New York and some friends

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

I really love the big apple. There is a great feeling you get when visiting the city. The architecture, the infrastructure, the people, the places, the nightlife, and the attractions – there isn’t one single thing that stands out among everything else – I suppose because everything is competing for attention as it is.

In new York, one of my favorite things to do it to bike around Central Park. There are countless bike rental places in the outer vicinity of Central park, in many cases, they will come to find you (carrying big signs and soliciting bike rentals indiscriminately). I should mention that I really love to bike – I’m pretty extreme in that often in the summer months I will bike 100+ km per week and sometimes over 100km on a weekend. So biking circles around the perimeter of central park is an experience I really cherish. Throughout central park there are various water fountains which are helpful for hot days of biking laps around the park. Be careful with biking using the standard rented equipment as not all bikes are routinely checked and service – you may find your tire lose air or a problem with the gear shifting.

Of course so many people in New York travel by taxi and the underground (they refer to it locally as the “train”). However, you will enjoy walking most places (if you are fit) and taking in the atmosphere consisting of diverse people, architecture, and commerce. Only take a taxi or train if you are dressed for business and on a timeline. Otherwise, if you are just visiting for fun (and fit), walking wherever you need to go is very enjoyable.

Times square has a great feel to it – however, the excitement and magic is enhanced much more when you visit the area at night. Seeing the lights and interacting with people who are just having a good time feels great is an excellent way to experience New York. There is also so much packed into the times square area. If you have some time, check out the information center to see what things you can do. I took in a comedy show at Carolines once on a night where there were very few people in attendance. In contrast to what you’d expect, a comedy club with few in attendance is a very enjoyable experience. It almost felt like sitting at a table with friends and building excellent jokes off of each other. I would say that it was probably one of my most favorite comedy club experiences of all time. I highly recommend you try to attend a similar event.

The train (subway) system is very extensive in NYC. You can get anywhere very quickly and it can be more comfortable and even faster in some cases than a taxi. If you are fit and love to walk, the train system can be more enjoyable overall.

There is a PATH train system which connects NYC with neighbouring cities. Visiting Hoboken or other locations in Long Island are great ways to experience the rest of the NY area. Hoboken has a lot of touristy areas too and has a pleasant area near the waterfront just north of the train station. Newark is quite far from NYC by train. Newark does have many nice restaurants in the downtown area and it is a pleasant place to visit for business. Going the other direction, further into long island, presents a different atmosphere of communities which are growing in different ways. In the Brentwood area, there was a very well done redevelopment of a commercial center which created a very pleasant feel. While there are fewer attractions further out in Long Island, you will be inspired by experiencing the work ethic of New York outside of the city proper and seeing how things are done a little bit differently.

Escaping from the NYC area, the smaller towns outside of the region also have a nice charm and appeal to them. I visited a friend who lives in Old Bridge NJ. Old Bridge is a far distance away from NYC, and it feels very much like a suburb. Transportation out this far without a car can be troublesome.

Lastly, there is a common stereotype about rude and pushy New Yorkers – while I can’t say that it’s not true, I can say, that so many people in New York are very kind, courteous and polite people. In fact, many are so kind and helpful, that I would like to debunk the aforementioned myth. I’m convinced that most of the rudeness and pushiness comes from tourists who are so eager to take in all that NYC has to offer that they forget their manners. (And its difficult to tell the tourists from the residents sometimes – unless you listen to them speak)

Here’s one to New York City – one of my most favorite urban centers.

Peachy in Atlanta

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Atlanta is a very appealing place to visit. I had the pleasure of staying in the Dunwoody area of Atlanta (near Perimeter Summit). This area is very well maintained and the landscaping is fantastic. Leisure walking along the undulating terrain is very pleasurable and can be an excellent work-out if you are up for a jog.

The concentration of business parks, nature areas and consumer stores are done in a way that is uncommon elsewhere. Nature is allowed to flow through the area and it seems that much care has been taken to preserve a lot of the original feel of the area before the development came in.

The culture in Atlanta is very charming and this appeal combined with their love of driving creates a unique atmosphere – and make visiting Atlanta a required stop in one’s life-journey.

Be sure to check out the Coke store in Atlanta and don’t mention the “P” word when ordering a drink – it’s definitely called “Coke” there.

A Persian Thunder Bay

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Thunder Bay is an excellent semi-remote city in Ontario. Although many people have mentioned the great outdoors experience in the surrounding area, I haven’t experienced it. I do know that the temperature can drop very low in Thunder Bay. I had the experience of -40 deg. C! Stepping out of the airport felt like walking into a deep freezer.

The city exhibits the norther Canadian city feel. (Difficult to describe, so you really need to experience it first hand). Indoor malls are common as the city gets quite a lot of very cold weather in the winter time.

A popular type of pastry is “the Persian” which is like a flat cinnamon bun with pink icing on it. I understand that The Persian originated in Thunder Bay – and many people tell me that you HAVE to eat a Persian in Thunder Bay. (Add it to your bucket list if you are keeping one!)

I would absolutely love to return to Thunder Bay and especially to explore the surrounding vast tracts of nature.

Edmonton and a Mall

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Edmonton is a city I’ve had the pleasure to visit multiple times. Unlike the characteristics of Calgary (cowboy, BBQ and steak), Edmonton exhibits more of a large northern Canadian city feel (think indoor malls and Canadian consumer culture). An interesting stop for me was at the West Edmonton Mall.

The West Edmonton Mall is very large and ranks among the worlds largest. Aside from a lot of stores, there is also a hockey rink, and waterpark. I’ve heard of a submarine too, but I didn’t seek it out when I was there. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and all the hustle and bustle in the large mall. Even surrounding the mall is an ecosystem of other stores and business catering to those coming and going to the mall.

A nice touch is the musical acts performing at the Edmonton Airport. I’m not sure if the live piano or small bands are regular or permanent fixtures in the airport. However, the live music certainly makes the wait at the airport more enjoyable.

I really look forward to returning to Edmonton in the future. There is so much more to experience there and just a few weeks wasn’t enough for me to really do it all.

A Calgarian Stampede

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

I like Calgary – it has many of the qualities of a major city, but something is different. The city is situated on the flat prairie lands but to the west the Rock Mountains are visible. With the Bow and Elbow rivers, the environment comes together to give a unique appeal even within the city’s core. Of Particular interest in downtown Calgary is the pedestrian focused “Stephen Avenue” – it has an appeal similar to that of “Sparks Street” in Ottawa.

When arriving in Calgary, I did see many people with Cowboy Hats in the airport. But even more interesting was the decorations with historical basis in the settling of the prairies – including both references for native populations/settlements and those of european settlers and cowboys. The results is a hint of the wild-west and Canadian culture.

The downtown area of Calgary is a pleasant walkable zone with fascinating architecture and very a enjoyable riverfront walk. Office buildings downtown are named for some of the major industries in Calgary namely oil industry, banking and telecommunications.

The city overall is well situated and feels well designed. I do look forward to returning. (especially in warm weather!)