A source of hope and peace

by Brian Jewell 20. November 2013 23:23

Photo by Mac Lacy

In my 10 years of working in the world of travel journalism, I’ve been incredibly blessed to see some of the most amazing places on earth. And I’m happy to report that many of those places are right here in the United States.

One of my great joys in traveling this country from coast to coast has been visiting the iconic sites that are proudly and uniquely American. Along the way, I’ve been compiling an informal list of places every American should visit once, places such as the Grand Canyon, the Black Hills, the Gulf Coast and the National Mall.

On a trip to New York in April, I added a new place to my list: the National September 11 Memorial.

I was a junior in college in the fall of 2001, and I remember the day the towers fell with alarming clarity, as I’m sure you do, too. The terrorist attacks and the events that followed shook us all and dominated the national conversation for years to come.

It took more than a year to clean up the mess at the World Trade Center site and several years more to decide on what should be built in the center’s place. The design, the deliberation and the construction were a slow and sometimes frustrating process. For a nation looking for closure, the crawling progress on completing the memorial was disheartening. I remember walking around the site in Lower Manhattan on a visit in 2006 and feeling disheartened that all I saw was a roped-off construction site.

In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the National September 11 Memorial officially opened to the public; my recent trip to New York afforded my first opportunity to see it in person. I was not disappointed.

It’s difficult to accurately describe the sense of impact, honor and remembrance that the memorial bestows on visitors. Unlike most memorials around the country that make a statement with large objects, the September 11 Memorial is all about absence, creating a sense of what we collectively lost in the attacks. No skyscraper has been built on top of the former World Trade Center tower sites. Instead, the memorial has two large pools recessed into the ground, with streams of water pouring in over the sides. The pools are constructed in such a way that you can’t see their bottoms, symbolizing the eternal absence left by towers that once stood there and the people who inhabited them.

I spent about an hour at the memorial reflecting on my memories of September 11 and hearing amazing stories from New York locals. It would be easy to spend much more time there. Construction of the official museum is now wrapping up; the museum, which will open next year, will tell the stories of the World Trade Center, September 11 and the national response from a variety of perspectives.

In the midst of all the tragedy of the past year, I found my visit to the September 11 Memorial to be a source of hope and peace.

I wish you and your groups hope and peace as well, both in New York and anywhere else the road takes you.

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Travel Thoughts

Museum of the City of New York

by Bob Hoelscher 4. April 2012 20:27

Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York City are typically seen on group itineraries of the East Coast. However, each of these cities has amazing attractions that don’t always get as much attention.

New York City has far more to offer the visitor than can easily be accommodated in a relatively brief tour stay. Among the lesser-known but still very worthwhile and uniquely “Big Apple” attractions is the Museum of the City of New York, across from Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, north of both the great Metropolitan Museum of Art and the unique profile of the Guggenheim Museum. 

The traveler is sure to find the ongoing exhibitions to be of interest, including the six furnished rooms of New York Interiors (1690-1906), a 25-minute Timescapes multimedia portrait of the city, displays of antique transportation toys and an exquisitely crafted dollhouse. However, the real focus of the museum is on presenting ever-changing temporary exhibitions, frequent lectures by a variety of experts on life in the city and student/family programs.

During my visit, one featured exhibition was Police Work, a collection of Leonard Freed’s stark black-and-white photographs of life on the city’s streets during the 1970’s. They depict the time when the city was not only nearly bankrupt, but beset by high crime rates and social disorder.

A second major exhibit, Cecil Beaton, the New York Years, illustrated the life and New York career of the famed British fashion photographer.  However, the primary attraction is currently is The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan 1811-2011, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of Manhattan’s renowned street grid and how it has been implemented over the past two centuries. A related exhibit, The Unfinished Grid: Design Speculations for Manhattan, presents eight proposed (and fantastic) designs for the future. Without question, the Museum of the City of New York is the place to whet the appetite of anyone with a particular interest in America’s largest and most storied city.

Bob Hoelscher, CTC, CTP, MCC, CTIE, is a longtime travel industry executive who has sold his tour company, bought a motorhome and is traveling the highways and byways of America.  He is a former chairman of NTA, and was a founding member of Travel Alliance Partners (TAP).

Well-known in the industry as both a baseball and symphony aficionado, Bob is also one of the country’s biggest fans of our national parks, both large and small.  He has already visited more than 325 NPS sites and has several dozen yet to see.  He is currently traveling the country to visit as many of those parks as possible.  His blog, “Travels with Bob,” appears periodically on The Group Travel Leader’s blogsite, “Are We There Yet”.  

Bob is available for contractual work in the industry and may be reached at bobho52@aol.com or by calling (435) 590-1553.

Room setting re-creation in New York Interiors (1690-1906)

Police Work...Photographs by Leonard Freed 1972-79, and entrance to Timescapes, a 25-minute multimedia portrait of New York

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Adding on to an East Coast Itinerary

Living the High Line in NYC

by Mac Lacy 10. October 2011 23:49

A delightful urban environment awaits walkers on New York's High Line

One of New York's newest visitor experiences is the High Line, an urban trail that is being built on the former railroad tracks that carried freight trains through the city.  It is complete today from 30th Street to Gansevoort Street, almost 20 city blocks.  We walked up steps on 23rd Street and joined a throng of walkers going both ways.  The High Line is meticulously landscaped and has many places to stop and sit on benches or gaze at the city skyline.

We walked until it ended at Gansevoort Street, where a shopping district and several cafes welcome walkers.  The High Line is too crowded for runners, though we saw a few people giving it a go.  This is much more suited to walking.  Apartment buildings line the north side, and some are built over the pedway.  The south side overlooks the Hudson River and New Jersey. 

We had coffee on Gansevoort and then found our way very easily to Greenwich Village and Bleeker Street.  We spent a couple of hours checking out the shops and had lunch at John's Pizza - Bleeker Street.  We could not have had better weather in New York in October.  It was a magnificent day for a walk in America's premier city on its newest offering for walkers.

Two-way traffic works well on this pedway that is replacing old railroad tracks

Meticulous landscaping is one of the highlights of the High Line

Views across the river to New Jersey greet walkers looking southward

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New York

Visiting the 9/ll Memorial

by Mac Lacy 10. October 2011 23:30

Falling water offers a calming presence at this magnificent memorial

It's hard to write about the 9/11 Memorial without feeling like an interloper. This is such a sacred place to so many families that it's hard to feel like this belongs to all of us. But it does and it should. Before we left Kentucky, we got online to make arrangements for four passes during our trip to New York and it added so much substance to our trip. I would not have missed it and I heartily recommend it.

We were there on a cloudless day under a bright blue sky. Airliners leaving La Guardia made a constant pass above us. It was impossible not to connect the dots and think about how that day unfolded for this magnificent city ten years ago.

This memorial is as peaceful a place as you can hope to be. The water that cascades down the walls of both memorials accomplishes its purpose. It is restorative, uplifting and full of hope. It falls into pools that then fall into wells that seemingly have no end. They are eternal in nature. 

The Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center, is well underway and will stand 1776 feet tall at its completion.

An American flag graces a nearby building at the 9/11 Memorial

A single rose is a poignant addition to a victim's name in the memorial

Presently, visitors are alloted 30 minutes to tour the 9/11 Memorial

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New York

A tour of Wall Street right now includes checking out the protests

by Mac Lacy 10. October 2011 22:45

Protesters gathered at Zuccotti Park in New York for the Occupy Wall Street movement

Wall Street dominates the news these days for lots of reasons.  The market right now is searching for anything tangible it can hold onto that might spark a rally.  Economies in Europe are as fragile as anyone can remember and threaten to disrupt worldwide markets including our own. And the protesters that gather in nearby Zuccotti Park for Occupy Wall Street have sparked countless copycat efforts in other cities around the country.

Thus, it was a particularly opportune time to be in New York when my famiy went October 6-9, so my sons and I decided to take a walking tour of the Financial District with The Wall Street Experience.com.  We walked through a Wall Street that is now as much residential as it is investment banks.  Because of online trading, much if not most of the traditional trading on the floors of the exchanges has been replaced with paperless trades.  The beautiful old Greek Revival buiding at 55 Wall Street once used for the New York Stock Exchange is now Cipriani Wall Street, an entertainment venue for corporate outings and concerts.

When our guide told us the Federal Reserve housed more gold than Fort Knox, as Kentuckians we had to check his facts.  Alas, he was correct.

Personally, the gathering down around Zuccotti Park in the Financial District seemed rather inconsequential to me.  While there may be merit in some part of the messages being espoused here, it was hard to take the messengers too seriously in this environment.  Without getting too far into politics, I think it's safe to say that signs like "Weed, Not Greed" make it harder to consider the more substantive issues being espoused.  In the end, for my money, sleeping bags, hand-lettered placards, street vendors and photo ops for passersby are awfully easy to ignore.

Placards of all types are held up and passersby frequently stop to ask questions

A statue of George Washington stands in front of Federal Hall.   New York was the nation's capital in 1789.

A statue of George Washington stands

A cemetery stands at Trinity Church in the financial district with markers dating to the 18th century.  Alexander Hamilton was buried here after he lost a duel to Aaron Burr.

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New York

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