That City From All the Movies

It took me almost thirty years, but I finally made it to NYC! Thanks, Hamilton, for finally getting my ass in gear. Here are my thoughts on my five perfect days in NYC. The weather was crappy, but everything else was lovely.

I don't know who the lady is at the center of the photo but the Statue of Liberty is in the background! Tourist problems. This is as close as I got to the actual Statue; apparently it's like the White House in that you've got to book a tour quite a bit in advance and passports are required.

Times Square! My first night in the city; by the time I made it to my Airbnb and unpacked and showered, it was almost time for my first Broadway show (Fun Home), so I mostly just went to Times Square, found the theater, then had dinner at a nearby Irish pub. As for Times Square, it was crowded (there was construction going on so even more so than usual) and overpriced but you have to go for the lights. And also to get to Broadway shows.

The next morning: very different atmosphere! My first full day in NYC and my body had no idea what time it was so I was up and around by 6:30. It was nice to see the sites without any tourists, though. I walked around Times Square and also got to see some famous buildings - Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, New York Public Library. I occasionally passed someone on the sidewalk but for the City That Never Sleeps, 7 AM is actually pretty quiet.

The view from the Empire State Building! Definitely a site to see. Also recommend getting there right when it opens (8 AM) to avoid serious lines and to be able to actually get up to the view. Also recommend doing this first - it's great to get a better orientation of Manhattan. It also offered my first view of Central Park! The weather didn't provide for great visibility but I could still see most of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

The Flat Iron Building. I was actually staying at an Airbnb just around the block. One thing I really appreciated about Manhattan, especially after site-seeing in Europe: it's so easy to get around. Everything is a grid (except Broadway) and most of the streets and avenues are numbered. It just made so much sense.

For my trip, I had booked a 'package' that included a ride to the top of the Empire State Building, a 'hop on, hop off' bus tour, a river cruise, and a ticket to the Met. Worth it: the Empire State Building, river cruise, and Met ticket (really - the line was long). Not worth it: bus tour. This is my first time doing a hop on, hop off tour and probably my last. I know people who love them so it's definitely a personal preference. For me, the subway makes more sense. I just don't like wasting time waiting for a bus that I'm not sure is coming. It also wasn't clear where they would be stopping. After waiting for the bus at two different stops (one near the Flat Iron, which is why my rant comes here) with no luck, I gave up and just got a Metro Card. Made it much more enjoyable!

This probably should have gone in one of the Hamilton posts: The Public is where Hamilton debuted last year and there were several Hamilton-related events at Joe's. Also, I have got to come back during a summer for Shakespeare in the Park.

Also probably should have gone in the Hamilton post: Fraunces Tavern, near the Financial District. It's the place where, in the show, Hamilton meets his new friends and where, in real life, Washington celebrated taking Manhattan back from British forces. There's a museum above the restaurant that has probably seen an uptick in interest since the show's debut. I also had lunch here.

Wall Street's bull, right around the corner. Also, not actually on Wall Street! The Customs House behind it was rather lovely. For the bull, several people were taking pictures, of and with, the bull's genitals. I chose not to do this. But, hey, whatever floats your boat.

At Trinity Church. The current church is actually the third Trinity Church, built in the 1830s and 1840s. I stopped by the grave of its most famous resident. I was not the only one.

The September 11th Memorial. The footprints of the original towers have been turned into reflecting pools with the names of the victims (almost three thousand) engraved along the side. The memorial was well-done: an open space in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, trees and light. There was also a museum. For my stay, I was at an Airbnb, a private room of a New Yorker who has been living in the city for almost thirty years. He was maybe the friendliest Airbnb host I've had and we talked a lot. He told me about his own September 11 experience. I appreciate that I was able to hear a personal story about a very national event.

I went to the Met Sunday afternoon and they were planning for the Met Gala the next day. I ended up seeing The Daily Show on Monday afternoon. I'm glad I did but it would have been fun to people watch... As for the actual museum, it really reminded me of the Louvre: the building itself is beautiful and worth admiring, there are a variety of exhibits, and the museum has distinct sections. I absolutely could have spent much more time here. When I live close enough, I'm getting a membership and taking it on one exhibit at a time.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge. Thanks Airbnb host! He recommended just walking the bridge; I never would have without his recommendation and I'm glad I did. The city looked lovely from the bridge and it was just nice to be part of the daily movement of the city.

Fog aside, a great view of the island from the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Public Library! Wikipedia time: the NY Public Library system is the second largest in the United States and fourth largest in the world, with almost 53 million items. There are 87 libraries in total. And that's not including Queens and Brooklyn, which have their own library systems.

Rockefeller Center!

St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's located right across from Rockefeller Center. Basically Manhattan is just a bunch of famous sites, stacked one right on top of the other.

Now on to the Museum of Modern Art. If you don't take a selfie, did it happen? I fell in love with Van Gogh last year when I went to Amsterdam and went to the incredible Van Gogh museum there. His story, his art. Since then, I've gotten to see a variety of his paintings in museums across Europe. Had to return to the States to see his most famous work!

Also at MoMA: there was an art class for blind students at this painting. The teacher had 3D models of the painting and the children were feeling the model for an impression of the painting. Art is for everyone!

Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Last year, I went to the Picasso museum in Paris. There were several studies Picasso completed in preparation for this work and it was interesting to see the final piece, after seeing the work at the Picasso museum last year.

This was a powerful, moving piece: a filmmaker had refugees trace the path they took using a map and describing their journey. I tried to find more information on the exhibit online and it is not happening.

I saw The Daily Show! This was a bit of a process - I signed up for a ticket for free online weeks ago and then, on the day of, got in line for the show around 12:30. The show didn't film until 4:30, so this was an all-day commitment. Around 2:30, they started giving out actual tickets to get into the show itself. I got a ticket and was told to come back at 3:45. At 3:45, more standing around. Then, after a very well-organized bathroom break, I was in the theater. A producer came out and yelled. A comedian came out to warm us up. Then the actual show itself. Honestly, the episode was just okay. The correspondent bit was pre-taped, which was unfortunate, but Ronny Chieng, the correspondent, came out afterwards in sweat pants for a quick follow-up with Trevor Noah, so that was exciting. And the guest was Jaime Lannister! But the whole thing was worth it just to see the show live and get a little insight into its workings; I've watched the show obsessively since 2011. It's basically how I get my news. Thanks, best damn news team! In general, many of the television programs that film around NYC are free and just require booking online ahead and some line-waiting. A nice way for some free entertainment in what can be a very expensive city.

After TDS, I took a trip to Greenwich for Washing Square Park. The famous arch was built in the late 1800s as a tribute to the centennial anniversary of Washington's presidential inauguration. It was also nice to see such a dense city devote so much space to parks.

And now on to the most famous park: Central Park! I did a guided bike tour. Down side: It was raining. Upside: due to said rain, it was mostly empty. I'll take empty and wet over crowded and dry! I definitely recommend a tour - the place is huge and overwhelming. Our guide was great - informative, flexible based on group interests. This is the mall, one of the older and more famous sections of the park.

Alice in Wonderland statue. It is very climbable! Overall, Central Park was lovely. Our guide also have us a quick rundown of real estate gossip and I discovered the difference in Central Park West and Central Park East. I visited the park a couple more times throughout my visit, in part to see more bits of the park but also, sometimes it really is just easier to cut through to get the park to get around Manhattan.

Based on a recommendation from my Central Park guide, after the Central Park tour, I went to Chelsea Market. Thanks, tour guide! The market was definitely worth the trip - lots of restaurants and pop up shops. The picture is my lunch there. Probably the best meal I had while I was in NYC.

Another benefit of Chelsea Market - it's right next to an entrance to the High Line. Everyone recommended the High Line to me - the random New Yorkers I met in Paris, my Airbnb host, the Central Park tour guide. And they were right! It's 1.45 miles (per Wikipedia) of disused railroad that has been turned into a garden. I will pass along the recommendation! In addition to just a nice, easy walk, it provided unique views of the neighborhoods. According to my Airbnb host, there are also several great galleries along the High Line. I didn't have time but it's definitely a great way to spend an afternoon. For my next visit!

Tuesday afternoon, I went to the Museum of the City of New York and the Guggenheim. Sadly, the Guggenheim was mostly under construction so I didn't see much. The Museum of the City of New York was interesting - I enjoyed the exhibits on the biography of Roz Chast and activism in New York. They also had a section on portraits. Here are the Hamiltons, obviously.

For my last day in New York, I ventured north of Central Park for another park, Fort Tryon. I mainly came for the view, which was excellent, but a park is always nice.

The last thing I did in NYC - a river cruise! We left from a pier in Midtown on the west side, went around to the Manhattan bridge, then back. Saw four of the five boroughs! This is when I had the chance to snap the Statue of Liberty. I'm glad to have seen the city from this point of view. A perfect bookend from the start of the trip on top of the Empire State Building.