Category Archives: Monuments

Taking a Walk in Midtown with Walks of New York

Taking a walking guided tour can be one of the best ways to learn more about a destination. In New York City, one of the newest tour companies is Walks of New York. Recently, I went on a media-only preview of their “Highlights of New York Tour” through major iconic sites in New York City’s Midtown area.

Launched in late April, Walks of New York hosts small, customized tours that center on the city’s cultural marvels. It’s ideal for visitors interested in NYC history and architecture as well as those who enjoy art and photography (more on that later on).

Walks of New York’s “Highlights of New York Tour” takes you along the most well-trafficked sections of Midtown: from Rockefeller Center to Grand Center and then ending in Times Square. Meeting our guide at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, my group walked across Fifth Avenue to spend some time around Rockefeller Center to get a closer look at the first of the many signature Art Deco statues and buildings featured on this tour.

DSCN2643 copy DSCN2641We began our tour with a stop at Atlas, a bronze sculpture installed in 1937 that got a lot of flack because of its resemblance of a world leader at that time. The building behind him was once said to house a covert spy organization set up by the British Secret Intelligence Service in the early 1940s.

Of course, we spent a good amount of time in Rockefeller Center, a commercial building complex which gets its name from the late John D. Rockefeller Jr. On the site, he was originally going to build an opera house for the Metropolitan Opera but the Crash of 1929 put a major dent in his plans. So he decided go ahead and build this complex – and financed the project entirely with his own money.

DSCN2658DSCN2662We moved along to Grand Central Terminal, another key stop on the tour that often gets passed through. We heard information on everything about this place, from its celestial ceiling to its unique floor plan to handle heavy commuter traffic. Plus, those who haven’t seen the lower level of the terminal will be led down to see and try out a section known as the  “Whispering Gallery.”

DSCN2689 DSCN2684 DSCN2683As our media tour was an abridged one – due to our schedules and our knowledge of New York City – this Walks of New York Midtown tour also takes attendees along Fifth Avenue to the great New York Public Library and its neighboring Bryant Park.

The tour ends in Times Square with a great rooftop view over this vicinity at a great chic hotel. It makes for great photo taking too, like my picture below.

photo(111)Other tours offered by Walks of New York include “Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” “New York City Photography Tour of the High Line,” and “Lower East Side Stories.” Check them out! Take walks!




What to See in Seville

Continuing on through Southern Spain, Seville is one of the cities in the Andalusia region that has a good share of Moorish architecture (a reminder of the population that lived in this region of the country) still in place. Here is what I recommend seeing.

In the narrow-street section of Santa Cruz, set aside a good amount of time to fully walk through two signature landmarks.


First, the Cathedral (or known as Catedral) stands on the site of a former mosque dating back to the 12th century. When you get there, you will first see a courtyard known as Patio de los Naranjos. Here, in keeping with religious practices, Muslims would wash their hands and feet in the fountain found here before praying. As you will also notice around Seville, plus get a scent of, orange blossom trees are lined up within this space.

DSCN2293 DSCN2309Consecrated as a cathedral in the mid-1200s, the area would be reconstructed as a Gothic church over the course of about a century, with works of art in its ornate chapels and sacristies.

DSCN2364 DSCN2362A key part of the cathedral is the Tomb of Christopher Columbus. His proven remains are stored inside a raised coffin with four statues as “pallbearers” that represent four former Spanish kingdoms (each were separate of each other) of Castille, Leon, Aragon and Navarra.


To get a higher view of Seville, visitors can also climb up the steps of the Cathedral’s bell tower, La Giralda. You can walk all around the top, and find great scenery at every angle.

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When leaving the Cathedral, making a right hand turn to get out onto the street, and across the way is the next marvel to visit: The Real Alcazar. As a royal residence, The Real Alcazar is the oldest Spanish royal palace still in use. You’ll see the gate with a crowned lion on your way in, and after you go through the ticket counter, you’ll end up in the courtyard.

DSCN2403DSCN2405DSCN2413Like the Alhambra in Granada, here you will find a smaller version of this palace with mosaics and geometrical patterns. This place has been the home of Spanish kings, each of whom have added their personal touches.

DSCN2415DSCN2430DSCN2440It’s also a place of history. Among what’s happened here: Queen Isabelle I dispatched navigators from this palace off on their voyage to the New World. Also, spend time in the gardens here, with beautiful fountains and terraces.DSCN2444 DSCN2448 DSCN2455 DSCN2468 DSCN2460

Another spot to go to that’s outside of the city center is the Parque Maria Luisa, where you can walk around the Plaza de Espana. This plaza was built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, to showcase exhibits in this world’s fair.

It’s a huge half-circle with buildings running around it, and over by a moat, there are bridges also representing the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. By the walls of the plaza are the Alcoves of the Provinces, which are tiled alcoves representing different provinces of Spain.

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The Plaza de España has also been used as a filming location. Scenes for the film Lawrence of Arabia were shot here as well as scenes for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

DSCN2217 DSCN2209 DSCN2208 DSCN2205 DSCN2202 DSCN2199 DSCN2192 DSCN2191 DSCN2194 DSCN2210I hope these recommendations get you started off right on your visit in Seville.

Walk through Granada’s Alhambra

DSCN1920DSCN1927 DSCN1932Without a doubt, mention Granada, and the first attraction that often comes to mind in this city in Spain’s Andalusia region in the Alhambra. Rightfully so. Talking a stroll through this UNESCO World Heritage site, a standing legacy of the region’s Moorish architecture, can make you feel like you just stepped into an Arabian Nights story.

Dating back more than a 1,000 years, this palace and fortress complex grew over time in space and structure, from once being a small fort to being first a Muslim and then Christian palace and then finally being restored to its glory after rediscovered by explorers and travelers.

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As pictures can show much more than my writing can describe you, here’s my pictorial on my recent visit to the Alhambra. Yet, with some guidance.

Being its own walled-in city, the Alhambra is primarily divided into four main parts: the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, the Partal area, and the Generalife. I’ll break down each of them.

DSCN1957After going through the entrance, you’ll first pass along the Royal Water Channel and the Seven-Storied Gate to make your way eventually to the Alcazaba. It’s the oldest part of the Alhambra, and it was the military area.

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DSCN1981 DSCN1980 DSCN1973 DSCN1972 DSCN1971 DSCN1970Going inside, the Nasrid Palaces are a thing of sheer beauty. With three palaces in this collection, the ornate designs with circular patterns and colorful mosaics showcase different living periods.

DSCN1986 DSCN1988 DSCN1989 DSCN2011 DSCN2010 DSCN2007Heading onto what’s called the Partial area, this section contains a portico, gardens, the Rauda, the Palace of Yusuf III and the Paseo de las Torres along several towers.

DSCN2017 DSCN2018  DSCN2022 DSCN2025DSCN2041DSCN2047 DSCN2048DSCN2057 DSCN2062 DSCN2064 DSCN2065 DSCN2066 DSCN2073 DSCN2075 DSCN2076 DSCN2078The Generalife area was built as a leisure area for Granada’s monarchs, where beautiful gardens provided a pleasant escape from day to day living. This section includes the Alhambra’s lower and upper gardens and the Generalife Palace.

DSCN2081 DSCN2085 DSCN2092 DSCN2107As you can see, you can spend a good portion of your time here. And it’s well worth it!

What to Do Before and When Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

As we commemorate the now 12 years that have passed since 9/11, I wanted to share my tips for visiting the key signature reminder of that day: the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. Or, also known as the 9/11 Memorial.

In reflecting on today, I wanted to share my experience in visiting this significant place two years ago, and what you should expect and do if you want to come here.

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Completed a decade after the terrorist attacks impacted countless lives, and changed the physical scope of Lower Manhattan, the 9/11 Memorial can be viewed publicly by time-reserved reservations. I was fortunate enough to obtain a visitor’s pass online about a month after the memorial’s opening in 2011. In early October, I headed downtown with my printed ticket, getting off at the Fulton Street subway stop and making my way to the monument.

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The 9/11 Memorial was designed to remember the names of those two lost their lives on 9/11 at the World Trade Center site, at the Pentagon, and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and also at the first World Trade Center bombing in February 1993. It consists of two reflective pools, with waterfalls in their centers and surrounded by a layout of bronze panels listing the names of the deceased. The North and South Pools, as they’re called, are placed across from where the original center, or also known as the “Twin Towers,” once stood.

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Names of these carved panels are in categories ranging from the flight numbers of the hijacked planes, to first responders and to what buildings people were in. I lingered for a while over the name Todd Beamer, a passenger on Flight 93 who is now recognized as one of the people on that plane who attempted to gain entry to the cockpit. Another person’s name I recognized was Mychal Judge, the chaplain for the New York City’s fire department.

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Another name to find, at the South Pool, is Welles Remy Crowther. He worked as an equities trader in the South Tower and is credited with helping people get out of the building after it was hit. He used a red bandana, that he carried everywhere with him, to cover his face from the smoke. His bandana is said to be among the artifacts that will be in the upcoming National September 11 Memorial Museum.

There is also a nice pathway where you can walk around the memorial, and when I visited, there were patrolmen who were nice to answer visitors’ questions. One thing to keep in mind here is that this place is for some like a cemetery. It gets very quiet.

Also upon visiting, the security checkpoint area is sort of in comparison like what you might find at the airport. So go in mind with that thinking. It’s best to avoid carrying stuff like large bags with you or leave them at home. Be patient too.


Admission to the 9/11 Memorial is free but you need a visitor’s pass to enter. I recommendation booking your reservations online, so that way you can plan better for when and what day to visit. Although, note you will be charged a $2 nonrefundable service fee per pass. Same-day visit passes are available as on a first-come, first-served basis and don’t carry the service fee, but you have to get them in person at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey Street.

Either way, getting the visitor’s pass is definitely worth it. And your time at the memorial will be well spent!