Monday, 20 August 2018

My New York Diary: Day 3

Day 3: Museums & More


We woke up on Saturday to the sound of thunder. My brother sat in front of the window, trying to snap photos of the lightning flashes with my Lumix. It was quite an experience; being so high off the ground made it feel like the thunder was right beside us. A bit too close for comfort. I just managed to convince myself that Thor was visiting New York, and that made things a little more exciting.

More rain was forecast for the rest of the day, although it was still going to be warm. A thin anorak was a must, especially since we were going to be walking a fair distance once again. Our first destination was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the landmarks that I had been most looking forward to seeing, not because I know a great deal about art, but just because there's something so calming and inspiring about art museums. And what better one to visit than one of the biggest and most famous on the planet?




It was already busy when we arrived, but thanks to our incredibly handy City Passes, we got inside without having to wait too long. The place was huge, so huge that you could probably get lost without a map. At least, I'd probably end up getting lost. We wasted no time heading up to the modern art wing, and proceeding to check out the weird and wonderful works. I'd had no real preference about which wings of the museum I'd most like to see (we were short on time, so had to pick and choose what we wanted to look at), but modern art was one section that I was very keen to see, and for good reason.






One of my favourite pieces in the museum - 'Spectrum V' by Ellsworth Kelly


My brother had been keen to see the Egyptian art, so we headed there after a quick bite to eat in the coffee shop. It was every bit as stunning as the modern art, but in an entirely different way. I'm gutted that we didn't have time to see everything and that we had to walk briskly through the museum instead of taking everything in and appreciating every piece of art, and I don't remember a lot about our visit. I just remember that the museum was laid out beautifully, the massive rooms all colour-coordinated, with each room flowing seamlessly into the next. I wish I had spent a full day exploring, and I also wish that I had been able to spend as much time as I wanted in the gift shop, browsing the art books and souvenirs. One book in particular that I regret not picking up was a little yellow one entitled How Art Can Make You Happy. It would have been worth getting it just for the aesthetic.





After a brisk walk to the other side of Central Park, we arrived at the American Museum of Natural History, which had a much longer line for entry than the Met. However, we eventually made it in, and first up was exploring the Hall of Planet Earth (volcanoes, earthquakes, associated things that terrify me despite the fact that they make our planet the badass planet that it is) before deciding to start at the fourth floor and work our way down. Dinosaur exhibits met us on the top floor, and although we didn't have time to stop and read any of the information since it was now mid-afternoon and we had so many other things to see, we were amazed at the sheer terror-inducing size of every skeleton that we saw. I think I'll regret not picking up a Jurassic Park T-shirt in the Dino Store until the day I die. If there were ever a place to buy one, it would have been there.





My brother and I loved Night at the Museum when we were younger, and memories of the film followed us around as we explored. We ended up watching it the night we got home. Am I a little disappointed that the T-Rex didn't come to life and chase us through the hallways? Just a little. But the main attraction at the museum, at least for my brother, was the Easter Island head that resided in the Hall of Pacific Peoples, the one that appears in Night at the Museum that demands nothing but gum. If that doesn't ring a bell, the name 'Dum-Dum' might. And of course I know that there is far more history and nuance to these heads than I can include here, but the funny moments from the film are just what people my age think of now when they see one of these statues. There was a line for photos, but he finally got the photo he wanted of him standing next to the giant stone face. His New York visit was pretty much complete.


If I ever return to New York, I will put aside a full day to spend in the American Museum of Natural History. The immense volume of artefacts, statues and just things that they have in there is staggering. There is something there from every corner of the world, thousands of objects that tell thousands of stories. Everything from the birth of our universe onwards is covered, and I feel guilty having rushed the whole experience. But at least we were there, and I'm extremely grateful for that.

It was a long walk from the museum down to Times Square, but we wanted to visit the Brooklyn Diner at some point since my parents had enjoyed their meal there during their previous New York visit. It was where they had tried something called 'strawberry blonde cheesecake', and they insisted that I would enjoy it even though I loathe cheesecake, so I was keen to try it. First up was a Brooklyn Burger, and of all the burgers I tried in New York, I remember this being my favourite. For dessert, the four of us shared a slice of strawberry blonde cheesecake and a slice of something called 'chocolate blackout cake', which was the biggest slice of cake I have ever seen in my life. I'm not even joking. This thing could have been used as a weapon. As for the strawberry blonde cheesecake, I was amazed to find that even someone as dedicated to hating cheesecake as myself couldn't find any fault with this treat: light, creamy, and made with tasty sponge instead of the disgustingly soggy biscuit crumbs that make cheesecake my least favourite food. In short, the Brooklyn Diner was a win.



But the day wasn't over yet. We still had a ticket to take us to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck that evening, so we headed over to the Rockefeller Centre as night fell. By the time we were at the top of the building, clouds had descended over the city, and everything below had lit up. We had 100% made the right decision by turning up at night instead of during the day.






These photos don't show what it's truly like to see New York illuminated at night. Antennae on top of the buildings were fading through all the colours of the rainbow, and the clouds above were glowing purple and orange from the lights below. Everything was suddenly so much more dramatic, and as impressive as the views were in the daylight from the top of the Empire State Building, it was just as impressive to be in the middle of it all after the sun had gone down. We spent about twenty minutes at the top, taking in the views from the upper and lower decks, but just before we caught the lift back down to the bottom, we walked through a room with illuminated walls that flashed in different patterns when triggered by movement. My brother and I saw a photo op, so took a few Boomerangs and several snaps of the different colours.






That brought our final evening in New York to a close. When we got back to the hotel, I found myself appreciating every aspect of the room that much more: the spectacular view, the beautiful bathroom, the comfy bed. I was going to miss that room. I was going to miss the loud, obnoxious adverts on the American channels on the TV. I was going to miss the vanity lights around the bathroom mirror. I would just have to pile as many tiny complimentary soaps as possible into my bag, and hope that, if I ever used them, I would remember what it was like to stay in a hotel in New York City.
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