Sunday, March 31, 2013

University of Washington Cherry Blossoms 2013

Witnessing the quad at the University Washington in full bloom is one of the highlights of the year and a sight that draws visitors from all over the world. The 2013 sakura blossom is happening right now (4/1/2013) and with our wonderful weather over the weekend this is some of the best viewing that we have had in a couple years. In fact, every park in Seattle was full of people celebrating the full arrival of spring and the perfect weather. In Seattle, we can see mountains on all sides on a clear day and all of the mountains were out. It was simply a beautiful day.

If you want to help preserve these trees and ensure that there will always be cherry blossoms on the quad, please consider making a gift to the Class of 1959 Cherry Tree Endowed Fund. This fund helps pay for the care of the trees and, when the time comes, provides for new trees to replace those that have met the end of their lifespan.

If you are interested in more photos, here are photos from last year's cherry blossoms on the UW campus as well. And years before that as well. And some from Kyoto! And some from Osaka!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's Sakura Season Again! PDX Style

Spring is here and with it comes one of the most significant times of the year: It's Sakura Season! After a long and colorless winter, the warmer weather is greeting us once again with the blossoming of cherry trees and the bright pink "sakura" petals. Today, I start off sakura coverage from my recent trip to Portland where the trees by the river were out in full force. I had no idea that Portland had cherry trees like this along the river, but I am very happy to have found out.

As for Seattle, the trees here are blooming but I am still waiting for the main event on the quad of the University of Washington. That is a sight to behold and last I checked (below), the cherry trees should blossom in the next week (3/26-3/31) and reach their height next week (4/1-4/8). I will keep you updated!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

EWR to SEA - Gate to Gate

Well, that is it for New York this time around. It was a great visit, but it is time to head back to Seattle. On my return flight, I was on an Alaska Air 737 from EWR to SEA direct.

This time around, I got a chance to see Manhattan in the distance. Usually when I fly through, we take off heading the wrong direction to see it. Here are some shots from the flight:

The way in to Seattle was pretty cloudy, but flying in is that a 787 on the ground there at Boeing Field?

Friday, March 15, 2013

At the Top: Two Skybars in New York

Skybars are kind of my thing. I love the perspective that they bring and "collecting" them, along with transit passes, is a pretty cheap hobby to have if you are already visiting a place. New York has a number of skybars to choose and a long history of providing cloud top places to wine and dine. One of the first was The Rainbow Room on the 65th floor of 30 Rock. It opened in 1934 and closed in 2009, but recently,  the space was approved as a landmark and will be reopening at some point.

For my trip, I decided to try The View and then happened to stumble across a second skybar at the Standard Hotel. The View is in the Marriott Marquis Hotel right on Times Square. It opens up at 5:30pm on most days, except for Tuesday at 5:00pm and for brunch from 10:00am to 1:30pm.

Overall, the views were nice but I was not expecting it to be a rotating skybar. The plus side is that the views change. The downside is that you are moving and unless you are looking out the window, you may feel a little queasy. Up next: Top of the Standard by the Highline.

See that up there? That looks interesting. After a bit of poking around, I found my way upstairs to the Top of the Standard. This is the type of skybar that I really like: Great views (better than The View, since you can look at the city instead of being surrounded by it), very cool design, and decent drinks. The downsides? Price and seating. I do believe that this is the most I've ever paid for a drink (although it was a St. Germain Gin & Tonic). It was even more than a mixed drink in the UAE or Sweden.

Of the two, I would recommend checking out the Top of the Standard over The View. It is only on the 18th floor, but because of the slender building and location in the Meatpacking district it actually offers a better view. It is also right above (literally) the Highline which is widely acclaimed.

If those two don't sound interesting, here is my New York Skybar list sorted by height:

The View: Marriott Marquis Hotel, 43rd floor 
Asiate: Mandarin Oriental, 35th floor
Skyroom Times Square: Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott Times Square, 34th floor
Salon de Ning: The Peninsula Hotel, 23rd floor
Top of the Strand: The Strand, 21st floor
Top of the Standard: The Standard, 18th floor
The Press Lounge: Kimpton, 16th floor
Above 6: Thompson Hotel (6 Columbus Circle), ~14th floor
Ava Lounge: Dream Hotel, 14th floor
A60: Thompson Hotel (60 Thompson), 13th floor

Sunday, March 10, 2013

16 Hour Sugar Rush in New York

About 10 years ago, I had my first encounter with the sugar economy. The Cupcake Royale in Ballard was where I was introduced to the idea that you could actually create a business around a single novelty item (and coffee), so long as it involved massive amounts of sugar. Today, we are well into the "Cupcake Bubble" and there is little sign that it is slowing down: Hip specialty shops, from ice cream to macarons, are popping up everywhere and thriving. Seattle loves its sugar, whatever the form.

New York is also awash in the sugar economy, but the players are both local and global. Tiny native New York shops like Empire Cake share the same city as Paris' Laduree. It is a city with everything, and I had to try as much as I time would allow. First stop after the break? Laduree.

Keep reading the rest of the post! Click the link below!

Monday, March 04, 2013

New York City: The Quintessential American City

New York City is the city of all cities in the United States. With over 18 million people in the metropolitan area, it makes the second largest city in the United States look quaint: Los Angeles has 6 million fewer people in its metro area and less than half the density of NYC (27,000 people per square mile vs. 8,000 people per square mile for LA). Everything is New York. It is a microcosm of everything that can be found in America, complete with the highs and lows, and is often the only piece of America that visitors from other countries see of the United States.

The irony of New York being portrayed as quintessential American is that it is completely unique in the nation. The highs and lows that are genuine clash together with a ferocity that isn't found in other parts of the country. The American-ness of New York clashes with the international nature of the city and the availability of things like Parisian macarons and transplanted immigrant communities from every part of the globe. The city's ability to metabolize the energy of the people that come to the city is not found at the same level elsewhere in the United States.

As it was put to me by a person on the bus, "You don't leave New York. New York chews you up and spits you out."

This is my third or fourth time in New York and this time I felt far more comfortable than the previous trips. I had a better understanding of how to get around and what to go see. I had already visited the major sights on previous visits, which meant that I was mainly here to start seeing the small things and revisiting a few key places, like Times Square above.

Another reason that I felt more at ease this time around is that the City of New York has been rethinking how people get around. Bike and pedestrian infrastructure is being prioritized and as a pedestrian, it is getting more and more comfortable to walk around. The city has been reallocating street right of way to pedestrian/public space with great effect. Three blocks of Broadway in Times Square was vacated for pedestrian use and is more lively now than ever. More of the space is usable and there is more activity. It is a better experience from start to finish.

There are great things happening in New York right now and generally the city is becoming a more livable place. Maybe I'll have to give being NewYorkFlyerGuy a try for awhile sometime in the future.

In the mean time, in my next post we'll visit some of the awesome places in New York to get some delicious treats. Empire Cake. Laduree. Milk & Cookies. Big Gay Ice Cream. Top of the Standard. Join me then!