NYC - Day 3 (Sunday)
Note: This was a trip I took to New York in October 2008. I finally got around to posting it to my blog. You can read other entries about this trip here.
After the Buddy Rich Memorial concert the night before and intensity of New York, we slept in a little on Sunday. Little did I know this would be one of our busiest travel days. Looking back on it, I'm still surprised how much we did.
We started the day on a subway to Central Park West. After a short walk, our first stop was H & H Bagels for breakfast. Monica had read about how this was one of (if not the best) bagel stores in New York. We ordered our bagels, and then sat down on a bench and watched traffic pass by. I'm not the biggest bagel lover, but a warm blueberry bagel smothered in cream cheese is a pretty good way to start the morning.
Next was the American Museum of Natural History. I had a little knowledge of this place from movies, in particular one of my kids' favorites: Night at the Museum -- but nothing could prepare me for the scale of this place. Monica and I must have spent three hours taking it all in. Highlights for me:
- The Hayden Planetarium -- especially the Scales of the Universe exhibit that winds around the Hayden Sphere. In this exhibit, you see the relative sizes of things in our universe -- from the very small (atoms) to the very big (galaxies). We watched Cosmic Collisions in the planetarium about how earth has been hit several times by asteroids. The part about the Moon was especially interesting.
- Dinosaur fossils -- I'd only seen one or two fossils in one place before, so it was amazing to see so many at one time and see firsthand how big Tyrannosaurus Rex really was.
Next we took a short subway ride to the Dakota. I wanted to see this famous apartment building for two reasons: John Lennon was assassinated there, and it played a prominent role in an interesting book I read called Time and Again.
Strawberry Fields -- Monica and I walked across the street to Strawberry Fields, a memorial to John Lennon. There were a lot of people there, including many bicyclists. It was a little too crowded, so we left pretty quick.
Columbus Circle -- We just walked through this area on our way to our next destination. I did enjoy the different buildings surrounding the circle. Evidently, this is where the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters started his rampage.
Carnegie Hall -- The famed concert hall didn't stand out the way I thought it would. I knew to get a sense of the place, I needed to walk inside. On this particular day, the group Sweet Honey in the Rock was performing. They were selling books outside the auditorium, so I bought one called No Mirrors in My Nana's House, which included a CD. (This has since become a favorite around my house.)
Burger Joint in the Le Parker Meridian
One thing Monica and I obsessed over before going to New York was eating a really good hamburger. Monica had discovered there was a "secret" burger restaurant in the Le Parker Meridian hotel. It was so secret, we had a little trouble finding it.
Like most experiences that you anticipate, the reality of the secret burger restaurant didn't live up to my expectations. First, the restaurant was really hot and cramped. The line to order was at least 10-15 minutes, and Monica and I had to fight our way to a table. We ordered our burgers medium, I think, and they came out pretty charred. If there's one thing I really dislike, it's a charred burger. Maybe next time, when I order less burning on my burger, I'll like it more. Or maybe I'll just find a new burger place to try. At any rate, it was an adventure.
As we ate, Monica and I decided we really needed to see Yankee Stadium. After all, this would probably be our only chance to see it, as we'd heard it was going to be demolished.
We walked back toward Columbus Circle, hitting a few more essential landmarks:
- Carnegie Deli
- Ed Sullivan Theater (where David Letterman is filmed)
- Studio 54 (a 1970's disco hotspot)
The subway up to the Bronx to see Yankee Stadium was much faster than I expected. When we got to the Yankee Stadium stop, and ascended the stairs, it was as if we'd entered hallowed ground. Babe Ruth. Joe DiMaggio. Lou Gehrig. Mickey Mantle. Roger Marris. Jackie Robinson. Reggie Jackson. They'd all been here.
Fans had scrawled messages to the Yankees on walls around the perimeter. I even took a fleck of paint, which I was going to give to my brother but somehow lost it. When we got to main entrance of the stadium and looked up to see all the championships the Yankees had won, it was clear to me who was the best baseball team in history. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Yankees have proved this point again and again.
Across the street, in the distance, was the almost-completed new Yankee Stadium. As with many modern baseball stadiums, this one (from a distance anyway) didn't have the character of the old one. Only time will tell if the upgrade was worth it. (Postscript: It appears now there are many problems with the new Yankee Stadium in its first season, the biggest being the empty seats. But the Yankees did win the World Series during this first season, too, adding to their legacy.)
Before we took the elevated train back to our hotel, we stopped at McDonald's so I could use the bathroom and buy a soda. When I paid for my Diet Coke, they asked if I had a nickel, which I didn't. A young local man wearing a sweatsuit put down one of his nickels for me.
"Thanks," I said. "I left all my change at the hotel."
"It is what it is," he said.
This kind of gesture goes to show how important one person can be as an ambassador to a city, neighborhood, or borough. I'd heard a lot of stuff about the Bronx, but I walked away with that friendly gesture as my experience.
Monica and I ascended the stairs to the elevated platform, which was right next to Yankee Stadium. I was able to steal a few glances inside from the platform. I especially liked the bat and ball at the top of the flagpole.
As we boarded the train and headed back to our hotel, we were treated to a beautiful golden sunset, bouncing off the buildings and water towers of the Bronx.
Grand Central Station
We got off the train at the appropriately named Grand Central Station. No wonder so many film directors have used this cavernous building for movies. A partial list of films shot there include North by Northwest, Blade Runner, Midnight Run, The Fisher King, and Superman. In fact, it was this last movie that gave Monica and me another one of our catch phrases: "We'll make captain by midnight!"
This dialogue comes from the scene where the two police detectives are about to follow Otis (played by Ned Beatty) into the bowels of Grand Central into Lex Luther's lair. The two detectives contemplate how Otis will lead them "to the big man himself." As the detective named Artis gets in the car, he says, "We'll make captain by midnight!" (I know you're probably thinking this is a really obscure reference, but when you watch Superman 20 times as I have with my 4-year-old, you start to pick up stuff like this.)
Regarding Grand Central Station itself, nothing could prepare me for its vastness and space. The ceiling towered above us. I felt like I was standing in a modern-day architectural wonder.
We exited Grand Central into night and saw, what we thought, was the Empire State Building. We walked until we got to the building to find out it was the Chrysler Building. It was closed, so we decided to keep walking a few blocks to the United Nations buildings. I had never realized until I was standing there that the United Nations is right on the East River.
Monica and I walked back to the hotel for a breather, before we would set off on one final adventure.
Staten Island Ferry
My tour guide, Monica, had researched how the Staten Island Ferry was a great way to see the Manhattan skyline at night, as well as the Statue of Liberty. Incredibly, it was also free.
We took the subway down to the ferry terminal and waited with a large crowd of people who seemed to be tourists, like us. The security at the terminal reminded me of airports, and there were police walking around with bomb-sniffing dogs.
While the ferry boats in Washington State seem to be designed to move cars from point A to point B, the New York ferries are designed for walk-on passenger passengers.
Rather than get a seat inside, Monica and I stood in the frigid air on deck and watched the lights of the Manhattan skyline. We could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, like an apparition floating above the water. And when she came into view, I was surprised how majestic and beautiful she was. Like many famous buildings or pieces of art, the Statue of Liberty had been an abstraction in my mind until that moment. When an abstraction of this magnitude meets with reality, I find there's always a few moments of disorientation. The same thing had happened to me when I saw first saw the Eiffel Tower (it was much larger than I imagined) or Big Ben (much more ornate).
When we got to Staten Island, we got off the boat and then got right back on.
After that, we headed back to the hotel and rested.
Labels: New York