DAY 2 – SUNDAY 30th APRIL 2006.
Jetlag played its merry game with us, and we spent a fairly restless night, comma waking at 1,am, 3am and 5ish, when we give up. After showers etc we leave the hotel by 6am and head east to Broadway and south a few blocks, looking for the Brasserie Centrale, a 24 hr café recommended by the Rough Guide. We find the correct address, No 1700, but it appears to have changed into a French Creperie! Ah well, not to worry. We carry on down Broadway through quiet streets, to Times Square. Although cool, it is fine and dry with the promise of a 2nd sunny day to come.
Times Square is also very quiet, although the signature lights, neons and screens play 24/7. We pause to wave at the webcam outside TGI Fridays before continuing in search of breakfast. However Amanda spots Grand Central Station to the east, along 43rd Street so we head that direction. There are good views of the Chrysler building on the way.
Most of the streets we pass through are clean and tidy, although a number of rough sleepers are bedded down in occasional doorways.
Like many of the older buildings in Manhattan, GCS is not as imposing as you would expect, being dwarfed by adjacent and adjoining tower blocks.
Once inside, however, the impact is outstanding.
There is a small, but discreet, police presence here, as at most significant buildings and areas since 9/11. We wander slowly through the main hall and down to the shopping and dining concourse below. We check out the Oyster Bar restaurant, as we had intended to dine here during our stay, but sadly we run out of time. We exit onto Lexington Avenue, still on the lookout for a breakfast venue. Starbucks would do, in the UK at least, but here most do not seem to offer hot panninis and we do not really fancy cakes or pastries today. We spot a Café Metro where we scoff on eggs, bacon, potatoes, orange juice and coffee for $21.
It’s 7.40am now and we proceed east to 1st Avenue then south to the United Nations headquarters. It’s actually quite warm now and we stow our jackets in a backpack.
The UN building is huge, certainly, but otherwise lacks aesthetic appeal.
We attempt to walk along the banks of the East River behind the UN but there is no pedestrian walkway. Instead we return to 1st Avenue and head north, past (another?) Trump Tower …
…and a variety of other, lovely buildings, mixing old with contemporary…
…then back to 58th, before heading west towards our hotel. This stretch of 58th is very attractive, having a mix of chic boutiques, antique shops, galleries and expensive looking apartment blocks. We pass FAO Schwartz (the toy shop from the film Big with Tom Hanks) although we do not bother to explore it further (it being closed this early on a Sunday morning!).
Some of the roads we cross are closed to traffic. I ask a cop why and he explains there is a walkathon today.
We arrive back at the hotel at 9.15am for a quick restroom visit and to change some of our gear, having already racked up about 8 miles this morning!
Suitably dressed for the warmer conditions in sandals and t-shirts, we head off , via Columbus Circle…..
….through Central Park towards the Guggenheim. We are not in a rush and take a different, and equally scenic, route through the park, stopping frequently to admire the views and features. A pleasant 20 minutes or so is spent sitting next to an ornamental lake where a few model boats are being sailed. This is a tranquil spot, with the large buildings on 5th Avenue towering over the trees surrounding the lake.
We notice a number of bronze sculptures based on children’s classics.
Here’s a bonny view of the front of Belvedere Castle, which we climbed yesterday..
The softball pitches on the Great Lawn are the domain of “Little Leaguers” today. We pass by to the Reservoir and exit onto 5th. The Guggenheim is already open and we pay our admissions and enter around 10.15am.
As we said yesterday, it is a shame that the building is temporarily screened from view. Apparently it was based on an inverted ziggurat, or Babylonian temple, commissioned in 1934 (but not finished until 1959, sometime after the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, had died) to house the private collection of Solomon Guggenheim, at that time one of America’s richest men. He bought wholesale the works of artists like Kandinsky, Chagall, Klee and others, supplementing these with hefty selections and masterpieces from Cezanne, Degas, Gaugin, Manet, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and Picasso. We enter in bright anticipation of gazing upon these treasures, especially the works by Chagall, Amanda’s favourite artist and the principal reason for our visit.
The galleries are accessed from the upwardly sloping, spiral walkway, itself a display area hosting an extensive collection of metal sculptures by David Smith.
The principle annexe on the 1st level houses most of the masterpieces by the great artists, and unlike my previous experiences in UK and continental galleries, where they are heavily screened and protected, here you can walk right up to each piece. The security presence is quite discreet.
No Chagall here though. We continue to the highest point and final galley, slowly realising that his paintings have probably been moved or loaned elsewhere. Amanda is somewhat disappointed, but I manage to stop her ripping a piece off the curator and we exit around 11.30am.
The warm-hot sunshine soon restores her demeanour and we walk east to Park Avenue before heading south.
Along the way, in the plaza of an office block we spot a dramatic 30-odd foot tall bronze sculpture of a naked and heavily pregnant black woman. Something isn’t quite right, however, and as we walk around the statue we discover that the left side of the structure is exposed like an anatomy model! It is no great surprise to find that the work is by Damien (Cows in Formaldehyde) Hirst!
It’s striking, but shocking… here’s a quote I found on the web….not by DH’s most avid fan, I guess?
“Worse than the paintings because it's permanent -- not to mention marring the entrance to the beautiful Lever House on Park Avenue -- is Hirst's hideous Virgin Mother, a 35-foot bronze eyesore of a naked pregnant woman with a cutaway view of her womb. Here, Hirst is doing what he's always done: trying to imitate Jeff Koons.”
After about 2 miles we reach 50th Street and turn right into the Rockefeller Plaza. There are a fair number of visitors sitting and standing around, enjoying the warm sunshine, although many of them are dressed in thick winter clothes! We revisit Starbucks in the basement concourse and take our coffees and pastries into the plaza to enjoy. (12.45- 1.15pm).
Next on our must see list is the New York Public Library further down 5th Avenue. This white marble, 1911 built edifice is magnificent inside and out. The 5th Avenue entrance is guarded by two majestic lion statues.
The Library, and its “backyard”, Bryant Park were built on the site of a vast, former reservoir. Imposing stairways terraces and fountains inspire awe. The Library boasts 88 miles of books stored on 8 levels of stacks – a collection that makes this the largest research library with a circulation system in the world. The entrance lobby is beautiful,
… but the jewel is the 3rd floor, 300 plus foot long reading room, which stretches for 2 city blocks.
There are security checks both on entry and exit, presumably to prevent the precious books from being pilfered, otherwise you can pretty much wander at will through this stunning There are security checks both on entry and exit, presumably to prevent the precious books from being pilfered, otherwise you can pretty much wander at will through this stunning structure.
We stroll to the rear of the Library…
…. and into Bryant Park. This is a restful green space where we pause and rest for a while.(2pm).
Next: Macy’s. We walk over to 6th Avenue and then south to Broadway. Macy’s is somewhat deceptive from the outside but, quite simply, this is the largest department store in the world! It spreads across two buildings totalling 2 million square feet of floor space.
It is busy enough outside, but on entering, virtual bedlam within! We have a very quick wander around a couple of floors, buy a gift for DD, visit the restrooms and leg it!
Back onto 5th and the pedestrian traffic has grown somewhat. We approach the ESB..
… with no particular desire to visit the top, but we do pop our heads into the lobby.
There are significant lines waiting to make the ascent.
Continuing south we stop at a deli called Au Bon Gout for lunch (3.30pm). 2 cheeseburgers with fries and salad plus diet Pepsis, $13. We ate on a raised mezzanine level overlooking the store and phoned the kids.
DD was complaining loudly about DS’s cheesy feet, as he has just returned from 3 days at PGL without the benefit of a wash or change of clothes! Scumbag!
Leaving around 3.45pm we continue down 5th to Broadway, to view the Flatiron building. This, incredibly, by today’s measure, was New Yorks first skyscraper. Built in 1902 for the Fuller Construction Company, this 20 storey building used new iron frame construction techniques and conformed to the triangular plot shape which gave it its later, descriptive title.
After resting a while in the adjacent and pleasant Madison Square Garden..
…we set off back up Broadway to cover the 35 blocks back to our hotel. This takes us through Times Square again and also through a district of tawdry looking jewellers and general tat stores. It’s just after 5pm when we arrive at the Hudson and we check out the trendy cocktail bar.
Two Long Island Iced Teas please, barman! We chat to the bartender and he offers us a sample of a delicious raspberry something or other, so we order two more of these. Back to the room sometime after 6pm, $65 poorer!
We reckon we’ve covered more than 20 miles already today, and we are in desperate need of a shower. Frustratingly the water is cold at first, but it warms up eventually (for Amanda at any rate!). I also wash some clothes through.
After freshening up we leave the hotel at 7.30pm and walk down Broadway to see Times Square at night. It is just as impressive as we had expected and quite crowded with sightseers.
Following a general wander through the Theatre District we stop at 1700 Broadway around 9pm and enter the Maison Creperie now sitting on the site of the former Brasserie from this morning. We order Bud for me and a Pinot Grigio for Amanda. I have a Tapas starter (nothing for Amanda) followed by Lamb crepes for me and Calamari salad for Amanda. $64 plus tip. Both very tired now, we return to the hotel by 10.15pm and fall into bed. Miles today: circa 25!
Mike & Amanda.
Tomorrow: Lower Manhattan, Ground Zero, Business District, Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, Greenwich Village, Chelsea and more!