Monday 19th May
So I woke up bright and early and rearing to go. I found a lovely little coffee shop round the corner from the flat and next to the station where I could catch the C train into town. It’s a little hipster but their coffee is scrumptious and – I love America for that – it’s the same price if you get a medium or large coffee…’well, it’s just extra hot water, really’. They also do, ginormous doughnuts! What’s not too love?
The place is called The Hungry Ghost and has a queue of people grabbing their coffee to go from 8am…I wasn’t in hurry as my plan was to get to the American National History Museum first and it doesn’t open until 10am. I also managed to get myself some serious blisters from my wanderings along the Brooklyn Bridge so I needed to wait until the pharmacy across the road opened to get some plasters (band aid over there :)). So I settled myself with my coffee and giant coconut donut and pulled my holiday journal. When I travel, I like to write long hand, so I had brought some loose sheets of pretty paper to keep a record of my tribulations, feelings etc. Although I only had been there for a few hours, I had a surprising amount of things to write about…I won’t bore you with them here 🙂
Breakfast completed, band aids bought and stuck all over my heels, I set off on the C train to get to ANHM. Dead easy to get to: hop in in Brooklyn and get off at 81st Street. Et Voila!
My intention was to spend about 1h in the museum and then head out to Central Park to have a picnic…I wanted to see the dinosaurs…mostly. I live in London, home of its own famous National History Museum with its own dinosaur exhibits…yet, I have never been to it. I want to, I just never got round to it.
According to the guide, the ANMH is free but a donation of $22 is suggested. Let me tell you this: it is more than suggested. You can’t get in without a ticket. You have to queue for it, even if you are not planning on seeing the paying exhibitions. When you get to the till, the cashier tells you in a friendly voice that the suggested donation is $22 but you can give whatever you want. When you are faced with that, I think you’d feel pretty shitty to say “well in that case, I’ll donate $10!”…or maybe it’s just me being a bit of a wimp (I’ll admit to that readily). So I pay the suggested fee…For those who haven’t been to London yet, our museums are free to enter too and we don’t make you go through the ticket office to enter unless you are planning to go see a paying exhibit.
Saying that, I loved it there. Of course, they know that the dinosaurs are the major attraction so you have to go through the whole museum before you can get to them (top floor) but it’s well worth it. I am not a huge museum type of person, at least not an arts one but I love history. The downside of the visit was it seemed to have school day that day and there were school kids everywhere, so some rooms were busy and mostly….LOUD! In a place where the noise bounces around and get amplified, it can get a little grating.
Still I managed to spend nearly 3 hours in there, getting lost learning about tribes in the Amazon or rituals in deep Africa…It was fascinating (I have moments like that when I got to the British Museum)…And then finally the big guns. The dinosaurs!! I had never seen reconstructions or dinosaurs bones before…You don’t really get a sense of scale until you see the 3D representation of those creatures. Jeesh, I don’t think man would have survived as a specie if we had co-existed. Huge!
When I finally emerged from there, I was starving and completely confused by the sunlight. Some of the rooms in there are so dark that you can easily forget that the sun is shining out there. The museum is literally nesting against Central Park so I only had to cross the street. My plans for a picnic were largely foiled as a) I didn’t have any food with me and there weren’t any minimart around b) I really didn’t fancy eating a hotdog or pretzel which seemed to be the only thing you could buy around. I walked around for a bit, found a really pretty place to sit down by the lake (is it called a lake?) overlooking Manhattan skyline. It’s quite a striking view. Loads of people were just sitting around having picnics, boating on the lake, walking around or cycling. The inside road seemed to have been blocked to traffic so you could pretty much walked anywhere. I paused for a few moments, taking in the sight and the sun. Lovely. The sound of the traffic seemed to have been drowned out by all this nature. I heard a growl. I imagined that there were some wood creatures around but didn’t think they would come out during the day when they were so many people around. Another growl…looked around, no one seemed affected. How strange. Growwwwl…Oh my, it was my stomach telling me it had been hours since my giant donuts and complaining. How embarrassing.
I left my little peaceful spot in search of some food…I was surprised that they weren’t more food options around and I was nearly ready to give in and get a hotdog from a cart when I stumbled across a restaurant. The Tavern on the Green. I think it is the only restaurant inside the park on this side of it…and too pricey for me 😦 But, they have a take away booth at the back of it which offers sandwiches and cold drinks to go. They also have a little terrace where you can sit to enjoy being outside. Sold!
After that I started to walk towards Rockfeller Center. I had bought a ticket for the Observation Desk through a company in the UK and it was dated. I had time for it, the site had said that you could go any time between 11am-10pm. So I wandered around, chatted to a lady who tried to sell me a Big Bus Tour ticket (not interested) for a while, found a NY Yankee shop where I bought a baseball ball my sister had requested for one of her friends – completely by accident might I add, as I had been directed to a completely different street for it. Finally I got to 30 Rockfeller (I had troubles finding it as the map I had was really bad) only to discover that I had to exchange my voucher for a timed ticket and that the queue for that was huge *sigh*…Halfway down the line they announced that there were no more tickets available for the afternoon but if you get some for the next day…I was worried because my voucher specified that it was for Monday 19th but when I got to the front of the queue they didn’t seem to care. I am glad though that I hadn’t planned this for my last day or I would have been screwed. There was no mention that I needed to exchange my voucher for a timed ticket, grrrr… So I found myself at loose ends. I had planned to go up there and now, my schedule was a little off…so I walked…and walked…my feet and knees were killing me but walking is definitely the way to see NYC.
I came across 5th Avenue, the Public Library, got to the foot of the Empire State building, found where I could buy Sketchers but I couldn’t remember the exchange rate so held out, made my way across to get to The High Line, found Macy’s (which is pretty much like Selfridge’s in London so I went in, took a couple of pics and went out again…not my style of shop)…One thing that I learned on that day is how long avenue blocks are, compared to street blocks. I probably should have taken a break somewhere, have a coffee or something to rest my feet but I was so keen to see the city I just ploughed on…I don’t know how many kilometres I covered on that first day but I know it’s a lot.
On my way to the High Line, I came across the area where I was going to need to come to catch my bus to DC, so I was pleased with that. It also showed me how Mr Google got the walking time wrong from Penn Station stop to 11th (it’s a lot longer to walk).
By the time I was finished walking the High Line, I was absolutely knackered. I had pretty much walked for 5 hours straight with shoes that weren’t meant for it…I stopped at a German bar in Brooklyn for some dinner – a bit of a mistake really as their menu only consisted of hot dogs which wasn’t what I had in mind for dinner but I was too tired to try find something else. I think I was pretty much fast asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow…