Published: May 4th 2012May 4th 2012
We have left the “Big Apple” after a fantastic week. It really is an amazing city and as Frank Sinatra implies, if you can make it there you will make it anywhere. I think it is a city that grabs you as you enter it and doesn’t stop slapping you around until you sit back in your departing train’s seat.
We found some real gems on our visit and perhaps the nicest was Bryant Park just across the road from out hotel. A small leafy park that was filled with people playing chess, petanque, and all manner of board games under the trees. In fact there was a mobile shelf that was put out each day that had games and books for people to use. At the top end was a Bar Café that was perfect for people watching and letting life just wander by – they served a wonderful Park Punch, which I would recommend. The park is just behind the City Library, which we had to visit as Kelli, or Katrina or Magda or was it Jasmine got married there in ‘Sex In the City’ – I had no idea what was going on but apparently
I stood on the famous steps. That aside it is a stunningly beautiful building and a must to see inside.
Of course we also spent time in the most famous of all parks – Central Park. It dominates the city and after viewing it from the top of the Rockefeller Centre we decided to walk there to sit with all the other Sunday afternoon park patrons. It was full of runners, guys throwing the old pigskin, families having picnics and the odd “ranter” looking for a captive audience. I will never feel confident that I know where I am in the park – it is so big and sometimes too confusing to find your way around and any time you think you have got it, you find a whole new area that you have never seen before. It was a clear afternoon with warmth and blue skies, which had made the view from the “Top of the Rock” brilliant in every direction and made finding a shady in the park a must.
The Metropolitan Museum is immense. It never ceases to amaze me what they have in their galleries. I think Monet is one
of my favourite artists and his paintings are just exceptional, we spent most of our time around in and around his works and those of other Impressionists. I remember years ago they came to New Zealand – it was described as the most expensive group of paintings to visit our shores. I am positive nothing has come close since then. Since being at The Met we have watched an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry’s parents visit the gallery. After just visiting ourselves it made the episode even funnier – Jerry’s Dad is insistent to the point of worry that Monet must have been near-sighted as “all his paintings are blurry”. It is not just the art work that amazes. The Egyptian area displays a Temple that they relocated to New York in the 60s; it was a gift from the Egyptian Government for UNESCO work the US had been involved in. It must have been quite a logistical exercise to move it. Certainly not a five minute job. A few blogs back when we were in Chicago I mentioned the miniature room display. Well The Met has three floors of period rooms that are full size – in fact they
have usually been saved from buildings and homes that are being demolished. It is a wonderful display and a good chance to see architecture from earlier years – the Frank Lloyd Wright home is stunning. We lost track of time in The Met and ended up being there till late afternoon. Before heading away Narelle talked me into having a hot dog. I ended up eating one and three quarters as she “only wanted a bite”!
Now I do not want to be called a philistine but I must explain my disappointment and bewilderment at my visit to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). There is no point in my covering this up as I have to get it out of my system. What Jerry’s dad would think of it I don’t know but I am sure there could be a very funny episode. I know that art is a creative medium and everyone has their own opinions (and that is good); my opinion is this – I cannot warm to modern art. Most looks like there has been a shed clear out and someone has rearranged the rubbish. After the experiences of The Met and also
losing ourselves in galleries in LA and Chicago the MoMA was a building I wanted to escape from. To me bricks stacked two high in a neat square is not art. To me a piece of square ply screwed and nailed to cover a square hole is not art. To me several large rectangles of colour that can only resemble an enlarged Resene chart is not art. To me several large pieces of striped material stapled to a wall is not art – and certainly should not take a year to produce. And the list went on. It may just be me being too simplistic and cynical. My favourite piece was called “Window.” It was an unnamed piece that was clever in its minimalism; it had an aluminium frame, clear glass to look through and looked out over a NY street with a fantastic green tree across the road. Oh how I wished the artist had put a door in it….
Yes, the Andy Warhols, the Monets and the van Goghs are stunning but they sneakily put these up on the upper floors so you have to wade through the floors below to get there. I am
not even sure the building has lifts – we tried to summon one and after 5 minutes wait it had still not turned up. Perhaps the doors are another piece of art? I may sound grumpy but I am not – the art just leaves me cold. I am thinking this though; artists would say to me “but we got you thinking and writing about art” and I guess that is right, but I will temper that in saying that it was also quite cathartic to off load. And I also accept that I may be in a minority – although I have no exit polls to back me up it is obvious that this is one of the most popular attractions in New York; it was packed with people who may not have been as cynical and facetious as me.
My favourite artist in all the galleries we have visited in the US is Georges Seurat. Thankfully some of his work was at the MoMA so that was a positive. “Hooray”
for the positive. We had seen his famous painting ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ at the Chicago Gallery. He used a
technique called “pointillism”, which is the building up the picture by using individual dots of colour. From a distance you do not see the dots as your eye just accepts the colour – look closely and you will see that each dot is individual. I think it I stunning. It took Seurat over two years to complete his painting ‘Sunday Afternoon’ – I have no idea how long it would take him to stack bricks two high (neatly of course) in a large square. http://www.georgesseurat.org/
During our visit it was Maxine’s birthday so we treated her to dinner at Veritas – a restaurant that Narelle had found. http://veritas-nyc.com/
It is described as Contemporary American and it was quite the place. We were also glad we had booked as there were not that many tables. For no other reason than that I would like to remember what I ate: Starter: Beef in Transition (Beef Tartare, Peppered Sirlion, Short Ribs). To Follow: Niman Ranch Loin of Lamb with Tarbais Beans and Minestrone Broth. Accompanied by: Lois Roderer Brut Champagne 2000 and Domain Paul Autard, Chateauneuf du Pape 1998. We will now be back on the baked beans for the
rest of the trip!
I think that the Beef in Transition dish was one of the best entrees I have ever tasted and Narelle’s duck was not that bad either. It was a special night and a good way to celebrate the birthday but also a nice way to finish our time with JD and Max. The Battlefield’s Trip and Anzac Day were my highlights while they were with us. They have been staying in NY at the The Penn Club in 44th
Street. The building across the road interested me. It looked like its windows were the stern end of galleons. Under closer inspection and with a bit of research they are actually Dutch galleons and the building houses the famous NY Yacht Club – home of the America’s Cup for 132 years and until Ben Lexcen’s wing keeled “Australia II’ won it in 1983. Here was the famous building that they bolted the Cup to the wall. All that aside JD & Max have a few days in NY and Los Angeles before flying home to Adelaide next week – they will be home for a bit and then they are off to Burma.
We did an enjoyable Manhattan Cruise on the Hudson and East Rivers. We had never been on the rivers before apart from the quick dash on the Staten Island commuter ferry in 2001. This was a two hour cruise and left from the Pier near the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. I had not realised that there was an air and space museum on the Hudson and sadly we had no time to head back to it. I will put it on my list for next time as the Space Shuttle Enterprise is soon to become one of its exhibits. NASA flew Enterprise into JFK Airport on Monday in much the same way that they had done their delivery into Washington. The other aviation link to our cruise was that our starting point was where Captain “Sully” Sullenberger performed his Miracle on the Hudson in landing US Airways Flight 1549 safely on the water thus saving the lives of over 150 people. We can all remember those images of the passengers on the wings waiting to be offloaded. Anyway, our first movements in the boat followed the path of the plane as we headed towards the Statue of
Liberty. We were treated to some fantastic sights of the Manhattan skyline and we had an excellent guide who pointed out many of the landmarks. It also gave us a chance to view One World Trade Centre from the water – a building that on the previous day had become the highest structure in NY surpassing the Empire State Building. The ferry took us out to the Statue and then headed up the East River turning at the UN Buildings. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon in the sun – coupled with the fact that we could have a couple of cold Buds!
Perhaps the jewel in the city’s crown is Grand Central. It is a magnificent station that has been revitalised over the last 20 years. The Grand Hall has become a large through zone and also a meeting place for dozens of people that are either heading for the trains or just enjoying all the facilities. We met up with Sarah Rose, a family friend who moved to NY six months ago. It was great to see her as we worked out we had not seen each other since 1993. She introduced
us to Mendy’s Deli on the Food Concourse – great sandwiches and wraps. I also had our only celebrity sighting of NY when I stood next to Martha Stewart in the coffee line. When we took John back to see GCS he was astounded how it had transformed as when he lived in NY in the 80s he found it a place you avoided – today it is a place people do tours of.
When we finally leave the US in Sunday I will be sad to leave the TBS Channel behind. I have become accustomed to watching reruns of Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, Friends and Family Guy. They do the shows in two hours slots so you get episode after episode. What it has confirmed to me is that nothing compares to Seinfeld – he took comedy on TV to a new level and that group of actors made nothing a story. It is brilliant in the fact that even twenty years later the humour is so relevant and I have lost many an hour on the treadmill watching the shows. Our hotel was above a ‘Soup Man” shop so
we have been having soup in the evenings – it is the shop chain that inspired the Soup Nazi episode from Seinfeld but sadly we did not get the “no soup for you” call. (ed. That’s enough Seinfeld)
Another necessity for the New York part of the trip was getting my haircut. I wanted to go to a NY barbers so I located one near the Hotel and that is how ‘Mickey’ from Brooklyn ended up doing my hair. He was a nice guy and Brooklyn born and bred. He was also the master of the upsell and when he noticed I had not shaved for a few days he encouraged me to have a NY special with the flat blade. So with his instructions of fall asleep he went to work. The haircut took 15 minutes and the shave 45 – it was bliss. There were hot towels, cold towels, Sandlewood scented creams and a face massage with a towel over my head and some kind of vibrating machine – hopefully that bit was part of it and was not just for Youtube! It did cost me US$37 but with
blade prices these days that would only buy you a four pack of Schicks at Countdown. A close shave? Absolutely! Recommended? Absolutely – we should all have one.
When I got off the train last Friday I was worried that I would not enjoy New York but it grew on me quickly. As I said before I cannot compare it to any other city we have visited in the States. It is big, it is brash and it is brilliant – to paraphrase Sinatra again; it is a city that never sleeps but it is also one you want to wake up in. We started with the emotions of 9/11 but have left with wonderful memories of a city that can still proudly say it is one of the best cities in the world. And I had my BEST cup of coffee in the US – Gregory’s Coffee in 44th
Street. It even had the milk pattern on top; if you squinted you could see a silver fern motif.
Our final train trip means no more Red Cap service with Amtrak. The Red Cap porters have been brilliant since we first used them in
Boston. Travelling with our large suitcases could have been a pain getting in and out of stations but these guys have alleviated all the hassle. Arrive at the station, hand your bags over to them, head out for a coffee, meet them twenty minutes before the train arrives and they not only take you to the platform but get your entire luggage on board. In New York they had us on the train ten minutes before the crowds, which meant that we got a seat straight away. For the cost of a small tip they have saved us an immense amount of time.
It is hard to believe that we are now only three days from leaving the US. On March 14 this part of the trip felt a long way off. Next Monday we will land in London and pick up the lease car and head to Marlborough and begin four months in either the UK or Europe. However, before then we have a weekend in Boston where we will do some final Kennedy sites and also take in a Boston Red Sox game – they play the Baltimore Orioles on Friday; should be fun.
There are more photos below