Thursday, October 21, 2010

New York, New York

This post will be out of sequence again as we just came back from spending several days in New York City. I have more posts to write on Savannah, Norway and many other places and will do so in the future. I have been to New York several times but there is so much to see and do there that I am always happy to return to this city. A couple of months ago the airlines had a special low fare of $150 round trip to NYC so we jumped on it. We landed early afternoon last Tuesday 12 October and returned to Atlanta on Saturday evening 16th October. The weather was good and we had a good view as we landed at La Guardia Airport. After a quick ride in a taxi we were in the heart of Manhattan.

Click on picture to enlarge

Picture from the taxi

Many years ago as I arrived in New York I did not know that decades later I would still visit the city often. At the time I was living in Paris, had been working for a year at a somewhat glamorous job near the Champs Elysées translating lyrics from English into French and seeing many famous singers. I stayed in my parents flat near Montmartre and had a little car. I decided to come to the US to travel, for two years, but asked for a working visa so I could have more money available if needed. I had heard that there were quotas for visas and they took a long time to obtain. I thought I would save my money for two more years then go but I was quite surprised when several weeks after my request I received a letter from the US Embassy telling me that I could come for my visa interview. I asked them if they could delay and they replied they could for 3 months. This is how I had booked a voyage on an ocean liner crossing to America. The French ships were totally booked that August, so I obtained passage on a German ship, the T/S Hanseatic, going from Hamburg to New York with stops in Southampton and Le Havre.

T/S Hanseatic, Hamburg Line

It was an adventure for me, a 21 year old, with no family in the US to decide to come, alone. I already knew I would visit at least 23 different states, and I did. I took many slides of my trip but when we were burglarized years later many boxes of slides were taken. A couple of days ago as I was looking into old boxes I found an old slide box which had been misplaced and not returned to the original boxes (which were stolen.) Below is the very first picture I took from the bridge of the Hanseatic as we approached the New York harbor on 31 August 1961. It is not a good picture but it is the very first picture of the US I now have.

The Statue of Liberté from the T/S Hanseatic, August 1961

My husband bought me a gadget with which I can transfer slides and films onto a digital memory card. This worked quite well but the slide has some damage. These slides are almost 50 years old so it is not so bad. I stayed in New York with a young couple, friends of a friend. They showed me around on the week-end. We went to the Empire State Building and I took some more slides there.

New York Panorama, September 1961

A New Yorker could easily tell that more skyscrapers have been built since then I would think. Last week we took a picture but showing the Empire State Building this time.

New York Panorama, October 2010

While the young couple worked during the week I explored New York alone. I remember taking various city buses from the bottom of Manhattan to Harlem. I would stop, walk around, and then get back on the bus. I walked around Rockefeller Plaza. We went there last week too and they improved the site, adding sculptures, fountains and flowers.

Rockefeller Plaza in 1961

I recall taking the bus to the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. I had been told that the Cloisters had been built by using five French cloistered abbeys. They were disassembled, shipped to New York and reassembled on top of a hill between 1934 and 1938. The day I visited in September 1961, I remember, there was hardly anyone around and it was cooler than downtown. I could see a bridge from up there, but I don’t know which one it was. (The pictures below are still my 60s slides.)

The Cloisters, September 1961

The American Embassy had given me a blue card, which is called a “Green Card” so I could work. I was a legal “immigrant” but felt more like a tourist on a wonderful trip. Walking on Fifth Avenue was fun. Notice in the picture below how most men had suits – no jeans – and women dresses. I did not own a pair of blue jeans then either!

Manhattan 1961

The slide below shows where the young couple lived at the time, but I don’t remember where in New York this was.

I have always cherished New York as the first US city I visited. After I was married and had children I usually went to France during my vacations. I also went back to New York several times but lately have been going more often. Once, I had tickets to go to France, with a stop in London, departing Atlanta on 12 September 2001. Of course that day all airports were closed because of the tragedy of the day before, the 11th. Instead I went to New York about a month later, in October 2001. I took pictures, with a better film camera, but I have misplaced the photos at this time. I did purchase a postcard, quite a moving one.

In December 2002 my husband and I went back to New York. It snowed and we walked in Central Park, It looked like a fairyland in the snow under the sun, but by evening, it had a mysterious aura.

Central Park, 2003, Rocky Schenck, Photographer, American, contemporary

At my work here in Georgia we had to schedule our vacations in January – I usually took two weeks in spring and two weeks in the fall, the second and third weeks of September. My mother passed away just before Christmas in 2002, so after that I did not go to Paris twice a year as I had been doing. In New York I had been staying at The Gershwin Hotel on East 27th Street, a hotel near the Flatiron Building. Below is a vintage postcard of the Flatiron building, built in 1902, one of the first skyscrapers built in New York.

Flatiron Building, turn of the century postcard

In 2004 I found a hotel in the Upper West Side, near Riverside Park and liked the area a lot. It felt more like a “neighborhood.” I returned in September 2007. From this hotel room I could see on the night of September 11th 2007 the two memorial columns of white light and listen to Mayor Bloomberg on my little television. I took a picture as you can see below.

Mayor Bloomberg on 9/11/2007

I retired in January 2008 so from then on I did not have to keep a firm schedule for my vacation. We returned to New York in November 2008 and had sun the whole time. The leaves in Central Park had glorious gold and red tones.

Central Park in autumn

Last week we returned to the same hotel on the Upper West Side. Our first stop after checking into the hotel is to walk a couple of blocks and stop at a corner grocery called Zabar’s. Their site says: “Zabar's has to be experienced, in person, to truly be understood. You have to see the crowds, hear the banter of our sales help, smell the croissants baking, admire the rich brown hues of our coffee, sample cheese from every corner of the world, enjoy the beauty of hand sliced nova, walk upstairs and see the largest selection of imported copper cookware anywhere... it really is a one of a kind adventure.” This is very true. It is so difficult to resist buying all the tempting cheese, olives and salads they offer. Zabar was established in 1934 by Lillian and Louis Zabar and has been a food landmark in the city ever since. Read Zabar’s story here.

Below are pictures I took there last week after our arrival in New York.

Click on picture to enlarge, then click again on each picture

After turning a corner we arrived in the coffee area. I selected a mixture of Italian espresso and Kenya coffees. I took a picture of the staff blending the coffee.

From our room we have a good view of the Hudson River. It is not easy to take a picture because of the screen on the window but the view in the morning, when the sun rises, is gorgeous.

We do not stay in the room much though as I usually have a plan for each day. I wait until a couple of days before our departure to New York to finalize our schedule there because of the weather (walking on sunny days and museums when it rains). This time we had rain only for a few hours in 4 days. New York is such a hyperactive place that we managed to do a lot during our short stay. My plan was organized by area but also very open so we could change it if we found out about something unexpected. This time we found a small opera house on the Upper East Side performing La Bohème on Friday night. We were lucky to get tickets – that will be in a future post as well as to what we explored.

New York 1955, William Klein, Photographer, American, contemporary

"As for New York City, it is a place apart.
There is not its match in any other country in the world
-Pearl S. Buck


""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Bonjour Chère Vagabonde :o) !!!!! Tes photos et tes mots concernant New York sont en harmonie, c'est superbe et ça donne envie d'aller découvrir ces divers endroits !!!! :o) Un bisou accompagne ce petit com, je te souhaite un agréable jeudi ! :o) ***

Jinksy said...

I certainly didn't expect to be wandering around New York at this time of the morning! Thanks for such an enlightening post! :0)

Jeannette StG said...

Thank you for showing the sites! Haven't done an official N.Y. tour yet -it's because too many other countries are still on the list:) Central Park is beautiful around this time! Like that you showed the old and the new!

Lonicera said...

Wonderful... sounds like an exhausting but fun few days. I found the 60's pictures very interesting.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

How exciting to move to NYC as a young woman. I love your old pictures. It's great that your husband found a way to preserve them.

I was in fashion merchandising and in the sixties we could only wear a pantsuit to work, which was NOT just pants and a top - it had to be "a real pantsuit," much like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi wear today. I well remember not being able to wear pants or jeans as we do today.

Riverside Park is a very nice area. My father-in-law lived there for years and it was a great place to walk his dog.

Jeruen said...

Wow. I enjoyed your retro pictures of New York City. I have frequented this city often now that even though I don't live there, I know my way like the back of my hand. It's nice to see old photos of places that are very familiar to me.

Vicki Lane said...

You are indeed a vagabond! I always enjoy your posts!

Elaine said...

Fun to see your old photos! I really like the Central Park in autumn shot.

Ruth said...

This was a wonderful memory walk with you, Vagabonde. I just relish your 1961 pictures and experience. The place where your friends lived looks very nice. That first photo you took from the ship is priceless, and thank god it didn't get stolen! All the pictures from that visit are just amazing, what a treasure.

I was especially eager reading your post today, because our son is in NYC this weekend for some exciting gigs with his new band. He just posted a picture on Facebook very like your view of Central Park. I don't know what building he was on top of. I took one similar to it in May from the Met.

Wonderful post.

Fennie said...

Wonderful blog, Vagabonde. Your adventurous soul marches before your words. I was quite terrified the first time I went to New York, some neighbourhoods seemed OK and then you turned a corner and felt anything could happen. Most un-European though perhaps that sort of thing sadly can happen anywhere and New York now is probably safer than London. Yes, I'd like to go back and with your blog you have taken me there.

Dutchbaby said...

I loved traveling across the Atlantic with you. I made a similar journey five years later on the Princes Margriet from the Holland-America Line. We still have an 8 mm film of our experience of landing in New York and then our trip across the US to San Francisco. I remember the chic ladies and the men in suits; like a scene out of the TV show "Madmen".

I rented an apartment on the Upper West Side for three weeks a couple of summers ago. We frequently dined on the offerings of Zabar's deli. My mouth is watering just at the thought of it.

I love the excitement and passion of New York; there's no other city in the world like it.

DJan said...

What a wonderful visit to New York! That picture of Manhattan 1961 could have been right out of the series "Mad Men" set in the same time frame. How much our world has changed in fifty years, and New York City more than most. Partly because of 9/11, and partly because of the enormous number of people that visit every year. Thank you for taking me along on your trips!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I LOVVVVVEEEE ZABAR'A.....I grew up in New York---just outside of the city and spent my whole childhood and young adult life working and playing in the city, and even later---I still know a lot of people there and though I haven't been back since 2001...You never get over your love of New York! All the places you went are as familiar to me as the back of my hand! It's great to see pictures of so many familiar buildings and areas.
And your view from your Hotel room? I knew people who lived in that Building on the corner there facing The Hudson and Riverside Park...In fact, I was interupted after I first came on your site tobight, by a phone call from those very people...! How Amazing Is That??
They have lived here since the mid 1970's but we spent a great deal of time together in NY and here, too. And my Grandmother lived in an Apartment Hotel right there near YOUR Hotel, back in the early 1950's....!
Much Much Nostalgia for me thanks to you!

And that street where your friends friends lived in 1961--Looks like the East side. Was It?

marciamayo said...

Vagabonde, you postings almost overwhelm me with their beauty. You have made blogging into an art form.

Pondside said...

In the 70`s, when we lived outside Philadelphia in the gate house of a large estate, our landlady, who was very kind, invited me to go to New York with her, to stay in her Upper East Side apartment. What a thrill! We visited Zabar`s and many other places I`ve read about in your post. I`d love to back, but in the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed your post!

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Merci pour ton message chez moi Vagabonde ! *** Bon lundi à toi et GROS BISOUS !!!! ***

lorilaire said...

Merci pour cette visite New-yorkaise !
Bizz lori

Anonymous said...

I love your vintage pictures! No "vintage" doesn't mean you are old :-D

I have yet to discover NY and I must say I almost regret I wasn't born in the fifties. I would have loved getting a glimpse of NY in the 1960s! Time travel machine, maybe?

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

I love that you found the old slides and shared them here, Vagabonde! I have only been to NYC once, in 1999, and did not get to explore as much as I might have wanted to. This post, though, helps me to get more of a sense of the city that I have come to love through others' writings and photographs. Thank you so much for your perspective. :)

TorAa said...

What can I say, who have only been to New York for an afternoon and early evening, waiting for the next early Morning Flight to Mexico?

You tell a fascinating story. From the time when Transatlantic Ships were still the normal way of crossing the pond. My fathers mother and her brother did go to New York and Brooklyn, which had a large Norwegian colony in the early 1900, but they returned after some years - when there was no more work there. So she met my fathers father...
Strange to think about --- what a coincident our lifes really are.

I'm impressed by your old slides. I used to take slides myself - and still have 1000's to be converted to digital formats. But the quality is not the same. And you remember, when we brought out the slide projector and turned out the Lights. Very special family Atmosphere....

Lori ann said...

I came over from Val in Africa, when I saw NY NY. Such a wonderful post, I enjoyed it very much, all your photos and recollections, brilliant!
I love NYC too, and most especially now that my youngest child is living there, truly a part of my heart is there too.

Thank you for sharing such a lovely post.

x Lori

Mage said...

Simply wonderful. What magical views new and old. I was so overwhelmed when I was there, that I was unable to appreciate the city. Perhaps I could now.

Reader Wil said...

Mercy de ce beau tour à New York. Je n'ai jamais été à New York. Les photo sont aussi très intéressantes. C'est dommage que vous avez perdu vos photos et diapos.
Merci de votre visite et le commentaire en français. Votre anglais est parfait! Bonne journée!

Angela said...

Isn`t it always amazing to re-visit a place after years? In my mind NY is still like it was in 1964, but I have never revisited it (only in your blog now). It was too loud and busy for me even then, though, how much more would it be now? Merci beaucoup, Vagabonde, c`était très intéressant!

Putz said...

i think we twins who pee in the same pea pot

Tipper said...

Wonderful post! I love the old slides! So was that the beginning of your Vagabond life : )How exciting to come to New York all alone for the first time.

Roger Gauthier said...

What a wonderful post about New York. It's too bad that I hate cities (except Paris...). My wife goes to New York from time to time. It is certainly one of the most amazing cities in the world.


Snowbrush said...

What great photos. Each one could provoke a conversation all by itself.

Darlene said...

To visit NY is to fall in love with the city that never sleeps. NY has a vibrancy not found in any other city I have visited. It is all things to all people.

I have not been there for about 15 years (I visited the Cloister then) and would love to go back.

Your photo of Central Park in the Fall is stunning.

Vagabonde said...

Nancy – Merci d’être venue regarder New York. Il faudra la visiter pour de vrai.

Jinsky, Jeannette, Lonicera, My Carolina Kitchen, Linguist-in-waiting, Vicki Lane, Elaine, Ruth, Fenny, Dutch Baby, DJan, marciamayo, Pondside, Zhu, Karin, Maggie, Putz, Roger Gauthier, Snowbrush and Darlene – It’s very kind of you to have stopped by and read my post. I hope you enjoyed reading about New York. I’ll have several more posts on the city. I appreciate all your comments.

Lady of the Hills – I am pleased your enjoy my post. No, I don’t remember if my friends lived in the East Side. I bet you know New York a lot better than me. Thanks for the comment.

TorAa – Yes, I remember bringing out the slides for all to see and how much fun that was. Thanks for coming to my blog.

Lori ann – Welcome to my blog. Please come back whenever you can. I enjoyed reading your comment.

Lorilaire et Reader Wil – Merci pour vos gentils commentaires. Je suis toujours contente de les lire.

Angela – you need to come back to New York if you have not visited it since 1964. It has changed and there are so many things to see and do.

Tipper – no this was not the beginning of my vagabond life. I started at 5 years old. I talked about it in this post:

Ginnie said...

I think you may be the only other person I know who has shown pictures of The Cloisters, Vagabonde! I visited there a couple years ago and think of that place as one of the untold wonders of the city. Magical. Well, YOU are magical, and how wonderful that you are retired and can take us to all these places. You are a true inspiration!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I enjoyed reading this post so much! I am a little younger than you are, so the New York you saw in the early sixties is unknown to me. Growing up in the borough of Brooklyn I did not often cross the brdge into Manhattan until the late 60's. I have vivid memories of the World Trade Center being built. I never thought I'd be seeing its replacement built now.

bowsprite said...

how i LOVE to see this city from your eyes! and how i LOVED how people used to dress, yes! makes me want to dress well again on the streets, except I am always in dumpy boat clothing.

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