Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Caroline vs. NYC Attractions

New York has so many amazing things to do, and even though I hadn't really given myself a plan before I got there, by the time I left I felt like I had managed to fill my days pretty well.

My first morning, there my friend and I decided we wanted to take a walk on the High Line since she lived only a short walking distance away from the southernmost entrance.  The High Line is an urban renewal project that transformed an old section of elevated train tracks into a park along part of the West side of Manhattan.  When my family visited New York in February 2011 my parents and my brother had the chance to see part of the High Line, but I was sick in bed and missed it, so I was pretty excited to have my chance, especially since it was a beautiful summer  morning.  It was well worth the wait.  It was beautifully laid out, with lots of greenery growing between the old tracks.  There were some seating areas, a bunch of food stands, and great views.  Dogs aren't allowed, which is a downside for owners, and it was clear that parts of the park could easily get clogged up with people, but the park seems to be appreciated by New Yorkers and tourists alike. In abundance were people running, sunning themselves on the benches and lounge chairs, and children playing in a water feature.  It would be a great place to go for a stroll after a dinner in the Meatpacking district, or to lie down and read on a sunny afternoon.

After meandering along the High Line, my friend and I decided it was time to head uptown and spend some time in air conditioned museums - this was extra appealing because my friend, as an intern at the Frick Collection, could get us in for free!  First stop was the Guggenheim, which I knew from its distinctive architecture, but not from its collection or exhibitions.  As soon as we entered, I was very, very impressed.  The gallery is set up along a spiral walkway with exhibition galleries on each floor; one can either start and the bottom and walk up, or start at the top and walk down.  We opted for the latter, and started off with part of a special exhibition by Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra.  We managed to see every single piece on display, as well as spending some time watching the videos that were part of the Dijkstra exhibition, in just over an hour.  As someone who is just starting to really get into modern art, I found that the Guggenheim was the perfect size, and had a friendly mix of work by artists I was familiar with and artists I had never heard of before.
From the Guggenheim we walked a little down 5th Avenue to the Neue Galerie to take a look at some German and Austrian art and artefacts.  A tiny museum in an old mansion, it felt less like a museum and more like a private collection in someone's home.  On display were some amazing pieces of furniture, but the most stunning piece of all was a Kilmt original: Adele Bloch-Bauer I.  We just stood and looked at it for about a minute, it was absolutely breathtaking.  On the top floor of the Galerie was a special exhibition on early photography by Heinrich Kuehn, which realty captured my interest.  It was amazing to see how even though technology has changed, people have always wanted to take candid pictures of their friends and families at home, on the beach, or doing everyday things like doing the washing up or cooking dinner.
The third and final museum stop of the first day was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A gargantuan museum filled to the brim, it was a sudden change from the smaller museums we'd already seen.  Because we were able to get in for free there was no pressure to rush through all the exhibits, so we were able go straight to the one that had brought us there in the first place: Schiaparelli and Prada, Impossible Conversations.  I was devastated I didn't make it to the Alexander McQueen exhibition last summer, so I made sure that I made it to the Met for this summer's installation.  I wasn't too familiar with Schiaparelli, but they way the exhibition was set up showed off the best of both designers' work; it was also really interesting to see how two women, working decades apart, had similar approaches to fashion and design as an art form.  After making our way through the crowded exhibition we went up to the roof, to see Tom├ís Saraceno's Cloud City installation - and also to have a drink at the rooftop bar and admire the view.  We felt very classy, admiring art with our glasses of wine!  The roof was beautiful, well worth a visit on a sunny day.

On my second day in the city another friend from Toronto joined us, and she had never been to New York before so the three of us spent our day doing some of the traditional touristy things.  First up was a trip to Rockefeller Center.  We didn't have time (or money) for a tour of the NBC studios or a trip up to Top of the Rock, so we had a look around the Plaza and then went into the NBC store to see what they had.  We didn't buy anything in the store, but on a whim we went upstairs and had our picture taken as characters from Shrek.  I think we look quite convincing!  Jess as the ogre is definitely the best part.
Next up was the requisite trip to Times Square.  Last time I was there it was February, and the weather was dismal, so there weren't too many people.  This time around, however, it was packed.  We had a look around, took some photos, and continued on our way.  Definitely worth going to see, but once is definitely enough.
From there we took the subway over to Grand Central Terminal, and wandered around, taking it all in. I always love going to old train stations - Ottawa has a gorgeous old terminal that was put out of service years ago, and now the trains operate out of some dismal modern structure; even Union Station in Toronto loses its charm beyond the main hall.  In Grand Central we took some photos and tried to find the whispering corner I read about on Cup of Jo, but with no luck.
Immediately outside Grand Central is the Chrysler Building, which I had wanted to visit on my first trip to New York but had missed out on.  There's no observation deck like in the Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building, but the art-deco lobby was worth a quick look.  Unfortunately much of the lobby was cordoned off so the angles didn't make for great photos, but it was still amazing to look up and admire all the stone work.
On the subway once more (that 7 day unlimited MetroCard really came in handy!) we headed down to the main branch of the New York Public Library to admire the architecture.  It made me realize why I hate studying at Robarts so much...I mean come on, the concrete turkey just doesn't compare.  I actually went back to the library a couple times to work on an essay while my friend was at work, and it was amazing - I felt so at peace in such an amazing space, and the free WiFi was handy too.  I did get a bit distracted though, people watching as tourists came in and out of the reading room.
Behind the NYPL is Bryant Park, famous for hosting New York Fashion Week before it moved up to the Lincoln Center.  I swear, New York has the best parks!  Not only was there free WiFi in the park, but there was also a children's carousel, some food trucks, bookshelves filled with children's books, and tables laid out with board games.  There were also a couple dining establishments that I would love to go back to sometime.  Once we got to the park we needed to have a little break, so we got some water and ice cream and sat down to play a pretty high stakes round of Candy Land.
The next stop was Central Park, where we just wanted to have a wander around and chill before the sun went down.  We wandered down The Mall, which was very crowded as it was a Saturday afternoon, but it made for great people watching.  We walked all the way up to the Loeb Boathouse, where we saw people renting rowboats.  The prices were cheap($12 for an hour in a boat that holds four), but the line was pretty long and didn't seem to be moving quickly so after waiting for a few minutes we decided to pass and head back downtown for dinner.
Our last sight of a very touristy day was the Gooderham Building, known as the Flatiron, which we actually only found by chance while we were eating at Shake Shack.  Nothing too special, but it's way, way bigger than the flatiron in Toronto, so we took some photos and headed back to the apartment to digest our amazing dinner.
There's just so much to see in New York that it's impossible to do it all in one visit.  I really enjoyed what we were able to pack into our days, and I can't wait to go back and see more, especially in the other boroughs!  For more on my trip to New York, check out some of my favourite photos.

What's your favourite thing to do in New York?

xx, C.

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