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La Perouse Headland Walk

This walk in the area around La Perouse (a southern suburb of Sydney) starts in the Botany Bay National Park. (If you’ve ever flown in or out of Sydney, you’ll know Botany Bay — it’s the large body of water that the runways jut into.) The walk is only about 5km long, and not difficult. I think you could call it a stroll, in fact. It begins in typical forest in the national park.

According to the signpost, I’m headed in the right direction for Henry Head and Cape Banks. That’s reassuring. 🙂

On track

At Henry Head there is an old artillery battery. “Constructed between 1892 and 1895 with two BL 6-inch Mk V disappearing guns, the fort operated until 1910, when it became obsolete. The battery along with two 6-in gun emplacements and observation posts was re-utilised during World War II to defend the approaches to Botany Bay. During WWII, it was armed with two 18-pounder Mk IV field guns and two QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns. The underground bunker and tunnel complex consisted of vaulted ammunition storage rooms with double walls and ceilings. The doubling up of walls and ceilings was a preventative measure meant to stop the walls from collapsing in the event of a direct hit.” (source)

Covered with graffiti now (of course) they still reveal how strategic their position was, covering the entrance to Botany Bay.

There were hundreds of birds, huge flocks of them darting swiftly in the sky and keeping up a constant chorus of tweets and chirps. In the first photo, the black-and-white bird at bottom right is a New Holland Honeyeater. The other bird, a sort of brown with striking yellow, I’d never seen before, which surprised me given their sheer numbers here.

Is a bird in hand really worth two in a bush?

An online search revealed that the mystery bird might be a Yellow-faced Honeyeater. Here’s another one, with a definite yellow face.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater?

Lunch with a view!

Water, orange, egg sandwich — and a view.

Henry Head was as far as I’d intended to go, as I wanted to visit the La Perouse Museum and I knew it closed at 4pm. But sitting here having my lunch, I thought how enticing that path snaking out towards the far cape was … so off I went.

Who could resist?

Follow the path.

I know we’re not “doing” benches any more, but I had to snap this one. It’s made of the same heavy metal mesh as the walkway! (And is not especially comfortable.)

No place to linger.

If you’ve read my previous walks, you’ll know I’m not a fan of stairs. However, I hate sand even more. Especially going uphill in sand.

Sandy path, uphill.

And now for something completely different! You round a corner and suddenly there’s a golf course.

She is NOT a walker.

This is hole 6 (par 3) of the New South Wales Golf Course, officially opened in 1928. According to its website, “Golf Digest currently ranks the NSW Golf Club as the No. 9 golf course outside the United States and the No.1 golf course outside the United States and the UK.” Click this photo to see a larger version of hole 6 with the tees marked — the men’s, the ladies’, and what I’ve dubbed the maniacs’ tee.

Hole 6, NSW Golf Club.

This is the same hole, looking at the flag (circled) from the maniacs’ tee. They must lose an awful lot of balls in the sea here!

You’d better have a spare ball or three for this hole.

Sound advice on this sign, especially given that the golfer is in mid-swing.

Fore!

This footbridge (you can just make it out in the first photo of the sixth hole, and more clearly in the larger photo) leads to Cape Banks, presumably named after (Sir) Joseph Banks, the botanist/naturalist on Captain James Cook’s voyage of 1768-1771. They landed at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770; Cook writes that he named it so due to “The great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place”. (source)

Footbridge to Cape Banks.

No more time for dawdling, that 4pm museum closing time was looming, so I hot-footed back along the trail. I paused at Congwong beach to take a photo looking back at where I’d been. The circled white dot on the headland is the white tower visible in the gun emplacements photos farther up this page.

Looking back.

I know what you’re thinking. What is this “La Perouse” I keep referring to?? Why would anywhere in Australia have a French name? The area is named after Jean-François de Galaup, comte [count] de Lapérouse, who commanded a convoy of two French ships that sailed into Botany Bay in January 1788, only days after the English First Fleet had arrived to establish the penal colony that became Sydney. After leaving Botany Bay six weeks later, La Perouse and his ships were never seen again. (What happened to the French ships? In 1826 evidence was found indicating they foundered on reefs in the Solomon Islands. Some survivors were killed by local inhabitants; some built a ship from the wreckage and sailed away, but their fate is unknown.) (source)

This monument was erected in the area where the French camped. It’s the focal point for gatherings by French expats on Bastille Day.

And here’s the museum! It features displays and artefacts about the area and the early visits from the French and English visits, heavily weighted towards the La Perouse expedition naturally. The museum is housed in the historic Cable Station building, completed in 1882. When telegraph operations transferred elsewhere in 1913, the building was subsequently used for telegraph company staff accommodation quarters, a nurses’ home, soldier accommodation, and a Salvation Army Refuge.

La Perouse museum

This improbable looking construction is the Macquarie Watchtower, also known as the Barrack Tower, built around 1821. Originally a military station, it later became a customs post and housed a schoolroom. It subsequently fell into disrepair, was mostly destroyed by fire in 1957 and restored from 1961.

Watchtower

No luscious ice cream to finish off this walk, I’m afraid. Maybe next time!

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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Spit Bridge to Manly Wharf Walk

Walk map — click for a larger image.

Known simply as “The Spit to Manly”, this is one of Sydney’s best known and most popular walks. About 10km long, it weaves along the edge of the harbour, through national park and residential areas. There are stunning views and beaches in plenty, with quite a variety of terrain. “3.6km of this walk is flat with no steps and another 3km has short steep hills. The remaining (2.6km) has gentle hills with occasional steps.” (source)

The Spit Bridge, where this walk starts, opens at set times throughout the day to let boats pass. You can just make out a sailboat passing through (more visible on the full image). I’d like to say that I timed my walk to take this photo for you, but in truth it was luck. 😉

After the bridge, you soon reach the bottom of this small inlet. It’s clear that the tide is well out, which is a good thing as you’ll learn later.

Small cove, tide out.

Dappled shade on the path and a bridge over a stream.

A shady path through the woods.

Here be dragons — Eastern Water Dragons, to be precise.

He’s a handsome devil, and knows it!

It would be extremely unusual to do this walk and not encounter a number of these reptiles sunning themselves on the path. Generally, though, you only notice them in the heart-lurching moment when a streak of movement at your feet is followed by a crashing and a rustling in the undergrowth as it dashes for safety.

 

In addition to dragons, there are lots of flowers to be seen along the paths.

This is Clontarf Beach and Reserve. On the weekend it’s standing room only, full of large groups with blankets and picnics. I did the walk on this occasion on the Thursday before Good Friday (29 March), so beaches and the walk itself were quite empty.

What sort of crazy person attacks trees? All the trees in the reserve have these wooden girdles to protect them.

Anti-tree-vandal measures at Clontarf.

Time for some beach walking! If you have a towel, or the time to relax while the sun dries your feet, this is a great stretch for splashing along in the water.

Fancy a paddle?

Remember I said earlier that it’s a good thing the tide is out? Look at the dark strip along the bottom of the stone walls in front of these houses — that’s where the water reaches. That’s more than a mere paddle.

More than your feet would get wet here!

No, I haven’t snuck in a photo from a walk in England! We’ve had quite a bit of rain recently, so there were a few wet patches.

It rains in Sydney too. Quite a bit, actually.

There are many plaques describing various plants along the way.

Typical steps carved into the rocks.

Your own private beach.

A lovely stretch of Sydney harbour all to yourself.

The entry to the national park section of the walk. Some years ago, a friend from England came to visit and we did this walk — or tried to! We got as far as this point. The national park segment was closed due to high fire danger. We considered risking it, but didn’t fancy being fined by a lurking park ranger!

Park entrance.

Up, and up …

It would be hard to get lost!

Which way now?

Still up. Many of the light-coloured stone stairs you’ll see in these photos were recently (in the past 8 years?) installed. The parks service undertook substantial work to reduce erosion and damage due to the thousands of walkers. You’ll notice too that we’re no longer in forest. It’s much more open up on the ridgeline.

Up. Always up.

And this is what all the climbing was for! The walk has taken us from sea level to 88m (288ft). That’s South Head across the harbour, then the next land is Chile on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

The harbour, South Head, the ocean.

Woo hoo, it’s the beginning of the boardwalk! (This is also recent.) The boardwalk means one thing: the lunch stop is not far.

Along the boardwalk.

Ta da, the lunch stop! It’s just a rock outcrop a few metres off the path. It was much more hidden when I first started coming here (around 2000), but fire or some other event has thinned out the trees. After all that climbing, the shade and the sea breeze are very welcome.

My lunch rock.

Lunch! Sandwich, plum, water. The Aussie term “Tasty Cheese” (on the sandwich label) always cracks me up. It’s similar to a medium cheddar and, yes, is tasty, but what a name! And what a view! Did you notice the gorgeous colour of the water in the cove below? Opposite is North Head, and just to its left is the former Quarantine Station where immigrants were forced to spend some time upon arrival so that medical staff could check their condition. Today, predictably, it’s an expensive hotel called Q Station.

A “tasty” lunch.

Back on the path, and past the halfway mark now.

On the way to Manly, more than halfway.

Now here is something I had never seen on this walk. A wallaby! I rounded a corner and there it was, practically in the middle of the path. It stared at me, I stared at it, and I said, “Whoa! A kangaroo!” Perhaps insulted at being mistaken for a kangaroo, the wallaby hopped into the bush. It didn’t go far though, and soon settled down to nibbling at shrubs.

I always think of this spot as the beginning of the end. There are still kilometres to go, but soon we’ll be out of the bush and onto the streets, and this is the last great view. It’s all (almost) downhill or level from here. This panorama is two photos merged in Photoshop. (Click for a much larger shot.) To right of centre you can see the broad path to follow. Opposite is North Head and the old quarantine site, then around to the left is Manly and the ferry wharf, my destination.

A panoramic view. (Click for a much larger shot.)

This sign has been here at least as long as I’ve been doing this walk (since 2000). When, I wonder, will the area officially be regenerated?

How long does regeneration take?

Reef Beach, a lovely spot for a swim. And I have never seen it deserted! Unfortunately, because doing this walk was a spur-of-the-moment decision, I wasn’t at home to pack swimsuit and towel. So I had to gaze at the water longingly and walk past.

So inviting …

The approach to 40 Baskets Beach is another impassable area at high tide. The name “40 Baskets” derives from a time in 1885 when fisherman caught — you’ve guessed it — 40 baskets of fish in the area.

Lots of rockpools to peer into.

You don’t see these flowers in the national park! This is bouganvillea and tibuchina in a garden.

Hot cerise bougainvillea and deep purple tibouchina.

This commemorative plaque is hidden in a rock, in the shade, at the foot of stairs (more bloody stairs!), and is easily overlooked.

Commemorative plaque.

A very pleasant section now of strolling along a meandering paved path, with towering and expensive homes to the left, and the harbour to the right. One of the homes is for sale — how much would you pay for that view?

The killer view.

Another nice place to swim, which today is both unusually calm and unusually deserted. No swimsuit, though, so on we go …

Still inviting …

There is, apparently, a thriving colony of Little Penguins in this area. I’ve never seen one, but then again I’d never seen a wallaby on the walk until today.

Watch out, penguins about.

The end is nigh! The large yellow-and-green ship is the Manly-Circular Quay ferry. I’m getting a much smaller boat though, to take me across the harbour to Watson’s Bay, from where I’ll get a bus to Bondi Beach and home.

The end of the walk.

Made it, with only 10 minutes to spare. I’d planned to enjoy a well-deserved icy cold beverage at this bar while waiting for the ferry (that’s what the small crowd of people at the end of the wharf is doing) but all this photography took longer than I’d planned.

My ferry wharf.

At Watson’s Bay, there was just enough time before the bus arrived for a quick lime and coconut ice cream. Very refreshing!

Lime and coconut ice cream.

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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Jacarandas of Woolloomooloo

Jacarandas in Woolloomooloo

Jacarandas in Woolloomooloo

Jacarandas in Woolloomooloo

Jacarandas in Woolloomooloo, with two iconic Sydney buildings in the distance.

It’s that time again in Sydney when the jacaranda trees are in bloom. One argument holds that the first specimen in Australia was planted in 1864 (source) — not in Sydney, but they have since been planted here with enthusiasm.

A carpet of fallen jacaranda petals.

A carpet of fallen jacaranda petals.

My journey to work includes a short train ride from Bondi Junction to Martin Place. Just after the train leaves King’s Cross, you can see dots of purple off to the left — but look right, and you are treated to large pockets of intense purple. Last weekend, I took the train to King’s Cross and had a good wander around this area, known as Woolloomooloo (pronounced by Aussies as “Wullamulloo”). It’s a small suburb that originally grew up around a wharf (Finger Wharf) that juts into the harbour.

In this screengrab from Google Maps (satellite view), Finger Wharf is clear. I’ve outlined in yellow the rough borders of Woolloomooloo.

These next photos give a flavour of the types of original housing: rows of small, cramped accommodation for workers and their families (with and without jacarandas!). Walking around the area, you can see that many of the houses have been smartened up, but many still look, shall we less, less smart. It’s an interesting mix.

 

In this shot, you can see the corrugated metal roof of the building behind the flowers.

Jacaranda and corrugated metal roof.

Jacaranda and corrugated metal roof.

The dock work is long gone. The wharf itself (400m/1,310ft long and 63m/210ft wide, standing on 3,600 piles) now houses an upmarket hotel, luxury apartments and assorted eateries. Built between 1911 and 1915, in its day it was the largest wooden structure in the world. (source)

Interior of Finger Wharf. You can get a good idea of its size!

Let’s finish off with more of those flamboyant jacarandas.


Jacarandas and roses.

Jacarandas and roses.

I’m linking this to Jo’s Monday Walks, but I think she’s still in the Algarve as her site hasn’t been updated in a while.


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The Three Beaches Walk

I’ve dubbed this The Three Beaches Walk because it covers Sydney’s three most northerly beaches: it begins at Palm Beach, takes in Whale Beach and ends at Avalon Beach, roughly 9km. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a map.) I did it last weekend, and as the photos reveal, it was a beautiful spring day, 22C and sunny.

Looking back (north) along Palm Beach from the point I started walking, you can see the lighthouse on Barrenjoey Head.

Looking in the direction of the walk (south), this is where I was headed.

I had to get from sea level to the top of that hill, though. At the end of the beach are stairs. Lots of them.

Once at the top, you can look back to Palm Beach and beyond, and marvel how high you’ve come.

The houses along here are big, expensive, and face the sea. Only walls and roofs can be glimpsed from the road. (According to friends who grew up on Sydney’s North Shore, this is known — unflatteringly — as the Insular Pensinsula.)

Flowering plants aplently!

Here’s the next beach, Whale Beach.

I had a sinking feeling when I spotted that headland at the end of Whale Beach, but luckily didn’t have to scale it. However, I knew the headland beyond this one would have to be tackled.

It was a bit of a trek up the hill at the far end of the beach. In the bottom right you can see Whale Beach, and how tiny the people are.

This bench is hardly a stunning specimen, but it was sturdy and in the shade, so I sat for a bit. 🙂

This louvred door and shrub caught my eye. It looks as if they’re blocking access to something, but in a fun way.

Time to go off road! This is the beginning of the bushwalk at Bangalley Head.

“Relatively hard”. “Highest point”. hmmm

More stairs, of course …

Once at the top, and with my breathing back to normal and heartbeat no longer thumping in my ears, the walking was delightful. Sun-dappled paths through the trees, and glimpses to the right of yachts in secluded bays.

The end is in sight! That’s Avalon Beach in the distance. How to get off this headland, though??

I finally found the path down. More stairs (naturally) but easier to bounce down than up. When I turned a corner in the path and saw this perfectly framed sight, I actually exclaimed, “Wow.”

These cliff edge warning signs were dotted along the Bangalley Head walk. You can see how close the edge is.

Once off the headland and looking back, the height of the drop is all too apparent.

The path continues between cliff edge and front gardens. I hope these people have insurance, because that’s a pretty steep drop.

The end! Here is Avalon Beach.

Now, I’m not a great fan of ocean swimming — too much sand, too much surf, too much getting knocked over by waves. But the pool at the hotel I stayed at that night in Newport is much more my style!

Here’s a Google Maps shot of where the walk is, if you’re not sure of the relation to Sydney.

If you enjoyed this walk, be sure to check out other people’s offerings on Jo’s Monday Walks.

And if you’d like to see more about Palm Beach and the Barrenjoey lighthouse, Jude has a great post.

(A note about the photos. I didn’t want to lug my ‘real’ camera around for three days, so took a smaller ‘point and shoot’. The quality is not as good as I’d like, but that was the trade-off for less weight and bulk. Still, you get the idea!)


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The Goods Line

Undated photo on a display board. Looking north to Darling Harbour.

Undated photo on a display board. Looking north to Darling Harbour. Hard to believe this is now an urban walking route and playground!

A chance reference to “The Goods Line” in a news article last week sent me straight to Google. What was this elevated railway-turned-pedestrian walkway in Sydney, and why had I not heard of it before?

Rather than rewriting what I’ve since learned, I’ll simply quote. “The first railway in New South Wales was laid on this route in 1855 to transport goods from the wharves of Darling Harbour to the railway goods yard at Redfern … Today the entire length of the re-invigorated rail corridor is only 500 metres – basically from Central Station’s Devonshire Tunnel under George Street to the southern boundary of the Powerhouse Museum. Yet this was once one of the most lucrative commercial arteries in the British Empire.” (source)

I somehow managed to miss the reference to the tunnel under George Street, so wandered around at street level until I finally found a map of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) (which grew up around the original train line) and was able to join The Goods Line at the halfway point, where it crosses Ultimo Street.

The black and white photo below is part of an information display above the bridge. I was unable to match the angle of the old shot because, as you can see, there is quite a bit more traffic on Ultimo Street now! The only shared landmarks in these shots are the rail bridge and the tower behind. The tower is the restored bell tower of the Sydney Markets, now standing outside the Markets Library of the UTS; the bridge is the oldest iron bridge in Australia, built in 1879. What I find most striking about the old photo is the complete lack of trees.

The Goods Line rail bridge crossing Ultimo Street, then and now.

The Goods Line rail bridge crossing Ultimo Street, then and now.

Now that I’d found the line, doing only half the walk would have been cheating (not to mention absurdly short) so I headed back to the beginning. This is where the tunnel from Central Station, which I should have followed, spits you out.

The start of the walk, at the southern end.

The start of the walk, at the southern end.

If you go down the stairs and look over your left shoulder, you see this. Aren’t you itching to know what’s behind those locked gates?

Train track to ... where?

Train track to … where?

Looking north, you see the rail line, and the walk, stretching arrow-straight ahead of you. The last goods train left Darling Harbour on this line in 1984, and until redeveloped as a pedestrian link (at a reported cost of A$15 million) and opened last September, the land and infrastructure were unused (apart from the occasional steam train taking things to the museum).

Train tracks and walking route, straight ahead.

Train tracks and walking route, straight ahead.

I certainly hadn’t done anything requiring a rest, but there was no shortage of benches.

Bench after bench after bench ...

Bench after bench after bench …

This extraordinary structure sits at the corner of Ultimo Street and The Goods Line. It’s the first building in Australia designed by globally renowned architect Frank Gehry and belongs to the UTS.

The nature of the walk changes dramatically at the bridge, from concrete hemmed in by buildings in the south (below left), to meandering paths, greenery and play areas in the north (below right).

If you compare the view north now (above right) with the view in the undated b&w photo below (displayed above the bridge), the only common feature is the twin peaks of the roofline of the power station (now housing the Powerhouse Museum).

The red box indicates the power station / Powerhouse Museum building.

The red box indicates the power station / Powerhouse Museum building.

Strolling towards the museum, you’ll pass a number of diversions, such as ping pong areas (BYO paddles!):

Anyone for ping pong?

Anyone for ping pong?

… a child-sized interactive fountain …

… old railway objects …

… flowers and little gardens.

The Goods Line leads you to the Powerhouse Museum …


Powerhouse Museum

… where the walk ends abruptly, blockaded by a solid grey barrier.

A grey barricade marks the end of the walk.

A grey barricade marks the end of the walk.

Welcome to the pedestrian hell that is the Darling Quarter/convention centre construction site. Here’s a small sample of what’s going up:

Yet more Sydney construction.

Yet more Sydney construction.

The brave walker pushing on to Darling Harbour, as I was, must negotiate this blot on the landscape.

This was a very short walk (I walked at least as long trying to find the start!), but it revealed to me a part of Sydney’s history that I hadn’t known about. You can discover where other people have been walking on Jo’s Monday Walks.


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Travel Album: Philadelphia

30th Street Train Station

Now THIS is what a train station concourse should look like! What a glorious space. (30th Street Train Station)

Exploring Philadelphia on foot.

I arrived in Philadelphia by train from New York City, and was delighted by the marvellous vaulting space of 30th Street Train Station. The station was restored and renovated in a $75 million project completed in 1991. From the 90-foot ceilings to the marble columns to the gold leaf gilding, it looks fantastic. A great introduction to the city. I was in Philadelphia in late May for a conference, but managed to get in two walks — one on the way to a supermarket which revealed unexpected (to me) back streets that reminded me of English villages, and the other around the Old City area with its historical sites commemorating the push for independence from England.

The supermarket in question was the Whole Foods store on South Street, and my hotel was near City Hall, so I walked along South 12th Street. Although I was heading out for food supplies, I had my camera with me (of course!), and was soon snapping away at the lovely old tree-lined side streets.

City Hall is definitely worth a look! “At 548 ft (167 m), including the statue of city founder William Penn atop it, it was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1894 to 1908 … it was built between 1871 and 1901 at a cost of $24 million.” (source)

One morning, when the conference sessions were not relevant to my work, I took the train to 2nd Street station and followed a self-guided walking tour of old buildings and monuments.

Along the way I passed a lovely little park …

… more quaint side streets …

… Benjamin Franklin (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States) …

Benjamin Franklin bust

Benjamin Franklin bust

… and things cluttering up the sidewalk …

… and then I stopped for coffee and a muffin. I forget the name of the coffee shop, but I loved the interior lights!

Then it was on to Elfreth’s Alley. “Named for blacksmith and property-owner Jeremiah Elfreth, Elfreth’s Alley was home to the 18th century artisans and trades-people who were the backbone of colonial Philadelphia. … While a modern city has sprung up around it, the Alley preserves three centuries of evolution through its old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, Flemish bond brickwork and other architectural details.” (source)

If you have enjoyed these walks in Philadelphia, check out Jo’s Monday Walk to see where other bloggers have been walking.


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Travel Album: New York City (2)

Maine Monument

The Maine Monument commemorates the 260 American sailors who died when the battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbour (Cuba) in 1898.

A walk in Central Park

On a lovely Saturday at the end of May, a friend and I strolled through the southern end of Central Park. We entered from Columbus Circle (where the Maine Monument is, above), heading loosely for the Shakespeare Garden because I wanted to take photos of the garden. (My Shakespeare Garden post is here.)

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I was pleasantly surprised at the many woodland retreats scattered around.

Woods and fence.

This is scene is more bucolic than I expected in New York City.

Woods and bench.

This bench seems to have grown out of the fence.

The Victorian Gardens Amusement Park were popular with children and adults alike.

A ride in a horse-drawn carriage is a very popular thing to do, though with prices starting at $50 for 20 minutes it didn’t seem like value for money. The poor horses seemed faintly embarrassed by their exuberant head gear.

Horse with red white feather.

Horse with red and white feather.

Bethesda Fountain is one of the best known fountains in the world — apparently. I have to confess that I did not recognise it, although it has appeared in a number of films. Interestingly, the statue at the top (“Angel of the Waters”) is the only sculpture in the park that was commissioned as part of the original design.

Bethesda Fountain - Angel of the Waters

Bethesda Fountain – Angel of the Waters

What’s a park without performers? And yes, he was singing a Simon & Garfunkel song when I took this.

Busker

The park opened in 1857, and some of its solid brick and stone architecture can still be seen.

More modern architecture is on display in the towers of Manhattan, viewed across the lake.

Office towers seen across the lake.

Skyscrapers seen across the lake.

Rhododendrons or azaleas? I’m not sure what the difference is, but they are pretty.

If you have enjoyed this walk in Central Park, check out Jo’s Monday Walk to see where other bloggers have been walking.


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