Friday, July 13, 2007

The City Seen From The Bridge

"The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in the first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world." The Great Gatsby (1925)

Saturday July 7, 2007: Day Three in New York

This day we were to pursue Lady Liberty and dutifully made our way to Pier 83 by bus. The very useful City Pass entitled us to a 2 hour "semi-circle" ferry ride tour of the Hudson River. I have extolled it's virtues in a previous entry ... $65 for an adult pass and access to six NY landmarks/attractions (worth more than $125). The pass advises that the 11.30am tour is less crowded; however, the various lineups to the boats are without signage, a bit chaotic to sort out and the lines are not in the shade so be prepared in hot weather.

The sky and shoreline were very pretty even viewed through a hazy day although the tour guide tends to grate as he talks for the entire two hours. But catching a view of the Statue of Liberty is as thrilling as you might imagine. The statue is on a 12 acre island and was a gift of friendship from the people of France. It was dedicated in 1886 and restored for her centennial in 1986. You pass by all three main bridges: Brooklyn, Manhattan and George Washington (with Brooklyn being the most impressive!) remembered by our tour guide as BMW.

We learned mostly mundane sort of stuff on the tour (lots of sanctimony about 911 unfortunately) except for two things that stood out: pier 54, which we passed, was to have received the Titanic when it returned from its maiden voyage and that 25% of the apartment dwellers along the Hudson River shoreline left after 911.

The Titanic reference reminds me of the book that I am now reading called When the Astors Owned New York by Justin Kaplan. The book starts with the story of the death of John Jacob Astor IV who died on the Titanic after handing his teenage bride into a lifeboat, a singular act of courage after a lifetime of being called "Jack Ass" by the press (apparently for justifiable reasons).

We raced up to Central Park to 10 Columbus Circle to have lunch at Landmarc, a very chi-chi, surprisingly child friendly restaurant in the Time Warner building at the foot of Central Park. They have a kids menu and crayons for the very young. If it weren't for the indifference, bordering on insolence, of our near teenage waiter, I would have said it was an enjoyable lunch. But it wasn't cheap, R's family don't do cheap.

We wanted to get to the Guggenheim at 1071 5th Ave. on 89th Street (another City Pass attraction) but we needed to cut across the Park from 8th Ave. to 5th Ave. There is a lovely shaded pathway just south of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir which cuts across the two avenues. And there is nothing kids enjoy more at the end of a long sweltering hot day in NYC than to go to a museum of modern art! But with visions of a promised trip to FAO Schwartz dancing in their heads, the children persevered.

With only a hour or so to go before closing we raced to the fifth floor and made our way down through the The Shape of Space exhibit which runs until September 5th. No trip to the museum is complete without a visit to the gift shop where we found a nice T for my niece and some Frank Lloyd Wright note cards for my sister.

On to FAO Schwartz for the kids at 767 Fifth Avenue. Must be seen at least once, but not for the adult faint of heart. Each child was rewarded with a small purchase from the store and then the male half of the family (plus daughter J!) wanted to check out the fairly new Apple store next door which has quite a beautiful exterior while the female half (my sister-in-law and I) wanted to go to Bergdorf Goodman at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street. Unfortunately the females got the raw end of the deal as the store had just closed so we sat on the plaza in front of FAO Schwartz and kvetched as generations of women have done before us.

Hot, sweaty and hungry we went back down to Broadway and had dinner at Angelo's Pizza at 1697 Broadway which is a family style Italian restaurant just north of the Ed Sullivan Theatre at 1697-1699 Broadway between West 53rd and West 54th Streets where they shoot David Letterman. The adequate dinner was marred only by the inability of our East European waitress to say the word gnocchi (say it with me phonetically - nyokee!).

J was promised a trip to the respective Hershey's Times Square and M&M stores on Broadway(click on this link to see a video of M&M World) The kid was overwhelmed,, she literally placed her hands over her mouth when she saw the wall to wall tubes of candy and chocolate. Her parents? We thought it the coming of the apocalypse ... and thus ended day 3.

One last thing, somewhere in our various subway travels we came across two kids dancing in the middle of a subway car for money. J was suitably dazzled. I turned to her and said "That's New York" which she met with a radiant grin!

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