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New York City

Culture, Destinations, North America, Travel Tips

A Day in the Park

October 26, 2017 • By

I’ve lived in New York City the greater part of 16 years and I never tire walking through Central Park. It’s my favorite spot to seek solace and tranquility in an otherwise hectic environment.

Fantasy Aisle, Central Park, the heart of New York City

Central Park, the heart of New York City

With summer bleeding into fall, I explored the park with a new lens. I entered 72nd Street on the east side (off limits to cars on weekends) and joined the hoards of runners and bicyclists moving uptown along their respective paths. It was hot and humid and I admired the fitness levels of those zipping past me. People dressed in sponsored training attire, fathers and mothers pushing strollers, friends talking to friends and others like me making the most of a morning in the park.

Fantasy Aisle, Early morning runners and walkers

Early morning runners and walkers

The falling leaves signal the change in seasons as shady areas succumb to open patches of golden yellow and blazing red. The squirrels don’t mind because this is their territory and they out number people. They move quickly popping in and out of pathways diving into the leaves–they are not shy.

I venture off the crowded pathway into the “Ramble” where winding walkways lead to a man-made forest within a city. The sounds of fire engines and traffic disappear and I weave around huffing and puffing in silence until I spy a couple kissing passionately. I startle them. How long have they been hiding? This is the perfect place to seek shade, read a book, grab a pair of binoculars and bird watch. I hesitate but then continue with my goal to make the 6.02-mile loop around the park.

Next, I take in an adult soccer game on the Great Lawn. They see me lurking and put on a good performance before I find myself zig-zagging on another walkway to reach the Shuman Running Path bordering the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The direction for runners and walkers remains unchanged year after year and I make a mental note to voice my opinion.

Fantasy Aisle, The pesky Central Park squirrel

The pesky Central Park squirrel

At the north end of the reservoir, the city skyline comes into view. There is a slight fog obscuring the tallest skyscrapers but it provides a simple backdrop to the simplicity of the calming water and the fall foliage. I walk half of the 1.58 mile-loop and exit to a bridge I’ve crossed a hundred times. It’s an antique straight out of the chalk drawing in the “Mary Poppins” Jolly Holiday scene.

Fantasy Aisle, Gothic bridge, connecting the Reservoir to the Tennis Courts at 94th Street

Gothic bridge, connecting the Reservoir to the Tennis Courts at 94th Street

I take a quick bathroom break at the tennis courts and watch a match in progress. The courts both clay and hard are filled with people of all ages and levels. If only I brought my racquet, I could practice my serve.

My feet ache for a timeout but I push myself through the Conservatory Garden. A beckoning bench reads, “Take time to sit and smell the flowers,” useful and timely advice.

Fantasy Aisle, Conservatory Garden located on the Upper East Side of the park

Conservatory Garden located on the Upper East Side of the park

Now on the West Side of the park and the sun bearing down on me, I wipe my sweat and duck into the North Meadow walking briskly to Belvedere Castle and the Shakespeare Garden. The tourists are awake and occupy the castle’s landing with cameras and tripods. I check to make sure the turtles are still roaming freely at Turtle Pond and remember my first performance of “Much Ado About Nothing” during the 2014 season of Shakespeare in the Park.

Fantasy Aisle, Empty swings await

Empty swings await

Fatigue sets in and I’m counting the 40+ blocks I need to finish the 6.02-mile loop. The joy has vanished from my face and my walk transformed from a leisurely activity into a mission of sorts. I notice a woman on a swing and move to take her picture but pause. We exchange pleasantries and I admit I haven’t sat on a swing in ages. She tells me to give it a try and I do. I’m kicking my legs faster and faster and soaring into the air. We swing together but not in unison. She is in her 60s I guess and loves the park for the swings. She stops, waves and bids me a good day. I let my hair blow in the wind and push higher and higher until I am scared and slow my pace. A child inhabited my body and I jump off the swing making a skittish landing on the sand. I recover. That was fun.

Fantasy Aisle, A beautiful bride poses at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (lower passage) in Central Park

A beautiful bride poses at Bethesda Terrace and Fountain (lower passage) in Central Park

Central Park serves as an open-air museum and events center to New Yorkers and its guests. There is something for everyone whether it’s catching rays of sun in Sheep Meadow, paddling a rowboat on the pond near the Loeb Boat House, pledging wedding vows at the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain or listening to the talented musicians scattered along Literary Walk.  A day in the park is only the beginning.

When I bought a park map from Karina, a 24-year-old student from the Bronx, I asked her what she enjoyed most about the park and she answered, “Literary Walkduh. I finished my adventure along the Mall admiring the statues of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott and talking with Shayneh Starks, a native of Newport Beach, CA who has been visiting Central Park for the last 20 some years. She sits and listens to the magical music of Ralph U. Williams who is a talent on the saxophone. We discuss her first visit to the park with her mother when she was 21-years-old and I tell her I love zooming around the park on my bike but early on weekends before the tourists arrive. I ask her what she likes most.  She pauses and with passion and a smile answers, “The best part of Central Park is the fireflies.”

Fantasy Aisle, The Mall and Literary Walk, a favorite of many in Central Park

The Mall and Literary Walk, a favorite of many in Central Park

I agree. I thank Shayneh for the conversation and hunt for an empty bench in front of Kerbs Boathouse. The next few hours I bask in the sun reading my book and forgetting I live in a city with 8.5 million people.

My Favorite Spots in Central Park

The Pond at sunrise.  Take in the view of the Gapstow Bridge and a glimpse of the city’s skyline

Sip a coffee or a grab a drink at Kerbs Boathouse/Conservatory Water

Walk/Run the 1.58 mile loop around the Reservoir

Fancy a game of tennis?

Camp out all night for free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater (I usually cheat and become a member of the public theater)

Take a break at Strawberry Fields and listen to the Beatles greatest hits played by visiting musicians

Enjoy paddle boating at the Loeb Boathouse

Read a book and fall asleep in Sheep Meadow

Enjoy an outdoor lunch at Tavern on the Green

Let someone else do the driving on a romantic Horse Carriage Ride through the park

Breathe in the sounds and sights of Literary Walk/the Mall

Catch a free movie night in the Park

Plan for a Concert in the Park

Snap pictures of the Boathouse and people getting married at the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain

Fun for kids and parents

Make some figure eights at the Wollman Rink

Get dizzy on the Carousel

Pet an animal or two at the Tisch Children’s Zoo

Go paddle boating at the Loeb Boathouse and take in city views

Destination Wedding, North America

A Junior Prom Adventure turns into a Lifetime of Love: NYC Wedding

April 5, 2016 • By

It’s a beautiful spring afternoon; the beauty salons are bustling with anxious young women and excited mothers. Friends advise, “wear your hair up or I like it down.” The salon reeks of fragrant flowers with a hint of alcohol, aerosol bottles of hairspray empty quickly and bobby pins fall to the floor. The prom is many hours later but the limo arrives at 4:00 PM for pictures.  There isn’t a moment to waste.

For Marla and Paul, it’s 1989. Marla is dressed in a powdered blue, calf length, strapless stunner and Paul is donning a stylish, black Italian custom cut (rented) tux with matching powder blue bowtie and cummerbund. She is radiant and confident; he is handsome in a sheepish kind of way. Think Debbie Gibson meets Jon Bon Jovi.

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Marla and Paul, Jonathan Dayton HS, New Jersey – Junior Prom

The charming couple connected in a high school class at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, New Jersey. Marla being the temptress invited her older classmate Paul to the Junior Prom. He left for college months later and as Marla stated, “He implied, see you later.”

Since life reminds us to be present and look forward, Marla and Paul simply parted their respective ways attending college, studying abroad, moving from apartment to apartment, city to city until the evolution of Facebook. This time Paul took the bold initiative and requested Marla as his Facebook friend.

It would be almost a year before they would meet in person in Florida, where Paul lived.  He nearly missed his chance ditching Marla on their first attempted date due to being exhausted from work.  An excuse Marla accepted thankfully.  A day later on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, the couple reunited.  Moments before a pigeon expelled itself on Marla, which she took as a positive sign because Paul and Marla have been laughing for the last six years.

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Under the Chuppah at City Winery. No nerves for these love birds

Marla and Paul married on a magical fall evening in New York City. The day delivered overcast skies, drizzle and blustering winds but the electricity inside City Winery suited Marla, Paul and their 140 guests just fine.

A wedding in New York City made the ideal location for Marla and Paul. They gathered family, friends and colleagues from as nearby as Greenwich Village and as far away as Indonesia.

Why choose City Winery? Marla said, “It optimized who we are and encapsulated our love of music, food and wine downtown in the city.”

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City Winery before the wedding ceremony

Being of Jewish faith, Marla and Paul celebrated their marriage ceremony with their parents at their side under the Chuppah (canopy) and a very cool modern, female rabbi served as the celebrant.   The Ketubah (marriage contract) perfectly placed next to the happy couple symbolized their commitment to each other. Paul smashed the glass and guests shouted Mazel Tov!

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This prom dress 27 years later. Impressed it fits!

City Winery transformed into an elegant setting for Paul and Marla’s wedding. Guests devoured incredible cheeses and Mediterranean spreads, sipped and later slurped wine in the Barrel Room and enjoyed a seated dinner with pumpkin ravioli and fish entrees. The Greg Buford Band busted jams and people piled on the dance floor partying like it was 1989.

From young love and a special spring dance to a fabulous night on October 4, 2015, Marla traded her corsage for the bouquet.  Jonathan Dayton High School had it right all along, “It was meant to be” and Marla still has the baby blue prom dress to prove it (and it fits)!


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The bride and ME at City Winery, NYC

Marla and Paul traveled to Italy on their honeymoon visiting the Puglia Region and Rome.  Italy holds a very special place in Marla’s heart since she studied abroad in Florence and later lived there for a year.  She wanted Paul to experience the allure of sweet tomatoes, tart lemons, flavorful olive oil, freshly caught fish and beautiful, welcoming countryside.  They drank wine, lots of it, dined on local favorites and tracked the mileage of their new life together exploring Italy with happy hearts and eternal smiles.

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Now the fun part, the honeymoon! Paul and Marla in Italy

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An Italian Panini is the best but a Honeymoon in Italy is better