New York, Je T’aime

Yes, another post on another trip. This has been a great year! So, this time around, New York it was. I thought I’d mix it up a bit and instead of doing chronological ordering, I’d do place-wise descriptions. Also, try and keep the descriptions short and post more images. Just for the heck of it — also I am tired of hitting keys at work, dont need to do much of it at home as well!

Times Square

It is all that it is said to be and much more. The people, the lights, the atmosphere, Broadway, eateries, coffee shops, crowds, subways, glitz, glamor and all that jazz. It was a superb experience — and yes, I am a Mumbaikar who detests Mumbai! Times square is the heart of the city, and it thuds like the heart of a mouse, beating at a pace that is impossible for a human to keep up. All you can do is to stand and soak it all up and enjoy the thrill of the enveloping juggernaut that is Times Square. One observation: there were about 20 Starbucks scattered around the Times Square, and all of them were almost always full! Oh, and a visit in the day and one at night is a must! I stopped by Hard Rock, and had lunch there, gulping down a wonderful Cheesecake for dessert — my first and only Hard rock (dont see why this place is so famous; never went to it in Mumbai or Barcelona!).

Central Park

I really wanted to see this park since one of my childhood favorite shows — Friends — used a play on words — Central Perk — for a cafe in the show. The park is MASSIVE, spanning over 40 blocks lengthwise and about 2 blocks breadthwise. It has a zoo, two museums flanking it, multiple ponds, a large reservoir, a small castle and an Alice in wonderland dedication (that I missed). I managed to cover a size-able region of the park in one afternoon and almost walked through the entire length. I weakened after some time and took a metro for about 10 blocks though. I also managed to catch a baseball game that was taking place in one of the countless fields that are dotted across the park. Views of the NYC skyline were thrown in for free!

Madame Tussads

Let me be honest. I went to see Amitabh Bachchan. Phew, I said it. Unfortunately, he was off the floor — well that’s what you get when you have goals as frivolous as these. In any case, managed to tour the entire collection. Although the attention to detail is fantastic and some of the figures were extremely lifelike (Prince for example popped out at me and I almost apologized thinking him to be a real person!), I found the place a bit overpriced. It was fun nonetheless.

Statue of Liberty

What better represents the American dream than the greenish-lady standing watch over NYC? I stood in line for over an hour and a half to board the ship to get to liberty island and luckily I had carried a book with me, so managed to pass the time in the queue reading! The lady herself, although elegant was a bit of a let down. She is not as big as they make her seem in films and posters. It was more a touristy destination than a real spot to visit, but how can I face the world and say that I have visited NYC, if I haven’t seen the Statue? Oh, and the ferry stops at the Ellis island as well — this one is a poor excuse for history — very skippable! I think the best view I had of the Statue was from the park in Manhattan from where one boards the ferry during sunset the day before I visited the island. There was a guy playing the sax, a couple dancing and the sun set at the back of the Statue — it was heavenly.

Empire State Building

Yes, another touristy thing to do. The views are amazing. Everything seems like little toys and the tall, rectangular buildings seem like a child’s play-set, with the yellow cabs adding to the toyish nature of the proceedings. One can pretty much see everything in NYC, and the brochure claims that one can see beyond NYC to other states as well! While the entry fee is hefty and totally unjustified, the views were good enough for me not to crib too much about the entry to myself!

Wall Street, WTC, Trump towers

Iconic buildings of a possibly crumbling nation. I really wanted to see the Bull and I was very pissed with the number of people photographing themselves on/in front of it. But well, it is a tourist hot spot. I thought that the WTC visit would invoke some deep feelings within me, but I guess having come from a country where massacres are rampant and where Kashmiris suffer every day, I have become inured to the suffering of the people. The new WTC building looks nice — that’s about all I can say.

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Rockefeller Center, Magnolia Bakery, 5th Avenue

Yes, I was looking forward to meeting Tina Fey as I walked down towards 30 Rock — I am sure you realize what a sitcom nut I am! I went in to check the tour prices, but at over $30, I did not think it was worth it, especially over summer when the studios are possibly not filming as much “good” stuff. The first day, I missed the beautiful statute that shows up on the opening shot of 30 Rock, but managed to find it the next day when I was headed to the MoMA (below).

I had never heard of the Magnolia bakery before and the only reason I went was it showed up pretty prominently on the Google maps cached on my phone (no 3G), and boy did I make the right decision. I had the magic cookie bar — graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, and coconut — what a heavenly treat. I have never in my life had something as good as this! In fact when I went to that neighborhood the second time, I stopped by just to have this again!

MoMA and 5th Avenue

The museum of modern art (MoMA) was actually not on my list, and I was scheduled to go the metropolitan museum of art (the more famous one). I was especially skeptical since I had visited some modern art museums in Spain and was thoroughly baffled and underwhelmed. The only reason I chose to pay the $12 entry fee was to see one painting and one painting only — “Starry Night” by Van Gogh. I absolutely love Van Gogh’s impressionism and Starry Night ranks number 2 on my list of favorites — right below “Starry Night under the Rhone” by Van Gogh again. I was a little taken aback by the small size of the painting, for I had seen only digital versions before. I think it was pretty worth it! Apart from that floor 5 (impressionism/cubism) housed a good collection of other Van Gogh’s and Picasso’s (whose cubism I am still trying to make sense of) and was well worth the trip. They also had Dali’s stuff, but after the Dali museum, this seemed like a child’s collection. Floor 5 was good, I enjoyed. After that it was pretty much downhill (literally and metaphorically). I just do not understand modern art — steel turds on the floor is not art! There was a video of a woman making different faces and that was supposedly art! Some samples below…

5th Ave. houses some of the most expensive shopping houses and this street was choc-a-block with fervent shoppers and their poor simpering husbands. The weirdest thing I saw was a queue to get into a store (later identified as Abercrombie & Fitch), where two men (white/black) stood topless with low-rider jeans. While they had excellent physiques (8-12 packs and muscles as if the only thing they ate was protein) — I was flabbergasted at naked people standing pretty much in the middle of the road! It was almost like they were prostituting themselves so that they can get customers into the store. Apparently, one can go topless in NYC, it is not illegal (males and females).