Two Havens In New York

This article is written by Narayani Ganesh. Narayani is a senior editor with The Times of India. She writes on issues concerning the environment, science and technology, travel and tourism, heritage, philosophy, and health. 

The city of skyscrapers surprises NARAYANI GANESH with its Central Park and East River Esplanade

New York City is many things to many people. An important global financial centre and capital of fashion and fad, home to eclectic and traditional museums, shoppers’ paradise, popular setting for film and fiction, centre of research and study and a tourist favourite. Also easy target of terrorists, but endowed with spirit and gumption to bounce back. All these things rolled into one Big…. well, Apple. NYC is a temptation that’s hard to resist.

The secret to skipping New York’s holiday crowds

The entrance on 5th Avenue offers the most dramatic vantage point of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

During the holiday season, two of New York City’s major draws – the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and ice skating rink – also tend to be the most crowded. To enjoy both without the crush of people they typically attract, it’s going to take some sacrifice and an alarm clock.

Early mornings, by far, provide the best tree viewing opportunities. Every day, from the time the tree is lit at 5:30 am to the time when the sun rises at approximately 7:15 am, there’s a nice window to see the tree’s 30,000 lights twinkle minus the masses. If darkness is not a prerequisite, the weekday hordes don’t start arriving until about 9:30 am, but then they don’t stop for the next 12 hours. On the weekends, Rockefeller Plaza is mayhem until the tree is turned off at 11:30 pm, providing less opportunities to see the tree glimmer without elbowing your way through the mobs.

The 74ft-tall Norway spruce is located between West 49th and 50th Streets, with the entrance on 5th Avenue offering the easiest access and the most dramatic vantage point. This path also puts you on a direct collision course with the ice skating rink, located at the base of the tree.

The Rockefeller ice skating rink is open from 9 am to 10:30 pm Monday to Thursday, and 8:30 am to midnight Saturday and Sunday. But like the tree, the rink is best enjoyed during the early hours when it first opens to the public. Not only are the crowds smaller, but the ice is also at its smoothest. Due to all the foot traffic and its small size, the surface can get dicey pretty fast, making the actual act of ice skating all the more difficult, especially for amateurs. The rates for adults are $10 for skate rentals and a $21 entrance fee during the holiday season.

For those less concerned about costs and ice quality, the rink does offer a pricey alternative: pay $75 per person (includes admission and skates) and you’ll be able to skip the line to get on the ice. This option is only available via an online reservation system before you arrive, assuming the slots aren’t sold out.

If you don’t want to be confined to Rockefeller Center’s smallish arena, there are two cheaper options within walking distance: the iconic Wollman Rink in Central Park and the festively reoccurring Citi Pond in Bryant Park. Though larger in size, both of these rinks also fill up pretty fast, so if you are going to skate there, treat it like Rockefeller Center and plan on arriving about half an hour before they open. Otherwise, your day on the ice will end up feeling a lot less like skating and a lot more like roller derby.

Bucky Turco

2 Dec 2011

Top 5 Christmas ice rinks

Classic cities. Christmas. What a cocktail!

Our London office have been talking Christmas cities, and just couldn’t stop thinking about ice rinks.

Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere just wouldn’t be the same without wrapping up warm, pulling on those ice skates and, dependent on ability, either sailing glamorously across the ice or gripping tightly to the railings before falling flat on your face.

Whatever your skills, you’re spoilt for choice come December. These are our favourites:

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower Ice Rink

Falling over aside, ice skating conjures an air of romance and the Eiffel Tower is perhaps the most romantic setting imaginable. Open until mid-February this is the place to come with a partner for classic views and a smooch on the ice.

New York’s Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center Ice Rink

Synonymous with Christmas, New York knows how to put on a show and the Rockefeller Centre is no different. Probably the most famous ice rink of them all, this is a fantastic place to come and soak up the New York holiday vibe (though take US editor Robert Reid’s word of advice: save the skating for January if you don’t want to pay a premium and are keen to avoid queues).

London’s Natural History Museum

The Ice Rink at London’s Natural History Museum

Set outside one of London’s most iconic buildings, the Natural History Museum’s ice rink is one for the family. Visit in the daytime, head into the museum and visit the dinosaurs, then join the Christmas crowds out on the rink.

Narvisen, Oslo

The ice rink at Karl Johans gate, Narvisen, Oslo

Oslo’s Narvisen outdoor ice rink sits at Karl Johans gate.  It’s a natural rink and you can skate for free here whenever it’s cold enough to freeze over. Due to the cooler weather conditions, this rink is usually open for a longer time so if you miss out in December and January, you’ll have until the end of March to skate here most years.

Gorky Park, Moscow

Ice Rink at Red Square, Moscow

As you might imagine, Moscow has plenty of ice skating spaces available in winter. Gorky Park almost becomes one big ice rink with frozen over ponds and icy tracks running across the park. Make the most of it by hiring not only skates but some cross-country skis too.

16 Dec 2010

New York Cabbies

This article is written by Justin Rabindra. Justin is a Manager with an Advertising Agency in Delhi. He is also an avid traveler and photographer.

I’ve concluded that cabbies everywhere have waded out of the same gene pool. I’ve never come across one who is happy to just drive in silence. The guy who picked us up at JFK was no different. He had to give us a running commentary on all the famous sights we crossed, the state of the world, and his favourite holiday destination (The Bahamas). He also had an accent that could have got him a bit role in a Mafia movie (he called it Ma’hattan.) 

Like cabbies everywhere he had seen all the Raj Kapoor movies incuding Awaara and Mera Naam Joker. I’ve never figured that one out. Do they see iconic movies from every country so they can make their passengers feel welcome. In any case it didn’t work with me because I don’t care much for Raj Kapoor movies or any other that doesn’t have English subtitles.


This guy also had a newly installed GPS which was sticking into my thigh in the front seat and he kept telling me to be careful because it was very sensitive. It was not the most comfortable ride. I wondered just then if cabbies in London still had to undergo rigorous training (essentially to know the shortest distance between two points) and acquire The Knowledge before they were licensed.

He also made it very clear that the trip to Manhattan was $40 not including tips. I always find it funny when you’re expected to tip a cabbie. Who started this trend anyway? Someone who thought ‘wow, not only does this guy drive well, he’s so pleasant as well. Lemme give him a tip.’ Hey I can handle a driver with a scowl.

Justin Rabindra

5 Sept 2011


Which five restaurants are best for brunch in New York?

You might wake up with a hankering for pancakes and bacon after a night of exploring all the world-class nightlife that Manhattan has to offer. But what you’ll get is something far more sophisticated because New York’s fine dining reputation doesn’t only apply to dinner. Try Artisanal for superb cheese-related dishes and Balthazar and Brassiere 8 ? for modern French brunch. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay will cook you a spicy omelette at Mesa Grill, and you’ll taste some of the fluffiest blueberry pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company and Restaurant.

1. If you love cheese, then you’ve found your paradise at Artisanal. This sprawling, dimly lit bistro with buttercream yellow walls and red-checkered floors is where people to go when they want to nibble on baskets of airy gougeres and dig into pots of gooey fondue at the tightly packed wooden tables. It’s the quality of the French-style food, from hearty leg of lamb to charred hanger steak, that salvages Artisanal from becoming a kitschy fondue joint and instead makes it a delightful restaurant you will want to return to again and again. Weekend brunch isn’t for the calorie conscious-the cinnamon sugar dusted beignets are impossible to refuse.

2. Balthazar Restaurant, a warm, noisy French bistro, was once a hot spot of the 90s and is now a reliable standby. It’s always been a transporting experience, though-from the sunshine-yellow walls to the European crowd devouring steak au poivre, duck confit and other “I must be in Paris” staples. The brunch is among the best in town; the smartest calls are the pillowy brioche French toast and baskets of baked goods.
3. Food Network fans know chef Bobby Flay as the red-haired chef who is a master of the grill. Today, he’s practically an empire, with multiple restaurants under his helm, cookbooks and numerous television appearances. But Mesa Grill, which opened in 1991, was his first restaurant, and above all else, Flay is the king of all things spicy. Dishes such as sweet potato hash or scrambled eggs chiliquiles (paired with a spicy bloody mary of course) will test whether you can handle the heat. The service can be clunky, but your focus will be on the food.

Food Network burgers are among the best

4. Modern French cuisine has never tasted so good as it does at Midtown’s Brassiere 8, where the contemporary restaurant offers its own twist on classic French dishes. On Sundays the restaurant hosts a buffet, but you can order off the breakfast or brunch menus when you sit and order as well.

5. Opening in 2001, Clinton Street Baking Company and Restaurant has become known as the spot for blueberry pancakes in Manhattan. Sure, the brunch lines are long, but the husband and wife team behind the restaurant follow pancake month-an entire month dedicated to introducing new pancake flavors. A bite of almond frangipane or Japanese pumpkin pancakes in February will immediately cause you to forget about your wait.

Pancakes at the Clinton Street Baking Company and Restaurant


A memorable trip to Las Vegas

This article is written by K.K.Mehra, an avid traveler and travel writer

I am an avid traveller and have been to the remotest part of the country as also to the USA and Canada. My wife and I went to meet our son in USA recently. We had the most memorable time of our life when we travelled to the west coast of America.

Las Vegas

We reached Las Vegas and from there went by road to Los Angeles and San Francisco. For our return journey, we chose to travel by the Amtrak train from San Francisco to Providence, Rhode Island, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, with stopovers at Chicago, Washington and New York.

Our tour started by boarding a flight from Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, to Las Vegas en route to Philadelphia.

We were overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty of Las Vegas, one of the most exciting and entertaining cities in the world. We stayed at the famous MGM Grand Hotel.

On the Las Vegas strip, we got a glimpse of the world famous New York skyscrapers, the Sphinx and Pyramids of Egypt, the Eiffel Tower, the gondolas of Venice, the Dutch architecture and huge Greek sculptures.

It is the city where nobody sleeps. Even late in the night or at dawn people were revelling and enjoying the fun filled life. The next morning we left by bus to visit the Grand Canyon South Rim, en route to Hoover Dam, which is 275 miles from Las Vegas.

The next morning we headed for Los Angeles by road taking a Greyhound Bus and the journey between Las Vegas to LA was awesome with vast no man’s land on either side of the road making for a great view.

The famous Kodak Theater

Our first stop in the city was Kodak Theatre where the Oscar Awards ceremony is held and just standing there was dream come true. We also visited Third Promenade, Grove, China Town, Griffith Park area and China Town.

Our next destination was San Francisco and we boarded a Greyhound Bus to reach by the evening.

The next morning we started our city tour and reached the two-mile long Golden Gate Bridge. In the afternoon we started our tour of Alcatraz Island. The ride in the steamer was very entertaining and the view of the city from the bay was great.

The next morning we started our excursion to the Muir Woods, Sausalito and wine country.

We travelled across the Golden Gate Bridge and reached the quite, beautiful town of Sausalito, nestled in the jungles along the bay. A two-hour drive took us to Sonoma Valley, which houses hundreds of wineries. A tour of the wineries was also very knowledgeable. After that we came back to our destination.


18 June 2010

Adventure in America

This article is written by Jitendra Gupta

Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando

My recent trip to the United States of America was an experience of a lifetime. During my stay there I visited Orlando, New York, Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando

Orlando is the fifth largest city in Florida and the largest inland city of America. We visited Central Florida Ballet, Mad Cow Theatre and Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. The University of Central Florida is home to theatre lovers and attracts young artists like me from around the world.

Universal Studio, Orlando

Live shows at the Universal Studio are really very exciting. The show includes movie clips, prop and creature makeup demonstrations and gives a fascinating insight into the moviemaking process.

A stay in Florida is incomplete without a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre and NASA’s launch headquarters. I was lucky to see the launching of Atlanta-2 from my coach, a few miles away from the space centre.

Future World at Orlando’s Epcot

Orlando Epcot Centre is divided into Future World and World Showcase. In Future World, ideas become a reality. World Showcase is a collective of pavilions and shops full of mind-blowing products, restaurants that represent the culture and cuisine of 11 countries. At night there are fireworks and a laser show. In the evening we went to the Niagara Falls. A total of 21 xenon lights each with 76 cm diameter are used to illuminate the falls in a rainbow of colours.

We also visited several lovely Indian restaurants. Next morning we enjoyed the Maid of Mist boat ride and trolley ride to the Cave of the Winds up close to the falls. Water rushes all around you and one gets drenched. We also enjoyed a visit to the Statue of Liberty in a ferry.

New York city skyline

The other places we visited were Times Square, Ground Zero, China Town, Central Park and Empire State Building from where on a clear night one can see the spectacular New York city skyline clearly.

Jitendra Gupta

18 Oct 2011

Exploring the United States

This article is written by Punshil Kumar, based in Delhi

To ward off the stifling summer heat of Delhi, my two daughters in America insisted that we join them. They are putting up in Bowie and Virginia. I left for the United States of America (USA) in April with my wife. We got a warm and affectionate welcome from our daughters who received us in New York. All of us then headed to Washington. Initially we stayed in Bowie and enjoyed a lot. We usually shuttled between the two houses.  During my stay there we went to see the White House and also visited several Chinese and Thai restaurants.  We also enjoyed going to pizza shops because the children loved to do so. On every Saturday I used to accompany my daughters to Indian stores for their grocery shopping.  Once we also visited the children’s school to attend their graduation function. We were stunned to see the spectacular fireworks on July 4, the American Independence Day. We spread a sheet on the pavement along with others and enjoyed crackers, which sprouted into flowers of different colours in the sky.  With a friend of my son-inlaw, I went to Pennsylvania and stayed in his house for two days.  I went to New York twice and stayed with my brother-in-law in Hopewell Junction, a suburb of New York. I also visited Seattle with my wife and brother-in-law, and we stayed there for a week, and visited several lakes and went to see Mount Rainier.  I also visited Ocean City and we stayed there for three days in a rented house and enjoyed the sun and sand on the beach. My younger daughter is a beautician and a very social person. Her friends used to come home and we had a lot of fun in their company. They celebrated my birthday also.  Unlike India, in USA there are no shops in residential establishments and thus people go to wholesale and retail stores for grocery, fruits, milk and vegetables mostly on Saturdays and store the stuff in the pantry and refrigerator.  Most of the families in USA do not cook and bring stuff from nearby restaurants, to save them from cleaning the kitchen. Some families do cook in their houses, but to save time they also bring ready to cook things, which are now available in plenty.  Another interesting thing I noted here was that the morning walkers are often greeted with a hello. This brews a very happy feeling within, as it comes from absolute strangers in a foreign land. It was definitely a memorable holiday.

Punshil Kumar

17 Sept 2011

My affair with The Big Cities

Times Square, NYC

There was a time when I hated big cities and all that I associated with  them was noise, the clutter, the pageantry and hype . I would often get lost there. Given a chance, I preferred wilds or the offbeat , rustic, charming towns or heritage sites in ruins. But of late , I seem to be lured by these big cities..

Maybe its the energy, the sights and sounds or just the romantic past tucked away in them, but certainly my fascination for these sprawling metropolises seems to grow. I’ve always loved Bombay and yes, Delhi too. And Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

In the international scene, New York and London  fascinates me . And Rome, SFO, Zurich, Dublin, Munich. I enjoy Singapore and Hong Kong and my memories of Melbourne and Sydney, though very old now, still linger. Yes, there are museums , palaces, castles and several sightseeing spots ; but that’s not all. Although all these cities are different from each other as chalk and cheese, there seems to be certain reasons why they lure me .

The Lyceum Theater, London

The energy – It  radiates in your mind as you walk down the roads, absorbing the sights and sounds. Whether its India or abroad, there is so much life everywhere . The trains or the tubes – the city virtually moves to their rhythm.And I am not just referring to the nightlife. Walk on the streets, go to a cafe, go shopping or sightseeing, the energy seeps into you and how !

The streets – They are the living spaces and they are so vibrant. There is so much colour everywhere. You just have to walk down the streets of a city to discover it. Little unknown cafes to bookshops to mega malls and up scale restaurants, to curious signboards and billboards to street performances .. the streets symbolise the city. I hate coach tours for the simple reason you can never feel the pulse of the city. Your feet may get swollen, but you never know what you discover. All those days in NYC, I would just sit in a cafe at Manhattan and see life unfold around me.

Events – Watch out for the live shows or the musicals or the plays . Some of them maybe free or you may get a discount somewhere. And its worth every penny as you bring back an experience that is unique to the place.

Nightlife – Why would anyone visit any of the big cities and not capture an essence of its nightlife ? So,while you are looking for a ” happenning ” place, you may also find some taverns and pubs which have either a lot of history or are quaint and yet full of life. Seek them out. I love Clarke Quay for instance in Singapore and we went to some real old pubs in London which was so lively and fun and the pubs in Dublin which absolutely rocked with some great Irish music

The city within the city – So, you come to every city with a list of sightseeing attractions and monuments that you must see and do .But here is a city often hidden beyond the city we now . I went on the London walks last week, where we saw the London of Dickens and Shakespeare ; we also did  see the old London wall. There are many Delhis within Delhi today and Chennai will take you to the fishing hamlet that was once Madras, the settlement formed by the British East India Company. Everything is not just about history – there is art, architecture, literature that forms the cultural ethos of the city. Soak into it !


8 Oct 2011