A favourite Woodstock moment 50 years on

I’ve only been to upstate New York once – and that wasn’t anywhere near Bethel.

But I’ve recently found myself thinking about that part of the world and the event that, for me, really put Bethel on the map – the Woodstock music and art fair.

It’s 50 years since almost 500,000 people converged on the area over four days from August 15, 1969.

Woodstock 48 years on
A pivotal moment for an entire generation, Woodstock produced sounds and images that may never be forgotten.

Much of the festival has entered into folklore: Jimi Hendrix playing guitar with his teeth on ‘Star Spangled Banner’; Joe Cocker nailing the Beatles song ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’; or Ten Years After booming through ‘I’m Going Home’.

Scenes of the huge crowd chanting through a rainstorm, sliding in the mud and bathing in the dam have been published endlessly – and were part of an Academy Award winning documentary about the event.

But, my favourite moment of Woodstock didn’t even feature a musican.

It involved a crew-cut dairy farmer who is said to have supported the Vietnam War, but also believed in the right of free speech.

The late Max Yasgur had allowed the festival to take place on his land at Bethel, when others had declined.

And his speech to the hippie hordes was classic:

“I’m a farmer. I don’t know how to speak to 20 people at a time, let alone a crowd like this.

“But, I think you people have proven something to the world: half a million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music – and have nothing but fun and music – God bless you for it”.

Over the years, I’ve read reports that Max Yasgur and his family also freely handed out every bit of water and milk they could when the Woodstock crowd swelled dramatically.

This was a remarkable man indeed and, when he died in the early 1970’s, I was delighted to see him given a full-page obituary in Rolling Stone magazine – apparently one of the few non-musicians to have received such an honour.

It seems that, although he may not have agreed with all the sentiments of the counterculture, he actively defended the right to express those sentiments.

Max Yasgur, God bless you sir – and wish you were here!

New York City

Scoot’s foray into US market

Singapore Airlines’ low-cost carrier, Scoot, is now headed for the US – soon after starting its first flight to Europe.

Scoot has announced plans for a new route to Honolulu, Hawaii, via Osaka in Japan.

The announcement came as Scoot finished integrating with its sister low cost carrier, Tigerair Singapore.

Subject to regulatory approval, Scoot aims to start the Singapore-Osaka-Honolulu service by next June as part of an expansion including other new destinations such as Harbin in China; Kuantan and Kuching, Malaysia; and Palembang in Indonesia.

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The five new services – along with the previous Tigerair Singapore network – will bring Scoot’s total destination count to 65 across 18 countries – including its recently-started flights to Athens in Europe.

Escape the Ordinary

Discussing the move, Scoot CEO, Mr Lee Lik Hsin, said the airline would adopt the tagline, ‘Escape the Ordinary’, which was relevant to the global market and inspired travel and exploration.

Scoot also rolled out its first A320 aircraft, previously operated by Tigerair and repainted with the Scoot livery.

The Tigerair fleet will be progressively repainted by mid-2018.

To celebrate, the airline also announced a sale at www.flyscoot.com with fares from $99 for Perth to Singapore

Aviation

Daisy the cow and the night Chicago died

As you walk down North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, it’s impossible to miss the old water tower.

And, more than 140 years after the Great Chicago Fire, the tower is one of the few remaining links to this momentous event – along with the story of Daisy the cow.

The 47 metre limestone tower was one of only a few structures in the area to escape the inferno of October 1871. It’s now an eye-catching art gallery.

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Information board at the Chicago Water Tower

Mrs O’Leary’s cow wasn’t so lucky, but whether Daisy actually played any role in the fire that killed 300 people and destroyed three square miles of the city, is debated to this day.

City officials never discovered the exact cause, but a popular tale in Chicago blames Mrs O’Leary’s cow for kicking over a lantern in a barn off DeKoven Street.

Another theory is that men were gambling inside the barn and knocked over a lantern.

What is certain is that two-thirds of Chicago was made of wood and tar; that the area needed rain badly; and that southwestly winds carried embers into the heart of the city.

And whatever actually ignited the blaze, it spread rapidly through the timber buildings, wooden sidewalks and even some wooden roads.

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Photo courtesy Chicago Tribune archive

Once flames jumped the Chicago River and destroyed the waterworks, the mains apparently went dry and little could be done.

Within a couple of days, more than 100,000 people were homeless.

In the aftermath of the blaze, Chicago promptly began to rewrite its fire standards and soon created one of the country’s leading fire-fighting forces.

At the same time, business owners and land speculators quickly set about rebuilding the city, helped in no small part by generous assistance from across the US.

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Memorial at the spot where the fire started

The story of Mrs O’Leary and her cow continued to grow, despite denials by the family itself and a later newspaper confession that the tale had been fabricated.

In fact, it became so engrained in local lore that Chicago’s city council officially exonerated the O’Leary family —and the cow—in 1997.

Since then, it has also been suggested that the blaze – and others across the Midwest of the US – may have been sparked by a meteor shower – or that ‘Pegleg’ Sullivan, who first reported the Chicago fire, may have ignited hay in the barn while trying to steal milk.

Or perhaps Daisy acted alone.

Chicago Features

Don’t miss this long-running Broadway show

One of the iconic stores in New York City is in its 83rd year of operating in Manhattan’s stately upper west side.

Zebars is a New York institution: a legendary appetizing and Jewish soul food shop at the corner of 80th Street and 2245 Broadway – and a feature of scores of television shows and movies.

The store is a favourite haunt of ours when in NYC, especially the mind-blowing tea and coffee section, which is the equal of anything we’ve seen at Harrods of London and other similar high profile shops.

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Copyright Memorable Destination 2013

In New York City, it all started in 1934, when Louis Zabar, an arrival from what is now Ukraine, left his market stall in Brooklyn to establish a smoked-fish department inside a supermarket on Broadway near 80th Street.

Largely on the strength of its smoked salmon and a housewares section added in the 1970’s, Zabars steadily became a culinary magnet.

In the 1960’s, Zabars became well known for its Brie cheese; in the ’70’s it brought New Yorkers sun-dried tomatoes and gnocchi, and the following decade it became involved in a price battle with the speciality section of department store, Macys, for caviar.

This has gone down in New York folklore as the ‘Great Caviar War’.

On our last visit, we asked whether there had been a winner of the caviar standoff – and were told in no uncertain fashion that Zabars had emerged victorious and the real housewives of New York City had benefitted.

Zebars was also at the forefront of the trend toward drip coffee makers and by the 1970’s it was one of the biggest supermarkets in Manhattan.

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Photo courtesy Zabars

Today, the gourmet store is one of the best known commercial landmarks of the Upper West Side and, as well as tea and coffee, it is known for its selection of bagels, smoked fish, olives, and cheeses.

Zebars appeared in the film, Banksy Does New York and was mentioned in the film You’ve Got Mail.

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It has also been mentioned in the TV series V and episodes of Northern Exposure; Will & Grace; Dream On; The Green Inferno; How I Met Your Mother; Mad About You; Friends; Sex and the City; Broad City; The Nanny; Seinfeld; The West Wing; Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; 30 Rock; The Daily Show; Hart of Dixie; Castle; Pardon the Interruption; Law & Order; and Gossip Girl.

Manhattan’s Upper West Side is an affluent, mainly residential area that has the reputation of being New York City’s cultural and intellectual hub.

Upper West Side US

Age-Friendly Rating: The Belnord Hotel, West 87th Street, NYC

Manhattan’s upper west side is truly the New York City of the movies – attractive tree-lined streets, grand buildings and families walking their dogs.

The Belnord, on West 87th Street, is squarely in keeping with this atmosphere – and we have spent some wonderful days and weeks at this hotel.

However, this lovely part of New York City certainly pre-dates the era of Age-Friendliness.  And the Belnord was no exception.

The hotel is about three blocks from Central Park and amongst the restaurants, community stores, supermarkets and cafes that line Broadway and Columbus and Amsterdam avenues.

Zabar’s, NYC’s famous food emporium, is about seven blocks away and it’s a short stroll to museums and similar attractions.

In short, the Belnord’s location is superb.

Hotel decor

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The hotel does not carry the luxury tag, but is certainly in keeping with its surroundings; spotlessly clean, modern, neat, tidy and understated. It is definitely NYC.

The hotel’s foyer is unpretentious, clean and no-frills.  The hotel is in a particularly quiet area of NYC, largely free of wailing city sirens and general street noise.

How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?

Staff are friendly, efficient and service oriented, without intruding.

Sign-in was quick and pleasant and we are given a map of central Manhattan and directions to the 86th Street subway station, which is located close to the hotel.

Did we feel welcomed by the Belnord staff?

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Certainly.  The Belnord is relaxed, but the staff team is willing to go that extra distance to ensure your stay is as enjoyable and smooth as possible.

For our most recent stay, we were at the hotel for 19 days and found the staff so helpful that we even left a small travel gift to show our appreciation.

When we used a nearby laundry, the hotel staff delivered our freshly-pressed clothes back to our room.

Were we offered help with our luggage?

Yes, but the hotel lifts were so roomy and efficient that we chose to handle our bags  ourselves.

Did the hotel offer wifi – and how did it work?

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The Belnord has an excellent free wifi for guests. On arrival, we were given the password and it was clearly explained when it would change and how to maintain the service.

The system worked without a hitch throughout our stay.

This was a huge plus, as we were not forced to seek out wifi at coffee shops, restaurants etc.

The room experience

Our double room was ready when we arrived and was a typical NYC size – tight, but very well presented and immaculately clean, with modern decor.

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There was a comfortable double bed with individual readings lights;  a flat screen TV set;   wardrobe; ensuite and breakfast bench. .

The cable TV worked perfectly – but the lack of a bar fridge, tea and coffee facilities and the showed without a curtain took a little adjustment.

We overcame the lack of a bar fridge by liberal use of free ice from the hotel’s ice machines. We purchased a humble kettle – and we never really became accustomed to the lack of a shower curtain.  However, the bathroom was a decent size and, although the floor could be  sodden after each shower, it wasn’t really a hassle.

Power points

This is increasingly becoming important, with phones, iPad, iPod and the like all requiring charging, as well as the usual requirements for electric razor; hair dryer etc.

Our Belnord hotel room had  numerous points – all in handy positions, so there was no problem charging devices.

Room service

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Room service was prompt each morning, but  was not intrusive.  If it was obvious that if you were still in the room, service staff would wait as long as possible and then eventually knock on the door to check when it would be suitable to enter. Like all Belnord staff, they were friendly and polite.

Towels and bathroom accessories.

These were soft and fluffy and were left daily, if you needed them.  It was a similar story with bathroom/shower accessories.

Food

Like many NYC hotels, the Belnord does not have a restaurant, but is located right in the middle of an ‘Eat Street’ section of Broadway.  Restaurants and coffee shops offering an array of meals are scattered throughout the area.

 

 

Would we stay again?

Yes, without hesitation.

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Our Age-Friendliness Rating

6/10:  Unfortunately, most of the wonderful old buildings in this part of the Upper West Side are set back and up from the street.  From our experience, there were about five steps from the footpath to the hotel doors. The steps didn’t worry us, but we not sure how a wheelchair would cope. Inside, the reception, lifts and corridors were level, roomy and easy to negotiate. The room doors were simple to use, the floors were level and the hotel’s central location offered easy, comfortable walks to the many restaurants, attractions and shops along Broadway and other streets. The Belnord is also particularly close to a metro station for easy transport throughout Manhattan and beyond. The hotel’s website is modern and was found it a simple task to book a room.

Age-Friendly US Hotel Ratings