Posts Tagged With: Architecture

Art Under New York City

Found this via Facebook. Very fascinating video though what he is doing is extremely dangerous. All rights belong to Benjamin Starr, Undercity, Steve Duncan, and Visual News.

To view the original article click here.

The Hidden Art Under New York City

Thursday 02.10.2011 , Posted by
Filmed without permission or permits, Steve Duncan goes urban spelunking to find the hidden treasures under New York City. Followed by his brave cameraman, Duncan explores beautiful closed off subway tunnels from bygone era’s, the first underground sewer for the city and interviews the people that inhabit the dark place. See the beautiful photos he’s taken of his many adventures at
Categories: History, Mish Mash, NYC, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philadelphia City Hall

My parents and I usually stay near City Hall so I have been staring at this exquisite building for as long as I can remember. The architecture of the building is incredible. I could look at it all day. I always take a million pictures of it because I just can’t get enough of it. About 2 years ago I was reading one of the Philadelphia guide books that was in the hotel room and I read that the building had a limited number of tours. The tours even included a trip to the top of City Hall which is an observation tower. The tower is right under Ben Franklin’s feet. The problem was that the tour is only given at 12:30pm on weekdays. We are usually in Philly during the weekend or on holidays. Last year when our Dallas trip got pushed back at the last minute due to weather my mom and I had 4 days off with no plans. So we went to Philly and City Hall was on my list.

I booked the tour over the phone the day before. We paid $12 each and picked up our tickets in the gift shop. The gift shop was expensive, but I bought some postcards. We looked around for a bit and were called for our tour. The tour starts in the gift shop. Then it explores the bottom floor and explains all the details of the architecture. Then we are taken upstairs. The staircase is a giant spiral staircase. The rooms inside are incredible. We got to see the City Council Chamber, the Mayor’s Reception Room, Conversation Hall, and the Supreme Court Room. The tower portion only allows 4 people in a small elevator up at a time. The elevator ride was very cool because you got to see the inside of the top of the building. The tower was fantastic! The view was beautiful. We went on a clear day so we could see everything. The tower is definitely not for people that are claustrophobic or afraid of heights. It was strange to look up and see the huge statue of Ben Franklin. My mom and I had a great time! The tour was worth every penny. Glad I got to finally see the inside of this beautifully ornate building.

View from the tower

View from the tower

View from the tower-Masonic Lodge/Temple

Ben Franklin

View from the tower


Categories: Family Vacation, History, Philadelphia, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heading to the Lone Star State

June 15 2012

My mom and I were finally heading to Dallas. We were originally supposed to go in March, but there were tornado warnings. We used our American Airlines miles to get free flights.

We landed in Dallas and took a shuttle to a parking lot where we picked up another shuttle. That shuttle took us a train. We bought tickets for the train, which came about 15 minutes later. The train reminded me of Amtrak trains. The train had free wifi, which was plus and it allowed me to check my work email. The train left us off a little over a block away from our hotel (the Hyatt). We had to go downstairs and take a tunnel into the hotel basement. The tunnel was a little creepy. We had heard a lot of bad reviews about this hotel and we knew that the pool and gym were going to be closed while we were going to be there. The Hyatt upgraded us to a suite.

The suite had a living room with a dining room, two bathrooms, a mini fridge, and double beds. We didn’t have a view, but that’s what we wanted because the rooms with a view faced the train station and were noisy. Our lack of a view meant that we would have a quiet room.

We walked through the tunnel again (which was long, deserted, and still creepy) and went to a block away from the Old Red Museum to catch a bus to the Swiss Ave. Historical District. The bus was kind of grimy and definitely worse than the ones in NYC. The bus left us in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. We had no idea where to go. Thank goodness I had a cell with a map. We were actually only two blocks from the start of Swiss Ave.

We started to shed our layers and protect ourselves from the sun. The sun was shining directly on us and it was very hot. I took out my ipod and a pair of headphones for my mom and I to share. I had downloaded an audio tour of the homes onto my ipod. You can get the audio here, but you’ll need to do some tweaking to get it on your ipod. I organized it so we did one of the side the street and then turned around and did the other side of the street.The houses are beautiful and each one has an interesting history. We even saw the house where they filmed the pilot episode of Dallas (my mom is in a picture with it below). It’s a mile from one end to the other. So we walked two miles total. We were soaked and dehydrated by the time we were done. We walked to Gaston Ave and went into the gas station. I went looking for a bathroom, but didn’t see one. We bought some ice cold water and went to the bus stop.

We took the bus to the Mozzarella Company, which I had heard about on a TV show. Unfortunately, it was not what I thought it would be. There was nothing to see. I got postcards and left. We were then supposed to go to Pepe and Mito’s which was on Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dive’s, which was across the street from Mozzarella Company. However, we were just not in the mood for Mexican food. We decided to head back to our neighborhood. We waited for the bus and waited and waited. The bus stop was outside of a cupcake place, so my mom decided to go in and get some while we waited for the bus. The bus wound up coming 1 hour later.

We got off the bus and decided to go to the restaurant I had picked for the next night, which was Hoffbrau’s. The restaurant was by our hotel and got great reviews. I ordered a side of mashed potatoes with gravy and a side of mac n cheese. They were both so good!!!!! My mom got the Hoffbrau’s chips. They were also very good. Pictures of what we ate is below. The staff was nice, the food was very good, the water was cold, and the bathroom was clean so we were super happy with our choice. We walked around the neighborhood, which wasn’t that good. We went to cvs and picked up some sweets and souvenirs. We also went to Wild Bill’s Western. I bought a bunch of postcards and a bracelet. I had a coupon for a free belt buckle for every $10 spent. So we got to use that. I tried on a bunch of shoes and hats. We had a lot of fun just looking around the store. We took the scary tunnel back to our hotel and stayed in for the rest of the night.

They knew I was coming. lol

Categories: Dallas, Family Vacation, Food, History, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let Them Eat Cake and Walk 4 Miles

July 29 2012

We had breakfast at the hotel again. It was so delicious. I had my fill of croissants, mini baguettes, brioche, sugar rolls, and cheese. I asked them for ice this morning because I was getting sick of room temperature water. What a difference! Paris needs to learn about air conditioning and ice.

We took the metro to the Invalides stop where we purchased tickets for a train to Versailles. We didn’t have to wait long before the train arrived. The train wound up being packed! Unfortunately we chose seats that were facing the wrong direction. So we rode backwards. The train was stuffy and riding backwards was making me sick. We passed Paris’ copy/version of the Statue of Liberty. I took a really bad picture of it because I wasn’t expecting to see it. The train ride to Versailles was about an hour long.

My mom and I crossed the street and she stopped at a Starbucks to use the ladies room. Then we walked about four blocks to the chateau. I knew it was huge but a new word needs to be invented for how big Versailles really is. It was an incredible sight to see. We passed a guy dressed as King Tut which was super random and funny. We saw two enormous lines. I knew one was for ticket holders and one was for people with tickets. I got on line and sent my mom to make sure we got on the right line. We had. I had purchased an all access pass online for a lot of money (either 25E or 50E a piece-I think). The line moved very slowly. I was glad we already had tickets or we would have had to wait on two lines. About an hour later we were in. At that point I needed to use the ladies room. Time to wait on another line. There was no paper in the bathroom and I only knew this because I overheard the ladies speaking in Spanish ahead of me. However, they had their own. When they were done and told me to go in next. In Spanish I turned to them and said but isn’t there no paper. Then they bust out laughing. I waited for a stall with paper. While I waited I watched several women walk into a mirror at the bottom of the stairs.

I met up with my mom who was not happy that an art exhibit was being displayed in some of the rooms in Versailles. The art was loud and ostentatious and took away from the beauty of Versailles. We waited for our headsets that were included in the price. The headset was like a walkie talkie and I didn’t like holding it up to my ear so I took out my headphones and plugged them in. They were worked beautifully. Versailles was packed, but the beauty and architecture of the place was incredible. The audio was very informative. I just couldn’t believe that I was walking around in Versailles. I had seen these rooms in movies, documentaries, and in books. I could feel the history around me. I easily could have closed my eyes and pictured King Louis XVI and his contemporaries around me. The Hall of Mirrors was exquisite. There was a random pair of giant high heels in the room. Another room contained a pink helicopter. It seriously was a strange art exhibit.

We saw a sign for Angelina. We have been trying to get to the one on Rue di Rivoli but kept missing it because they close early. So I was like lets do this! We don’t normally eat at places that are part of historical sites because of the cost, but you only live once. There was a short line. You had to tell them whether you wanted to go to the restaurant portion or the quick take out area. We chose the take out bakery area. My mom grabbed a table and I waited on the line for food. About 15 minutes later I emerged with a water bottle, their famous Mont Blanc, and a chocolate macalon (which is basically a long chocolate macaroon). Our deserts were delicious! Now we could say we ate at Versailles. The bathroom had the cutest sign (see the picture below). There was no toilet paper again.

Next we finished up the top level and went downstairs to the children’s bedrooms. Then we did the gift shop. I got postcards and a book. We returned our headsets and went out to the entrance of the gardens. We showed our tickets to prove that we had paid the gardens entrance fee. We went on a day where the fountains were on and music was playing. I wanted to take a hop on hop off tram to see all the sites, but my mom felt 10E a person was too much (even though I was going to pay for it). Hours later my feet would regret listening to her. THE GARDENS ARE MASSIVE! They are also beautiful. You are definitely transported to another time. We posed for pictures with the fountains and statues. Then we started our long walk to the Grand Trianon. About 30 minutes later we still weren’t there so we sat on the side of the road and ate some food from breakfast. We kept going and finally saw it.

The building has a pink hue to it. We showed our all inclusive ticket again. The interior looks a lot like the interior of the chateau, but with a little less gold. They had a lot of portraits out for us to see. It was commissioned by King Louis XIV and was residence to mistresses and many of the royal maidens. Next we walked to the restrooms which weren’t the best but they got the job done. There were bees so I was seriously freaked out. We walked further down the road and saw a sign for another Angelina. That sign made us completely miss the sign for the entrance to the Petit Trianon. So we never went in there, which meant I missed seeing the theater Marie had built. We kept walking to the Hamlet (about 3.5 miles from the beginning). We were beyond exhausted at this point. I felt I could collapse right there and then. We showed our tickets again and spent about 5 minutes walking around. It felt like a zoo and we were too tired to pay attention at this point. We walked back to the area outside of the Petit Trianon (again not realizing it). We waited for the tram and paid 5E to get back to the entrance of the gardens. As we started to drive away it started to rain. We walked back to the train in the pouring rain. We decided to stop at the McDonald’s to get out of the rain and to use the restroom. This was not your average McDonald’s. It was clean and modern looking. They also had a bakery. We bought a box of reasonably priced macaroons.

We boarded the train back into Paris and it was packed. My mom and I took a seat on the floor. We didn’t want to stand for an hour. We got off at Gare d’Austerlitz. Then we took two trains to get to the Moulin Rouge.

Categories: Europe, Family Vacation, Food, France, History, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Strolling down the Champs-Élysées

July 28 2012

We started walking down Rue di Ravoli. Everyone told us this was the street with great food and shops. Originally we had planned on taking this block all the way back to our hotel. However, that would have been an hour walk. We were tired and still had a lot to see. So we decided to take it until we got super tired.

We passed a lot of bakeries and picked up some water and sweets at Paul. Everything looked so good! I just wish things were cheaper. We went into some clothing stores and eventually decided it was time to take the metro. We hopped on the metro at Saint Paul and got out at the Arc de Triomphe. We took some pictures and observed the crazy traffic circle it was on. I knew from reading posts online that you can’t cross the traffic circle and instead you need to use the underground tunnel. Once inside the tunnel there was a long line. I was so glad we didn’t have to wait on it because we had the museum pass. The tunnel was hot and smelled. Once out of the tunnel we were rushed into the staircase to climb to the top.

There were several levels within the Arc. They contained a gift shop and a bathroom. We visited both. The bathroom was very small. The stairs weren’t as bad as Notre Dame. We got to the top and were greeted with the wonderful view. There were a lot of people so you had to be patient for a perfect picture. It had a great view of the Eiffel Tower.

We climbed back down and took some pictures at the base of the Arc. Then we intended to take the Ave des Champs-Élysées all the way back to the neighborhood of our hotel. We window shopped until we got to Swarovski. My mom had me take pictures of her on the very cool crystal stairs. We people watched and I was starting to get really hungry. We passed some teen clothing store that had two hunky guys outside to draw the girls in. There was a big group of girls standing outside flirting with them. We stopped to see the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, which we were supposed to see after Les Invalides, but were too tired to. At this point my feet were killing me so we decided to hop on the metro and take it to where we were going to eat dinner.

I read about a place called Pastapapa. It sounded and looked delicious plus it was reasonably priced. There was a deal for a drink, pasta, and dessert. I ordered a big bottle of water and got penne alfredo. The penne alfredo was huge!!!!!!!! My mom helped me out with it and we still had some leftovers. It was the best pasta I have ever had! My mom agreed. There was a couple next to us eating penne with salmon which looked incredible. They ordered a chocolate caramel ice cream cake. It looked good so we ordered it as well. It was so yummy! GREAT DINNER! We went back to the hotel and soaked our feet. Then went straight to bed.

Categories: Europe, Family Vacation, Food, France, History, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hanging with Quasimodo and Storming the Bastille

July 28 2012

About a block away from Sainte Chapelle was Place St. Michel. My mom and I went and took a picture. Then we headed to Notre Dame. I was really excited about finally seeing it. We walked along the Seine and people watched as we walked. When we finally turned the corner and saw it I was struck by how beautiful Notre Dame really was. We waited on a line to get in. The line to get in moved quickly and I spent the time on line just staring at the building.

Once inside we walked all around. It was very dark so the pictures I took didn’t really come out well. It was peaceful and if we weren’t in a rush to see all of Paris in two days then I would have sat and took it all in. While walking around I kept looking for the line to go into the tower. Since we couldn’t find it we finally stopped and asked someone. They told us the line was outside by the side of the building.

We went outside and saw that the line was huge! It was an entire block long. I didn’t know what to do. I really wanted to go up into the tower, but I hadn’t planned on spending a lot of time on line. I hoped the line would only be 30 minutes so I waited. My mom left me to walk around a bit. She came back 30 minutes later and I was still on line. She took everything but my camera and museum pass from me. I’m so glad she did! After another 30 minutes I was let in. You stop at a gift shop first to buy tickets. The guard saw my museum pass in my hand and let me go straight up! I got a 10 minute jump on the rest of the group. I’m glad I did because climbing those stairs were not easy. I was out of breath. When I finally got to the top I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The view was incredible! I could have looked at it all day. I loved the gargoyles. They had so much personality. One of them was in Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Disney movie). I visited the bell tower and wasn’t too fond of the small wooden staircase. After that I thought we were headed back down, but I was wrong. Time to climb even higher! The view from the very top was fantastic. The space was tight and I was looking forward to being on solid ground again. The climb down seemed to take forever since it was now 3 levels at once. It made a lot of us dizzy. However, I am so glad I did it. The wait was worth it. It was probably my favorite part of the trip.

I met up with my mom and we started our walk to the Pantheon. Along the way we passed a lot of great stores and bakeries. We stopped in one because they had souvenirs at a decent price. I had over 20 people to buy for so I stocked up. Traffic was crazy and it was fun to watch the activities of the city as we walked. We passed a Hippy thrift store, but unfortunately they were closed. We turned a corner and looked left and there was the Pantheon. It looked like it belonged in Washington DC. We stopped at the top of the steps and sat at the base of the columns. We pulled out the remaining food from breakfast and ate. We had a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower from our position.

Time for the museum pass again. We walked around inside. The inside was filled with tributes to the French Revolution and the enlightenment thinkers. The pendulum was cool to watch. We went downstairs into the crypt and saw the tombs of the enlightenment thinkers. I have spent so much time learning about these figures and teaching them. It was strange to see them before me. We used the ladies room and then it was time to head to another site related to the French Revolution.

As we walked to the metro we passed a wedding party. The area near the metro seemed quaint, almost as if it didn’t belong in a city. The metro went outdoors and my inner 5 yr old was excited. I loved seeing the different neighborhoods as we passed by. We got off at the stop for the Bastille. I had read that a piece of the old Bastille still exists in the metro station and there is a line in the station showing where the Bastille was. We easily found it and I was so excited by it. None of the other tourists realized what it was. We exited the train and immediately saw the Place de la Bastille. There isn’t much to see. I liked the subway portion better. It is worth going to if you are a history person and just want to say you were at the site. Otherwise, you can skip it. On a different note, I had spent the last day and half looking for the famous Paris metro art nouveau signs. I finally found them around the Bastille! They were great. My mom loved them as well.

Categories: Europe, Family Vacation, France, History, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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