Sunday, 31 May 2015

Newquay to Mawgan Porth (South West Coast Path 73)

 View across Newquay Bay from Tolcarne Beach

Back on the Coast Path, we set out from Newquay, quickly passing above Tolcarne Beach, with the headland and the Atlantic hotel visible across Newquay Bay. 

A little further on was the wonderfully named Lusty Glaze Cove.

On the cliff road at the back of it a developer was building four rather fine houses. This one put me in mind of the new Whitney Museum we recently saw in New York at the end of the High Line. The house actually seemed more successful to me, although Ange felt that from the side the projecting white room looked more like a portakabin.

At Porth Beach, effectively the final outskirts of Newquay, a narrow bridge linked the mainland to Trevigue Head, once the site of Bronze and Iron Age forts. In the distance, the white column of the Trevose Head lighthouse can just be made out.

The coast now started to become more rocky, with Zacry's Islands just offshore in the middle ground.

Just before Watergate Bay, we enjoyed the unusual sight of a Fulmar hovering just below the cliff edge, but unfortunately my attempt to photograph it was poor. Now Watergate Bay, a major surfing centre, stretched out ahead of us. There were loads of surfers in the sea, but almost none seemed to have found a wave to ride.

We descended to the village and climbed up again past the hotel. Once we were back on the cliff top the view back along the coast was very pleasing.

Now the coast seemed to become a bit wilder and at Griffin Point there was a steady descent and climb to round Beacon Cove.

We saw a new type of Cornish hedge - this one had slates laid on their sides, rather than the more usual stones laid horizontally. 

We finished up at Mawganporth, another narrow cove with a deep sandy beach. Unusually, the main development (Trenance) was not directly behind the beach but up on the hill to one side.This was the view looking into the cove.

And this was the view looking out towards its mouth.

Conditions: cloudy at first, then quite sunny. A high wind throughout.

Grading: Moderate.

Map: Explorer 106 (Newquay & Padstow).

Distance: 5.8 miles. Distance now covered 444.8 miles.

Severity: Moderate.

Rating: Four stars.

Friday, 22 May 2015

New York: The High Line

The High Line

We read about the High Line some time ago and today we finally get to see it. It is a "linear park" constructed on an elevated freight railway line which had become redundant. It is owned by New York City Council but operated by the Friends of the High Line. I downloaded a map of the route from the Friends website (it is actually focused on art on the High Line).

We walked the ten blocks from our hotel on East 31st St and joined the High Line at a walkway on West 34th St just past 11th Avenue. The most striking thing as we walked over was that after about 8th Avenue the buildings were lower rise and you could see the sky without cricking your neck. The High Line starts near the Hudson rail yard and it is clear that the whole area is being redeveloped. (It was interesting to see the glass exterior being added to a new building.)

 A large sign welcomes you to the High Line.

The initial section is newly opened and essentially there is just the former rail track on one side, with some minimal planting, and a walkway on the other. The Hudson river is on the right with New Jersey visible ahead on the opposite bank.

Soon however you begin to grasp the concept of a linear park as there are more interesting plantings and decking, and extensive seating areas. This view looks back towards the river.

There are several art installations on the High Line, of which more later, but the first thing to catch my eye was a brilliant piece of street art on the end wall of a terrace of houses.

A bit further on it was starting to become very crowded and there was an area of grass with lots of people enjoying the sun in a very park-like way. Here another wall was having its street art changed. The old version said "Honey I twisted through more darn traffic today", which to my mind is frankly dull - the emerging new one looks a bit more stimulating. Honey etc. was the work of Ed Ruscha, who is apparently famous for his word paintings.

Next there was something very clever: a graffiti tag which had been made into a three dimensional shape. Viewed from the right angle it seems to be on the wall 20ft behind it. It is the work of the Mexican artist Damian Ortega. 

Earlier there had been a pleasing glimpse of the Chrysler Building and soon it was the turn of the Empire State.

At 16th St we briefly left the High Line to have a look at the famous Chelsea Market. The initial impression was quite pleasing...

... but overall we found it a bit claustrophobic and soon left.  The High Line now passes through a building (it originally went through many more) and on its side was another jolly piece of street art.

The High Line ends - rather abruptly - at Gansevoort St - and you descend the steps to street level.

But,  rather wonderfully, you have arrived at the newly opened Whitney Gallery designed by Renzo Piano. It's certainly a bit different and no doubt has excellent exhibition spaces inside, but it does look rather strange. I much prefer the equally new Fondation Louis Vuitton which we recently saw in Paris.

Conditions: hot and sunny.

Distance: the High Line itself is only a mile and half long.

Rating: five stars for novelty and imagination. Definitely worth going north to south.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

New York: Lower Manhattan

Manhattan from Ellis Island

We have just returned from a very informative outing to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where 12 million immigrants to the USA were processed between 1892 and 1954. We noticed that our Guidebook offers a walk around Lower Manhattan, starting from Castle Clinton where the ferry boat docks. It has been rather a grey and cold day, but we are always up for a walk.

Castle Clinton was originally built in 1811 as part of the defences of the port of New York. It then became an entertainment centre, New York's immigrant processing station (before the role was taken over by the Federal government and transferred to Ellis Island) and then an aquarium (!).  It now houses the ticket office for boat trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The fort is situated in what is now Battery Park. We talked across this small green space to find the staggering grand former Customs House. It now houses archives and the Museum of the American Indian. Inside are the impressive Great Hall and the simply staggering, but visually confusing, Rotonda.

This is slightly misnamed as it is oval and its top is flat rather than dome shaped. The Museum looked to be very interesting, but we did not feel we had time to explore and instead continued up Broadway - this is where it starts.

Outside number 25 is the fantastic Charging Bull statue. It was apparently cast (by Arturo DiModica) and put here without permission. The City has occasionally tried to remove it, but superstitious brokers have raised an outcry and the City has always backed off. What a wonderful story! It is certainly very popular.

Trinity Church (1846) stands out in the same way that some churches in the City of London do - its tower perfectly fills the mouth of Wall St. 

Wall St is inevitably perhaps rather dull architecturally, but there was at least a nice statue of George Washington.

We turned left into William Street and found another, more modern, sculpture in the Chase Manhattan plaza: Group of Trees by Jean Dubuffet. I really liked this one.

We walked past the Federal Reserve Bank with noticeably alert police outside who immediately challenged a taxi driver who stayed too long after dropping off his passenger. In nearby John St was another tiny church dwarfed by skyscrapers. We learned from a helpful plaque that it was the first Methodist church in America and was originally constructed 1768 and rebuilt 1817. It was looking rather the worse for wear.

At this point we abandoned the official route and headed back to, and across, Broadway to reach the World Trade Centre site. We couldn't face the 9/11 memorial, but we took hope from the scale of the rebuilding effort, especially Norman Foster's 1 World Trade Centre building which is now the tallest in the city. The foreground structure will be a new subway station. 

We turned into St Paul's churchyard and were staggered by this wonderful art nouveau building on the left - one of very few in the US. It turns out to be the former Evening Post building, built in 1906-7 and designed by Robert D Kohn.

Our final calling point was the F W Woolworth building, New York's only gothic skyscraper, which is positively dripping with tracery.

We just couldn't take it seriously. It remained only to return to the subway on Broadway and head back to our hotel.

Conditions: grey, rather cool.

Distance: perhaps 2 miles.

Rating: four stars.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

New York art deco part two

The Chrysler Building from the corner of 42nd St and Madison Avenue

We had a great time with part one of this walk two days ago, and after a day in the art galleries we return to it today. We walked up Madison Avenue from our hotel to 42nd St and just before we got there (at 40th St) discovered this fine building at number 275. It has a marble facade at street level with engraved decoration. The invaluable NYC architecture images site reveals that it dates from 1931 and was the work of Kenneth Franzheim. The lobby is said to have rose coloured marble and I wish now that we had followed our usual practice and had a look inside.

We turned right onto 42nd St and soon found our first planned target: the Chanin Building at number 122, a massive brown brick structure with a band of beautiful floral motifs. Beneath that there are green metal decorative features. The building dates from 1927-9 and the architects were Sloan and Robertson (who also did the Fred F French building we saw yesterday). René Chambellan and Jacques L. Delamarre are credited with the lobby and the ornamentation.

The ground floor was under scaffolding, so we couldn't see what the entrance was really like, but we went into the impressive lobby. I was about to start taking some photos when a stern voice shouted "No photos!" I took a guerrilla one on the way out.

We continued along 42nd past the Chrysler Building, of which more in a moment, to reach the Daily News Building (1929-1930 by Robert Hood, André Fouilhoux and John Mead Howells) near the junction with 3rd Avenue. It has a strong verticality with white bricks being used for the main cladding and brown bricks arranged in a pattern below the windows. NYC architecture images adds the amusing information that the size of the windows -- and thus the width of the window stripes -- was determined by the size of a window that could be effortlessly opened by a single office worker. It was among the first skyscrapers to be built without an ornamental crown. There is fine imagery over the entrance.

The lobby has been modernised, but does retain one marvellous feature: the world's largest indoor globe. Wikipedia says that it has not been kept up to date, but a cursory check revealed plenty of modern country names on the map. Wikipedia also says that this building was the model for the Daily Planet where Clark Kent (Superman) worked.

Retracing our steps brought us face to face with the Chrysler Building. This obviously is the view looking straight up. The projections are gargoyles of American eagles. The building dates from 1928-30 and was designed by William van Alen. For 11 months it was the world's tallest building before being displaced by the Empire State Building.

The lobby is simply staggering - and you can take photos! The walls are of Moroccan red marble ....

... and the ceilings are covered in paintings (by Edward Trumbull) celebrating modern technology and labour. The colour tones are reminiscent of Paul Gauguin.

Perhaps even more extravagant are the lift doors.

After enjoying an excellent lunch in the wonderful Oyster Bar at nearby Grand Central station and admiring the amazing station concourse ...

... we emerged into Lexington Avenue to see the Graybar Building at number 420 (1927 by Sloan and Robertson).

This facade is quite interesting, but apparently on one of the other sides there is more off a nautical theme and sculpted rates. For more on this see here.

In the sleek lobby I managed to photograph the lovely floor tiles ...

... and this beguiling arrangement of lampshades, before being invited not to take pictures.

We continued up Lexington towards the General Electric Building at number 570 (originally the RCA Victor Building) - 1929-31 by Cross and Cross. The crown has an extraordinary combination of gothic spires and lightning bolts.

At street level however the richness of the decoration catches the eye. There is apparently yet another fine lobby, but we were under such sales pressure from the staff of a nearby cosmetic shop that we found ourselves hurrying to get away.

Part of the architects' brief was to ensure that the building complemented St Bartholomew's church at the rear. The church is pretty much dwarfed into insignificance but the colour tones of the skyscraper (on the left) are indeed quite harmonious.

Our final stop was the Fuller Building (1928-9 by Walker and Gillette) at 41-45 East 57th St. The beautifully decorated lower storeys have an almost classical look. The crown has splendid black and white zig zag patterns, but we were too close to be able to see them.

The lobby had gilded lift doors and mirrored walls which produced an extraordinary effect with all the lights.

Conditions: again grey and cool.

Distance: maybe three miles.

Rating: five stars. A real feast of beauty.