Hi Guys! Hope you are doing well. I am currently in Salt Lake City, Utah on a reunion trip with an old friend of mine. Yes, I left sunny California again to travel to another chilly place and sadly still witnessing no fall colors (or snow). Although I have many things on my agenda, I came here to play catch up with a friend. In between the hustle and bustle of traveling through airports and finally crashing into my hotel room bed, I realized that I need to play a little catch up on the blog also and write a post on my 2018 fall trip to New York City. For a quick read of my previous U.S. States travels, see HERE. Those interested in reading about my last week’s NYC trip, you may proceed. Before I give out the details of my trip, there are some general tips I would like to impart. Here goes:
– Traveling To & From The JFK airport: Don’t request an Uber from JFK. There are none available because the airport is so out-of-the-way. Also since there are no Uber cars available, an Uber car can take up to an hour to pick you up from the airport terminal. I suggest taking a cab to the city instead, but the fare does not include a tip which is customary to include in New York. A master’s tip my paternal grandfather gave me that I still remember from childhood is that a cab’s meter runs faster when the traffic is slower and runs slower when the traffic is faster. Penny pinchers out there will love this tip, I bet. On the way back to the JFK airport, I booked a shuttle service via my hotel, Hudson Hotel (See HERE) and for a flat fee of $99, I was able to get to JFK in a private car without any hassle.
-New York City: New York City in 2018 was very different from New York City in 1998. There are road barricades everywhere, which makes the city’s traffic a nightmare. The police are everywhere managing the traffic, but it is a sheer impossible task to control that amount of overwhelming cars, buses, and cabs present at an intersection at one time. And don’t forget those beautiful horse-drawn carriages in the mix as well. Naturally catching a cab or arranging an Uber was an insurmountable task for me. The whole time I was there, I either withered walking in my boots or tried to hold on to my dear life and belongings on Metro trains. I was able to catch a cab only once from 5th Avenue in front of The MET.
–Scouting Hotel Locations: Seeing New York City requires multiple trips. There is absolutely no way a tourist or a group can see everything the city has to offer unless they can afford to stay for a couple of weeks. This time around I booked the Hudson Hotel, which was ideal for what I had in my itinerary. The hotel is in Midtown so I put down bucket list sights around the Upper East/Upper West/Midtown region. For those trying to see touristy areas and not the wonderful museums New York City has to offer, should try to book a hotel room in Downtown or Manhattan way in advance.
-Interesting Noticings: The roads are mostly barricaded so there is a lot more foot traffic. There are a lot less homeless people on the street and the stench of urine prevalent 20 years is far less noticeable. Metro charges a dollar for using a credit card and buying a new Metro pass. Do not book your trip during United Nations Week like me because the city is crazy. Pack an umbrella and layers for September. The weather is very unpredictable. Starbucks baristas in New York City assume you want grande so you need to request to downgrade to a tall cup.
Ok, now the fun part. Reading what I did there. Here goes:
I flew into JFK in a late Sunday afternoon/early evening. Realizing the transportation situation, I waited in a line for a cab to the city. The cab to the city cost me around $70, which included the tip. I didn’t have trouble finding a cab at JFK since there are so many available. I reached the Hudson Hotel in Midtown, a very chic hotel walking distance to many restaurants, the Central Park, and a Metro station. The hotel even has restaurants you can dine in for any meal of the day. The first day in New York City, I just unpacked, relaxed and tried to unwind from the long flight.
The next morning, I woke up early and had breakfast at The Unami burger (See HERE) located on the first floor of the hotel. Then I ran into much trouble while hailing a cab or requesting an Uber from the front. It made no sense to me how the cab situation worked there, and Uber rides had such a difficult time reaching me at an appropriate time that they kept canceling. Frustrated with the transportation system here, I figured out how far the walk to MoMA would be and after a painful half-n-hour walk in my Charlotte Olympia ballet flats, I stood inside the entrance of the museum (See HERE). I had pre-purchased the tickets so I didn’t waste time wandering around the ticket desk. My trip to MoMA was the highlight of my New York City 2018 trip. Everyone raves about The MET, but I cannot recommend MoMa enough to people. The museum has a lovely store where you can purchase souvenirs and gifts for yourself and your family or friends.
So here are my notes on MoMa: As odd (or off-putting) as this sounds, I decided to explore MoMa “energetically”. That meant I didn’t plan in advance what I wanted to see. I started on the 4th floor because I wanted to reunite with Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (See HERE), which was hung in The MET in 1998. I never considered modern or post-modern art movements my thing since I am such a classic art enthusiast, but I was so impressed with the art here that I had to stop and stroll instead of darting to famous art pieces. Because of my serendipitous decision to explore “energetically”, I was able to learn so much about art from the last hundred years. To me, modern and post-modern art is more symbolic rather than realistic. The key is to figure out how each artist morphs or constructs common themes prevalent in life or in their lifetime into their own representation of something. While some artists used everyday symbols such as fruits to represent a thought or feeling, other artists like Picasso started new art movements where subjects are so misconstrued or abstract that they are unrecognizable.
The galleries in the MoMA appeared to have been arranged in a peculiar yet precise manner. I know many galleries in MoMa are dedicated to the museum’s patrons, but since I was working “energetically”, I saw connectivity from one room to another. I found myself standing in front of paintings with similar objects from a previous gallery room or finding myself in a room with nothing but white artwork, which had followed a room with particularly loud paintings – in color, themes, and scope of artistry. Some connections were very obvious for viewers like me as I could spot which artist was influenced by another artist or artwork in the same gallery or a previous gallery.
In conclusion, I would say that if you are illiterate in modern and postmodern art movements then do give MoMA a chance. If you learn nothing, you can’t help but see that during these art movements, “stuff” in art is the opposite of what you think. Modern art movements didn’t think of life as negatively as I thought or as popularly believed. These movements were clearly impetus to start conversations. Put together, they display human psyche that emotes collective emotions felt during a lifetime. There aren’t many people or nature subjects for sure.
Remember, don’t spend too much time looking at each artwork as you will exhaust yourself. Five hours were sufficient for me as my feet got tired. And yes, I reunited with the lovely painting The Starry Night and it was just as beautiful as I remembered. The interesting movement I noticed in 1998, but this time around, I saw how Van Gogh’s brushstrokes weren’t as erratic or emotional as he is made out to be as a human. His strokes or lines don’t bleed, but rather look like moving in differing streams of consciousness. Genius absolutely! Lastly, New Yorkers take art really seriously so it is always fun to do a little people watching during breaks.
Statue Of Liberty/Ellis Island
The next day was Statue Of Liberty/Ellis Island Ferry day. Learning from my transportation woes from the previous day, I knew to take the Metro and save myself a headache. For this ferry trip, I took a Metro downtown and got off near Battery Park. From the station, it was a quick 5-10 minute walk to the ferry dock. This trip was interesting, but it drizzled the whole time I was there. Statue of Liberty is very impressive and the New York City skyline was visible even though the day was cloudy. I took many pictures of the Statue Of Liberty from the bottom. You can book in advance the ferry-boat ride although I suggest researching ahead because 3rd parties charge different service rates for the same ticket. With the ticket, I was able to explore the island on my own with an audio guide. If you would like to go on the top of the Statue Of Liberty, which doesn’t require taking steps anymore, you need to book in advance as tickets sell out pretty quickly.
The next part of this day was visiting Ellis Island. Buildings of The Ellis Island look pretty much the same from the outside, but inside nothing remains the same from the last few hundred years. I wasn’t impressed here and feeling tired so I spent basically 45 minutes in there before I was on the ferry-boat to New York City.
The whole cloudy/rainy trip reminded me of a fun tidbit about Taylor Swift. Maybe I was avoiding gazing at the new World Trade Center building, which now I have lukewarm feelings about (I completely avoided looking at it before for obvious reasons) or missing California’s sunshine, but I seriously was searching for some weather-related anecdotes. I know my readers and Taylor Swift fans do not know this and I know this only because I knew Taylor as a baby and a little girl, but she thought she was allergic to the sun. It all started at our initial meeting where I was being so mischievous (See HERE). Turns out he mom and aunt were even more mischievous. Underneath her clothes and blanket, she was sniffling and sneezing quite a bit. Mind you this was Islamabad, Pakistan during the school year when the weather gets to be over 100 degrees. I looked at her confusingly and both her mom and aunt started apologizing for it because they thought I was offended. I told them I wasn’t and instead confused. Then I brushed off the misunderstanding by telling them she may be allergic to the sun, which is not a thing people (and Hollywood). Both of them started laughing and said they don’t think she can be allergic to sunshine because it is not in their genes. Since I had that wonderful demonstration from Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey in 1st grade, I started telling them my knowledge of the human genome system, which was more a presentation than anything else. I remember them looking at me absolutely bewildered. The conversation became one of my many odd conversations with famous or now-famous people that resulted in silence.
The third day was all about Central Park. On this day I had Starbucks for breakfast and just walked to the park. On my way, I saw a lovely congregation of pigeons who were so happy to put on a show for anyone who would feed them bread morsels. As I walked into the park’s entrance, I could immediately spot wildlife. Among pure-bred and rescue dogs, there was a variety of birds and squirrels (only one homeless person) for wildlife enthusiasts. I decided to go around the park in a pedi-bike or pedi-rickshaw with a driver. For half an hour with no major stops, I was able to cover half of the enormous Central Park and its highlights. The entire trip cost me $35 and I paid in cash. You can book longer and stop-n-go trips for photography as well. Because of being accompanied, I felt safer plus I learned a lot about Hollywood movies shot in Central Park. The park is absolutely stunning and the surrounding New York buildings look gorgeous peeking over the tall trees. There is nothing more I can add to any Central Park conversation other than you need to explore it either my way or on a horse-drawn carriage or via hiking.
For The MET, I was told to take the C or 1 train uptown to Upper West side and then walk across the mid-section of Central Park to The MET (See HERE). This was the simplest way for an out- of towner like me since I would have probably gotten lost or wasted time transferring trains to get to The MET. Because of the train stop recommended by a Metro employee, I ended up in Upper West Side, which is so beautiful and quiet. I would say this side of Central Park is even better than the Upper East side and its famous 5th Avenue. This part of the park is great because I saw fewer tourists and more New Yorkers with gorgeous dogs – small and large. Dogs are the best things to watch here. One suggestion I would give if you are figuring out your way to The MET via the giant Central Park is to pick walkways that go up. You won’t get lost then.
I booked tickets to The MET in advance and the pass comes with a three-day access. The MET museum is quite large so you need that 3-day pass. However, if you want to just check out highlights then the pass gains you access to the other two MET museums as well. The MET to me was too big and crowded and I would recommend it to those people who are great planners like me. I literally researched the permanent and current exhibitions beforehand and planned them out on the map. That doesn’t mean I knew my way around without asking for help. I was able to see only Heavenly Bodies: Fashion And The Catholic Imagination exhibit which was lovely, part of the Egyptian and Babylonian galleries, the Medusa exhibit and a speck of the textile exhibition, which requires advance booking. And then I was done with The MET. With so much walking, I needed to take a cab back to my hotel because I was so exhausted.
The next day, I spent my morning packing and relaxing. The shuttle service was convenient because it picked me right in front of my hotel room and cost me a flat fee to the airport, which worked out great because there was so much traffic. I do recommend calling it at least three to four hours in advance to give yourself plenty of time to reach JFK. Thanks guys!