Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Bicycling just beyond New York City

July 12, 2014

Thanks to Adventure Cycling’s “Bike Bits,” an electronic newsletter filled with tidbits for folks who love bicycle touring and sightseeing-oriented riding, I learned about a couple starting up overnight bike/camping tours from New York City. The three-day outings are geared toward city-dwellers, but anyone can participate. They make things as easy as possible for newbies, which I think is key. If I hadn’t had my pal Alice Charkes, a long-time Adventure Cycling leader, showing me the ropes almost 20 years ago, I’m not sure I would have tried bike touring. Thank you, Al!

I thought Gotham Bicycle Tours would be a great item for In Transit, the New York Times online and print travel feature I regularly contribute to. My editor agreed, and here’s my little item, which ran in June:

By Diane Daniel

Lukas Herbert takes a break during a bike ride through the Harlem Valley. The route is now part of the the Hudson Valley tour. (NOTE: this was taken a few years ago before the tours). Photo by Eric Wilson

Lukas Herbert takes a break during a bike ride through Harlem Valley, part of the Hudson Valley tour. Photo by Eric Wilson

As passionate cyclists and campers, Bronx residents Lukas Herbert and Laura Willis have introduced friends to their avocation and hope to see their fellow city riders discover the joys of multiple-day bicycle touring. But they know an impediment exists.

“While bike riding is becoming hugely popular here, a lot of people do not have access to personal vehicles, which poses a major obstacle for doing a bike tour,” Mr. Herbert said in an email.

Enter Gotham Bicycle Tours, which the couple started this spring to offer three-day, two-night bike tours just outside the New York City metro region.

“Fortunately, we have a mass transit system that permits bikes, so we are setting up these tours with 100 percent access to mass transit,” said Mr. Herbert, an urban planner with Westchester County, specializing in bicycle and pedestrian work.

“The idea is to remove as many barriers as possible to get people out on a bike overnight,” he said. “Then, if they do our tours, maybe they’ll graduate to a bigger, longer tour or strike out on their own. Regardless, the goal is to increase bike traveling, which is a good thing.”

Some of the cycling will be on car-free paths, including the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Photo by Lukas Herbert

Some of the cycling will be on car-free paths, including the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Photo by Lukas Herbert

Four tours are scheduled, two that traverse the Hudson Valley ($275 a person) and two along eastern Long Island and out to Montauk ($295 a person). The trips start at commuter rail stops outside the city.

Aside from not doing the actual pedaling, Gotham is making the outing as easy as possible for travelers by mapping scenic routes, planning meals and arranging accommodations (bed-and-breakfast options are sometimes available for noncampers).

Gotham staff will shuttle riders’ gear and even the cyclists themselves if they get too tired. Technical assistance is available for everything from a flat tire to tent setup (tent rentals are available too).

What if you try it but you still don’t like it? Push the “panic button” and Gotham promises to put you back on a train or bus to return home.

Polar plunges will warm your heart

January 5, 2013

I seriously cannot imagine taking a “polar plunge.” Heck, I’m sitting here with cold hands and feet in my office as I type this. But I do love the concept, which is why I wrote this roundup of plunges for the Boston Globe’s travel section. Most take place on New Year’s Day, but one hasn’t happened yet — which means there is still time for you to sign up! Or, you can ready yourself for Jan. 1, 2014! Here’s the list:

MSP Polar Bear Plunge, Annapolis, MD (photo Steve Ruark)

MSP Polar Bear Plunge, Annapolis, MD (photo Steve Ruark)

MSP POLAR BEAR PLUNGE, ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND

The largest plunge in the country, hosted by the Maryland State Police as a fund-raiser for Special Olympics Maryland, is held later in January, this year on the 26th. In 2012, some 11,000 plungers jumped into the Chesapeake Bay, raising $2.6 million.

CONEY ISLAND POLAR BEAR CLUB, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, founded in 1903, these days attracts about 1,500 participants who kick off the New Year with a daring dip in the Atlantic Ocean.

THE COURAGE POLAR BEAR DIP, OAKVILLE, ONTARIO, CANADA

While polar bear plunges are a New Year’s Day tradition all across Canada, the Courage event on the shore of Lake Ontario has become the country’s biggest, with more than 700 dippers and thousands of onlookers. To date, nearly $1 million has been raised to support clean water projects through World Vision Canada.

Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year's Dive) Scheveningen in 2010 (photo Alexander Fritze)

Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s Dive), Scheveningen in 2010 (photo Alexander Fritze)

NIEUWJAARSDUIK (NEW YEAR’S DIVE), SCHEVENINGEN, THE NETHERLANDS

As in Canada, New Year’s Day dips are held in dozens of communities across the Netherlands. The largest is in Scheveningen, a beach resort town near The Hague, where about 10,000 dive into the North Sea, many wearing sponsor Unox’s orange hats and gloves.

L STREET BROWNIES, SOUTH BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

In our backyard, upward of 700 swimmers jump into the frigid waters of Boston Harbor for the annual Jan. 1 plunge from the Curley Community Center. The Brownies, who started the event in 1904, are so named for their year-round tans.

Christmas lights brighten the holiday

December 10, 2012

Having just put up my trademark Charlie-Brown Christmas lights on two azalea bushes and a camellia tree in the front yard, I’m in the mood to share this list I wrote for the Boston Globe travel section last Sunday. Here are five places that will make your holidays bright(er)!

The The 2008 National Christmas Tree lights up the Ellipse in front of the White House [foto Wikipedia]

The 2008 National Christmas Tree lights up the Ellipse in front of the White House

NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE

One unifying presence in Washington remains our nation’s holiday evergreen, a tradition since 1923. The 28-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce, standing in the northeast quadrant of the Ellipse in President’s Park South, is festooned with thousands of lights. Free. Through Jan. 1. (1100 Ohio Drive SW, 202-208-1631, www.thenationaltree.org)

Hyatt Extreme Christmas in 2009

Hyatt Extreme Christmas in 2009

HYATT EXTREME CHRISTMAS

Just west of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is “Hyatt Extreme Christmas.” The Hyatt family treats visitors to almost 200,000 bulbs, ice-skating penguins, a miniature Ferris wheel and, debuting this year, the “Hyatt Extreme Ski Lift.” Free. Through Dec. 28. (11201 NW Fourth St., Plantation, Fla., www.hyattextremechristmas.com)

The Holiday Cactus Garden at the Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden

The Holiday Cactus Garden at the Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden

CHOCOLATE WONDERLAND AT THE ETHEL M CACTUS GARDEN

The factory store at Ethel M Chocolates, southeast of Las Vegas, lights its 600,000 bulbs amid three acres of the state’s largest collection of living cacti. A rainbow of colors blaze from cholla, golden bears, and other spiny species as mesquite trees twinkle in the background. Free. Through Dec. 31. (2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson, Nev., 702- 435-2608, www.ethelm.com)

Magical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier Islands Resort

Magical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier Islands Resort

MAGICAL NIGHTS OF LIGHTS AT LAKE LANIER ISLANDS RESORT

About a quarter million visitors a year marvel at this brilliant display an hour northeast of Atlanta. For its 20th edition, the holiday-themed driving tour has added an ice-skating rink, live nativity show, and night-light canopy tours. $60 a car. Through Dec. 31. (7000 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford, Ga., 770-945-8787, www.lakelanierislands.com)

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

ROCKEFELLER CENTER CHRISTMAS TREE

New York deserves its spot as keeper of the most classic holiday emblem. The 80th Rockefeller Center tree radiates in the glow of 30,000 multicolored LED lights strung over five miles of cord and topped with a star made of 25,000 Swarovski crystals. After the tree comes down, its wood is donated to Habitat for Humanity. Free. Through Jan. 7. (30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, 212-588-8601, www.rockefellercenter.com)

‘Making an Exit’ around the world

October 12, 2011

Just back from New Mexico, where we found the cemeteries there to be strikingly similar to those in indigenous northern Argentina — colorful and lively. They draw reverent yet celebratory crowds on certain days, especially the Day of the Dead. (In Taos, we hunted for and found the grave of Dennis Hopper.)

Those visits got me in the mood to read Sarah Murray’s new book, “Making An Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre — How we Dignify the Dead.” I’m ready to sign up for a worldwide death tour. (I’ve already done the Chapel of Bones swing through southern Europe.)

I first learned of Sarah’s work through her book “Moveable Feasts: The Incredible Journeys of the Things We Eat.” Sarah, a Brit and a longtime Financial Times writer now based in New York City, is a quintessential journalist — curious about everything and a terrific researcher and story teller.

In Ghana, you can have the fantasy coffin of your choosing (photo Sarah Murray)

In her introduction, she writes of her father’s death and wonders how she would like her own handled. “Writers often tell us about places we must see before we die. I want to explore some of the ones we end up in when we’re dead.” Her research took her to Hong Kong, Mexico , Ghana, the Philippines, the Czech Republic, Iran, Sicily, and Bali. So this is as much of a travel book as a survey of funerary practices, all the way down to its souvenirs — Sarah ordered a coffin from Ghana, famed for its wild vessels of death. Hers is in the shape of the Empire State Building and rests in her living room.

Check out her book and her blog (with death-themed photos that are full of life) and if you’re in New York, she has events on Oct. 20 and Oct. 30. Wish I could be there, dead or alive.

The Dutchness of New York

September 15, 2009

I’m turning over this installment of the blog to my favorite Dutch expert, Wessel. Take it away, hon…

Wessel and Diane are part of a US-Netherlands collaboration that has lasted for 400 years

Wessel and Diane are part of a 400-year US-Netherlands relationship

It’s great to be Dutch in the USA this year. I’m basking in the light of national pride. In 1609 — 400 years ago — a Dutch ship,  the “Halve Maen” (Half Moon), led by Englishman Henry Hudson, sailed into the waters around Manhattan. Hudson was actually looking for a shortcut to Asia for the Dutch East India Company.

The New Netherland colony and the trading post New Amsterdam, now New York City, would later be founded along its shores. NY400 — an all-year initiative in 2009 — celebrates 400 years of history between the Netherlands and the US.

Many newspapers have carried stories about the anniversary. But do Americans know about this historic event? I wouldn’t be surprised if only 1 percent know anything about what happened. So let me, a Dutch citizen, fill you in a bit.

Memorial for Dutch buying Manhattan from Native Americans in Battery Park, New York City

Monument portrays the Dutch buying Manhattan from Native Americans

More than a decade ago when visiting New York City, I went on an expedition to find traces from the Dutch past. I walked for two days through the city and found different tidbits. Topographical names: Wall Street (Walstraat), Harlem (Haarlem), Brooklyn (Breukelen; Brooklyn Borough Hall has a beautiful mural referring to its Dutch past), Coney Island (Konijneneiland, i.e. Rabbit’s Island). There were statues and plaques: The Dutch buying Manhattan from Native Americans (Battery Park), a plaque commemorating Peter Stuyvesant (last Director-General of the colony of New Netherland 1647-1664). Even the seal of the City of New York mentions 1625, the year that Fort Amsterdam was built on the southern tip of Manhattan.

Santa Claus is really a copy cat Sinterklaas

Santa Claus is really a copycat Sinterklaas

Another legacy is the Dutch linguistic influence. A few hundred words with Dutch roots are sprinkled throughout the English language. Who ever thought of Santa Claus having Dutch roots? The Dutch ancestor is Sinterklaas. Here’s a selection of loanwords: boulevard (via French from: bolwerk), brandy wine (brandewijn), caboose (kombuis), cookie (koekje), coleslaw (koolsla), dike (dijk), frolic (vrolijk), golf (kolf), iceberg (ijsberg), luck (geluk), mannequin (via French from: manneken), stockfish (stokvis), tulip (tulp), wagon (wagen), yacht (jacht). The latest addition is clap skate (klapschaats), a type of ice skate with the blade attached to the boot by a hinge at the front.

Coleslaw was invented by the Dutch who probably didn't want to waste leftover cabbage and carrots

Coleslaw was invented by the Dutch, who probably didn't want to waste their leftover cabbage and carrots

While you might not be aware of these Dutch-American stories, some you’re probably familiar with really aren’t Dutch at all. The famous Dutch boy Hans Brinker who saved the nation from disaster by sticking his finger in the dike is a work of fiction story by American writer Mary Mapes Dodge. The famous Dutch tulips were actually imported from Turkey in the mid 16th century. I’m not quite sure what the origins are of the Dutch kissing couple, found in souvenir stores everywhere. My suspicion is that sneaky Dutch merchants made the whole thing up. Even I took the bait, and have a photo of a kissing-couple statue as my desktop wallpaper at work.

Wessel relishes a stroopwafel

Stroopwafel connoisseur Wessel relishes one of these classic Dutch cookies

Another Dutch story is found in the expressions “going Dutch” and “Dutch treat,” meaning everyone pays for themselves. I guess for English-speaking people it’s hard to admit that there are frugal sides to their personalities, so they blame the Dutch. Unfortunately, I am not the best example to derail this stereotype, but I do my part by trying to redefine the expression Dutch treat. On every return trip from the Netherlands, I will fill the empty luggage space with packs of “stroopwafels.” Friends and colleagues can confirm that the stroopwafels are highly addictive and are a real Dutch treat.

She can’t believe it’s accessible

June 30, 2009

I share my blog today with Candy B. Harrington, a fellow member in the Society of American Travel Writers, who is an expert on accessible travel, from people using wheelchairs to slow walkers. Her slogan: Have Disability, Will Travel, and she’s giving us a Top-10 list of little-known accessible places. I haven’t met Candy, who writes from California, but for years I’ve been impressed with her work and uncompromising dedication to her topic. In the world of travel, staying uncompromised is a major feat. She recently released the third edition of her classic book “Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts And Bolts Guide For Wheelers And Slow Walkers.” From the book site, you can check out Candy’s own blog. Photos (except Lake Powell)  are by Mr. Candy, aka Charles Pannell.

Heeeeeere’s, Candy:

Candy Harrington with her favorite chicken Agnes

Candy Harrington with her favorite chicken, Agnes

During the past 16 years I’ve traveled the world in search of appropriate vacation choices for my readers. Although they have a wide range of tastes, preferences and budgets, my readers all have one thing in common; for the most part they are physically disabled — slow walkers to wheelchair-users.

Over the course of my travels I’ve seen a good number of accessible hotels, attractions, resorts, spas and even bus tours, but I’ve also discovered some unconventional accessible finds along the way. These are the things, that really made me step back and say “Wow, I can’t believe they made that accessible.” And although I keep adding to my wow list, here’s my current Top 10.

View of Yaquina Head Tidepools

Walkways lead to Yaquina Head tide pools

Yaquina Head tide pools

Located just three miles north of Newport, Ore., this Bureau of Reclamation project features barrier-free access on paved walkways down into the Quarry Cove tidepool area.

 

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

These gardens in Richmond, Va.,  feature a cool treehouse with ramped access to all areas. Think Swiss Family Robinson on steroids.

White Water Rafting

In Northern California, everyone can enjoy white water rafting on the American River, thanks to the folks at Environmental Traveling Companions. This San Francisco based company can accommodate wheelchair-users (even folks who use a power wheelchair) and slow walkers on their exciting white water rating trips.

Aerial view from Lake Powell (photo Wikipedia)

Lake Powell (photo Wikipedia)

Houseboating on Lake Powell

Forever Resorts  offers a wheelchair-accessible houseboat on Lake Powell, in Utah. You can rent the houseboat for a few days or a week. The accessible model features level boarding, a bathroom with a roll-in shower, an oversized master suite complete with a portable hoyer lift, elevator access to the top deck and a beach wheelchair.

C&O Canal Boat

Docked at the Great Falls Tavern, near Potomac, Md., the replica Charles F. Mercer canal boat features incline lift access to both decks and an accessible restroom on the lower deck. The canal boat is pulled along by mules and offers passengers a colorful look at 1870s canal life.

Baja Sport Fishing

Larry Cooper designed his En Caliente  sport fishing boat with access in mind. Docked in Los Barriles, Mexico, it features removable lockdowns, hoist access to the flying bridge and custom tackle designed for anglers of all abilities.

Wheelchair-accessible back country lean-tos at John Dillon Park

Accessible lean-tos at John Dillon Park

Adirondack Camping

John Dillon Park , near Tupper Lake in upstate New York, features wheelchair-accessible back country lean-tos.

African Safari

Endeavour Safaris  offers wheelchair-accessible safaris in a ramped Toyota Landcruiser, through Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa.

In a Cavern

Billed as America’s only ride through caverns, Fantastic Caverns  features ramped access to their tour vehicles. Just roll-on and enjoy this cool site near Springfield, Mo.

Bungy Jumping

If you want a little adventure, the folks at Taupo Bungy  in New Zealand can accommodate you. It takes very little adaptive equipment, but a whole lot of guts!

Thanks, Candy. The world of travel (and beyond) needs you and your advocacy work!

Melting-pot tour of New York City

August 14, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published July 20, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: Connie planned a very interesting trip for her children and the family’s German exchange student. I’m impressed!

Owen Corey (left), Ian Corey, Len Corey, Corry Kieper, and Connie Corey on Ellis Island (Click to ENLARGE)

Owen Corey (left), Ian Corey, Len Corey, Corry Kieper, and Connie Corey on Ellis Island (Click to ENLARGE)

WHO: Connie, 47, and Len Corey, 49, with their children Ian, 14, and Owen, 12, all of Reading, Mass., and Corry Kieper, 16, of Essen, Germany.

WHERE: New York City

WHEN: Two days in March

WHY: “We had a high school exchange student from Germany for three weeks and wanted to show her as much as possible,” Connie Corey said. That included visits to Salem, Boston, Plimoth Plantation, New Bedford, and Newport. “For me the best part of the New York trip was the idea of being able to show someone from a foreign country how much that city is truly a melting pot.”

Connie (left), Owen , Ian, and  Corry at the entrance to the Ellis Island Museum (Click to ENLARGE)

Connie (left), Owen , Ian, and Corry at the entrance to the Ellis Island Museum (Click to ENLARGE)

IMMIGRANT ISLAND: The family stayed at a hotel in Newark to save money. “It’s cheaper to stay there, and my husband went to school in New York and isn’t afraid to drive in the city,” Corey said. They arrived on a Thursday night and started sightseeing Friday morning with a trip to Ellis Island, which Corey said was easier to reach from the New Jersey side. “All three of the kids had studied it in school and were interested in history, so they really enjoyed it.” They drove into Manhattan, where they found parking right outside their lunch spot, Christine’s Polish American, an East Village diner serving Eastern European dishes. “We had the best parking luck all weekend.”

Connie (left), Corry, Len, and  Ian in New York's financial district (Click to ENLARGE)

Connie (left), Corry, Len, and Ian in the financial district (Click to ENLARGE)

TOWN AND TUNNEL: After visiting a popular section of Central Park, “where all the movies are filmed,” they fought their way through the crowds at the Museum of Modern Art‘s “Target Free Friday.” “There were 500 people in line, but at least it was moving. It was so crowded that you couldn’t really see the museum, but there is such excellent modern art there.” They visited Rockefeller Center and drove through Times Square before heading back through the Holland Tunnel.

LIVING IN AMERICA: Saturday started with a trip to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which presents a look at migrant and immigrant life in the 19th and 20th centuries. “They would have 12 people in an tiny apartment with a bathroom down the hall and no tub or shower. It’s really about trying to understand people’s lives and the dreams, the risk, and the work that these people were willing to do to get here. It really puts into perspective how the American Dream has changed.”

CIAO FOR NOW: After enjoying the sounds from Italian-speaking diners at Rocky’s Restaurant in Little Italy, the kids had a field day in Economy Candy. “It’s about 12 feet wide and 50 feet long with floor-to-ceiling candy, with every candy imaginable,” Corey said. After a stop at the Gothic masterpiece Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, they headed home, mission accomplished.