New York City - Part III
On our fourth and last day in NYC, we tried to cram as much fun and sightseeing as we could into a 24 hour period. No better place to start our adventure than 5th Avenue, right?
The previous night, Mom had surprised me with tickets to the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon. So the next day, I surprised her with a 2 hour pedicab tour of Central Park! Photo credits of any pictures with me in it go to our most excellent driver, Richie Costello, of Richie's Central Park Pedicab Tours. Here we are seated in Richie's cab with our matching turquoise purses nestled between us. Richie thought that was some pretty cool mother-daughter stylin'.
Below is a fun shot of my mom and Richie at The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir with some pretty fabulous Upper East Side apartment buildings behind them. Richie is a lifelong New Yorker with a strong passion and love for the city, the patience of a teacher, and the manners of a true gentleman. I couldn't have imagined a better tour guide to show Mom and I around New York City on a balmy summer day.
Aside from Richie's excellent commentary on the history and people of Central Park and its surrounding environs, my favorite part of the tour was visiting Bethesda Fountain. What a wonderful oasis of beauty and calm in the middle of this bustling city! The fountain is so big, and its terrace so spacious and inviting, that hundreds of people can sit close by and enjoy its splendor while still maintaining a bit of peaceful solitude. Can you see the pretty purple blooms of the waterlilies blooming in the pool? I felt like I was in Paris.
Just beyond the fountain is a lovely tunnel that runs beneath the main road, connecting the two sides of the park together. Light from the south floods in to the tunnel, softly illuminating the sandstone columns and colorful wall and ceiling tiles. New York never fails to offer up street art in the most beautiful places, and this tunnel was a fitting venue for this man's musical performance. Acoustics, lighting, architectural drama, and high traffic - I can certainly see why he chooses to perform here.
A few more street performers were holding court on the opposite end of the tunnel. Their amazing acrobatics really turned a few heads (pun intended). ;-)
Richie also drove us around the residential streets near Central Park and clued us in on some local history (and gossip). Did you know that at the height of his career, Billy Joel was not allowed to purchase a penthouse in the luxury apartment home pictured below? Same goes for Madonna. Apparently, it doesn't matter how much money you have, if the neighbors don't want to live next to you, you ain't getting in!
Mom really wanted to see Strawberry Fields. Many, many people still flock to this part of the park to pay homage to John Lennon at the Imagine mosaic, which is set in a clearing surrounded by many large shade trees. Even though I don't really have a strong connection to Lennon or the Beatles, I found his memorial to be a peaceful and reflective place.
Did I mention that Richie is an excellent photographer? Rarely do I hand over my camera and get a picture back of THIS caliber. Thank you Richie for capturing the happiness of this special day for my mom and I.
We ended our tour at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, where I snapped this picture of a woman perched on top of the John Purrey Mitchel memorial. I could really get into this street photography thing in New York - so many beautiful and unique people doing so many interesting things! Walking the streets of New York City is a glimpse into what it's like to be human.
Richie was kind enough to plan our tour route so that our drop-off point would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is on the East side of Central Park. He even recommended a great lunchtime spot, the rooftop gardens on top of the museum. He was absolutely right: the views of the city from up here were pretty hard to beat.
The Met is an impressive art museum with more galleries than we had time to peruse on our lightening-fast schedule. We did, however, make time for two of my favorite genres, Impressionist paintings and sculpture. How cool is it to get up close and personal with Van Gogh's work - so close that you can see the three-dimensional texture in the paint?
At the Met, there is a gorgeous sunlit gallery where many of the sculptures are featured. A setting like this really shows off the natural beauty of these fine pieces of art and invites contemplation and relaxation.
Showing some leg in the sculpture gallery. Mom is checking her email on a bench, just under the statue's right knee, unaware of the charlatan just to the left of her. Hey, it's New York, you'll see weirder things before the day is over...
I really liked this sculpture called "Winter." Does she look cold and sad to you too? Perhaps it is because she is nude except for the shawl wrapped around her head. Inappropriate attire for winter, methinks, but makes for some compelling art.
Like I said, I'm a major fan of sculpture, but frankly, this homicidal-looking little girl with the soulless eyes really freaked me out.
These funny little porcelain bird figurines are cute on their own, but the innovative way the museum chose to display them really drew my eye.
After leaving the Met, we headed to Midtown Manhattan to our apartment. On the way back, I spied Grand Central Station and knew I would regret it if I didn't pop in and have a peek before we left. While Mom continued on, I hopped off the bus and got a good look at this beautiful building that was nearly demolished. Luckily, with the financial backing and support of many influential New Yorkers, most notably Jackie O, this architectural gem was saved and restored to its former glory.
This trip would not be complete without a visit to the 9-11 Memorial. It was so humbling to see how the city still remembers and honors the people who died that terrible day. Look closely at the door of the firehouse below and you will see the photos of three firefighters who died in the 9-11 rescue mission. American flags are still quite common all over New York, and made me think that patriotism out here must be much stronger than on the West Coast. Experiencing a national tragedy up close and personal, and then rebounding from it, is bound to create a sense of national unity that lasts a very long time.
Making my way from Midtown to the World Trade Center was an adventure in subway navigating. Because it was late at night, the subway stations near Wall Street were a veritable ghost town. I tried not to worry too much about getting mugged. To be honest, I felt quite a bit safer walking the streets of New York than I feel driving in my own home town!
Visting the 9-11 Memorial was a sobering and important experience for me. It wasn't something I necessarily wanted to do, but something I felt I needed to do after enjoying all the riches of this city. I wasn't sure what to expect. When I finally found the site, I was disappointed to see that it had just been closed for the night and that 10 feet was the closest I would be able to get to the reflecting pools. I leaned over the barrier as far as I could, set my ISO up super high, and snapped a few pictures. The images were dark and not all that evocative, but I thought I'd hang on to them and see if i couldn't clean them up with some editing. Imagine my surprise when I lightened up the background and an American flag, blowing straight in the breeze, emerged. I don't remember seeing it that night, but I am not surprised that in this one image that I kept, it is there. In the picture below you can see the near edge and far side of one of the reflecting pools, with the inscription of the names of the deceased, and the flag flying just beyond it, behind the memorial trees.
I stayed out pretty late that night, cramming in as much of New York as I could before getting on a plane back to California. Around midnight, I made a final tourist stop at Rockefeller Center and enjoyed watching the water and light show at the fountain. On my way back to the apartment, I made one last pit stop in Times Square, where I had a bleu cheese burger at an Irish pub called the Long Room and listened to a one-man Irish band play covers of contemporary pop and rap, all with a thick Irish brogue. At 2am in the morning. Nothing could have capped off my trip to New York City any better!
That's about it for me and my Mom's first trip to NYC. We had a great time and although it was a short trip, were still able to do and see many memorable things. I'm already wondering when I can go back!
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