Oh, my poor tired legs…
Well, we just about walked our legs right off today. We saw all sorts of stuff, immersed ourselves in the organized chaos of Manhattan, and had a pretty good time, but…well, put it this way: we nearly had a crisis when we thought we took a wrong turn walking to a restaurant for supper, which would imply that we walked an entire half-block in the wrong direction. This was cause for serious concern.
But, we certainly saw a lot. I’d be willing to say that if we had to end our trip now, we’ve seen New York about as well as you can in one day. Things to cross off the “New York tourist checklist” are:
- Hailing a cab
- The Chrysler building
- Grand Central Terminal
- Rockefeller Center (including the “Top Of The Rock” observation deck)
- Radio City Music Hall
- Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, Madison Avenue
- F. A. O. Schwarz
- Times Square / Broadway
- New York Public Library
And that’s just the big stuff. It was a busy busy day. We had set the alarm for 8 AM, and were back at the hotel by 7:30 local time, totally exhausted.
The day was really just a series of small scenes, not one big event, so it’s all kind of jumbled together in my mind, even though it just happened. The only way to tell this story is to begin at the beginning, proceed through it, and stop when I get to the end.
So, the beginning: We decided to take a cab to the Chrysler building, since a bit of trip planning had suggested that that was a good place to start walking from. (Ok, the real beginning was breakfast at the hotel restaurant, where their pancakes with “warm maple syrup” came with nothing of the sort, and I suggested to Pamela that it would be amusing to make a row on the basis that, as a Canadian, I know maple syrup when I see it and this isn’t it. She disagreed.) Anyway, Pamela was a little concerned about how we actually get a cab. I flagged one down with such casual aplomb that the cab driver surely thought I was a local. You know, a local with a big camera, at a hotel, wanting to go to the Chrysler building. Well, Pamela was impressed, anyway.
The Chrysler building: Pretty cool. It actually has giant hood ornaments on the sides.
Almost right next door, we have Grand Central Terminal (it hasn’t been called Grand Central Station for over 100 years). It was…big, nice, but nothing super-impressive. Worth seeing, but if we had gone out of our way to see it I think we would have been a little disappointed.
Next stop: Six or seven blocks north, to St. Bartholomew’s church. Also in the vicinity, “Marilyn Monroe’s Subway Grating”. It’s on my map, but there’s nothing at all there – just a subway grating. No plaque, no sign, nothing special. A complete anticlimax.
From there, six blocks southwest to Rockefeller Center. (Note: The blocks are rectangular, not square, so a block east/west is about three times as long as a block north/south. Pamela and I have started measuring distances in “short blocks” and “long blocks”.) The walk took us past the Fifth Avenue shops – we saw Louis Vuitton, Prada, Versaci, Saks, and a lot of other names that I don’t really know anything about, other than that they represent expensive things. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, handbags, etc. We didn’t even go in – I doubt we could afford to tip the doormen.
Rockefeller Center is a complex of buildings that was once (I think) referred to as “Radio City”. It’s home to a couple famous buildings, notably Radio City Music Hall, and 30 Rock, the home of NBC studios and a big tall building with an observatory on top, called “Top Of The Rock”. We had decided to drop the $21 for a ticket and head on up to the top. The two choices for “tall building” visits are really Top Of The Rock, or Empire State, and some research last night suggested this was a better choice.
It was actually pretty nifty. After we went through security (!), there were some videos showing the history of the building. It was basically built on bad luck and hubris. Rockefeller had leased all this land and was going to build a home for the Metropolitan Opera…then the depression hit and the opera backed out. For reasons that weren’t really clearly explained, he decided to built a big huge silly office building instead. I guess it all worked out in the end.
The elevator to the top is trippy (the lights dim, and the ceiling is glass so you can see straight up the elevator shaft, which is filled with coloured and blinking LED lights). The view from the top is fantastic (there are three levels of observation deck). And there’s a weird electronic art…thing…in the lobby at the top, that makes coloured boxes appear on the ceiling and follow people around. It was oddly fascinating. (Art is actually a big part of Rockefeller Center; this fits right in.)
After lunch at the Rink Bar / Rock Cafe, and a quick visit to the Lego Store, we took a long meandering we-don’t-really-know-where-we’re-going walk to F. A. O. Schwarz, the famous toy store with the giant piano from Big. It was a fantastic place: the main floor was all “classic toy store” with stuffed animals and toy drums and whatnot, and other areas had Lego and dollhouses and Playmobil and more or less everything, but without ever feeling really “commercial”. Unfortunately, the giant piano was broken (just a little while before we arrived, it sounded like).
We also quickly popped into the Apple Store next door (just to see – it was nothing special) and bought some pictures from a street vendor. Next stop: Times Square.
Honestly, this was a bit of a letdown. We were tired by this point, and it was hot outside, but Times Square is a whole lot of nothing. Huge signs, lots of lights, lots of glitz, but there’s not really anything to do there. We grabbed a quick snack at the busiest McDonald’s ever, and sat on the grandstand for a bit watching the activity, but it’s not the sort of thing that you can fill an afternoon with. We did see the famous ball, and at one point we saw the Naked Cowboy (look him up if you don’t know), but mostly it was just noise and people and lights. (One oddity is that there’s not really a clearly-defined “square” – it’s sort of a few blocks of intersections and streets.
An unexpected highlight was M&M World. It wasn’t on our itinerary at all, but how can you pass up on a store advertising “Three floors of shopping”, all M&M-related?
Our final stop for the day was the New York Public Library, by Bryant Park. We had meant to stop by earlier, but some poor planning meant that we missed it, so we decided to loop back and see it. It was a really nice building – huge, marble, felt a lot like a legislative building or something – but we were just totally tired out and didn’t spend much time there. We wrapped up the day with a cab ride back to the hotel, about an hour’s rest, a short walk to a nearby sports bar (verdict: mixed, not as good as it looked), and then a lot of time lying on our beds and decompressing.
Well, sorry for the huge wall of text (hopefully the pictures broke it up a bit), but that’s the sort of day it was. Tomorrow should be a little simpler: We’re basically doing Central Park during the day, and going to The Lion King in the evening (so we can’t afford to get all tired again). We’ll likely pop by Carnegie Hall, just for a look-see, and other than that, take things as they come.