New York City – November 2017 – Tourist Day in Manhattan

With a day to spend in Manhattan with nothing special planned we wandered the city and checked out some of the non tacky tourist spots (i.e. Time Square)

 

Bryant Park Ice Rink and the Main Library

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Entrance to Rockefeller Center

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Statue and Flags at Rockefeller Center

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The Oculus

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Central Park West View

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A stop at the Met.

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Ornate apartment building on Fifth Avenue.

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Where do they put the prisoners?

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Mystic, CT & Newport, RI – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 4

MysticIf you really want to test a marriage tell her we are leaving the hotel at 5:45 AM to beat the traffic into and through the city. True to course we were in the Holland Tunnel at 6 AM, eventually making our way to Park Avenue, before cutting across 79th Street to the Henry Hudson Parkway to get out of the city. It was interesting sailing up Park Avenue with little traffic, and few people on the street.

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Once on the Henry Hudson Parkway it was fortuitous that we were leaving the city as you did start to see traffic backed up coming off of the GWB and onto the Parkway. But the view of the bridge, albeit brief, was excellent with the towers gleaming in the morning sun.

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We made a brief stop in New Canaan, Connecticut for coffee and hot chocolate at Zumbach’s Coffee. An interesting little shop who specializes in grinding their own beans, they had bags of them everywhere.

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After crossing much of southern Connecticut we arrived at our next stop, at Mystic, to see the Mystic Seaport.  Subtitled The Museum of America and the Sea offered a glimpse into the whaling industry and the importance of shipping to the area.  We were free to roam the shipyard to stroll through the recreated 19th-century seafaring village, comprised of dozens of real 19th-century buildings brought there from parts of New England and staffed with historians and craftspeople.

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Also onsite is a cooper’s shop that made barrels, the rigger’s shop that made and installed the ropes on ships.  The rigger shop was a long building with ropes stretched and looped; it had spools of hemp or manila to make rope for the rigging on the ship as in early times there, but today, rigging is made of wire or chain.  The final buildings in the village were a home and general store open for tours, as well as a small ship.

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There was a large shipyard where repairs are made indoors to ships. This enormous building offered a bird’s eye view of the carpenter’s shop and massive yard to hold the ship. Currently there is restoration work being done on the Charles W. Morgan.  The ship, owned by Mystic Seaport and docked at the Seaport’s Chubb’s Wharf, is the last wooden whaling ship in existence and the oldest commercial vessel still afloat. This ship had not sailed for nearly 100 years.

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Prior to the 16-week voyage that set off on May 17, 2014 along New England, the Seaport had spent $7.5 million on the vessel’s restoration.  Built in 1841, the Morgan is a legendary relic of the whaling age that sailing historians consider priceless.  Now as of our visit, the Charles Morgan is again in repair for more work not allowing us to board the ship. We did visit the museum of artifacts and the history of whaling in America.  Whale teeth and baleen were part of more than 100 whaling-related artifacts, images, and documents, including logbooks, photographs, scrimshaw, ship models, souvenirs, and sound recordings.

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From there it was another hour drive to Newport, Rhode Island, a tourist town that capitalizes on the millionaire mansions from long ago such as the Breakers. Initially we parked in town and had lunch at the Red Parrot. Lunch was excellent, as we sat at an open window looking upon the street, which was filled with traffic and scooters the entire time, with the harbor just down the street.

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We made our way to the Cliff Walk area, finding parking on a street and starting the hike along the path. The first mansion we came upon is the Breakers, an east coast summer palace owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt located on Ochre Point Avenue in Newport with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.  As we continued along the paved cliff walk that snaked along the edge above a rocky ocean beach hoping to see the millionaire mansions, but, only saw surfers catching waves riding into dangerous water near boulders.

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Finally giving up on the cliff walk, our route took us back to the street for a front view of the mansions until we reached the car. A drive along the ocean drive in Newport while seeing cliffs, beaches and marinas filled with small boats.  Eventually we had enough of Newport and headed for our home for the night in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a Residence Inn.  The hotel fed us a complimentary dinner of meatballs and Italian sausage.  We laughed thinking that our best meal thus far was a free meal from the hotel.

New York City – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 3 – More Manhattan Museums

Monday was museum day in the city, taking the 7:30 AM PATH train with a few commuters on their way to work. The train into New York City was not crowded at this time of day so we were able to find seats as we rode the train.

Just up from Penn Station is the Tick Tock Restaurant, my favorite Manhattan breakfast diner, where we had a lobster omelet and a sausage omelet, as good as ever with the quintessential New York atmosphere. From there the C and the 4 subways took us up to East 72nd Street, speinding some time walking through Central Park before it was time for the Guggenheim to open.

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Fifty people waited in line with us for the museum doors to open. Upon entering the museum, I was able to receive our tickets from the membership desk and so we bypassed the fifty people standing in line before us. It felt like cheating, skipping passed all those people in line, and getting in for free as well.

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The Guggenheim designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a cylindrical building that is wider at the top than the bottom. Its unique ramp gallery extends up from the ground level in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building to end just under the ceiling skylight.

The ceiling skylight opens to the main lobby while all levels of continuous spaces flow freely from one level into another. The concrete spiral building is designed for viewing from the top down and my impression of the Guggenheim is that the building is more impressive than the art inside. The art at the Guggenheim had an early modern flair by artists such as Picasso, and Chagall of many geometric brightly-colored paintings and mobiles but the theme seemed repetitive to me as we wound our way down the ramp. The Guggenheim also houses works of impressionism, expressionism, and surrealism.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art is not a far walk from the Guggenheim and is a museum that we had always wanted to see. The Met is the largest museum in the United States with more than two million art items.

One of the current exhibits on display this day was a fashion display called Manus and Machina –The Fashion of Technology. The main attraction, a hand-stitched haute couture wedding dress by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel had a 20-foot train that projected the detail in its embroidery onto the ceiling. The pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones. The gist of the ensemble is to force a change in image of hand-sewn (manus – haute couture) versus machine (machina – ready-made) fashion combining these techniques. Ensembles of ordinary materials such as embroidery, feathers, artificial flowers, lace, and leather were transformed into extraordinary gowns and dresses. Exhibits tucked into alcoves showed dresses made of plastic drink straws and some of only fur.

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The Met offered a chance for us to see Greek and Roman art, jewelry, and sculpture. A young woman visiting the Greek/Roman wing seemed especially in awe of a man’s ass on a Roman statue. The African and Pacific Island wing featured exquisite ceremonial carvings of stone and wood, masks, bowls, and spears. The Asian and Middle Eastern area exhibited helmets, sarcophaguses, ancient pottery, and jewelry. There was also an American wing that displayed American furniture and paintings.

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The great hall of the museum led us to the medieval section for an impressive display of life-sized armored soldiers mounted on armored horses. The European wing had sculptures of all sizes, some very large and dating back to the fifteenth century. We ate lunch at the Met’s cafe and realized we would not be able to see everything in one day so we saw as much as possible before leaving to meet  my co-workers for dinner.

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Dinner was at Bertucci’s Pizza back in Jersey City, where we enjoyed the company of my work group. Finally to end the evening we walked around the Newport neighborhood with my New York City expert who is also interested in photography, who provided us interesting history of the redevelopment of Jersey City as well as the growth of lower Manhattan, directly across the river.

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New York City – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 2

ew YorAn early Sunday morning start allowed our 5 hour drive from Greensburg to Jersey City to be completed shortly after noon. After dropping the car off with the Courtyard Hotel valet, and the bags in the room we caught the Path train for Manhattan, specifically the new World Trade Center.

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As we came up the escalator we entered the Oculus, the transportation and retail center designed by a Spanish architect Santiano Calatrava. Designed to resemble a bird being released from a child’s hand, the roof was originally designed to mechanically open to increase light and ventilation to the enclosed space. Due to budget restraints, a 355 foot operable skylight was built with 224 pieces of glass in 40 panels that can be cantilevered from the surrounding steel skeleton. When the skylight is opened, its panels retract into pockets in the roof.

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Each September 11th, the skylight will be opened to the elements for 102 minutes. That is how long the 2001 terrorist attack lasted, from the time the first jetliner hit the trade center at 8:46 a.m. until the collapse of the second tower at 10:28 a.m. “In all weather conditions, the public will experience a subtle sense of man’s vulnerability, while maintaining a link to a higher order,” as said by Santiago.

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The project was grossly over budgeted and critics complain of the narrow halls to handle the mass of commuters. Some describe the “Oculus” as a stegosaurus or white elephant monstrosity rather than a bird. I thought the building was very modern in appearance with the spiny ribbed ceiling and white interior and it suited New York to match the chic style of the city providing a real statement in architecture.

We went out into the streets and found the Fulton Street Cafe for something to eat, followed by a walk uptown to the  J. P. Morgan Library. The company I work for supports the arts in New York, and as a result, we have access to most of the New York museums without charge, a great perk. The Morgan Library is a personal collection of books and items of Mr. John Pierpont Morgan. The collection was so dear to him that he had a building added on to his home to store his books and historical documents, drawings and prints. The library was built in the Italian-Renaissance-style with three magnificent rooms.

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After Pierpont’s death, his son J.P. Morgan, Jr. fulfilled his father’s wishes by transforming the library and its treasures as a public institution. Late in the 1920’s the Library and Museum expanded replacing the Morgan home. Although a staircase which led from the Morgan home to the library remains hidden behind two bookshelves, the staircase can still be seen if looking through the screen and behind the books on the shelf. In 1988, the Library and Museum annexed the brownstone home of J.P. Morgan, Jr. so that a garden courtyard now connects all the various buildings of the campus.

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Our tour of the Morgan Library began at the entrance into the rotunda. The rotunda had a vaulted ceiling and the room was made of marble surfaces, mosaic panels, and columns of lapis lazuli. We toured the original reading room that also served as Morgan’s office with the fresco painting on the ceiling and antique artifacts and items on display. Morgan’s office also served as an important point in history where the most influential bankers met to design a plan to pull the United States out of debt and save the economy. Art and books filled the room. In fact, books scaled the height of the walls so that a ladder was installed to reach the upper shelves. We saw the first ever electric light which hung from the ceiling and Rembrandt’s first masterpiece painting in the same room.

The Library also has a rare collection of illustrated manuscripts decorated with silver or gold. The Crusader Bible, also called the Morgan Bible, is probably the most famous manuscript in the world because this picture book, which was likely made in Paris about 1250, has long been associated with the court of Louis IX. The book originally had no text, but along the way, inscriptions indicative of changing owners were added in Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian. The illuminations represent one of the greatest visualizations of Old Testament events ever made. Other items included great works of artists—Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens, Gainsborough, and Picasso; early printed Bibles, among them three Gutenberg Bibles. There were also Bob Dylan’s scraps of paper where he jotted down his song “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

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We walked from the Morgan Library and picked up the High Line, once a railroad track, but now an elevated walking trail lined with shrubs and natural flora. The old tracks were hidden along side the paved path where we walked until we reached the Chelsea District for a beer. A great walkway, it has been discovered by tourists (like us) as a result it is very busy.

2016 08 28 79 New York.JPGEventually we dropped off, had a beer, and continued south on the streets past the meat packing district, Greenwich Village, and SoHo until we reached the World Trade Center about dusk, which was great timing for photographing the Oculus exterior.

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The PATH train took us to Hoboken, New Jersey for us to have dinner at Del Frescoes, where we had sole with crab and filet mignon. The food was not as tasty as expected but the views from the restaurant were spectacular. The restaurant was located on the bank of the river with the best view of New York City. The entire New York City skyline was lit and shimmered onto the river as we walked the short trip back to our hotel in the Newport area.

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New York – April 2016 – Another Week in the City

Back to Jersey City – with evenings to wander. This time though I went up early on Sunday to check out some sights. First stop was Liberty State Park, which as the name suggests is directly behind the Statue of Liberty. This area, as well as much of the waterfront of Jersey City, used to be industrial area, but has been revitalized. The park itself is nice, but the views are great of lower Manhattan and the statue. I was amazed to find that there is a bridge to Ellis Island, although it is not for use by tourists, only the workers.

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Having spent Saturday night in the area I was up and in the city very early on a Sunday morning, finding 5th Avenue total void of people and cars, so much for the city that never sleeps, on Sunday morning they were sleeping in. Continuing over to the Garment District, where a street was closed for some filming complete with a block full of 1970s cars

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Heading to Brooklyn, I spent a couple of hours at the New York Transit Museum, located in a decommissioned Court Street subway station in Downtown Brooklyn. The museum includes subway, bus, railway, bridge and tunnel memorabilia. As you move along through the station you find numerous vintage signs, models and other small items.

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The lower level is by far the best part of the museum, with two rows of subway cars, beautifully preserved. The museum has a great collection, but on this day it was filled with hipster moms and dads and their hipster kids screaming as all kids do. Still worth it though.

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Continuing on with a walk over to the Brooklyn Bridge, or more specifically,  under, where Jane’s Carousel is located along the river between the bridges (Manhattan Bridge being the other). This carousel was located at Idora Park in Youngstown until the park closed in 1984, where a couple purchased it and moved it to Brooklyn. After spending 25 years restoring it, it is now proudly spinning with a million dollar view of lower Manhattan.

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The following day after work I made my way back to Brooklyn, to the Barclays Center for some hockey. Home of the New York Islanders since 2015, the game that night was against the Tampa Bay Lightning, with a ‘crowd’ of about 4000 people, despite the fact both teams were headed for the upcoming playoffs. The arena is a bit quirky for hockey, with some obstructed view seats and one entire end of the bowl void of any seats at all. But since I had my choice of 12,000 empty seats, multiple views for photography were had.

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The following day found me in Queens for work, where my route took me through the grounds of the 1964 World’s Fair. This area still has some evidence of the fair, primarily the Unisphere, a large globe, as well as the Observation Tower prominently featured in the movie Men in Black. My route that day also took me past Citi Field, and a nearby subway rail yard.

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I spent my last evening there trying to find all the Roadside (Sidewalkside?) America sites I could find in Manhattan. These included a Giant Globe in the Daily News Building, Metal Rats running up a support cable at Grand Central, a Giant Chess Board on the side of a building, and a few others before ending up back downtown at the Occulus at the World Trade Center.

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