Category Archives for "North America"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in North America.

Let Them Shine in the Diamond District – New York

Even if you’re not shopping for a diamond engagement ring, gold wedding band, or gemstone, a foray into the Diamond District on West 47th Street reveals a fascinating side of New York commerce. And if you are in the market for high-quality, well- priced jewelry, you’ve come to the right place. More than 2,500 independent businesses operate in the district, in street-level shops filled with glittering jewels, cellar workshops, and a glossy new skyscraper, the International Gem Tower. Many of the shops have been doing business since the 1930s and 40s, when Orthodox Jews fled the Nazi invasion of such European diamond centers as Antwerp and Amsterdam.

Shops are generally open Mon–Fri 9am–5pm. Very few will take checks, and many offer better deals if you pay cash. You may well feel a bit out of your depth entering the warren of dealers, so do a little online preparation before you hit the pavement. The Jewelers Vigilance Committee,, provides a useful checklist of what to look for when buying fine jewelry, and the Gemological Institute of America,, offers an online tutorial in diamond-buying.

Synagogues and restaurants are tucked away above shops and arcades. Taam-Tov specializes in such Central Asian dishes as golubsy, cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and meat, while the Diamond Dairy Kosher Luncheonette serves the best cheese blintzes in the city.

Sip a Cocktail In The Most New Yorker Way

With its concrete canyons and urbanity, Midtown is a place where you can easily imagine momentous events transpiring, big deals brokered, wise words uttered. The neighborhood is home to several venues that are especially well suited to such weighty affairs.

The Algonquin Lounge is a cushy lair in one of the city’s best-loved old hotels. Ninety years ago it was the favorite lunch spot of a group of actors, writers and critics known as the Round Table. Talk could be vicious, but was unfailingly clever. During one of the lunches wisecracking satirist Dorothy Parker was asked to use the word ‘horticulture’ in a sentence and she replied, ‘You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.’

The King Cole Bar off the lobby of the St Regis Hotel is a dark, woody hideaway that is wonderfully impervious to the march of time. Dress well, order a Bloody Mary (allegedly invented here), and ask the bartender to tell you what’s really going on in the Maxfield Parrish mural of Old King Cole behind the bar (pictured).

The Four Seasons has been the epitome of grown-up urbanity ever since it opened in the Seagram Building in 1959. Undulating walls of metal chain curtains envelop the space in a time warp, and the effect is magical. Philip Johnson, the legendary architect, designed the Four Seasons, and few of his many masterpieces are as beloved.

Among The Banjos, Bikes and Chili Peppers – Chattanooga, Tennessee

If we know anything about Chattanooga, it’s possibly due to that song, the one about the choo-choo train. Something classic and a little out of date is the image, but it could hardly be less accurate. This booming city on the banks of the Tennessee River has become one of the most energetic and fun cities of the South. So whether you are taking a ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, or taking a cruise on the Southern Beller riverboat, we strongly suggest you follow the command of one of Chattanooga’s leading citizens, Samuel L, Jackson, who said in Jurassic Park, “Hold onto your butts,” You don’t know the half of it.



Dwell Hotel

Take a look at The Dwell Hotel, which twists Southern hospitality into a brand new shape. Until last year, this was the Stone Fort Inn, a venerable 100-year-old brick-and-stone building that was a bastion of Appalachian charm. Then new owners cam e along, rebooting the room sand stocking them with anti ques and kitschy delights, night, features an ambitious drink menu that uses esoteric ingredients like smoked paprika rye, anchor eyes, cardamom bitters, and oleo saccharum.

They don’t serve your daddy’s Mint Julep Dwell’s restaurant Terra Mae looks past the re­gion for a melange of global tastes, and the Mid-Century Moderntiki bar, Matilda Mid­ night, features an ambitious drink menu that uses esoteric ingredients like smoked paprika rye, anchoreyes, cardamom bitters, and oleo saccharum. They don’t serve your daddy’s Mint Julep.



The Blue Plate

Ross’s Landing is the 19th century river spot downtown where the city was founded. Right next to this historical point is The Blue Plate, a restaurant that straps a jet pack on the idea of comfort food and blasts it into the 21st century. Blue Plate features Southern staples like fried chicken, pulled pork, and the Hot Brown, but reimagines them as farm -to- table discoveries worth fresh attention. That’s one vision of the South, but Chattanooga is cosmopolitan enough to sup­port a booming subculture of tastes.

Like Taconooga, a low-key explosion of Mexican street cuisine with heartfelt aguas frescas and sauces made fresh daily. Then there’s Opa, a quirky Greek restaurant run by a slightly imperious and staggeringly gifted owner. And across the river and up a steep hill is a small, slightly disreputable bar called Areth a Frankensteins: the music is loud and soulful and so is brunch, Chattanooga is the old South and the next-South, too: welcoming and celebratory of what it has.



Downtown Chattanooga is in motion thanks to an imagina­tive local nonprofit called River City Company that has fund-raised and forged creative development agree­ments. There are hotels and restaurants and museums and tons of places to eat and walk on both sides of the river front. And there is a top-notch network of bike trails and a robust bicycle transit system that makes it easy to pick up-and drop off – a two ­wheeler around town.

One place to ride to is Wayne-O-Rama, a gallery and performance space, a testimony to both the city and to the Chattanooga artist, Wayne White, who made it. White is an illustrator, sculptor, painter, and maker of puppets, and his work-spilling off the walls, filling several rooms from floor to ceiling-is a whimsi­cal history of Chattanooga, (Hurry, it closes at the end of this month!) There is the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, chugging steeply up the mountain, and there is a miniature Rock City, a road side attraction just out of town populated by gnomes.

The art is fun and startling and references everything from half-forgotten local TV celebrities to Bessie Smith. And filling one whole area is a larger-than-life puppet of Samuel L, Jackson, in his suave, not snarling mode, so benevolen the almost seems to be handing out keys to the city to those who find their way here.

Feel Yourself Fancy at Fifth Avenue

‘Tiffany’s! Cartier! Talk to me Harry Winston.’ So Marilyn Monroe coos in her song Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, seductively capturing the allure of shopping on Fifth Avenue around 57th Street. The glittering display windows of all three renowned jewelers, as well as some of the world’s other finest shops, grace this stretch of the avenue.

Cartier (at 52nd St and Fifth Ave) has been bejeweling royalty since 1847, and along the way has made such savvy business maneuvers as introducing the first men’s wristwatch, in 1904. The New York store occupies a beautiful mansion purchased in 1917 for $100 and a pearl necklace valued at $1 million.

The Harry Winston (at 56th St and Fifth Ave) collection once included the deep-blue 45.52 carat Hope Diamond (now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC). The shop still sells distinctive jewels in service to the founder’s informal motto, ‘People will stare. Make it worth their while.’

Tiffany’s (at 57th St and Fifth Ave) was founded in 1834, and moved to its distinctive limestone flagship store in 1940. Over the years the vendor of jewelry, silverware, and stationery has catered to Astors, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and others for whom the Tiffany name is the epitome of refinement.

While it is not possible to have breakfast at Tiffany’s, a coffee and croissant in the nearby Bouchon, (1 Rockefeller Plaza, tel: 212-782-3890, Mon–Fri from 7am, Sat–Sun from 8am) will start off a morning of shopping in suitably stylish fashion.

A trilogy of nearby Fifth Avenue department stores, Saks (at 50th St), Henri Bendel (at 57th St) and Bergdorf Goodman (at 57th St) are venues for a slightly more affordable, but no less refined shopping spree.

Embark On Ecstasy Carnival – Charleston, South Carolina

Strategically situated between the busier Florida homeports to the south and the metropolitan New York port facilities to the north, Charleston, South Carolina, provides an ideal jumping-off point for regional cruise travelers looking to visit the Bahamas or Caribbean. Named 2016’s “Best City in the World” by Travel + Leisure magazine, “Charleston has long been regarded as one of the country’s top travel destinations for its history, natural beauty and Southern charm,” according to the South Carolina Ports Authority’, which goes on to say: “An ideal cruise port with an efficiently run operation and plans for a new, state-of-the-art cruise terminal, Charleston is reach’ to welcome cruise operators and travelers alike.”


Fresh from a makeover that added new poolside eateries, the Carnival Ecstasy sails year-round from Charleston

The city’s sole resident ship-the 70,000- gross-ton/2,052-passenger Carnival Ecstasy -was recenty refurbished with a variety of Carnival Fun Ship 2.0 improvements that brought the 1991-built vessel in line with newer Carnival ships in the fleet. Among additions that the Ecstasy received during a two-week dry dock in the Bahamas earlier this year were Guy’s Burger Joint, a no-charge poolside venue serving handcrafted burgers and fresh-cut fries; Bluelguana Cantina, a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery serving freshly made burritos and tacos; the Alchemy Bar, a “cocktail-pharmacy”- themed lounge; and Cherry on Top, “the sweetest spot onboard” for bulk candy and other treats. Throughout 2017, the Ecstasy sails on a schedule of four- and five-day cruises to the Bahamas or seven-day cruises to the Eastern Caribbean, with a special one¬time-only, 10-day Carnival Journeys Caribbean voyage departing on November 5.

That Vacation Carnival Ecstasy Pool Main

The main pool of Carnival Ecstasy Cruise

In addition to the Carnival Ecstasy which operates year-round, the 102,000-gt/3,006-pax Carnival Sunshine will offer six roundtrip cruises from Charleston this year. The first three of these sailings took place in May, with upcoming departures scheduled on October 26 for a four-day cruise to the Bahamas, October 30 for a five-day cruise to the Bahamas and November 4 for a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean. Besides these turnarounds, the city is scheduled to receive in-transit calls from a range of major cruise lines including Royal Caribbean International, Oceania Cruises, Ciystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Princess Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Holland America Line and Seaboum Cruise Line. Foreign lines visiting the port include Britain’s Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and P&O Cruises, plus Germany’s AIDA Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and TUI Cruises.

The Charleston cruise terminal at Union Pier is located in the heart of the downtown historic district and is easily reachable via .  Interstate 26 or State Highway 17. Charleston International Airport is located in North Charleston, about 10 miles from the terminal or 20 to 30 minutes driving time, and is served by national carriers including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. A taxi ride from the airport to the cruise terminal costs approximately $30. For passengers driving to the pier, pre-paid parking can be reserved on the Ports Authority’s website at a rate of $68 for a four-day cruise, $85 for a five-day cruise or $119 for a seven-day cruise.

The Ports Authority has plans in place for a new $35-million cruise terminal at Union Pier near the site of the present facility, which dates back to the 1970s, but for the last few years the project has been embroiled in a lawsuit claiming that increased congestion and pollution would damage the historic district’s unique character. At press time, the lawsuit was still pending.

For those interested in more than just a cruise, Charleston offers a variety of attractions starting with traditional horse- drawn carriage rides. Within walking distance of the port lie several well preserved houses built in the late 1700s to early 1800 s that are open for tours. Among the major attractions closest to the cruise pier is the South Carolina Aquarium at nearby Aquarium Wharf. Picturesque Boone Hall plantation, with its avenue of graceful oak trees, is considered a must-see. Civil War buffs won’t want to miss the opportunity to stand at Fort Sumter, the site of the first shot fired in the War Between the States, while those interested in military hardware can tour a World War H-era aircraft carrier, the USS York town, plus the destroyer USS Laffey and submarine USS Clamagore, at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum.

The Museum of Modern Art and Morgan Library and Museum – New York

The Museum of Modern Art houses a collection of 150,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works, displayed in crisp contemporary galleries on West 53rd Street. MoMA is not as daring a design statement as such other showcases of modern art as the Tate Modern, the Pompidou Centre, or the Guggenheim Bilbao. Even so, as the vanguard of commerce and corporate might, Midtown provides an appropriate backdrop for the art movements that have broken new ground. Stepping off the busy Midtown avenues to stand in front of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon or Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy is one of the city’s most transporting experiences.

While MoMA celebrates the modern, the Morgan Library and Museum preserves some of the earliest examples of the written word. J. Pierpont Morgan, the great financier and banker, was a connoisseur of fine art and an avid collector of illuminated manuscripts, rare books, prints, and drawings. He left his entire collection to the city of New York. Galleries show off drawings by Michelangelo and Rembrandt, Gutenberg bibles, sheet music by Beethoven, and scraps of paper on which Bob Dylan jotted down lyrics for Blowin’ in the Wind.

Have a Drink On The Greatest Rooftop Locations of New York

While some of the city’s famous old-time hideaways in the sky have gone the way of the subway token – the Rainbow Room is locked up tight and Top of the Sixes is a private cigar club for big shots – you can linger over a drink with city lights twinkling at your toes in plenty of other aeries.

Four Midtown hotel rooftops are especially appealing retreats from the city streets below, and all afford views that are as intoxicating as the cocktails. Top marks for sophistication go to Salon de Ning atop the Peninsula Hotel (700 Fifth Ave at 55th St, tel: 212-956-2888). The Asian-infused decor evoking the feel of 1930s Shanghai is glamorous, and the light show of the surrounding Midtown towers even more so. It’s all about luxe livin’ and high-end cocktails when you’re lounging at The Roof (Viceroy Hotel, 120 W 57th St, tel: 212-830-8000) that you’ll be inspired to engage in some wittily urbane Noel Coward-style banter, and the 360-degree views take in the Midtown skyline, the East River, and a large swath of Queens that, all aglow once the sun sets, looks much more wondrous than it really is. Greenery and sophistication are profuse at the Top of the Strand (Strand Hotel, 33 W. 37th St, tel: 212-448-1024), and the Empire State Building is so close you’ll be tempted to reach out and touch it. Rare, on the 16th floor of the Shelburne Murray Hill (303 Lexington Ave at 37th St, tel: 212-481-8439) is also dramatically over-shadowed by the Empire State Building, while the Chrysler Building spire appears as a shiny beacon just to the north.

Living The Medieval Ages at The Cloisters – New York

Modern Manhattan becomes magnificently medieval at the Cloisters, an outpost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art tucked away in the Fort Tryon Park at the far northern tip of the island. Five cloisters from southern France have been reassembled on a bluff high above the Hudson River, and they are surrounded by atmospheric galleries filled with 5,000 pieces of European art and architecture from the Middle Ages. Each vaulted room and stone-walled corridor reveals another treasure: as you meander you’ll come upon seven wall hangings of the Unicorn Tapestry, a 12th-century monastery chapter house, a Romanesque chapel, the sumptuously illustrated book of hours of the Duc de Berry, ivory crosses, carved portals, and a deck of 15th-century playing cards.


Bonnefont Cloister

The greatest pleasure is seeking out a corner of one of the cloisters and quietly contemplating the surroundings. An especially peaceful spot is the 13th-century Bonnefont Cloister, from a Cistercian abbey and surrounded by simple columns that were left undecorated in case they should distract the monks from prayer. Beds are shaded by quince trees and planted with more than 400 herbs that surround a beautiful marble well, and the surroundings are not only serene but aromatic.

When industrialist and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller donated the Cloisters to the city in the 1930s, he threw hundreds of parkland acres across the Hudson River in the New Jersey Palisades into the deal. You will appreciate his foresight when you step out onto the West Terrace and take in the generous sweep of river and greenery, so unspoiled that the medieval surroundings seem remarkably in place.

Fort Tryon Park


The Cloisters is nestled within densely wooded Fort Tryon Park, on high ground that once harbored Weckquaesgeek Indians, Dutch colonialists, and the Continental Army, who established a series of outposts on bluffs they collectively called Fort Washington. More than 8 miles of paths traverse the woods and come to terraces overlooking the Hudson River. As you explore this beautiful and uncrowded park, stop in at the New Leaf Restaurant and Bar (L and D Tue–Sun, tel: 212-568-5323) in a stone building at the park entrance, with a lovely patio.

Where Stars Meet Each Other: Apollo Theater

One night in the fall of 1934, a young woman stood backstage at the Apollo Theater, sweating and in obvious discomfort. A stage hand asked if she was ill. No, she replied, she wasn’t ill. ‘It’s that audience, man. You never know what they’re gonna do till you get out there.’ The woman was Ella Fitzgerald, then just 17. The occasion was Amateur Night, the show ‘where stars are born and legends are made’ that also launched the careers of Billie Holiday, Michael Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, The Supremes, and many of the biggest names in 20th-century black entertainment. 

Vaughan, The Supremes, and many of the biggest names in 20th-century black entertainment. 


Inside of Apollo Theater

As you will learn on a tour of the legendary theater, Ms. Fitzgerald had good reason to be terrified. Audiences were notoriously vocal in their displeasure, and if less than pleased they would yell for the ‘executioner,’ a man with a broom who would sweep the contestant off stage. You’ll also hear how, when the theater opened in 1914, blacks were not admitted. By the mid-1930s, the Apollo was featuring such all-black revues as Jazz a la Carte and 16 Gorgeous Hot Steppers and was at the center of the Harlem Renaissance, the great surge of music and literature that swept through New York’s famous black neighborhood in the 1930s and ’40s.

More than 75 years after the first legends got their start at Amateur Night, the show goes on – every Wednesday, at 7.30pm. 

The Opera of New York

Opera, it’s said not entirely irreverently, is when a guy gets stabbed and instead of bleeding, he sings. This sentiment captures the magic of the wildly extravagant art form, and New York is blessed with one of the world’s best opera companies. The Metropolitan Opera has staged dozens of American and world premieres, from Italian bel canto classics to new work, and presents the finest voices in the world. Enrico Caruso, Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Renée Fleming, and just about every other voice familiar even to non-opera buffs have sung on its enormous stage. The Met also pioneered innovative technology that allows simultaneous translation on computer screens in front of each of the 3,900 seats.

For all these superlatives, the Met is also remarkably proletarian – you can enjoy one of the majestic productions for as little as $35 for a seat in the family circle or even less with day-of-performance discounts. And you should – a night at the Met is right near the top of the list of only-in-New York experiences. Should you be mesmerized, you can go backstage to see such stage-magic wonders as a turntable 60ft in diameter on tours during the season most weekdays at 3.30pm and Sundays at 10.30pm, for $15.

The Met’s home is the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a 16-acre campus on the Upper West Side the company shares with such illustrious neighbors as the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, and the City Opera. The season runs from October through May; the box office is in the foyer of the Metropolitan Opera House.

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