One World Observatory with Walks of New York

One World Observatory
One World Observatory

The One World Trade Center’s new observation deck has recently opened and I visited as part of a Walks of New York tour.

Led by local New Yorkers, these small group tours hone in on specific subject (say, photography) or neighbourhood (eg. the Lower East Side) and go deep, but not too deep–less facts and figures, more personal histories.

The main draw of Walks of New York’s WTC Tour & One World Observatory tour may seem to be the pre-reserved tickets to the observatory, but prior to entering the WTC the guide leads a fascinating two-hour tour of the surrounding area. I rarely visit this area myself, feeling there’s something not quite right about gawking around the disaster sites, but I was very glad to have taken this tour and to have learned a more personal side to the events of that day–and the weeks, months and years afterwards.

The tour began at St. Paul’s Chapel, New York City’s oldest public building, which, amazingly, was not damaged at all during the attacks. Even these 18th-century chandeliers were left intact.

St Paul's Chapel
St Paul’s Chapel

The church soon became a refuge for the rescue workers who couldn’t get home after their 12-hour shifts. Messages of support came in from around the world–including these cranes from Nagasaki and Hiroshima survivors.

St. Paul's Chapel
St. Paul’s Chapel

This bell was presented to St. Paul’s in solidarity from the Mayor of London.

St. Paul's Chapel
St. Paul’s Chapel

The new transit hub at Fulton Center has recently been completed.

Fulton Center
Fulton Center

The mix of old and new architecture in Lower Manhattan is striking. This is the Woolworth building, completed in 1913, parts of which are being developed into luxury apartments.

Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building
Woolworth Building

Speaking of luxury apartments, here is “New York by Gehry,” the tallest residential tower in the Americas.

Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry
Modern and Romanesque
Modern and Romanesque

Santiago Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transit Hub is years overdue and millions of dollars over budget. Still, here’s a look at the Oculus in construction.

The Oculus in construction
The Oculus in construction

And the PATH station’s Platform B.

PATH Station at WTC
PATH Station at WTC

Brookfield Place, when it was called the World Financial Center was terribly damaged on 9/11. The Winter Garden, which had all the windows blown out, has been beautifully restored and has been expanded to hold a variety of great food vendors, including Le District, a kind of French Eataly.

Brookfield Place
Brookfield Place
The Oculus from Brookfield Plaza
The Oculus from Brookfield Plaza
Waterfront Plaza
Waterfront Plaza
Memorial
Memorial

So to the observatory. Super high-speed elevators whisk visitors 102 floors up in about 40 seconds. During that brief time, video screens inside the elevators show a CGI timelapse of New York City history–the landscape of Lower Manhattan from the year 1500 until today. It was one of my favourite parts.

Then, upstairs you are obliged to watch a bit of a kitschy video celebrating NYC before the screen goes up to reveal the skyline to cheers from the crowd.

Thankfully that is the only cringey part of the experience and you are then left alone to wander the observation deck and take in the 360-degree views at your leisure.

One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory
One World Observatory

Thanks to Walks of New York for hosting me on their tour.

La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami

A year ago I was invited to attend LE Miami, the luxury travel show. The event has a partnership with American Excursionist who organise bespoke tours designed by experts and led by local personalities. I went on their Little Havana Cultural Immersion tour, led by a cultural anthropologist, which took me to Calle Ocho to experience el calor Latino.

Our first stop was La casona de la sagüesera, the home of the identical twin Cuban artists, Ronald and Nelson Curras, who work in ceramics and have transformed their house into a living piece of art. La sagüesera, I was told, is Spanglish for “southwest.”

Throughout the home–which may be turned into a museum one day–are images of O’ Shun, the most popular of the orishas (spirits) in santería, the religion that developed in the African slave communities of the Cuba’s sugar plantations by adopting elements of Spanish-imposed Catholicism while maintaining beliefs from Africa, primarily those of Nigeria’s Yoruba tribe.

Incorporated into the murals and mosaics throughout the house are frequent images of sunflowers–the presence of which in Cuban art invoke O’ Shun.

I just loved the energy and colour of La casona de la sagüesera and feel very lucky to have been invited inside.

La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami
La casona de la sagüesera, Little Havana, Miami

Paradise Found in the Florida Keys

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I’m sitting in what I’m told is a “locals’ bar” in the Middle Keys while a musician sings “Wouldn’t want to be president, that’s too much stress. I just wanna be on an island, maybe just off Key West.” Around me more than one smiling, sunkissed older man is wearing a t-shirt that says “Sell Your Stuff, Keep the Dog, Move to an Island.” Continue reading “Paradise Found in the Florida Keys”

Postcard from Grenada: Sandals LaSource Grand Opening

I spent the last week in Grenada as a guest of the new Sandals LaSource Grenada Hotel and Spa in order to attend their Grand Opening. Lots more on that to come, but first here are a few pictures from Monday’s opening event. Continue reading “Postcard from Grenada: Sandals LaSource Grand Opening”

My Favourite Photo from Reykjavik

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Seeing as my last few posts have been about Iceland (trying to catch up on all my recent travels), here is a cute shot of a cute house in a cute city.

This was taken .. somewhere on the walk back from Cafe Loki near Hallgrimskirkja. It was early January and there were a few straggling Christmas decorations around the city, but I kinda hope this is not a festive display but an everyday display.

Hotels I Love: Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel

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Apologies for the blurry photographs. Iceland is dark in the winter and my camera (skills) are lacking in low light.

The Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel is a member of the always gorgeous Design Hotels collection. It is located in Selfoss, around 45 minutes from Reykjavík, on the slopes of the still-active volcano Mount Hengill on the edge of Thingvellir National Park. Continue reading “Hotels I Love: Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel”

In Pictures: Las Vegas’ Neon Museum

Have you noticed that neon lights are disappearing from our cities? Those giant flashing lights you see in places like Times Square are produced nowadays by LED, not the sliced and twisted gas-filled tubes of years ago.

For years, the old, disused neon lights of Las Vegas lay abandoned in an old YESCO production lot, known as the “Neon Boneyard. The Neon Museum of Las Vegas is restoring those signs and, last year, opened up its headquarters in the lobby of La Concha Hotel to offer hour-long tours of its collection.

Sassy Saloon
Sassy Saloon
Lido
Lido
The Stardust sign's font is "Atomic" embracing the spirit of the age, it was meant to resemble the mushroom cloud of atomic tests.
The Stardust

The Stardust sign’s font is “Atomic.” Embracing the spirit of the age, it was meant to resemble the mushroom cloud of atomic tests.

Gamble!
Gamble!
Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge was the first Las Vegas casino to integrate, and the “Moulin Rouge Accord” ended segregation in Las Vagas.

The Horseshoe
The Horseshoe

The Horsehoe was the last to integrate.

Las Vegas Club
Las Vegas Club
La Concha
La Concha

Ironically, the Neon Museum’s sign contains no neon; it is all LED.

A-C-E
A-C-E
N is for Neon
N is for Neon