Saturday, July 7, 2012

Big Apple

 The Lake in Central park, looking southeast from the rocks at Hernshead.

Well, we're back from New York City, and we enjoyed our getaway.  It was good to do something completely different from our regular routine, although the hustle, crowds and noise were a bit trying for us, especially for Safety Guy and my husband.  We had a couple "meltdown moments" along the way, but by and large we got to see some neat things and have some fun.

Looking south from the Empire State Building.  
I was surprised to see how huge the new WTC complex is now.

The first night there we decided to go up the Empire State Building, and walk by Times Square - both at the request of the kids.  Going up the Empire State Building was fun (and the wait was amazingly short - we got up to the top in about half an hour, far less of a wait than the last time we were there).  Oddly enough, my husband and I seem to have reversed our tolerances regarding heights.  It used to be that he was very blase of them, and I was nervous and hung back by the inside walls, but this time it was the opposite.  He was more cautious, and I went right up to the edge and looked over.  Strange.  Times Square was gaudy and noisy, a real eyesore, and the kids both decided that they didn't care if they never saw it again.  (Smart kids.)

 Looking east from the hotel terrace - the American Museum of Natural History 
is the red sandstone building with copper turrets, and Central Park is just beyond it.

We stayed at the On The Ave Hotel at 77th and Broadway.  It was very nice.  We upgraded to a bigger room, and we are SO glad we did.  Two queen beds, plus a seating area with a couch and love seat - the room to spread out was worth every penny.  The hotel was a bit worn around the edges, but spotlessly clean and with very friendly, helpful staff.  My husband was especially taken with the bathroom:  floor to ceiling black and white marble, with a shower big enough to host a party in.  I enjoyed the rooftop terrace, which was divided into a handful of private seating areas so you could feel alone even in the city.  The hotel was in a pleasant, family-oriented neighborhood.  (High rent, of course, but that's Manhattan near the park for you.)

 Princess Yakyak on the rocks at Hernshead, by the Lake, Central Park.

The second day, July 4th, we did a lot of walking.  We went to Central Park in the morning, and it was strangely quiet.  I think many people were off work and sleeping in because of the holiday.  We wandered around the lake, near the Ladies' Pavilion and Hernshead.  The kids climbed on the rocks, and I got some great photos.  We even saw a red eared slider turtle digging a hole to lay her eggs.  Then we headed for the American Museum of Natural History.

Oh, my!  We really, really enjoyed going to the AMNH.  I am so grateful that our kids actually like going to museums.  We spent hours there, browsing through the cultural exhibits from around the world, and the various habitat-themed areas, before making our way to the fourth floor to see the dinosaurs and other fossils.  Princess Yakyak's jaw dropped more than once at the fossils.  Even Safety Guy, who's not usually very "into" fossils, was impressed.  He was more excited about the cultural artifacts, taking video and photos with his iPod.  I could have spent hours looking at the artifacts, textiles and pottery from ancient cultures.  I wish I'd taken pictures of the Japanese netsuke (small ivory or wood carvings, very detailed and whimsical).  Then there was the museum gift shop - all three floors of it.  Princess Yakyak was delighted, and spent quite a while picking out just the right souvenir.  She ended up with a carved stone turtle as big as her hand.  I bought myself a Christmas ornament - an enameled, jointed goldfish.  I buy an ornament on each vacation we take.

Sunset from the hotel terrace.

The evening of the Fourth, we decided to split up.  Princess Yakyak and I were not that thrilled about seeing the fireworks from midtown.  It turned out that the terrace of the hotel faced north, and the fireworks were to the south.  I didn't have any desire to go stand in the crowds of the world, and neither did PYY, so Tech Guy and Safety Guy went to the fireworks (watching from down around 50th Ave.).  The Princess and I decided to walk around the neighborhood around our hotel and make another foray into Central Park.  Many stores had closed early because of the holiday, so shopping was a bust, but we enjoyed the park again.  We took more pictures, and stopped at a local market on the way home for a treat.  It was hotter than hot in the city all three days, in the low 90s, and we were wringing wet with sweat by the time we got back to the hotel.  We showered and cooled off, then spent some time watching the sunset from the terrace.  It was great to spend time with my girl.  We heard the fireworks while watching TV (I was drawing, too), and later the guys came back tired but pleased.

 The stern of a large wooden canoe, 
made by the Haida people of Northwestern North America.
I love their graphic black/red/white designs.

The last day was simple - just getting up, cleaning up, and heading home.  We were starting to suffer from too much togetherness, although Safety Guy was just as happy to ride the subway and the Metro in reverse again.  We made it home without any serious meltdowns (thanks to a couple judicious stops, and a bag of M&Ms I pulled out of my purse half an hour before we got home, when things started to go south in a big way with the kids - it's amazing what a good distraction candy can be).

 I was surprised at how easily I was able to manage in the city.  It didn't make me nervous or uptight, and I realized that if I had to live in a major metro area that I could do it and even enjoy it more than I thought.  But I still also realized that I need the green space, and the SPACE, afforded by living in the country.  The rooftop gardens we could see were pleasant, but they were just little oases of green in the concrete anthill.  My favorite part of New York City was Central Park.  Sure, I love museums, and I could probably spend a weekend in NYC every so often and never get tired of looking at the art and architecture, concerts and exhibits there.  But to live in the general NY metro area?  I hope I don't ever have to. 

Right:  Safety Guy on the rocks at Hernshead. -->