NYC Guide To: Roosevelt Island

I have been meaning to make the time to take a trip to Roosevelt Island for a while now. I finally managed to make the trip yesterday and had a blast. Here is a guide on how to take visit Roosevelt Island.

Getting There

Roosevelt Island, previously known as Blackwell’s Island and Welfare Island, is a long strip of land located in the east river between Manhattan and Queens. Although today the island is used commercially and people live there, over the years it was used for hospitals, insane asylums, and prisons.

There are multiple ways to get to Roosevelt Island. You can take public transportation to get there, the F train and Q102 bus will take you. You can also drive into the island through three different paths: the Midtown Tunnel, the 59th Street Bridge Upper Roadway, or the 59th Street Bridge Lower Roadway. Technically you can also use these routes to bike to the island.

I choose to get to the island through it’s Tramway. You can get it simply by swiping your MetroCard, which currently costs $2.75 per ride, and you have one the most affordable views of New York City!

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TRAVEL TIP: I assumed that the best spot to get on the tram was at the front so you can see the city as you are moving away from it. However, instead, I recommend you stand on the side of the tram where the doors are; THAT’S where the best view really is. You can see from the photographs below the view from the front (or is this the back?) of the tram and then the horrible photo of me trying to photograph over people’s heads of the side view.

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I clearly learned my lesson and got a nice spot on my way back. And this time it was nighttime so all those New York City lights were out. These photos are still not the best and I can bet someone with a nicer camera than my iphone and better photography skills can take much better ones.

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Getting Around

Roosevelt Island has a cute little red bus that circles the whole island, the RIOC Red Bus. You can simply hop on and off at whatever location you are closest to. While I read online that the bus costs 25 cents, it is actually FREE. Running daily between  5:45 AM and 2:30 AM (be careful not to get stranded there for those three hours!), I found that the bus came pretty quickly and I never waited more than five minutes.

Things To Do

The Octagon

The first attraction I saw on the island was the Octagon. This was previously a lunatic asylum and is rumored to be haunted. At one point, the building architecture greatly impressed Charles Dickinson. If you go inside there is a gorgeous staircase and there is a gallery showing old maps of the island. However, today the place has been refurbished into residential housing. Bummer.

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North Point Lighthouse 

From the asylum we walked down to the lighthouse. Built in 1872, it was used to light the lunatic asylum and the boats along the river. Although you cannot actually go into the lighthouse, you can take in it’s beauty from the red benches in the park at the very south point of the island.

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Southpoint Park 

From under the Queensborough Bridge you can walk along the waterfront towards the south point of the island.

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Smallpox Hospital

The last thing we saw before making our way back home was the abandoned smallpox hospital.

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Other Activities 

There are of course things I didn’t manage to do, that you can totally take advantage of when visiting the island.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Southpoint Park 

While I was there, the park was still under construction. But eventually it will be finished and you can enjoy the Roosevelt memorial.

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I didn’t realize that this gallery was on the island until after. So don’t make the same mistake as me and make a visit to see what art Roosevelt Island has to offer.

What to Eat

Starbucks

Where you wondering if you could get your green tea lemonade to refresh yourself during the warm summer days? Well… you can.

Riverwalk Bar & Grill

I was planning on going in and getting some beer and wings but never managed to make the time to get some food (ended up getting dinner in the city instead).

 

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Princeton

The weather has been so great lately and I have been seriously taking advantage of it by doing some more exploring. A while ago I spent some town in Princeton, New Jersey. However, because of daylight savings and the quickly impending darkness, I was incapable of taking any good pictures.

So when spring rolled around I made certain to go back. Problem? I STILL managed to not take any good pictures. I am seriously slacking in this department.

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And of course I managed to get some munchies and shopping in.

Sleepy Hollow

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I’ve been searching up a lot of lists lately that indicate different places around the world book lovers should visit. I noticed that many places or sites are located in my general area. In fact, one location, Sleepy Hollow from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving was not too far from me. So one morning I decided to give the town a visit.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery The first place I got to see was the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery which is often visited by the spooky headless horseman. I managed to find Washington Irving’s grave, although it isn’t that hard to miss.

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Kingsland Point County Park I initially wanted to visit either the Philipsburg Manor or Kykuit, but they were both closed on the particular day we went. Instead, we decide to take some down time and enjoy the warm weather at the park.

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The Horseman To finish off the trip we grabbed some lunch at a local dinner that was very appropriately named.

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Although I very much enjoyed my trip, I will like to come back to visit the two manors I didn’t get to see during this visit. I also think this would be one of the BEST places to visit during Halloween. Perhaps a future blog post?

Albania and Kosovo Souvenirs

While in Albania and Kosovo I managed to pick out a few souvenirs to remember my time there. As I take the photos for this blog post, I realize that I actually quite enjoy the things I pick up.

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Traditional Albanian Bag This bag is one of the most common symbols of Albanian culture. Typically, they are hand woven (although in modern times they are mass produced by factories) in this same style that you see below. The shapes and symbols are part of the traditional Albanian weaving style. These symbols and style of weaving can also be seen in traditional hand woven Albanian carpets. I bought this particular bag in Kruja, which is the best place to get traditional souvenirs in all of Albania.

This bag is easily my favorite purchase throughout the whole trip. When I was a little girl, I had a mini version of it in red. I used to fill it with little childish trinkets and bring it with me everywhere I went. So when I kept seeing these bags all over the place, I decided I needed to pick one up.

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Postcards These postcards were purchased from the Ethnographic Museum in Prishtina. Not only is visiting the museum free, the tour guide option is free as well. As a result, I knew I had to find a way to give a little back to the museum. That’s why when I saw these postcards, I picked them up. Since then I have accumulated quite a bit of postcards from many places I have visited and plan to create some form of artwork out of them.

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Coin Purse This coin purse was also purchased in Kruja. There were so many of these pouches being sold in all the shops in a wide range of different colors and prints. I choose this particular one over all the others because the colors and prints are similar to traditional Albanian weaving. Fun Fact: Recently, I was in a Turkish bakery called Simit House Bakery & Co. in Montclair, New Jersey. As I pulled out this coin purse to pay for my sweets, the girl asked in shock if I got it in Turkey because she purchased a similar one from a bazaar in Istanbul. I told her I got it in Albania, but odds are the shop owner probably mass bought them from Turkish bazaars for really cheap and was selling them in his store. Do with that knowledge what you will. 

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Rock Magnet I usually try to avoid purchasing the typical tourist souvenirs. They end up just piling up and eventually getting thrown away. They also fail to have personality to them. But when I walked into a pottery store in Prizren and saw this magnet, with the glimmering rock shape of the Kosovo boarders, I realized I needed to get it. It’s pretty, isn’t it? (P.S. I have no idea why this photo is sideways. I have done absolutely everything I can think of to position it the right way and it does not work).

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Rock Art This rock was painted on to resemble an image carved into the ancient walls of  the Butrint ancient ruins. There is a slab of magnet attached to the back. But the rock is too heavy for the weak magnet piece to hold it up. So this just sits on my shelf with other rocks and crystals that I have collected over the years. I kind of like the idea of having an image that someone many centuries ago created.

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Carpet Bookmark I think it is no secret by now that I love to collect bookmarks. I have collected many from all over the place and continue to stay on the lookout for them whenever I visit someplace new. I saw this particular bookmark in a little indie shop in Prizren and immediately knew I had to own it. It is designed to look like a hand woven carpet which makes it particularly unique and special from all the other bookmarks I own.

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The souvenirs I have shared with you today are easily some of my favorite souvenirs I have ever picked up. What is a souvenir that is special to you?

The Town of a Thousand and One Windows

I have traveled to quite a few places. Some highlights include my adventures throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. And yet, it is a small town in Albania that has me determined to retire there.

I had never heard of Berat before. In fact, when I mentioned it to Albanians that I knew, they had never heard of it either. Or had known of it but assumed it was just another town and had no understanding of how special it truly was. In fact, I discovered the town of Berat from skyscrappercity. This is a chat forum where urban development enthusiasts post photographs of the new structures that are being built and developed in cities all over the world. I am actually a very frequent visitor on this blog because I love following the way developing cities are growing and improving.

While looking through all the different cities and towns in Albania to see how the country is improving, I found the thread on Berat. I couldn’t stop looking at the photographs. There was something so charming and special about this town that kept calling me to it. So when I made the decision to road trip Albania this summer, I was determined to visit the town known as the town of a thousand and one windows. I did have to drag my travel buddies to go out of our way to visit it. And I mean drag. But in the end it was absolutely worth it.

The first thing we did once arriving was visit the Berat Fortress. What I was NOT prepared for was how the fortress is still in use! People were living in homes surrounded by ancient stone walls. Restaurant chairs stood on top of timeworn stone pavements. And the view of the town from the top of the fortress was incredible. 

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The next thing we did (which ironically was not my doing but rather a request of my travel buddies – looks like Berat was winning them over too) was visit the University of Berat. This university is among many that the Albanian government has created in an attempt to encourage education in Albania. For those of you who do not know, Albania was ruled by a communist dictator who disallowed intellectual thinking. In fact, the communist government killed those who they believed to be intellectuals. As a result, the glorification the west has on education, particularly college education, is not as prevalent in the country.

Today, grand and impressive universities are being built all over Albania to encourage the people to find value in intellectual thinking. Other cities that have had these grand universities built include Tirana, Durres, and Fier. Once I saw how massive and stunning the University of Berat was, I wanted to march right on inside and force them get into contact with other colleges around the world. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking this would make an amazing study abroad/student exchange opportunity.

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Finally, the big reveal! The actual windows. I have mentioned already in this post that Berat is known as the town of a thousand and one windows. That is because of the unique architectural style of the homes. These houses each have endless windows in order to brighten them up with as much natural light as possible. This area of the large city of Berat is actually called the old town (the new town which is composed of modern infrastructure) and is much more expansive than what you see in the photographs. The old town is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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What do I regret the most about this visit? I didn’t manage to do all I wished to do. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you travel in a group. At the top of my list was to visit the two wineries in the area. Berat is known for them. The first, Cobo Winery, has been passed down in the Cobo family since the early 1900s. The second, Nurellari Winery, is newer yet still worth a visit. Berat also has a few museums such as: Ethnographic Museum, Iconographic Museum, and The Edward Lear Art Gallery. A great way to finish off the trip would have been by exploring the river with the Albania Rafting Group located in the city.

Missing out on these experiences is not the only thing that disappoints me. Mostly, I wish I had the opportunity to just explore the many streets and alleyways of the town slowly and leisurely. These pictures do not capture the actual town, just the highlights that I visited. I need more time in Berat. I want to go one summer and rent out one of those traditional homes for a month or two. I want to spend my days taking strolls along the ancient stone streets and my evenings enjoying some Albanian cheese and local wine.

Two Great Things

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In my attempt to be more reflective on the little events that occur in my everyday life, I made note of two great little things that happened today.

1. It rained. This morning started off with lots and lots of rain. You may question why this would be listed as a great thing to happen in my life. But here it is: I love the rain. I adore the sound of it hitting against hard services. I can’t get enough of how fresh the earth feels after it’s over. But mostly importantly, when it rains, I feel as if I am being cleansed. I feel as if all the issues and concerns that have been griming my life and blocking my progression are being cleaned away. The rain is always a fresh start. It is a way to begin again.

2. The sun came out. When I first left my house this morning I had a hot pink umbrella on hand to prevent the frizz from collecting on my head. By afternoon the sky had cleared up, the weather warmed, and the sun came out. The vitamin c had me feeling so positive and happy that I decided to take a stroll on Gantry Plaza State Park in Queens City. I could not stop from taking a moment to myself.

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Magic Gardens

For Valentine’s weekend this year, I thought it would be nice to visit the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia. For those who are unfamiliar with the magic gardens the pictures below will convince you of how romantic, beautiful and awe-inspiring they are.

The way the Magic Gardens came to exit is a fascinating one. In 1968, the government of Philadelphia wanted to demolish the neighborhood to build an expressway that would divide the city into two. They chose this particular neighborhood because it was poor and dangerous. As a revolution against the government many people, in particular artists, started to move into the area in an attempt to change its image. Some of those people where Isaiah and Julie Zagar.

Isaiah would go on to build art in the neighborhood by creating murals and mosaics from things he collected. He would buy property and transform into into his unique art creations. His work effectively changed the neighborhood for the better.

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Hartford

Am I the only person in America who was not aware how lovely Hartford was? Hartford is the capital of Connecticut. While I only stopped there for a few hours on my road trip to Boston, it was enough time for me to witness how much effort the people of Connecticut put into creating a beautiful and warming capital.

Every street you walk down is well planned and clean. Every shop you go into is detailed and unique. Not only is Hartford appealing to see, it is also loaded with history. Some of it’s more popular landmarks include The Mark Twain House and the Harriet Breacher Stowe House. The State Capital building is gorgeous and I personally am a fan of the fact that Katharine Hepburn is buried here at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

I don’t think a few hours to grab lunch where enough for me to truly explore and see all I wanted to see. Since I live only a few hours away, I plan on coming back in the spring.

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