She is the travel buddy I’ve been looking for in my dreams. Spirited. Adventurous. One who can walk miles. Bubbly. No whiner. A culture buff. A museum buff.
Yes, like me. And one who can laugh at my jokes, because I easily laugh at someone else’s jokes, too!
Meet Anily, my friend from Upstate New York. We met each other three years ago through my website. We clicked straight away as we discovered that we talk the same dialect, we both worked in the Middle East, we share the same passion in photography, the arts, music, and of course, travel.
We were net friends, never met eye to eye, until I went to the U.S. last month, particularly New York. She insisted that we should meet. And I adjusted my flight just so we could meet. And boy, what a ball we had! How awesome it is to explore a place with your alter ego! Before we even met, I’ve already done four days in the Big Apple, experienced grandiose things with my family and friends, but there are still things left uncrossed in my bucket list and I’m leaving the next day! Thank goodness, with Anily, I got more than what I expected!
Here’s what we did:
We took the subway not only once but thrice, and I love it!
We walked the Brooklyn Bridge!
I remember our guide on the Big Bus Tour telling us that the Brooklyn Bridge Walk is a must-do when in New York so I told Anily that we just had to do it! Luckily, she has this penchant for crossing bridges and the sound of 1,825-meter crossing did not bat her eyelid! It was glorious seeing the view of Manhattan, the Hudson river, the distant Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn side and bits of New Jersey from the bridge.
We had to put this Brooklyn Bridge crossing experience on a frame so here we are.
Manhattan above, the car lanes below and the pedestrian walkway where I am standing.
Back on ground level, we started our exploration. Here is one of the many street food kiosks scattered in the City.
She took me to the long and very interesting Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.
Lots of shops selling interesting things out here, this chess shop is one of them.
They sell chess sets of every kind!
Archangels pitting against each other
At the corner is a theatrical-looking fortune-telling shop
At the corner of Bleecker and Perry streets, I noticed a tree-lined bucolic-feel block with elegant brownstone apartments with their iconic steps. They call them “stoops”, Anily whispered behind. Those same steps reminded me of where Meg Ryan lived in the film, “You’ve Got Mail!”
Indeed, Perry Street has been the setting of many films and tv series.
A couple of tourists are posing infront of the stoops when I noticed a particular one that is chained. This is blog-material, I thought. The owner of this apartment must be so annoyed with all those people constantly going up their steps to take photos hence, the chains. It was only back home when I started googling that I discovered I actually photographed Carrie Bradshaw’s (of Sex and the City) famous apartment steps! Well done to myself!
Moving on, this magazine shop caught my eye…
I have this itchy habit of peering through shop glass doors and it always pays! Look at the enormous selection of magazines!
Time for lunch, I met a local lady at Bleecker park who recommended that we go to Whitehorse Tavern for a very New Yorkais dining atmosphere. Glad I listened, and also glad that we had cash because they only accept dollars, not cards.
The lady in the park was right. This place has a “New York 19th century” feel besides being legendary. Writers and artists used to frequent the place including the Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas who, legend says, drank so heavily that he fell ill and died a few days later. Richard Farina, Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan were among the famous patrons.
We initially ordered appetizers as we were not that hungry, deciding to eat a more substantial meal somewhere else later, but lo and behold, the serving was more than we could take – but we enjoyed it!
After the meal, we went searching for another “very New Yorkais” Coffee Shop
for a fix of caffeine and pastry and we kept seeing cupcake shops. There’s a lot of them in the City!
But the most queued-up of them all is this one – The Magnolia Bakery – made famous by, again, Sex and the City.
Gracing a corner of the shop is a framed photo of Carrie and Miranda sitting outside the bakery. On that scene, Carrie (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) was talking about her crush to Miranda while scoffing a pink-frosted cupcake. That SATC episode catapulted Magnolia to new cupcake heights and for a cupcake crazed America, their business shot up through the roof! They now have several branches in and out of America.
And since we’re right on their doorstep, we had to try their signature dish : the buttercream-topped cupcake!
But it would be more civilized, Ithought, to munch a cupcake sitting down so I asked the bakery staff where are the tables and chairs and she directed us to a green park in the corner. Holy cupcake! Almost everyone in the park were munching Magnolia!
The highlight of our day was the visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art commonly known as the MET.
The MET houses more than 2 million collections and antiquities from around the world. It’s the second most visited museum after the Louvre in Paris, France and with its vast size of 2 million sq.ft, one day is not enough to make a comprehensive tour and we had only two hours to spare. Thanks to Anily who had been there a few times, she practically whizzed me through various rooms till we reached the European Galleries.
Having been to a lot of European museums myself, why the interest in European Galleries in America? Because I want to see more of the works of the European masters that are now scattered around the world. Luckily, photography is allowed hence, I am so happy to share them with you:
One of my favorite painters, Johann Vermeer!
Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, 1662, Oil on Canvas,
Johann Vermeer, Dutch (1632 – 1675)
Self-Portrait, 1660, Oil on Canvas
The Toilet of Bathsheba, 1643, Oil on Wood
All by Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn), Dutch (1606 – 1669)
Anily delighting in the works of Rembrandt
The Thinker, 1910, Bronze sculpture, Auguste Rodin, French (1840 – 1917)
Numerous casts of The Thinker exist worldwide. They came out of the mold that was designed by Rodin.
I’ve seen the colossal version in the gardens of Musèe Rodin and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Cupid and Psyche, 1893, Marble, Auguste Rodin, French (1840 – 1917)
The Siesta, 1892-94, Oil on Canvas
Two Women, 1901/1902, Oil on Canvas
Three Tahitian Women, 1896, Oil on Canvas
Still Life with Teapot and Fruit, 1896, Oil on Canvas
All by Paul Gauguin, French (1848 – 1903)
Odalisque with Gray Trousers, 1927, Oil on Canvas
Nasturtiums with the Painting “Dance”, 1912, Oil on Canvas
All by Henry Matisse, French (1869 – 1954)
Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, 1899, Oil on Canvas
The MannePorte (Etretat), 1883, Oil on Canvas
Haystacks (Effect of Snow and Sun), 1894, Oil on Canvas
Rouen Cathedral, The Portal (Sunlight) , 1894, Oil on Canvas
All by Claude Monet, French (1840 – 1926)
The House with the Cracked Walls, 1892 – 1894
Dish of Apples, ca. 1875–77
Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1902 – 6
Antoine Dominique Sauveur Aubert (born 1817), the Artist’s Uncle, as a Monk, 1866
All by Paul Cézanne, French (1839 – 1906)
The Daughters of Catulle Mendès, Huguette (1871 – 1964, Claudine (1876 – 1937) and Helyonne (1879 – 1955), 1888, Oil on Canvas
By the Seashore, 1883, Oil on Canvas
In the Meadow, 1888 – 1992, Oil on Canvas
Eugène Murer (Hyacinthe-Eugène Meunier (1841-1906), 1877, Oil on Canvas
All by Auguste Renoir, French (1841 – 1919)
La Coiffure, 1906, Oil on Canvas
The Actor, 1904 – 1905, Oil on Canvas
Woman in White, 1923, Oil on Canvas
All by Pablo Picasso, Spanish (1881 – 1973)
Sunflowers, 1887, Oil on Canvas
Oleanders, 1888, Oil on Canvas
Irises, 1890, Oil on Canvas
First steps, after Millet, 1890, Oil on Canvas
All by Vincent van Gogh, Dutch (1853 – 1890)
Three hats, two women and Van Gogh, 2015
And to cap off “my-last-day-in-the-Big Apple” adventure with Anily, we took a short rest in a quintessential New York icon that is the Central Park. I’d love to walk the entire expanse of this place but it is so huge and time is not on our side so all we could do was to sit in one of its 9,000 benches, breathe deeply and luxuriate in this oasis of greenery and peace in the middle of a concrete jungle.
This is a park so immense that when I saw it earlier from the top of Rockefeller Center, surrounded by skyscrapers, I thought it could well fit hundreds more of high rise buildings! Luckily, this green lung of the city is a protected space hence, there won’t be any construction of high rises within it.
Time to leave New York. Goodbye America. And thank you, my friend, Anily, for this wonderful last day journey. Hope we do a repeat of this adventure, next time, in Europe, the continent of your dreams.