May 202009

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Day Five. Another day, another museum. This time, to make Cris happy, I picked the National Museum of Natural History. First we took a short stroll through the southern part of Central Park. We passed by the pond – I wonder what happens to the ducks in winter? 🙂 (This was my attempt of a literary joke) – by some baseball fields full of activity, and finally by the Strawberry Fields and John Lennon memorial. The museum was pretty crowded, given that it was a Sunday. Cris got upset when he found out that the IMAX theater was closed. He was looking forward to seeing a movie at IMAX. Instead, we got tickets for the Cosmic Collision, which turned out to be a 20 minutes movie narrated by Robert Redford with some nice special effects. It showed the importance of cosmic collisions and I learned a few new things (about solar wind and how Earth is protected by it by the magnetic field generated by its iron core). After the show we spent most of our time in the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Exiting the big silver globe that is the Planetarium you can descend via a spiral platform that traces the history of the universe. From the Rose Center for Earth and Space we went up to the fourth floor to see the dinosaur halls. Huge dinosaur skeletons dwarfed everything in the room. We left at the closing time regretting that we didn’t have more time to look around. If I were to live in NY I’d probably come here more often.

My morning bagel:

The Central Park Pond:

John Lennon Memorial in Central Park:

Museum of National History, entrance hall:

Rose Center for Earth and Space, Museum of National History:

My diet was too severe:

One of the dinosaur halls:

Dinosaur hall:


The Globe at the Trump Tower, Columbus Circle:

May 132009

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Day Four. I said on my previous posts that I won’t do anything too touristic on this trip but as I passed by the Rockefeller Plaza on our 5th Avenue stroll I noticed a booth with the following sign “Top of the Deck – Tickets for the Observation Deck” and I couldn’t help myself, I convinced everyone to go up on the Rockefeller Center. I was surprised that I didn’t know about climbing the tower before, but I read in the LP Guide that the observation deck was closed for almost two decades from 1986 to 2005. We moved to the West Coast at the end of 2000 so the deck was still closed at that time. After paying $20/person (ouch), going through different security checks and watching a short movie about the center, we were ushered into an elevator and told to look up. As the elevator started a movie was projected its ceiling, showing different images from the history of New York and after a short ride we arrived on the 67th floor. The views from up there were amazing and we got a pretty nice look at the Empire State Building and the Central Park while the Crysler Building was partially obscured by another building. We spent about half an hour there taking pictures and listening to the French tourists. Based on our observation half of the tourists in NY at this moment in time were speaking French. Who knows, maybe they were French Canadians but I think they were French taking advantage of the weak dollar.

Afterwards we sat down at the Rink Cafe for drinks and snacks. While trying to find our way out of the building to the cafe we passed by many stores inside the Rockefeller Center including a shoeshine store where believe it or not, there were people in line waiting to get a shoe shine. Didn’t see that one before. After the break we walked by the NY City Library through Bryant Park to Times Square, this time at daylight. It was as crazy as at nighttime. Every three meters or so someone was advertising something or trying to sell you some kind of tour. We were pretty tired by that time so we decided to go see a movie and we picked Star Trek which was just opening in theatres. Cris and I are old Star Trek fans, we have seen all the series (even half of Enterprise) and most of the previous Star Trek movies. This one is a prequel, happening before the start of The Original Series and showing how Spock and Kirk met. I really liked the movie, I thought the actors were well chosen and they had a good chemistry together. It made lots of references to the series, as a gift to the fans, it had good special effects, lots of action and a decent script. I hope it does well at the box office so we can see them again in a sequel.
Oueensboro Bridge:

Fifth Avenue:

Also on Fifth Avenue:

Rockefeller Plaza:

View of Central Park from the top of Rockefeller Center:

Midtown Manhattan seen from the top of Rockefeller Center:

Empire State Building:

The entrance to the Rockefeller Center:

Bryant Park:

Times Square:

The line for the TKTS ticket booth in Times Square:

Times Square:

May 112009

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Day Three. This was the day we decided to visit the Met mostly because it was cloudy outside and it looked like it’s going to rain. We started with the Egyptian wing so Cris won’t get bored. He tends to do that when we visit art museums but he likes history a lot more. The museum was full of school children making fascinated noises at the sight of the mummies: “Miss, is it a real person inside?”. As expected, Cris found the whole wing fascinating and he was trying to read about the Egyptians while I kept interrupting with my impersonation of the Bangles “Walk like an Egyptian” which Cris said he didn’t remember. I was trying to make him remember so I even did the dance. Finally I left him in peace and went upstairs to the Modern Art section which proved to be amazing. I wonder if they own more Impressionists painting than Musee d’Orsay. Room after room filled with Monet, Manet, Renoir and some of the most famous ones too. “The Garden of Sainte-Adresse”, “The Regatta at Sainte-Adresse” and “Grenouillere” by Monet, “Boating” by Manet, Picasso, Van Gogh etc. I even found a painting by Gaugain that my mom liked – she kept a reproduction of it in her bedroom. I had no idea it was displayed here, I tought it was in the Louvre since my mom visited Paris but never been to New York.

We stayed in the museum until closing time, had dinner and headed for the crazyness of lights that is Times Square. I like Times Square, its hustle and bustle, the noise, the crowds, the flickering ads, the cheesiness. Once there we were deeply impressed by the sight of a banner that said “Bun venit”, which means “Welcome” in Romanian. There were Welcome banners in different languages all around the square.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Egyptian Wing:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Temple of Dendur:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Temple of Dendur:

Gaugain, a picture that my mother used to like:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, entrance hall:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, facade:

Delicious Italian food:

The Italian restaurant we ate in (“Erminia”):

Window display, Upper East Side:

Upper East Side:

Times Square at night:

The “Welcome” sign – in Romanian – in Times Square:

Times Square at night:

May 102009

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Day Two. Our first destination for the day was Washington Square in Greenwich Village but to our disappointment the park is closed for reconstructions until “Spring 2009”. I was hungry and earning for a bagel and we walked around the neighborhood to find me one. I’m crazy for bagels, it’s one of my favorite breakfast options. Within the world of bagels I like the sesame ones, toasted and with cream cheese. After enjoying this late breakfast, we took the subway from Christopher St. to South Ferry with the intention of walking around Battery Park. When we got there we found Battery Park overrun by tourists. I guess not many people had the same hesitance as us in coming to an area with swine flu. Or they decided that 98 cases in a city of 8 million is good odds. In any case, the line to the Statue of Liberty ferry was weaving around the park and all around us there were people with cameras photographing statues and pigeons.

We left the park and headed north where I was planning to take a picture of the Wall Street bull. I had to give up because it was impossible to see the bull from the group of tourists and you probably had to wait in line for minutes to take a picture of it. I settled instead with taking pictures of the New York Stock Exchange whose facade was draped with a huge American flag. They were filming a commercial in front of the Stock Exchange, we couldn’t figure out for what product. Three beautiful young women dressed smartly in short skirts were parading around while a guy sitting on a bench, reading a newspaper was supposed to fall down when seeing the girls. They repeated it for four or five times until we got bored and left. Next stop was the World Trade Center site which at the moment is a construction area. You can’t see much over the tall fences, just some colorful cranes. We turned right on Fulton and followed it all the way to South Street Seaport which is only a bit more than a glorified mall with shops and cheap restaurants and a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge. We had some beer on the terrace while enjoying the view and headed for the bridge. The weather was good, sunny and clear, perfect for walking. The bridge was – of course – packed with tourists. And again we wondered the streets for hours until it was time for dinner.
The very patriotic facade of the New York Stock Exchange:

The Ground Zero construction site:

What they’re building at Ground Zero:

Lower Manhattan seen from South Street Seaport:

The almighty Brooklyn Bridge:

Brooklyn Bridge:

View of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge:

May 082009

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We’ve been planning a trip to New York for a long time but kept postponing it for different reasons (birthdays, weather, relatives visiting). Finally, about a month ago we bought the plane tickets and decided to leave on May 5th, right after the May 1st holiday in Romania. About two weeks ago the swine flu story broke out and we hesitated asking ourselves if we should postpone the trip once more. We watched the news on CNN for hours and in the end decided to go ahead with the trip.

Cris and I have been to NY many time before, back when we were grad students at Rutgers University in central New Jersey, about an hour by train south of New York. For this reason Magda, who had also been here before, and I decided that this trip will be more of a “get back in touch with the city” sort of trip in which we would do a bit of tourist stuff but we would take it easy; we’ll try to enjoy things and activities that we didn’t have time to enjoy back when we were running to cross all must-sees off the list. This time we would enjoy sitting in cafes and watching people, we would eat in good restaurants, we would shop a little. We won’t climb the Empire State Building or go to the Statue of Liberty. We’ve done it before and we don’t feel the need to do it again. We’ll probably go to the Met, see a musical or a movie, try to meet friends who live in the city or close by.

Our first night in the city, for example, we went to eat Indian food, something that we miss in Bucharest where there aren’t many choices in terms of Indian restaurants. Magda got out her magic Zagat map that she bought on her last trip to US and we picked Chola on East 58th street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. The restaurant was crowded, noisy and the decoration a bit kitchy as any respectable Indian restaurant would be and the food was very good. I asked for the usual – samosa, chicken tikka masala – while Cris decided to try some new stuff. We ordered a bit too much – I guess we forgot about the American portions – and asked to take home the leftovers which were about half of the meal. Walking from the subway to the restaurant I felt some familiar smells rushing back at me: the ominous smell of food that you find in an American city and – because this is NY – a faint smell of garbage.

On a different topic, we’re staying with friends on Roosevelt island right in the middle of East River. It’s one subway stop away from Manhattan on the F line.
A view from the Roosevelt Island towards Queens:

A view from Roosevelt Island towards Manhattan:

Manhattan Midtown East, Lexington Avenue:

Manhattan Midtown East, Lexington Avenue: