“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
I had a wonderful fortnight in New York. I packed a lot into that time and saw lots of art museums as well as tourist sites.
Some thoughts on the city:
- The traffic is insane, so busy and frantic. The people move fast, but are very friendly if you’re lost and need a quick help with directions. I was struck by how polite New Yorkers are, and even formal. Every time you said thank you, the response was “You’re welcome!”. We are a lot more casual in Australia, so that really made an impression on me.
- And did I mention noise? There seemed to be a siren going off every few minutes, day and night. Somehow though that just adds to the pumping energy of the place.
- Security? Oh my Lord! Everywhere you went there were police officers, and in places like Grand Central Station there were army officers with machine guns. That took a little bit of getting used to, as we don’t have that kind of police/army presence in Australia. In the second week I was there, the UN General Assembly was in session, and there were road closures at certain times for heads of state to pass through, and even Secret Service operatives roaming around. It was certainly an interesting experience.
- The city really is a hymn to Art Deco architecture, and other than the ultra modern skyscrapers, Art Deco is the city’s defining symbol in my opinion.
- I adored New York, the energy and diversity of the city was phenomenal. If I could, I would go back every year and see more museums and areas of the city in greater depth.
Above from left clockwise: One World Trade Centre, Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, view from my hotel, Chrysler Building, New York Public Library.
Below are some of the favourite places I visited.
Art Museum Favourites:
The Met – probably the best museum I saw. 5,000 years of art, and all of it impressive. if you’re into art, it’s definitely a place to experience. I spent an entire day there, with breaks to eat and it wasn’t enough of course. Highlights were the Greek and Roman sculptures, the Egyptian section which includes a temple that has been rebuilt onsite, the Armour Hall, and the galleries of European and American painting.
Above, left to right: Temple of Dendur, Greek sculpture fragment, Armour Hall, Renaissance portrait. All at The Met.
Guggenheim – incredible building, the only New York structure designed by the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Worth seeing just for the building, although the art is also amazing.
Above, left to right: The Guggenheim, Gauguin, Picasso
MoMa – for Modern art, this is the place to go! So many famous and iconic paintings live here, from Picasso to Pollock, from Cézanne to Chagall.
Above, left to right: Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso
Morgan Library & Museum – this was an unexpected delight. It’s housed in J P Morgan’s former mansion on Madison Avenue, and it’s breathtaking in the scope and richness of the collection. Morgan was a banker and one of the richest people in America in the late nineteenth century. He had a library built to house his collection of manuscripts, such as a jewelled copy of the Lindau Gospel, and copies of the first Gutenberg Bible, as well as many other priceless items. For bibliophiles it’s a treasure, and Morgan’s library is almost as he left it when he died in 1913. There are rotating exhibitions and a lovely cafe.
Above: Morgan’s study and library.
Below, left to right: Front cover of the Lindau Gospel, 9th century, the Gutenberg Bible, 1455.
Favourite Areas of the city:
I stayed in the Midtown area, and my hotel was just one block away from the New York Public Library and Grand Central Station, and while I really enjoyed it, it did get a bit too frenetic at times.
I loved Greenwich Village and Brooklyn. Much more bohemian and relaxing. The brownstone buildings with their cute stoops were so beautiful. Having read a lot of literature based in New York it was great to just wander the streets and soak up the history.
Below is a selection of Brooklyn and Greenwich Village dwellings:
I saw a jazz show at the Village Vanguard. It’s such an iconic venue for anyone into jazz, so many greats have played there such as Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. You go down a very narrow stairway and hold on tight, not for anyone disabled or otherwise infirm! to arrive at a cave like interior with little tables and everywhere photos of jazz royalty. I had a great night there that I will always cherish. The venue has been running since 1935, and the wife of the original owner, Lorraine Gordon is now in her 90s. She is an icon herself, I have seen her in jazz documentaries and it was enough for me to see her there, listening to the music. I was too embarrassed to interrupt her evening!
The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side was a great education in how so many generations of immigrants started their lives in America. The Museum is housed in a former tenement building, and various rooms have been set up in great detail according to the oral histories of families that lived in that street. Apparently “in 1903 the square block on which the museum sits was the most crowded block in the most densely populated place on earth”, from “A Tenement Story: A History of 97 Orchard Street and the Lower East Side Museum”. I found the tour a deeply moving experience.
I had an absolute blast in New York. So much to see and do, I would definitely go again, but next time it would be great if I could afford business class. Two flights adding up to 21 hours is no fun in cattle/sorry economy class, and the jet lag is a killer.
Finally I can’t finish this post without putting in a plug for my hotel. I stayed at the Library Hotel on Madison Avenue and it was a book lover’s paradise. Each room is set up according to the Dewey system with books on a particular subject. I asked for and got the Poetry Room, which was filled with poetry books. As well as this, the breakfast room had a vast library which guests were welcome to peruse and borrow, and there was a lovely space on the 14th Floor set up as a rooftop garden which became a bar in the evenings. Heaven! Would recommend this hotel to any book lover visiting New York.
Below: Images of The Library Hotel: the exterior, the entrance, the Rooftop Garden/Bar, a selection of books in the Poetry Room.
If anyone is planning a trip to New York, I would be glad to answer any questions. To look at more NY photos you can scroll through my Instagram page. Now that I am back home, I hope to get back to checking out blogs and posting more regularly.
All photos in this post are mine, taken on my recent holiday either on the i-phone or i-pad.