Ten Places In The United States That I Have Been To And Will Return

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Ten Places In The United States That I Have Been To And Will Return

“America ….. is the land of the richness of life, of the fullness of every hour in the day, the country which gives you the sense of carrying out a huge amount of activity, even though in fact you achieve very little, the country where solitude is impossible.” Italo Calvino

America is big and there is so much to see in the land of the free and home of the brave. The geography, climate, wildlife and people are extremely diverse. We have a brief history compared to Europe and the UK but it is interesting. Here are ten places in no particular order that I love to visit.

Washington DC is the capital of the country and our political center. That might not sound like the place to be be right now but it’s beautiful in the spring with the cherry blossoms in bloom, and in the fall with the leaves changing color. DC is a walkable city if you stay downtown.You have to do the basics. First there are the monuments – Lincoln, Washington, Martin Luther King, Jefferson and WWll. You can see them at night as well. Get your Capitol and White House Tour tickets before you come. It’s fun to just walk down the National Mall and see all the museums and monuments. The Smithsonian Institution has 19 museums all over the city. I also like Newseum, the Holocaust Museum, National Portrait Gallery and my favorite the National Gallery Of Art. Union Market has an amazing food scene and the food in DC is eclectic and delicious. If you have kids, the FBI and the Mint are fun to see.

People from Los Angeles love San Francisco. Their rich people are techies not Hollywood types. It is geographically tiny and you can walk everywhere.  Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is cool.  Riding the cable car is an excellent way to see the city.  Taking the ferry to Alcatraz Island is interesting.  You can walk along Fisherman’s Wharf which is really touristy. I dont recommend eating there.  Swan Oyster Depot is better for seafood. San Francisco is a foodie city so there are many  great restaurants. Go to the largest Chinatown in the US for dim sum and Japantown for sushi. The Ferry Building which has been converted to a market and food court is a great place for lunch. I love the newly renovated San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art. There are many interesting neighborhoods with walking tours. Bring a jacket- even in summer.

Amelia Island is a quiet barrier island, located in the Northernmost portion of Florida, not too far from the Georgia border. The island is one of the Sea Islands, a chain of coastal barrier islands stretching from Northeast Florida to South Carolina. It is great place to relax with southern hospitality. Amelia Island offers 13 miles of quiet, secluded beaches. The setting is quaint and beautiful, with many historical inns, beautiful seaside homes, hiking trails and a few resorts.The weather is mild year-round with an average winter temperature in the 60’s. You will find that the area is not overdeveloped, but rather reminiscent of the old days in Florida.

Chicago, Illinois has the the hospitality of a midwestern city with the  famous architecture and multiculturalism of New York. The food in Chicago is first class and the Art Institute is one of my favorite museums. The elevated Bloomingdale Trail and the Lake Michigan bike paths are fun when the weather is nice. I also liked the Architecture Cruise given by the Architectural Foundation which is a fun way to see the famous buildings. Chicago is home to the comedy club Second City (think SNL) and Steppenwolf Theatre Company (think Broadway). The best time to visit is spring and fall. 

The Big Island is also called Hawaii. I love the Kona side with its volcanic landscape and black sand beaches. The Hilo side has a lush tropical landscape and is definitely a day trip. Yes Hawaii is expensive because it is an island and everything has to be shipped in. If you have never seen an active volcano, go to Hawaii Volcano National Park. Stay after dark to see the glow from the Caldera. I usually never leave the black sand beach.

 As an ex New Yorker, when I visit New York City, I want to see and do it all. It’s a frantic schedule even for a New Yorker. It’s impossible to see it in one visit and you have to resign yourself to see and do what you can. The lines for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Empire State Building are long so get there early. If you are interested in the World Trade Memorial, get your tickets before you go.Times Square is always crowded with tourists. Get tickets for you shows in advance or go to TKTS booth in Times Square for discount tickets to day of shows. See a concert or ballet at Lincoln Center. There are walking tours in every neighborhood so pick neighborhoods that interest you. I grew up in Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn and recommend both as a way to relax in the city. The HIghline is an urban walking park which runs from 34th Street to the Meatpacking District, built on old elevated train tracks, is lovely on a nice day. NY is filled with excellent museums so budget some time for those. The Met is one of the biggest museums in the world and  has something for everyone so I recommend that. I love the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. Food is a whole blog. NYC is filled with amazing restaurants and many different immigrant cultures who bring along great food. When I return, I must have pizza and egg rolls from any family run place, cannoli from Venero’s, bagels from Ess A Bagel and a hot dog from Grey’s Papaya . NYC was my last plane trip in the old world so I am particularly nostalgic. 

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Plan to be amazed by the intense color of the red rocks and the night skies filled with stars. There is a magical , spiritual quality to Sedona, Arizona . Sedona has a moderate climate and though it is hotter in summer and snowy in winter, you can really visit anytime. The natural beauty and energy vortexes make hiking, dining, spa and  personal growth experiences even better.

Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most historic cities in the United States. I have been there many times and love the food, museums and the fact that is a slower paced city than New York.The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walk through historic Boston. It takes you through all the major sites and monuments relating to the city’s founding and the Revolutionary War. The trail passes through Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall so plan to stop for lunch.There are beautiful neighborhoods with their own vibe and history to walk through. I love the North End which is the heart of Boston’s Italian community. It involves waiting on a line for cannoli at MIke’s Pastry. You might also want to see a Red Sox game or visit Harvard. Museums in Boston are free to students which is another thing I love about the city.

A new England summer vacation had never occurred to me until my daughter went to camp in Maine. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts is not actually a place to lie out on the beach for eight hours with a drink in hand.The weather can be iffy. There are great restaurants especially if you are a fan of lobster and sea food. The Vineyard is divided into six towns each with their personal vibe, so explore them all, by foot, bike or if it’s raining –  car. If you bring a car, make sure to have a car reservation for the ferry in advance or purchased from a resident. 

I love skiing in Park City, Utah. Growing up as an East Coast skier, the incredible Utah powder is so wonderful. Whatever your level of skiing, you will find runs in Park City. I love Deer Valley. The resort is consistently ranked at the top when it comes to grooming, service, access, on-mountain food, lodging, dining, and kid friendliness. Park City was founded in 1884 after the silver boom of the 1860s, and its mining heritage plays a strong role in defining the Western flavor of the charming little downtown scene. There is an abundance of restaurants and bars to choose from. It is also the host of the world famous Sundance Film Festival which takes place in January every year. 

Sty safe,

JAZ

Travel Things That You Will Probably Do Only Once In Your Lifetime

Travel Things that You Will Probably Do Only Do Once In A Lifetime.

“Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli

There are many things I would like to do again in my lifetime, go back to Croatia and Turkey, spend more time in the Amazon, eat street food in Thailand and sushi at Tsukiji etc. Then there are things that I know I will only do once. (Croatia)

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Climb to the top of the Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument , etc. Any monument that you climb is a “one and done” for me. (Washington)

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Shop at Harrods in London or Ginza Mitsukoshi in Tokyo. The largest department store in the world is a one time visit – especially for the food areas. i can’t focus enough to buy anything. There are better places to be in these cities. (Tokyo)

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Climb to the top of some big mountain like Kilamanjaro, Everest or the Matterhorn. If you are capable of doing this, it is great for your quadriceps but words like summit and base camp are frightening to me. (Kilamanjaro)

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Visit the coffee shops in Amsterdam. If that is where you are spending all your time in Amsterdam, you have a problem.

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See the Aurora Borealis.

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Walk the Camino de Santiago.

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Take a gondola ride in Venice. I had every intention of doing this but after getting woken up every morning to gondoliers singing Volare, I felt like i had done it and took a boat instead.

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Visit the Grand Canyon – still have not done this

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Walk the Great Wall of China.

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Visit the Acropolis, Stonehenge, the Colosseum, Ephesus, Delphi, the Moabs or other famous ruins. They stay the same just a bit older.

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Go to Oktoberfest in Munich, Carnaval In Rio, Running With the Bulls In Pamplona, La Tomatina in Spain, Kumbh Mela in India ,Burning Man in Nevada, Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico, Chinese New Year in China and the International Balloon Festival in New Mexico.

I still have a lot to do.

Fly Safe,
JAZ

Walking In New York With My Mom

Walking In New York With My Mom

“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.” Rebecca Solnit

I moved in with my mom in my very early twenties because I wanted to save money for traveling. It wasn’t my first choice of places to live but spending summers in Greece was much more appealing to me than paying rent in Manhattan.

Her passion was theatre. There was not a lot of money but she knew every way to get free or discount tickets to the theatre, ballet, symphony and opera in NY.  It was pre – internet and a lot harder to find things out. My mother went out six nights and three matinees a week. Theatres in Manhattan are dark on Monday nights. My mom saw the previews, pre closings, dress rehearsals, hits, flops, shows that never opened and shows that ran now and forever. We called it “her ticket business” though she never made any money from it. Most of the time there were many free tickets which she could not let go to waste. Hours were spent calling people. My mother felt that if she was in possession of these tickets, it was her job to bring joy to as many people as possible and fill up the theatres. I found it very annoying but I was twenty-two and everything that wasn’t about me was annoying.

Sometimes we would go to a matinee together. We would walk from East 18th st to West Broadway somewhere in the forties. Those of you familiar with cross town traffic in NY know that walking is usually faster anyway. It was an opportunity to spend time together and learn to relate to each other as adults.

My mother was legally blind from the time she was seventeen so walking with her was always interesting. We walked up Second Ave passed a small NY park (one square block of green). People were shooting up, selling drugs, smoking pot or exposing themselves. ”Aren’t we lucky to have this beautiful bit of green in the midst of all these tall buildings?” she asks. I tell her what she is missing. She laughs and says “Sometimes it’s good not to see.”

We walk up 23rd st near the School Of Visual Arts where the arty kids are hanging out in interesting street wear and hairdos. They are photographing. drawing, and taking notes. We continue passed the many discount stores that used to be there. We called them yoyo stores (because they sold anything they could sell cheaply – from apples to yoyos.) We see a large group of deaf children. They are signing. My mother sighs. “I feel so sorry for deaf people. They can never hear music.” I said,“Don’t worry about them, they feel sorry for you.” She laughs again and tells me I am a rotten kid.

On Third Avenue a boy is playing the violin on the street. She gives him a dollar .“Thank you so much. I love Mendelssohn’s  Concerto in E major“. He is so pleased that someone knew what he was playing. I was impressed. I have a hard time remembering the names of classical music.  She explained to me that she is now finished with her charity for today.” I put a dollar in my pocket every day and I give it to the first homeless person that asks me. It is my way of helping the homeless in our city”. I wasn’t sure that he was homeless but I did not tell her that.

She stepped off the curb about to cross the street at the red light. I gently hold her back. It always worried me when she would do stuff like that because I don’t know how she got across the street alone. She said that she went with the crowd and was never hit by a car in 91 years so I guess it worked.

My mom was a really good listener. She was my rock who I ran to when I was confused. I talked about whatever problems I was having that week as we walked up to Park Ave. She always knew what the right thing to do was and could sort out my problems and mess of emotions. I stopped to buy a pretzel with mustard from a cart on the street. “If you walk a few more blocks east, there is a woman who sells fresher pretzels.” I don’t ask how she knows this because she doesn’t usually eat pretzels.

At 34th st, we come to the Empire State Building. “You never wanted to go up to the top,” she said. “I still don’t,” I said in my grown up voice. The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for forty years. Now it is the fourth tallest building in the world and a cultural icon of New York City. Years later my mother would take my four year old son to the top without me.

We passed the NY Public Library at Fifth Ave and 42nd st. Two stone lions guard the entrance. Though originally named Astor and Lennox (after the library founders) Mayor Fiorello La Guardia renamed them Patience and Fortitude during the Great Depression. The huge Beaux Arts structure opened in 1911 and was the largest library at that time.    My mom speaks. “We are so lucky to have this beautiful building in NY.  The Rose Reading Room is so lovely. They have a wonderful collection of books on tape and they are so helpful with recommendations. I am reading Deepok Chopra.” I remembered when they didn’t have books on tape. She listened to operas and symphonies a lot. I guess that is how she knows Mendelssohn.

She tells me about the play in preview she has seen the night before. It isn’t going to open because the play needs work but the music was beautiful and the acting was fantastic. My mother could never say anything bad about a “show.”

We get to Rockefeller Center and see the imposing bronze statue of Atlas holding the heavens on Fifth Avenue. We cut through and pass the gold statue of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind, throngs of tourists and fourteen art deco buildings from the 1930’s. We passed Radio City Music Hall built in the 1930s with 6000 seats. It was called Radio City because that is what the complex of NBC and RCA studios that housed the Music Hall was called in the days of radio. The renovated interior is a great example of art deco design.

We are going to the Circle In The Square Theatre on Broadway but first she has to drop off tickets at the Longacre Theatre on 48th st and the Ambassador Theatre on 49th. Her friends are all ages and always waiting for her. “Look for someone in a green coat.” she says to me.  I steer her in the right direction. When they see her, they come toward her.   She proudly introduces me. I smile. They are all avid theatre goers and are planning what they are going to see that night.

We finally walk into the theatre. She takes out a very large Hershey Bar from her purse and says to the usher,“You looked so tired the last time I was here I thought you might need this.” She asks the usher where her seats are (even though she knew the location of every seat in every theatre in Manhattan). The usher says “I think we can do better.“ She brings us to the excellent house seats. “It’s good to be nice to people,” my mom tells me and takes out her binoculars as the curtain is going up.

Fly safe Mom,

JAZ

How To Tell If Someone You Know Was Born And Raised In New York

How To Tell If Someone You Know Was Born And Raised In New York

“The city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience – if they did they would live elsewhere.”  E.B. White

Nw Yorkers don’t wait for a street light to turn green to cross the street.

They don’t go to the corner to cross.

They don’t know what a cross walk is.

They walk fast and they walk everywhere. Unless it is raining, then try to get a taxi. You won’t.

New Yorkers talk fast. They might interject a comment if they overhear a stranger’s conversation and then walk on by.

They talk loud – sorry, they speak loudly.   Don’t judge them. Remember that  they grew up in the noisiest city in the world.

They don’t necessarily believe that one person needs to talk at a time. It is a cultural thing.

They honk their horns in traffic.

New Yorkers avoid eye contact when walking down the street.

They don’t smile on the street.

They appear rude but really they are assertive. Some are rude.

They immediately check for their wallet when someone bumps into them.

People from New York follow baseball and basketball.

They never give directions saying North, East, West and South. It is always street names or Uptown and Downtown.

They hail passing taxis with their hand instead of calling for one.

They think every city has cruising taxis and are very surprised when they don’t.

They never give an exact address in a taxi. They just say eighteenth and first.

New Yorkers ignore crazy behavior.  Homeless people, prostitutes, transvestites, cross dressers, lunatics and street performers are all part of the scenery.

They are surprised when restaurants close at ten.

Unless they are in Italy or New York, they complain about the pizza. They eat it while they are complaining.

They also complain about the Chinese Food and the bagels anywhere but New York. They eat it anyway .

People from New York avoid restrooms in parks and subways.

They don’t go to Central Park at night unless it is for a concert or performance in the park. They always leave with the crowd.

They know the difference between a bad neighborhood and a neighborhood that just looks bad.

They are surprised that  you didn’t know that the Empire State Building changes colors at night.

They are surprised that you didn’t know who won the Tony Awards.

New Yorkers avoid Times Square unless they are going to the theatre.

They use the letter R inappropriately or not at all.

They read the obituary column to find apartments.

They are not afraid of cockroaches. (They are afraid that the ones who live in their apartments know too much about their lives).

They always look for rats on a subway platform. They are afraid of rats.

They have a New York accent. Like New York garbage, it is always there. No matter how long you have been away or how much you try to disguise it, it always slips out so fuhgeddaboutit.

They are very proud to be from New York or “the city.”

Fly safe,

JAZ