Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Park Rides and Harbor Lights

Day Five, our last day in the City, started with a bike ride along the Manhattan greenway and through Central Park on a clear and sunny morning. We started along the bank of the Hudson River, enjoying our quality Trek bikes, and soon stopped to see the site of Captain Sully's emergency airplane landing, a boat marina and, on the river bank, Trump Center.

Our route to the park took us back through our hotel neighborhood, past the museum of Natural History and into the amazing Central Park. Stops included Strawberry Fields, across from the Dakota apartment building that was the site of John Lennon's murder to the Mall promenade formerly used by the carriage trade to display their Sunday best to the Shakespeare Garden -- beautifully planted with every plant and flower mentioned in the Bard's works.

Here are some Park highlights. Additional pictures are in NYC DAY FIVE BLOG POST photo array.

The Obelisk:

This 3,500-year-old monument stands directly behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To celebrate the 30th year of his reign, Egyptian pharaoh Thutmosis III (1479-1425 B.C.)commissioned a pair of obelisks for the sacred city of Heliopolis. In 12 B.C., they were moved to Alexandria, where they stood until the 19th century, when all great cities around the world clamored for an ancient Egyptian obelisk. The Khedive of Egypt gave one obelisk to England in 1879 and the other to America in 1881, in exchange for foreign aid to modernize his country.

Belvedere Castle and Tower:

"Right now, the temperature in Central Park is …" New Yorkers and regular visitors know that phrase well from television and radio broadcasts. But not many know that temperature is recorded from atop Belvedere Castle. Since 1919, the National Weather Service has take measurements from the castle's tower with the aid of scientific instruments that measure wind speed and direction. Before it was equipped with meteorological equipment, Belvedere Castle was a Victorian folly. Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park, created the miniature castle in 1869 as one of its many whimsical structures intended as a lookout to the reservoir to the north (now the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south. After decades of deterioration, the Central Park Conservancy renovated and reopened the castle in 1983.Belvedere provides the best and highest views of the Park and its city scape which is fitting considering its name translates to "beautiful view" in Italian.

The Shakespeare Garden:

The quiet and beautiful setting features only flowers that were mentioned in Shakespeare's plays and poetry.

Bethesda Fountain and Terrace:

Bethesda Terrace is considered the heart of Central Park. In their original plan, designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux envisioned a sweeping Promenade (the Mall) that led to a grand terrace overlooking the Lake. The magnificent carvings represent the four seasonsand, on the side facing the Mall, the times of day.

The Dakota:

The Dakota, at 72nd Street and Central Park West and one of New York's first luxury apartment buildings, was also the location for the movie Rosemary's Baby. A lot of famous people lived in the building including Roberta Flag, Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, PaulSimon. Madonna wanted to buy an apartment here but was turned down by the board. Thinking about moving in? If the boardaccepts you, a one bedroom apartment is a bargain at $5,900,000. A fourbedroom  starts at $18,500,000. More information at

John Lennon lived here with his wife Yoko Ono and son Sean when he was shot and killed in front of the building. The tear-drop shaped section of Central Park directly across from the apartment is now known as Strawberry Fields after the Beatles song of the same name. A donation of $1 million from Yoko Ono, along with plants and trees donated from around theworld, turned this small section of the park into a Garden of Peace. A main feature of the garden is a reproduction of a Pompeii mosaic, a gift of Naples, Italy. The black and white mosaic contains the single word IMAGINE—the title of one of Lennon's most popular songs and a tribute to the musician. Visitors to the garden leave flowers and other remembrances on the mosaic nearly every day.

[Much of the park information, above, was obtained from the official park site at Check itout for lots of interesting information.]

Three hours later, having navigated lots more hills and traffic than we expected, we were back at Pier 17, next to the aircraft carrier Intrepid, now a floating museum. With that much exercise, we could afford the calories in a NY restaurant lunch so we splurged -- fish andchips for me and ten ounce megaburgers for Drew and Sarah.

Sarah had the energy to do some more shopping -- this time to get gifts for her sweetheart, Brian, and her brother Jeff. I got off at the Lincoln Center subway stop for a quick "looksee" and headed back to the room to get ready for our final adventure -- a night time sail on the bay.

Our ship was the "Clipper City" -- a traditionally rigged steel replica of the Clipper ships that dominated the coastal trade of the U.S. during the 1800's. She is 158' long with masts rising120' off the deck.

There was a large crowd assembled for the last sail of the night but once we were all on board,Sarah, Drew and I had the port side of the stern pretty much to ourselves. Again, photographs (at least those we know how to take) don't do justice to the beautiful night skyline with the lighted buildings and bridges. I've mixed in some "pro" shots with our amateur efforts so you can get a feel for what it was like.

Absolutely the most stunning was the lighted Statue of Liberty. What a beautiful symbol of our country and the values and principles that we like to think it embodies.

". . . "Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome. . .
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!. . ."

So ended our NYC adventure.

We are already thinking about a Chicago adventure to celebrate the conferral of Sarah'sgraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati, circa 2013.

Hmm, I should probably make a few scouting trips. . .

Goodbye for now from Sarah, her father Preston Drew and her Aunt Pat.

Oh -- and goodbye also from our official dashboard navigator -- The Hat.

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