Saturday, March 23, 2013

Five Days in New York

It was a busy five days in New York, but we managed to pack in a lot of fun things. I came up with an itinerary before we left so we could work from that and modify as needed depending on the weather and timing. We are a museum and art gallery loving family so a large chunk of our time was spent visiting some of the world's best. In addition, William loves poetry and music so Greenwich Village was top of his list and my parent's were keen on seeing Peck Slip, a small street just south of Brooklyn Bridge that is named for our ancestors. If you've been to New York then you probably have your own ideas for things to do, but if not then our itinerary might inspire you - that is, if you love museums and are up for long walks.

Day 1
We arrived in New York about noon so had time to hit the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in the afternoon.  The MOMA consists of six floors of modern paintings, photography, and sculpture.  One of the floors had art that is a bit out there, but the rest were one famous painting after another.  

And then we visited Times Square in the evening.

It was on a news feed in Times Square that we learned that Mario Bergoglio would be the next pope (couldn't have been a more incongruous setting for such news.)

Day 2
The next day we walked through Central Park and then visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is an enormous museum with the most amazing collection of both art and artifacts.  It really has something for everyone.  We toured the Egyptian section together and then split up so everyone could go to their favourite galleries.  I spent most of the day in the Period Rooms and the Impressionist Paintings. Heaven!  Do you split up when you go to museums and art galleries?  We find it keeps everyone happy and then we share our highlights with each other afterward.

We had tickets to the opera, La Traviata, that evening at the Lincoln Centre.  We were on the fifth balcony up and still had a great view and could hear everything.  It was our good fortune to be able to be there for the opening night of La Traviata with Plácido Domingo singing. The opera was wonderful and even though I was initially disappointed that the sets were going to be modern and minimalist, I found them really interesting in the end.

La Traviata (Source)
Day 3
The next day we took the subway down to the South Street Seaport Historic District in lower Manhattan as we wanted to visit the street named after our ancestors, Peck Slip (you can read more about it here), and see Brooklyn Bridge.  The area was badly hit by Hurricane Sandy and was a shell of its former self with many of the stores and restaurants still closed. Nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing the beautiful old ships against the skyscrapers.

And we saw Peck Slip the street where our ancestors had a tavern back when it was New Amsterdam.

As you can see they are working on upgrading the infrastructure on Peck Slip so the middle of the street is a construction site.  Peck Slip is wedge-shaped because the centre used to be open water where the ships were moored.  About 1810 the centre got filled in and was used as a market space and eventually became a parking lot and walkway. There was some talk of making it a nautical-themed park, but I'm not sure if that is still in the works.

The photo below shows the oldest building on Peck Slip (from 1807) with one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge just peaking over the elevated roadway on the right side of the photo. Although this is not from the same time period that our relatives lived there, which was back in the 1660s, it is the building that has the most historic ambiance so I was drawn to it.

We then walked through Chinatown and the Lower East Side to get to the Tenement Museum.

Since time was moving on, we decided to split up and my parents toured the Tenement Museum and William and I went to Greenwich Village.  Splitting up was a good decision as we both loved what we saw.  

William had printed off a very interesting walking tour of Greenwich Village that we followed (which he found here). It featured lots of the place Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg and other lovelies hung out/lived/wrote poetry/played music/threw up/got into trouble etc.  Great fun!

In the photo below you can see a close up of a poster on the door of Cafe Wha? that was part of our tour.  I'm not really much into music, but even I've heard of almost every one of the musicians that got their start at Cafe Wha?.  It still is a live music venue although it has a very run-down appearance, but really this place should be a museum.  

That evening William and I went to hear some quartets play at the Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall.  Isn't that the most beautiful hall - just loved those empire chandeliers and the blue curtains.

Carnegie Hall Weill Recital Hall

Day 4
In the morning everyone except me visited the Frick Collection (I'm saving it to go to with Jonathan.  We didn't have time to visit the Frick when we were in New York for our 5th anniversary and we haven't been back to New York with each other since.)  Then we all went back to the Met again as we had more to see and we all adored it.

That evening William and I took the Staten Island Ferry so we could get a view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty at twilight.  Truth be told that was my reason, but William wanted to ride the Staten Island Ferry because it was mentioned in Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl ("and the Staten Island ferry also wailed").

Day 5
William and I walked through Central Park to find Strawberry Fields - a memorial to John Lennon (which was much smaller than I thought it would be).

And then we visited the Guggenheim Museum - the building is as beautiful as the paintings.  I always feel I should strap on roller skates and start at the top and work my way down - what fun that would be!

The long tubes across the centre hall of the Guggenheim were one of the art installations.  It wasn't until we got up close that we realized those coloured parts were liquid. It must have been difficult to install across the great open space. They looked really beautiful with the light shining through the coloured sections.

And then it was time to go.  Sniff.  Sniff.  

Isn't that a great photo we got out of the airplane window.  Amazing to think we had been walking through Central Park and right past that big reservoir just hours before.

It was a fabulous five days.  We saw lots. We did lots.  We walked lots!  My mother wore a pedometer and according to it she walked over 40 kms and William and I walked further.  There is so much to see and do in New York that you never feel like you have enough time.  Mind you that was all the energy I had as we got home on Sunday evening and it was right back to work the next morning, which meant I dragged myself around all week.

For those of you who have been to New York, what were your favourite things to do (I'll add them to my list for my next visit)?  We loved visiting the places we did, but it might have been a little museum/art gallery heavy for some.  Do you visit museums and art galleries when you travel?

I'm working on a post to show you where we stayed (it is a fantastic hotel), how we got away with only carry-on luggage, and how we saw New York on a budget (although that is a bit of an oxymoron).

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  1. Sounds like you had a great time and you certainly saw lots. Love the architecture of the old buildings especially.

  2. What a great trip Grace! I loved seeing everything thru your eyes! I was wondering if you ate at any interesting restaurnats or food trucks? I am planning to take Hunter to New York City soon and I am sure that there will be more shopping ono our agenda and 'breakfast at Tiffanys'and we want to go the library. I wonder how many times you would have to go to New York before you would actually get to do everything on the list! Have a great weekend! Angie xo

  3. I grew up in NJ so very close to NY and have been there tons of times. only recently I went back as more of a tourist. we went up the empire state building - it was my 4th time up there and I love it every time!

  4. Pardon my ignorance, but is Carnegie Hall a big center made of smaller halls? The name Carnegie Hall is familiar, the other was not - and it was simply the most the most stunning thing I had ever seen.

    I love traveling with you!

  5. What a great trip! My family and I split up sometimes on trips too...and you are right, it keeps everybody happy. Since my daughter moved back from NY, I don't think I will be visiting as much...but I want to!

  6. Grace, you hit so many of my favorite haunts -- Carnegie Hall, the Frick (j'adore), MOMA, the Metropolitan Opera, and on and on.

    I'm so glad you got to see "La Traviata," even though I had warned you that it would not be a traditional, sumptous production. The previous Met production was breathtaking.

    Since you've met Verdi's heroine, perhaps you would enjoy one of my older posts on the subject: