Let me roughly calculate how much I walked today .... a little more than 70 blocks. YIKES - surprisingly I am still alive though, but - a lot less surprisingly - my feet and my back hurt like hell.
But let's start from the beginning. When I woke up around 7.30 am this morning I switched the local TV on and the weather lady told me something about a lot lower temperature and nasty winds, but the morning should be kind of sunny with more clouds in the afternoon. My plan for today was to take the Staten Island Ferry and finally take the picture of the Statue of Liberty I did not take when I was here 10 years ago. I watched the weather report and just thought: "No problem. I have a warm jacket and nasty wind is fine - then the ferry will be less crowded." I might suffer from vertigo, but I have no motion sickness and I am a tough cookie when it comes to sea travel - usually the fun starts for me, where it ends for normal people.
Well - NO. When I left the hotel just to cross the street and get some breakfast I almost got freezer burns. I was shock frosted. Seriously - I think that I spent the evening yesterday - when I sat without any jacket for an hour outside enjoying Times Square - at a kind of a parallel universe version of New York and woke up to the real east coast winter version this morning. Not funny. For a while I was thinking about taking the ferry anyway, but after walking the first few blocks it was totally clear that I would get sick with a bad cold if I would ever make it alive and not frozen to death off the boat again. So that is postponed. Maybe I'll try tomorrow. The weather report says the wind will slow down in the morning hours.
My plan B was - and this is why this is called reloaded - to visit some of the places again I liked a lot when I was here 10 years ago. I decided to start with the Empire State Building and the platform on the 86th floor. Of course "nasty winds" is a problem here as well, but for 10 minutes it's okay - much better than about an hour on a ferry.
When I got there it was not very busy. In general New York is quite empty (which still means it beats out easily any German city, but it is not more packed and busy than London for example) at the moment. When I arrived at the 80th floor, where the express elevator ends and you need to wait for another one for the final 6 levels the service person suddenly asked us to walk up. Well - if you wonder how the staircase of the Empire State Building looks like: It is tiny and has wooden steps. It is vibrating all the time, you feel the building moving (at least it seems so) and it makes all kind of creaky noises. It is very creepy.
At the platform the ice-cold wind was very, very, very bad. At the side of the building, which was exposed directly to the storm, the platform was closed for visitors and even if you got only close to the corner the wind would knock you almost off your feet. I took my pictures and escaped to the elevator downstairs. By the way - no vertigo issue up there - the balustrades are high enough.
Down again I was looking down 5th Avenue and the Flatiron Building looked pretty close and so I decided to walk some more blocks to take some pictures of the Flatiron District. When I got there I also walked into foodie heaven aka Eataly (owned by Mario Batali, Lidia & Joe Bastianich and Oskar Farinetti). Click the link to learn more about the shop and the restaurant. I was cold and so I decided to go for a Cioccolata. It does not really translate to "Hot Chocolate" because most people think of "hot chocolate" as glass of hot milk with some chocolate powder in there for flavor. The Eataly Ciccolata is melted chocolate - means other consistency and very different taste. It is death by chocolate - heavenly, but to manage the full cup (and I even got the smallest one) you must be a choco monster. I could not drink it completely although it broke my heart.
Walking up the 5th Avenue again towards the Barnes & Noble bookstore on 5th Avenue / 46th Street it got even colder than before. The wind bit me in the face and .... it started SNOWING. A parallel universe yesterday - I tell you. After a few blocks I was in the need of a break and went into a Pret A Manger to get some vitamins (fruit salad) and a apple-cranberry-juice which looked much better than it tasted. I also got just out of curiosity a small carrot cake to find out if the US version is different from the English Pret A Manger one (yes it is very different but still good - it was my desert after dinner tonight). That was a smart move because while sitting there the weather calmed down a bit.
On a sidenote: I am proud of myself. I was at two Barnes & Noble (to get a gift for a friend) and the MOMA bookstore and I got out without spending much money! How I did that? I was telling myself all the time "You have a Kindle AND you have a luggage weight limit for your flights!" The sad fact that Jonathan Safran Foer's "Tree of Code" is still not available and that the line at the cash desk of MOMA was too long helped as well.
But one question: Why do books in Germany have to look so boring (mostly) and look all so precious here in the USA? For me the bookshops here look like candy shops full of beautifully designed books. The covers are so different and much more attractive. I mean ... I almost got myself a copy of Dante's "Divine Comedy" because the book was soooo pretty. And Germany? Reclam .... oh boy.
Since the bookshop is just around the corner from my hotel I took the chance for a short break at my room, change from sneakers to winter boots and get my scarf, gloves (the nice ones my sister gave me for my birthday) and hat to be better protected against the weather.
My next goal - walking up 6th Avenue passing by the famous Magnolia Bakery, Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center was the Central Park Zoo. When I was here 10 years ago it was a hot summer week. When we went to the zoo I fell in love with Gus and Ida, the polar bears. The two were the first polar bears I ever watched swimming and diving and that is the most beautiful thing you can imagine.
The zoo is small but it is really, really nice. Gus and Ida did not swim today because it was perfect polar bear weather anyway *brrrrr* and they did not need the water to cool down. But they are still simply great. I had also fun with the Penguins upppps penguins, I mean (skateless animals ;), and the free flying birds in the tropical house. For all "Madagaskar" fans ... there are no lions, giraffes and hippos at all at the zoo. But they got lemurs ("I like to move it!") and the way the place looks like is very much like in the movie.
My final spot for the day (except walking a long way to another Barnes & Noble to finally get the book I wanted) after the zoo was MOMA.
What should I say? It is beyond amazing. The collection is simply overwhelming. I was there at my first NY visit (reloaded), but this collection never gets boring. If it would not be so expansive (20$) I would seriously go there every day. I mean ... honestly I cannot take much more than one floor per day when I would REALLY look at all the artwork. So today I quite rushed along bigger parts of the collection and focused on my favorite - the "Abstract Expressionist - New York" exhibition on the 4th floor, which is incredible. And I spent a lot of time in the marvelous Contemporary Galleries. It contains also a fantastic Robert Rauschenberg artwork from 1970 I haven't seen before. It is a huge (several meters even going around a corner) collage of newspaper articles. John Steinbeck in "Travels with Charley" mentions at one point (cannot quote exactly because I left the book at home) that he sometimes rushes through a museum he has been to before because he wants to see a piece he especially likes. He calls it "visiting a friend". Funny enough this is exactly the expression I usually use, when I wander around art collections to see the local Robert Rauschenberg artwork(s) (and get pissed when it is hanged badly like at Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich). That was exactly the feeling I had today again. For tomorrow I plan to go the Whitney Museum of American Art to make new friends.
The three pictures of the day:
Downtown Manhattan 10 years after my first shot of the same view at the same place, but this time without the towers of the World Trade Center (I was was there two months before IT happened).
The penguins at Central Park Zoo. No skates, but no random penguins either because these guys were the role model for some of the coolest animated characters ever - the penguins from the movie "Madagaskar" ... "Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave!"
At the MOMA I was walking along the Rauschenberg collage to find the part I would like most and finally found this great one. It has a picture of Johnny Cash and a newsletter headline saying "YOUR HEART AND HOW TO LIVE WITH IT". Seriously ... sometimes I would love to know how to live with my heart and I (and I guess also Rauschenberg) am not talking about medical issues here.