A March 2003 trip
to New York by Giotto
Quote: This brief journal outlines my 3-day visit to NYC with my recommendations of the best things to do if you are short on time.
The atmosphere in NYC has to be experienced to be believed. Although where I stayed was quiet at nighttime, there is the constant throb of a city that never really sleeps. The ground rumbles as subway trains pass underneath and, yes, steam really does emanate from manhole covers during the night.
For the hopeless romantics among you, take a walk down to Battery Park at night and stand by the Hudson River looking out at the illuminated Statue of Liberty. Beautiful!
If you have time to do only one thing, visit the Guggenheim Museum. The building itself, both inside and outside, is a work of art and the exhibits are astonishing. For those of you who prefer their art a little more traditional visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue, particularly the Armoury and the Islamic Art sections. It is the only museum I have visited that can truly rival the Louvre in both size and quality of artwork.
Tipping is a national pastime in the USA and can severely deplete your funds if money is tight and you do not budget for it. Keep a supply of bills to hand or you will end up tipping for a cab ride in order to save your embarrassment! In general, give a tip of between 10% and 20% for meals, drinks, and cab rides, and a flat dollar for concierge and luggage handling, etc.
For more rapid movement use the subway. The lines can be confusing as they are color coded and numbered or lettered, which changes depending on which direction you are traveling. However, the subway is fast, cheap, and reasonably clean. You do not have to feel unsafe either since armed National Guard members patrol the stations after dark.
Although it is fun to run into the street and bellow taxi, the traffic jams in NYC are legendary and more often than not, your 10-block journey will turn into an expensive 30-minute ride. If you have the time and energy, go on foot.
Restaurant | "Tao Asian Bistro"
There are a few areas to explore once inside. After depositing your coat in the cloakroom you come to the main bar, a very dark and murky affair with atmospheric lighting provided by red mock Chinese lanterns hanging from the low ceiling and the glare of mirrors and strip lighting behind the bar. It is mostly standing room only with a few leather sofas and stools for those who want to perch. The music is load so don’t go expecting a quiet conversation.
If you have ordered a table for dinner the maitre d’ provides you with a pager which vibrates when your table is ready. A huge 16 foot statue of Buddha serenely overlooks the controlled chaos of the dining area. Lighting here is provided by discreet spotlights and tea lights on each table.
After a flurry of what felt like a dozen waiters bustling around us, producing menus by sleight of hand, we settled down to see what was on offer. The choice was fantastic. We decided to each choose a main course and share it out. It was a good way to try several dishes and is a more social affair than sticking to your own choice.
All around us were diners cooking thin slivers of red meat over a small catering Bunsen burner so, intrigued, I asked the waiter what they were doing. Apparently they were cooking Kobe beef. Reputed to be the tenderest, most succulent beef in the world, it is imported from Japan where the cattle are fed and massaged with beer to keep the flesh soft although, at $12.00 per ounce, it is not cheap. I chose an exquisite Thai fish hotpot that more than lived up to its humble name containing lobster, crab, langoustines and a variety of other shellfish in a delicate sauce. If you have room for dessert I recommend the giant fortune cookie stuffed with white and dark chocolate mousse, it is heaven.
Although it was rumoured that as diners finished, the tables were swept one by one off the floor to make room for dancing this claim turned out to be unfounded. Instead we retreated to the now empty bar for a swift final cocktail complete with a stick of fresh bamboo. All too soon, at 2:00am, the lights came on and we were asked to continue gnawing on the bamboo outside, obviously an American slant on the ‘haven’t you got homes to go to’ litany of the traditional English barman.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 26, 2003
42 East 58th St
New York, New York 10022
+1 212 888 2288
Attraction | "Guggenheim Musem"
Before going inside spend a few minutes looking at the museum from across Fifth Avenue. Designed for Solomon Guggenheim in 1943 by the notable architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the construction commenced in 1957 and was finished in 1959, unfortunately 6 months after Wright’s death. The 10-storey tower was added in 1993 and was designed by Gwathmey Siegel.
The museum hosts an ever-changing main display housed in the spiral tower plus an impressive permanent collection of late 19th and early 20th century impressionist works in the offshoot galleries. Also of note is the collection of 200 photographs on the 4th floor, donated by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.
The major plus of this museum is that you cannot get lost, which is a real concern for anybody who has visited New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It does sometimes feel as if you are walking around inside a surreal car park, trudging up the continual spiral towards the incredible glass ceiling and wondering which level you parked the car on, but the artwork is unparalleled and the climb is definitely worth it.
The museum specialises not just in paintings but also sculpture, music and films. The main exhibit when I was there was a series of 5 short films with accompanying paintings, photographs and sculpture by Matthew Barney entitled ‘The Cremaster Cycle.’ The most incredible feature of this display was how the structure of the museum had been incorporated into the sculptures. Everywhere there were pools of hardened resin, stalactites hanging from the underside of the spiral walkway and sections of climbing wall from one level to the next bolted to the walls. (Not for use by the general public unfortunately).
The positioning of the exhibits is incredibly liberal, like most things in the Guggenheim. Priceless sculptures can be found sitting in the middle of the walkway often requiring a complicated pedestrian slalom from the visitors. Although you are requested not to, it is very difficult to avoid a brief touch of some of the exhibits in the desperate attempt to acquire more artistic appreciation by osmosis.
Trying to decide what it all meant was thirsty work and another nice feature of the Guggenheim was drinking fountains situated at each turn of the spiral. You find yourself guzzling from them even if you’re not really thirsty, anything to become more a part of this incredible museum.
You do not need much more than a couple of hours to see everything the Guggenheim has to offer and, as such, it is the ideal attraction for those desiring some culture but who have only a short time in which to appreciate it. This was definitely my favourite and most memorable attraction and a must for the art buffs among you.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 12, 2003
1071 Fifth Ave
New York, New York 10128
Attraction | "The Brooklyn Bridge"
The bridge joins Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights over the East river. For the best views catch the subway to York St, High St or Clark St in Brooklyn and walk back across the bridge to Manhattan. The views alone are spectacular, even without the architecture of the bridge to distract you. To the south you can see the meeting point of the Hudson and the East river with Liberty in the distance gazing serenely out across the water. To the north and northwest you can see the unforgettable skyline of Manhattan Island, including one of the few places where you can take a photograph with both the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in the same frame.
Depending upon your speed it takes about 30 minutes to walk from one side of the bridge to the other. If it is a hot day you will find some respite from the sun under the stone support towers where you will also find brass plaques depicting dioramas of the skyline and waterfront, pointing out the major sights as they have looked over the years. As with all public monuments in New York City the Brooklyn Bridge is well looked after. It’s nice to see that, no matter what time of day you choose to visit the bridge, you will always run into New Yorkers leisurely cycling or walking across the bridge, simply enjoying their city.
I have walked across the Thames in London many times on my way to work, over a variety of bridges and I always briefly stop to look up or down the river, but I can’t help feeling that striding across the Brooklyn Bridge each morning would somehow provide a more rewarding start to the day.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 18, 2003
Access At Tillary Street And Boerum Place
Attraction | "The Metropolitan Museum of Art"
Thankfully floor plans in a variety of languages are available inside the great hall, before you enter the main museum proper. This means that you can grab a plan and decide what you want to see before being swept up with the masses of visitors and believe me you will want to do this. The museum is a maze of smaller galleries and annexes and if you do not have a definite plan in mind you could end up walking around the medieval galleries in perpetuity.
Although the $15.00 entrance fee is labelled as a voluntary donation everybody simply queues up, asks for their tickets and hands over the money, but you don’t have to pay the full $15.00 if you would rather not. There are a couple of free cloakrooms available but the queues for these are obscene so, if you know you are going to visit the museum, leave that heavy coat and your backpack at the hotel.
Notable exhibits include the Temple of Dendur. The temple is displayed in its entirety, as it would have been in ancient Egypt. It was a reward to the USA for the money and assistance they donated helping the Egyptian government to rescue numerous temples from the rising waters of the newly formed Lake Nasser after the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
If the evolution of weapons is your thing spend some time in the Armoury. The Japanese collection of armour and swords is exquisite. There is a very impressive display of armour from Tudor times, most of which were manufactured in Greenwich, London at the height of King Henry VIII’s reign.
Also of note are the Islamic galleries. Pieces include one of the oldest surviving chess sets, missing only a single pawn and some excellent pottery and textiles from Persia.
Finally, if you have the time, take a look at the impressionist works in the late 19th and early 20th century galleries on the second floor. The museum houses an unrivalled collection of art from this period.
The museum is very hard work but the effort is definitely worth it. Don’t visit any other museums on the same day, you will not survive the information overload!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 16, 2003
Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10028
Caterham, United Kingdom