Sometimes a Trip is just a Walk in the Park

1-aP1030959I've often advised travelers with jam-packed itineraries to step back and leave themselves time to take a walk in a park or sit there a while, experiencing what the locals see and do. When we travel, it's one of our favorite things to do (we even compare parks in different cities and eras...but we're compulsive contexters). 

 

But if you're as lucky as we are, you don't have to buy an airline ticket for a break in the park—we have Brooklyn's masterpiece Prospect Park in our backyard. Time enough for a bigger view of the park in the coming months; these pictures are from a late-afternoon ramble through the southern end of the park on a warm-for-winter day last January, a few months after Sandy left a mark.

 

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Prospect Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the architects who earlier designed Manhattan's Central Park and later designed many parks all over North America, including the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the park systems of Boston and Buffalo, and Mount Royal Park in Montreal.

 

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[Winter special: Duck on Ice]

 

Many believe Prospect Park this was their masterpiece, and it is certainly their creation. A hilly slope was turned into a stark ravine, a farm into an inviting lake, a small spring into a water system with a river, a creek and a lullwater. Machines were built to move mature trees around, and the paths were underlaid with plumbing that collects and returns every drop of water to the lake. This is not nature, but it looks natural. More on the park another time...today's visit is just for a walk.

 

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[I wasn't the only walker in the park that day]

 

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[A large apartment building outside the park masquerades as a castle]

 

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[Not a great day for swimming, but a great day for a gathering of the clan...]

 

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[Phragmites has caused park problems over the years, but here it shows its best face]

 

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[And hey, what's a park without a squirrel?]

 

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Click HERE for more Gumbo blogs and pictures for Brooklyn and the rest of NYC

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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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I've often advised travelers with jam-packed itineraries to step back and leave themselves time to take a walk in a park or sit there a while, experiencing what the locals see and do.

 

That is absolutely excellent advice.  I hope that most people were wise enough to take your advice.    Many of my best trip memories are made of such stuff.   

Thank you so much, PHeymont, for this walk in the park.  It is just what my jangled nerves needed today.

I suspect a walk in the park is a habit acquired over time and familiarity with a place.  I have a feeling, too, that the urge to go at top speed is the initial and overriding one.  Or is it years and not travel experience that slows us down enough for such places to finally come into focus?  Looking back over the decades I think maybe it's the latter.

I do think people's perspectives and priorities change with time.  For example, I care little about a bar or nightlife scene in most of my destinations nowadays; that mattered more to me when I was much younger.  I have always loved walking in parks because of the beautiful gardens, etc.  But I think i'm much more into people watching in these places than I used to be.

 

One of my favorite places to visit is the provincial park a short block from my home.  It's grand to go for a walk in it, see deer, beaver, osprey, coyotes etc and forget that it's in a city of over a million people.

Maybe travel advice of the very concrete sort then, hotels, trains, etc. is the most satisfying for all concerned.  A suggestion to slow down just may not compute, something for each of us to discover on our own.  So PHeymont may be preaching to the choir...may he continue.

Good advice is good advice.  People can accept it or ignore it.  I'm all for freedom of choice.  But sometimes an alternative needs to be presented in a clear way, as PHeymont has nicely done in this piece.

I don't disagree.  Just pointing out the nature of human beings and, like world peace, we can wish for it while not actually expecting everyone to join in.  But lessons are learned from war too and how would we feel about every tourist in town flocking to OUR park.

I've mentioned in other pages that I love wide open spaces - like the State Delaware Park - but the designer of New York Central Park rung a Bell with me.

Frederick Olmsted came to Liverpool to check out the "Peoples Garden" and he wrote in 1850 :

"Five minutes of admiration, and a few more spent studying the manner in which art had been employed to obtain from nature so much beauty, and I was ready to admit that in democratic America there was nothing to be thought of as comparable with this People’s Garden"

Many of the features were copied into Central Park - but on a much larger scale ! 

 

 

CaptureBPark

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Last edited by GarryRF

It is clear that the "dumb" animals always seem to know the best places to hang out.  We can never have enough parks.  Nice to read that Frederick Olmsted also knew a good park when he saw one.  Thanks for that info GarryRF

Garry's note about Olmsted's travels (and he was quite a traveler) set me off on a quick look to find the park he was referring to (which I didn't; apparently "people's garden" was a description rather than a name?) and found that Liverpool has more parks and especially top-class parks than any British city besides London.

 

The article also mentioned that for reasons of health—and keeping social unrest down—the city commissioners set out on a park-building spree starting about 1833. Many cities already had parks, but they were most often hand-me-downs, former property of kings and nobles to which the public was now admitted. Liverpool is likely one of the earliest examples of conscious park-building for the masses. No wonder Olmsted came to study!

 

Another Park from the 1850s. People would escape Liverpool for the day and travel north to Hesketh Park. 20 minutes on the train. This is taken in Mid-Winter.

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Last edited by GarryRF
Originally Posted by Grouchy Gumbo:

The last pic is of my cousin Priscilla, who lives in Prospect Park.  I see that you gave her a little gnosh.  Not that she needs it.  She seems to be putting on a little extra "winter coat" this year.   She has a fine home.  I would really like to visit the park sometime.

Grouchy, I'm curious how a squirrel manages long distance travel to visit relatives.  Maybe you can enlighten us mere mortals.

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