According to Wikipedia, there are 2,562 songs written about New York City. And after traveling there, I can understand why.
Being a small city boy who has only ever seen New York in movies and in books, traveling to it was very unlike London or Osaka. New York is a beautiful, and incredible city, and they know it. Walking through the airport terminal, I stopped at a shuttle station and asked for some help getting around. I said, "I have never been to New York before, and I have no idea where to go."
The man looked at me and said, "Well, in that case: Welcome to New York, the Greatest City on Earth!"
Hopping on the shuttle, I left LaGuardia Airport and headed across the East River and into East Harlem, in Manhattan.
Although our direct route through the winding, crowded, honking streets of the island are unknown to me, I could tell we were in East Harlem and Harlem for quiet some time. The old, graffiti covered brick buildings were the first bit of realization that I was actually in the Big Apple. Even the areas of town where tourists avoid had an atmosphere about them that they were the prime examples of America's struggles and accomplishments.
I picked a quirky hotel in Midtown East called The Pod Hotel, and I stayed in Pod 51 for my four days in New York.
The Pod Hotel was very small, with my room only being a bed, a closet and a sink. The bathroom and shower was shared, with two being on each floor. My window faced another building, and I could hear traffic on the street below. But in so many ways, the hotel was perfect. Every night it had a movie night, and every morning there was a community breakfast where you could eat on the deck outside and get to meet the other people in your hotel.
I decided then to take a walk around my neighborhood. I had no desire to hit up any of the major destinations today. Instead I just wanted to see the city of NYC in it's natural habitat. And I wasn't that far from the river either.
I headed East on 51st Street and crossed FDR Drive. I stopped to photograph the cars speeding below me. It was at this time I began thinking that New York is like a organ; a never ending, beating, living thing. That feeling stood with me the entire time I was there. This isn't just a city; it's alive!
It was also here where I met another photographer, a very eccentric man who would photograph anything peculiar, including trash on the ground. Looking across the darkening river at Roosevelt Island I saw a strange shape siloetted against the trees.
"What's that?", I asked.
That, the strange building getting less and less visible in the twilight, was an old, abandoned hospital for children with smallpox. It was overgrown, and would soon be demolished. I needed a picture of it. But not tonight. Tomorrow. I will see it tomorrow.
And thus, I headed back, plan in mind, excited to learn what other strange secrets New York had in store for me.
Having no idea that the hospital was only the tip of the iceberg of places I would explore while in NYC.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.
Long before I started my blog, many, many years ago, I visited Innsbruck, Austria. I was on a Contiki trip through Europe and visited a plethora of locations such as Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Lucerne and Innsbruck, just to name a few. It was an incredible experience and one that I think was a transformative moment in my life.
Off the record (or, on the record now, I guess), of all the places I visited, the only one I didn't like was Innsbruck. I couldn't get into it. We visited it in late March, so the weather wasn't the best. The trees didn't have any leaves on them, the grass was brown, and everything had a post-winter grey look to it. After visiting Munich and spending the night in St. Goar, my mind wasn't thinking about Innsbruck at all. Instead, I was more excited to go to Venice the next day, and the Vatican the day after that. My time in Innsbruck was uneventful, and all I wanted was to get back on the road.
That was in 2011, and now it's 2018. Has my opinion on Innsbruck changed? I would say yes. I'm more mature now and if I went back, I would better appreciate what I was seeing. As I've gotten older, I've been less impressed by the massive buildings and more enthralled by the history that created them.
Nestled between the impressive Mount Royal and the majestic St. Lawrence River is Montreal, a city known for its festivals, abstract art, history and mosaic of countless cultures. Montreal is the second largest city in Canada, with a population floating around four million people. While the city is a dynamic mix of Canada's two primary cultures – French and English – there are areas of the city that are culturally specific, such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown. Known for its artistic and liberal mindedness, Montreal also boasts the largest community of homosexuals in North America in their very own "Gay Village".
Being nearly 375 years old, Montreal was pivotal to the creation of New France and Canada and at a time held control over every waterway from the St. Lawrence down to the Gulf of Mexico. Having such incredible influence over the western part of the New World, Montreal hosted the "Great Peace of Montreal" in 1701, which started sixteen years of peace between the French and over 40 different First Nation tribes in North America.
Since its early days, Montreal has been one of the most influential cities in Canada. Montreal housed "internment camps" during World War I, became an ideal location for Americans looking for alcohol during Prohibition, and was the official residence of the Luxembourg royal family during World War II. Montreal held host to the incredible Expo 67, showcasing some of the most incredible architecture of that decade. The seventies saw serious political reformation in Montreal, with many Americans arriving, fleeing the Vietnam Draft. The late seventies paralyzed the city as a terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec, detonated explosives throughout the city and kidnapped and killed political figures. These actions forced the Prime Minster to enact the "War Measures Act" and deploy the military into the city to apprehend the terrorists. The eighties and nineties saw two referendums in the province of Quebec to separate from Canada, with Montreal playing a major role in both decisions. The last referendum in 1995 ended with 51% percent of Quebecers wanting to remain part of Canada and 49% wanting to separate.