Wednesday Wander – Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza, New York

It’s Wednesday, and time for another wander. I’m continuing with our recent trip to New York – apologies for the number of posts but there was just so much to see, as we crammed in as much as we could in the few days we had! This week, I’m wandering to Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza.

I have to admit that Times Square isn’t really my kind of place. A bit too frantic, a bit too touristy. But, at the same time, there is a kind of intensity to the neon insanity and towering structures, and I do believe that it’s somewhere you need to see when you visit New York, even if you just wander through.

Times Square is located at the intersection of 42nd and 7th, and was originally called Long Acre Square, after the original in London. Originally the location for William H. Vanderbilt’s American Horse Exchange, in the late 1800s the area was seen as a prime spot for advertising and, when the New York Times building was completed in 1905, the name of the square was changed to reflect the newest tenant. The New York Times eventually moved on to another location, but before they did so they started the tradition of the New Year’s Eve spectacular, which continues to this day.

The advertising and screens around the square are almost overwhelming, content scrolling through and changing every moment, flashing lights and bright colours competing for attention, like some sort of dystopian future city. It was fun to experience for a little while, but we didn’t stay too long, as we had other places to see.

Continuing our wander, we headed towards Rockefeller Plaza, and the famous Top of The Rock observation deck, which we’d been told was the best spot to see the views. However, when we got there, the deck was clouded in – we were told we could take the trip up but there was no guarantee we’d see anything. As it was quite expensive, and the gorgeous girl wasn’t too keen on either the long elevator ride or the height, I opted to stay with her while hubby went up and took his chances with the low cloud. He wasn’t able to see much, but did take a couple of wonderfully atmospheric shots of the Empire State building.

After we went out to see the famous skating rink, with its golden statue of Prometheus (which to me looked as though he’d slipped over while skating). The rink itself is not large – it can hold only 150 skaters and it’s recommended that you book tickets in advance.

We stood at the edge among the flags of the world and watched skaters spin on the ice, dark against the pristine white. Wisdom watched from the main entrance above, another of the many examples of wonderful Art Deco works that decorate the Rockefeller Centre, inside and out. Conceived by John D. Rockefeller as a ‘city within a city’, the Rockefeller Centre comprises several landmark building, including the Radio City Music Hall. Built in the 1930’s, it is a wonderful example of the architecture of the time, and is home to many works by famous artists of that period.

Then it was time to wander up to Fifth Avenue, through gardens decorated for Easter with lilies and blossom and eggs, a touch of colour on a gloomy day. (it was tough to get a shot without getting someone else, also taking a photo, in it, as you can see)

Along Fifth Avenue there were more Art Deco wonders to see, such as this doorway featuring the Industries Of The British Empire, gilded against a bronze panel. The sun at the bottom is symbolic of the phrase ‘The sun never sets on the British Empire.’

We continued on and another wonder was revealed, inset between two buildings. The giant statue of Atlas is one of the iconic figures of the Rockefeller Centre, and has even appeared on a US postage stamp. It is extraordinarily impressive to see in real life.The rain was starting to fall in earnest, but we pressed on, heading north on Fifth Avenue to our next destination, Central Park…

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – A Wet Day in New York

It’s Wednesday, and time for another wander. I’ve had my head down these past two weeks working on an edit, so have not had time to do much else at all! However, I like to keep going with my Wanders, especially with my most recent trip still fresh in my mind. So, let’s head back to New York…Our second day in New York dawned a little warmer than the day before, but that just meant rain instead of snow, Manhattan Island still blanketed in cloud. However, it wasn’t going to stop us – we only had a few days in New York and didn’t want to waste any of them!

The gorgeous girl, who, like most kids at the moment, is caught up in the squishy craze, wanted to visit Chinatown. We decided, despite the rain, to walk from Soho through Greenwich Village, taking in Little Italy before reaching Chinatown. Soho was filled with lovely boutiques and restaurants, (and I may have stopped in a few of them en route), while Greenwich had lovely old homes and interesting shops, including one which sold only puppies (!) with a puppy play area where you could play with them *squee*

We planned a route via Washington Square Park, with its famous white marble archway built to commemorate the anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington. Constructed in 1892, the arch replaced an earlier wooden one. The park itself was once marshland, but was acquired by the city in 1797, as a place to hold public executions. Later it became a military parade ground, then a park for the wealthy inhabitants of the nineteenth century mansions still lining one side of the park. In the twentieth century it became a haven for protestors and performers, including the beatniks of the 40s and 50s, and the folk musicians of the sixties. Nowadays it’s a community park which holds regular events – they were setting up for one while we were there, as you can see from my photo.

Not far from Washington Square is the Electric Lady studios, which my husband was keen to see. In 1968, Jimi Hendrix and his manager bought the premises, which had been a nightclub, and turned it into a professional recording studio. It has hosted many famous musicians including Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie, and, in more recent years, Adele, Lana Del Rey, The Kills and Daft Punk. It’s now the oldest operating recording studio in New York City.

As you can see, the weather hadn’t improved much, but we pressed on. I was fascinated by the zig-zagging fire escapes on the old apartment buildingsas we wound our way through Manhattan to Little Italy. The streets smelled of garlic and cooking and sweets, and were still decorated for Easter.

The interesting thing about Little Italy and Chinatown is that they exist right next to each other, so you can walk down one street lined with Italian cafes and market stalls, yet when you turn the corner you’re surrounded by the spicy smells of Chinese food, bright neon on the buildings. I really enjoyed it, and wished the weather had been better. As it was, we were keen to get inside, eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then spending a little bit of time searching for squishies, which was a success! The gorgeous girl got quite a haul, so was very pleased with her day out.

As we headed back up to midtown, the rain finally started to ease, giving us hope the next day might be a bit brighter. I snapped this last image of a wonderful Art Deco building (of which there are so many in New York). I loved the shapes it made, the lines and shadows like an ancient ziggurat.

And then it was back to our hotel for dinner and a rest. We had another big day planned for tomorrow…

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you next time.


Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Le Musee De La Mar, Biarritz

It’s Wednesday, and time to wander again. I recently visited the French coastal town of Biarritz, and this week I’m going to wander to Le Musee De La Mer – the Biarritz Aquarium.

Opened to the public in 1933, the building is a stylish example of Art Deco architecture, much like the nearby Casino. However, the origins of the aquarium go back a few decades earlier, when the Marquis de Folin convinced the French authorities to commence scientific studies of the Bay of Biscay. He wanted to create a ‘seat of learning’ where people could come and learn about the oceans, a field of study that was gaining in popularity at the time. The First World War halted development of his idea, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that it came to fruition.

Perched upon cliffs high above the town, the Aquarium looks out onto the sea…

…and also onto some fairly impressive houses. This one would be fairly close to my dream home, I think!

The Aquarium has been extended and renovated since the 1930s, but still retains its original Art Deco interior design. There is something about this style of design that lends itself particularly well to maritime themes, I think.

The aquarium also houses a Scientific Study and Research Centre, which focuses mainly on the nearby Bay of Biscay. There is a museum section which houses sailing and surfing artifacts, and different exhibit areas for each of the world’s oceans.

Like much in central Biarritz, the Aquarium is easy to get to on foot – a short walk along the beach path and through a picturesque old harbour, then up a (not too steep) hill. Once inside, we spent several hours exploring the oceans – we listened to whale songs, examined skeletons and surfboards, watched seals play and found Dory, as well as Nemo.

We also visited the Shark Cave, a massive tank home to several species of sharks, including a rather lonely looking hammerhead. To be honest, I’m not too fond of seeing animals in captivity, even though I’m sure these tanks are top of the line. However, the gorgeous girl is particularly fond of all things aquatic, so an aquarium stop is de rigeur wherever we go on holiday. She thoroughly enjoyed this one, especially the glow-in-the-dark exhibits.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Biarritz, and will definitely wander there again, both on this blog and in real life. Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me, see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Biarritz At Dusk

I recently took a trip to Basque country, visiting San Sebastian in Spain and Biarritz in France. Less than an hour’s drive lies between the two cities, even though they are in different countries. I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday – there is a magic to that stretch of coast and I felt very at home there, for some reason.

I saw a lot of different places while I was away, including two locations used for Dragonstone in Game of Thrones (I blogged about them here and here), so will be writing a few Wednesday Wanders about the various locales. This week, I’m wandering to Biarritz, and the beautiful main beach at dusk. We spent a lot of time walking along here, both day and night, as it was the direct route into the town centre. With the beautiful view, the combination of rocks and sea and sky coupled with Art Deco architecture, it was a pleasure every time.

One of the buildings along the seafront at Biarritz is the Casino. Built in the 1920s, it was opened only a few weeks before the Stock Market crash that marked the end of the glittering art Deco era. It is a beautiful reminder of that decadent time, nonetheless, and a survivor – plans to knock it down in the 90s were thankfully scuppered, and the building restored and designated a historical monument. Nowadays it contains a pool, restaurants and a casino, and was full of people every time we passed by.

The walk along the beach also passes this lovely islet, connected by a stone bridge to the mainland. It seemed like something out of a fairy tale (so I loved it, obviously). There was also a lovely church, as well as the old fishing village, which I’ll write about in more detail soon.

But for now, let us look at the gold and violet sky, the shimmer of ocean against dark sand, the clean lines of the Art Deco building, the warm lights of the coastline against the dusk sky. It is a supremely romantic coastline, with a warmth in the air that filled me with joy.

I can’t wait to go back one day.

Thank you for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Throwback, Hollywood Style

This week, I’m wandering back in time as well as through space, to my first trip to California. It was 1985 – denim was faded, colours were bright, earrings were big and so was hair.

hollywood-bowlAnd here we are. My brother and I at the famed Hollywood Bowl, just sitting casually in front of the band shell. Well, at least I am. My brother looks, oddly enough, as though he’s playing air guitar. Odd, because he went on to become a professional musician, and now plays guitar all around the world. Not sure if he’s played at the Hollywood Bowl though – I’ll have to ask him.

Built in 1929, the Art Deco influence is obvious in the concentric arches of the band shell. The Bowl has hosted famous musicians almost beyond count – I remember my mum being very excited to be there. I believe The Beatles were mentioned several times. The large white spheres over the stage were designed by architect Frank Gehry, and were added during the 1980s to improve the sound system – apparently the deterioration of the acoustics were part of the reason this shell was demolished and replaced in 2004.

This trip was a fab trip – we drove from Los Angeles all the way along the coast road to San Francisco, a trip I repeated in part with my own family last year. The memories of the 1980’s trip are like a dream in some respects, all golden sun and green hills and blue ocean, like some fabled landscape in a story. I’m sure I’ll be back there again one day.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

Thursday Doors – NatWest Building, Coventry

IMG_0933 These rather impressive stainless steel doors are the secondary entrance to the NatWest Building on Hertford St in Coventry.

According to Historic England, the NatWest building was constructed in 1929-30, and you can see an Art Deco influence in both the ornate door panels and the stone decoration on the arch. The icons on the doors were taken from British, Irish and Ancient Greek coins, and this door design was also used at several other NatWest branches across the UK, though in bronze or mahogany, rather than steel.

IMG_0932

The NatWest building, remarkably, survived the Coventry Blitz of November 14, 1940, and is now a Listed Building. The Blitz was one of the most devastating bombing campaigns of World War II and decimated much of the mediaeval city centre including Coventry Cathedral, located just a few streets away from this building.

This is my entry to this week’s Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. To see more doors or add one of your own, head on over to his site and click the link.

#Thursday Doors – Marine Building, Vancouver

Marine Building 1This week’s door is a revolving door from the Marine Building, located at 355 Burrard St, Vancouver. Built in 1930 in the Art Deco style, the Marine Building was the tallest building in Vancouver until 1939, and for a brief time was the tallest building in the British Empire. It is currently used as private offices, though the exterior has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including Timecop, Blade: Trinity, The Fantastic Four (2005 version) and Smallville.

Marine Building 2Here’s more of the beautiful detailing around the doors and the stained glass window above, which from inside has several bands of coloured glass, just visible in this image. (Bear with me – these photos are about twenty years old and I’ve done what I can with them.)

If you’re in Vancouver, wander down and have a look at the building – it’s well worth doing so. While there are no public galleries in the building, you can go into the lobby, plus there’s a restaurant on the ground floor. And here’s a bonus door – the magnificent Art Deco elevator doors, still in place. You can also see some of the floor detail, which is marble inlaid with the signs of the zodiac.

Marine Building 3Thanks for checking out my Thursday Door, part of Norm 2.0’s Thursday Door Challenge. Hop on over to his site and see some more, or add a door of your own!