Today I thought it best to knock over a number of things in Munich, and it looked as though the easiest way to do it, transport wise, was to jump on a city sightseeing bus. Although I’d say €20 was a bit steep, I did get to see streets and monuments that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
So first stop, was Nymphenburg Palace, which I only used as a photo opportunity, but really didn’t appreciate how big it was until we rocked up in front of it. And the photo below is just half of it!
Next stop, Olympiapark – the Olympic Stadium. Munich was the site chosen for the 1972 Olympic Games and the world was nervous, given this was the first Olympics to be held in Germany since Nazi Occupation. The Israeli athletes and trainers were especially nervous as many of them had family members who had been murdered during the holocaust or were themselves survivors. And then it happened. Eight Palenstinian terrorists from the ‘Black September’ group broke into the Olympic Village, killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team and took nine hostages, demanding the release of 234 prisoners from Israeli prisons and two from German prisons. The siege ended with a massive gun fight that left 5 of the terrorists and all nine hostages dead.
However after a 34 hour respect and mourning period, attention returned to the games under the watchful eye of the Munich’s olympic mascot, Waldi the daschund. Bruce Jenner placed tenth in the decathlon, which prompted him to devote himself to a subsequent intense training regime and which everyone who watches Keeping up with the Kardashians knows, led to him winning gold at the 1976 Games held in Montreal (and setting a new world record in the process).
It was also a successful Olympics for Australia’s 15 year old Shane Gould, who won gold in the 200m freestyle, 200m relay and 400m freestyle, silver in the 800m freestyle and a bronze in the 100m freestyle.
I went in the elevator to the top of the tower – good view of the city, but nothing really spectacular – if anything it was a good place to get a photo of the Olympic grounds. I was most looking forward to the…
But all it was, was a sparse collection of bits and pieces and loads of photos of Queen. I particularly liked this one:
And didn’t realise David Bowie had long hair at one stage also:
Anyway, the main sights of the park really left me feeling underwhelmed, though the park itself is really a lovely green space. Back on the bus, lets keep moving. The bus winds itself through the streets of Munich, past Schwabing, which was known as a bohemian quarter in its day, past the English Garden and a host of other buildings and monuments and then back to its starting point outside the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), which is where you then jump on another bus to do the rest of the tour route. I, however, am hungry and while I’m back in this part of town, there’s somewhere I want to go…Augustiner Keller.
Those of you who know me personally, know that my surname is Keller – yes it’s German, and yet I claim to be half Polish. Keller was the surname of my father’s step-dad, Michael Keller. Contrary to what I’d always thought, Michael was actually Polish and its just that with all the moving of Poland’s borders, all manner of nationalities appeared in Poland. Keller is a German surname meaning ‘cellar’ or ‘basement’. And it’s generally associated with ‘beer’. So wherever you are in Germany (I’ve seen some in Japan too) and you see a sign with Keller on it – it usually means its some kind of beer cellar.
This bierkeller (beer cellar) belongs to one of Munich’s oldest breweries, dating back to 1812. The garden itself is huge (it’s Munich’s largest) with tables and chairs stretching as far as the eye can see. It’s a shame that today is a bit overcast because you could just imagine the vibe of the place when the sun is out, the tables are all full, perhaps a German band playing. The menu has a large selection of German specialities, including pork with pepper sauce and spätzl, which I go for. I don’t know what spätzl is, so I’m taking a chance, but that’s what dining in any foreign country is about to a degree. Turns out its nice! And a quick search on the internet reveals its a kind of a soft egg noodle. And of course I have to try the Augustiner Weissbeer. It’s nice and light, very drinkable, which is good, because there’s none of this ‘middy’ stuff in Germany.
Suitably fed and watered, I walk back to the Hauptbahnhof to take up the second half of the bus tour. The bus winds its way through the streets past the Pinakotheken (painting galleries) the Odeonsplatz, and one of my favourites for the day, the Angel of Peace:
We stop outside the Residenz, which was the former home of the Bavarian royals. It houses a museum now, but when I found out you couldn’t take pictures, waiting in the never ending ticket line (not long, but just incredibly slow!) seemed to be not so worth it, so I decide to leave and walk the streets through to the city. The streets here were quaint, large cobble stones and archways and little laneways and alleys, and then you arrive at Hofbrauhaus, which is where all of Munich appears to be today. I was going to stop for a beer here, but the sheer noise inside the hall freaked me out a little and I decided this wasn’t a place I wanted to be sitting by myself. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow if I get time. But for now, the Hard Rock Café is right across the road, and although I have eaten not long ago, I find myself stepping inside, on the pretext of having to use the toilet. And maybe a glass of wine. Oh, but they have steak which has vegetables and I kind of feel like I need that after all the tablets and medicines I’ve pumped into my body to get over the flu before I got here. So what the heck, early dinner. This HRC houses a jacket worn by Mick Mars from Motley Crue.
I do want to try and get to the Viktualienmarkt, but it seems to be closed also today. Sunday is not the day for shopping in Munich by the way. Most things are closed except for some restaurants really. Another one I’ll have to try for tomorrow – just as well the city is close to my hotel!
I was looking forward to getting out of the city on a cycling wine tour through Californian wine country today. I thought this might make up for yesterdays opinion of San Fran. After a very bland, boring free breakfast (why can’t I go back to Ace where there’s waffles and granola?), and with about half an hour to go before the tour pick up, the tour company calls. Seems no one else was booked to do my wine tour today, so they cancelled it, citing that I wouldn’t have a very good time by myself. Because I’m having such a good time in San Fran anyway. They are probably right, I’m certainly not in the right frame of mind to spend the day making small talk with a guide I don’t know. Good to see my bad run in San Fran is continuing today.
I was determined to start today with a positive attitude, but its not starting out very well, is it. I just have to keep trying to remind myself to turn it around. OK, well I can try and move my city sightseeing bus to today and that will give me more time to see the sights of San Fran. Done. I arrive at Fisherman’s Wharf to start the tour.
It’s FREEZING today. It’s foggy. And yes, this is summer. I’m dressed in a real hodge podge of clothes trying to keep warm because I sent my warmest jacket home by mail from New York after running out of room. I’ve got my newly purchased long sleeve Seattle shirt on a zip up sweatshirt and scarf and I’m still cold. Un-glamorous and cold.
This bus is probably a good idea for today. I’m just going to sit here and take photos out the window. I see that the bus stops at the Asian Art Museum – yay, but its closed on Mondays – of course.
I intend on getting out at some of the stops, but the thought of having to wait for the next bus in the cold is not appealing. So I sit on the bus until it stops off at Union Square where I head to Macy’s for something I know is sure to cheer me up.
Walking into Macy’s, I feel like a hobo. But I just have to forget about it and remember, you don’t live here, so who cares what anyone thinks. I actually manage to find a few pieces that I like and which will hopefully fill some of the gaps in my wardrobe (hahaha – gaps in my wardrobe, that’s hilarious). Stepping outside I fend off another homeless dude. I’m not being heartless, the hotel literature tells you not to give them money and I don’t think he’d fancy my new floral skirt, so I have no other option.
I cross back over Union Square and get back on the bus hoping to continue on my loop, but this bus loops around Union Square twice, meaning that its already covered the other parts I wanted to see. But that’s ok, because soon enough we end up back at Pier 39. There’s seals here, that’ll cheer me up!
There’s no seals here. Not one. In everyone else’s photos of San Fran that I’ve seen, there are seals littering these pontoons. On the way here, the guide was saying what a nuisance the seals have been throughout history and all the different ways they had tried to get rid of them. Well, there are no seals now.
I wonder around the pier for a while. There’s a shop called Chocolate Heaven, which stocks – surprise, surprise – all sorts of chocolate, so I grab some Ghirardelli chocolate to take home for the family. And you can see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge from here, through the fog.
There’s souvenir shops (including one for left handed gifts), pearl shops, all sorts of restaurants, an aquarium and a carousel, all set on the water, a bit similar to Fremantle, only there’s nothing at Fremantle except fish and chips. It’s quite a nice vibe here, but its still cold and really glary.
There’s a fresh fruit stall, with massive strawberries. I buy a few for later. I’d like to buy a bit more fruit, but there’s no bar fridge back at my hotel, so there’s no way to keep it cool and fresh.
Then I see something that I know will make my day better, shining like a beacon in the distance, guiding the distressed ship into the shore…
The Hard Rock Café. Thank goodness for rock. The Hard Rock was first created in London in 1971, by Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton. It was designed to be a restaurant where the classes could mingle happily, and it worked. Bankers and plumbers packed the place. As did bands like the Beatles and the Stones. One of its biggest fans was Eric Clapton, who requested Isaac put up a plaque to permanently save him a table. Isaac told him ‘we don’t do plaques, but how about we hang up your guitar?’ So this is how it all began. There are more than 72,000 pieces in the Hard Rock collection world wide, the world’s greatest rock memorabilia collection.
I’m so glad to be here, just to enjoy a good meal in an environment that I love, that I don’t even bother really looking at the memorabilia to see what’s here in San Fran. I do spy Michael Jackson’s black hat, but I’m sorry Lola – I couldn’t get a photo because people were sitting in front of it.
Sitting listening music, feeding on fries, biting off pieces of my swiss mushroom burger between sips of red, I feel better and start to map out a plan to make tomorrow a better day.
I jump back on the tour bus for a while. Enroute, I learn that my hotel is on the border of the part of town called Tenderloin.
Though there is argument over the exact borders of Tenderloin, it is generally accepted as being bordered by Market, Van Ness, Geary and Mason Streets. I am on Geary Street. It sounds bad, but there’s a Hilton round the corner, Macy’s, Maxazria BCBG, Gucci, Tiffany, Saks 5th Avenue, the Westin all two to three (short) blocks away, so you just can’t tell. There’s plenty of homeless people hanging around those high end addresses. They are down at Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Financial District. I think that’s the overwhelming part, is that the homelessness is not just confined to one area, it’s everywhere.
It’s believed the area received its name because members of the police force posted to the area were paid higher salaries for the hazards they had to deal with, which enabled them to buy better cuts of meat. There are other stories as well, who knows. But it’s pretty down and out.
The bus takes me back to Union Square, which is a couple of blocks from my hotel. There’s a crazy black dude sitting on the wall on Union Square. As we pull alongside, he starts shaking his head crazily, flapping his arms around and screaming, as if he’s trying to get something out of his head.
I’m back at the hotel by about 2.30pm, so I think that’s a good sign that perhaps a nap would be a good idea.
But just before I do that – just a little rant for the day on tipping. You know Australians are known world wide as being bad tippers. It’s not customary to tip at home, so most of the time I’m sure its just ignorance, though I hardly think that’s an excuse if you’ve read some of my other blogs – going to a country, learn something about it. But can I just say, even though people expect to be tipped, I can’t say I’ve actually seen much of the behaviour that warrants it. I don’t think nicely asking how your meal was is all they have to do. Not ignoring you is a good start, grunting at me certainly doesn’t make me think about tipping and when you walk away in the middle of me asking how I can buy something additional off you – you guessed it – you ain’t getting any more of my money. I think for me to pay way more than what my meal / ticket / directions would cost me at home you need to be making my experience worthwhile. Answer my questions, make me feel like I’m worth your time, then your tip will be worth it.
I make a reservation for dinner downstairs and set my alarm.
Millenium is dedicated to supporting organic food production, small farms, sustainable agriculture, recycling and composting. Fresh produce is delivered every day, organic whenever possible. The gourmet menu is created out of vegetarian, healthy and environmentally friendly foods and completely free of genetically modified foods.
And best of all, I don’t even have to leave the building.
The complimentary bread is fresh (you hear that Boudin?) and comes with an awesome spread which I unfortunately cannot remember the ingredients of except parsley. My potato and chard roulard, with mushroom cream sauce, mixed mushrooms with broccolini is amazing. And dessert, which is green tea and lemongrass crème caramel, served with thai basil-lime ice cream, sesame tuile basket, five spice biscotti and lychee syrup – to die for.
While probably not the cheapest meal for one to spend for oneself, sometimes you just need to do something for the soul.
Something else that’s good for the soul – laughing. Kicking back, finishing off my beautiful sweet strawberries, I’ve just seen on the news something that made me laugh – have a look what San Francisco TV station KTVU-TV did!
Oh what’s this? Another day filled to the brim with new and exciting things to do? Righty then, best I finish my granola and yoghurt, wash it down with my coffee and get on with it!
Scenic Flight on a Seaplane
Taking a Seattle seaplane tour is a quintessential Northwest experience apparently. So I arrive at Kenmore Air on Lake Union to experience the “unique thrill of flying off the water and soaring over one of the most beautiful parts of the world”.
Boarding the small seaplane, every seat is a window seat. We snap on our belts and put on our headphones to listen to the narrated flight. We skim across the water for a while, before taking off. It’s a lot smoother than I thought and soon we are flying over Lake Union’s famous houseboat communities, the beautiful University of Washington (U-Dub as the locals call it) campus, lakeside and seaside estates, Seattle’s professional sports stadiums and downtown skyline.
We also fly over the gasworks park…
It’s an amazing view from the plane and you can see a lot. It’s unfortunate that it’s not the clearest day so you can’t see Mt Rainier. But I’ll be going there tomorrow anyway, so it doesn’t worry me in the slightest. Interesting fact – there is one boat for every five peeps in Seattle!
Touching back down onto the water, the ride is over and another first accomplished – ride in a seaplane? Tick!
I hadn’t really planned to do any ‘shopping’ in Seattle, but driving through town on my way from the airport last night, I saw Nordstroms and the shopping strip around 5th Avenue and decided I could put away an hour to drop by and have a look around. I was coming down the escalators on my way out of the department store, when I heard a voice start singing. “I know that voice”, I thought to myself. But it couldn’t be – surely not in a department store! When I made it to the ground floor, I was right though – it was J Mascis, of the mighty Dinosaur Jr, now more commonly a solo artist. Just singing and screaming away on his guitar. J has a unique kind of voice, wallowy and mellow, his music melancholic and beautiful, his guitar work quite fabulous. And he was just playing away here in Nordstroms. So of course I just stayed and watched. Wow, what a day!
What a Bitch!
Now I needed lunch and I needed it fast. When I’m in a locale, I do like to try the local food – fish, chips and mushy peas in London; conch, jerk chicken, beans and rice in Cayman; pizza and mac n’ cheese in New York – and now in Seattle, I’m going to try biscuit. Biscuit in the US is different from biscuit in Australia. Our biscuits are sweet – like cookies. These biscuits, which generally come as a breakfast or lunch meal, are more like huge scones. And they are crumbly like scones too – I’m not sure why this concept is so popular, but hey, who am I to judge.
Just near Pike Market is a café called Biscuit Bitch, where you can buy just such biscuit meals. All the meals have names like Hot Mess Bitch, Smokin Hot Seattle Bitch, Bitchwitch (breakfast sandwich) and Straight Up Bitch. My lunch is You Lucky Bitch, which is basically house roasted Cuban pulled pork, grilled onions, melted swiss cheese, fried egg, bitchy sauce all wedged between – well, biscuit!
Apart from aforementioned crumbliness, sandwich was good! And it comes with chips, which confused the hell out of me because I assumed this meant hot potato chips/fries, stumped at why they were asking what flavour I wanted. But no, they mean a packet of chips. I’m confused, very confused by this meal.
My brother in law – hi Mike! – had one request of me for my trip to Seattle and that was a visit to the Space Needle. The Space Needle is a tower located at the Seattle Centre. It’s the symbol of Seattle and was built for the 1962 Worlds Fair. Reaching 184m in height, the Space Needle was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River when it was completed.
It is built to withstand winds up to 89 m/s and earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude. Earthquake stability of the Space Needle was ensured by digging a hole 9.1m deep and 37m across, using 467 concrete trucks and one full day to fill it. The foundation weighs 5850 tons, including 250 tons of reinforcing steel. The structure is bolted to the foundation with 72 bolts, each one 9.1m long.
From the top of the Needle, one can see not only the downtown Seattle skyline, but also the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier and Elliot Bay and surrounding islands – unfortunately it isn’t clear enough to see Mount Rainier today.
Being a major symbol of the Pacific Northwest, the Space Needle has appeared in numerous films, TV shows and other works of fiction – It Happened at the World’s Fair (1962), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), Frasier, Grey’s Anatomy and iCarly. The Space Needle has been used for some other purposes as well, including a large 57 piece Lego construction set of it that has been released as part of Lego Architecture’s structures.
The EMP Museum (formerly known as Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame or EMP|SFM) is a museum dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music, science fiction and pop culture and it’s located on the Seattle Centre site, along with the Space Needle. It was designed by Frank Gehry and founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
There are a few exhibitions on at the moment, but I’ve got limited time, so do I whiz through each or pick one to see properly – ah darn it, let’s whiz through them all.
The first was Nirvana – Taking Punk to the Masses and it contained loads of memorabilia from Nirvana’s rise out of obscurity into grunge spotlight. Broken guitars, old set lists and gig posters – even the In Utero models. It’s all here along with interactive videos and billboard narrative.
The second was Jimi Hendrix. This room contained a number of outfits that Jimi wore as well as news articles and reviews, including this interesting little snippet….
But more on Jimi later.
The final one, which I was looking forward to the most – Women Who Rock – turned out to be the least interesting. I thought it would be an awesome display of some of history’s greatest female rock pioneers – Blondie, Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks…. but no, it was just a bunch of outfits worn by people like Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Brittany Spears and this little gem from Lady Gaga…
Anyway, moving on, cause I got a tour to catch.
Outside the EMP, I wait for my tour bus. Before long, a big black SUV pulls up with “Stalking Seattle” plastered on the back. This is my ride. I meet Charity and find out I’m the only one booked on this tour – it’s all about me. “Have you heard about the movie Singles?” she asks. “OMG yes, my sister and I are addicts”. Charity is super excited at this as most people haven’t heard of it. “And, do you know who Andy Wood was?” she asks. “Oh yeah, I love Andy!” she’s even more excited now. “This is going to be such a good tour!” she says and off we go. I tell her that I saw J Mascis playing in Nordstroms today and she’s like “No way! Norstroms – really? That is SO cool!”
The basis of this tour is pretty much to stalk out all the grunge and Singles related sites around Seattle. The ‘grunge’ scene, if you must call it anything, suddenly became a way of life to the outside world. Long johns and flannelette shirts, which Seattlites actually wore to keep warm in the North West’s miserable weather conditions, were seen on the high fashion runways thanks (or not) to designers like Marc Jacobs. Anything remotely related to grunge was marketed and sold. Bands who had hardly played a gig were suddenly signed to record labels. And everything went a little bit crazy.
But if you were into the music, actually really loved the music, it was a great time in music’s history. There were some fantastic bands, a lot of which are still around today. Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains have all released new albums this year.
Around this time, Cameron Crowe, film director and Seattle native, made his film Singles. It was a story about young 20 something singles living in Seattle and actually featured quite an all star cast – Bridget Fonda, Sheila Kelley, Bull Pullman, Campbell Scott, Jim True, Matt Dillon, Kyra Sedgewick, Tim Burton and Eric Stolz. Not to mention cameos by Alice in Chains, Chris Cornell and Stone, Jeff and Eddie from Pearl Jam. It was quite comedic and there are heaps of classic lines in it, which Leigh and I repeat over and over and over. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched this movie. And on a rainy day when I think about that era, I always pull out Singles and rug up on the sofa with a glass of red for a good laugh.
I’m aware most of this will go over your head, but Leigh – this one’s for you, let the stalking begin:
These were not the only places we saw (I’d be here all night uploading photos otherwise!). We also drove over to Renton to see Jimi Hendrix grave, Jimi’s sculpture in Pine Street, the alley where Debbie’s bike tyre gets a flat on her way to meet Jamie, the 5 Point Café where Andy Wood used to hang out, the original Sub Pop mega mart, the Metropolis (considered the birth place of Grunge, co-run by Chris Cornell’s ex wife Susan Silver), the street where the newsstand in Singles was built, the Comet Tavern (where Mia Zapata from the Gits was last seen alive before she was murdered in 1993), the Re-Bar which was used for the scene where the Spanish dude dumped Linda and her friend consoled her, the building where Andy Wood and Jeff Ament worked in whilst it was a cafe, the chair dude where Linda’s friend asked “if you got married, would we still go out dancing?” and two rock stars homes, which I’m not sure I should post pictures of, given that they are neighbours of Charity and she only showed me cause I was such a fan of the whole scene (cough, cough, ahem – Mike McCready and Stone Gossard – I didn’t tell you).
Hard Rock Café
I wasn’t actually going to visit this Hard Rock Café, because let’s face it – it was going to be hard to top the Caymans with their Eddie Vedder’s brown jacket display, but Charity tells me that there’s some Andrew Wood memorabilia in this one, so I trek down there with my camera. Now I think Seattle is wonderful, but I don’t want to paint it as perfect, because it’s not. It still has all the big city problems that any other city has. It’s quite obviously Friday night in the city centre, cause even though it’s only 7.30pm, fights are breaking out between gangs of youths on the street, and the amount of homeless people wandering around is staggering. There are a lot of addicts in this city and I won’t lie, it does make you feel a little uncomfortable at times. But generally they don’t bother you, just say no to their plea for cash (which you have to remember is usually going to fuel their addiction) and walk on by and they leave you alone. Charity said some of them act as car parking attendants to trick people into giving them cash. Crafty.
So anyway I was glad to find the café and go on in.
Unfortunately they way they have set this one out is with all the memorabilia on the outside walls with booths in front of them, so you can’t take photos without bothering the people sitting in the booth, and because it’s a Friday night, it’s packed. I can see the Yield sign from the Pearl Jam album of the same name. And Andy Woods Lakers Jersey and a guitar. There’s a drum head with signatures on it, which I can’t see, but I find out later is signed by the members of Mudhoney.
But nothing else. And the service is pretty bland. This is not Hard Rock’s finest hour.
The Original Starbucks
I’m passing by Pike Markets on the way home, so I pop by just to see if I can find the original Starbucks shop. I’m not really into Starbucks, there’s just too much cream and syrup (sorry – Layers of Delicious!) for my liking – but this is THE original Starbucks – so this stop is for you Katie.
The first Starbucks Coffee store, founded in 1971, was originally located at 2000 Western Avenue. In 1977 it moved one block away to 1912 Pike Place where it has been in continuous operation ever since. The store was opened by three partners: Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker. The sign outside this branch, unlike others, features the original logo – a bare-breasted sirenn that was modeled after a 15th century Norse woodcut. From just a narrow storefront, Starbucks offered some of the world’s finest fresh-roasted whole bean coffees. The name, inspired by Moby Dick, evoked the romance of the high seas and the seafaring tradition of the early coffee traders.
Today, with more than 17,000 stores in 55 countries, Starbucks is the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world, or so they say. Sorry, but I’m just not a fan…
After today, I simply cannot believe I am in Seattle! I never thought this would happen in a million years, but here I am, visiting the stories for real. This is the other side of the world for goodness sake. The musicians I have idolised since my teenage years walked these streets, crossed these lights and sat in these chairs. I am so, so, incredibly excited. I just can’t believe it. Who would have thought…me, in Seattle….. Wow.
They are right when they say that New York is the city that never sleeps. It’s a cacophony of horns and sirens all night long. But it serves to remind me that I am in Nu Yawk! So I jump out of bed and head off eager to explore the city which everyone is so sure I will love.
Walking through the streets, I pass the Empire State Building, the Avenue of the Americas, Bryant Park, Magnolia Bakery, Trump Tower – all things I have heard about, but can now visualise. The streets of New York are easy to navigate, like a huge grid, and there’s so much to see at every turn. Yellow cabs weaving into and out of traffic, New York police directing traffic, steam rising from the sidewalk grids above the subway….and people everywhere.
It’s a warm day, with quite a sticky tinge to it, but it no less makes for a nice day to explore. First stop is Rockefeller Centre.
Rockefeller Centre / Top of The Rock Observation Deck
With the country facing economic catastrophe and the world between two wars, John D. Rockefeller’s vision for his centre never wavered. Rockefeller Center and the observation deck were his gifts to Manhattan- a place for locals and visitors to marvel at the city he loved.
Although Rockefeller spent most of his life engaged in philanthropy, his biggest venture was the creation of the “city within a city” – constructed during the Great Depression’s worst years, the project gainfully employed over 40,000 people. The Rockefeller Center officially opened in May 1933, and during its first decade, the complex bustled with exciting tenants. Throughout the 1930’s, Rockefeller Center steadily improved, including some accidental innovations like the Christmas Tree tradition in 1931 and the skating rink in 1936. By 1939, more than 125,000 people were visiting Rockefeller Center daily; on its own, it would have been the 51st largest city in the U.S.
Part of the Rockefeller Center is Radio City Music Hall. I was surprised to see the line up for Radio City on October 10, because on my flight to the UK, I had watched a documentary called ‘Searching for the Sugar Man”, which was basically about a musician named Rodriguez, who some say was better than Bob Dylan, but whom never achieved any fame in the US at the time, but became a huge star in South Africa. He was surrounded in mythology until a couple of fans tracked him down. It was quite a remarkable story, and good to see that American audiences will now get to see what all the fuss was about.
30 Rock was a television comedy created by Tina Fey. The series’ name refers to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in which the NBC Studios are located. I became a fan of the show after being introduced to it by my sister and brother-in-law (thank you Leigh & Mike) – so here you go guys – a couple of snaps from the real life place….
By the way – Tracy Jordan advertises water on TV.
Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States. Advocates of creating the park–primarily wealthy merchants and landowners–admired the public grounds of London and Paris and urged that New York needed a comparable facility to establish its international reputation. A public park would offer their own families an attractive setting for carriage rides and provide working-class New Yorkers with a healthy alternative to the saloon. After three years of debate over the park site and cost, in 1853 the state legislature authorized the City of New York to use the power of eminent domain to acquire more than 700 acres of land in the centre of Manhattan.
The park is massive. It goes for miles and include a castle, a zoo, a lake and boathouse and lots and lots of other things. There are people using every square inch of it – quick sketch stalls, pramercise (not to be confused with prancersize – this one consists of mothers exercising with their prams and not middle aged ladies dancing around with camel toes), kids activity groups, bubble blowers, dancers, cyclists, joggers, musicians…there’s no way I will get to see even half of it. And I need to get to the Met.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The MET as it’s known more commonly is currently running an exhibition entitled Punk: Chaos to Couture, which showcases the emergence of punk fashion from its beginnings onto the high end fashion runways in the 1970’s. It was an interesting exhibition, outlining the different types of punk fashion and displaying outfits by designers like Dolce and Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, Junya Watanabe, Helmut Lang, Yohji Yamamoto and Malcolm McLaren to name a few. There were also t-shirts that were worn by Adam Ant.
It explored the do-it-yourself, born out of necessity approach that made punk fashion an exciting movement. It was all about anti-establishment, politics and of course sex. Throughout, the exhibit referred to back to its most commonly known retrobates, namely Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Patti Smith and even Blondie. I hadn’t actually realised myself just how much punk fashion had made it to the runways. All those safety pins, staples, rips and tears created an inspiring movement and who would have thought it just started because someone’s clothes were torn and they needed a cheap, quick fix!
Tiffany & Co.
Leaving behind my inner punk and now channelling my inner Holly Golightly, I arrive at Tiffany & Co. located at 727 Fifth Avenue, the very store featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Stepping inside, you enter a magical world of glimmering display cabinets filled with coloured previous stones and dripping diamonds. I would hate to think what some of these pieces sell for, but I buy myself a small gift to commemorate the trip, because let’s face it – it’s just one of those things you have to do in New York.
Times Square is only a few blocks, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in punch. Whilst, not in its full glory by day, you can see all sorts here. Superheroes and giant Elmo’s wander the streets, tackling tourists for photos. Tour bus touts ply you for business on every corner, I even heard an NYPD officer yell at someone in the exact same voice as the officer from the Simpsons!
By 1928, some 264 shows were produced in 76 theaters in Times Square, showcasing the new popular culture born of America’s immigrant stew – vaudeville and musicals, jazz and the movies. Today it remains the busiest theater district in the world, and is also home to MTV, Hard Rock Cafe and Madame Tussaud’s. But I would say the best things about Times Square are free.
Discovery Times Square
DTS plays host to a number of special exhibitions. Currently running are The Art of the Brick and Bodies: Pulse, and I want to see both. Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside Bodies, which is a real shame, because that stuff is amazing. These are real bodies, left to science to show the inner workings of, well, your body. Apart from full body models, there are all sorts of body parts, blood, muscle systems and slices of brain and other parts. Particularly shocking is the cross section of two legs – one from a smoker and the other a non-smoker – the smoker’s lower leg was just black. This was repeated in the lungs on display, where the smoker’s lung was soaked in tar all the way through. It was disgusting.
I was luckier with the lego exhibition though and took a heap of photos. These were absolutely amazing. This guy has down the rounds of all the talk-show, late night show and news-shows around, showcasing his lego talents. It’s extremely hard to believe this is all done by normal lego bricks.
After lunch at Hard Rock (of course) and a spot of shopping at Macy’s I’m heading home for a nap before heading out tonight (only 20 minutes kip though – don’t worry).
Everyone asks you what show you are going to see on Broadway when you come to New York. I’m not that huge a fan of all those musicals out there. I really wanted to see a rock show or some WWE. But there was nothing of interest until…I logged onto an entertainment guide whilst in Cayman for one last check and came up with something I really wanted to see, and was lucky enough to be able to get a ticket for. A few years ago, I stumbled across a documentary about the making of a new musical, which was being composed by Damon Albarn (from Blur) and his fellow bandmate Jamie Hewlett (whom together formed part of Gorillaz). It was a reproduction of Monkey: Journey to the West and it looked amazing. But that was years ago and I’d never heard anything about it since, it was obviously a UK thing. But now, here it was debuting in New York, right during my visit.
I hailed a New York cab in peak hour (thank you very much, not that he had much choice because he was technically dropping off other passengers and hadn’t pulled away from the curb yet) and headed off to the David H Koch Theatre.
Monkey: Journey to the West
It’s the story about a monkey born from a stone who grows up to realise that he is not immortal and decides he doesn’t like that. After being encased under a mountain by Buddha for 500 years, the mischievious monkey is released into the protection of a monk in order to guide him on his journey towards enlightenment.
It’s part theatre, part acrobatics, part audio visual light show and the result is fairly amazing. The entire show is done in Chinese with English subtitles. Scene 3, which is the Heavenly Peach Banquet is ethereal. Chinese maidens fly across the stage, their beautifully coloured, flowing gowns flapping gently after them. The acrobatics in the show is amazing and reminiscent of the acrobatic troupe I saw in Shanghai many years ago.
The music was all composed by Damon (who actually went off and studied Chinese music) and Jamie bought the set and costumes to life. It was the best kind of show to see in New York.
It’s been a long day and my feet are so sore from so much walking. After a cab ride home, I’m thinking a late night slice of pizza with a couple of glasses of red would top this night off perfectly…
Before my trip, a lot of people asked me about the Cayman Islands. Obviously everyone knows them as a tax haven, but no-one seems to know much beyond that – travel agents included! So I thought I’d give you a little bit of background and hopefully answer some of the questions you all asked.
The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory. The islands are self-governed but are under the direct protection of the United Kingdom; and the Queen of England is depicted on the currency and postal stamps of the Cayman Islands. The people speak English, although there are many other languages spoken by its inhabitants. Christopher Columbus first sighted Cayman Brac and Little Cayman on 10 May 1503 during his fourth trip to the New World. Columbus was en route to Hispaniola when his ship was thrust westward toward “two very small and low islands, full of tortoises, as was all the sea all about, insomuch that they looked like little rocks, for which reason these islands were called Las Tortugas.”
But it was actually Sir Francis Drake that founded the islands at Cayman, naming them for their alligator inhabitants. I’m now wondering if there’s a link here between Drake’s Golden Hind ship that I saw back in London and all the pirates that savaged the Caribbean back in the day….
There are three islands – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman – with Grand Cayman being the largest and most developed.
Grand Cayman Island is about 32km long with an average width of 6km. The capital of Grand Cayman is George Town. Cayman describes itself as a global village consisting of over 100 different nationalities in its 50,000 strong population. However most Caymanians have their origin in Britain, Scotland and Africa.
Water sports is what Cayman has built its substantial tourism industry and reputation on. You are never more than 3km from the water anywhere on any of the three Cayman Islands. Seven Mile Beach, where I’m staying, has the largest number of accommodations with easy access to the beach.
Katie and Yoshi are off to work this morning, but I feel at a bit of a loss without my luggage and the first plane into Cayman doesn’t arrive until 11.30am. I walk down to take a look at the beach, and it is quite stunning. The water is so clear and turquoise. I can see little schools of fishes swimming nearby. The water is warm and so inviting, it’s kind of cruel that I don’t have any bathers with me, cause I know this is where I would be spending my time right now.
Katie leaves work early and we head off to see some sights. We start walking down the road towards Camana Bay. I had totally forgotten about the island’s iguanas until right about now – I think the stunning beach had lulled me into a false sense of security. I tense up and freak out at the iguana now sitting alongside the side of the road. We keep walking and there’s another one. Katie tells me that they like to hide under cars and up around the rims where its cool – ah, there’s another one – so people have to be really careful – and another one – or they could accidentally run over them – argh, and another one! And they hide in the bushes – all I can hear are rustling bushes now – and in the trees – are you freaking kidding me! I don’t think Katie realised it was going to be this bad. We are only walking for about 10 – 15 minutes and I have counted 10 iguanas. “That’s actually not very many, it must be a slow day – plus we haven’t even seen any big ones yet” Katie tells me.
I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get over this “illogical phobia”, but I’m gonna have to try because it’ll start to get really annoying to Katie and Yoshi, and will reduce my nerves to shreds!
Upon reaching Camana Bay, and after a nice settling glass of wine, I spot an iguana that looks almost friendly. He’s one of the island mascots – Poof. Now the name Poof is not a reference to his sexual persuasion, but is actually a reference to the endangered status of this species. He is part of the Blue Dragon Trail, which is a series of 15 dragons around the island.
Camana Bay is set up for tourists, that much is obvious. There are a lot of overpriced shops, and it’s very quiet around. Obviously the cruise ships that I saw in port this morning have left. It’s quite a nice little area other than that, and I really enjoyed the wine bar. It was set up with bottle machines all along the wall, so you buy a card pre-loaded with cash and then go to whichever wine you would like and select whether you want a taste, a half glass or a full glass.
After looking around Camana Bay, we head back out to the main road and flag down one of the island buses. The bus rides cost KYD$2 and there are no designated stops. Basically if one is coming along the road, the driver will beep to let you know he is coming and you can flag him down if you want to jump on board. Then you can stop where you like. Driving along the road into Georgetown, Jamaican music playing on the radio, is actually quite a relaxing way to get around.
In town, we visit the National Museum. The building itself has been a number of things, prison, courthouse, dancehall and post office, but it now preserves the history of the Cayman Islands. The museum is well set up with a number of interpretive displays that tell you everything you need to know about the islands and its inhabitants.
The one that particularly took my fancy was the one below, where the lifelike mannequin, complete with moving parts, tells you his stories about a terrible storm and the ins and outs of his catboat.
The streets of Georgetown are quiet. Its a different story when the cruise ships are in, but once they leave for the day, everything shuts up. There are a lot of high end shops here for the tourists to plunder when they come in – Cartier, Victoria’s Secret, to name a few and lots of tourist shops selling gaudy t-shirts, mugs and jewellery.
Aside from a few locals, the only living things roaming the streets are the chickens. There are lots of chickens around. I have no problem with chickens. There are almost as many of them around as iguanas.
Returning to the hotel, I’m extremely excited to see my luggage has arrived. I can’t tell you much I’m looking forward to fresh clothes and just knowing where all my stuff is.
We head next door to Legendz bar for a few glasses of wine before deciding on The Hard Rock Café as our destination for dinner – I know my love for this place is corny, but it was so justified when I arrived to find that this HRC houses Eddie Vedder’s famous brown jacket. This is the jacket he wore for the MTV Unplugged session, where I saw and heard of Pearl Jam for the first time ever, the program which kicked off my whole love of Pearl Jam. I would never in a million years have expected to find that on Grand Cayman Island.
There was also a guitar signed by Eddie, Slash’s famous black hat and Gibson Les Paul, a jacket signed by the members of Nirvana and one of Kurt’s guitars and one of Chris Cornell’s (Soundgarden) guitars – makes me wonder what’ll be left of grunge music history once I actually get to Seattle! I was grinning from ear to ear like a child and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed my burger and fries at the Hard Rock more than I have this night. This could not have been a more perfect end to the day.