So day two in NYC, and the big plan is the American Museum of Natural History! Apparently rated the number 2 tourist attraction in the United States, this Museum boasts an extremely large and varied collection of displays, artifacts, and attractions covering an incredibly wide range of topics, as well as a planetarium and IMAX theatre. Definitely enough stuff to keep us occupied for a full day. And let me tell you, definitely did that.
We started with breakfast at a place called Pax, which is a kind of new-agey fast food restaurant which offered a variety of breakfast options, not to mention pastries and deserts (we proceeded to eat here a number of other times, as the food was quite good, and it happened to be just up the street from the hotel). Afterward, we enjoyed another subway debacle. The plan was to take the E line to the 50th street station, where we’d transfer to the A and take that straight up to the museum. Sounds pretty easy, until you realize that, thanks to the holiday (turns out this was Martin Luther King Day weekend), the A line wasn’t stopping at the 50th street station. Doh! Of course, we didn’t discover this until after we’d gotten off at said station. So we had to wait until another E arrived so we could continue to the 49th street station, where we caught the A.
As for the museum itself, thanks to our Super Saver passes, we had access to the Butterfly exhibit, the IMAX production which told the story of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, and a Planetarium show entitled “Cosmic Collisions”. And then there was the rest of the truly massive museum to visit. Frankly, I don’t think I can properly express the scale of this thing, but I can tell you that, in our full day there, we only saw a fraction of what was offered. Not only was there a bewildering number of things to see, but each item was also labelled with a variety of historical information, meaning there was a ton to read too. One of my personal favorites was a display on astronomical scale. Using the planetarium sphere as a baseline, it would then present models to provide perspectives on different objects, ranging from galaxy clusters all the way down to hydrogen atoms. As an example, it would present a sphere, and the description would be “If the Sun was the size of the planetarium sphere, the this model would be the size of the earth”. Truly awesome.
Then there was the butterfly exhibit. Though, in order to get there, we had to go through a room which I can only describe as breathtaking. Vaulted ceilings reaching up three stories, massive columns, gorgeous murals on the wall… just wonderful, particularly for an architecture junky like myself. As for the exhibit, it offered a variety of information about butterfly species, growth and development, evolution, and so forth, and then led you into an enclosure with a wide variety of the insects flying freely. It was quite incredible, and allowed me to capture a few wonderful shots of some of the species represented. And I was even lucky enough to have a butterfly land on my finger (while taking a photo) and the top of my head! Unfortunately, we weren’t fast enough to photo-document either event.
As for other exhibits, I also quite enjoyed the vast collection of central and south american artifacts they had, including an enormous head created by the Aztecs, as well as their extensive meteorite and gem stone collections. Really fantastic stuff.
And, of course, there are the diaramas, which attempt to depict various animals and peoples in their native habitats. The artwork really is wonderful, and the descriptions to go with the displays are quite interesting.
As for the IMAX and Planetarium shows, both were very good, though admittedly, I have seen more impressive presentations. Still, quite enjoyable.
Of course, lunch was eaten at the Museum (pizza and mozarella sticks… I don’t think we could’ve eaten a less healthy meal). As for dinner, we decided to try out the fancy-appearing restaurant that was, literally, next door to our hotel. Turns out it’s rated fairly well in the Zagat guide, and for good reason, as Lenore’s Filet Mignon was quite nice, and my tuna (rare) was delicious as well. We bookended the meal with a nice wild mushroom ravioli in a truffel sauce, and a fantastic hot chocolate gateau which encased a soft chocolate center, accompanied by a hazelnut ice cream. Delicious. Especially with the glass of 40 year old port I ordered.
So not a bad day. Certainly better than day 1.
Our first day in, and it sure didn’t take long for things to get interesting.
At the outset, we knew we would need to grab some food, so we decided to head over to Macy’s, having eaten there before. This would also allow us to satiate our appetite and possibly do a little shopping at the same time. They have a decent little fast-food pasta place down there, and so that was the goal… unfortunately, the pasta bar wasn’t open when we got there, and in fact never opened. Jerks! So we ended up at a bar/grill next store, which actually worked out reasonably well.
After that, we took the subway from Penn Station up to 53rd and Lexington, at which point it was a quick walk to our hotel. Well, on the walk from the station to the hotel, we came across a small fire station, built right into the bottom of a high-rise (in retrospect, I really should have taken a picture, as it really was quite strange, and positioned up the street from what appeared to be a makeshift police detachment, composed of a series of trailors (yes, trailors) consuming one of the lanes). Not too remarkable by itself. Until you add the firetruck outside with a bunch of firefighters standing around. Oh, and the other firefighter scaling the wall of the building, trying to worm his way in through an open window a storey up.
Apparently, they locked themselves out.
So, after chuckling to ourselves, we moved on to our hotel, which, as it turns out, was just completing a large series of renovations, transforming itself into The Pod Hotel. And why “The Pod”, you ask? Well, the name better reflects the rooms, which can only be described as little pods… in our case, a 2-300 square foot little space with enough room for a slightly-larger-than-double bed, sink, and weird little combined shower/toilet area, all decked out in modern, Ikea-style chrome and melamine. Pretty nice, actually, considering the price and location. And, really, what else does one need other than a bed and shower (though, as we discovered later, the shower drain was either slow or non-functional, and allowed water to leak into the room, thus soaking the carpet… good thing we only planned to be there for four nights).
If only the rest of the day turned out as well. It was best described as semi-controlled anarchy. First, we figured we’d check out TKTS, with the goal of seeing a show some time in the evening. ‘course, we arrived at around 3:30, at which point the line up was three rows wide and down and around the block. Yeaaaah, no.
So then we went to scope out the American Museum of Natural History (the plan was to go on day 2 or 3, but we wanted to check out “the sitch” first), then perhaps dinner and a movie. Well, part one worked out, and we got a tiny preview of what was to come. The trip to the movie wasn’t nearly so smooth… turns out the V line, which takes one from 50th and 8th down to the NYU area doesn’t run on the weekends… grrrr! Unfortunately, by the time we figured that out, we were already too late for the film…
Okay, no movie, let’s try for The Soda Shop for food and desert. Hop the E, get off on 8th Ave and Washingon (if I recall), walk down a few blocks and… Le Bonbonniere?? sigh Yeah… I took us to the wrong frickin’ restaurant.
Okay, backtrack, hop back on E, take it down to Chambers. This time it works! A bit of walking, and we find ourselves at a cute little restaurant and ice cream shop in what I think is called the West Village. Tasty food, yummy desserts, and a selection of candy that I hadn’t seen in years. Good times were had by all (I think).
Lastly, before headin’ back to the hotel for some much earned rest, we decided to walk down to the WTC site and memorial. Definitely a sobering experience… though, now all that’s left is a construction site that makes it hard to believe the two massive towers even existed (apparently the plan is to build a new tower on the old site… I have very mixed feelings about that plan, but, such is life). The memorial that’s currently there (a new, permanent one is planned to be built sometime in the future) is also very moving, with various photos and so forth. Though, I gotta admit, the constant reference to the victims of that attack as “heros” irritates me more than a little.
And that was day 1… confused, disorganized, and basically par for the course.
Okay, not really globetrotting, but recently Lenore and I decided to take advantage of a deal that Air Canada has going on right now. The gist? For the months of January and February, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, we have unlimited flights to select Canadian and US cities! And the cost? A mere $800 per person. Virtual peanuts! And as a bonus, we’ve talked to our manager, and he okayed us to bank time so that we can take Mondays off without burning holidays, which means we can take some little weekend trips (or the odd big one)!
Of course, you may be asking yourself, where on earth will we go? Well, as it turns out, we have a couple of plans. The first trip we came up with will commence on the 13th of February, and will have us flying to Orlando, Florida, with the goal of spending three days at Walt Disney World! Should be good fun. The second leg of the trip will take us to Atlanta for another three days, where we’ll be visiting one of Lenore’s Intarweb friends. Of course, to get there, we have to fly from Orlando to Toronto, then from Toronto to Atlanta. You can probably guess why: Air Canada doesn’t fly between US cities. But, so it goes… at least I’ll have plenty of time to read, knit, etc, etc.
Anyway, that trip alone makes the passes worth it. But today Lenore suggested another trip for the weekend of January 13th (I think): We’re gonna go back to NYC! Now, granted, we’ve already been there a few times, but there’s always a ton of things to see and do there. And we can set up the flights such that we arrive early Saturday morning, and come back Tuesday afternoon, which makes for a nice little trip with nearly three full days in the city. As for things to do, we’ve already bought tickets to the Museum of Natural History, which we’ve never been to, and should be absolutely fantastic, and there’s always Broadways shows, the library, and I’m sure many many other things.
As for other trips, who knows. Lenore has been talking about heading back to Regina to visit her mom. And there’s always Ottawa, Vancouver, Las Vegas, and who knows what else. ‘course, there’s only so many weekends left, so it’ll be tough prioritizing, but I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with something.
2 of 2