Tuesday, July 18, 2017

10+ Artsy & Cool Reasons to Visit Valencia, Spain

Centro Historico
By Jacquelin Carnegie - (Valencia, Spain) Valencia is one of those "hidden gems" worth discovering on your next trip to Spain. Just a few hours south of Barcelona, Valencia is a charming small city with stunning architecture and friendly people on Spain's Mediterranean coast. In addition to all the city has to offer, it's situated in the region of Valencia (Comunitat Valenciana), which has everything from mountain retreats to popular beach resorts. The weather in the area is splendid spring, summer, and fall, so almost anytime is a good time to visit.
Spain's third largest city has a fascinating history. As a result, Valencia is a beautiful mélange of architectural marvels from Romanesque façades to castle-like Gothic structures, to ornate Baroque residences, and Modernist buildings from the city's expansion, beginning in the late 19th century.
Cathedral, Plaza de la Virgen
Walking & Bike Tours (Valencia Guias, Tel: +34 963 851 740; www.valenciaguias.com): One of the pure joys of being in Valencia is simply walking or, if you prefer, biking around and exploring all the neighborhoods. The experience is richer when accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. Marvel at all the wonderful examples of architectural styles within the  Centro Histórico (Historic Center), including the Ciutat Vella (Old Town), and El Carmen area, formally rundown but now flourishing with restaurants, clubs, and nightlife. When the walls surrounding Valencia’s old town were demolished in 1865, a new neighborhood was created--admire the elegant, Modernist buildings in Ensanche and check out Ruzafa, a working-class, ethnically-diverse section, that is becoming the city's hippest area.
Mercado Central
The Valencia region is famous for its produce such as oranges and rice and wonderful food including Spain's most famous dish, Paella, and a local drink, Horchata.
Restaurant Week (Cuina Oberta) - Twice a year in spring and fall, usually June and November. With more than 50 restaurants participating, it's a great time to eat some Paella, said to originate from Valencia. Here, the pan of saffron-flavored rice is served with chunks of rabbit, chicken, snails, and vegetables (not seafood). Enjoy some at Palace Fesol (7 Hernán Cortés).
Horchatería Santa Catalina (6 Plaza de Santa Catalina; www.horchateriasantacatalina.com) Try this typical Valencian snack: Horchata, a cold, creamy, sweet drink made from chufas (tiger nuts), often served with Fartons, pastries covered with powdered sugar.
Mercado Central (Plaza Ciudad de Brujas; http://bit.ly/1oUSYe3) One of the largest food markets in Europe, it's a stunning example of Modernist architecture. Built in 1914, locals still buy groceries here.
Mercado de Colón (19 Calle Jorge Juan; www.mercadocolon.es) Another beautiful Modernist structure, this former food market opened in 1916. Today, it's an upscale mall with shops, cafes, and interesting restaurants such as Ma Khin Café. Concerts are also held in the atrium.
Original CV - Shop at one of these stores (or online) for authentic, Valencian food & gift items to bring home.
Las Fallas
Valencia is also famous for its exceptional festivals throughout the year. Here are two of the zaniest: Las Fallas (March) - Huge Ninots (puppets) depicting satirical scenes--often mocking politicians and celebrities--are filled with fireworks and set on fire. In addition to the pyrotechnics, the weeklong extravaganza includes bullfights, parades, contests, and general merriment. La Tomatina
 (August) - This tomato-throwing contest, in the nearby town of Buñol, began in 1945. Now, this crazy tradition is a weeklong festival with music, parades, dancing, a big Paella cook-off, and fireworks. (Advanced tickets required.)
Valencia was founded by the Romans in 138 BC, occupied by Muslims for hundreds of years, then became part of the medieval kingdom of Aragon in 1238. During the 15th century, it was one of the most important Mediterranean cities. Today, the city's past is present as it moves into the future. Here's just a few of the wondrous sites to be visited: Museo Arqueológico de La Almoina (Plaza de La Almoina; http://bit.ly/190Xl1S) This museum, on the site where Valencia was founded, offers an exploration of the city's history through excavated ruins from various periods. Archaeological finds include Roman baths, Visigoth tombs, and a Moorish courtyard.
Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange)
La Lonja de la Seda (8-9 Plaza del Mercado; http://bit.ly/1M4LPBM)
This splendid Gothic-style mercantile palace was built in the 15th century to symbolize Valencia's wealth and power. Merchants came from all over to trade here--oil, then silk, followed by agricultural products. Now, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Plaza de Toros (28 Calle de Xàtiva; www.torosvalencia.com) Bullfights (corridas) still take place in Valencia. If that's not your thing, the beautiful Plaza de Toros amphitheater, built in 1859, is also used as a concert venue. Take a tour of the ring and adjacent museum.
City of Arts & Sciences
Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (Avenida Autopista del Saler; Tel: +34 902 100 031; cac.es) Designed by native-son, architect Santiago Calatrava, the stunning City of Arts & Sciences is a 21st-century, architectural marvel. The complex includes: Museo de las Cièncias Príncipe Felipe - a family-friendly science museum; Oceanografic - a marine park & one of Europe’s largest aquariums; Hemisfèric - Auditorium & Planetarium; Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía - a spectacular opera house; Umbracle - a beautiful, covered garden. Plan plenty of time to explore it all.
Palau de la Música (30 Paseo de la Alameda; www.palaudevalencia.com) Valencia's concert hall is known for its wonderful acoustics. Some of the most prestigious orchestras in the world perform here.
Arturo Mora ceramics
The region of Valencia is renowned for ceramics. In addition to these museums, be sure to visit the nearby, world-famous-for-ceramics town of Manises.
Museo Nacional de Cerámica de Valencia González Martí (2 Poeta Querol; http://bit.ly/1DnHGEV) Housed in a beautiful, 15th-century palace, the museum traces the history of ceramics from prehistoric pieces to contemporary works by Picasso.
Lladró Museum (Ctra. de Alboraya, Tavernes Blanques; Tel: +34 963 187 000; http://bit.ly/1A2Qcqw) Lladró figurines are beloved world-over. At the headquarters in the Tavernas Blanques suburb, see the family's private collection since the 1953 beginning and take a factory tour to observe how everything's made. (Reservations required.)
Beach Day: As a costal city, Valencia has beautiful beaches just a metro ride away from the center of town. Stroll along Paseo Marítimo, the lovely beachfront promenade lined with cafés and restaurants, as you soak up the sun.
Paseo Maritimo, Valencia's beachfront
A Walk in the Park: When the flood-prone river Turia, surrounding the city of Valencia, was diverted, the riverbed was turned into parkland. The Jardín del Turia (Turia Gardens; locals still call it El Rio, the river) is the pride and joy of the city with jogging & cycling paths, gardens, fountains, & playgrounds.
Better Than a Zoo: Bioparc - Without leaving Valencia, be transported to an African wildlife sanctuary. If you're traveling with kids or just love animals, spend a day here watching antelopes, zebras, gorillas, ring-tailed lemurs, warthogs, lions, and leopards, just to name a few, roam freely in natural habitats. Have a meal on the cafeteria terrace as giraffes stroll by!
DAY TRIPS: MANISES - Renowned for ceramics since the 14th century, with some 30 pottery workshops, many open to visitors--be sure to visit La Cerámica Valenciana & Arturo Mora. Manises is just a metro ride away from Valencia. SERGORBE - In the Valencian province of Castelló, Segorbe is famous for many things including a bull-running week (Semana de Toros) and fabulous olive oil, Belluga.
Spanish: The University of Valencia dates from 1499. While many high school and college students come here to study Spanish, there are also several language schools and programs that cater to adults. Music: The international campus of Boston's renowned Berklee College of Music is in Valencia. Both are great excuses to spend some time in this beautiful city! 
Making Your Trip Easier: Valencia Tourist Card - Unlimited travel on public transport, plus discounts at shops, restaurants and museums.
Where to Stay: There are any number of great places to stay from budget hostels (Nest) to lovely boutique hotels to five-star accommodations (Las Arenas, right on the beach) or vacation-rental apartments. AdHoc Monumental Hotel (4 Calle Boix, Tel: +34 963 919 140; www.adhochoteles.com) - This charming, boutique hotel with a delightful & helpful staff is right in the heart of the Old Town district.
Modernist building in Ruzafa
Getting There: Currently, there are no direct flights into Valencia. Fly to Madrid with a connecting flight or take Spain’s high-speed train the AVE from Madrid's Atocha station to Valencia, about 90 minutes. Or, fly into Barcelona and take a local train. You can pre-purchase train tickets on RailEurope or GoEuro, a great site that cost compares flight, train, & bus options. Spain's national airlines, Iberia, has an excellent on-time record, new aircraft on long-haul flights, reconfigured Business class and, what feels like, a roomier Coach section as well. While Valencia is worth visiting all on its own, you can easily combine it with a trip to Madrid and/or Barcelona. Spain has so much to offer!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

15+ Artsy & Cool Things To Do in NY's Hudson Valley

Bannerman's (photo: JCarnegie)
By Jacquelin Carnegie - (New York, NY) All year long, not just during the beautiful fall foliage season, the area surrounding the magnificent Hudson River is ideal for a day trip or weekend get-away. There are several counties on both sides of the river worth discovering, but Dutchess County has some of the most diverse offerings. Explore the spectacular countryside, cultural choices, fairs & festivals, vineyards and farmers' markets. Here's a sampling to get you started:
Any day of the week, stroll along Main Street to check out the selection of cafés and galleries. Beacon gets even livelier on weekends with its Sunday Farmer's Market, on the riverfront, the Flea Market (April-Nov) behind the post office, and Second Saturday, a citywide celebration of the arts.
Dia: Beacon (photo: Laura Asaibene)
3 Beekman St., Beacon, NY; Tel: 845 440 0100; www.diaart.org
In a beautifully-renovated, 1920's factory building, the Dia Art Foundation’s minimalist art collection, from the 1960’s to the present, takes center stage in wide-open galleries with huge, beautiful windows and skylights. On display are works by such renowned modern artists as Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, and Louise Bourgeois. There are changing exhibitions, gallery talks, and other special events (also a café).
Bannerman's Island; Tel: 800/979-3370; www.bannermancastle.org (May-Oct)
While in Beacon, explore a picturesque island in the Hudson River that's been off bounds for years. In 1901, Frank Bannerman, a zany Scottish-American munitions dealer, built a quasi-castle and residence for his family on Pollepel Island. Today, thanks to the Bannerman Castle Trust, you can admire the ruins. Pack a picnic and enjoy great views of the Hudson as well as the 20-minute ferry ride there & back. On some Sundays, there's also music. (Reservations required for all tours & special events. The ferry dock for Bannerman's Island is a 5-minute walk from the Beacon train station.)
Hudson River (photo: JCarnegie)
Dine: All along Main Street there are several nice cafés, try the Beacon Bread Company Bistro or Homespun Foods.
Stay: The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls (2 East Main St.) - former factory building turned into a groovy boutique hotel.
Getting There: Drive or train from New York (Grand Central), take Metro-North (Hudson line) train to Beacon. (The museum, ferry dock & Main St. are all in easy walking distance of the train station.)
Vassar is well known as a prestigious college, but it's a bit of a secret that the lovely campus is open to the public with a fabulous theater and a museum that would please any culture lover.
124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie, NY; Tel: 845-437-5599; http://powerhouse.vassar.edu
For over 30 years, the Vassar & New York Stage and Film's Powerhouse Theater has fostered and celebrated young playwrights, aspiring actors, directors and designers on stage for six weeks each summer. It's a delightful place to see theater and you can often see famous actors up-close-and-personal performing alongside the up-and-comers.
Tel: 845/437-5632; http://fllac.vassar.edu
This incredible collection includes fabulous Dutch Masters, Hudson River School paintings, major 20th-century works as well as sculpture and photography.
(www.walkway.org; 61 Parker Ave., about 4 blocks north of the Poughkeepsie train station. Open: 7am-sunset)  For breathtaking views of the Hudson, stroll or hike across this abandoned railway bridge that's been transformed into a scenic walkway.
Dine: Try The Beech Tree Grill or The Baby Cakes Café.
Stay: Courtyard by Marriott (2641 South Rd/Rt. 9, Poughkeepsie, NY; Tel: 845/485-6336) - friendly staff & a nice indoor pool.
Getting There: Drive or train from New York (Grand Central), take Metro-North (Hudson line) train to Poughkeepsie, then a taxi. (Empire Taxi, Tel: 845/454-4444)
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt devoted their lives to the betterment of all Americans. Hyde Park is where FDR grew up and spent most of his life.
FDR's Springwood

4097 Albany Post Rd, Hyde Park, NY; Tel: 800/967-2283, www.nps.gov/hofr
FDR's HOME: It's a patriotic thrill to tour these four sites. You can also stroll the beautiful grounds with miles of hiking trails. (For more information about the guided tours, contact: National Parks Service, Tel: 845/229-5320.) Springwood - The Roosevelt family home. (The President & Mrs. Roosevelt are buried in the Rose Garden.) Val-Kill - Eleanor Roosevelt's private cottage, she came here when she wanted to relax. Top Cottage - FDR's private retreat.
FDR Presidential Library & Museum - Opened in 1941, this is America's first presidential library, built under FDR's direction. There are fascinating artifacts and changing exhibitions.
THE VANDERBILT MANSION (www.nps.gov/vama)
Val-Kill (photo: NPS/WD Urbin)
This magnificent estate was once the home of Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt. Take a guided tour of the mansion and learn about the Gilded Age. Wander around the exquisitely-landscaped gardens and grounds with stunning Hudson River views.
CIA chefs
Dine: CIA (1946 Campus Dr., Hyde Park, NY; Tel: 845/471-6608) - The Culinary Institute of America is a world-renowned cooking school with several dining options: Bocuse (French), de'Medici (Italian), American Bounty, and the causal Apple Pie Bakery Cafe. (Make reservations way in advance; all restaurants close during school breaks, so check ahead.)
Rhinebeck Crafts: Jonathan's
Stay: Courtyard by Marriott in Poughkeepsie.
Getting There: Drive or train from New York (Grand Central), take Metro-North (Hudson line) train to Poughkeepsie. "Roosevelt Ride" (May-Nov) - a shuttle from the Poughkeepsie train station to Hyde Park (reservations required), at other times, take a taxi.
Rhinebeck is a lovely area with wonderful fairs and festivals:
DUTCHESS COUNTY FAIR (Aug): Here's your chance to experience a real county fair with 4H Clubs, farm animals, pie contests, carnivals rides, music & more family fun.
RHINEBECK ARTS FESTIVAL (June): This legendary event is often referred to as the Rhinebeck Crafts Fair with 200 top-notch craftspeople, local furniture makers, music, gourmet food & merriment.
HUDSON VALLEY WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL (Sept): A great way to sample the local Hudson Valley vintages, craft beers, and culinary offerings.
Fisher (photo: Peter Aaron)
Annandale-on-Hudson, NY; Tel: 845/758-7900; fishercenter.bard.edu
About 10 mins from Rhinebeck, this Frank Gehry designed entertainment center on the Bard campus offers a wide-range of events, or just take a tour of the stunning facility.
Dine: Take your pick from every type of restaurant.
Stay: The Beekman Arms  (6387 Mill St.) - Open since 1766; the Clintons stayed here during Chelsea's wedding.
Getting There: Drive or train from New York (Penn Station), take Amtrak to Rhinecliff. (Taxi into Rhinebeck but, at this point, you'll really need a car.)
DUTCHESS COUNTY FARM FRESH TOURS: In the fall, leave the organizing and driving to someone else on five different, farm-stop itineraries. Whether you want to pick apples, sample artisanal cheeses, visit local wineries and distilleries, taste New York maple syrup and hand-crafted ice cream, buy organic produce or items made from local wool, there's a tour for you! Visit Fishkill Farms & McEnroe Organic Farm, Crown Maple Estate, Hudson Valley Sheep & Wool Farm, Dutch’s Spirits, Harney & Sons Fine Teas and many other charming, scenic spots. (Tours run Sept thru Oct; contact EscapeMaker.)
FARMERS' MARKETS: Download a brochure about farms with fresh produce for sale and head out on your own, but the tours are more fun!
HUDSON VALLEY RESTAURANT WEEK (Nov): With all the fresh produce available, the area restaurants serve some incredibly-tasty, farm-to-table meals. Several also have rooms to book, so add an overnight stay to your meal!
Fishkill Farms
Making Your Trip Easier
Metro-North offers several "get-away" packages to Hudson Valley places and events.
Dutchess County Tourism has tons of info & hotel deals on their site.
These newspapers have info about local cultural events: About Town & Southern/Northern Dutchess News. Art Along the Hudson: Tips on everything that's happening art-wise in the area.
Stewart International Airport: If you'd like to visit the Hudson Valley from Scotland, Ireland, and Norway, good news! Norwegian Air has just added flights into/from Stewart Airport.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Marvelous Mosaic: 15+ Great Ways to Vive La France in NYC

French films at FIAF, Kirsten Dunst, Marie Antoinette  
(©Sony Pictures Entertainment/Photofest: Sofia Coppola)
By Jacquelin Carnegie – (New York, NY)
New York has always been the melting pot of world cultures. Former mayor David Dinkins called the city a “gorgeous mosaic" and, to that end, you can find food, culture, and entertainment from just about every country. If you’d like to experience some French culture right in NYC, here are some terrific ways:

Dine à la Française:
The top-rated French restaurants such as Le Bernardin, Bouley, Daniel, and Jean-Georges are great but a bit pricey. There are plenty of affordable options. When I start to miss la belle France, I head to:

AOC (L'aile ou la Cuisse)
 (photo: Danny Liam Ho)
314 Bleecker St., corner of Grove St; Tel: 212/675-9463; www.aocnyc.com
This is the place to go if you have a hankering for a meal in a French bistro. Classic dishes served in a slightly trendy yet welcoming atmosphere. Whether you’re in the mood for a traditional coq au vin, confit de canard, or saucisse de Toulouse or just want an omelet with pommes frites (fries), you can’t go wrong here. In warm weather, brunch on the back terrace is another delight.

There is no joy in the world like sitting at a café in Paris. Experience that feeling right here in NYC at places you'll discover during French Restaurant Week (July) such as:
West Village: Boucherie (99 7th Ave So; boucherie.nyc)
Mid-Town: Bistro Vendome (405 East 58th St; bistrovendomenyc.com)
Upper West Side: Café du Soleil (2723 Broadway, btw 104-105th St.

Live & Learn à la Française:
These French cultural institutions offer wonderful events open to the public—films, plays, lectures, photo exhibits, concerts, and more. Many of the events are free; some have a nominal charge.

French Institute/Alliance Française

Michael Fau & Jerome Deschamps, Courteline en dentelles,
 FIAF (photo: Joachim Olaya)
22 East 60th St.; Tel. 212/355- 6100; www.fiaf.org
Yes, it’s a place to learn French, but FIAF offers so much more. Every week, there are cultural events--from cutting-edge French films, often introduced by the director and/or movie stars, to performances by French rock gods such as Arthur H, or acclaimed French actors like Michael Fau & Jérôme Deschamps. There are wine tastings and talks (in English or with a translator) on topics ranging from French fashion to gardens and décor. And, every fall, the Crossing the Line festival brings acclaimed, international performers to New York. 
La Maison Française at NYU
16 Washington Mews; Tel: 212/998-8750; http://bit.ly/2qmC3UQ
Since 1957, New York University’s La Maison Française has been a forum for French-American intellectual and cultural exchange. During the year, over 100 events take place in this lovely, historic Greenwich Village setting. Leading writers, artists, musicians, and performers present along with scholars in a wide range of fields. On any given evening, you might attend a program by eminent philosophers or prominent politicians.

Maison Française Columbia University
Buell Hall, Columbia, 515 West 116th St.; Tel: 212/854-4482;
Claude Lanzmann & Charlie Rose, Columbia/Maison Française
At Columbia’s Maison Française, distinguished artists, leading faculty members, and academics from around the world address topics ranging from French culture and history to societal trends and global political issues. Notable guests range from renowned composers to famed filmmakers such as Claude Lanzmann, known for the Holocaust documentary Shoah.

French Entertainment Resources In NYC:
Macaroons (photo: Angelina Herman)
For activities: New York in French; For music: Bureau Export. And, if you just want to meet some people who speak French: French New York City
Shop à la Française:
Fabulous French chocolates: François Payard Chocolates & La Maison du Chocolat; Fun, silly gifts: Pylones; Quality skincare products: L’Occitane en ProvenceClassy books: Albertine (972 Fifth Ave, at 79th St.) - Located in the stunning French Embassy building, the bookshop highlights French literature and culture with talks and an annual Lit Festival. Idlewild - Has an extensive selection of French books and also offers language lessons! 
Church Services in FrenchEglise Evangelique Française de New York (128 West 16th St; http://bit.ly/2t3wyNe) & Eglise Evangélique Amour du Christ (250 East 61st St; http://bit.ly/2rxdIw0).