Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The NYC Photowalk - October 26, 2013

Photo Expo was at Javits in New York City this past week.  I didn't get to go, but I managed to sign up for the Saturday Photo walking tour that started in Times Square. It was a great opportunity to meet some other fellow photographers and especially Elia Locardi and Ken Kaminesky, who hosted and organized the event. If you haven't seen their work, they're in my blog roll. They do some amazing HDR travel and landscape work.

© Elia Locardi / Ken Kaminesky
Photo Courtesy Elia Locardi / Ken Kaminesky

PhotoWalk NYC ©Attila Fovonyessy
Photo courtesy of Attila Fovonyessy
If you look closely, you'll see me posing with Elia and Ken as I won a prize - a 2 TB dual external drive from G Technology. Winning the 2nd prize raffle was icing on the cake. More fun was getting to meet people with similar interests and passions. The tour started at Times Square and the group wended its way through Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Grand Central and the Chrysler Building. I was exhausted by the end, but invigorated as well.  All in all, a good day.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Travelogue 2.2 - That Hotel...

I loved my recent trip to Utica, and even my stay at the Utica hotel didn't dampen my spirits. The reason I say this is because the body of a decapitated bird literally ushered my entrance into this landmark hotel. Downtown Utica at 6:30pm on a Wednesday already looks deserted in an "I Am Legend" sort of way.  So when I walk up to the entrance with bag in hand, dead bird at the steps, I felt like the shadow figure in The Exorcist poster. 

It's too close to Halloween for this crap.

The lobby of the hotel thankfully put to rest any more notions of The Exorcist because now I clearly walked into The Overlook hotel from The Shining. The Overlook -- er, I mean Utica Hotel is almost 100 years old and the lobby shows off some amazing and beautifully intricate early 20th century architectural details. Unfortunately this beauty is all negated when the lobby sports a dank, musty odor. When I notice the tiny subway tile floor I feel like I just walked into the world's largest New York City public school bathroom.

And that's what's so exasperating about this hotel: you can clearly see it's at the beginning stages of becoming unkempt and poorly maintained. That gorgeous subway tile that covers the entire lobby floor? Look closer and there are quite a few spots that need replacing, major repair or cleaning.

That headless bird was looking more and more like an omen. Seriously speaking, subtract the bird incident and the somewhat spotty customer service, and I can actually see the charm in this beautiful old hotel. I hate to say it, but even its disheveled look gives it an air of romance, but it's teetering a fine line there.  I also forget that this hotel was designed during a time when space was designed with more generous proportions, so I was pleasantly surprised to find my room was the size of my own apartment. The free hot morning breakfast was a nice touch too. 

courtesy of www.jackaiello.photoshelter.com
I didn't take any pictures of the hotel because I felt strange walking through the lobby with my big Mark III. Besides, the main objective for the trip was my Adirondacks foliage tour with the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, not to mention the unexpected surprise of Utica's lovely train station. If you want to see the photography from those outings, check out the previous links or check out my portfolio at Shutterstock.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Travelogue 2.1 - Utica, New York Train Station - October 2 - 4, 2013

Oh, Utica, I hardly got to know you. My main reason for stopping here was to take advantage of a photo opportunity with The Adirondack Scenic Railroad, a guided train tour through the Adirondacks which left out of Utica Train Station. I was really excited to photograph the peak foliage for which this area is so well known, but then while here, I also got to know a little about Utica, too. First of all, that train station... 


If moviegoers had to scout a location to film a scene from the 20s, 30s or 40s, you can't go any further than Utica's Train Station. You can almost picture the men busily walking through here in wool business suits and fedoras, the women in flower print dresses, thin gloves and blocky shoes. 

This station celebrates 100 years next year and it's still beautifully maintained. It's really like going back in time and I love it when a building this old is still being used for its main purpose. I can describe the huge marble columns and the gorgeously detailed coffered ceilings or I can just show you...



Monday, October 21, 2013

Travelogue 2 - The Adirondacks Photo Tour, October 2 - 4, 2013

Train car Jack Aiello
The Adirondacks is a place I've always wanted to visit, especially during the autumn months. I read up on some suggestions for fall foliage photo opportunities, one of them being the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Although my stay in Utica was incidental, the real reason for my trip was for The Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Leaving out of Utica Train Station, Adirondack Scenic Railroad is comprised of volunteers whose mission is to preserve and restore a length of train track that runs from Utica to Lake Placid. Parts of this restoration are complete but they still need funding to revive the corridor that runs all the way to Lake Placid.

train tracks Jack Aiello
Train tracks and autumn scenery from The Adirondack Scenic Railroad
Now a tourist railway, people can buy tickets and enjoy the fall foliage and general beauty of the Adirondacks. The train wends its way on a two hour ride to its final destination at Thendara Station. At the final stop, shuttle buses wait for you at the station and take you into the town of Old Forge, New York. Old Forge is a lovely stop; you can wander up and down the main street to check out the souvenir shops or just enjoy lunch.

But the real star is the train ride. It's a lazy two-hour trip while the conductor cheerily announces the railroad's history, how it came into being, the makeup of the land, etc. Meanwhile, the train passes through a really colorful and wonderful display of autumn foliage, and the best part is you can go to an empty baggage car and take pictures without any glass to obstruct your view. Think I'm kidding? Check this out:

train scene view

More images coming soon to www.jackaiello.photoshelter.com.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What's with the French, Anyway? A Restaurant Experience Gone Bad.

Aside from my love for photography, I also love food. I have the love handles and the cholesterol levels to prove it. I've also been a big fan of cuisine diversity for the Bronx and there are very few, if any, French bistros in this borough, so I was excited to try Bistro SK in City Island, write a review on Yelp and deposit my two cents into the ether.

Everything about this bistro was gearing up to be a positive experience: the food was good, the Yelp reviews were uniformly 4 and 5 stars, and the owner nailed the decor perfectly. I've never been to France, but this is what I would envision a small French bistro to look and feel like. Unfortunately,  my Yelp review was less kind, and all because they committed the one unforgivable sin of poor customer service. It's a fundamental core of the restaurant experience and if you forget this, then who cares if your meal was 5 stars, or even 3, in this case? I can forgive a lot, but this one I didn't let pass.  

The Brunch menu was advertised with two price points: $10.95 with unlimited coffee or tea or $15.95 with unlimited mimosa. As long as you order from the brief list of Brunch menu items, you would be charged one or the other per person. 

My stepfather, mother and I proceeded to order coffee and orange juice, anticipating that the OJ might cost a bit extra. (The OJ, by the way, was not fresh squeezed - it was made from concentrate). The Brunch items ranged from 3 varieties of omelettes, Eggs Benedict, French Toast, Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame and ham and cheese crepes. Ordering within the menu, I had the Croque Monsieur which was solid, very tasty. The omelettes ordered by my family were good, but certainly nothing to rave about - their words more or less.

We also decided on a dessert, which we also expected to pay extra since it wasn't on the menu.  ($9 for a tiny ramekin of chocolate mousse, by the way). Throughout all of this, the restaurant was crowded and noisy - always a good sign. The service suffered a bit as it felt a little rushed and brusque. There was a decidedly clipped, impatient manner in which the waiter answered my stepfather's question. I didn't know it at the time, but I just discovered in my research that our waiter was the owner, Stephane Kane. Our request for a second round of coffee was ignored and we had to repeat the order.  Not ideal, but forgivable - they're having a hectic day.

Unfortunately, when we received the bill, we were charged $15.95 a person.  Calling over Stephane to question the bill, he became surly and defensive.  "You all had orange juice, didn't you?", he scowled. 

"Well, yeah, but it wasn't mimosa", I replied, trying not to adopt a confrontational tone, "so I was just wondering why we were charged extra for this".

"Well, you want me to charge you $6 for each of the orange juices you ordered?", he countered with a snap. 

$6 for a glass of orange juice from concentrate?  This isn't Manhattan. But more to the point, he handled the situation poorly.  Even if we were in the wrong, he should have adopted a diplomatic tone and explain that it was just easier to charge us each the $15.95 than separately charge us for the OJ, however overpriced it was. I was willing to amicably concede with just a simple explanation and polite attitude. 

Instead, he felt the need to shut me up - and for the time being, he did. 

...Until now that I'm writing about it. Adieu Bistro SK, je ne vais pas revenir. 

Bronx translation:

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