A New York Holiday

Downtown Manhattan
No four wheel drives, no fishing, no birds (although there was one squirrel), no campervans as large as small suburbs, no dirt roads and no peasant class flights (Qantas had a business class sale & I was a bit tanked when I booked). And no cyclones (I got out a week ahead of that muck). Sorry for the long post.
My (first) New York visit, October 2012
I tended to catch the subway somewhere and then usually walk back so as not to miss any sites. Every second day I ran about 40-45 mins early in Central Park and I did that one day, but then forgot to eat until late in the PM and by then I had bonked and my legs packed it all in. I think I was not really walking too far, but the slow standing around and wandering in museums does not help in terms of time on one’s feet. I usually found that I had done so much during the day (starting early) that all I could do at night was eat and collapse on the couch in the apartment after that. I wasn’t with friends so there was no real incentive to go out late I suppose.
I stayed in E 54th St, just off Park Ave in Midtown East, so it is pretty central to most things I wanted to do and close to three subway stations to allow for travel further afield. I booked the apartment through Airbnb http://www.airbnb.com/  so it was not even half the price of any NYC hotel. I bought a weekly MTA card and used it a fair bit – it seemed very good value.

Here is a day-by-day report on my wanderings …

Wednesday (Day 1 really):
Just shopping and wandering as I was very tired & weird in the head from the trip and date line changes. Stores – Bloomingdales (clothes & shoes), Niketown (running shoes as I did not bring any with me), B&N (Nook reader for Mum), Mont Blanc (fountain pen). At Bloomingdales you get a voucher in the NY City Pass book for 15% off (one day visit) and that is about the best bargain shopping you’ll get in NYC. It isn’t really a bargain shopping place.

Thursday:
Run through Central Park (still v. tired, so much harder than I thought), back to apartment to shower, up to Abercrombie & Fitch for some clothes shopping, back to apartment and then most of the day at MoMA. It was a little bit disappointing really. You have to go though. It does have a great store. I expected to be wowed by the building and exhibitions and just wasn’t (sorry). Some good things, but the Met is far more impressive (and so too the Tate Modern). Enjoyed the store and bought some Xmas cards and gifts. Had a great early evening meal at Bergdorf Goodman’s restaurant (7th floor) in a window seat, overlooking Central Park, drinking champagne. I had two meals here – both early dinners and really loved it. I loved just sitting there with champagne looking at the view. I had booked a window seat. Also bought a Xmas gift at BG’s for my sister & brother-in-law. Hideously expensive French wine cork screw thingy in bone. Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631763179933/

Friday:
Went early to a disappointing discount department store (Century 21 – don’t bother) near the old World Trade Centre site and saw the new buildings going up down there. Then back to apartment and up to the Metropolitan Museum by subway. Loved it but only spent a lot of time in the galleries I liked. Great collections and a good Warhol exhibition (no photography allowed). Joined as a member as that helped me send two huge books back to Australia (one on Matisse’s Jazz Book and his cut-outs and the other an illuminated Psalter that was a great facsimile edition & they beat me back here!) and it also gave me 20% off for a great lunch in the members’ dining room (a must do really). Had virtually the whole day there. Walked back via the Whitney Museum of American Art, down Madison Ave (a really cool walk to do), but it was being renovated on the outside, so I don’t know what it looks like. They warned me that a lot of their collection galleries were not open because of the renovations so I did not think it worth the entry fee and declined. Enjoyed the PM walk back down Madison Ave. Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631774523003/

Saturday:
An early trip to Empire State building to avoid the crowds (very successful and surprisingly amazing views as people had told me not to bother). Then Macy’s large store (meh), Bryant Park (being renovated), NYPL (you have to go, but again, meh) http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631805006305/, St Pat’s Cathedral (being renovated), Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station (amazing).  I brought the large Canon 7D and a big lens and had been regretting not just bringing a lighter smaller camera until this day. It was well worth it from the observation deck of the Empire State (see shots here http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631788175661/ ), inside the cathedral and also inside Grand Central Station http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631809435838/  I had a PM run in Central Park after this and really enjoyed it – lots of Saturday arvo people and a fun place to be when it is sunny.

Sunday:
Lonely Planet Guide walking tour of most of lower Manhattan (Soho, Tribeca, Noho, Nolita, West Village. Greenwich Village, Flatiron & Meat Packing then back thru Midtown East) http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631959934578/. I missed the Young Designer’s Markets in Nolita because the guide book said Sat & Sun, but they were only on for Sat. I also spent some time in the NYU Library – the Bobst as it was near Washington Square http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631826281377/. It was almost dark by the time I had walked back to the NYPL, so I ate at Andaz, right across the road and wandered home from there. (I ate twice at Andaz as I really liked it and it was on the way home for me.) Most photos yet to be uploaded to Flickr, sorry.

Monday:
Guggenheim (stunning building and great Picasso exhibition in B&W – I loved his early figurative work) and then walked across Central Park Great Lawn to the Natural History Museum (meh – it was in my City Pass book of six attractions) http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631958799343/. I’d not done enough reading to find that the National Academy of Design (next to the Guggenheim did not open Mondays and then walked back across Central Park to find it was the same for the Frick Collection, so I needed to go back. Major shopping – more shirts at Thomas Pink’s. Photos http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631848847752/

So now my last few days in NYC. I have heaps more photos to add to Flickr that cover most of what I did on these days (because it was mainly just wandering around taking photos of interesting stuff), but they all require some citing, tagging and naming of buildings, etc. I’ve just not yet gotten to it.

Tuesday:
Was really tired, had a late and leisurely start. Had to do some washing and await a fedEx delivery of some cheap online shopping.
Then walked around lower Midtown – to the Rockefeller Centre and Times Square via the International Centre for Photography http://www.icp.org/ I wish I’d researched them a bit earlier as they had a lovely weekend workshop on street photography in Chelsea that I’d have done. Nice exhibits from time to time too.
Time Square is a big mess of advertising signs and lights, run down buildings and too many cars and people. But you have to go there. Not really my thing.
I then wandered back very slowly via Bryant Park and Madison Avenue.

Wednesday:
Another sleep in. Exchanged a Mont Blanc that had a faulty nib at Bloomingdales, bought some make-up for Mum and then caught the subway north to take some pics of the Guggenheim under a blue sky. It wasn’t that successful as it clouded over again by the time I got there. I was going to go to the cafe at Neue Galerie http://www.neuegalerie.org/, but it wasn’t open (aaarrrggghhh!) and then looked at the Frick Collection, but decided that I’d seen enough old art in Europe, so didn’t pay to go in. By then I think I was over-museumed too. Interesting Building, but it wasn’t worth the entry fee for my tastes.
I then had a more leisurely stroll again through Central Park to the West Side and took some better photos of The Lake and then the famous Dakota building (outside which John Lennon was shot). Then strolled down Columbus Ave to the Lincoln Centre and took some more pics there and visited the NYPL’s Library of the Performing Arts (which had just opened a Katherine Hepburn exhibition).
After that I looked through the massive Time Warner Centre on Columbus Circle, looking for somewhere decent to eat, but nothing took my fancy really.
So I walked back towards Fifth Ave (heading East) and called in again for a very late lunch or early dinner at Bergdorf Goodman’s restaurant. I got a seat by a window again overlooking Central Park and had a second enjoyable meal there with great food and French champagne. It was great to take a load off and just sit for a while. I browsed some more shops on the way home but bought nothing.

Thursday:
An early start to get down to the Highline http://www.thehighline.org/ before the crowds. It is probably nearly two miles long, but not that wide and gets crowded easily during good weather. I walked the whole length and took heaps of photos of the surrounding buildings (old and new) and the plantings http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/sets/72157631886829721/. It is unique, amazing, inspiring and really enjoyable. So popular that it is probably a victim of its own success now.
Then I walked up to 42nd St and down to Pier 83 for the Circle Line 2 hour cruise round lower Manhattan. I wasn’t sure about doing this when I saw the huge crowds, but we all got on board and had seats and I was glad I did it. The boat offers a different perspective on Manhattan from the water that surrounds it and the tour guide was really entertaining. We left and headed south  viewing Downtown and Jersey City then on to Ellis Island and there Statue of Liberty before heading north on the Brooklyn side under four bridges including Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg. It was a good chance to sit down and be entertained for a couple of hours and well worth the effort.
Later I caught the subway down to the World Trade Centre and wandered around taking photos of many of the interesting buildings including City Hall, the huge Municipal Building, a Gehry designed tall apartment building and Wall St.

Friday:
I just walked around Midtown again before it started raining and then headed into the Museum of Arts and Design http://madmuseum.org/ on Columbus Circle. The first thing I did was to head right up to the top floor and book a seat by the window for lunch at Robert restaurant. Then I wandered through their galleries and exhibitions and met an artist called Trong Gia Nguyen http://madmuseum.org/learn/trong-gia-nguyen-0  He had some beautiful work that focussed on libraries and books so I am now wondering whether we could acquire a couple of his Library works http://www.cameandwent.com/books.html for display in the UTS Library. He was featured in an artists’ studio at the museum where you could see his work and ask him questions. A great idea!
When done I returned to the restaurant and had a fantastic lunch of Scottish Salmon, a beautiful carrot cake dessert, Pinot Gris and a beautiful espresso coffee, all for $70 including a generous tip. I had a fantastic seat by the window that looked over Columbus Circle and the West Side of Central Park and it was just so special I wished I had discovered it earlier. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/malbooth/8125923621/
Afterwards I just walked back down West 57th St where there are many interesting buildings to look at. There is scaffolding everywhere though. Even Carnegie Hall is being renovated.

Saturday:
I had a late flight which is a bit of a problem when staying in an apartment under Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com/ as you have nowhere to leave your bags and by then mine were too heavy to lug all over the city.
So I delayed as long as I could and got the MTA card topped up for the subway trip to Suphin Blvd and then the AirTrain to JFK Terminal 7 – all for only $7.25! Cab fares are likely to be as much as $65-70 incl tip. (On the way in I got the Airport Express bus for only $7 or $10, but it took ages going to every terminal at JFK (all eight!) and I had a longish walk from GCT with my bags because it only drops off there and at two other big hotels.)
After breakfast I walked down Lexington Ave with my trusty camera to photograph the beautiful Chrysler Building again (it was a lovely day). I also took in the RCA/GE art deco building as it is almost as fascinating.
The other thing I discovered far too late was the Grand Central Terminal market hall. I’d missed it because I always came at GCT from the West side and this is on the East or Lexington Ave side. It is pretty amazing and perhaps best for my health that I didn’t see it earlier as it wasn’t a long walk from the apartment I had.

Overall:
I ran out out time to do everything, but I was exhausted and could not really have fit in much more. Things for next time: Brooklyn, Staten Island Ferry, Jersey City, Yankee Stadium (for a ball game), Dia Beacon (I didn’t go because it is almost a day trip on the train and they don’t allow photography in their galleries), Long Island coast, perhaps Boston, etc.
Eating: Not to be missed is the Met members dining room. I thought it well worth the museum membership ($60), especially give the two huge tomes they shipped bad for me for hardly anything. I really enjoyed the food there. I’m not really into experimental menus, but all of those I went to seemed to have choices to suit all tastes.
For both Robert & B-G, you need to book a window seat ahead of time, but it always worked for me. I think http://www.opentable.com/new-york-city-restaurants  & http://www.zagat.com/newyork are pretty widely used in NYC now.
Next time I think I’ll want a faster sim card than the T-Mobile 2G sim, but at least it was cheap. My apartment had free and fast wifi.
An American friend suggested taking out a weekly gym pass because I had several to select from nearby and all the running around Central Park got a bit stressful on the legs.
That’s all!

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