Museums, Diners, and Santas

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I’m not a travel writer. I don’t know what kind of writer I am. I just know that some friends and I went to New York City last weekend, and every day that passes is another day that the events that happened go further and deeper into my memory bank.

So I’m going to write a little bit about those two days this morning.

When we told people about our trip, all of us heard remarks like, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go to New York City.” Our joint question is, “Then what are you waiting for?” As humans, we postpone. “I’ll go next year,” you think but next year never comes. You get busy. You have obligations. You need the money for something else. You develop health challenges and can’t walk.

We also heard, “It must be nice to have so much extra money,” and “I wish I had the money to go to New York.” We aren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, and yes, I realize that’s a much-overused expression. It’s probably earned cliché status by now, but I’m not trying to win “blog of the year” with this post. I’m just trying to urge you to wake up and live.

If we can afford it, so can you. BUT, you’re going to have to give up something to get there. Some of us have already committed to going again next year, and we’re staying two nights instead of one. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ve agreed to put away $50 a month. I just need to stay out of Target and stop eating out so much.

We also heard, “I’d love to go, but I don’t have anyone to go with. My significant other, friend, fill-in-the-blank doesn’t like to travel.” Don’t use that as an excuse. There are dozens of people you can go with. My husband has been once and plans never ever to go again. That’s unfortunate, but there are so many people who do want to go, and all you have to do is ask around.

There are museums and stores and restaurants and lights and libraries and parks and diversity in the Big Apple. And the Rockettes are there. And ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. Oh, and there’s this great little diner, Westway, that’s become a favorite of mine. The service, food, and ambience are all outstanding, and besides, my husband and I spied Brooke Shields there one late afternoon.

Here I am nearing the end of my 500-word limit (I’ve been told that blogs should be no longer than this), and I haven’t even mentioned any of our goings-on. I must admit that Sunday was my favorite day, but Saturday had its redeeming qualities too. For example, it was the weekend when young people all over town donned Santa outfits and participated in a bar crawl to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims. At least that was their original purpose. I’m not sure why they do it now, but I must admit that I enjoyed seeing guys and gals dressed up like Santa, elves, and even trees as they walked up and down the avenues.

Quick recap of Saturday: lunch at Westway, afternoon in Museum of Natural History, and late dinner at Juniors in Times Square. So much detail could fit into and between these events. For example, the chicken-cranberry wrap at Westway is to die for, and the native New Yorkers who dine there make the experience more memorable. I sincerely think that we were the only tourists there.

The Museum of Natural History is a must-see, and just so you’ll know, you can actually make a “donation” from one cent to one million dollars for a ticket. Most people, however, pay the regular ticket price because they don’t know about the donation aspect. I know because of being tipped off by a tour bus guide.

Did we pay one cent? No, the younger set paid full price, and Jeanita and I paid ten dollars each for our admission tickets. And Folks, it was worth much more than that. We walked and gawked for nearly three hours and hardly “put a dent in it.” (Must stop with those clichés.) One final plus to visiting this particular museum is that it’s across the street from Central Park so we got to kill two birds with one stone…er, taxi ride.

Three clichés and you’re out. I’ll pick up with the rest of the story later.

 

Day Two in Washington

After breakfasting on lox and bagels and omelets, we once again headed out into the capital city to do the tourist thing. Destination: the Capitol. Its shiny dome had been tempting and taunting us from the moment we had arrived in the city two days earlier, and now we were actually going to get to see it up close and personal. First, however, we rode the metro to Union Station. Too early for the shops to be open, the station was relatively quiet. Looking at its breathtakingly beautiful architecture brought back memories of an earlier visit with my son and some friends when we had taken Amtrak from Florence, SC.

Like millions of other visitors, we took walked out of the front door and were impressed with the statue of Christopher Columbus. As we busily snapped a few pictures of the man who sailed the ocean blue in 1492, we kept glancing up the hill at the Capitol. Then we began our ascent, all the while talking about the scenery around us. There at last, we were stopped by security guards who told us that the building was closed but that we could visit it at 8:30 the next morning. Happy to be so close, we couldn’t leave without taking several photographs. The one of the four of us standing against the wall was snapped by a man who jokingly told us that he was going to charge us. After all, he had six children to educate and every little bit helped. I hope he and his family enjoyed their time on “the hill” as much as we did.

Next stop, the Smithsonian. We began our museum visits with a trip to the American Indian Museum where we were treated to a performance of traditional dances. After about an hour of trying to read and study all of the exhibits, we hustled towards the next stop. My chums went to the American Museum of Natural History while I spent an hour or so walking around in a trance in the National Gallery of Art. Among other things, they wanted to see the Hope diamond, and I wanted to see art, art, and more art.  It’s huge! I was awed by its size and the collections. I was drooling over a poster by Georgia O’Keefe when my friends called to say they were headed to the Museum of American History.

I left Georgia’s poster and walked to the next museum to join my friends. In need of some energy, we ate snacks in the cafeteria before viewing the exhibits. Of my recollections of the afternoon, those moments in the cafeteria are among the finest. Here we were eating our yogurt and salads among some of the most diverse people we’d dined with in a long time, all the while looking out of the big glass windows at the sidewalk and the passers-by. It was marvelous. Fortified and refreshed, we went upstairs to view the exhibits of America’s past. LOVED THIS! From Dorothy’s red slippers to model train stations, we reveled in all of it.

We left the last of the museums at dusk, and as we scurried across the mall in search of the metro, I took a photo of the Washington Monument. Had to. There was something about its tall simple beauty that spoke to me. Weary but happy, we decided to grab some sandwiches at Subway in Chinatown and take them to the room. So much for our vow to eat ethnic food every night! At least the Subway was in Chinatown even if the food wasn’t noodles or bok choy!

Lights were out by 11:00. These Southern gals needed a good night’s sleep for touring the Capitol and the Library of Congress the next day.

Last Day in the Big Apple

Tired but happy, the six of us wrapped up our last day of holiday fun in New York City with a little shopping and museum browsing. A good time was had by all!

On the last day of our whirlwind trip to Manhattan,  we repeated our breakfast routine while making plans for the day. With only so many hours left, we decided to split up so that we could all spend the remaining time doing the things we really wanted to do. Tilara and Mary headed up to the north side for some shopping while the rest of us went to the Museum of Modern Art, better known as the MoMA.

Interestingly, the taxi driver misunderstood us and thought we wanted to go to the Metropolitan Museum. Thus, we kept going farther and farther north, and about the time I was really relishing the sights of Central Park, I realized we had overshot our location. When we mentioned it to the driver, he apologized and said he thought we’d said the Met and not the MoMA. Here’s the neat thing. Although we got in some extra sightseeing, he took it off the meter and didn’t charge us. That’s a little thing, and yet it’s a big thing too.

I LOVE that museum, and that day it was especially awesome. Cloudy, overcast, and cold on the outside, it was toasty and warm on the inside. From the huge windows, I enjoyed the outside views while savoring the wood floors, the hushed sounds, and of course the magnificent exhibits and paintings. Everything took on a different (special) aura that day, perhaps because I was sharing the experience with good friends. Too, I think the holiday spirit was abundant, thus further buoying my mood.

From the moment we walked in and saw the display of words, I knew it was going to be a great morning. Jeanita and I heard piano playing, and when we saw the cluster of people gathering around it, we moved closer and saw a man standing INSIDE of the piano playing backwards. I loved seeing the work of Andy Warhol, Van Gogh, Klimt (especially the painting of the pregnant woman), and Wyeth. One of the things I learned that day was that the young woman in Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World had polio. I had always assumed she was just lying in the grass looking at a farmhouse and was stunned when I realized that she was actually inching her way towards it, a sight that Wyeth saw from a window. I also learned the term”magic realism,” something I experience quite often.

We couldn’t leave the museum without a visit to the gift shop for a few goodies. My personal favorite is a black t-shirt with the letters MoMA across the front. When we walked outside, I saw something else delightful, something I’d never see in Camden if I lived to be 100, a skilled dancer across the street who was performing for passers-by. Boom box blaring, she was energetically dancing with skill and talent. Where is the crew from Dancing with the Stars when you need them???

Fortunately, we were able to snag a taxi right away and headed back to the Staybridge where a car was picking us up to take us to the airport. We’re such a positive bunch that we even enjoyed our ride to LaGuardia, especially the Queens scenes. I felt like I was on the set of the old Archie Bunker sitcom of the 70’s. Upon arrival at La Guardia, we went straight to our gate after passing through security (not bad) and sat and waited for a couple of  hours. While none of us really enjoyed waiting so long, we figured it was better than taking a chance on missing our flight. Plus, there were many interesting sights to see, and the snacks were yummy. Love those Dunkin’ Donuts flatbread sandwiches!

The flight back to Myrtle Beach was smooth, fast, and uneventful. Seeing the stuffed bears reclining in beach chairs in the airport all lit up for Christmas was the icing on the cake. Tired but happy, we stopped at the Piggly Wiggly at Market Commons for some pizza and then went to the condo to eat and share memories. Truly, a good time was had by all.