A Relaxing Winter Night Viewing the NY Skyline

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Picture from Beekman Tower Hotel website

This city is full of rooftop bars, where people gather at night, have a drink, listen to music, and have a great view of New York. I went to some of these bars in the summer, and it was a great experience, although some of them were very crowded, and there were a couple of times when I felt I was in line to get into a club.

The bad thing about rooftop bars is that you can only go in the summer. During the fall and winter the temperature is too cold to even think about grabbing a drink in an open space. Luckily, I found a great alternative for the winter: a covered rooftop restaurant and bar on Midtown East, called The Top of the Tower, at the Beekman Tower Hotel.

This place is great if you want a relaxing evening with friends, or a romantic dinner. The food and drinks are very good, and the view is amazing (you can pick between looking over the bridges on the East River or the city on the west side of the building). It also offers smokers two small terraces where they can step out and enjoy a cigarette while taking in the lights of the city.

I highly recommend this place. It’s not the trendiest, but whether you go in a group or on a date, you’ll be able to experience the beauty of the city without the big crowds and long lines.

To know more about this restaurant, click here.

True Art in Black and White

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Las Meninas, after Velazquez. Pablo Picasso. Image from guggenheim.com

Being in one of the major art capitals of the world, of course I’ve taken advantage of the museums and galleries in New York. This month, I didn’t just see -I experienced- one of the best exhibitions ever: Picasso Black and White, at the Guggenheim.

I have always loved Picasso, and I have been to many exhibits of his work around the world, but I think this one has been the best one. It shows 110 works in which the artist explores the power of monochromatic paintings.

The audio guide gave a perfect explanation of the different paintings and sculptures’ meaning and context. Narrated by a curator dedicated to Picasso, one of the artist’s friends and his daughter Maia, it leads the spectator through personal experiences, feelings and anecdotes that help us understand what Picasso was going through in each historic period, and how he projected his feelings on these works.

A complete exhibition, the only thing missing was the Guernica, which is huge and obviously impossible to bring from the Princesa Sofia Museum in Spain. I highly recommend everyone to live this experience, and to share your opinions here.

To know more about Picasso Black and White, visit the Gugenheim website by clicking here.

Finding the Zen in New York

Image taken from Google Images

New York is a city filled with noise, lights and lots of people. It’s full of life, but I sometimes need to get away from it all to relax, to think, or to find inner peace. Looking online, I read about a place that offers yoga classes, lectures and workshops, so I decided to check it out.

When I first walked in the New York Open Center, on 30th street between 5th and Madison Avenues, I immediately felt the tranquility. Wind chimes, incense and books fill the room. I went directly to the books, and they are related to many topics: from yoga and meditation, to massages, herbs, alternative medicine, and aromatherapy.

When I was looking around, a lady came up to me and explained that they also have seminars on all these subjects, on handling diseases and loss, working on self esteem… you name it. She also informed me that they have a free meditation room, open to anyone. Of course, I asked to see it, and a minute later I found myself in a small dim-lit room with cushions, incense and figures. I took off my shoes, sat on one of the cushions and closed my eyes. After what felt like five minutes to me, I got up with a great sense of calm and had forgotten the noise of the city. I was so calm, that it wasn’t after I got out that I realized that I’d been in there 15 minutes, not five.

So, if you’re ever in need of a place to regroup in this crazy city, try out the New York Open Center… Wether you sign up for a class or seminar, or if you just try to meditate for a few minute, you’ll definitely get your Zen on.

To find out more about their activities, visit their website through this link.

The Big Apple turns blue and red

ImageThis year the US witnessed one of the closest presidential elections in history. For months, Obama and Romney were two of the most mentioned names in the media, and every action they took, every word they said, was construed as campaigning. Last Tuesday, November 6th, the elections took place, and New York turned from multicolored to red and blue.

As a Mexican, elections in the US were a mystery to me. The way people vote here is a lot different than in Mexico, and also the way candidates react to the results. But the thing that amazed me the most was the way the city was visually transformed to celebrate the country’s elections… and the best place to see was Rockefeller Center.

The plaza on 5th Avenue and 50th Street was a completely patriotic place for the whole day, becoming Democracy Plaza. Stands with screens led you through a path of voters, NBC crew and tourists looking up. When you reached the end of the path, you could see what everyone was looking at: Two massive banners -one blue, for Obama, and one red, for Romney- hanging from the NBC building (where the “Top of the Rock” is). There were also four large screens next to the building, where people could see the news, forecasts and results of elections for the Senate. On the ice rink, a map of the US had been drawn, with all of its states. There were also cabins set for NBC to anchor the news from there (at a distance I was able to see David Gregory and Brian Williams). This was an amazing view, but it was at night when everything got interesting.

During the counting of the votes, you could witness a live minute-by-minute update of the results. When each of the candidates won in a state, that state would be colored red or blue on the map in the rink, and the banners on the building would elevate according to the number of votes. The best thing was the reaction of the people that were watching… everyone cheered for their candidate, and it really felt like a celebration.

I loved this experience, and more so because it’s so much different that what I’ve lived at home during election season.

What was your NY experience during the elections?

A stroll along the Village

If you want to see the variety of people who live, study, work or travel in New York, the Village is a great place to do it. Surrounded by the fashion and art in Soho,the trendy places in the Meatpacking District and a more corporate side in Chelsea, this neighborhood is always full of life. I highly recommend just walking around its narrow and crowded streets to fully experience it.

One great afternoon at the Village would start with a great lunch at one of the most affordable places I’ve found in the city. Thai restaurant Cafetasia, at 8th Street between Broadway and University Place, is a very good option for lunch. The food is great (I personally recommend the chicken Pad Thai… amazing!) and the ambiance is simple and relaxed. I must admit that the service isn’t the best, but with its low prices, you won’t care if it takes a little longer to get your food.

After a great lunch, I like to relax, and maybe take a quick stroll. A great place to do this is Washington Square Park. In this 9 acre landmark you can be sure to find a wide variety of people and music. On one corner you will see a band of bongo drums. Keep walking a little further, and you’ll hear a jazz band improvising for the viewers. When you get to the center of the park, you can sit in a bench, take out a book and read while a concert pianist plays some classics with the great Washington Arch as a background.

For the rest of the afternoon you can buy a cup of coffee in one of the many cafes, like the Mille-feuille Bakery in Laguardia and 3rd St., where you can try their delicious almond croissants.

To have a great end to a very nice day in the Village, I like to go to the Blue Note Jazz Club, on 3rd St. between McDougal and 6th Ave. This very famous, tiny club has seen some of the best jazz performers, and I’ve witnessed some incredible concerts in it. I highly recommend it for a nice, relaxing evening, or before going to a night club in the area.

On a day like this, I am reminded that New York is truly a diverse city, full of all types of people. It’s one of the things I love about the city, and it’s great to go to a place where I can vividly see this.

What about you? What have been some of your experiences in the Village?

An acre of calm

This week, Midtown East has been hectic. With the UN General Assembly, there is security all over the place, streets are closed, and there has been an even greater feeling of hurry. Walking through the neighborhood, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by everything… I needed to unwind.

Suddenly, while I walked through 51st street, I stumbled upon a hidden place called Greenacre Park. Although it isn’t really an acre (more like the width of a town house in the area), when you go inside, it might as well be an acre. There are tables and benches to sit and gaze at all the plants that surround you, and the sounds made by the two-story waterfall and babbling brook drown out all noise from the street.

You can also go during rainy days -such as the today, or the ones to come during Fall. The park offers refuge through a trellis roof.

Upon some research, I found out that Greenacre Park was created in the 1970s by landscape architect Hideo Sasaki, precisely to escape from the “city experience”. And I must say that it really accomplishes its goal. If you ever need to get away, I highly recommend to grab a good book and go to this oasis of tranquility.

Getting in touch with nature

New York is the “city of cities”. Skyscrapers, buildings and a fast pace characterize it. However, it also offers spaces to go back to nature. Aside from its many parks, there is one place where you can truly unplug from the metropolis and get into the wild: The Bronx Zoo.

For some people, this may mean a very long subway ride. But if you are a nature and animal enthusiast like me, believe me, it is worth it. As soon as you step into this magnificent zoo (the larges urban zoo in the world), you will find yourself immersed in nature. The small trails -and slightly larger roads- will lead you to waterfalls, tall trees and, of course, all sorts of animals.

The layout of the zoo is divided into ecosystems and continents: Asia, Africa, rainforest, and so on. Based on what animals you wish to see (of the more than 600 species in it), you can plan your whole day. The spaces where the animals live are wide, and give you a great sense of what their natural habitats would be like. They also give you a comforting feeling that the animals are being well taken care of.

My highlights of the day trip were watching the tiger cubs and entering the Congo Gorilla Forest. In the latter, you are led through waterfalls, huge trees and hanging branches to see these amazing creatures up close. The experience is beyond comparison.

There are many interactive activities in this zoo, for kids and adults. There is a children’s zoo, where you can feed goats, a train that offers a safari-like experience, camel rides, animal feedings… the list goes on.

For directions, hours and exhibits, go to the Bronx Zoo website.