A New York Love Story

Written in the Spring of 2012

Cherry Blossoms in Central Park

Looking down upon 79th Street Transverse from Central Park, the ubiquitous yellow cabs passing underway feel as natural as the cherry blossoms that surround me. Juxtaposed against an oasis of calm, Fifth Avenue bustles at the Park’s perimeter with a constant stream of boot-to-pavement. To my left, a scene just as frenetic is playing out in the Met Museum; stoic, its interior is overrun by tourists trying to navigate its expanse.

This is New York – a city of dichotomies. Home to millions of people, and a holiday destination for millions more, it is the most bustling metropolis in the United States. New York City is where I, an expat based in a city charged with an unstoppable energy, found my peace.

Park Avenue, New York

I had been caught in New York’s embrace from the onset. Whisked into its whirlwind, the city subsequently unraveled a series of monumental moments along the way. Meeting him was the most definitive – it sparked a new beginning.

I’d fallen in love with him with the same ease I’d fallen for New York. Just as I’d experienced the spark of the city whilst standing in Times Square as a twenty-something year old thinking, this feels so right; years later I felt a similar sentiment as we dined together at my favourite restaurant on Park Avenue.

Ever since that first date, we’ve been walking the same path.

Now, standing in Central Park, newly married, I realise that my love for New York has taken on a deeper meaning. This is a city that can so easily seduce, enthrall, and enchant. But it’s when you stay a while that you really feel the beat of its strong, passionate, and loving heart.

Imagine ~ Strawberry Fields, NYC

Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one. ~ John Lennon

Above: ‘Imagine’ mosaic in Strawberry Fields, Central Park. Yoko Ono planted this green space as a Quiet Zone in memory of John Lennon.

Banner image: Looking onto Dakota Apartments, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived. On December 8th, 1980, John Lennon was killed outside the building.

Snapped: Spring in Central Park, New York

Life is a journey, not a destination. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s not easy to plan a trip to Central Park with an endpoint in mind, especially if you are easily distracted. This isn’t a bad thing – just something to be conscious of if time is of the essence.

Yesterday, I had some time.

These past few days, it really feels as if winter has left the City, especially in Central Park. It’s as if Spring took a brush and brightened its expanse with a fresh coat of paint. New leaves grow into winter’s space, filling it in with shades of green; baby buds and blooms garner attention – their stems and branches reaching out, decorated in different shades of yellow and pink.

Along with the fruits of a new season, Central Park has come alive with people. New Yorkers once again embrace the lush foliage of their extended backyard; ducks welcome newcomers to the water – they happily float alongside row- and remote-controlled sailboats.

Just as I was sidetracked on my last trip to Central Park, I was distracted again yesterday. Sheer determination got me to the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, a place I’d missed out on seeing a few weeks ago for its cherry blossoms. I made it; I saw the blooms surrounding it. Yet, I was happier for having captured so many lovely moments along the way.

Life really is about collecting moments, isn’t it? I hope you’ll enjoy these.

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Central Park – Enter and be greeted with a vibrant pop of yellow. A sunburst, at ground level.

Spot bristly looking blooms, reaching for the sun.

How could you not be sidetracked by this skyline? A model view of Manhattan.

Midtown’s panorama: it looks so peaceful, standing on the sidelines at Sheep Meadow. Reason enough to love New York.

Whilst Sheep Meadow is still gathering strength before it opens its gates to sunbakers and frisbee throwers, there are plenty of other spots to retreat into. Millions of perfect settings in which to linger over a cup of coffee and indulge in an afternoon nap.

Open-air shopping at The Mall. It’s good to see its lined-up elms awake – the green leaves are such a contrast against those dark trunks.

In the background, an absolute delight to hear the sounds of the Australian Chamber Orchestra from the Bandshell. A reminder of home…

… worthy of a crowd. What a treat to stumble upon.

Road traffic against the Boathouse

Lunch: at The Loeb Boathouse.

The Conservatory Water, seen from uphill.

At the water’s edge, remote controlled wind-driven sailboats glide…

… and ducks float alongside; a couple take a breather on the rectangular buoys. Poised, one looks ready to dive.

This is a different kind of buzz taking place in the midst of the most bustling city in the US. A subdued atmosphere with a positive energy behind it.

Later… From water activity to a pink blossom sighting.

Bustle Alert. From above: a view of the ubiquitous yellow cabs. New York City symbolism.

Shadows on The Metropolitan Museum of Art – it sits in the grounds of Central Park.

More blossoms along the way. A divine fragrance, begging to be bottled. A few sprigs plucked; their sweetness saved for memory.

Green against amber against white against pink. Spring’s best offering – a palette of amazing colours.

The undeniable beauty of the magnolia bloom; so pretty yet so stoic.

Steps away… the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. At its circumference, The Guggenheim can be seen through the tree branches – to the right…

… water – to the left, and a cherry blossom directly ahead. Another happy snapper in the midst.

Musings, under the shade of the cherry blossom tree….Maybe I should give jogging another try…?

West Side Story, framed by blossoms. A view of the Reservoir against Fifth Avenue. The Guggenheim is amongst those buildings, somewhere…

A lovely walk in the Park; a string of spring moments. Strolling into a block of townhouses, somewhere on the Upper West Side, in the 80’s…

Gorgeous entryways, detailed architecture… still in the peaceful 80’s. Where is everybody?

Spoke too soon. Steps away. Bustling New York.

For perspective, an interactive map of Central Park can be accessed here: Central Park Maps | Your Complete Guide to Central Park.

In Search of Cherry Blossoms… Central Park, Manhattan

Rewind. Back to Monday.

No choice but to push aside any notion of those so-called Monday morning blues. A chilly start gave way to a spectacular spring-like day in New York. I don’t know why I felt so unprepared; March 20th is around the corner after all.

Armed with the knowledge that Central Park’s cherry blossoms were in bloom a few weeks too early, I’d planned to walk to the Jacqueline Kennedy Reservoir from 68th Street on Central Park West, up to around 94th Street East, where I know many of the trees line its water’s edge.

An unexpected change of plans.

I had two hours to spare, yet I never made it to the Reservoir. Was I a slow walker? Did I take lose my way within the Park’s criss-cross of pathways? No, and kind of.

Entering the Park, I was immediately sidetracked. My purpose and direction had given way to inevitable distraction and intrigue. From stopping and starting to admire practically every flower in bloom – daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses; to dodging cyclists, strollers, and groups of runners; to stumbling upon a meeting of the minds with some hard-shelled creatures (who won my heart) – I was simply caught up in a seasonal change of pace.

What a far cry from the snowscapes I’d documented in the same area a couple of months ago.

Caught up in springtime musings, I only managed a walk around part of the Lake, and across to Bethesda Terrace – both spots a stone’s throw away from my where I’d started. Yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Such is the appeal of Central Park; so alluring is the unfurling of its changing landscape as the months go on.

That’s all wonderful, but what of those blooming pink cherry blossoms – you might be asking? Whilst I am planning on returning again soon, I saw so much more that I had anticipated during this time-out.

You’ll see what I mean.

Enjoy the stroll!

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Flowers line the park’s entryways along Central Park West. The gentle hum of Spring takes over; there’s a buzz in the air. Bunches of gold daffodils make for a jovial welcoming party, as if smiling under the sun’s rays…

… heads bowed in respect of their admirers.

A solitary bouquet of snow-white white crocuses peeking out from the ground; so delicate, new, and pretty.

Early afternoon shadows: lines; asymmetry; a haphazard mosaic design.

Strands of gold form a curtain in anticipation of the big reveal – a theatrical scene. Glimpses of activity on the Lake. Can you see the rowboat?

Getting closer. Rowboat, framed.

Busy is the background scene. Ice skaters have now given way to rollerbladers; cyclists navigate a busy roadway; runners acclimatise to the sudden hike in temps, all the warmer for the lack of shade. In the midst of it all, daydreamers relax on a park benches and soak in the sun.

An inspired artist, sketching…

… and strolling iphotographers, isnapping.

Beautiful yellow blossoms add extra colour along the way….

…as do patches of snowdrops ….

… all the way to the water’s edge.

Only to find, on the other side, a congregation. A meeting of the minds. Under the bare brush and on a couple of rocks – jutting out from under the lake’s surface – a couple of birds and some reptiles have gathered to form a silent ‘council’.

Moving closer, beckoned over, perhaps? What a fine looking pair – a couple of velvety Mallards…

… and a set of statuesque turtles, perched stoically on solitary rocks. Their necks outstretched, not moving an inch. Do they dare blink?

Edging closer; the largest two wear the hardest hats. Yep, they’re obviously presiding over this mind-meeting.

Turtles – just delightful.

Alas, even meetings of the mind come to an end – unfortunately so. Time to move along.

A quick cross over the Oak Bridge, to the other side. From this part of the Lake shore, a view of the El Dorado Apartments flanked by a rowboat and a contemplative soul.

Meandering along a winding pathway and over the Bow Bridge; rowboats float under its archway – they make for a regular sight.

Rowers paddling this way, and that; gliding from this side of the water, to the other.

A garden of crocuses in all shades of purple beckon towards The Boathouse.

The Loeb Boathouse, up close

El Dorado Apartments, aglow; surrounded by an aura of gold.

A little up the hill; a splash of pink against a cloud patterned stretch of blue. Could it be?

It certainly could. A beautiful cherry blossom tree. A search, partly achieved.

Looking through these blooming pink branches; wondering, is this what it feels to stumble upon a pot of gold?

Room with a view.

A panoramic scene overlooking Bethesda Terrace and its still-dry fountain. The Loeb Boathouse is to the right; the main part of the Lake, and El Dorado Apartments – to the left. People, in between.

Turn 180 degrees; look right down the length of The Mall, punctuated by the buildings of 59th street at its end. Spot the tripod.

A monochromatic view, elongated.

Is the time up already? Westward-bound. Pedicabs, already under the eye of their owner-turned-mechanic.

A road leading to the outskirts that is Manhattan.

Departing. The scent of candy-roasted nuts lingering in the air.

Back in Manhattan. Back on Central Park West. Thanks Spring.

Inspiration: Shades of Black II

Life is like a good black and white photograph, there’s black, there’s white, and lots of shades in between. ~ Karl Heiner

Brad and Angelina, 2005 ~ Steven Klein

The Chrysler Building in Hotel Room, 1997 ~ Bonni Benrubi Gallery

Coffee Trip, 2011 ~ © of Brendan Comey via awareofthevoid.wordpress.com

Lost and Lonely ~ Thomas Hawk

'Bladerunner' ~ promotional photo

Rain in Martin Place, Sydney, 1937 ~ Sam Hood (State Library of NSW collection)

New York, Jan 1953 ~ Maloof Collection

New York: Chinatown Reflections ~ Matthew Goddard-Jones

Umbrellas of Belgrade ~ © of belgradestreets.wordpress.com

The Reservoir in Central Park ~ Marina Chetner

Empty Streets of Paris ~ © of Brandie Raasch via brandieraaschphotography.wordpress.com

Marilyn Monroe and James Dean in NY ~ Photographer Unknown

Rural France ~ © of Jean-Pierre de Greef via cameravagrant.wordpress.com

Le baiser de l'Hotel de Ville, 1950 ~ Robert Doisneau

Coming in from the Cold ~ © of Karen McRae via drawandshoot.me

Musings at The Conservatory Garden, Central Park, NYC ~ with thanks

The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know. ~ Michel Legrand

On a micro level, Michel Legrand’s quote is a good summation of how I feel about Central Park. The more I see the less I know, I thought as I left through The Conservatory Garden’s beautiful cast iron gates yesterday and into the (com)motion of Fifth Avenue’s rush hour. A combination of genius design, thanks to Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and upkeep maintained by the Central Park Conservancy; Central Park will have you returning many times over – to explore a part of it that you may not have known about before, or to simply enjoy its changing landscape with the unfolding of the seasons.

The silhouetted skyline of Manhattan from the northern end of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Photographing around here never gets tiring.

Renowned chef, Marcus Samuelsson, in an interview with a travel magazine that rounded up his favourite spots to visit near his neighbourhood of Harlem, had the following to say: “To relax, I enjoy walking in the Conservatory Garden in Central Park just off East 105th Street.” I’d read this article a while back, and had filed away the Garden-mention in the back of my mind; yet another place to visit and experience in the grandeur of Central Park. 

Main entryway into the Conservatory Garden - the gates once stood at Cornelius Vanderbilt's mansion on 58th St and 5th Avenue

February 1st ~ another warmish 59F winter’s day in New York; a day to make an uptown trip to Central Park North. As I hadn’t done any prior research, I had thought that The Conservatory Garden would be encased in a greenhouse. Not so.

The Conservatory Garden began as a large, E-shaped greenhouse, or conservatory in 1898. It featured an indoor winter garden of exotic tropical plants and outdoor decorative Victorian flowerbeds. In 1937, the deteriorating structure was demolished and this… formal garden was designed in its place.*

Six acres of open air sculpted garden beauty defines its expanse; a triad of stylized gardens, influenced by France, England and Italy. A little bit of Europe in NYC – what a wonderful idea. I’ll let you see for yourself. I hope you enjoy The Conservatory Garden through this pictorial. A mental note: You are entering into an “Official Quiet Zone”.

As an aside, I would like to dedicate this post to my few bloggers: Vidal’sNYC for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award. I hope you may check out Vidal’s photo-glimpses of New York as he sees it. I’m also so appreciative of the support by robertoalborghetti and MiltonJohns Photography for reblogging my posts on Letting Love Rule @ Radio City Music Hall (Lenny Kravitz) and Gated Abandonment on Bowery ~ downtown NYC. I am really humbled by your kind comments and thank you for your inspiration. I hope you may check out the photography and art portfolios of all three bloggers. I’m a keen follower of their work and hope you will be too.

Musings at The Conservatory Garden

Strolling away from the motivated joggers circling Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir on a temperate winter’s day. Approaching the Conservatory Garden from within; along one of Central Park’s meandering pathways. Rules from hereon in ~ observing a quiet zone. Winter’s natural stillness, further enforced.

S’il vous plaît entrez: The French inspired part of the Garden, at its northern end.

Fountains, standing on empty ~ for now. Dancing Maidens sculpture by German artist Walter Schott.

Manicured hedges; swirling patterns of green. Symmetry, order and form. Envisioning scenes from Sophia Coppola’s, Marie Antoinette. The Gardens of Versailles ~ I need to see them.

Winter’s calm beauty, so amplified ~ still trees, late afternoon sun, shadows. Fifth Avenue – steps away, yet unheard and unnoticed, except for its mansions looking over the fence. A solitary bench…

… adorned with a dedication. Love lives on, always.

Hibernating hydrangeas; beds of roses, asleep ~ looking forward to a long awaited yawn and stretch. A blooming prospect: the onset of spring.

Intermission: Lenny Kravitz – I Build This Garden For Us

A stream of late afternoon rays, painting patterns on the pathways, like those of sun-drenched stained glass windows.

Please enter: the English inspired part of the Garden, to the south.

Grassy furry plants; recollections of Mr. Snuffleupagus. Reminiscing about those days of watching Sesame Street as a kid, back in Sydney. Somehow still remembering this shaggy-haired muppet’s name ~ Snuffy, for short.

From this angle, looking like a fuzzy topped bouquet of hay. Inspiration for a lavish centrepiece.

More recollections; this time of those crazy hairstyled muppets on Fraggle Rock. Do you remember? The English part of the Garden may be themed on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic, The Secret Garden, though it is so Jim Henson inspired.

Early bloomers ~ jonguils. Perhaps spring really is closer than we hope it to be.

~ Pausa ~

Generosity of the human spirit. Thankfulness; appreciation for the love bestowed by family and friends.

Inserisci il giardino: the Italian inspired garden, in the Conservatory’s centre.

Entangled beauty; Chinese wisteria, in a winter slumber. Wrought iron details of an ornate pergola against a Fifth avenue vista.

A blue period.

A touch of history ~ the names of the original 13 states, engraved into tile.

The grand gesture ~ an engraved proposal. Time, at a stand-still.

A place to create memories for generations to come.

Imagining being on the terrace of an Italian villa: directly ahead – the jet of the fountain’s thriving 12-foot high geyser; a grand lawn flanked by two exquisite allées of pink and white crabapple trees*; a perfectly hedged and manicured perimeter; birds chirping; the faint fragrance of wisteria in the air; views of Fifth Avenue mansions in the distance. Such is the anticipation of seeing the garden’s beauty in full bloom.

The Italian Renaissance Garden: The Medici, the ruling dynasty of Florence, used gardens to demonstrate their own power and magnificence. “During the first half of the sixteenth century, magnificence came to be perceived as a princely virtue, and all over the Italian peninsula architects, sculptors, painters, poets, historians and humanist scholars were commissioned to concoct a magnificent image for their powerful patrons.” **

Musings, interrupted. Dusk descends, and the grand gate must close.

Entering the real world. Hello again, Manhattan.

* http://www.centralparknyc.org/visit/things-to-see/north-end/conservatory-garden.html

**Wikipedia

New York ~ Cloaked in Snow

I have not been able to acclimatise to the Northern Hempishere’s winters (my body functions better in warmer climates, preferably those of the tropics), though I was quite excited to see New York experience its first snowfall for 2012. Not only because it is nature’s way, but also because I wanted to see New York shine once again, in snow-covered glory. Don’t get me wrong – I have experienced the City in winter many times before, though last year’s heavy storm left a lasting impression on me. I haven’t relocated back to warmer shores yet (as I vowed to do so at the time), though I am glad that I wasn’t succumbing to cosy hibernation at the first sight of this year’s snow flake. It really was good to see New York’s snow-fringed beauty again.

Here’s a little about how the weekend unfolded…

SATURDAY

Whilst drinking hot chocolate and watching movies all day would have been idyllic, I decided to make the most of the 3+ inch snowfall and headed to the area around Manhattan’s West Village. With the Christmas festivities over and holiday lights now taken down, the neighborhood’s streetscapes were still as pretty as ever; window sills lined with snow, street lights and restaurant signs topped with a light dusting of flakes, sidewalks – shiny from the ice. There were a few people out and about: owners walking their dogs; window-shoppers, strolling around the cobblestoned Meatpacking District; store owners on the sidewalks, salting the way.

Along with a few determined sightseers, I had ascended to the High Line via its Gansevoort Street entrance and managed to enjoy some of its views, until the wind pretty much stopped me in my tracks and had me scrambling towards the nearest exit. Unfortunately, no amount of layering in the sub-zero temperatures would have been enough to keep me from experiencing that chilled-to-the-bone feeling; my fingers were numbed-out after an hour and I had no choice but to race back home and defrost in the heat of the loft – with a hot cuppa.

NB: I altered a few of these shots with the retouch menu on the Nikon D5000.

The heart of the Meatpacking District

A tangled restaurant-front

"Call in Sick" - smart street art, especially for nine-to-fiver Mondays

Restaurant delivery bikes. Fatty Crab, in the background

A storefront in the Meatpacking District

The Standard Hotel, on the High Line

View from above

Railway Lines at the High Line

Sidetracked and sidelined - on the High Line

Grand Exit

Yippee - back home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

 SUNDAY

With the temperatures a few degrees higher, I pictured Central Park in my sights. I’d seen the beauty of its fall colours, and more recently – Manhattan’s silhouetted skyline from its Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, on a mild winter’s day. Now I needed to see it again – covered in snow. I ventured up-up-uptown to 79th Street and Central Park West.

Manhattan’s streets were painful to walk along; the snow had either turned into dirty slush or melted into brown puddles. So, it was a sigh of relief to step into Central Park’s pristine beauty; the space felt other worldy. For lack of a better phrase, think winter wonderland. A blanket of pure white snow covered its expanse; the park’s trees and bridges were outlined in white. It’s as if the Park had taken on another guise; it had become a playground for snow-enthusiasts. Skiers whizzed past; sledders whoosed down hills; ice skaters circled the Wollman Rink. The pathways were crunchy underfoot, and slippery; ducks sought refuge (and warmth in numbers) under low hanging tree branches, where the water had not frozen over. Some of the birds braved a stroll along the ice. The sound of clicking hooves was a regular one; horse-and-carriages carrying tourists were aplenty.

I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll let this series of photos speak for themselves. They were taken as I made my way from 79th Street, toward The Shakespeare Garden and on to Belvedere Castle. From there, the Ramble’s meandering pathways led me over the Oak Bridge, along the shoreline of The Lake, past Sheep’s Meadow and Wollman Rink. After snapping a picture of The Plaza from the shores of The Pond, I made my way into slushy Manhattan via the 59th Street and Fifth Avenue exit.

I’m grateful for this snowfall and whilst I hope this is the last one, I won’t be dreading the next (as much). Enjoy!

Oak Bridge, looking over The Lake

Entering from 79th Street

Sledding

Skiing

In Shakespeare Garden

A tower of the Belvedere Castle. Erected 1869.

A castle doorway

Inside, looking out - Belvedere Castle

Manhattan skyline from The Lake

Frosted beauty - The Lake

Ducks on Ice

El Dorado Apartments, from The Lake

This was one slippery pathway, alongside The Lake

Beauty and The Lake

My little poser

Wollman Memorial Rink. Constructed in 1950; rebuilt in early 1980’s.

Sheep’s Meadow – closed for the winter season though usually grassy and green in warmer months; a social space.

The Plaza, seen over The Pond in Central Park

My token of love to Central Park

Back to busy Manhattan