MURALS! What a wonderful way to beautify a city. At a corner of the street where a dingy looking convenient store one day, then another day the front wall of the store is covered with a mural. Suddenly the neighborhood looks different. Under the bridge where dust and grimes of the roads above and the street below mix, murals can be so pleasing to look at when passing by there. I’m always fascinated with murals. Whenever I travel and visit a certain place, I would try to find them, at least one. I’m sort of a mural hunter if I can call myself that. Murals, nowadays, are part of the community as a tool to send messages out, to inspire many and to memorialize ideas and dreams. These murals in particular are located at the farther part of New Haven, far from the busy downtown area and pretty secluded. New Haven is one of the largest cities in Connecticut, the state where I live in. Murals have been popping up around the Elm City, New Haven’s nickname. They are surely the way to adorn the city with art, promote local artists and make statements about the people of new Haven. The murals under this bridge are unique and quite wonderful in their own ways with the styles that I think can be depicted as graffiti, surrealism and expressionism. There are many murals that I’d love to share here with you next time. Until then, enjoy this post and thanks for stopping by.
There are reasons why QUEEN is among the best rock bands in the world. When the group lost their lead singer, Freddie Mercury, perhaps a lot of people thought they wouldn’t be able to enjoy Queen concert anymore. I’m not a fan of them in particular, although I like some of their songs a lot. The chance of seeing Queen concert was somehow not in my bucket list. Growing up, I never had a chance to attend any concert from the world famous singers or groups that I love when I was younger. But I wished that someday I would see them. Then I got to see Kool & the Gang, Debbie Gibson and Taylor Dayne live in concert and I didn’t even have to buy tickets. They were among the performers for the summer concerts that were held in New Haven – a neighboring city where I live. I was ecstatic for sure! Because they are my favorites since middle school. Another singer that I saw live in concert was Belinda Carlisle. I found out about her concert accidentally when I knew about an event called Woodstock Fair. She was one of the highlight performers. I was over the moon being able to see her that I’ve never thought I would ever have.
My daughters are the ones who get me the “concert bug”. They love coming to concerts and I got to accompany my younger daughter to see One Direction concert before Zayn Malik and the group were separated and each member does solo. It was rather bittersweet for my daughter and one of memorable and historic event in her teenage years. After seeing 1D concert, I got the bug of wanting to see more concerts preferably from my favorite singers and band. One day I found out about Phil Collins concert in Brooklyn. Oh, how I wished I could see him live! My younger daughter insisted that we had to see him. She and I have similar music preference, maybe because I love playing my music to our kids and my younger daughter becomes a fan of Phil Collins too. We managed to get the tickets before they were sold out and we saw Phil Collins concert enthusiastically. After that, the concert bug got me looking for Toto concert – the band is my all time favorite. It was either luck or a blessing that Toto had one concert in our next door state. I got the tickets for the three of us, my younger daughter, son and me. They were just as ecstatic as me singing Toto’s songs especially Africa during the concert.
I don’t know for certain when was the first time my son becomes a fan of Queen. When the biopic movie Bohemian Rhapsody came out we saw it together. I thought maybe because of that movie that he became interested of Queen. We watched the Academy Award and rooted for Rami Malek who played Freddie Mercury in the movie for an Oscar and he did win it. My son loves Queen so much that their songs becoming the anthems of his day-to-day activities. He’d do his homeworks while listening to Queen songs. He wakes up with “Don’t Stop Me Now”. He knows almost every song by heart. In a very short time, this 16 years old become one of Queen biggest fan. One day, my son found out about Queen concert with Adam Lambert as their lead singer. You can imagine his excitement asking to see the concert that just happened to be in Mansfield, Massachusetts, about 2 hours away from us. Of course, we said ‘yes’ especially this might be the only Queen concert that my son gets to see.
We decided that the three of us would see the concert just like we attended Toto concert, my son, younger daughter and me. Many came to see Queen and Adam Lambert from all over. They were younger kids under 10 years old brought along by their parents and the older people who grew up loving Queen. Many wore t-shirts with Queen inspired images including my kids. They looked so proud to be able to see one of the biggest rock band in the world. Indeed, Queen rocked us to the core! Adam Lambert performed each of the songs awesomely without trying to copy Freddie Mercury. Like Lambert said, he isn’t Mercury and he performed to honor and pay respect to the master. The concert was spectacular! Bryan May was able to wow us with his electrifying guitar solos. Roger Taylor still could belted out some notes that moved people. We were astounding when the image of Freddie Mercury came up during the song Love of My Life. People cried and cheered. Freddie even lead us to do the calling that he usually did at their concerts. Eeeooo! Eeeeooo! People got so excited when they sang along with Freddie. It was surreal as if he was there with us, not his hologram.
It was a wonderful night for me and my kids. We sang along. We cried and cheered. What a joyful night that we could celebrate before my younger daughter began her college life far away from us. My son was amazed by the stage display and light show and was inspired by them specifically because he has worked as stage crew and sound engineer for several school plays and musicals. In the concert, Bryan May did a solo with him playing against the background of the galaxy. One by one things that representing the planets came up around May as if he was the sun. He performed on a special platform that made look like a big meteor and he ascended high and higher above the audience. It was a breathtaking performance! When Roger Taylor did a duet with Adam Lambert singing Under Pressure, people went crazy. For a man who is considered senior citizen, Taylor still thrilled us with his drum performance. Everybody was jumping and dancing. There’s no one in a bad mood that night. The atmosphere was exhilarating. Queen has successfully rocked us with their performance. For my kids, the concert was historical for it might be their only chance to see the legend. For me. it was among the highlights of my life last year.
Last July, we had a chance to visit the city of Nashville. Nashville, situated near Cumberland River, used to be called Fort Nashborough named after the Revolutionary War hero, Francis Nash. It was founded by an Englishman, James Robertson, who lead a group of pioneers settling in the area in 1779. The Mississippian used to to call the area their home, while other Native American tribes like the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Shawnee also lived and used to hunt there. Fort Nashborough was part of North Carolina but then became part of Tennessee and became its capital in 1843. We didn’t have any special reservation towards Nashville. What we know about it is when someone mentions Nashville, we’d think about country music. We were curious about Nashville and thought that it’d be a perfect place to visit during summer break. We didn’t go to a lot of places due to limited time but two Nashville famous streets: 12th Avenue South and Lower Broadway, but we had pleasant time and certainly in awe of Nashville. I can tell that Nashville loves boots, cowboy boots, that is. There were boot shops we visited on Lower Broadway because my younger daughter really wanted to have a pair. They were plenty of beautiful boots, but they cost a lot that we had to think and rethink about spending hundreds of dollars for them. We also came by a candy shop where they made fresh pralines and gave out samples. Yum! Nashville is all about live music and we certainly heard and saw a lot on Lower Broadway. In fact, we bumped into a street musician who made up lyrics as he sang when we passed by about “a pretty girl in a yellow dress with a nice hair”. His song made my daughter blushed because she was the girl in a yellow dress. It was surely a memorable visit in Nashville and we can’t wait to come back here again to explore more of Nashville and of course, Tennessee. Until then, Music City.
Some loved ones left flowers and some left miniature flags. People flock, read the names that were carved on the long dark bronze blocks and pay their respect. But no matter how many people visit and congregate around the twin giant pools that used to be where World Trade Center buildings or twin towers were, it always feel somber and subdued there. The first time I came to the site of Ground Zero was 6 years after the 9/11 tragedy happened. My parents were visiting from Indonesia and we took them there. There’s still nothing interesting to see but covered wire fences. There were a lot of works happening behind them. The sound from the heavy machineries, the banging of metals and the buzzing from the construction workers all mixed as proof that life still goes on. I felt humble being at the Ground Zero, because a couple years before 2001 I was there staring at the two towers with astonishment of the tallest buildings in the country. My husband and I passed by the area where World Trade Center was for several times when we headed towards Brooklyn. I would open the car window and look at WTC buildings enthusiastically while we passed the lower Manhattan. Who would’ve known that one day those magnificent buildings would be gone.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up on our bed with our oldest daughter who was 2 years old and our baby girl who was 4 months old. They were still asleep soundly and peacefully without any care in the world. I turned on the TV and watched the morning show on NBC, the Today Show. It was sometime after 8AM suddenly Katie Couric, one of the presenters on the show, announced a distressing news: an airplane has crashed into one of the twin towers. I was stunned. But I thought maybe it was an accident until I saw from the live feed another plane flew directly towards the other tower. What has happened? Then, in minutes everything crumbled and fell. Katie Couric was heard crying on air and I had trouble believing what I had saw. My eyes welled up, tears ran down because I imagined the chaos that ensued. I held my daughters closer and I could feel something in the atmosphere was brewing, fear.
It has been 18 years since the most despicable tragedy I’ve ever witnessed, happened. I can still feel the uneasy feeling when September 11th is approaching. The site where Ground Zero was, now a sprawling park with memorial for the fallen and a museum to commemorate the lost. In November 2017, I took a group of high school students from Indonesia and their teacher to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. It was the first time I visited the place and I became rather emotional especially when I read the names of the people who perished during the tragedy. My fingers sometime ran through the carved letters on the bronze blocks while I listened to the sound of the man-made waterfall, said to be the greatest in United States. In April this year, I visited the plaza again and that time I was escorting an old friend and his colleagues who were curious about the 9/11 Memorial. They were astounded and again, I somehow lost with emotion when I read a name, a woman’s, with additional statement “and her unborn child”.
(To all who perished and the first responders, may you rest in peace).
Old and historic places are my favorite kind of places to visit. It is one among many interesting places that I’d love to see up close. During our short visit in North Carolina in February , we stopped by a wonderful historic place called OLD SALEM. The historic town of Salem was established in 1766 by Moravians – one among the oldest Protestant denominations – who originated from the Czech Republic. Old Salem boasted a remarkable architecture and attention to details that are still exist today. Three-quarters of the buildings in the old town are the original constructions. Salem used to be the center of the administrative, professional, craft, trader and spiritual activities which in present day is immaculate and simply wonderful. Rows of old houses and shops line up the main street. Several houses are available to rent. Can you imagine living in an old and historic house like the one on the 1st photo? That house is called the Fourth House which is the oldest home that still stands in Salem. The German style house was built in 1768 using timber and bricks and has 3 rooms which is known as the “Flurküchenhaus” plan. The first tenants who lived in the Fourth House were a saddle maker and his wife who rented it from the church.
The other point of interest in Old Salem that we visited was the Winkler Bakery. It wasn’t hard to entice anyone to come to the shop where the aroma of fresh baked goods wafting in the air. Visitors were greeted by the pieces of sugar cake that were waiting on a table at the dining area. A lady who wore an 1800’s-styled clothing, served the cake while a man who also wore similar clothing style prepared another batch from the wood-fired oven that’s part of the bakery. The aroma was so heavenly! My kids and I couldn’t stop getting one more piece of the cake and there was no rule of how many you were allowed to get. So it’s all fair. There were several choices of breads and other baked goods sold at the bakery including the sugar cake. Although the flavor of the bread they sold wasn’t as good as the one they baked in the 200-year-old wooden-fired oven. The charred part of the top part of the bread was a distinct flavor and gave the uniqueness. It’s true, the modern oven can’t beat that of an antique one.
We opted to merely walked about this old town and not going on specific tour visiting each of the main historical interest. The town is a live museum where to get into several buildings you need a ticket for it. But we didn’t buy any ticket due to the time constraint and the vast area of the town that we thought it would need an all day to spend. Visitors are free to roam around the peaceful neighborhood, though would be unable to go inside the ticketed buildings. My kids and I also went to the souvenir shops there that were among the small shops that lined up the main street. The weather wasn’t the prettiest and it’s still winter. It was pretty bleak that day. We thought of coming back here again maybe during summer or fall to be able to enjoy the garden and the outdoor activities set up there for the visitors. It must be lovely when the flowers are blooming and the gardens are thriving. There are lots of places that I would love to see in Old Salem. I hope one day I get to visit this fascinating place again for longer time.
I get to know Northampton, a small city in western Massachusetts, as my daughter started her college last year. She goes to University of Massachusetts (UMass) in Amherst, a neighboring city of Northampton and we always pass by Northampton before reaching Amherst by car or train. My first encounter of Noho, the city’s nickname, was an eye-opening. The city is so charming with rows of 19th century buildings along its main streets. The downtown area especially, oozes that charm. For someone who has never come here, let alone heard about Northampton, I was in awe and felt dumbfounded. Every time we come to Amherst either dropping-off or picking-up our daughter from her dorm , or me having a solo trip to attend UMass Symphony Orchestra concerts (our daughter plays violin with them), I’d make sure I’ll visit Northampton and strolling down its beautiful downtown area. My love for old buildings, history and architecture find its way in this city. Thomas Cole, my favorite landscape painter who established the Hudson River School, painted the Oxbow in 1836 depicting a romantic panorama of Connecticut River Valley after the thunderstorm as viewed from Mount Holyoke in Northampton. It showed how he loved Northampton and its environment.
The city was called “Norwottuck” or “Nonotuck” by the native inhabitants of the area which was the Pocumtuc. The name means “the midst of the river” and Northampton is situated by Connecticut River. Its splendid surrounding has attracted many, including the “Swedish Nightingale” – Jenny Lind, a famous opera singer, who thought Northampton as “Paradise of America”. That’s how this city’s other nickname is the Paradise City. Noho is known as the city with cultural, arts, educational and historical background where Christian revival, slave abolitionist, artists and people with eclectic lifestyle thrive. Clarke School for Hearings and Speech was established here in 1867 which was United State’s first oral school for the deaf. Alexander Graham Bell was one of their school leaders. Other educational establishment founded in Northampton is Smith College, a private liberal art college for women, founded in 1871. Their famous alumni are Julia Child, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan – both were US first ladies, and also American poet and writer, Sylvia Plath.
I live about 2 hours away from New York City. To reach this metropolis, I can take the train and that’s the transportation that I mostly take every time I visit New York. Most trains going to or passing New York will arrive at Grand Central Terminal. This magnificent train station was once called Grand Central Depot which opened in October 1871 and went through several changes as New York needed bigger place to accommodate all the trains that were coming and going, also the people. The present Grand Central opened on February 2nd 1913. For a building with more than 100 years old history, Grand Central still looks astonishing. It is one among so many icons that make New York City a marvel city worth to visit. When visiting Grand Central, try to spend some time at Grand Central Market. The market, like any market, tries to offer the New Yorkers and tourists with everyday needs, such as food be it cooked or raw, flowers, baked goods, fruits, vegetables, kitchenware and housewares, etc. One thing that makes Grand Central Market one of a kind is it is a fancy-kind, rather posh sort of market. But you don’t want to miss the experience to browse along the stalls at this small market. You’ll be amazed by the freshness of the seafood, the colors and smells of the world’s spices and also the aroma from many variety of teas; not to mention the artisan chocolates and the baked goods that make you drool. The stalls are lining up neatly and classy that match with the New York middle and upper class life style. Even when you only browsing, there is something, if not a lot of things, to see at the market. Maybe you might want to try the baked goods or bring back home a box of chocolate. Some things are quite affordable and don’t forget to get a souvenir. Come and see Grand Central Market when you decide to visit Grand Central Terminal, especially when you can only visit New York once in a lifetime.