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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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.