Friday, October 16, 2015

My Top 10 Urban Oases

I am a quintessential city girl. I love big cities and preferred being in the midst of a concrete jungle than in the wilderness. But even a hard core city girl like me needs to chill and relax from time to time, and I retreat to a tranquil space that allows me to just that.

Botanical Garden (San Francisco) 
Smack dab in the middle of the Golden Gate Park is the Botanical Garden (at Strybing Arboretum), and it truly is a beautiful oasis in the heart of San Francisco. There are so many wonderful things to discover, and with more than 7,500 various species of plants, spouting fountains, wide open fields and a number of lovely little nooks, such as the Garden of Fragrance and the Children's Garden, you can sit quietly with your family and friends lazing together in the sunshine, reading books or exploring the various garden floras.  Also, it is one of the loveliest places for a picnic.
Shakespeare Garden (San Francisco)
Hidden away along a small path to the California Academy of Sciences, the enchanting Shakespeare Garden, with an arched iron-wrought gate, is the type of homely garden opening that one would to expect to stumble upon in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Even visitors who have strolled through Golden Gate Park dozens of times may have never wandered into Shakespeare Garden. It’s pretty easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.

The Shakespeare Garden contains numerous plants that are referenced in Shakespeare's actual writings, and on the back brick wall, quotations and passages from his plays are engraved on stone tablets for visitors to read.

Central Park (New York City) 
What more can I say about Central Park that hasn’t been said. It’s FABULOUS! Immersed in lush and wild nature with a massive skyline as a backdrop, it’s truly an urban oasis that defies all logic.
For most New Yorkers, the park is a sanctuary. Especially for me, it was a place where I would retreated to whenever my life in the city got too much, and I needed to regroup and recuperate. Also, some of the best and most memorable experiences I’ve had were in the park, like serendipitously meeting my husband.

It’s a place where we always go back to reminisce about our wonderful past lives in the city as well as creating beautiful new ones with our son who absolutely adores every corner of the park.

Our favorites in the park: Heckscher Playground, Poets Row, Bethesda Terrace, Alice in Wonderland Statue, John Lennon Imagine Memorial, and the always entertaining and eclectic street performers.
The Highline (New York City) 
After all the places I’ve seen in NYC, I can honestly say that the Highline (from Gansevoort St to West 34th St, between 10th & 11th Avenue) is my favorite. It epitomizes the city that is constantly evolving and recreating itself. Not only the design and the atmosphere of the park unique and innovative, it has transformed a neighborhood which was formally known as the “Death Avenue” into a trendy, upscale, and more importantly, family friendly area.

As the park expands from lower Manhattan to 31th Street in Midtown, it provides some of the best views of the key monuments, the Empire State building, Chrysler Building, and on a clear day, the Statue of Liberty.

There's an eclectic mix of art installations as well as tasty food carts, art vendors and musicians, and the great thing about the Highline is that it enables you to have and enjoy an urban experience in the midst of (man-made) nature.
Riverside Park (New York City)
I loved living on the Upper West Side. Aside from it being one of the more residential and child-friendly neighborhoods in Manhattan, you're privy to two of the most beautiful urban oases in the world, Central Park and Riverside Park.

Although Riverside Park is by no means as well-known as Central Park, it is a vast expanse of green space and a home to beautiful gardens, landscaped paths, sports facilities, public art, and some of the most stunning river views.

Venice Canal (Los Angeles)
Secreted away from the hustle and bustle of the famous boardwalk, the picturesque canals of Venice, California, are one of the seaside community's hidden charms.

More than 100 years ago, developer Abbot Kinney conceived the mad idea of building a "Venice of America," a cultural Valhalla dedicated to the fine arts, complete with canals, gondolas and imported Italian gondoliers. The experiment failed, and the gondoliers went home, but the canals remain and are a splendid place to take a walk.

Begin this walk near the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Pacific Avenue, at the corner of Washington and Strongs Drive. There, under a small sign that says "Venice Canals Walkway," turn in and begin exploring. Within minutes, you'll lose the roar of Venice traffic and begin to experience the charm of canal life.
Jardin du Luxembourg (Paris, France) 
The Jardin du Luxembourg has always been one of my favorite places in Paris! I love the beauty and the elegance of it all. When I lived in Paris, it was a sanctuary where I could go to think and write.

Being back in the Luxembourg Gardens with our son, I discovered that it was a delightful place for kids as well, and there were many activities for children to enjoy, and each time I’m there, it’s as memorable as the first time I’d visited Paris.
Promenade Plantée (Paris, France) 
I absolutely love the High Line in NYC! So, when I heard that it was inspired by Promenade Plantée in Paris, I had to check it out and see it for myself.

Created in 1988 by Philippe Mathieux and Jacques Vergely on the former railway line, which linked Place de la Bastille to Varenne-Saint-Maur from 1859, the Promenade Plantée mixes areas of wild vegetation that has sprung up alongside the railway line with more modern landscaped areas.

It begins behind the Bastille opera house and runs above avenue Daumesnil to the Jardin de Reuilly: it is the famous Viaduc des Arts. The Allée Vivaldi then comprises the shopping part of the walkway. Then, it continues through tunnels and trenches and ends at Porte Dorée and the Bois de Vincennes.

About halfway to Bois de Vincennes, there is a large green park with a pelouse (lawn) that's not forbidden to walk on as most of the green lawns are in Paris, and there is also a small playground.

Promenade Plantée truly is a hidden gem, and although the ambiance is definitely different from the High Line, it’s a perfect place for children – also, you won’t see many tourists here.
Kollwitz Platz (Berlin, Germany) 
Named after the famous German painter, print maker and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz, it is one of the loveliest and liveliest squares in Berlin.

Farmer's Market at Kollwitz Square has a great selection of meats, cheeses and organic food, as well as wineand oh, fresh oysters! Also, there are playgrounds nearby, which is perfect if you have a little one.

Cheonggyecheon (Seoul, South Korea) 
Neglected merely as an overpass since 1970, Cheonggyecheon was was a small stream that flowed through the downtown area along some of Seoul’s popular sights. Then, in 2003, the mayor of the city decided to restore the stream and give the city some much-needed natural space, and when the restoration was completed in 2005, Cheonggyecheon became a haven of natural beauty and oasis in the midst the cosmopolitan city.

Situated smack dab in the middle of the city, it is one of the nicest place to take a stroll. For children, it’s an absolutely perfect place to explore as you walk along the stream, there are many artistic and fun details that are sure to delight every child.


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