Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cathedral of St. John the Divine and a walk in The Park

Sunday dawned and we grabbed a quick breakfast snack and strolled up Amsterdam Avenue to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the third largest church in the world, (after St. Paul's in Rome, understandably, and another in the Ivory Coast, of all places- this according to Lonely Planet).

From Blogger Pictures

In the afternoon we took an walk in the park- Central Park. We entered just a few blocks from our hotel at Strawberry Fields. An ad-hoc tribute band was singing every Beatles song ever written. Just so happened they were singing "Strawberry Fields!" Click here to listen.

From Blogger Pictures

The Jazz Band playing improv was amazing, especially the trumpet player.
From Blogger Pictures

You can click here to list to some of his solo. It went on for a few minutes!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shopping Spree, or "Rolex, Rolex, Rolex!"

From 72nd Street Station, just down from the Beacon Hotel, we jumped onto the #3 express train all he way to Chambers Street Station near the Financial District and walked the rest of the way to The Embassy Suites hotel where Steve and Catherine were staying. They had invited us for the huge buffet breakfast that more than stuffed our tummies. Next it was off to Canal Street via Tribeca for some serious bartering...I
Even in the mid-morning the sidewalks of Canal Street are packed with shoppers and "merchants" (if I use the term loosely) eager to trade. Colleen was first off the mark with a green glass Budda that she got for one dollar after some heated bartering. As we moved further into the centre o the action, the atmosphere was quite charged, as the sellers became more aggressive and the antics more entertaining. We crossed to the north side where rows of Haitians with huge suitcases whisper at you. "Rolex, Rolex, Rolex!" says one. "Gucci, Coach, Louis Vittant, purses," speaks another. "Ray Bans, sunglasses," beckons from a third. Then suddenly, just as you approach the wares, they close their suitcases as if in harmony, they have sensed a mystical force, wearing a uniform that might see their knock-off merchandise. If you ask to see a watch, they come from behind, from a pocket or black plastic bag, and only for a fleeting moment. If you get too curious, sometimes the merchandise goes away, sometimes you get a finger pointing inside an alley, or a door opens inside a store. It's all a very different style of shopping for the initiated.
If you know what you are looking for, and don't mind the fact that, in all likelihood, what you bought is a knock-off with a life-span measured in months, not years, then the price paid is minimal. Gucci purse- $35. Ray Ban sunglasses- $9. Rolex watch- $35.
I was looking for a Tissot T-Touch watch. Hard to find, I discovered. After hearing "Rolex, Rolex, Rolex!" one too many time, I said, "Tissot?" Don't have one," a big black guy replies. "Let me make a call." He pulls out his phone, but there's no answer. I carry on down the street to see how Colleen is doing with the RayBan sunglasses. Two for $18 was her best deal. Steve and Catherine also scored some good stuff. Colleen also managed to get a few things. Hmmm. We carried on up the street.
Almost an hour later, and I've not received any positive responses to my Tissot watch request. The closets I got was a head nod and a finger pointing inside a back room. We're walking back and the I am approached by the same guy. He says he's got his man on the phone. "Tell him the name of the watch," he says. I say "Tissot" into his mobile phone but no luck. My new friend, who calls himself "Prince" says he'll keep trying and make some more calls. I think I'd rather not run into Prince again.

From Blogger Pictures

Later, we took the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Hurricane Bill was wreaking havoc with the weather and the skies, which made for some pretty interesting visuals and even better photos. How's this one of Liberty herself? It's taken in the mid afternoon in her shadow with my iPhone.

From Blogger Pictures

Friday, August 21, 2009

Off to the Financial District- Rendezvous

Not really knowing how far downtown is to walk, we started off towards the Hudson River and intended to walk south for our customary (remember our strict regimen?) one hour. It was stinkin' hot, but the breeze from the river was wonderful and the boardwalk trail system the follow the River south is well developed and quite interesting.
We were supposed to have met up with Australian friends who, unfortunately, had to cancel their trip. Our friends Steve and Catherine, and their daughter Caitlin, had told us they were driving down to NYC for the weekend. They had been there many times- Steve goes as his brother works on Wall Street and Irish born Catherine worked in the travel industry and has been going since she first arrived in Canada. We planned to meet up at their hotel in the Financial District.
After an hour and a half of walking, Steve called wondering where we were. We had tried to hail a cab but realized that the expressway next to the boardwalk was not a good place to get a cab. We turned towards downtown and found one right away, and were quickly delivered to the their hotel.
Across from their hotel was located the Irish Hunger' Memorial, which looks like a little piece of the old sod with a stone brought from each county, including Wexford, where my relatives are from, and Dublin, where Catherine was born.
From Blogger Pictures

Together we walked to the World Trade Center site, shopped at "Century 21' (can you say DEALS?!), and had lunch in the Financial District. We parted with plans to meet up later for dinner at Steve's brother's favourite Soho restaurant. Passing Trinity Wall Street Episcopal church, we stopped to view the bronze sculpture of the sycamore tree's roots, that protected St. Paul's Chapel on September 11, 2001.
From Blogger Pictures

We walked to the Staten Island Ferry terminal where we boarded the John F. Kennedy, all the while wondering about the US armed Coast Guard Zodiac escort that followed our ferry across to the Island. The gentleman we chatted with didn't seem surprised. As a former Soho resident, marathon runner and businessman, he offered many insights into city life. Lightly dressed in the stifling heat, humidity and harbour breeze, he described life on Staten Island, running the NY Marathon, as well as other things.
Returning from the Island, we took our first foray into the NYC Subway. It's amazing! The double tracks allow for local and express trains. We quickly figured out how to switch from one track to the other to make trips more quick and efficient. In 20 minutes we were already back to our 75th Street location, ready for a shower. The subway cars, I might add, are all air conditioned but imagine the heat being pumped out of them into the tunnels! The temperature on the platforms was in the high 40s!
We returned to Soho, having mastered the art of the express subway train (Upper West Side to Soho in 20 minutes- take that TTC!) where we met Steve and Catherine in front of Raoul's bistro on Prince Street. Steve and I visited the corner store to buy a ticket on the NY lottery (prize estimated at $205 million and no, we did not win!) while the others gathered at the art gallery next door. Wild stuff in there!
Catherine and Colleen (the chardonnay assassins) had to settle for the low priced French white as their first choice, the $4100 Burgundy, did not pass the men's approval (it should be noted that they were already drinking large bottles of Belgian Brevel beer).The corn and lobster gazpacho, Noix Saint Jacques, and the blueberry dessert far exceeded the restaurant's reputation, and even the bill!
A stroll to Washington Square helped us work off the wonderful meal. We said our goodnights and then hopped back onto the subway and were home in 20 minutes (take the #1 train north to Times Square and transfer to the #2 express to 72nd Street)!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New York City- Summer Vacation

In Canada, decimal 3% of all road accidents involve a Moose, so it's safer to fly. So off we went to NYC on Aeroplan points. But counting the time it takes to get to the airport, stand in line, check-in, go through US Customs, go through security (and forget that your kayak knife is buried in the secret pocket (but that's another story), board, fly, collect your luggage, get on a shuttle bus to the city, find your hotel and check-in, you could have driven in the same amount of time. But if the journey is as important as the destination, it does not really matter, does it?
We arrived by 9:30 am and after collecting our bags and finding the bus to Grand Central, we waited for the hotel shuttle. The concierge was new so he booked us onto a shuttle not knowing our hotel was outside the free zone. The driver took us anyway and we had a tour of Midtown as we were last to be dropped and and got to see some of the sights, like Times Square and Central Park. Good orientation, despite the fact that the air conditioning didn't work and it was pushing +35!
Based on our initial experience with traffic in NYC, we'd say it's a miracle that more people aren't run over by yellow taxis, however! One must keep their wits about them as pedestrians in this city!
From Blogger Pictures

Arriving at our Broadway and 75th Street Hotel Beacon, we settled in and immediately decided to walk across the street to Fairways grocery to get some eats. As I stepped out of the hotel, my iPhone rang and who do you think it was? The Late Night with David Letterman Show calling about my ticket request. Turns out we are slated for Monday's taping and all we have to do is show up at 2 pm at the Ed Sullivan Theatre and give the secret password (Paul's Gold List) and we'll be in.
The Hotel Beacon, promoted as "The Jewel of the Upper West Side, is on Broadway (yes, famous Broadway!) and 75th street in a really vibrant neighbourhood. Only 100 metres from the 72nd street Subway, across from the most amazing grocery stores we've ever seen and close to all sorts of places, such as Central Park and Strawberry Fields, the Lincoln Centre, Columbus Circle and the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few.
Fairways grocery, we discovered, had the most eclectic variety of cheeses, fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as beer!
We grabbed some dinner there ($20 for salmon and veggies).
Having promised ourselves that we would continue our strict walking regimen, we headed out towards Central Park, down to Columbus Circle and along Central Park South towards Fifth Avenue and, coincidentally, The Apple Store. Open 24/7, 365, the evening crowds, we were told, were average for a Thursday night. We could barely move inside. It's across from the Fairmont Manhattan and next to FAO Schwartz, the world's largest toy store.
From Blogger Pictures

We walked back to the hotel having enjoyed our first day in the "Big Apple!"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to School

Here's a link to an article about the kinds of things a 21st century teacher could be doing in the weeks leading up to the start of school. How many of them have you checked off your list? Have a look here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

'Nuff Said:

Is social media changing the world as we know it? Dr. Tim Tyson thinks so. See his blog post here and watch the Youtube video he embedded.

'Nuff Said:: "


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blogs in Education

I am exploring Blogs in Education in my Web 2.0 Wilkes class this week. I have been reading all sorts of things about Blogs in Education.

Here's a starting list of possible uses of blogs in school.


Post a prompt

Week in Review

Respond to a Reading

Find the Facts

Critique a site

Current Events

Snow Day assignments

Field Trip

Role Play a Point of View

Sports Reporter

Add your idea by Posting a comment...