Monday, March 4, 2013

Postcards from the Edge


Just another manic Mondaze where you are too?  About this time I think we’re wondering, “Where in the World (of NYC) Is WMM?” How might her potential stage struck encounter with Mr. Hanks and Ms. Wilson turn out?  Even if they don’t meet across the aisles, I’m certain Wendy in Boots will come back with a much relished recap of her adventures in Gotham.  Do you think she has found THE shoes yet?  It’s only full day two.


I’ve lived way off the beaten path and long-term trod the pavement in several big cities.  Whether it’s every day, or simply for work or vacation, I always enjoy searching out urban green spaces, for the nature, the serenity, the sense of community, a bit of people watching, and the relative quiet.

One of my newer favourites is NYC’s High Line.  Once an 80-year-old, derelict freight railway that transported goods from the waterfront into the city, 1.5 miles of the old track is now a one-of-a-kind linear park, oasis and public promenade.  For residents and visitors it has quickly become an unexpected breath of fresh air along 10th Avenue on the Lower West Side.



VIEWS: Walking along the High Line you can see the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the Hudson River and, for your inner fashionista, Diane von Furstenburg’s DVF building. At 30th Street, you might also see acrobats through the windows of the New York Trapeze School. 

ROOMS:  There’s one 20-storey building that actually bridges the track, the very non-standard (trust me) Standard Hotel, by Andre Balazs, who also owns LA’s Chateau Marmot.  Their penthouse rooftop bar is covered in glass and fake grass.  In addition to the usual selection of foreign affairs DJs, there’s a creperie.  Truth, I was fixated on the colourful seating.  Not because my heels were killing me – it was a cluster of Solairs, the surprisingly comfortable, recently revived Canadian chair you could once find lined outside every motel here come summer.



SCHEDULE: Strictly IMO and I’m not a native.  But my best times to go are early morning before the crowds, as well as Tuesday nights when half-a-dozen or so experts from the New York Amateur Astronomy Association are on hand with powerful telescopes for stargazing along with the skyline.

EVOLUTION: The third and last section of the park, like most of the $5 million annual operating cost, is being covered by Friends of the High Line, the non-profit group that got it all started.  That newest segment, running west to 12th Avenue and north to 34th Street, past the West Side Rail Yards, is scheduled to open in 2014.




IF YOU GO: The High Line is free and opens daily at 7:30 a.m.  In summer, it stays open until 11:00 p.m., current winter closing is 5:00 p.m.  Visit
www.thehighline.org for installations, events (like a recent snow sculpting contest), maps and history.  Follow their tweets @highlinenyc and check the Photo of the Week on their blog.


MORE PLACES: The High Line model is now being emulated in Rotterdam and Chicago.  My other favourite elevated park is Paris’ longer Promenade Plantee (a.k.a. Coulee Verte), running through the 12th, just east of the Opera Bastille.  It had a movie moment in the 2004 flick Before Sunset, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.




TIP: Abby mentioned this on one of WMM’s previous posts.  Next time you are on a trip mail some postcards to your future self.  Writing the things you want to remember about the moment will make a lovely souvenir.  And they’ll likely arrive back at your home after you do – a surprise bright spot and getaway reminder to look forward to.

Is there a park or green space near you that gives you real pleasure?  What kind of attractions do you tend to seek out on a city break?   What is/ would be your favourite metropolis to live in or visit – pick one.  Please share your adventures, home and away.  And, of course, Stay Safe.

43 comments:

  1. I'm always shocked by the size of hotels rooms in NYC they are so tiny and yet a fortune. It's all green round about here really, we're pretty lucky.

    I don't like NYC at all, I've been about twelve times and it's just not for me, I love LA and London.

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    1. Considering manic real estate, NYC does actually have some stellar green space starting with Central Park, of course. Most hotel rooms are ridiculous postage stamp (professional opinion.) But can you imagine Tokyo? (I haven't been yet.)

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  2. Oh but I love the Chrysler building - too beautiful for words.

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    1. Three words: silver wedding cake OR Art Deco fab!

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  3. That is so cool, and I think it was featured on Project Runway so it looks familiar to me. I like how it gets you up and out of the city maze. Rails-to-trails type projects are great and this one is really unique. Even with the occasional oasis like this, though, I couldn't live in NYC. There is not enough green space for me. I lived in Washington, DC but that is nothing like NYC, you can find grass/nature/trails/etc pretty easily in and near the city.

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    1. Hear you cate, my inner city slicker and country mouse are always looking for the one-up on each other. That's why when I am in a city I need a patch of green - and a quick exit strategy ;-) DC has so much to see itself, plus as a hub for exploring nearby (Mount Vernon, Arlington, Annapolis...) CO to DC, you've certainly covered some country!

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    2. Exit strategy, ha! That is exactly my relationship with cities. CO spoiled me with its wide open spaces (DC came first, don't think I could live there again).

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  5. We didn't visit the High Line in NYC but we did spend a day in Central Park, that's where I'll be the next time we go. I thought it was amazing.
    I love the elegant layout of city parks, you know me Paris is my top pick: Luxembourg, Tuileries.
    Right now my eye needs a green space, the dreadful gray snow and ice is getting to me!

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    1. Dani, I know, Manhattan really makes most of those 800+ acres - the Carousel, the Conservatory Water with those statues of Hans Christian Anderson and Alice in Wonderland, peaceful Sheep Meadow, Bow Bridge and the Ramble, poignant Strawberry Fields with plants from 161 countries. Each time I return I spot a new treasure. I'm going to bring my trackies one trip and run the Reservoir in personal homage to JKO.

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  7. Hi all! Dani - I think UFO weather warms, Central Park may be on my list too today - I always love it!

    Great post! Not sure if we will hit high line this time, maybe tomorrow if it warms up more!

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    1. HELLO WMM, happy walking and have a delish dinner tonight!

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  8. I don't seem to be in a city long enough to crave green space, but NYC is the most exciting for my money ( which would not go far there). A little perch near Central Park would be fun ( great birding there). I am not as keen on Boston-- too bad as it's the closest; boring.

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    1. Lane, think you and WFF have inspired me to get a "bird book". I always see them flying around and wonder, "What's that?" My grandparents, dad just seemed to know trees, flowers, fish, birds innately, but clearly I didn't absorb much of that.

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    2. I have loved birds since childhood, but it's an easy thing to pick up and who cares if you misidentify one? Birds are one of the pleasures to me; they don't have to be rare. The day the swallows return--magic.

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  9. Okay, now I really need to do that postcard thing :)

    I am enjoying your posts, GF.

    Oh, NYC. I lived there for a long while and still miss it constantly. We have it pretty sweet over here in terms of quality of life (trains that run on time, etc.), so it'd be hard to move back, but I still would.

    I love green spaces in cities. In NYC, I like all of the ones mentioned (well, I enjoy the fact that Central Park exists, because imagine if it didn't, but it's not my favourite to hang out in). I like Bryant Park a lot, a mid-town breath of fresh air.

    What I seek out in cities - modern art musuems, a good cafe, a good spot to people watch, and an interesting neighbourhood to wander. I try to find the non-tourist spots, and as a life-long city dweller I think I'm half decent at it. I always want to know what it's really like to live somewhere.

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    1. Abby, yes, Bryant Park's lawn is a great stop on the way to and from the Library! I could do London, but I don't know if I could return to NYC full-time these days, unless it was out of necessity. I think I know what you mean about getting beyond the landmark sightseeing and getting to know at least a little of what a city is really like.

      N.B. Please make sure to come back on Thursday. I'm going to need YOUR input.

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    2. Oooh! I'll be here!

      London, I forgot about London. I have never even been, but even Heathrow is refreshing to me compared to here. I'm supposed to go in a couple of weeks, I have a feeling it's my kind of city.

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    3. Oh, it's always been first place on my city list. I really hope you get to go soon Abby. And do ping if you're looking for any specifics.

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    4. Oh, thank you! I will let you know - I'm supposed to get tickets this week.

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  10. Hi Get Fresh, we have only ever passed through New York, so have not yet experienced Central Park or the High Line. I have mostly lived in the suburbs all my life, green space all around. However, as a student I lived for a year in Kassel, in what was then West Germany. I lived close to downtown, only a 15-minute walk to the centre, but also close to an entrance to the Karlsaue, a beautiful inner-city park. I could borrow a bike and explore that way, or just walk. My then-landlady, now in her mid-80s, until very recently would still bike around there. I loved living in Kassel - as well as the Karlsaue, there's the beautiful mountain park Wilhelmshoehe; you can take a tram there, and the track, running along a city boulevard, is aligned with the view up the hill to the Herkules monument, just spectacular. Public art is taken to a higher level in Kassel as it hosts the Dokumenta art exhibition every 5 years and exhibits are routinely left behind. I remember, when I first arrived, walking along the river bank and coming across a bright blue pickaxe just stuck there in the ground - it was the size of a 2-storey house! As you can imagine, that sort of thing was quite a revelation to my 20-year-old self!

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    1. Patricia, what a wonderful visual memory of Kassel! Would make anyone want to pack up and go visit. I've only ever been on the briefest of work stops in Berlin and Munich - jotting down your pick to find out more about the city and Documenta this week.

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  11. I'm a Los Angeles native and I do love this city. In 10 minutes I can be at the beach, or in the Santa Monica mountains, high above the city looking out over the bay. And I can do it year round. I also love the desert and can be there in 2 hours. I lived in NYC for 6 years, and when I moved back to LA, I found such a new appreciation for it, things I had always taken for granted, which I don't anymore. I do love Central Park, but never found the same "solitude in nature" experience that I can access here.
    I just know Wendy is going to come back with wild stories, but GF, you're doing a great job of holding down the fort - you really do need to start your own blog!

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    1. Kathy, LA is such a wonderful hub for weekend getaways (desert, mountains, ocean). You might have figured out by now I am deeply envious of anyone that gets to live in a temperate climate. And ta for the compliment.

      How is your bronchitis?? All a fading nasty memory I hope. And are you on countdown to your own trip yet?

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    2. Bronchitis went into pneumonia (mild) and we ended up canceling our trip. I feel OK, but not my usual energy and just couldn't face the very cold weather right now. Thanks for asking. LA is a very easy to city to live in, didn't really know it until I moved and came back.

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    3. Kathy, your description of life in LA reminds me of the Fawlty Towers episode Waldorf Salad. Visitors from California tell how you can swim in the morning and ski in the afternoon - all Basil can say is, "That must be very tiring!"

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    4. I'm sorry you had to cancel your trip, Kathy! I hope that you're all the way better soon.

      I have been thinking about LA lately. It is so close to so many good outdoor areas, and like you said, you cannot get that "solitude in nature" feeling so easily in a lot of other places. I don't get it anywhere here, because it's so agriculturally developed.

      What are your favourite desert spots? I love the California high desert, it is the (non-human) thing that I miss the most living over here and is one of the main things that would compel me to move back.

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    5. Hi Abby - I love both the high and low deserts a lot. Depends on the weather some too. I love Joshua Tree, Desert Hot Springs, the whole Palm Springs area.
      Where do you live now? I want to take a weekend trip soon to Death Valley too.

      And Patricia - it's true. One weekend I was in Palm Springs and would take a tram up to the top of the mountains and cross country ski all morning, by 1pm, back by the pool having lunch - it was great, but yes, it can get tiring.

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    6. Hi Kathy, I'm in Switzerland. No desert here! I am a rock climber, so I've spent a lot of time in J Tree and in Bishop, near Mammoth. I have never made it to Death Valley, though! It's on the list.

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    7. Kathy, the Mojave looks incredible (those sunsets) and definitely on the bucket list. Happiness problem is there is just so much to see and do across CA. Maybe your Death Valley escape (hah) can be a little respite soon instead of the cancelled big trip - hope so.

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  12. We didn't get a chance to visit the High Line the last time we were in NYC - just not enough time. My husband was really disappointed as he really wanted to check it out. We will go first thing the next time we are there. I love Central Park, and Bryant Park is also fun to visit - we went to the restaurant overlooking Bryant Park a couple years ago (it's the one at the back of the library, the name escapes me) and it was so nice, one of my fondest memories. As for favourite green spaces - in Paris, the Jardin du Luxembourg, bien sûr!

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    1. Louise, the High Line's operation times seem to vary seasonally. But if you get back to NYC in non-summer, dusk is a good time to go, watching all the lights come on on a "line" in city is kind of magical. Coming over from Brooklyn Bridge is same. Was that restaurant The Grill?

      I love that the Luxembourg has an apple orchard and pear trees along with all the formal walks and beds.

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  13. I have not been to NYC in a few years..it's always a toss up between NYC and Chicago and Chicago has won out the last few times. I love to visit but can only handle 3-4 days tnen I really do miss the green. I even struggle with desert climates because of the lack of green. I am very spoiled by mother nature were I live, east Tennessee.

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    1. Chicago is fantastic BB, especially with the water access flowing through the city and all the vibrant ethnic neighbourhoods outside the core. No kidding, just don't go in deep winter is my remembrance (July was fab, Feb not so much even for a Canuck). My Dad has been to Tennessee a couple of times and was very taken by the scenery and authenticity. Must ask him about his trips.

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    2. The very first time we went to Chicago in July several years ago, family of four plus my folks, it was incredibly hot. Well over 100 and the most miserable I have ever been sitting at Wrigley Field with zero air movement. Have since always gone in May although next year we have hopes to do SOFA in November.

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    3. What a memorable acronym for a functional art & design show.

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  14. I love the Highline because of the very urban context surrounding it. My favorite spot is that sort of theather where you sit and you just watch the cars below, I could sit there for hours. I love the Standard hotel, it's genius. For some reasons I never cared much for the Coulee Verte in Paris, it is maybe because Paris has a lot of green spaces already, I dunno.

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    1. You are right Ema, Paris has to be one of the one of the top "park cities" in the world. I think maybe I like the Coulee because when I was there it was brilliantly sunny (also fewer "tourists"). And when I've been to Parc Monceau, the Luxembourg (gorgeous but) it has almost always rained ;-)
      I think Balazs is becoming a great hotelier. His properties are cheeky and hip, but truly hospitable and not too trendy.

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  15. I've never been to the High line and thanks for the info. We've been to Central Park twice and both times I was tired. The reason was because it was mile 23 of the N.Y. marathon. The second time I knew what to expect as the small rolling hills were killing me at that point. Next time I need to take a walk in the park!

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    1. Wow, Marsha impressed that you've done and finished the NYM! What a bucket list check mark - twice. Yes, the park is definitely worth another visit in sandals or loafers instead of runners - and maybe not November weather.

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