18.05.2012 - 18.05.2012
A small selection of photos. Ghost tour, skyline etc.
Northern East USA 2012
This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.
18.05.2012 - 18.05.2012
A small selection of photos. Ghost tour, skyline etc.
19.05.2012 22 °C
I got swallowed up by Manhattan yesterday. That's why this is a day late and will not be a comprehensive account. Perhaps I will bullet point... Don't worry I didn't say PowerPoint!
We got off to a late start but that seems to be ok as things open late and go on all night. With no real plan, we chose to look the the Empire State Building first. Easily found, midtown in its Art Deco splendor, this is as good as they tell you. The queues are long. Note I used plural for queue. This is because there are lots of different queue areas. Psychologically I think this is a good thing, going from one queue to another. We had an audio guide which was really good for the queuing. Here is a tip. If you pay extra you go to the 102nd floor which is obviously higher and has fewer people. Also you can actually see. The lower floor has an outer area, but it is crammed and you can't see until people move. Which they don't do very often. We spent quite a long time up there. The view was good and clear.
After this was the obligatory aimless wandering and disorientation which means wasted time but accidentally discoveries like Bryant Park and a film crew in the streets.
The crowds here are like tides. You are caught in a rush and get swept along. Sometimes it's hard to see anything because you are so busy trying to avoid collisions or annoying the tide behind. Most ethnicities are here and there are a lot of accents which I like listen to.
We had a break to eat at the Grand Central Station. This building has retained its olde worlde feeling. Makes you wish there was a steam train to catch. Thank you Jackie for saving this station!
More meandering in midtown, we had a look in St Patricks Cathedral which is an oasis in the chaotic modern consumerist environment outside. We had a walk to see the outside of the United Nations. Very uninspiring. We took a crosstown bus back to centre then saw other notable buildings, Chrysler building, a skinny Hilton hotel, 5th Ave, 42nd St etc.
By then it was evening, so another elevated view was in order. This time from Top of the Rock. The Rockefeller Building. Surprisingly, this was a better view in my opinion. It was dusk so it was starting to get chilly and the buildings were slowly lighting up. So pretty!
Time Square is not far, so deciding to maximize the day, that was the next destination. Oxford Circus eat your heart out. that's all I can say. However I felt like a human water molecule. One minute packed in, the next flowing but not necessarily in your chosen direction. I took photos. This means I took photos of neon advertisements. Shame on me. Where is my counter culture cred?
So it has become late and my feet are sore, my tummy is hungry. We are too knackered to look for a place to eat, so we buy food to prepare in our studio apartment. Gotta make the most of it!
I slep better. Perhaps not blogging helped or perhaps it was exhaustion?
Momentarily, another song lyric yesterday as we crossed Madison Ave.... "Walking down Madison" sung by Kirsty McCall (RIP). Talking of Deceased singers, RIP Donna Summer. The first record I bought with my own pocket money at age 9 was by this disco diva.
Off to New Jersey today for a dose of normality.
19.05.2012 23 °C
So this morning, we took the subway to Penn Station to catch the NJ Transit out to Morristown. Why are there so many people standing around in Penn Station? It is hard to move around, let alone move around in a hurry.
The train to NJ was a double decker (similar to those in Sydney) but without graffiti, scratched windows and slashed seats. It was a clean, fast modern train which took us through an industrial area, train yards and that unsightly views all cities have, through to gradually more and more pretty areas. The scenery became so picturesque, verging on the impossibly perfect houses, gardens, forests and towns.
At our destination we were met by my friend Sheri who took us to her home to meet her husband Tom, and the adorable Rusty the cat. The first thing I noticed when arriving at the station, was just how peaceful and quiet it was! We have been bombarded almost constantly with city noise, trains, airports and aeroplane noise since we left on May 8!
We had glorious spring weather so we enjoyed a fabulous fish BBQ and salad. Lots of chatting and sharing stories in their lovely garden. After lunch we saw an arboretum on a former mansion estate. There was a wedding there at the time. We counted 10 bridesmaids. Thats just silly. I enjoyed seeing some English trees and plants, like good old Christmas holly which is absent in Australia. There were a few familiar plants in the garden but also some I'd not seen before.
We went for a drive around the neighboring areas and saw some historical sites, such as places where George Washington had stayed. The most amazing mansions are around here too. Easily you would mistake some of them for hotels! Absolutely gobsmackingly enormous, grand and immaculately kept houses. Most of them were tasteful too, unlike some monstrosities found in certain parts of Australian cities.
Somehow, almost 7 hours passed and we had to leave. It is very hard to believe that such quaint, beautiful estates and forested land is only 70 minutes away from Manhattan.
Sheri, thank you for making today special for us. My sore feet thank you too for allowing them a bit of a rest, mellowing out in your garden was just what we all needed.
20.05.2012 25 °C
It was really hard to get going this morning. The original plan was changed due to the slow start. Instead, with such lovely warm weather we took a bus through China town, towards Brooklyn and we walked across the span of this famous bridge. The usual hordes were there and being Sunday, they were all there... It does make for an interesting people watching occasion. The bridge is being fixed or renovated so there was limited viewing at some points, but once across to the Brooklyn side, it was wow! From this side you get that famous skyline of the financial district.
Would you stand in a queue for 25 minutes for an ice cream on a sunny day? I was asking myself this question as we waited at the Brooklyn ice cream company little shop in the blaring sun. It's just an icecream, surely? Um no. There is a reason people line up for this stuff. It is wonderful, and being a bit of an ice cream connoisseur (developed and tested ice creams for Peters Ice Cream), I believe I can say that the Brooklyn ice cream company makes one of the best I've ever tasted. They only make about 8 flavours, but it's all natural and pure and tastes like heaven.
The small part of Brooklyn we saw today was a far cry from Manhattan. So much more mellow and relaxed. And quieter. Big like.
Back in Manhattan and we had a look at the area being developed after 9/11. The ground zero area was blocked off, not sure if you can get in by paying but we didn't. I could really feel a tangible absence of something in the sky here. When you look up into the big gap where the towers were, you sort of sense they are still there in a ghostly way. Well I did anyway.
After this, a wander around the Wall St area, with the NYSE, Canal St, Tiffany's and many pompous grand buildings. This district oozed money.
Legs getting weary by now, so we waited for the hordes of tourists to get on their crowded HOHO bus (that's hop on hop off) and we boarded an empty public bus with air con after they left! Hehehehe! This bus took us up along the west side so we saw TriBeCa, Chelsea and the West Village and arrived at the SW corner of Central Park. To enter this green oasis, you must battle your way through waves of young African American men who try to make you hire bikes or sit on a bike buggy. Bit like fighting off the waves of garment makers in HK as you exit the MTR.
How come I didn't know that Central Park was full of massive boulders that people climb up and sit on? Of all places this was least what I expected. Beautiful green grass, covered with humanity of all colors, shapes and sizes. Stretching on into the distance.
In the end, today was not much of a rest day, but we covered a lot of ground. Also it was good to know there were ingredients for a stir fry awaiting us in the apartment (yay for a bit of forward planning!) so there was a relaxed evening in, time to blog and eat Reese's king sized chocolate peanut cups with a hot cuppa.
Pedometer was active and behaving properly today. It exceeded 12,500 steps.
Lyric brain was quiet today, just a bit of billy idol yelling "New York!" from "Hot in the City" and a bit of Mike Nesbitt telling me that Ramona was from Brooklyn, she left when she was twenty two.
21.05.2012 18 °C
It rained all day. There was even a bit of thunder this morning. Such a contrast to yesterday.
And so like a thousand others we thought a wet Monday would be a great day for some indoor activity like visiting the MoMA.... The line was long and snaking around the corner as we arrived 5mins before opening time. But we bypassed the line with our City Pass. It was ridiculously packed inside. Barely room to move in the lobby. We headed straight for the upper floors, but it was already jammed with people. It was quite difficult to view the art, the layout was not always optimal. For some odd reason, lots of dark haired women with big eyebrows stood next to Frida Kahlo portrait and had their photo taken. I fit the description, but I did not do this. There was a lot of French people in the gallery coming to see their great artists' works. I found some quirky glasses cases in the gift shop. I'm not sure if it was the off- putting crowds, but this gallery did not give me my art afterglow. The Chicago Art Institute was a better experience. Even the busy Musee D'Orsay in Paris felt better than my MoMA experience today.
It was still raining when we left. We had a late lunch in a funny little Bistro called Papillon which was a transportation into 1920s Paris. I had a most un-French dish: Mac and cheese. I needed to see what the American style of this dish is like because I have read about it. Well, let me tell you this. It is quite literally macaroni and cheese! No bechamel sauce. It was a fatty starchy dish but perfect for a starving cold person such as I was at 3.30 this afternoon. I don't think I'll order that again. The salad was very good though, happy with that!
With a bit of afternoon remaining, we went in search of the Levain Bakery in the upper west side which purportedly sells the best cookies ever. This was a mission really because there was no other reason for a trip that way. We found the bakery, it is tiny and below street level. There wasn't much of a selection by the time we got there, but we bought 2. These things look like a rock cake, not a cookie. Will be eating them soon with a herbal tea, so not sure if they will live up to the reputation.
After looking around the other districts of Manhattan, I've come to realize that we are staying in a pretty down-heeled area. Not dangerous or scary, just gritty. Less clean, less genteel but more arty, alternative and grungy. At MoMA I read how an American art genre started here in the 70s. This is the area where CBGBs was and lots of famous musicians hung out.
Talking of the letters B and G and musicians, so long Robin Gibb. Another BeeGee gone to the choir in the sky. He is no longer staying' alive.