”I want to be a part of it, New York, New York!”


I’ve always loved New York City.  I’ve been there four times, the first time back in 1997 when the Twin Towers still stood tall and proud.  I remember viewing Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty from the observation area in one of the towers. During my last visit in April of 2011, I stared at the construction sight of where the two towers once stood, and paid my respects at the Ground Zero Museum Workshop and 9/11 Museum.  I feel strangely at home in New York, with the pace of the city life reminding me of London, yet, so very different.

I wrote the post below back in April of 2011 when I returned from my fourth visit.

 Dear Mr President,

I need a greencard so I can permanently live in New York City! You see, today is my last day and I’m not quite ready to leave! It’s been a short, hectic, but satisfying five and half days. I managed to see the inside of Radio City Music Hall while attending the event, Shine On. It was surreal to see the likes of Goldie Hawn, Gywneth Paltrow, Fran Drescher and Meryl Streep on stage. But I was disappointed Meryl’s appearance was so short given she was head-lining the event!

I demonstrated my art and cultural side by paying a visit to the Guggenheim and Discovery Museums. I just loved the Guggenheim, especially as you wind your way towards the spider-like web roof ceiling. I strolled around Chelsea Piers and Chelsea Markets, and walked through the Flatiron District, photographing the Flatiron Building of course.

I admired the Hudson River from Battery City Park, and Chelsea Piers.  The view was far more superior around Battery City Park, but there were way too many tourists! You should do something about that. I took the free Staten Island Ferry to photograph Lady Liberty herself, but she was too far away, and I couldn’t quite capture her true beauty.

I just loved the views of Manhattan from the top of the Rockerfeller Centre! And loved hanging out in Times Square watching life rush past. It really is the pulse of the city!

I reflected on the tragic events of that fateful day on 9/11, by visiting the World Trade Centre Visitors Centre and the Ground Zero Museum Workshop.

But by far, my favourite place was Central Park, where I got lost (metaphorically speaking, of course!), wandering from W110th street, all the way to Columbus Circle on 59th Street. That’s 51 blocks!

But I feel it’s my positive and generous economic contribution to the U.S. economy by frequenting the likes of Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, Century 21 and B&H Photo Video, as good reasons to grant me permanent access in and out of New York City.

Yours Sincerely,


P.S. Although the subway system was very efficient, I really think you need to employ some cleaners to give it a good scrub. It’s filthy!


Santa Croce – The Real Venice


If you cross the bridge just to the left of Santa Lucia station, you enter the quiet bliss that is Santa Croce. Away from the tourists and souvenir shops that are reminiscent of Saturday afternoon on Oxford Street, London, here you will find narrow streets, local Venetians, and some great local osterias!

We ventured into Santa Croce on our first afternoon in Venice. Narrow streets define this part of Venice.  Our first discovery was a Venetian mask shop. Colourful masks of different shapes and designs filled every inch of wall space. The shop owner was busy making and painting a new mask. After admiring the many masks from the window, we ventured inside. He was happy to talk with us at leisure, showing us a book on the history of Venetian masks and the meaning behind the designs. Naturally we bought a mask at a price higher than most other souvenir shops. But we were fine with this, after all, it was handmade by the artist himself!

Only a few metres along, we came across a backstreet Osteria  (local cafe/ restaurant) where the hot chocolate was advertised at 1.80 euros. Far better than the 4 euros plus in the main tourist areas! The waitress only spoke Italian to us, which just added to the local authenticity of the place, and we sat down to our first Venetian hot chocolate with real cocoa and cream. As a regular drinker of hot chocolate with cream, this Venetian one was one of the best I’ve ever tasted!

On our second visit to the osteria, the waitress recognised us and gives us a knowing smile. She asks in Italian if we would like duo cioccolata calda!  Si! I love discovering local venues when I travel, places where the locals gather and English is not well spoken. It is these experiences one remembers!

On a busy Sunday afternoon, Santa Croce is the place to be, away from the weekend day trippers. We wandered the narrow streets, over a canal bridge, and into a large open square (campo). Santa Croce is where the locals gather. Here we found local Venetians. The old men sat and enjoyed the midday sun, while the children played and the women talked. The sun lit up the colourful buildings, and we wandered down passageways between houses, to find hidden canals.

Santa Croce is one of my favourite areas of Venice. It was our preferred route to walk back to the main train station, away from the tourists, and souvenir shops. It is here, one discovers the real Venice.