STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, photographer, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Back from The Big Apple!

I'm back! With tired feet and wearybones...  One has to have great stamina and feet that are used to pounding the pavement to really enjoy all that NYC has to offer!! I always come home with feet that feel like they will never recover (but they always do). My new walking shoes (sandals actually) from Naturalizer sure worked well, so they passed the test - they will be my shoe of choice for Prague! Yikes- that's only two weeks away!! Time to get busy with planning and more reading of guidebooks and
"Patience" outside the NYPL

websites... But for now, back to a few tales of our time in NYC.

This was my sixth visit to The Big Apple and my roommate had also been there more than a few times, so between us we have already crossed off many of the  usual "sights to see". The weather forecast at departure time was for rain, including thunderstorms and possible flash flooding, so we were not too hopeful of good weather for exploring. But we were very lucky and saw almost no rain at all, only a very brief shower on Sunday afternoon. It was hot and humid, but not uncomfortably hot so we felt very fortunate.
NYPL Lobby
Upon arrival on Friday afternoon, since our rooms would not be ready for a few hours, we decided to walk over to Fifth Avenue, through Bryant Park, to the NYC Public Library. I have walked past it a number of times but had never gone in. Known as one of the world's great cultural institutions, the library grew out of the consolidation of two private libraries, those of millionaire John Jacob Astor and real estate heir James Lenox. It took 14 years to build, and opened in 1911.

The front entrance is guarded by two stone lions, made of Tennessee marble. In the1930's Mayor LaGuardia nicknamed them "Patience" and "Fortitude", feeling that the citizens of New York would need these qualities to survive the Great Depression. The building, built of white Dorset marble and brick (the marble being about 3 feet thick), is two blocks long (40th to 42nd Streets). Its grand exterior entrance, flanked by Corinthian columns faces Fifth Avenue, and like the Met, its front steps are a popular gathering spot.
The Rose Main Reading Room

What we were most anxious to see was the Rose Main Reading Room which is on the top floor- atop 7 floors of bookstacks. This room is truly something to see - it runs the entire 2 block length of the building, (almost 300 feet) and has magnificent wood paneled 52 foot high ceilings. It is lit by massive windows and grand chandeliers, and is lined with thousands of reference books on two levels of open shelves. The large wooden tables are lit by brass lamps and hold many computers for accessing the library's collections.
Over the decades the research collections grew and it became clear they would soon outgrow their existing  
Look at those ceilings!
space. Eventually it was decided that there would have to be an expansion. In the 1980's,  miles of shelf space was added to accomodate growing collections, by excavating neighbouring Bryant Park and building  new storage facilities below ground level.
The behind-the-scenes system for moving its more than 9 million books is state of the art, (any book requested can be obtained within minutes)
Looking east on 41st St. from inside NYPL
and the library's other 21 million items include priceless manuscripts, historical maps, recordings, periodicals and photographs. The holdings are impressive and include the Gutenburg Bible, the manuscript copy of Jefferson's document that would become known as the Declaration of Independence, and a 1493 letter written by Christopher Columbus describing how  "in thirty-three days I passed from the Canary Islands to the Indies".

Of course, this is only ONE library in NYC- there are many branches throughout the 3 boroughs served (Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island)-  82 branches with collections totalling over 53 million items!! I guess an avid reader could manage to find a good book or two to read...

After leaving the NYPL we walked along 42nd St. to Grand Central Terminal- another building I wanted to see more of.  Grand Central Terminal is called "the gateway to the city", used by over 150,000 commuters per day plus thousands of pedestrians. The terminal opened in 1913. The beaux arts facade faces south on 42nd; above the entrance is a clock surrounded by a sculpture of Minerva, Hercules and Mercury.

The immense Main Concourse space is 120 feet wide by 275 feet long with arched windows soaring 75 feet high on either end. The building is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, hence the number 100 in its windows. The Main Concourse floor is Tennessee marble and the 125 foot high vaulted ceiling is painted to resemble the constellations.

 Although not on this trip, I have been in GCT at rush hour.. the people scurrying in all directions is dizzying.. GCT is the largest train station in the world, by number of platforms - 44 with 67 tracks along them. They are on two levels, both below ground. The terminal covers 48 acres and has over 21 million visitors per year! We strolled around the lower level Food Concourse and saw the famous Oyster Bar restaurant, and then treated ourselves to a fresh chocolate chip cookie from one of the very popular bakeries. We rationalized this by saying we needed energy to fight the crowds to get safely out of the building... That's our story and we're stickin' to it!

Outside, looking east across Lexington Avenue you can see the top of the Chrysler Building peeking above a more modern skyscraper, its stainless steel vertex easily recognizable. This Art Deco building is the favourite skyscraper of many New Yorkers and visitors alike. It was built for automobile magnate Walter Chrysler who wanted a corporate headquarters that reflected the glory of the American automobile industry. Its facade is adorned with symbols such as wheels and radiator caps, and features gargoyles that resemble Chrysler hood ornaments. The vertex is an Art Deco version of a radiator grill. Lit at night, it is a distinctive presence on Manhattan's skyline.

Built in the late 20's, this building was "in competition" with the Bank of Manhattan being constructed at  the same time down on Wall Street for which would be the tallest. After each architect added more floors to "top" the other, the Chrysler Building finally "won" when the 185 foot steel spire that had been constructed secretly was added. Opened in 1930, it was also briefly the world's tallest building, until the Empire State Building opened several months later.
So we managed to cross off these three iconic buildings in a few hours. Now it was back to the hotel to get checked in, have a short rest, clean up and change, then head off for a nice dinner at Hurleys before our Show. Hurleys is a great Irish bar and restaurant and it's literally steps from our hotel - just around the corner on 48th. I can recommend the Chicken Berry Hill- a chicken breast with asparagus, mushrooms and champagne sauce - it was sooo good... Our Show that first night was Newsies, the record-breaking Tony-award-wining Disney Musical. Based on the
real-life Newsboy strike of 1899, Newsies tells the story of Jack Kelly, a rebellious newsboy who dreams of a better life away from the big city. After publishing giant Joseph Pulitzer raises newspaper prices at the newsboys' expense, Kelly and his fellow newsies take action. It's fast-paced with lots of great music and amazing choreography. What a great way to finish off our first day in The Big Apple! Stay tuned for our Saturday adventures in NYC...
Happy 4th of July to all my American friends!!


"I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say There is no place like New York. It's the most exciting city in the world now. That's the way it is. That's it." ~ Robert DeNiro


GailM. said...

Oh, that brings back all the memories from my trip to NYC. Great photos.... You were gone for a long time!!! You brought the heat back with you.

Pamela Gordon said...

Wow! What a trip Linda. I didn't see the NYPL but would definitely put it on my list if I ever go back there. What a beautiful building. I was to the Grand Central and was amazed by it's beauty but didn't know about the lower level so that will have to be another stop one day too. I saw the Chrysler building from a distance - beautiful! We had breakfast at Hurley's each morning. They set up a buffet in the "library" dining room upstairs for us. It's a great restaurant although we didn't eat any other meals there. I really love the decor of it. I can't wait to hear more about your trip. Hope you're staying cool. :)

Karen said...

Wonderfully written and so informative. I love the Chrysler Building as the top section reminds me of New York Beauty blocks :)

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