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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If you follow my blog, you know I love history. History is what makes us who we are today. It defines our accomplishments and highlights our failures. Most importantly, it helps us move forward as a society.
A lot of my focus is Saskatchewan's history, but there's plenty of amazing history to be told in our neighbour province of Alberta too. From First Nations culture, through to early pioneers, the oil boom and the legacy the province today, there is always something to learn about when visiting Alberta.
Last week Ford Canada flew my sister Krystal and I out to Prince Edward Island to take part in their Cross-Canada #FordEcoSport Tour. We were only the fifth of fifteen groups that will take part in the tour, so be sure to follow the hashtag to see what everybody is getting up to as well.
Our section of the tour was probably one of the longest in the program, as we had to drive from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to Saint John, New Brunswick, then to Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec and ending in Quebec City. The whole distance is about 1,020 kilometres, which is about 10 hours of driving, assuming we didn't stop to see anything along the way.
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.