Friday, January 2, 2009

On a clear day - you can see well in to New Jersey

First things first, Michael dives on to the net this morning and books rail tickets to Washington for Saturday. Return tickets for the three of us cost $US432 or $US72 each trip. Not bad for a 3 1/2 hour trip each way. We leave on the 06:45 am train and arrive back in New York at 10:40 pm that night.

Today we are off to the Rockerfeller Centre to see New York from a totally different perspective. Michael has suggested that this provides an even better view than from the Empire State Building as you can see all of Central Park and the downtown district that is shielded from view by skyscrapers from the Empire State Building.

We walk down to Lexington Avenue and to another diner this morning. At first, it looks more up-market than that we entered yesterday, but when the waiter literally throws an additional set of cutlery on the table, I get the feeling that you certainly don't judge a book by its cover when it comes to New York diners. That said, the roses on the table are real, the orange juice is freshly squeezed and the diner is warm. We all choose the same fare this morning - waffle with fruit and cream. One large, fluffy waffle comes laden with chunks of fresh fruit - pineapple, grapes, rockmelon, honey melon and orange - and a generous dollop of light airy cream. The two Michaels balance it all with hot steaming coffee served in chunky thick mugs. Well sated and happy with our full bellies, we venture into a crisp, clear and brisk sunny winter day in New York.

Into the bowels again and the underground from Lexington to 49th Street (the stations are every 8 blocks), and we come up into a world that while busy, obviously isn't hustling. Michael says that as it is a public holiday, there is less traffic both vehicular and pedestrian, than would be normal. We walk the three blocks to 30 Rockerfeller Plaza (the setting for the TV sitcom 30 Rock!). In getting there we pass the NBC studio, the skating rink at Rockerfeller and yet more and more retail space. Gosh, it is hard to believe we are here at times!

We buy tickets at $US18 each to go up to the Observation Decks of the Rockerfeller Centre. Out of the cold and in to the warmth both literal and figurative of this famous site. The story of John D Rockerfeller Jr and his quiet determination to make a difference is told in photos and stories in the foyer area leading in to the lift wells. We sit astride a beam for a likeness photo of that famous shot of the building workers, untethered by the contraints of workplace health and safety, as they work on the construction of one of the landmarks to the heroism of the early entrepreneurs.

Then up we go. 70 floors above the street, we stare out on a wondrous sight. New York from above is ever so captivating. A whole new world all in 3D splendour. It is amazing - it jumps out at you as you stop and look. The buildings take a shape and form, filling the air with life and substance. I have never seen a city so alive. It almost appears to breathe, in and out, in and out. The shade and light, the forms and shapes give New York a life totally its own. We have the most perfect day to look out and breathe with the City. The air is crisp and clear. There is not a cloud in the sky and the wind of yesterday has shaken off the cobwebs and blown out the smoke that represents the activity of people in the City. You can see literally for miles - out across the Hudson and East Rivers, past the Statue of Liberty, up and down the canyons that are the streets and avenues of New York. We see the Empire State Building and Central Park in its winter coat with the Jackie Onassis Reservior sitting just past the half way mark. We can almost lean out and touch the beautiful Chrysler Building and in Times Square, the newly lit 2009 sign is clearly visible. Michael points out some of the buildings that he has been lucky enough to visit in his work. Mind you, there IS a breeze up top and the day is very crisp! Guess it is about - 11 degrees (without the wind chill). Still, we spend about an hour just gob-smacked in the view.

Down to the retail concourse after being encouraged to smile by yet another employee - they all encourage you to be happy and to enjoy your visit. A nice detail given that you are herded like sheep at all times, move up close, lines two by two, and yet, we all oblige and are happy to do so! There are souvenirs for all tastes and any taste. Books, clothes, cards, glasses, postcards, caps etc etc etc. We decide to retrieve our earlier taken photo as our souvenir. I enquire re a black and white version - it looks incredibly better, but is an extra $US10 on top of the $US40 base fee. And so, we settle for the colour version. We try for a coffee at Starbucks downstairs near the Skating Rink, but no tables so we decide to keep going. Michael makes a quick detour to Radio City but can only get as far as the foyer - better than nothing I suppose and I am sure that he (at least in his mind) heard the ghosts of the Big Bands - Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw and their ilk.

From here we amble down to St Patricks Catholic Cathedral - the largest Catholic Church in New York. It doesn't appear very large from the street, but as soon as you walk in, it is obvious that it is a very large church with the most stunning stained glass and marble works of art. Its visual appearance outside is no doubt dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers and somehow, it appears diminished - much is the pity. The number of tourists walking through taking photos is amazing. And the parishoners just accept it and go about their reflections.

We then walk down to 5th Avenue where I am gobsmacked at the wonders of the offerings of the retail giants of the more expensive persuasion! Goodness knows how much is spent in 5th Avenue stores on a daily basis - certainly far more than what we are prepared to shell out! Past the Trump Tower, and in to the warmth and opulance of a surreal new world - one of somewhat obscene wealth. We try for a coffee at Starbucks here too, but the queue is too long and there are no tables, so we push on. Passed Versace, Vanderbilt, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Bvlgari etc etc and we end up opposite the Plaza Hotel at the entrance to Central Park. By now, my hip is starting to seize, so we decided to head for a bite and then home for the day (but maybe a movie later). And do Central Park and the Guggenheim Museum tomorrow.

Up past Boomingdales and their fantastic Christmas windows that remind us of the Grace Bros windows in Sydney. Then back to Lexington Avenue and a visit to The Green Cafe where we all have surprisingly great hamburgers with fries (no chips here guys) followed by cheesecakes and coffee before we walk the five blocks back to Michaels. Today, we have walked approximately 6 kms - just enough I guess to walk all that off!!

After a rest at home we headed out at 10:00 pm to the Baker Street Irish Bar just a block away and as this post goes to air Michael is still enjoying some respite from his visitors down there watching the college football!

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