A Piece of Your City
As a meticulous observer and proponent of hands-on experiences, I plan to visit every U.S. major city for a day to showcase the best neighborhoods, views, foods, activities, events, parks, museums, historic sites, etc., that are absolute musts for any visitor to experience. This will include hands-on work experiences by crafting mementos that characterize the city's culture and industry. I hope this series inspires curiosity, adventure and enthusiasm through meaningful experiences that visitors will always carry a piece of your city.
-Driving through Cape Elizabeth, reminiscent of country roads in Europe
-Eating fresh lobster, straight from the boat at Luke's Lobster in downtown Portland
-Staying at the Boston Harbor Hotel
-Throwing tea chests overboard from the Boston Tea Party Ships
-Glassblowing at Gather Glass with an exceptional instructor
-Exploring the hills of Staten Island with stunning views of Manhattan
-Walking the streets of Brooklyn and seeing every inch of building covered with graffiti
-Learning to dance from the birthplace of hip hop, Bronx
-Writing with a quill pen at the Hagley Museum
-Walking Kelly Drive in Philadelphia
I stayed at the Canopy Hotel, near the City Hall, which is the most impressive building I've seen this trip. The roads circulate around it, like you're on the streets of Paris. Ben Franklin BLVD is grand with massive buildings and fountains. It's a paradise for museum and history lovers. Interestingly, the rest of the city is confined with some streets only good for pedestrians. So much character in the city, it blows my mind.
I went to the first-ever and largest US Mint to learn how to make currency. I sat down with Mrs. Gordon to learn her craft with clay to design what will appear on our currency. How cool for her work to leave a legacy! Then I took home a bronze Philadelphia mint coin before headed to Grant Blvd, a black-owned business that uses recycled clothing to make fashionable wear. I sat at the sewing machine to craft ruffles for a women's shirt, that was once used as a dress up men's shirt.
My first thoughts of the city, driving through Fairmont Park is that this place should be illegal. The energy was high, the vibe was happy and active. Watching locals play baseball, running along the river, and soaking in the sun, made you want to engage. I stopped by to watch a tight-rope walker over a volleyball court, while listening to a live DJ. The park is a must for visitors. The line for the Japanese Gardens was outrageous, maybe because it's brand new or because of social distancing. I came into the city through Roosevelt Blvd, which gives you a glimpse of life outside the vibrant downtown. Rows homes from different eras, as you descend to the city.
I'm scheduled to meet Betsy Ross, the 25 year old upholster that designed the first American flag.
A big exhale driving out of NYC and into a peaceful, more my pace, sanctuary. Wilmington's waterfront district has great potential to be the hotspot and local getaway. It's underdeveloped, relatively speaking for the East Coast, but I envision lots of condos and more businesses along the water. There's an incredible, yet short path for walking and biking, which is not connected to the downtown yet, but I imagine that will be a game-changer for the community and tourism. Brandywine Park is a must for nature lovers, but I was there to craft macaroons at the famous Hotel DuPont. Learning a bit of history on the DuPont Family from the must-see Hagley Museum, they developed their business on black powder. The family is prominent in Delaware and I was honored to work with a pastry chef on how to make their simple, yet delicious dessert.
That was my take-home, a case of macaroons with a ribbon and a sticker, saying Hotel DuPont Wilmington, DE.
New York City
Since NYC is so large and diverse, I wouldn't do the city justice with one experience and one Piece of the City, so I tackled each of the five boroughs. Considering Staten Island has the highest concentration of Italians, I was connected to be on an Italian cooking show at Casa Belvedere, which is an Italian Heritage Center. I didn't know the Island can be so hilly, like you're climbing the hills of San Francisco. And, the views are stunning.
Then I learned graffiti art in Brooklyn, which was very fitting for the scene. There's not an inch of free space on the walls of buildings or cars for that matter, without seeing graffiti. I was told that some are permitted, while others are illegal tagging. I headed to The Bronx, the founding borough of Hip-Hop to learn how to dance at The Bronx House. I took a lesson with a bunch of kids and then had a private lesson because I needed it. The dance is a language of the people and a conversation of how you feel. More to share with videos.
I took a tennis lesson in Queens at The Billie Jean Tennis Center, where they have the US Open. I did okay. Then, I met with a cartoonist that works with The New Yorker and learned about his process and how to put ideas on paper.
Later in the day
I did an IG takeover of The Providence Monthly, following day of exploring and experiencing art. I'm sure many locals know that their is the hub of art, and how fitting to see a large mural plastered on the side of a brick building, saying The Creative Capital. I took the photo from the HQ of Hasbro, you know the company that released Mr. Potato Head.
I started the day at The Steel Yard, which is a creation station for artists and classes. Then learned about the Chihuly's influence in Rhode Island, as an art teacher. I had a chance to blow glass, which is a delicate art. That was my piece that I get to take home. I had to try a few times because it's easy to make mistakes.
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is like the Harvard or Berklee School of Music for arts students, with a rigorous studio-based learning approach. I'm staying on the Avenue of the Arts, so it seemed fitting to craft. I will spend a few hours glassblowing, Steel Yard and the WaterFire Arts Center. I never really appreciated the arts, but now getting a hands-experience, I'm sure I will.
I'll post some pics of my work later.
Later in the day.
Incredible day of exploration and experiences in Boston. Spent a few minutes exploring the Boston Harbor Hotel, where the marketing team showed me the Presidential Suite, that would go for 15k/night. It had a private elevator, chandelier and make-up room. I'd stay there, but I'd rather pay a year of mortgage.
I drove to Fenway Park for a tour, since it's a huge part of Boston's identity. It's the first baseball stadium, built in 1912 and has the shortest homerun at 302. I was shocked by the gradual climb of the grandstand. Now stadiums build higher and try to pack people into nose bleeds.
In Boston, wherever there is water, there's a walking path. I love how most of the city is connected and walker friendly. I love the foot bridges that cross over busy roads. Although the Boston Marathon doesn't use much of these paths, it's a runner's paradise. My favorite path is Commonwealth, which goes from Boston Commons to Fenway.
After flying my drone some in the neighborhoods, I went to the Boston Tea Party Ships for my hands-on experience, crafting a memento. Did you know that one of the ships had to quarantine for 8 days because of a small box scare? History repeats itself. I had a chance to replicate the destroying of tea by tossing the chests overboard. Then, ironically, I sat in a tea room at tried 5 types of tea that were used during the event. Boston is a place for history buffs. It's like Philadelphia or Charleston. As the day ended, I did a college campus tour, since the city is the Mecca of education. Some say that Boston is the most educated city in America.
Hard not to take your eyes off the road, driving into Boston. The beautiful waterfronts and modern buildings weaving through historic ones. But, you must keep your eyes on the roads here because lanes can change so quickly and the speed limit is just a suggestion.
I arrived at The Boston Harbor Hotel. Exceptional service, comfort and location. I'm ready to get going with my day, starting with an official tour of the hotel and then Fenway Park. My hands-on experience will be at The Boston Tea Party Ships to make loose tea, just like the tea that was thrown overboard in protest of taxation. I'll learn a lot more about the history, especially being on site.
Boston can feel overwhelming because there is such a variety of things to see and do.
Entering New England, cannot be mistaken for any other region in America. It closely resembles Northern Europe with town names that end with ham, field, borough, chester and ford. Distance is measured in kilometers. And, lots of rolling grass fields. The moose x-ing signs will throw you off though.
I arrived to my first city, Portland. It's one of the smaller cities that I'll visit, but it always leaves an impression on me. After a breathtaking walk along the rocky shores with the eye of the lighthouse peering down on me, I drove through Cape Elizabeth, again resembling the old country of Europe. Food markets with gravel parking lots. Homes along the windy roadside. School houses with small playgrounds and single building town halls.
When I crossed over the Casco Bay Bridge, into downtown Portland, it felt like stepping back in time, in a foreign country. It's a city that's preserved. Portland knows its character. Even brick buildings with lit white pillars adds so much charm, something that Southern cities have mastered, like Savannah. I love the layout of the city, the brick roads and the old churches towering the skyline.
I can't wait to take A Piece of Portland tomorrow, when I get a hands-on experience to craft beer at Geary Brewery. This evening, I am welcomed by The Regency Hotel and Armory Restaurant. I'm grateful for them to welcome me to their city. I will share more tomorrow.
DAY 2 of Portland
I walked into Geary Brewery and the smell just hits you! Like walking into an oatmeal factory. I put on my rainboots and was ready to craft some iconic New England beer. I'm getting used to juggling all the cameras, but I think I've captured some good images shoveling the grain, talking to the local dairy farmer and bottling.
I left for a lunch break at Luke's Lobster on the waterfront. There's nothing like it, if you desire to see the boats come directly into the restaurant and put the seafood on your plate. I've heard of farm to table, but not water to table. I order a lobster roll with clam chowder.
I drove down Congress Street, which is over a mile-long business district, like a major city would have. I suggest going there, if you're looking for local stores, theatres, and people watching.