Strawberry Fields Forever
Well, Strawberry Fields for fifteen minutes, anyway. That’s where we started our day: an area about halfway up the west side of Central Park that’s sort of a John Lennon memorial. I say “sort of” because theres a big “Imagine” mosaic in the ground, and the area is named Strawberry Fields, but other than that, there’s no real link.
We spent most of today wandering through Central Park, roughly following a plan I had devised to see the most interesting bits with the least backtracking. We had two navigational errors: I actually started out confidently walking in exactly the wrong direction (when looking at the map I thought we had come in a different entrance), and at one point shortly after, the park itself conspired to block off the route I was attempting to take, so we had to circle back and go around. Other than that, we did pretty well, which is good because we were both still a little tired from yesterday, and apparently Pamela’s shoes hurt.
Anyway, Central Park: It’s huge. It’s long and kind of narrow, and stretches from 60th street to 110th street (yes, that means it’s 50 blocks long). It reminded me a lot of, say, Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg: a large area of green space in the middle of a city with joggers and cyclists and families and scattered features like statues and gardens and buildings. We explored most of the southern half today (and don’t plan on going back for the northern half; if my map is accurate, there’s not much there).
We walked north from Strawberry Fields along the side of a lake that is descriptively named “The Lake”. We saw the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater (seriously, could I make that up? It apparently actually came from Sweden), the Delacorte Theater (which appeared to be Shakespeare-oriented) next to the Great Lawn (which contained baseball diamonds), and Belvedere Castle, next to Turtle Pond (and yes, we saw a turtle in it).
Belvedere Castle is the sort of thing that you really don’t expect to run across in the middle of a park in a big North American city. We knew it was there, but it was still sort of a surprise when it came into view. The informational signs say that it was originally built as a lookout post (not sure what they were looking out for – ducks?) and is now used as a weather station. It’s open to the public to wander through and climb the narrow winding staircase to the top (suggested $3 donation, but as the lady said to me, “If you don’t pay you can still go in”).
Belvedere Castle was also a nice place to sit and rest. There was a bit of a breeze at the top, and benches, and shade. It was early, but we were already hot and tired. Have I mentioned yet that it’s hot? I don’t think so. The temperature is already around 22 C when we get up in the morning and is going up to around 30 C during the day. I know, everyone back in Winnipeg feels sorry for us now, but the truth is we’d be quite happy it if was 5-10 degrees cooler. It’s toasty, especially walking around all day in the sun. We’ve both been a little dehydrated.
Anyway, we couldn’t hang around forever. We kept going east across the park, past an area of winding interconnected paths called The Ramble, and turned south at Cedar Hill. There we saw a small pond (either artificial, or landscaped) called Conservatory Water. There were little model sailboats on it (presumably controlled by people with remotes somewhere) and a couple of statues. The first – and the one I had come to see – is Alice In Wonderland, complete with Alice, toadstools, Mad Hatter, March Hare, Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, and little dog. The second statue, which wasn’t even on my map, is Hans Christian Andersen. It was actually donated in memory of all the children whose parents were killed in the 9/11 attacks. Apparently every Saturday morning at 11:00 AM, there’s “story hour” at the statue. Today, some middle-aged women were using it as the site of an aerobics class. Definitely not story hour.
Nearby is Bethesda Fountain – a large fountain on the east shore of The Lake – and Bethesda Terrace. The Terrace is not only a nice raised area to look at the lake from, but also home to the biggest surprise of the park: you can walk underneath it through an absolutely beautiful pillared walkway with a tiled ceiling. I loved it – it felt as distant from Central Park as Central Park feels from the rest of Manhattan. There have been several times when I’ve had the urge to say to Pamela “This reminds me of Europe”, and this was one of them.
(That last photo right there? One of my favourites of the trip so far.)
From there, we walked down The Mall – probably one of the most well-known areas of Central Park. It’s just a wide walking area, tree-lined, with benches to sit and read or rest or whatever. The southern stretch has statues of a few famous authors and is called “Literary Walk”.
By now it was after noon, and we were hot, tired, thirsty, and, in my case anyway, hungry. At the end of Literary Walk, my map showed a place labeled “Dairy”. I had puzzled over this initially, but as the day got longer and hotter, I became more and more convinced that it must be an ice cream place. In fact, I had even started to believe that it might be a snack bar, with fries and the like. It would have everything we wanted – the end of the rainbow.
You may have guessed by now that I was wrong.
Once upon a time, the Dairy was in fact a place where you could get a glass of milk. The southern end of Central Park is termed the Children’s District, and has a playground and that sort of stuff, and someone figured that it would be nice to be able to provide the kids with a wholesome glass of milk. Now, it’s a visitor’s centre. You can get maps, buy souvenirs, etc. Milk is no longer on offer. There is bottled water, which Pamela bought, but that’s it.
That was pretty much the end of our walk in the park. We wandered past the Carousel ($2 a ride), the Chess & Checkers House, and a playground, and exited the park on the south side. Looking at the map, if you stretch out the path we walked, it would probably cover the entire 50-block distance from the north to the south end of the park. Tired, dehydrated, and hungry (me, not Pamela – she wasn’t feeling well), we adjourned for lunch.
And I’m going to end the blog post there, too. There’s more to come, and it involves ice cream, but Pamela and I are going to leave for The Lion King fairly shortly (~20 minutes) and I don’t trust this terrible hotel internet to allow me to write that part of the post and upload the pictures in time. So stay tuned – hopefully, I’ll get the rest up tonight, after the show, but if I’m really tired when we get back you might have to wait until tomorrow…