, i passed the cemeteries of both people,

and cars

until coming to another relic of times gone by. Coney Island’s Theme Park. The glimpse of the Ferris Wheel was the first of many insights into the iconic area

An icon that continues to thrive today and is indigenous to Coney Island is Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs. Nathan’s Famous original hot dog stand opened on Coney Island in 1916 and quickly became a landmark.

An annual hot dog eating contest has been held there on July 4 since its opening, and has attracted increasingly broad attention and international television coverage during the last decade

I continued onwards towards the beach and couldn’t help but laugh at some of the stands – reminiscent of a less ‘politically correct’ America.

Coney Island is a peninsula, formerly an island, in southernmost Brooklyn, with a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. The neighborhood of the same name is a community of 60,000 people.
The area was a major resort and site of amusement parks that reached its peak in the early 20th century. It declined in popularity after World War II and endured years of neglect. Between about 1880 and World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States, attracting several million visitors per year.

Perhaps this couple is reminiscing about the ‘good old days’….

But all was not lost – a stroll along the broad-walk, reveals that the show continues to go on

A number of amusements (including various rides, games and a sideshow) are directly accessible from the land side of the boardwalk. As is the New York Aquarium and a variety of food shops and arcades.

Coney Island still maintains a broad sandy beach thats approximately 2½ miles (~4.0 km) and had a considerable number of people.

Whilst there were some youngsters here and there,

I could safely guess that 95% of the beach-goers were +60 yrs and enjoying their days of retirement

There were certainly some interesting characters around – it’s an INCREDIBLE spot for people watching

and it’s funny to see the what people most want to buy when here….

The neighborhoods on Coney Island, running eastward are Sea Gate (a private community), Coney Island proper, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan Beach. Once home to many Jewish residents, most of those living on Coney Island today are African American, Italian American, Hispanic and recent Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.

Brighton Beach in particular

is now known as “Little Russia” or Odessa

to the extent that most of the shop signs are even in Russian!

After having a good look around, i headed back from the station

To the northern part of Brooklyn, to spend my last few hours in the neighborhood i’d grown to love over the past 5 1/2 weeks of living there

Parts of it also have very distinct ethnic communities, like the Middle Eastern enclave along Atlantic Avenue

But i went French for my choice of lunch and had a delicious meal at the “Jolie Restaurant

before heading back to the apartment.

I had previously finalized my packing and farewelled my extremely generous hosts so was all set when i entered the airport bound taxi and commenced the long journey home! My travels had come to their inevitable end, but i was filled with excitement as opposed to the expected despair. I attribute this to the fact that it had been the most incredible 8 1/2 months of my life and i harbored absolutely no regrets. It also helped that i was returning to an incredible group of family and friends and many new and exciting things (like university and a new home) awaited.

But please don’t despair just yet, as this is not the final post. I hope to do a proper wrap up however this will be quite some time after i’ve settled into my new home at the Gold Coast in Australia. I want to leave enough time so that i can fully reflect in hindsight and do justice to the incredible travels that i’ve been so fortunate to experience.

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Bryant Park Bliss

I visited the lovely Bryant park twice during my last week,

one time was a brief stop for lunch,

And then on Friday, my last full day, I again returned for lunch and also, especially for the piano in the park!

Some of the best pianists from all over New York come to Bryant Park to play on the custom made green Piano for the series. On the day i dropped by, Yuka Aikawa, the Japanese pianist and composer was calmly playing some easy-going classics

that fitted the elegant yet chilled out scene of Park Lunchgoers absolutely perfectly.

after wandering through the city, I headed home to finalize packing my things – no easy task though after the many months of living out of suitcases i have become quite accustomed to it.

As i’d gone a little wild with buying clothes and books as New York was my final destination, I had to package up a big box to send home things that wouldn’t fit in luggage! I had to do 2 trips carrying all these things to the nearest post office and despite (or perhaps because of) my collapsing into the office looking quite forlorn, the gentlemen was extremely helpful and it was all organized in no time at all.

That night, my hosts kindly took me out to a special dinner at a nearby pizza place – Lucali’s – AMAZING food

Delicious Lucali's Pizza

and then to top it all off, had a refreshing beverage at the wonderfully retro Brooklyn Pharmacy and Soda Fountain

The Brooklyn Pharmacy and Soda Fountain

A wonderful last evening.

I also can’t help but mention the very important and somewhat mindblowing milestone that this blog has just recently surpassed

10 000 views! People have clicked on pages of my site
TEN THOUSAND TIMES!!!!!

Thankyou so much to all who have followed my journey, if it wasn’t for you, this blog probably would have discontinued LONG ago! Whilst the adventure is quickly drawing to a close, there are still a couple of posts left so stay tuned for the amazing last day of my trip and also, the incredible process of being welcomed home. Enjoy !

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Lady Liberty and Ellis Island

2 days before my departure, boat ticket in hand, I made my way to Battery Park to get the Ferry across to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Although I’d seen them both from afar on my Circle Line Cruise – it was a wholly new thing to experience them upclose and personal.

First stop – Lady Liberty! The Statue of Liberty (originally called Liberty Enlightening the World (French: La Liberté éclairant le monde)) is the colossal, neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886

offering an eerily beautiful view back towards Manhattan

i slowly made my way around the statue, listening to my audio guide that happily spouted all sorts of interesting information into my ears. The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of American independence. A broken chain lies at her feet and she’s half stepping away from it. The statue has become an iconic symbol of freedom and of the United States. 93 m from the ground to her tippy top, she’s incredibly imposing and grand. Whilst i didn’t book early enough in advanced for a ticket to explore her hollow interior, i certainly had a good look before continuing on to my next destination….

Ellis Island. The gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States and the site of the nation’s busiest immigration station from 1892 to 1954. There was a total of twelve million immigrants processed in there according to the US Bureau of Immigration. Today, over 100 million Americans – one third of the population – can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who first arrived in America at Ellis Island before dispersing to points all over the country.

You walk into a grand building and are met with a pile of old luggage, the first of many uniquely personal and human touches that make this an amazing experience.

going up a level, this is the room that was once swarming with people, patiently lined up after an already long and horrendous journey, having left all they once knew and many family and friends behind. The peak year for immigration at Ellis Island was 1907, with 1,004,756 immigrants processed. The all-time daily high occurred on April 17, 1907, when 11,747 immigrants arrived! Writer Louis Adamic came to America from Slovenia in southeastern Europe in 1913 and described the night he and many other immigrants slept on bunk beds in a huge hall. Lacking a warm blanket, the young man “shivered, sleepless, all night, listening to snores” and dreams “in perhaps a dozen different languages”.

Isle of Hopes, Isles of Tears.

Generally, those immigrants who were approved spent from two to five hours at Ellis Island. Arrivals were asked 29 questions including name, occupation, and the amount of money carried. Those with visible health problems or diseases were sent home or held in the island’s hospital facilities for long periods of time. More than three thousand would-be immigrants died on Ellis Island while being held in the hospital facilities. Some unskilled workers were rejected because they were considered “likely to become a public charge.” Out of all the immigrants processed, about 2 percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic contagious disease, criminal background, or insanity. That’s approximately 240 000 people turned away – Can you imagine how awful that would have been!!

But ofcourse, the majority did make it through and they are commemorated on a circular wall outside the main building. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor is a permanent exhibit of individual or family names commemorating the people who passed through the facility. It is the only place in the United States where an individual can honor his or her family heritage at a National Monument. It is currently inscribed with over 700,000 names and welcomes any new additions.

After the Immigration Act of 1924 was passed, which greatly restricted immigration and allowed processing at overseas embassies, the only immigrants to pass through the station were displaced persons or war refugees. After the immigration station closed in November 1954, the buildings fell into disrepair and were all but abandoned until it achieved landmark status in 1965, as part of Statue of Liberty National Monument. After a huge restoration and developments project the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened in September of 1990 and has since welcomed nearly 30 million visitors!

Myself and a boat load of other visitors departed in the afternoon, bound for our original destination of Battery Park

where i passed the wonderfully familiar, summer sight, of children playing in water fountains.

I also across another familiar sight – a memorial. This one was the East Coast Memorial which is a World War II war memorial that commemorates U.S. servicemen who died in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean during World War II. A total of 4,609 names are inscribed on both sides of eight 19-foot-tall granite pylons. The pylons are arranged in two rows of four each and between the two rows stands a bronze statue of an eagle, erected on a black granite pedestal and facing the Statue of Liberty

I got the subway beneath the Hudson to Brooklyn and on my walk home – stopped in to see a movie (Inception) and the theatre provided a great view of where i’d come to proudly call home

We had a guest over for dinner that evening so had a wonderful meal and then I went for a little walk which was very peaceful.

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Entertain me New York! Mostly Mozart and Dizzy’s Jazz

After my day in Central Park, i made my way to the Lincoln centre for an evening of serene entertainment! The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is a 16 acre complex of buildings in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of New York City’s Upper West Side.

I headed to Avery Fisher Hall (2,738-seat symphony hall) which is the home stage of the New York Philharmonic and was this evening hosting the concert from the Mostly Mozart Festival. The Mostly Mozart Festival is a summer series of concerts that’s been going for 44 years. It revolves around the performance of many of ”

Mozart’s works and also a variety of musical works created after his death that were inspired and influenced by his genius”

The evening i attended was more focused towards works inspired by him than actual Mozart pieces. The festival’s resident orchestra, played works by Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann, the last in a nod to his 200th birthday this year. To actually hear some Mozart I eagerly showed up an hour early for the pre-concert recital. I was joined by hundreds of others whose presence I later gathered was directly related to the performers more than the music. This was because they were no other than violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk, who were also the featured soloists in the orchestra’s program.

From left, Jeremy Denk, Joshua Bell and Louis Langrée, conducting the Mostly Mozart Festival orchestra,at Avery Fisher Hall

The presence of Mr. Bell, one of the world’s most popular classical musicians and a virtuoso refreshingly traditional, accounted for the boisterous crowd that attended the sold-out evening concert! I’d done well to snap up a single box ticket the previous day! Bell’s instrument is a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin called the Gibson ex Huberman, which was made in 1713 during what is known as Antonio Stradivari’s “Golden Era.” He paid just under US $4 million for it in 2003! In a lissome account of Mozart’s Sonata in B flat, i swooned to the admirable cohesion Bell and Denk have forged.

Joshua Bell

Presumably their performance also warmed them up for the main event:, The centerpiece of the evenings concert was Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and Strings in D minor. It offered soaring melodies and ample opportunities for Mr. Bell and Mr. Denk to engage in racing solo lines and breathtaking duo passages.

Walking outside afterwards into the warm night air i had an “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh” moment and soaked up the area

Then I sat for a while, mesmerized by the changing silhouettes against the fountain


The following day after spending time (and a spot of money shopping ☺) in Soho

I made my way to the Time Warner Centre


Which is also the home of Dizzy’s Club

– named after the iconic trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, the club is part of the “Jazz at the Lincoln Centre Group”

Dizzy Gillespie doing what he did best

The evening was absolutely sensational! It was the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim performed by Trio da Paz, Joe Locke (vibraphone), Harry Allen (tenor sax) & Maucha Adnet (vocals). One of the most enjoyable performances I have ever seen! I say this because not only was the location amazing ( the performers are right in front of you, and large windows right behind the stage afford a spectacular view of Central park and the City)

the food (Southern style) and drink great but the performers! Ahhh the performers, they were just so genuinely enamored with what they were creating and feeding off each others positive energy, that their passion for the music was completely infectious and the whole audience was alive with the rhythm and melodies!

– that. Is entertainment

I would recommend this to anyone with a jazz inclination visiting the city! Make a reservation if you can, as they were sold out when i went. I was able to get a single seat on the bar which lines the room but after asking sweetly – i was able to join another couple (the lady was Australian – strange coincidence!) and sit RIGHT INFRONT of the musicians. Unforgettable.

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Central Park

I dedicated an entire day to the exploration and enjoyment of the sprawling Central Park and what a pleasant day it was!

I started my wanderings in the northern end of the park at the Reservoir. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir used to receive water from the Croton Aqueduct and distribute it to Manhattan but after 131 years of service, it was decommissioned in 1993

I veered left, heading southward through the woodland trees

that provide a home to countless critters, the most common of which being the Eastern Gray Squirrels

But there were also some wonderful birds in the trees and foraging around

And by the ponds

This pond in particular was an irredescent green!

Wandering the area aptly known as “the Ramble”, i wound along twisting paths, coming out alongside pockets of the lake before ducking back into the bushlands

until i came upon the Boathouse!

Where I had a delicious lunch, and lapped up the scenery

– picturing myself in a painting of Renoirs

Auguste Renoir "Luncheon of the Boating Party" 1881

Having enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch, i walked to whats considered as the parks crowning jewel – the “Bethesda Fountain”. It was designed in 1986 by Emma Stebbins who was the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City!

As i walked through the passage beneath Bethesda Terrace there was a wonderful busker playing

in the folksy, raw style of Bob Dylan

And then just down along the pathway, ANOTHER! This time a fantastic sax player

After sitting for quite some time listening to the Jazz,

i wandered on….

There were a series of men lined along the pathway doing portraits, and one of them was particularly good, so on a whim – I decided to get my portrait done! Whilst i wasn’t quite immortalized in the style of the great sculptures lining the pathway, it’s still a lovely little momento of my time in New York

Then later that night, I would go to the Lincoln centre for a spot of classical entertainment……

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Columbia University

On my last Sunday in NY, I took the metro to the Upper West side to explore the grounds of Columbia University

Columbia University was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States.

Today, Columbia is one of the top academic and research institutions in the world, conducting pathbreaking research in medicine, science, the arts, and the humanities. It includes three undergraduate schools, thirteen graduate and professional schools, and a school of continuing education.

Settled in Harlem but like a village of its own,

the manicured gardens and grand buildings are quite beguiling.

I wandered around through what feels like a distinct suburb more than a campus,

then I stopped at a cosy café id heard of named Max Caffé that’s on the top end of Amsterdam Avenue. A fantastic place, it’s filled with a myriad of old. Odd, comfy chairs and has a great vibe to it. Perfect for a light lunch and a coffee!

I then made my way to the nearby Riverside Church. It is an interdenominational (American Baptist and United Church of Christ), interracial, international congregation in New York City, famous not only for its elaborate Gothic architecture—which includes the world’s largest tuned carillon bell—but also as a center for the promotion of progressive causes.
The tallest church in the United States and the 26th tallest in the world, it was described by The New York Times in 2008 as “a stronghold of activism and political debate throughout its 75-year history … influential on the nation’s religious and political landscapes.”

Past speakers at the pulpit have included Martin Luther King, Jr. voicing opposition to the Vietnam War, Nelson Mandela on his first visit to the United States after being released from prison, Fidel Castro during one of his rare visits to the U.S. in 1999 , and Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In 1922, the congregation of the Park Avenue Baptist Church, with the major financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a member of the church, and its modernist Baptist pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick, decided to create a large, cathedral-like church dedicated to revolutionary and progressive social values.

Modeled after Chartres Cathedral in France, the multi storied sky-rise of a church, was additionally conceived as a complex social services center from the outset, with meeting rooms and classrooms, a daycare center, a kindergarten, library, auditorium and gym.

Whilst exploring other parts of area and wandering back into the university, I stumbled across the set for a TV production. They were filming for show that id seen a bit of previously, that many of my friends at home are infatuated with – Gossip Girl.

Cast of "Gossip Girl"


After walking around a bit more,

I got the train down to the Lincoln centre and whilst perusing their upcoming calendar, decided to book some entertainment for the following 2 evenings…..

You’ll have to wait to find which amazing events i went to! Enjoy the suspense!

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Washington D.C– Part 4: The value of Home

After exhausting myself seeing the sights it was always wonderful to return to the quite suburban area of my hosts. I relished in the family nuances and rituals

like playing fetch with their beautiful black labradors Yogi and Sammy. A seemingly simple, ordinary thing that absolutely thrilled me and greatly enriched my time there

Another thrilling experience was the torrential downpour! I was grateful to be home at the time as it was ferocious, flooding subways, blowing down trees and rendering whole neighborhoods powerless!

After arriving Tuesday night and spending Wednesday and Thursday soaking up as much as possible, i was scheduled to fly up to Boston on Friday morning on a flight departing at 10:30am. I’d said goodbye and expressed my gratitude before we left and arrived at the airport with PLENTY of time to spare. I checked in, wound through security etc etc, found my gate and waited patiently until the proposed boarding time of 10:20. At about 10, i noticed the gate next to me had a plane that was also Boston bound, but was meant to have left at 6am…. Hmmm… 10:20 rolled around and on the dot they announced that our flight had been delayed and that passengers without checked in bags could go to the flight that was meant to leave at 6 so a mass of people promptly rushed to the other counter. I waited, the announcement was made that our plane was being repaired for a ‘mechanical error‘ and an update would be made in 20 minutes. More waiting. Meanwhile – people were STILL waiting to be checked into the other flight that was meant to leave 5 hours earlier. An announcement was made – that another annoucement would be made in 20 minutes as they still hadnt heard anything new. At this stage i lined up to see if i could change my flight as i had people meeting me in Boston and had planed an elaborate afternoon – the highlight of which was touring the harvard University campus. Whilst in the line they suddenly announced – everythings fine …. please line up to make sure your still checked into this flight after all the changes that have been made (the other people had JUST boarded the other flight at this stage). 5 minutes later as i was next in que. The flight has been cancelled. WHAT? This areoplane will NOT be operating or flying anywhere today as it needs to undergo mechanical maintenance please line up so we can ‘review’ your itinerary …..

So when it came my turn to have my itinerary ‘reviewed’ the flights were all fully booked until late that night or early the next morning. Arriving really late wasn’t an option for me and the earliest i could then arrive in Boston would have been midday Saturday. As i was scheduled to leave Boston midday Sunday it really wouldn’t have been enough time to i unfortunately had to make the decision to cancel my flight and trip to Boston. 😦 I wished the flight personel good luck as they were having an incredibly shitty day and made my way to pick up my luggage. On the way i decided to first stop at the nicest looking restaurant and treat myself to some delicious food, figuring that if Jet Blue made me waste my morning, i could let them wait a bit while i enjoyed lunch before collecting my luggage. It turns out to have been a great idea as when i arrived at the luggage carousels – none of the bags ( i wasn’t the only one to cancel) had come through! infact – one couples had been confirmed ‘lost’ – their bags had somehow gone to Boston and they hadn’t! Amazing. Luckily, my luggage turned up 45 minutes later… I don’t think it reallllllllllllly needs to be said but just to re-iterate a point thats been proved time and time again throughout this trip A.I.R.P.O.R.T.S HATE M.E!!!

Thank goodness my hosts were kind and understanding and let me stay another night unexpectedly! So, having arrived at the airport at about 8:30am, i left at 2:30pm in a cab bound for exactly where i had come from! But i received a lovely welcome back 🙂

We went out for a great dinner with friends of theirs that night and then the following morning, i once again visited union station and left on a NY train.

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