Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New York in November - Fall colours at Central park and Bethesda Terrace

After a sleepless night, thanks to the difference in time zones, we decided to make use of the early part of the morning and catch an early train to New York city. That way we would be able to cover a good part of the day exploring. We had Central park in mind as the weather was beautiful and we did not want to wait for later, when the days would definitely turn colder.And the leaves will loose their beautiful colours.

So we packed ourselves with some heavy breakfast of bread, scrambled eggs, chicken sausages and waffles topped with whipped cream and syrup from the breakfast buffet at our hotel, the Marriot.

I love waffles and was very chuffed to see a waffle maker and ready batter at the buffet counter. And took to making waffles everyday. There were an assortment of syrups like raspberry, maple, strawberry and black currant compote and of course, the very favourite chocolate sauce.
I tried different flavours everyday but B stuck to his favourite combination of chocolate and cream.
On some days there would be a vegetarian crumble along with an assortments of salamis and sausages ... mostly pork. There were a variety of baked goods too. And of course oatmeal and cereals with milk and fruits.
Breakfast at the Marriot was good.

And so, after fueling ourselves to last a good part of the day, we caught the train to New York city. And reached the Grand Central Terminal in around forty minutes.

 The Grand central terminal has a very old history that is full of trivia and stories and is New York's most famous landmarks. Built and rebuilt a number of times, this railway station caters to around 750,000 people who pass through the station every day. And ranked by the number of platforms, it holds the title of the largest railway station in the world.
This station has very few staircases and has lots of ramps to make walking around easy. Anyone coming inside will always first see the Information booth, which has been placed strategically thus, in case people need to know where to go to and how.

Some trivia about the Grand central Terminal :

Once you cross Oyster bar, in the area under the four archways,you will find yourself in the hallway   known as the Whispering gallery or the Whispering walls.
This place is very  interesting .... if one person stands at one end of an archway column and speaks to the wall corner in a low volume, the other person standing at the diagonally opposite end ... around 100 meters away, can hear perfectly him perfectly well!
Much like our forts of Rajasthan, or the Bhulbhulaiya in Lucknow, where this concept has been used thousands of years back.

The window skylights let daylight in but the roof is spangled with stars ... i.e. around sixty five lights built into the roof give the feel of a star studded ceiling.

All the constellations are painted backwards, except the Orion.
In the picture below, you can see a small, black spot on the ceiling. That is an old leftover mark of the nicotine that the workers used to take during work. After renovations, it was decided to keep the old mark as it is .... and now it is one of the lesser seen things in New York.

The clock on the information booth is wound manually and is studded with precious stones .... worth around 10 to 20 million dollars. It was placed by the original builders of the station ... the Vanderbilt family. I was amazed to see that it works still and is so part of the whole scene that it is easily taken for granted and almost ignored by many passengers rushing by ... with other than just a glance thrown at it to check the time.
The people inside the information booth are extremely helpful and maps are given free of cost. So do not hesitate to ask for directions ever.

We caught sight of the scene below .... a bride and groom along with family and friends were setting up cameras for a photo shoot.
We would later come across such a scene numerous times in NY ... at the Central park, on he roads, at Times square ... and so on.
We roamed around the Grand Central, taking in every bit of history. Read the plaques, clicked numerous photos and toured the food stall and the restaurants. And by the time we got back our senses and looked at the time, we realised we had spent a good two to three hours inside the station!!
And were famished too.
So went on to finish an early lunch of squash flatbreads and mushroom and feta sandwiches. Got some water too and set off to explore the outside.

 Stepping out into the streets of Manhattan, New York, for the first time, is an experience by itself!
The tall, never ending skyscrapers on both sides of the road took my breath away on the first glimpse.
There is the Chrysler building for you ... standing high, the tallest brick building in the world.
It stayed the tallest building for some time before the Empire state building surpassed it in height.
Here is a close up of the Art deco ornamentation at the top.

We decided to walk down the twelve blocks of Madison avenue towards Central park. If you are in New York and want to explore the place well, then you need to be fit and should be able to walk.
Also, the US sun is ruthless and if you are not careful, it will give you a good tan that will take months to go away ... as we learnt the hard way in Niagara, later.

There was a flea market on and the streets of Madison avenue were filled with all kinds of shops on both sides. There were food stalls as well as stalls selling wares like trinkets, woolen clothes, junk artifacts and fur coats, etc. The place was choc-a bloc with people and there were roadside performers too.
A one man band was so good  we spent around 10 minutes just watching him sing.

Check out the size of the turkey drums!

Crossed a lot of big brands on the way. Came across Tiffany's and clicked a photo as it reminded me of another time and another Tiffany. :-)

After walking for what seemed like ages, we reached one of the circles that led to Central park finally.
Central park sits bang in the middle of New York city and is a huge area, having at least four entrances on four sides.
Do keep with yourself a map and refer to it.
The place is huge and is not easy to cover in one day, if you are on a relaxed mode. So do keep two days for this.
Since it was almost past noon, we decided to head for Bethesda terrace and fountain first.

Since it was a little away from the main gate, we decided to take a rickshaw. There were horse drawn carraiges too. All of them have their prices displayed but a little haggling will let you settle with a comfortable price.
The guy cycling our rickshaw would often turn around and talk to us all throughout our journey .... another of American etiquette we came along ... he was uneasy about turning his back to us. He informed us of the Marathon to be held the next day at Central park and mentioned that we had come on a very good day. The park would stay closed the next day.

The beautiful Bethesda terrace has been on my wish list ever since Kal Ho Na Ho .... this is the same place where Shah Rukh Khan mouths the soul stirring "Har ghadi badal rahi hai " song.

Bethesda terrace has two levels ... the upper level has the gallery and the lower level has the fountain and the beautifully carved underway.

It being a Saturday and the last few days of fall, this place was filled with people too. Everyone was happy, sitting in the sun,, walking around and clicking pictures everywhere.
People threw nickels into the water, wishing on them first.
And exchanged clicking photos for one another.
There was so much of happiness, smiles and laughter all around that it was slightly surreal.
At least to this Indian, it was. :-)

The lake was beautiful and inviting for people who wanted to boat and there were numerous boats coming from and going to the boathouse just on the side.
The colours of the trees were so vibrant that the water reflecting them looked colourful too. 

 We sat by the lake for a while, the warm late afternoon sun on our backs. There were ducks in the water too and would swim up to us, looking for something to eat.

Another look at the fountain.

After a while, we went to the underway where a man and a girl were performing a two man opera. They were so talented and so mesmerising that people gathered around and stood till they finished the act.
(I will upload the video soon).

Central park was a riot of colours and all that we saw was red, yellow and green, slowly turning brown. People thronged the park, some sitting, some reading, others clicking photographs and watching all kinds of performers. There were people playing instruments, singing songs or dancing.

There was music all around but none from blaring loudspeakers.
There was a man performing magic; another juggled with balls. Families with babies in prams walked around. Little children played in the dry leaves .... making a heap of them and jumping into it.

The huge, awe inspiring Elm trees stand tall, with the evening sun on them , shedding their dry leaves to make a carpet.
It was an awesome feeling to be walking in such beautiful weather, with my favourite person by my side, among such happy people celebrating nature. And life.

We later walked down to the Wollman ice rink and watched the skaters. Adults as well as children were enjoying their best skills of skating.
Parents were teaching the small ones. The air was filled with happy shrieks as the children thumped and fell.
It was another happy zone of another kind.

 All throughout our walk inside Central park, we came across numerous handcarts selling hotdogs and other street food. Spicy, hot off the grill, doused with lip smacking sauces, they are perfect to munch on while strolling. Especially when evening was setting in and the nip in the air intensified.
The best way to enjoy Central park is in a slow pace.

So do sit awhile, take in the scenes and the breath deep.
Do keep your camera side for a while and just look around.
Central park during fall is one of the best places to be in in New York City.

We walked out of Central park and headed towards Grand central again ... to catch the train back home.
My feet were already killing me and I wondered how was I going to explore Niagara the next day.
B suggested that we walk down a different avenue this time ... he wanted to show me the Rockefeller skating rink. We would go to the observation center on a later day.

We caught this cathedral on our way back ... with the rays of the evening sun on it.
Isn't it beautiful? Bang in the middle of a traffic snarled New York road?

And here is the Rockefeller center!

We did walk down to the rink and saw the place was very crowded. Clicked a few pictures and stepped out. I will upload some pictures of the rink on a later post.
For now, just this.

By the time we reached Grand central terminus, we were dead tired. And famished too.
B knew a very good Punjabi food joint inside Grand Central ... the Cafe Spice.
We decided to finish our dinner there.

Reaching the hotel, we crashed .... but not for long.
The alarm would wake us in just four hours to be able to catch the our flight to Buffalo.

Stay tuned for our Niagara trip.
I will leave you now ... with the beautiful Elms of Central Park, NYC.


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