Thursday, January 27, 2011

Niagara Falls

                    Niagara Falls is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Over one million gallons (4 million liters) of water per second pour over a 180 feet (60 m) high cliff that is nearly 0.6 miles (1 km) wide. The incessantly pounding water forms a continuous spray that enshrouds the Niagara gorge in a perpetual mist decorated with shining rainbows. It is a spectacular sight.

Niagara Falls is located about 15 miles north of Buffalo, New York, 150 miles south of Toronto, Canada and about 350 miles northwest of New York City. Unlike other natural wonders that are in isolated inaccessible locations, the Niagara Falls are located in the center of a small city. Actually, there are two cities surrounding the falls. Niagara Falls, New York lies on the US side of the river and Niagara Falls Ontario, is on the Canadian side.

The twin cities of Niagara Falls are known as the "Honeymoon Cities" because of their  popularity as a honeymoon destination for newly wed couples The best time to visit is during the summer when all of the attractions are open During cold winters, the river below the falls freezes and the spray forms 100 feet high ice mountains that are said to be quite spectacular to behold.

 The Canadian side has the best panoramic view of the entire falls and has many commercial tourist attractions. The US side has many nice walks along the rim of the falls, great picnic areas and less commercial tourist attractions. To see them best, you need to view the falls from both sides of the border.

The best attraction at Niagara Falls is completely free. Just go to the Canadian side of the border,  across the Rainbow Bridge and walk the length of the promenade for the most spectacular views of the falls. Be sure to visit after dark when they illuminate the falls with changing colored lights.

Taking good pictures from the boat is quite tough

The landscaping is really beautiful
The "Maid of the Mist" boat is the best and the most exciting way to experience Niagara Falls. They take you right up to the base of the falls. The excursions depart from docks on the Canadian side and the US side of the river every 15 minutes from 9 a.m until about 7p.m during the summer months. Waterproof outer clothing is provided.  Also on the US side, walkways along the rim of the gorge and on Goat Island offer many scenic overlooks to view the falls from the top rim. 

The Skylon Tower is Niagara's tallest structure at 520 feet tall. It sits at the top of Murray Hill adjacent to the falls, providing a 775 foot view of the falls. The tower was constructed in 1964. It features an external elevator affectionately known as the 'Yellow Bug'. The elevator sits on the outside of the tower providing visitors with an exceptional view of the surrounding area during the 52 second ride to the top. Once at the top, visitors can go out on to the observation deck.  The tower also features an exquisite gourmet dining restaurant. The food is supposed to be incredible (but I doubt it) but a little pricey and  do not offer anything interesting for the vegetarians .  The restaurant rotates a full 360 degrees during your meal. The rotation takes 1 hour to complete, during which you can enjoy a truly unforgettable viewing experience. We didn't go for it, instead we just roamed around the city : a very artificial city, nothing worth shopping.

We had  booked the Viator Tour  by bus from New York. We started early in the morning and stayed in the Canadian side overnight, in Super 8 Hotel. We were just walking distance from the falls, the shopping centers and the restaurants. The room was large, comfortable and clean with a good view of the falls, we could see the lights from our window. Our tour guide was very good too. We returned back to New York the next day around 10 p.m
On the whole it was a good trip.

People are always curious to know whether the falls freeze in winter. Well during winter months, Niagara Falls creates a distinctive site for visitors by changing into crystallized wonderland. The mist produced by the falling water freezes almost instantly on contact with any surface. Trees. lamp posts, rocks, and railings are transformed into shimmering sculptures. The falls themselves do not freeze, but a bridge of ice forms at their base. At night they are illuminated by a rainbow of colored lights.

These  are pictures taken from the internet. I wish I could see the frozen Niagara Falls too
Until 1912, tourists 
were actually allowed to walk across the ice bridge. Local newspapers reported a booming business as shop owners would build small wooden structures to sell souvenirs, liquor, and other items. In one New York Times Article dated March 5 1882, these ice- bridge profiters are profiled. Often, tourists were convinced to pay money to be guided across the ice jam. But in a sudden turn of events, the ice bridge broke in 1912 and three people were swept downriver to their deaths. From that point on, it became illegal to walk on the ice bridge. Good thing they stopped, with the kind of crowds we have now, it would have been very dangerous.
There are naturally several legends and myths surrounding these falls.  One of which has variations in Native American culture and is the legend of the creation of the Horseshoe falls.  A young maiden fell over the Niagara falls in her canoe, either by choice or by accident the legend varies, and was caught in the arms of Heno, a god of thunder who lived in the falls, thus saving her life.  He brought into the home he had beneath the thundering water where he and his sons cared for her until she’d recovered.  By then, one of the younger sons had fallen in love with the maiden.  He and the maiden married and she made her home with the gods in the falls.  However she grew lonely for her people and wished to visit them.  Her chance came when Heno learned of an evil snake who swam down the river thus poisoning the waters.  The snake's  plan was to kill the maiden’s people with the poisoned water and eat their dead. When the maiden learned of this she begged Heno to take her out of the falls so that she could warn her people.  He agreed and thus she was able to save them by encouraging them to move from the poisoned water to Buffalo Creek.

When the maiden learned of this she begged Heno to take her out of the falls so that she could warn her people.  He agreed and thus she was able to save them by encouraging them to move from the poisoned water to Buffalo Creek.

The snake finding that the people were gone went to follow them by swimming up the river.  This angered Heno and he sent a thunderbolt to kill it.  The snake died and its body became caught on the cliff in a horseshoe shape creating the falls.  The water now forced into a new direction spilled into Heno’s home and he and his family, including the maiden had to move to the clouds in the sky where to this day the thunder god resided. There are many such Indian American stories.
Also you will find the list of people, who  tried to do daring things, some survived, whereas many perished. There are also many interesting  videos about how people have risked their lives to save some crazy people who were at the edge of the falls

By the way, the word "Niagara" is derived from the Iroquois Indian word
meaning "the strait". It also means the "Thunder of Waters". Also
 Niagara Falls is not the biggest falls in the world.
The Victoria Falls is considered to be the largest waterfall in the world.
They are not the widest waterfall or the highest waterfall but with all dimensions taken into account, including almost the largest flow rate, they are considered to be the biggest curtain of falling water in the world surpassing the magnificent Niagara Falls and Iguacu Falls.
But Niagara is more famous because it is easier to reach  by any mode of transport, unlike other famous falls which would need lot of planning and would also cost lot of money and time to reach them.

Even Abraham Lincoln was fascinated by Niagara Falls, and this what he said,

"Niagara --Falls! By what mysterious power is it, that millions and millions, are drawn from all parts of the world, to gaze upon Niagara Falls? There is no mystery about the thing itself-- Every effect is just such as any inteligent man knowing the causes, would anticipate, without it-- If the water moving onward in a great river, reaches a point when there is a perpendicular jog, of a hundred feet in descent, in the bottom of the river, -- it is plain the water will have a violent and continuous plunge at that point-- It is also plain the water, thus plunging, will foam, and roar, and send up a mist, continuously, in which last, during sunshine, there will be perpetual rain-bows-- The mere physical of Niagara Falls, is only this-- Yet this is really a very small part of that world's wonder-- It's power to excite reflection, and emotion, is it's great charm....."

I wish we could see these places without the crowd, and really enjoy every bit of nature's beauty. I still remember seeing the Taj Mahal at different times of the day, as we lived in Agra for a few years when I was in school, it used to be so good watching the Taj in all its splendour, but now all these places have become so crowded, and commercial. Take for example Hogenakkal Falls, it is a real pain to go there now. But it is so beautiful.
Thanks once again for travelling with me to some of the best places in the US.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Times Square NY seen through my eyes

The New York Times Building (Zoom to get a clear picture)
Times Square is a major intersection in New York City in the borough of Manhattan and was named after the Times Building (now "One Time Square") which was the former offices of The New York Times. It is located at Broadway and Seventh Avenue and extends from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. Like city squares in many other famous cities around the world, Times Square has become a symbol and primary landmark in its home city. Its animated, digital advertisements help create an incredibly exciting vibe contributing to Times Square popularity to both tourists, locals and the Manhattan business community (it is the only neighborhood that actually requires building owners to display illuminated signs!!). Times Square is also home or adjacent to many of the Broadway theatres that feature some of the most popular award winning productions ever produced.

The word "Broadway" means theatre throughout the world. Broadway's shows represent the biggest, the brightest, and the most of their kind - popular live theatre.
New York Marriott Marquis

Even though many of us has  seen it on TV and movies, nothing beats the first time you step into Times Square.
If I were a New Yorker,  I might never go there, but because I am just a tourist, drunk on the image of Times Square for so long, that I end up doing all the touristy things, like gaping at the neon lights, taking pictures of myself everywhere.... this place radiates energy!
If you can afford, then go and see the long running "The Phantom Of Opera", or "Mamma Mia", or the famous " Lion King" and many more.
But I must warn you even the so called discounted tickets costs around  75 USD that is 3415.69 INR , and even then you may not get the seat you want. 
To attend a Broadway show is to be part of an event that millions travel from around the world to enjoy, and millions more simply dream about it, just like me.

I love NYC and I love Times Square !!
This place where I am standing is a very large tiered seating area where you can sit and people-watch. 

Look at the people's faces, they all seem to be in a trance

There are many upscale hotels in Times Square to choose from and the area is a cultural hub featuring music, nightlife and many quality shops that cater mainly to tourists. Don't worry, if you book well in advance you can get very good deals in the best hotels in and around Times Square. Because of the peak peak hours of the day, Times Square gets so congested that we are forced to walk in the streets and compete with traffic.

On New Year's Eve each year, well over one million people crowd into One Times Square to view the annual "New Year's Eve ball drop".  
I love Forever 21 shop.

The huge screen behind me, capturing everyone who passes in front of it or stands there. It is fun to try and spot yourself there, it is a bit tough but possible.

The onslaught of advertisements is almost beautiful in its excess.
The theaters of Broadway and the huge number of animated neon and LED signs have long made them one of New York's iconic images, and a symbol of the intensely urban aspects of Manhattan. Times Square is the only neighborhood with zoning ordinances requiring building owners to display illuminated signs. The density of illuminated signs in Times Square now rivals that of Las Vegas. Officially, signs in Times Square are called "spectaculars", and the largest of them are called "jumbotrons".

Notable signage includes the Toshiba billboard directly under the NYE ball drop and the curved seven-story Nasdaq sign at the NASDAQ Market Site at 4 Times Square on 43rd Street and the curved Coca- Cola  located underneath another large LED display owned and operated by Samsung. Both the Coca-Cola sign and Samsung LED displays were built by LED display manufacturer Daktronics. Times Square's first environmentally friendly billboard powered by wind and solar energy was first lit on December 4, 2008.

Yes it is very late as we return back to our hotel, one just doesn't know how time flies here or maybe 'Time' too stands still here with you in "Times Square".
All the shops are overcrowded, the road leading to Times Square, every where you see only a sea of people. Although, I must say the large presence of police makes one feel quite safe in this area.

The M&M's World features one of the world's largest displays of these bite-sized candies and a vast array of colors not found anywhere else. The three-story, 25,000 square-foot store features a 17-foot Miss Green dressed up as Lady Liberty. The store features over 4000 items including T-shirts, bags, pillows, M&M dolls, pencils and many more fun M&M souvenirs including some one-of-a-kind pieces
This store is what New Yorkers like to say is an "only in New York" experience, with its flashing lights and huge store displays set on a prime corner of midtown Manhattan. It's a great place for the whole family--it even features an interactive kids area--and is a triumph of American candy-making by Mars Inc.  Although there were many interesting things to buy there, we did not buy anything. It was too crowded, and some of the things were very tacky and gave you the feel of shopping in Big Bazaar in India.

Times Square during the day:
During the day is when you can shop for anything imaginable. Times Square boasts some of the most impressive and elaborate stores you will ever find. Day time is the time to do a lot of window shopping, without the crowds jostling, pushing you like during the night. Because we were there during summer, it felt very hot and also very bright, so sun glasses are a must. You can see people just hanging around window shopping, drinking coffee, and eating snacks sitting on benches under the sun umbrellas, generally just lazing or people watching.

 It is also the perfect time to take some good pictures, though the pictures taken by us are not so good, probably  because we were too tired and bored of taking pictures, and also it was our second time in NY on our way back to Bangalore.

The shops were very good especially the jewelery shops: all offering lots of discounts too! It was too tempting to resist, I had to take a look, so instead of just window shopping I just hopped into a jewelery shop, for a pair of large loop sapphire earring had caught my eyes, I had to find out the price.
Once inside, I was shown the earring, and also many other things to go with it. But I told the shop owner, that I was interested in only the earring and also one blue sapphire finger ring studded with a circle of white sapphires.

So now, the bargaining  started, on the already discounted price, for I felt, he had purposely hiked up the price.
That shop owner was a Syrian, and like our Indian jewelers was equally  well versed in the bargaining techniques, and thus we both  jumped into the field bent on outdoing each other with our bargaining skills, leaving my husband literally pulling whatever little hair he has on his head with disgust.

Oh God ! after about 45 minutes, of this drama, I told him my final price and told him,we did not have all day to argue with him as we have a plane to catch in the evening, and pretended to leave the shop like I am used to doing in India.
Sure like Indian jeweler  agreed to my price, and we finished the deal.
Times Square as seen during the day

The Macy's

Mannequins take to streets to help the garment districts, the show must have gone on till September 3rd (Times Square)

Do you see the waves of colors on the street?
Well that is Times Square Crazy and funky eye catching...
Time to say good bye to Times Square and to the beautiful New York City, for I doubt I will ever come back to this wonderful city ever again.

However, it is not goodbye to America yet, for I have to bore you people with our visit to Niagara Falls, and the rest of the US.
Are you game?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New York Seen Through My Eyes- Part 2.

The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty National Monument officially celebrated her 100th birthday on October 28, 1986. Standing at the entrance to New York harbor is 151 - foot statue of a woman holding a book and a torch on- high. 

It was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States to commemorate the 100th anniversary of American independence.

The Statue Of Liberty is one of the most universal symbols of political freedom and democracy. Its formal name is Liberty Enlightening the World. 

The start of our journey to the Statue Of Liberty: the ferry ride is great , we get to see the wonderful view of entire financial district's skyscrapers, we also get to see an all round view of the Statue Of Liberty, Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Pictures of some remarkable buildings before we start our Journey

 Approaching the famous Verrazano Narrow Bridge:  that is still the longest bridge in the United States.

When you  see the rising shape of the immense Verrazano 

shining in the late afternoon sun, know that you are

seeing a sight that defines New York City: big, impressive, and breaking 

the boundaries that separate people.

The bridge marks the gateway to New York Harbor; all cruise ships 

and most container ships 

arriving at the Port

of New York and New Jersey must pass

 underneath the bridge. Most ships, when built, must be built to

accommodate the clearance under the bridge.
The Liberty statue, made of copper sheets with an iron framework, depicts a woman escaping the chains of tyranny, which lie at her feet. Her right hand holds aloft a burning torch that represents liberty. Her left hand holds a tablet inscribed with the date "July 4, 1776" (in Roman numerals), the day the United States declared its independence from England. She is wearing flowing robes and the seven rays of her spiked crown symbolize the seven seas and continents.

From our boat we could see the famous beauty of the New York City Skyline

Manhattan Skyline shot from the ferry

Whitehall Street Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Manhattan

The Brooklyn Bridge ranks as one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century and remains one of New York's most popular and well known landmarks.

An elevated pedestrian path not only gives you the opportunity to cross the river without being bothered by the traffic that rushes past a level below, but it also offers a great view of the bridge's towers as well as downtown Manhattan's skyline. The views alone attract millions of visitors to this bridge each year.


Near the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor is Ellis Island. This island served as an immigrant station and a temporary shelter for people coming to the U.S. from other countries. Between 1892 and 1954, approximately 12 million people passed through Ellis Island seeking refuge, freedom and opportunity. The main building on Ellis Island is now a museum dedicated to the history of the Ellis Island Immigration Station.

Lady Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they arrived in the New World and continues to greet millions of tourists from around the world each year. 

Wall Street: this how it looks
The tour of NYC is not complete without a visit to the Wall Street. Being a Sunday, it was pretty empty. 
By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Wall Street was “the place” to be if you were a large financial institution or other big business. So many buildings sprung up on this tip of Manhattan that the Wall Street district began to boast its own distinct skyline, separate from the buildings in Midtown.
People like J.P Morgan built headquarters like the one at 23 Wall Street, which was – for decades – the most important financial institution in the country.
(One can still see the pockmarks on the building, left there from an unsolved bombing that occurred in 1920.)
Federal Hall
Other notable buildings include the columned Federal Hall,  originally built to house City Hall and its offices. Major U.S. stock and other exchanges remain headquartered on Wall Street and in the Financial District, including the NYSE, NASDAQ,AMEX ,NYMEX,NYBOT.

Trinity Church is located at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway in downtown Manhattan. The  current Trinity Church was consecrated on May 21, 1846. A Gothic Revival structure designed by Richard Upjohn, its 280-foot spire was the highest in the city until the advent of the skyscraper.
The historic Episcopal church stood strong while office towers crumbled around it on September 11, 2001. However, the historic pipe organ was severely damaged by dust and debris and had to be replaced.

Staring at you from across the street is Trinity Church. This is the oldest church site in New York, though not the original building. 

The Trinity Church. This church simply looks gorgeous!
(Some more pictures of NYC) Rockefeller Promenade
It is very beautiful, one can spend hours looking at all plants and the cool fountains

Another View of the NYC from the Rockefeller Building: the Green Patch that you see is the Central Park
" When the weather turns warm, Rockefeller Center sends the Zamboni ice machine home and opens up its outdoor, below-ground-level rink as a restaurant and bar. Colorful umbrellas set a festive tone for the place, which, in addition to tourists, attracts a large after-work crowd. The menu offers burgers, salads and pastas, as well as a cocktail list that includes specialty margaritas and frozen drinks". as quoted by a travel review contributer: Karen Hudes.
Prometheus at Rockefeller Center 
Prometheus is said to be the best-known sculpture in Rockefeller Center and the most photographed monumental sculpture in all of NYC. Created by famed American sculptor Paul Manship, who held a great fascination for mythological subjects and events, it has become the main attraction of the Lower Plaza. 

Thank you for being with me on this short trip of NYC. More to come in the next blog.
Did you enjoy this trip?
Let me know.