Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Three for the Price of One

The Brooklyn Bridge has served as a staple to the New York skyline since it’s completion in 1883. Its history is unprecedented and has been the sight of many major films, TV shows and special events. Tourists visiting New York flock to the bridge in droves just to get a glimpse of, and experience the vast history and to take home memories of an iconic New York landmark.

Early on Sunday morning (July 29th), my beautiful, newly engaged friend Kaleigh and I set out to explore this New York landmark. Being an inhabitant of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, we needed to walk to Lexington, and hop on the 4, 5, or 6 train to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall. After about a 15-minute ride, we arrived at our first destination of the day, The Brooklyn Bridge.

There is easy access to the pedestrian walkway of the bridge and with the help of a few signs, we figured out where to go fairly quickly. I'm not exactly sure what I anticipated seeing or feeling when I walked across the bridge for the first time, but I can assure you that I didn't experience any mind-blowing emotions. The bridge is under construction, so for about the first half of the walk metal scaffolding surrounded us, hiding the views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the East River. Once we hit the middle of the bridge the scenery changed and you can find a picturesque view from all directions. The walk is approximately 1.2 miles in one direction. We were lucky it was an overcast morning, so we didn’t have the sun searing our skin. When we made it to Brooklyn we didn't want to turn right around so we made our way to the DUMBO section of BK (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and headed toward the Brooklyn Bridge Park. As we walked through the park we noticed some shipping containers and construction and there was a special summer art exhibit covering the blockades called “The Fence” at Photoville. Photographers were asked to explore the theme of community and submitted photographs into five categories: home, streets, people, creatures and play. The pictures of the “creatures”…aka really cute dogs were my favorite.

Besides walking around, there are several other things to do after crossing boroughs and one activity in particular that most of us enjoy…eating. The famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria is just a few blocks away from the bridge entrance and there is also the Brooklyn Ice Cream Shop and chocolates by Jacques Torres to help gain some of those calories burned from your oh-so-strenuous walk across the bridge. Kaleigh and I didn't indulge though because we were saving ourselves to experience #12 on my to-do list, another Manhattan staple, Shake Shack.

Shake Shack first came about in 2001 when a hot dog cart popped up in Madison Square Park to help support the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s first art installation. The cart was pretty popular for three summers and in 2004 the big guns at Shake Shack won a bid to open up a real hot spot that would last for years to come.

There are now several locations sprawled around Manhattan, one residing on the Upper East Side. Passing Shake Shack everyday, twice a day getting to and from work, and seeing the line stretch down the block, I always knew this was one New York location I couldn't pass by.

We decided to try the original location and a few friends (Steph M. and Jen L.) joined us. After about a 40-minute wait in line, it was our turn to order. We each got a burger, shared some fries and sampled a shake. When the buzzer went off that our food was ready, I knew the moment I looked at it why I've waited this long to try it. I regret to inform you that I'm not much of a meat connoisseur and generally will eat a hamburger only when my body is yelling at me to intake more protein. I also try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and a greasy burger and fries was never really something I considered to fit in that category. That being said, since I added the Shake Shack to this growing list of things I simply need to do in Manhattan, I granted myself the right to indulge.... for one meal anyway. The food was good, pretty much what I had expected it to taste like. The burger had all the works on it and the fries were crinkle cut and fried to perfection. Is this something I'd choose again on a cheat day? Honestly, probably not. But I am glad I tried it and have since been running an extra mile a day to burn off the calories that I later discovered were in the meal.....(big mistake I don't recommend looking into it if Shake Shack is on your weekly food agenda).

After our overindulgence at lunch, Kaleigh, Steph and I decided to go on another adventure and walk a little bit to digest our feast. Almost every Sunday during the summer, Central Park Summer Stage at Rumsey Playfield is host to a bevy of entertainment from 3-7pm. On this particular Sunday three musical acts would grace the stage.

Before I divulge what took place the next few hours, let me just preface this with my love of culture. If you’ve read my blog before, or know me at all, you’ll know that I am a lover of all people, places and things with a foreign edge. Now I know what some of you are thinking…I love my country, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something deep down in the depths of my soul that draws me to anything that doesn’t contain the English language. Call me a xenophile if you will… genuine lover of foreign people, languages, places and cultures. I have also recently discovered that as a little girl I chose to watch Sesame Street in Spanish (also known as Plaza Sesamo) and would cry whenever mom tried to put on the English version. I had Spanish Muzzy (who remembers that?) blasting from my VCR at all times. Unique? Different? Xenophile by age 3. Even to this day, I play the Brazilian Pandora Station in my classroom for my students to write with… clearly trying to impose my cultural love on them.

The musicians at the Central Park Summer Stage on this lovely Sunday were all non-English speaking acts. Now I can’t speak for my friends, but I knew I would be in heaven. The headliner of the afternoon was a man named Hector Acosta who with his merengue music emits a tropical beat with origins from the Dominican Republic. La Mega Spanish radio (97.9 FM) DJ Lobo spun top tracks from the Spanish reggae, hip-hop and house charts. Latin DJ Alex Sensation from Colombia also works at La Mega and has fans based in tropical and Caribbean music. There’s just something about Latin music that makes you wanna’ just shake and shimmy…and the concert goers were not bashful in any way. Everyone in attendance was moving some part of the body to the sultry tropical music. I felt like I was on vacation in some far off destination and all I needed was an umbrella in my drink…. Cheers to that! Whether you enjoy this genre of music or not, it's a fun, free event that should not be missed. You can visit this City Parks Foundation website to check out the calendar of upcoming shows for the remainder of Summer 2012. Enjoy!

*Checked #'s 3, 4 and 12 off the list :)

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