Posted by: Mickey Goodman | August 19, 2013

The Top 10 Must See Places in Atlanta for Kids

ImageIf you didn’t get your fill of fun things to do during the summer, it’s definitely not too late to make plans for Labor Day weekend. Hotlanta is chock full of fun things to do with kids and you can turn a weekend into a Staycation and reap the best of all worlds — playing tourist in your own home town and sleeping in the comfort of your own bed.

If you plan on taking in a number of sites, purchase a CityPASS online  at www.cityPASS.com/atlanta ($74 adults, $54 children) that includes the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola,  Zoo Atlanta, CNN Tour, Fernbank Science Center, the High Museum and more. In fact, purchase tickets online all venues to reap savings, guaranteed entrance and no waiting in long lines.

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 1. The Georgia Aquarium – the world’s largest and right in our own backyard — features beluga whales, whale sharks, manta rays, penguins and so much more. Don’t miss the ATT’s Dolphin Tales that combines talented human and dolphins in a live show equally as exciting as a performance at Sea World. (Adults $40.45; Seniors $33.45; kids 3-12 $27.95). Note: Dolphin Tales is included in the price, but reservations are recommended for guaranteed seating. Plan to spend at least three hours exploring the undersea wonders. www.georgiaaquarium.org

2. The World of Coca-Cola – Even if you prefer that OTHER popular soft drink, Atlanta is home to the biggest company of its kind world wide. You can learn the legend of the secret Coke formula at the 4-D theater (3-D plus moving seats) and see the vault where the famous formula is secured. Taste over 100 flavors from around the globe in the beverage room and watch a fully-functioning bottling line. Little ones will love a hug from the 7-foot tall, cuddly,Coca-Cola Polar Bear. (Adult $16; senior $14; youth $12; 0-2 free with adult.) www.worldofcoca-cola.com

3. Don’t miss the city’s newest downtown attraction, the 200-foot-tall SkyView Atlanta Ferris Wheel at Olympic Park. Each 15-minute ride makes four revolutions in a climate-controlled gondola and affords spectacular views of the city and environs. (Adult, $14.45; senior and military $13; child, $9.10. Children under 2 go for free. Each gondola must have an adult riding with the children) www.skyviewatlanta.com

4.     The CNN Atlanta Studio Tour offers a real-time look into the global 24-hour station’s headquarters. (Adults $16; seniors and students $14, 4-12 $12) www.cnn.com

5.     The Children’s Museum of Atlanta for the under eight crowd is full of interactive, educational exhibits and programming and is fun for kids and adults alike. Tip: Bring bathing suits for the kids who will want to romp in the dancing fountain at adjacent Olympic Park. ($12.75 for ages 1-100!) http://www.childrensmuseumatlanta.org

6.     Legoland  in Phipps Plaza  is a hands-on site for budding engineers. Experience interactive rides, a 3-D movie, ceiling high climbing center and more. (Adults 13 and over $19.00; kids 3-12 $15). Be sure to check online pricing for special offers and family saver tickets.  www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com

7.      Zoo Atlanta – Located in Grant Park, the newest additions, twin male panda cubs, were born on August 3 (watch them in action from your own computer on the Panda Cam at www.zooatlanta.org). Don’t miss the gorillas at the Ford Rain Forest and hundreds of other endangered species. Kids will also love the carousel and train and parents will like the ability to bring a lunch and avoid concession stand prices. (Adults 12 and over $21.99; kids 3-11 $16.99; seniors, military and college $17.99; under 2 free)

8.     The Atlanta Cyclorama. Located Just outside the gates of Zoo Atlanta, the massive 360-degree painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta is 15,030 feet long and weighs 10,000 pounds. It was painted in 1885-1886 and has been in its present location since 1921. Visitors sit in the center in moving seats that encircle the enormous painting while listening to the story of the Battle of Atlanta that helped change the outcome of the Civil War. (Adults $10; seniors and ages 4-12 $8; 3 and under free) http://www.atlantacyclorama.org.

9.     Atlanta Braves. The Bravos are red hot this season (15 games in the lead at this posting). What says relaxation and excitement more than an evening at Turner Field? Make sure your Little Leaguers bring their gloves in case a stray fly ball comes their way.  (Tickets range from $10 for general admission to $30.) Easy access from downtown via Underground Atlanta and a shuttle bus to the stadium. www.braves.com.

10.  The Margaret Mitchell House at 990 Peachtree Street provides inspiration for budding authors who will marvel at “The Dump,” the tiny apartment where Margaret Mitchell pecked out “Gone With the Wind” on her manual typewriter in 1936. Furnished with pieces of the period, it provides a glimpse into the not-so-glamorous life of the Pulitzer-Prize winning author whose book has been translated into nearly every language in the world. (Adults $14; seniors and students 13 to 18 $10; kids 4-12 $8.50 (www.margaretmitchellhouse.com.

Bonus:

11. Stone Mountain Park combines Mother Nature at her most beautiful with the largest granite carving of its kind (even bigger than Mt. Rushmore). The commanding carving pays homage to the heroes of the Confederacy — Robert E. Lee, Andrew “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis. Add in kid’s activities like Geyser Tower, SkyHike (not for sissies!), a climbing wall and you have a recipe for a wonderful day. With biking, hiking, swimming, boating, golfing and more, you’ll never run out of things to do. Check dates and times for the spectacular laser show and for park specials (Adventure Pass includes most activities (Adults: $28 ; Kids 3-11 $22 )  (www.stonemountainpark.com)

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Posted by: Mickey Goodman | August 1, 2013

Timber!

The following blog is out of my comfort zone – way out. Since I have a very black thumb, I NEVER write about gardening. But the proliferation of falling trees in our fair city and my home’s proximity to literally scores that could come crashing down, prompted my looking into solutions:

Ante Bellum Mansion

Ante Bellum Mansion

The first thing that attracted us to our Atlanta neighborhood was the meandering streets and old growth trees that shaded every yard and turned the suburban subdivision into a veritable forest. In the Spring, it’s a wonderland of dogwoods and other blooming trees; in the fall, a spectacular canvas for Jack Frost.

This summer, my beloved trees have turned deadly and each day when Mother Nature sends another storm our way, I quake at the potential of one or more that could come crashing down onto my roof.

My next door neighbor was one of the unlucky ones. Two healthy-looking 40-foot trees came thundering down about 2 a.m. one morning. Fortunately both fell across the street rather than on her roof and landed between a jazzy red convertible parked on the street and a mailbox, damaging neither. The county came out and cleared the tree from the street, but she was left with a hefty bill to cut down and remove the remaining debris that incidentally left long gashes in her newly sodded Zoysia.

A new couple down the street had barely been in their house a month when two gorgeous oaks in their front yard were struck by lightning. Not a good welcome to the neighborhood. Another had a lighning-damage pine that fell across electrical lines, leaving a portion of the neighborhood in the dark for hours.

But what can a homeowner do to avoid potential disaster? It’s hard to understand why trees that appear healthy and upright one day, fall the next, often with deadly results. Arborists blame the drought of past years that have caused tree roots to become so shallow and unstable they are no match for the continuous pop up storms and winds that have kept the soil over-saturated.

According to Chris Heim, a certified ISA arborist at The Davey Tree Expert Co., (https://www.davey.com/atlanta)  the first step is to hire a certified arborist to examine the trees in your yard and identify those that are potentially hazardous. “Regular check-ins for your trees from the arborist will ensure that they’ll weather future storms better too,” he says.

“There are five things homeowners should look for if they’re worried about their trees,” says Heim.

1.     Exposed roots or lack of soil near the tree’s roots.

2.     Wilted leaves, discolored foliage and/or a loss of leaves.

3.     Broken, cracked and split branches caused by the wind.

4.     Unstable or changing lean of the trunk.

5.     Pest infestations.

All these are cause for alarm and possible removal before accidents occur. However, there are things a homeowner can do to save their trees. “Thin the tree canopy to allow the wind to blow through it instead of against it,” says Heim. “Also removes potentially hazardous dead or weak branches.” Other tips include adding much to protect new sensitive roots and improve aeration and treating the trees for insects.

Walter Reeves (www.walterreeves.com), Atlanta’s gardening guru,  has a world of information on his website and radio program, (“The Lawn and Garden Show” on WSB radio 750 WSB and 95.5 FM). His advice for homeowners who want to save trees that are already partially out of the ground begins with digging a cavity under the raised portion of the root ball to allow the tree to settle back into place after its pulled to vertical. Next, attach a rope to a truck or SUV and gently pull the tree into position so it’s inside its original growing level in the soil. Then, stake the tree five to 10 feet apart until it is stable again. To protect the bark, use an old bicycle inner tube over the wires attached to the trunk. Leave the stakes in place for a year until the roots provide firm anchorage.

“Although defective trees are dangerous, not all of them need to be removed immediately,” says Heim. “Some defects can be treated to prolong its life. Regular maintenance can make a world of difference when it comes to tree strength during a storm.

I definitely plan to take Heim’s advice and have an arborist come look at two very suspicious trees, both leaning toward the house. It’s only money, right?

 

Posted by: Mickey Goodman | July 24, 2013

Painting (and Eating) My Way Through St. Simons Island

No way in the world am I considered a “painter,” but my guilty pleasure is taking weekly watercolor classes with artist Greta Schelke at The Dutch Palette in Roswell. With classical music wafting in the background, good friends all around and brushes in hand, we joke that painting is a whole lot cheaper and much more fun than weekly trips to the psychiatrist.

 

ImageWhen an opportunity arose to paint for three days in a row with noted watercolorist/teacher Pat Weaver (www.patweaver.net) in St. Simons, one of the most beautiful areas in Georgia, I leaped at the chance.  So did 24 others whocame from as far away as Boston to learn new techniques. For me, it was double-edged pleasure: a chance to visit the extraordinary area AND stay with former classmate Patti Ellis who now lives in Brunswick.

 

 The luxury of painting for a long stretch is new to me, but the Golden Isles — St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll Island and Sea Island — are old friends. It may be just a five-hour drive from Atlanta, but the minute I gaze at the velvety green moss-covered water and the graceful reeds that sway with the breezes on the Marshes of Glenn, the tension eases from my shoulders.  I’m instantly at peace with the world.

 

 The Marshes of Glenn that frame Brunswick are the “gateway” to the four islands made famous by poet Sydney Lanier. Once across the bridge named in his honor, we’re embraced by a canopy of ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss that transform even the most mundane home into a place of beauty.

 

 Just a five-minute drive from the bridge, the quaint village of St. Simons welcomes visitors with its collection of restaurants and eclectic shops where you can buy everything from a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of a large mosquito aptly named “The State Bird,” to fine handmade jewelry, beachwear and more. On the left, the very presence of the St. Simon’s Lighthouse sets the scene to the atmospheric village center that ends at the pier where scores of fishermen line up, hoping for a good day’s catch.

 

ImageSitting in class at the Casino Building in Neptune Park, I’m torn between listening to Pat Weaver and peeking out the window at the pier, the spectacular water oaks and the energetic campers and beachgoers who cavort the park. But art pal Muriel Mendel, Patti and I are on a mission to learn some new watercolor techniques, so I tear myself away from the view to pay rapt attention to Pat.

 

 She lectures for an hour, talking about hue and value, how to “gray” the only three colors needed: aureolin (a bright yellow-gold), cerulean blue and permanent rose to create 100 unique colors. Then she outlines the “must haves” in every good painting: good composition, an odd number of objects, and most important, varying the value of the colors from dark to light. While talking, she produces a spectacular painting in 30-minutes or less (mine generally take weeks), and personifies that old expression, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.”

 

 I quickly discover that everything I thought I was doing correctly is dead wrong. I’m in big trouble for the upcoming individual critique of my two-flower painting in pale shades of pink to purple. Ah well, I haven’t come for praise, but to learn new skills. Now that I know the “wrongs,” I just need to learn the “rights” — and how to meld the new techniques with the soft, transparent watercolor style I love.

 

 Note: The class members are 0 for 25 on the “getting it all right” scale. Most of us have trouble with contrast and composition – choosing to add extraneous material instead of honing in on a focal point. Almost all of our paintings lacked depth and value, cardinal sins.

 

Because of the full-day classes, we don’t get in much sightseeing this trip, but spend our time painting and eating our way through St. Simons. If you love seafood, it’s all but impossible to find a mediocre eatery, but without doubt, Barbara Jeans (www.barbarajeans.com) tops my “favorites” list. Famous for crab cakes chock full of the tender white delicacy with no fillers and Chocolate Stuff for dessert (the actual name on the menu), the food rivals the finest French cuisine in New Orleans. You can even order these indescribable dishes online and have them shipped right to your door via next day air. Talk about a party!

 

More casual but totally delicious places, include Iguanas (www.iguanasseafood.com)(where I ordered a divine oyster Po-boy sandwich) and Palmer’s Village Café (www.palmersvillagecafe.com)(crab salad).

 

 One evening we go ultra casual Mudcat Charlie’s, one of Brunswick’s most beloved restaurants, conveniently located near Patti’s lovely home (this time I order soft shell crabs). Are you sensing a pattern here? Another night we join class members to mingle over drinks and seafood at Coastal Kitchen and Raw Bar (www.coastalkitchenandrawbar.net )(yummy shrimp and scallops) where we watch the boats glide in and out of the harbor and discuss the day’s lesson and our own clumsy attempts at using the flat angled brush Pat specified.

 

 

 

ImageAt seminar’s end, Muriel and I remain one more night relaxing around Patti’s screened in pool. We giggle as we critique her soft watercolors hanging on the walls. Few meet Pat Weaver’s strict criteria, but all are lovely and artistically framed. (And after all, isn’t beauty is in the eye of the beholder?) Somehow over the three-day period, I’ve managed to produce a decent lighthouse — admittedly with some expert brush strokes from Pat — but there is still much to learn. Greta can count on me for another 10 years, at least!

 

Too soon, we’re heading back to Atlanta, and while “real” work calls, watercolor techniques dance in my head and my new three-color palette beckons me to try, try again. If only I could order a serving of Chocolate Stuff from Barbara Jeans, all would be right with my world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Mickey Goodman | June 5, 2013

Cruising the Seine

ImageDespite a light rain on Omaha Beach in Normandy, I scoop up a handful of sacred sand and carefully place it in a container. It’s hard to fathom on this eerily quiet day that I’m standing on the site where 12,000 Allied Forces lost their lives on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

 

Beaches with code names, Omaha, Utah and Gold, were about a mile from the 100-foot salt bluffs where Germans troops awaited. But with constant assault from long range cannons in the well-fortified blockhouses, it must have seemed more like 1,000 to the young soldiers clamoring out of their landing craft.

 

 We visit La Pointe Du Hoc, the highest point located halfway between Omaha and Utah beaches where 225 Rangers, including my cousin, Lt. George Klein, were given orders to take the hill and the main road behind.  Three-thousand brave American boys met their deaths in the battle that ensued, but miraculously they accomplished their mission. Despite a bayonet wound in his thigh, George lived to return with all his limbs in tact and a chest full of medals.

 

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 At the American cemetery at Collesville S’Laurent, the gray sky echoes our somber mood. Hushed visitors walk silently through row upon row of crosses, interspersed with a few Stars of David. All face the sea where they lost their lives. A heart-rending recording of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Taps” pierces the silence and there’s hardly a dry eye at the memorial as the veterans of Korea and Viet Nam aboard our cruise ship stand at attention, blinking the tears away.

 

Welcome Aboard

 

The trip to Normandy was decidedly one of the reasons friend Patti Ellis of Brunswick, Georgia and I chose the Viking Cruise Line (www.vikingrivercruises.com), but there were many other places on the itinerary that excited us, including Paris. It’s a city I’ve dreamed of since my high school French teacher said “Bonjour! Comment alley-vous?” in a lilting voice that sounded more like a song than a language. Though I’ve forgotten more French than I ever knew, the dream of seeing Paris has never died and decades later, it becomes a reality.

 

 River cruises like the Viking Pride are designed for travelers over 55 who want to pack and unpack only once, eat at a five-star restaurant (onboard) three times a day and visit fascinating locales at a leisurely pace. It’s perfect for couples with different tastes, i.e., if the wife wants to shop and the husband is into history, it’s easy to go separate ways and reconvene at mealtime. The handsome ships stops at the edge of quaint towns that makes coming and going easy for all.

 

 Bleary-eyed at 6 a.m. after a 10-hour flight, we land at Charles de Gaulle Airport where we are transported to the ship, a 140-passenger floating hotel. Our cabin is compact but adequate with plenty enough storage for two women and daily room service.

 

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After a buffet lunch onboard, we find our second wind and take a taxi to the famous d’Orsay Museum that boasts one of the largest collections of Impressionist paintings in the world. Meandering through the permanent collection on the fifth floor, we gaze in awe at the wide array of Monet’s, van Gogh’s, Manet’s, Cassatt’s and more, then linger in front of “Whistler’s Mother,” immortalized by her son, James McNeil Whistler.

 

 Over a seated dinner we mingle with the 140 other jet-lagged passengers who have come from nearly every state, Canada and Australia. Though there is live music and entertainment in the lounge nightly, our beds call and we slip into an exhausted slumber.

 

 By the next day we’re raring to see the City of Lights and join others for a bus tour of all the well-know sights – The Arc d’ Triomphe, The Louvre, Les Invalides (Napoleons Tomb), the Eiffel Tower with a stop-over at Notre Dame (and time for shopping or exploring the grand edifice).

 

 

The Louvre is next on the agenda – a museum so enormous that if you stand in front of every work of art for just three seconds it will take you three months to see it all!  The crowds are equally enormous, but our knowledgeable guide leads us through the crush of tourists for glimpses of Winged Victory, Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa whose elusive smile eludes me. All I can see above the throngs is the frame.

 

 That night, we sail toward the little city of Vernon and fall sleep to the soft hum of the engines and the lapping of the water against the side of the boat. Outside our large picture window, twinkling lights from quaint villages beckon all who pass.

 

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Another highlight was a visit to Giverny, the home and spectacular gardens where impressionist Claude Monet lived and painted from 1883 to his death in 1926. It far exceeds our expectations. Monet’s large but unpretentious home is furnished much as he left it, and in the gardens that inspired him we spot numerous scenes from many of his paintings, including the famous Japanese bridges. Patti and I (art class buddies) sit happily on a bench and sketch for a few minutes before wandering the magnificent gardens and water lily ponds, a riot of color in early spring.

 

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On to Rouen, the capital of Normandy, best known as the site where Joan of Arc was imprisoned, tried for heresy and burned at the stake in 1431 – a chilling reminder of man’s inhumanity to man. But the small city is full of charming half-timbered buildings and cobblestone streets that rise upward from the Seine luring us into small stores, particularly the chocolate shop known for “The Tears of Joan of Arc,” (almonds dipped in chocolate and covered in cocoa powder).

 

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At the majestic Gothic cathedral that Monet made famous through his many paintings, our guide stops at “the pissing wall,” and laughingly explains that men used to relieve themselves in the corner, much to the annoyance of the priests. An architect determined that if they erected pyramids in the corners, their streams would run down on their feet and the men would choose another place. Voila! Problem solved.

 

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 The last stop on the tour is the piece de resistance – the Palace of Versailles — built as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII and embellished by his son Louis XIV who turned it into the magnificent official residence of the Court of France. Words can’t describe the resplendence of the palace where the ceilings are filled with breathtaking paintings and gilded décor covers every nook and cranny. The famed Hall of Mirrors lives up to its reputation with scores of crystal chandeliers, a painted arched ceiling, gold statues and candelabra  — all reflected in the arched mirrors that line the walls.

 

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Before saying au revoir to Paris, we leave the ship after breakfast and head to the Eiffel Tower, the last site on our wish list. It’s far more majestic than I imagined and though the ticket line seems daunting, we’re soon squeezing into elevators heading to the top. This is our first totally clear, sunny day and the view is breathtaking – again exceeding expectations. Beneath us lies Paris, the city of my long ago dreams come true.

 

 

Tips:

 

·      Adventure travelers: these river cruises are too tame for you.

 

 .      Book months in advance. Tours fill up quickly.

 

 ·      Watch the taxi meter. The ride to the d’Orsay from the ship: 20 (euros); the ride back: 6.50. Think we were taken? No matter. It was worth every euro.

 

 

·      Make online reservations to all the major sites months ahead and avoid the long ticket lines. Free tickets to lesser-known museums are at http://en.parisinfo.com/guide-paris/money/free-admission-and-good-deals/). 

 

 

 

·      Guard your purse or wallet. Pickpockets abound. Don’t sign any petitions or fall for the “is that your gold ring on the sidewalk trick.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Mickey Goodman | May 5, 2013

New York, New York!

I’ve headed to NYC for the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) conference for the last five or so years, but every time I visit, I still feel like a kid sucking in my breath to blow out all the candles on my birthday cake so my wish to become a princess will come true.

Morgan Library   In NY, you can be and do anything you want, whether princess or a pauper. A nature lover? Head to Central Park, a green haven for athletes or families who want to spread out a blanket and enjoy the beauty all around them. A museum-goer? The list ranges from he massive Metropolitan Museum of Art to more intimate museums like The Frick Collection or The Morgan Library. A barfly? No end of places to go. In fact, there’s something to do 24/7. And that includes eating.

Since my main purpose is to attend the board meeting and conference, there’s little time for frivolity. But each year I pick an activity or two outside the doors of the Roosevelt Hotel and the ASJA offices on Times Square across the street from the squiggly ABC news marquee and giant screen (also a treat to see).

 This year at the urging of a friend, I walked the short distance to 235 Madison to The Morgan Library – a truly unforgettable experience. Thousands of first editions of leather-bound books with gold lettering reach from floor to ceiling, a true writers and readers paradise. The opulent marble walls, mosaic panels and leaded glass windows are almost too much to take in at one time. Add the decorations on the ceiling inspired by Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican, and the experience is to die for.

In addition to the masterpiece painting throughout, there is an original Gutenberg Bible, Pucchini’s first opera with notes on the staff lettered by him, a letter to a friend from John Steinbeck complaining about his “God damned book” that turned out to be Grapes of Wrath, a traveling exhibit by Proust with a cut and pasted manuscript full of hand-written scribbles. I could have stayed all day — and pretty much did.

Puccini operaSteinbeck letter

Another highlight of the trip was seeing Holland Taylor (who also plays the sex-crazed mother of former star, Charlie Sheen, in the TV sitcom, “Two And A Half Men. In “Ann,” her one-woman show about former Texas Governor Anne Richards, Governor Richards was truly in the house. There was nary a sign of Taylor who played her role superbly. Add in the venue, the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, and the experience couldn’t have been better.

Last year my extra curricular activities included the Frick Collection, a spectacular house museum once owned by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, one of few remaining Gilded age mansions in the city.  Masterpieces by artists such as Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, and Whistler comprise the permanent collection, and we were treated to a temporary collection of Rembrandt sketches. Today, the Frick Art Reference Library is one of the leading institutions for research in the fields of art history and collecting. Awesome!

I also took a long, expensive taxi to Ground Zero only to realize that reservations are timed and I should have made them online or else hang around for more hours than I had. None-the-less, it was goose-bump eerie to see the new structure rising into the skyline and walk into the small museum near the ticket desk.

As for eating. Take your pick from every ethnic specialty. From my mile-high pastrami sandwich to the elegant Pampano and Café Centro, the food is divine. And expensive. In fact, the cheapest things in NY are Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new fleet of yellow cabs that are spotlessly cleaned and have set rates for destinations like the airport. Be very aware of black “gypsy” cabs. An example: a trip to Lincoln Center in a gypsy cab: $20; in a yellow cab for the return trip: $8.50!

One day, I promise myself, I’m going to the Big Apple just to play; to re-visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; take a long walk in Central Park, see a Broadway play every night, eat different ethnic food every night and go broke happy! 

 

 

 

 

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