New York [December 2004] – Day 3

Posted On By Rob

We woke up early and had breakfast in bed which was average. We took the express number 7 train into Manhattan as usual, and headed for the 57th street intersection between 5th avenue. We walked into Central Park for the first time.

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A Map of Central Park / World’s Fair in Queens

Central Park is simply amazing. We knew right away that we wanted to spend a lot more time there than we had allocated. It is a splendid area by day. We walked through Central Park for an hour making out way uptown and west, towards our destination: the Museum of Natural History.

The park houses several ponds, lakes and reservoirs. We also located “Strawberry Fields” where a tribute to John Lennon is embedded into the footpath (a round stone engraved “Imagine”). The views in the park are also brilliant as it is surrounded by the Manhattan skyline.

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Rob and Toni in Central Park

We made it to the Museum just on opening time. We used our CityPasses and gained quick access. After a brief study of the museum guide we deduced that we should make haste to the top level and work down, on the premise that other visitors would work upwards. This proved to be a good plan J

I have never seen in my entire life a collection of Dinosaur fossils as complete as in this museum. It was unbelievable! The Dinosaurs were separated by geological age, and then grouped into sets by category e.g. carnivore. We knew we would not have time to see the entire museum – It would have taken at minimum a full day and we had one hour!

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A Brontosaurus in the lobby / Terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Museum of Natural History

So we flew through the exhibits taking photos as we went. This meant very quick “speed” viewing of each item. The museum as a whole also included many specialized exhibits which we did not have time for. The humanity section (exhibits displaying the evolution of the modern man) and the wildlife displays were very impressive.

After a minor subway misread, we barely made it to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx by noon. We were lured out of Manhattan for the stadium tour because of the history surrounding the famous venue. Such greats as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and as recently as Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter have all played ball for the Yankees and sat in the clubhouse/bullpen.

For US$12 each we had the privilege to walk around the field, enter the monument park (honouring retired numbers of Yankee greats), sit in the Yankee bullpen, enter the clubhouse and sit in the press box.

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Rob in the Yankee Dugout/Toni at Yankee Stadium

The tour was interesting and we learned a lot about the Yankees and their history. We also got quite a few good photos and later I bought a real MLB baseball from the pro shop. I could only imagine the atmosphere in the stadium on game day – it is a small but cosy stadium which has definite charm.

The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Guggenheim Museum

After the stadium, we headed for the Guggenheim museum to the east off Central Park. The museum itself (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) is an art piece in its own right. However, the design makes it hard to view all exhibits as many areas were too small or cramped for large numbers of people to view all at once.

The exhibition on at the time was an Aztec exhibition which included many exotic items from the height of the empire. Many items were gold, or carvings of Aztec gods. We rushed through the exhibit as we were pressed for time, and there were a lot of people.

The World Famous Times Square

We then headed for Times Square ostensibly to purchase Broadway tickets for a musical or a play. Thus, our destination was the TKTS booth. We got a little sidetracked and into Toys R Us instead. I enjoyed the Lego™ large scale models of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State building and the Chrysler building. They also had a large indoor Ferris wheel which was approximately 20 foot tall. It was predictably packed but was worth the visit. I purchased a disposable camera and a Darth Vader limited edition figure.

We then found the TKTS booth and purchased tickets to see Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”. We decided to kill an hour before locating dinner, so we headed west to the U.S.S Intrepid air and space museum.

The museum is actually an old US aircraft carrier which was built during WWII. It saw extensive service up to the Vietnam War. The museum carried an impressive range of US fighter aircraft and support craft on the flight deck, my favourite being the F-16 Tomcat.

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Rob with an F-16 Tomcat / View from the bridge of the U.S.S Intrepid

The museum included additionally, a British Airways Concorde aircraft and a nuclear missile submarine the USN Growler. The Intrepid was heavily modified to be a museum which on one hand was quite a shame, but it did allow for easy access to various parts of the carrier. This was my first time on an aircraft carrier, although this carrier was substantially smaller than modern carriers.

A British Airways Concorde

Still impressive, with a brilliant Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, Toni refers to the scene as a cardboard cutout. I would like to have spent a bit more time on board however I suspect we saw as much as there really was to see in the hour we spent there.

We left just prior to official closing time (which the information we had said a closing time of 6 PM however the actual time was 5 PM) having speed-visited. The aircraft and the view from the bridge were the highlights of the museum. The Concorde was also interesting as a footnote in history, since they are no longer in service.

Having concluded our visit to the USS Intrepid, we headed back to Times Square and on, up to Rockefeller Centre and Radio City. We passed through the NBC broadcasting area at the base of Rockefeller Tower and found ourselves under the famous Christmas tree, looking over the Ice Skating rink.

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The famous Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree

There were literally thousands of people and we had a vicious time getting through them. With our show starting at 7:30 PM, we wanted to find a location to eat and then be on our way back to Broadway and 44th St.

We decided to consult Frommer’s “New York City Compacted” which was a source of information and wisdom both before and during our trip. We located a number of potential restaurants in the Rockefeller/Broadway area which were in our price range. We decided to eat some place close to the theatre, so we headed two blocks south of the theatre.

We ended up walking (unwittingly) through 42nd street (west) and through the area where Billy Crystal was opening his Broadway stint. We managed to slip through and pop in to “John’s Pizzeria” where we waited about 30 minutes for a table. It was worth the wait (kudos to Frommer’s). John’s provided the best Calamari I have ever tasted anywhere (which is many places). The New York pizza I ate was also very interesting. They definitely do pizza well in New York. Toni had a sort of “rolled up” pizza.

Mural of Manhattan at John’s Pizzeria on 42nd Street

The restaurant itself was in a charming building which had a most interesting ceiling. On the main feature wall was a brilliant montage of Manhattan which (somewhat sadly) contained the twin towers. We asked politely to take a photo which we were happily allowed to do.

After the meal we headed up to the theatre to take our seats for the presentation of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” – our first Broadway experience. I picked this particular play because I was sure of two things: a well funded production and high production values. I wanted to show Toni the full Broadway experience with the best in special effects, stage and sets and singing/acting which was conveniently in the form of a movie she already adored. The play did not disappoint!

I was not allowed to take any pictures during the performance; however I think we will both remember it for a long time. The sets and special effects were top notch and the singing and performances were very memorable. Toni’s favourite character was the candlestick man who stole the show – almost. The Beast was portrayed with excellent skill and for my mind put in the best performance in the show.

Toni purchased (at intermission – a lost art) a plush figurine of the candlestick man which was inexpensive and also gave us both an item of memorabilia. The merchandise man laughed when Toni told him that she would purchase “this dude” (referring to the candlestick figure).

After the performance (embedding an unforgettable live orchestra score in my head) we jumped into a NYC taxi and headed for Queens. A taxi ride in NYC is a once in a lifetime brush with death. If you like rollercoaster rides, give the driver an address he can’t understand (which is much easier than you might think) and then buckle up.

We eventually made our address evident, but only after a few miles whisked by at about 120 miles per hour. Happy to be in one piece and back at our hotel in Chinatown, I over tipped the driver (why not? At the speed he drives he might as well enjoy life now) and we rejoiced in the fact we hadn’t met our maker just yet.

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