Day 2 - New York (cont)  
   
    The ubiquitous NYPD at work - Times Square, New York    
Minolta X-570 with 85mm f/2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 

I met Fran at B & H Photo at the corner of Ninth Avenue and West 34th Street at about 10.30 am. I had wanted to visit B & H because it has the reputation of being the largest photographic and Video store in the world. Well I was certainly persuaded of that after a few minutes inside. B & H is huge, and has excellent prices, but the thing that strikes you when you visit it is that everything is so automated. There are conveyor belts at roof level taking goods from storage up to the checkout area for collection, with a separate system doing the same for film purchases and processing. Unfortunately, the one item I was hoping to purchase at B & H (a Minolta Flashmeter VI) was out of stock, but the visit to the store was still worth it just for the experience.

Run by Orthodox Jews (like many New York camera stores), B & H Photo is not open on Saturdays so if you wish to visit on a weekend, try a Sunday like I did.

After leaving B & H Fran and I walked back to Seventh Avenue, and turned North towards Times Square. Fran had very generously offered to spend her Sunday walking with me, and showing me the top of Manhattan, and so we had planned a route to take in all of the sights. Of course my feet were already sore and blistered from the previous day, but I wasn't going to let that stop me!

 
   
   

Times Square - While possibly not the most traditional shot of this New York landmark, I felt that this photo best defined the 'feel' of Times Square to me.
     
 

Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 MD W.Rokkor-X Film: Fuji Superia Reala

   
 

Times Square is a sight no doubt every one of you has seen in countless films, but to visit it is quite extraordinary. The entire area is awash with advertising, marketing everything from pot noodles to cars. The sidewalks are lined with street vendors selling t-shirts, watches and souveniers, henna tattoos, portraits, palm reading, in fact every manner of merchandise. The area not occupied by vendors becomes a constantly moving thoroughfare of humanity, pushing through, each with their own destination. It is truly a very strange place.

After wandering about Times Square and visiting some of the amazing retail shops in the area we continued to the Theater District, walking down famous 42nd Street, and Restarant Row, where dozens of expensive restaurants cater to the theatre crowds. At Fran's recommendation we finally stopped at John's Pizzeria at 260 West 44th Street to get some lunch, as it was now approaching 1.00pm.

John's Pizzeria first opened in Greenwich Village in 1929, and became one of the first pizza restaurants in New York. Founded by a baker from Lombardi's (the first New York pizzeria, opened in 1905), it has since become a part of New York History. John's has subsequently opened in three other locations, including the Broadway restaurant that we visited. While not the original, the restaurant still has the famous "No Slices" statement enblazoned outside and on the shirts of the staff. Why "No Slices" you may ask? (I sure did). Well the story goes that the mob came to control the manufacture of pizza cheese (supplied by Al Capone in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin), and forced the neighborhood parlors to use the mediocre Wisconsin mozzarella. The ancient places like John's and Lombardi's were grandfathered out, however, and could still use locally made fresh mozzarella, as long as they never sold individual slices. Hence, in deference to it's history, and presumably also for economic reasons, John's still carries the warning, and the policy, of "No Slices".

Fran and I enjoyed the great thin-crust pizza at Johns, and then with our hunger sated we continued on our journey down Broadway towards Columbus Circle, and Central Park.

 
 
 
 
The majestic Plaza Hotel overlooks Central Park, and the lake known as "the Pond".
   
 
Minolta X-570 with 24mm f/2.8 MC VFC Rokkor. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 

Central Park was the first public landscaped park in the United States. Local landowners and wealthy merchants argued that New York needed a park to match the extensive gardens of Paris and London, in order to enhance the city's international reputation. After three years of debate, in 1853 the State Legislature granted the City of New York the power of eminent domain to reacquire more than 700 acres in the midde of Manhattan.

The land was predominantly undeveloped due to its poor terrain of swamps and bluffs, but was the home to approximately 1600 migrant Irish and German workers who lived in shanties on the site. These people were moved from the site and in 1857 a design contest was held to determine the plans for the site. The winner was the "Greensward Plan" lodged by the current Park Superintendant, Frederick Olmsted, and his partner Calvert Vaux, an English-born architect.

The design was to be reminiscent of a pastoral landscape and was designed in the English romantic tradition, with open rolling meadows and lakes contrasted by the rocky woodland of the Ramble, and the formal dress grounds of the Mall. In 1870 the extension of the park by a further four blocks to 110th street brought the park to its current size of a massive 863 acres.

Fran and I walked the width of the park along Central Park South (59th Street), until we reached the famous Plaza Hotel. Probably the most famous hotel in the world, the Plaza was designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also designed the Dakota Apartments in New York. Built over two years at a cost of $12 million, the Plaza Hotel opened on October 1, 1907 and has been a New York icon ever since. After a quick look inside the Plaza, we continued into Central Park.

The Park is an astounding area of greenery in an otherwise concrete jungle, and is quite unique in the world. The sheer magnitude of the park simply swallows up vast numbers of people, with the result that even in this huge city one can still find an area of solitude for reflection, or a place to relax and enjoy the company of friends surrounded by lush greenery.

 
 
 
 
Having fun and playing up a storm! The Mall, Central Park.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
 
 

After walking from the Southeast corner of the park along the Mall you arrive at the Bethesda Terrace, a large paved area with a magnificent fountain that looks onto the Lake. The Lake has the Loeb Boathouse at one end, and people will hire rowboats for a leisurely paddle on the large expanse of water.

 
 
 
 
Loeb Boathouse, Central Park.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
 
 

A little way around from the Loeb Boathouse is the Conservatory Water, situated on the East side of the park at approximately 74th Street. On this small lake is the Kerbs Memorial Model Boathouse, where people go to sail their model craft and relax. You can hire boats here if you do not have your own, and it certainly looked like a relaxing way to spend a day.

Just a little way from the Conservatory Water and just South of the 79th Street Tranverse is the Ramble, an area of the park that remains untamed wood, with meandering paths through it. In the Ramble you can really feel like you are in the backcountry rather than in the middle of a city.

 
 
 
 
Rocky outcropping in the Ramble, Central Park.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 35mm f/1.8 W.Rokkor-X Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
 
 

After travelling on a little further, seeing the Great Lawn and Shakespeare's Garden, we left the Park at West 81st St, and walked south along Central Park West, admiring the architecture of the city. The West side of Manhattan contains many old stone and brick construction apartment buildings, and as a result is very popular with musicians and dancers due to the thick, sound absorbing walls of the apartments. We passed the famous American Museum of Natural History, and the magnificent Dakota Apartments (where John Lennon lived, and later was assassinated). We visited Strawberry Fields, the tribute to John Lennon in the park adjacent to the Dakota Apartments, and heard some truly awful renditions of Beatles tunes from an optimistic busker.

 
 
 
 
The Dakota Apartments, Upper West Side, New York
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 17mm f/4 MC W.Rokkor. Shot in portrait orientation and then cropped to reduce distortion. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
   
 

The Dakota Apartments were constructed in 1884. At that time the complex was surrounded by open land and shanties, and so far removed from the city that someone remarked, "It might as well be in the Dakota Territory". The name stuck, and now the building is a New York landmark.

At this stage I was about five miles from my hotel as the crow flies, and I estimate that with the various roundabout routes we had taken during the day that I had walked in excess of 10 miles since breakfast. Accordingly, I was starting to feel a little tired, and to add to this I had some serious blisters developing. Fran suggested that we stop off at the Tavern on the Green within Central Park to sit down for a while, and get a cold drink.

 
 
 
 
Chandelier, Tavern on the Green, Central Park
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
   
 

Tavern on the Green was built in 1870 as a sheepfold, and housed 200 South Down sheep that grazed in Central Park's Sheep Meadow. It remained a run-down sheepfold until 1934 when then Park's Commissioner Robert Moses decided to convert the building to a restaurant. It operated successfully for nearly 40 years but by the 1970's it had fallen out of fashion, and was desperately in need of a facelift. The building was closed in 1974 and renovated by Warner LeRoy over two years, reopening in 1976 with a completely new appearance. The restaurant now is filled with brass, stained glass, etched mirrors, paintings, antique prints and above all, chandeliers, creating an amazing rococco style vision in the park. The gardens are filled with amazing topiaries, and the gigantic Elm tree that literally grows out of the centre of the building is adorned with lights.

After giving my feet time to recover we were off again, this time leaving Central Park to travel a block west to the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts.

 
 
 
 
Building detail, Upper West Side, New York.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
   
 

The Lincoln Centre houses the Metropolitan Opera, The New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic and many other arts related organisations. Built progressively in the 1960's, it is now the cultural centre of Manhattan.

 
 
 
 
The Metropolitan Opera House, New York.
 
 
Minolta X-570 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Kodak Portra 400UC
   
 

After walking back to Central Park West Fran and I caught a bus up to 110th Street at the top of Central Park. We walked the width of the park on 110th Street, passing family groups barbequeing their dinner on the sidewalk next to the park entrances. It was great to see families using the park and streets the way suburban dwellers use their backyards. After reaching the North-East corner of the park, we walked South down the East side towards the Upper East Side museum district. Along the way, we walked around the bank of Harlem Meer, a picturesque water feature in the North-East corner of the park.

 
 
 
 
Enjoying the sunset, Harlem Meer, Central Park.
 
 
Minolta XD11 with 50mm f/1.2 MD Rokkor-X. Film: Fuji Superia Reala
   
 

By the time we had walked some of the way down Central Park East it reached 6.00pm and Fran needed to leave to attend a dinner function. We hailed her a cab and then I walked to the 86th Street and Lexington Subway Station to catch a train back to my Hotel at 33rd St and Lexington.

After an early dinner I went back to my hotel room to relax and get some sleep. I later measured the distance I had walked during the day, and it came to 18 kilometres, or about 11.5 miles. When combined with the 12.5 kilometres (approx 8 miles) from my first day it came to about 30 kilometres in the two days. No wonder my feet hurt!

So there is the end of day two in New York. I hope that you will revisit next week when I continue my American journey. Many thanks to Fran who guided me with incredible patience on the day. She was a wonderful ambassador for New York, and made my day a hundred times richer than it would have been without her. Thanks Fran!

 
 
 
 
To New York - Day 3
 
 
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