Thursday, 30 August 2012

NYC: An Empire State of Mind!

NYC, there's no other place like it! Bright lights and that big city feeling are all rolled into one. So many things to see and do, where does one begin? A city so big it should be declared a state in its own right, this gargantuan city keeps on giving me more! I am seriously living a dream here in the East Coast of the U.S.A! New York City, show me what you've got! I'm ready B!

For true, New York City has many different sides, she's multi-talented! I currently have the immense privilege to live very close to this mesmerising place! The approach to Times Square by foot is out-of-this-word, there's just no other way to explain the bright lights and the constant sea of hustle and bustle as New York City's epicentre loves life as one! I just didn't think this place was real, well it's very real and is one place in New York City that gave me an 'Empire State of Mind!' This part of NYC is a kaleidoscope of colour, beaming down throughout the streets that surround Time Square. Yes, it's a tourists paradise, its no secret that everyone wants to be part of the NYC vibe! Times Square is famous for its towering adverts that look amazing after sunset. Yes, Times Square was the first place that I visited in New York City, it was one place that solidified that I was in NYC, NY! O, moderation would be the key for T.S.

Times Square's also home to NYC's Theatre-land, London has the 'West End' but NYC has 'Broadway!' Shows like 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' and 'Evita' are just two of the many shows that are currently wowing audiences at the moment. Like London's 'West End', Broadway is constantly unveiling new musicals, for 2014 Aladdin and Kinky Boots will be premiering! Word on the street is that Cyndi Lauper will be involved with the new Kinky Boots Musical production! I have a sickly feeling that I won't be able to see half of these new upcoming new shows, but I'm going to make damn sure I get to at least one Broadway show this year! It's true that Times Square brings it big, giving me a showstopper during my first visit! Call me crazy, surely NYC isn't all about bright lights and craziness? Broadway, I'll be back! I know that I have enough time to see that one and only show, those tickets are not cheap! New York City, I could get selfish with you! The West End will return because NY's Broadway is for now.

Now, I don't have a head for heights but that didn't stop me seeing a view from up above! The Empire State Building offered me a bird's eye view of New York City and it only costs $25.00. The Empire State Building is located close to New York City's Penn Station and 6th Avenue, this iconic landmark made me weak at the knees. I'm not fond of heights but was a once in a lifetime experience that simply had to be done. Taking on the Empire State Building on a clear afternoon we had maximum exposure to all of the sites, we had a bird's eye view of the Statue of Liberty! It was quite bizarre because from the top the yellow taxi cabs all looked like busy little ants zipping through the streets! Reuniting my Disney pal and former colleague was amazing, me and Ritika took on that skyscraper without thinking about the dizzying heights! So far I have been blessed, NYC has showed me so much! At times its been crazy, its all worked out!

Picture the scene that's captured above for NYC is a maze of streets and neighbourhoods that challenge each and every local and tourist alike. Like any provincial city that's got the world looking at its every move New York City keeps it real just about every day of the week, well multiple that by fifty two because NYC is nonstop! For me grabbing a bite to eat should never feel like a task! Taking the subway downtown from the tourist traps to Chinatown NYC for an unforgettable sight, I found out for myself that there's so much more to that Oriental part of town! I had no idea what Vietnamese food was! The movies had lied to me, looking past that shade I was living within NYC's Oriental corner! I strayed away from the guide book by taking a chance on Downtown because New York City keeps it real, there's just nothing that this captivating and energetic city hides from its residences and visitors! Yes, I love New York City with all my heart, there's nowhere else I would rather be right now!

Those bright lights and tourists get on my nerves sometimes, I have adored jumping on the PATH train from Newark Penn Station on my off days without any plans for my day ahead in NYC. Telling lies I knew where Christopher Street was after I took some travel advice from one of my colleagues shortly after arriving into Newark. The kitsch streets of Greenwich Village and the near by Christopher Street area were just darling! I have been so blessed, I enjoyed my spring day getting perfectly lost in order to find Bleecker Street. Not needed the NYC Subway I stumbled upon NYU, it reminded me that I had a friend who's completing a very specialised qualification at that university. Getting away from the tourist appropriate areas has allowed me to learn more about NYC hidden secrets, I live to find more things out about the Village's. It wasn't just architecture that I got lost in, those blue eyes had me standing frozen!

This summer time has taken me to places like Las Vegas but returning to Christopher Street gave me the right kind of happiness, that was for NYC Pride 2012! Attending my first Pride March in NYC had my everlasting love on lock for this North American super-city! I lived for that day, it opened my eyes to so much more, bringing me closer with new friends that have only added to my time here. I don't have work on my mind when I'm in the city, its my happy place to explore and to get lost in all the right places. Allow my feet to take me down a different path, my faith has been given to NYC for it to take my hand. I remember not having any sleep, getting on the PATH train over to West Village because I wanted to find something new, really my heart always felt light whilst I was in that rainbow styled part of town. NYC, you've got me doing things and going to places that I could have only dreamed about before my placement. The subway was cool but the PATH was my key to the city!

Perched on Liberty Island is the world renowned Statue of Liberty. It's located in between New York and New Jersey surrounded around the Hudson River. That formidable Lady of Liberty waves her torch over the Hudson River, guiding the many vessels that cross the waters throughout the night. Honestly, the Lady of Liberty is a formidable figure, in my opinion she looks every inch the 'Glamazon'. Just across the water is Ellis Island, once home to New York City's largest Immigration screening centre. Ellis Island holds many exhibits that depict the struggles and journeys that people of the past made to reach the United States of America. I understood how New York has developed into a city that is such a melting pot of sub-cultures and variety making NYC a tough place to find the best international food and culture in one place! That Battery Park had me thinking all kinds of blogging thoughts in March 2012! Yes, L!

Entering a film location for one of the 1980's most iconic films that was based in the city. Madonna's breakthrough film 'Desperately Seeking Susan' was created for me in real-time! Battery Park, a place that made its way into Madonna's movie that painted its background around Battery Park, that's why the film in-question looks sensational. I loved my afternoon at Battery Park, kidding myself that Madge would rock up to the park and be waiting for her date but life is life so I didn't see Susan. Forget Hyde Park because that Downtown district was only a heartbeat away from the shores of the Hudson River. New York City has turned my life upside down, it gives me a place to run to on my days because Newark is downright down shady! Keep it classy NYC, or keep it whatever you want to darling! I have five months remaining, my Industrial Placement will allow me to spend just enough time but I'll always have an 'Empire State of Mind!' Get it together, Brooklyn needs to be bossed! Go!

New York, New York! 

Joseph Harrison

Monday, 20 August 2012

Jewish NYC: Keep It Kosher!

Brooklyn, New York has many different communities that make up a rich tapestry of cultures and backgrounds. One very individual part of Brooklyn is the Hasidic Jewish community, keeping themselves busy with their religion and home-making they pose to be a very closed part of NYC. With that said, I felt the need to observe the goings-on of their Kosher way of life.

That day I needed some serious sleep but like the crazy fool that I am, I boarded the PATH back into the city on such a beautiful morning. Only having the faintest idea as to where I needed to be heading, I trusted my intuition, now that's a dangerous thing for sure! Taking the L Subway train to Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg I was lead to be amazed at what I was about to witness. After walking what felt like the length and breadth of Williamsburg. I had to ask a passerby about the 'Jewish' area, he directed me in the correct direction, I kept on walking. One particular street sign became clear to my vision. Lee Avenue, my intended destination had been found finally. Why choose a street so particular as Lee Avenue? I had researched before about Jewish New York, this avenue in-question had looked very interesting on Google Earth. Something inside my heart told me I had to trust Brooklyn that summers day! Yes B!

Why on earth would I want to stray out the tourist-trap of Manhattan? I live to push the boundaries and within reason like to see places that aren't advertised in the tourist guides. Hasidic Jewish culture interests me because these people are so devoted to their religion and only trust people within their tight knit community. I feel like I was drawn to this part of Brooklyn, NYC for a reason! I loved the restricted feeling of this neighbourhood for these people put a lot of effort into not mixing with other communities in Brooklyn, let alone the rest of NYC! The insular feel of Lee Avenue and the quiet side streets felt so cut off from the rest of the borough. I have Jewish ancestry on my paternal side, so that's definitely where my fascination with all things Jewish enters this equation. I don't think my ancestors were a part of the Hasidic way of life but they were Jewish nevertheless. I was ready to see something new, something that wasn't predictable like Times Square was.

Lee Avenue oozed a feeling of cohesion and togetherness, the shops with their Hebrew signs and the many religious men passing by dressed in their black and white attire, donning their 'payot' which literally translate to 'ringlets'. I had made it to Lee Avenue finally, I was immersed within the centre of the Hasidic Jewish enclave of Williamsburg, well one part of Williamsburg because I don't think its all Jewish in Brooklyn?For what I was about to see would be more realistic than a television show I had previously seen about this part of Brooklyn? I know I saw exactly what I set out to, Williamsburg's Jewish sect impressed me much! Without a smartphone that had built in GPS or data I was able to make it to my destination, casting my mind back to that day I know that everything happened for the right reasons. The Jewish side of Brooklyn felt safe, Brooklyn has had a renaissance to beckon a new chapter. Lee was real!

There was no McDonald's for me to have some lunch at for everything was strictly Kosher so I just made the best of my current surroundings. I didn't want chain restaurants because I'm used to family operated places in my Ironbound neighbourhood in New Jersey. I took a breather I discovered 'Frankel's Kosher Supermarket' that had everything a good Hasidic Jewish person could find on their food shopping list. One thing that I saw in 'Frankel's' was that the women took care of the domestic side of things. Were the Jewish people a little work shy? No, I say this because the businesses along Lee Avenue were simple but to me they looked very Jewish from an outsiders point of view. The many Kosher bakeries, clothes shops, Kosher food stores and Kosher Butchers had a very big Jewish presence, more to the Hasidic way of things. Keeping it kosher would have been so easy compared with other part of the city, the variety of Kosher items impressed me much! So, household items were even Kosher!

The Hasidic Jewish way of life focuses on families bringing multiple children into their community. Being a check-in agent dealing with large Hasidic Jewish families can be quite testing because there's always at least five children minimum in each family! One thing was sure that the birth rate within the Jewish community in Williamsburg must be sky-rocketing as every woman that I passed by on Lee Avenue had a buggy with a newborn baby, occasionally some of these women had baby and a toddler with them. Aside from the growing population the Hasidic Jewish mothers looked very sophisticated with their black cardigans and skirts. Covering their hair to satisfy the Kosher law with either a 'Tichel' which is a 'Headscarf' or either wearing a 'Sheitel' which is a 'Wig'. No conventional high street brands for these ladies as modesty is key, but the Hasidic Jewish way of life obviously doesn't impair the women's fashion sense B!

Some Jewish surnames can be easily recognisable, four surnames were plastered across shop signs. Surnames like Rosenfield, Schwartz, Schreiber and Stein were seen proudly advertising the Kosher businesses along Lee Avenue. I loved the hardware store called 'Tiv Tov' something like the Jewish answer to the all odd bits and bobs, there's definitely one of those shops on Ferry Street selling the same stuff. As I made my way down Lee Avenue that little bit further I couldn't help notice that English wasn't the first language to be heard, the local Hasidic Jewish people definitely love their Yiddish! To the ear Yiddish sounds quite interesting to listen to! I know that schlepping all the way to Jewish Brooklyn was worth every wrong turn to eventually find the captivating Lee Avenue. The day was fruitful, getting back onto the NYC Subway system had me walking more without that map on hand! Regardless, the day discovering another NYC neighbourhood impressed me much! Oy vey NY! 

100% Kosher! 

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Let's Introduce: Arlington County, Virginia!

Another Day, Another State! Yes, I have been clocking up the mileage when it comes to discovering another new American state. Virginia was no exception, a definite surprise if nothing else. Whilst away taking some time out in Washington, D.C I looked at my tourist map to naively discover that another of the fifty states lay undiscovered just over the Potomac River. Go!

At first I did not have a clue that another state was so close to where I was staying in Washington, D.C. Without further ado I checked out of my Marriott hotel and took the first Metro bound for the Pentagon. I know I have a habit of visiting unusual places, but the Pentagon and the Pentagon Memorial Site were well worth the visit. I wanted to take the chance to visit such a landmark that has experienced such terrible sites from the tragedies that took place on September 11th, 2001. It's forbidden for any photos to be taken in and around the Pentagon so it was really difficult for me to abide by this rule, how can I be the intrepid blog explorer if I can't capture the location? It was a very sobering experience to see another location that was blighted by the attacks around September 11th. Positively, it was nice to see that the memorial that was a peaceful place that remembered served dignity and respect V!

Why did I call this blog 'Golden Virginia?' Yes, my day in Virginia was golden and 'Golden Virginia' was one of my Great-Grandad Tom's preferred choices of tobacco. I'm sure if Tommy A read about this reference to the blog title he would find it amusing, yes I'm very sure. So, I guess this blog is dedicated to my late Great-Grandad Tom! The previous day I was on the Washington Metro going about my presidential ish, sneakily on the map I saw that Ronald Reagan National Airport was actually in Virginia rather than D.C. With such a close connection I checked out of my hotel early on that morning, boarding the metro from Metro Center to Alexandria in less than 35 minutes, I was ready for the main street. What was I going to see? I love those days that aren't planned, there's so much to learn from them! I would be going back to New Jersey that evening on the Bolt Bus, I needed one more day to get Virginia in my life. With the officialness of the Mall I wanted something less formal. Stay golden.

After walking down King St. for a little while I discovered the banks of the Potomac River. In actual fact I was facing three states, standing in Virginia and overlooking the borders of Maryland and District of Columbia. I loved the small town feeling of King St. that set Alexandria apart from the large scale and sterile feel of the Pentagon, considering that it was only a few stops away from this lovely sight. The weather was a complete scorcher by the time I was a the waterfront, it would soon be time for a refreshment break before pushing ahead further. Taking enough time to admire the small-town charm that this lovely place had to offer before making my way to the next phase of my discovery. I didn't want anything over the top, the chilled and uncomplicated vibe of Alexandria made me feel at ease for one. I didn't feel the need to look inside the shops along King St, I need to be mindful of the time. Get it V!

I even saw an ice cream parlour that was called 'Pop's' that pleased me because I call my paternal grandfather Pops! I do now wish I had waited a little bit longer to take this trip as the Nando's restaurant on King St. had not opened yet, but how was I to know such a thing before I decided to even visit this town? Really? I was just comforted by the familiar logo, I don't like that fake chicken brand because my Portuguese chicken from Ferry Street is from an independent and it tastes damn good! I had all I needed from King St, I loved the waters of the Potomac River as those three invisible state lines stared me in the face. I pinch myself, this American adventure humbles me but I must never take any of it for granted! Where would I go to next? I had heard that JFK, John F Kennedy the 35th president of the United States of America was buried in the nearby Arlington Cemertery. I was feeling hungry but with a McDonalds located at the nearby Rosslyn interchange, it was going to be fine! Yes!

As my Virginia adventure unfolded just that little bit further I was hungry for more to see and to do, being ever mindful of the time was something that needed to be considered. My Bolt Bus back to Newark Penn Station would be leaving that evening from Union Station at 6:15pm. I think it's time for a change of scenery then I suppose. Zipping back towards D.C. whilst staying in Arlington County, VA. I decided to take it easy by taking a stroll around the Arlington National Cemetery to wake the dead. It was a first for me as I've never gone out of my way visit a graveyard. I guess that a visit to this side of town would be on the cards from the moment I saw the sign for Arlington County the previous day as I was making my way to Georgetown, I just knew I was meant to be seeing something special this side of the Potomac River. One thing I did see was the gravestone of John F Kennedy, talk about a random celebrity discovery.

I don't think I'll be making a habit of visiting cemeteries in the future because they aren't the happiest of places. Considering I didn't know the Potomac River ever flowed before my presidential weekend, I had my tracks well covered. Getting over the state-line one more before I returned to the UK, I knew that my 'golden' Virginia would pull through. Geography is really a blessing with its borderlines, allowing me to make no mistakes. Washington, D.C. was wonderful but Arlington County, VA allowed me to take things down a notch. The final day of that weekend away from Jersey had me schooled and centred. I was ready for the madness of the airport, I had work some more hours and build up my Industrial Placement work assignment together. Grateful for the metro system, that compact and crafty transportation link had me back to Union Station for the drama of all coach boardings. Where's next? I'm feeling a hop over the City of New York will suffice! Kosher coverage, baby! 

Golden Virginia!

Joseph Harrison

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Destination: Washington, D.C, USA!

Washington, D.C welcomes the world to experience the true 'Capitol City' of the United States of America. This presidential city is currently home to the Obama's, for that reason I wanted to be a part of the Obamarama vibe! Washington, D.C welcomed me with open arms and showed me a superb weekend. Honestly, this city is truly amazing! Anyway, let's proceed! 

Living on the North East coast of America has made room for a serious amount of travelling for me! I didn't spend a lot of money whilst I was in Washington, D.C although the hotel was worth the price. D.C seemed to be the choice of the month for me, I wanted to see somewhere new. Packing up my backpack I made my way to Newark Penn Station for my Bolt Bus ride down to Washington D.C. I passed through some pretty colourful places as my Bolt Bus made its way to Washington, D.C, Baltimore was it? Arriving at my hotel was a blessing, I had splashed out to stay at the Marriott Metro Center Washington, D.C. I should have been so sleepy from that morning shift but by some kind of miracle I had the energy to power through. The White House would be on my list for the following day, I needed some good food and an early night! With the Obama's currently in office, for sure I was all about that Obamarama, B!

Waking up bright and early the next day, I just couldn't wait to explore the Mall and to be acquainted with D.C's other sites! Heading for the White House had to be the first thing I did that morning, with the Obama's in office during my visit, it was imperative that I got my photo snapped outside that Washington, D.C presidential abode. Security was mad tight, rightly so with it being the home and workplace of the president of the United States of America. The sun was shining beautifully, the grind of work didn't find my conscious during that D.C morning. The National Mall had me on the right track, everything was open and the signposts allowed me to save time because no mistakes were made. In the end I didn't meet Mrs. Michelle Obama nor did I see Barack, but my time gazing at the White House was worth every second. What's good Abe, I needed to see that Lincloln Memorial! Washington, D.C had me feeling energised, I kept things upbeat, moving onto the next thing! Let's go!

Speeding my way through the historical delights of this spotlessly clean city. Well, the Mall was spotless, I didn't venture too far that weekend so its not for me to comment regarding other parts of the city. Next on to the Washington Monument for a quick breather, not taking too much of a break for I wanted to ensure that all sides of this amazing city were viewed. I was amazed by the amount of signs that were dotted around the city, I appreciated this very much. As pictured to the right, The Lincoln Memorial proved to be a popular choice for the countless number of coach tourists. Personally, it posed to be another attraction that had a special significance which is always good in my opinion. I won't lie their was a mild amount of construction work going on at that time, but to be honest it didn't ruin my experience. So much culture and history packed into one morning, now that's what I like to see. Yes, D.C taught me a lot!

Before I found the imposing white statue of former president, Abraham Lincoln, I was fronted by the World War II Memorial. I took some time to find that each state and some of the territories that belonged to the United States of America had their own engraved pillar of remembrance. Some other tourists were about just like I was but things were quiet enough for the area to feel still and calm. Back to the Lincoln Memorial, if truth be told I didn't know a lot about the 16th president of the United States of America, it was a lesson in life to find out the memorial can be found on the five dollar bill. My visit to the memorial was simply out of curiousity and to fulfil my checklist of Washington, D.C sites of interest. That section of the morning flowed, the stillness of the Mall and the significance of the World War II Memorial made things feel quite somber and relaxed in the same breath. Taking things towards Georgetown I saw sights of the Potomac River, sure I went back to find the river!

Taking an unplanned detour to the nearby area of Georgetown, this place opened my eyes to a whole new side of Washington, D.C. As the mid-afternoon sun shone throughout the city I was greeted by a site that made me feel less like I was in America. Georgetown is blessed with a quaint canal-side area, only housing one narrow boat it transported me back home for merely a few seconds. Georgetown also featured a number of luxury boutiques, all of which were out of my price range. I was in a state of mild shock as I was only a ten minute walk away from the grand Lincoln Memorial, how could have this been so close? One place that stood out for me was a restaurant that was called 'Paolo's' as my friend shares the same name. Getting myself some lunch I decided to have a hot dog from Five Guys, the chips were so tasty, along with the artsy vibe within Georgetown I was feeling great! I loved my random G-Town time!

I made the best choice to visit this city as Newark gets crazy, I love that place but Washington, D.C. injected some history and elegance into my life during my weekend away from Newark. One thing that I loved about Washington, D.C was that its public transport system was superb. I used the Metro network extensively to access certain parts of The National Mall due to its size. In saying that this city can be accessed by foot easily as the tourist signage is perfectly placed around the best hot-spots. I felt at peace whilst in Washington, D.C because it was a time that I was stressed with work and also my work brothers, Tom and Paolo were about to make their departure home back to England, so my trip to Washington, D.C definitely restored some calm in my life. Going underground I took the Washington Metro from Georgetown towards Capitol Hill. I had really enjoyed my time in Georgetown but it was time to experience one final place along the National Mall. Washington's metro kept me going.

Arriving at Capitol Hill allowed me to see the iconic building that's featured on the usual live news link from the city, I took my time to get some nice photos, keeping things simple I had got some nice ones in the bag! I took some time out on the grass, for such an important government building things were extremely relaxed. Compared with London's Houses of Parliament, I definitely knew that those people relaxing wouldn't have been able to get away with such a thing in London! The day was pressing on, feeling content with my Washington, D.C delights I spent some more time relaxing outside the Capitol Hill building. The National Mall was spotless, things were immaculately clean from every angle. Like I mentioned before I didn't venture into any other parts of the city. Nevertheless, I wasn't in town for any other kind of experience, it had to be presidential! D.C, I lived for the Obama's still!

Done with my sightseeing marathon, I walked back towards my Marriott Hotel that was close to the National Mall. Before reaching my hotel I stumbled upon a huge 'Barnes and Noble' bookstore, by some stroke of luck I found the latest issue of Attitude Magazine! Buying July's copy had to be done, I missed that publication, I even asked the staff at B&S if they had any back issues of that British magazine. Being the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics that had been held in London, I went back to my hotel to watch that show, to my surprise the Spice Girls reunited for the final time as a five piece! Would they reunite again in the future? Any who I ventured out to find the nearest Domino's, let's just say things got real when I turned a few corners away from the National Mall! Relaxing back at the hotel, the rest of the night was very relaxed, the day had been very fulfilled. Washington. D.C had me in the right frame of mind, the next day I would be looking for the Pentagon. All good!

Typically Tourist in Washington, D.C

Joseph Harrison