Wednesday, June 25, 2014

USA Week 3

I have now completed 9 days in New York and Washington.  As I reported, I did very little the first day except washing, some food shopping and lazing around.  I took advantage of having a full apartment to myself with lounge, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. I had to use the communal laundry but a full wash was just $1.50 and it was just along the corridor.
I did go for a long walk in the early evening in the nearby Fort Tryon Park. I was at the very top of Manhattan island. The park was full of joggers and dog exercisers and there were views over the Hudson River and on the other side across to the Bronx.

On Wednesday I caught the subway to the Cathedral of St John the Divine. It is the largest Anglican (Episcopalian) church in the world and the 4th largest Christian church. It is still not finished and when I visited in 2007, it was still largely hoarded up after a fire in 2001.

This was my fourth visit to New York so I was not interested in seeing all the usual sites. I headed for the top of Central Park which was nearby and planned to walk the full length (4 km) but as the temperature rose to 88’F (32’C) I only completed about half. There were some nice gardens and lakes and I think it would be unbearable to live in Manhattan without the park.  After checking the specials in the delightfully cool Macy’s, I headed back home to rest before going out for the evening.
I ate out in an Italian restaurant then went to the Lincoln Centre and a performance by the New York Philharmonic. They played Beethoven’s 2nd and 3rd Piano concertos with Yefim Bronfman on the piano. It was excellent. I would have liked to go to the Met but there was no opera that week. Instead they had the ballet Giselle. I saw that in Dunedin last year and sadly ballet is not my taste.

On Thursday I went way downtown to the High Line. I had wanted to go there on my last visit in 2010. They have converted an old elevated railway into an urban park which stretches for 1.6km.

It was a great walk in the now much cooler (but some light showers) weather and I found a good cappuchino. Finding good coffee in the USA is a challenge. I know I am spoilt in Dunedin which must have more little coffee shops for its population than any other city I know.  The High Line is a copy of  a similar project in Paris which I must visit next year. Yes I have already made one booking for a return to Paris in April 2015.

I had lunch in a Pret a Manger (ready to eat) store. I had eaten at one of  these in the UK . They have natural fresh sandwiches and fruit juices.
Then I visited Grand Central Station which is very impressive before queuing at Half Tix in Times Square. An hour and a half later I had a ticket for that evening’s performance of ‘Pippin” and I decided to catch the bus home. That was a big mistake. The guide book said it was a great way to see the city rather than the usual underground trip in the subway. The subway takes less than half an hour, the bus took just on 2 hours so the sightseeing wore a little thin. I had just time to eat and freshen up before returning (on the subway) to Times Square and the theatre. Pippin was bright and lively and at the end I quickly passed through the noise, crowds  and bright lights of Times Square( I now feel my age) and back by subway arriving at the apartment at 11.30pm.
On my first visit in 1980 I was too scared to go out after dark. New York is a great improvement these day and I have gone to musicals on each of my visits in 2007 and 2010.

Friday I went right down town to the recently opened National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The Memorial 

 opened in September 2011 but the Museum was only opened in May. Two pools with the largest man made waterfalls in the United States cascading down their sides are located within the footprints of the Twin Towers. Each pool is 1-acre, and together they are intended to symbolize the loss of life and the physical void left by the terrorist attacks.
I queued for half an hour for a ticket to the museum and the time allocated was 1.30. It was then 11.30 so I walked down to Battery park and bought a coffee then sat on the water front looking over at the Statue of Liberty. On the way back I photographed the new building.

The museum is big. There are many memorial items such as a destroyed fire engine, parts of the building and a memorial rug.

Most moving is a room which goes through the names, portrays photos and records memories by relatives or close friends.  There is the story of the original building of the towers and I was interested to see they were the first to be built by kangaroo cranes which are named  both due to the way they climb or jump as the building goes up and after the country where they were invented.

You could spend hours learning of the history of that day, air traffic control recordings and the few days after but I think most of us have watched it over and over already so I left after about 2 hours.
Again I returned to my apartment before heading downtown again. I certainly made use of my 7 day transport pass. This time it was to have dinner with 2 internet friends. I met Chuck when he visited Sydney in 2009 and on my visit to NYC in 2010 when I also met Cindy and was invited to her apartment. It was good to have dinner with company and  afterwards we strolled along part of the High Line again which was nearby.

On Saturday I had to pack up again and make my way to Penn Station and the train to Washington. The trip was just 3 hours  but the train was 50 minutes late departing and an hour late into Washington Union Station. I made my way on the metro to another apartment this time on the ground floor of a terrace with the owners upstairs. This even had its own washing machine and drier and the owners provided fruit, nibbles and coffee.

On Sunday I attended the National Episcopal Cathedral and was pleasantly surprised to find Bishop Gene Robinson was presiding. I met him about 6 years ago and he was kind enough to say he remembered. In the evening I went to the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts to see a performance of “The Lion King”. I enjoyed it very much and the centre is also an amazing building with great views over the river.

I saw all the memorials, White House, Arlington Cemetery, Library of Congress etc. back in 2007 but wanted to see some of the Smithsonian Museums.
I began on Tuesday with the National Gallery of Art (which I have only just discovered is not a Smithsonian museum but on the Mall with the others) The amount and variety of art is immense. After 2 hours I moved over to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden which displays contemporary art and photography. I do not think I stayed much more than 15 minutes. I then went to the National Museum of Natural History for its cafeteria but then spent time in the section on Oceans and Genome Science, both were interesting.
With very sore feet I decided that the National Museum of the American Indian would be most different for me to finish and it is a very unusual building

 with interesting exhibits and a movie.

On my travels, several people had advised me to visit George Washington’s Mansion at Mount Vernon. Therefore today I took a boat trip up the Potomac River (one and half hours each way) and spent 3 hours there with a tour of the house

 and wandering around the farm, slave quarters and gardens as well as Washington’s tomb. Besides being the founder of the Nation, I have learnt that he was very innovative in his farming practices.

I am now ready to head west on a train trip right across to the West Coast again. Tomorrow I will begin with about 23 hours on the Cardinal to Chicago.


LilKittie said...

How can you afford a whole apartment in NYC for yourself? A quick check shows that one 2-room apartment costs around $400 a night in NYC. Not exactly cheap, but I guess I'd also be lazing around if I had one and it's far better than hotels.

Brian R said...

Go to airbnb, plenty of apartments for less than $150 per night. I paid Au$121 per night.