Chapter Four: A Gorgeous Walk In Central Park & The Woman In Gold

IMG_1989Chapter Four:  A Gorgeous Walk In Central Park & The Woman In Gold

Day Four – Where’s Cary Grant, Autumn In Central Park, Got Milk, What’s Neue, Copped Klimt, The Picture In The Bathroom, Get Me Off This Taxi, Trumped, Window Shopping, You Mean This Is St. Patrick’s, We Don’t Make It To Toledo, The Dessert Drink To End All Dessert Drinks, Christmas Shopping In The Park, Getting High, How Do These Kids Afford This Place and You Can Drop Me Off Here

All I can say about this day is, “Wow, what a morning!”

IMG_1969Somehow, I was able to navigate to the correct subway platform and within a short period of time we were exiting at 59th Street and 5th Avenue at the south end of Central Park. The first view of the park was more than gorgeous on a postcard-worthy day in NYC.

IMG_1968I chose this as a starting off point, because across the street was a hotel featured in one on my favorite movies of all-time, North By Northwest.

IMG_1975After nearly being run over by a horse-drawn carriage, Tracy and I hoofed it into The Plaza Hotel.  My goal was to go to the Oak Room Bar, where Cary Grant sipped a martini shortly before being kidnapped.

NorByNorthwest_009PyxurzIt was too early for martinis (even for us), but it made no difference.

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Sadly, the Oak Room is only open for private functions (it’s been closed to the public for three years, but I think I read it will reopen), so we were unable to enter and be kidnapped. Tracy was even going to ask the hotel to page “George Kaplan.” Yes, my wife is a real (Eva Marie) saint.

imagesInstead we walked around the interior of the hotel…

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…so this how the other half lives…

P1040568…but it was so beautiful outside we quickly exited for our two-hour stroll through Central Park.

P1040566Autumn was in full glory!  The trees and pond were mesmerizing.  I believe we used up half our battery capacity in our Central Park Photo Marathon.

IMG_1977Entering near the pond at the southeast corner of the park, we began our hike.  The NYC skyline behind the pond made for an interesting juxtaposition.

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After chatting with some Canadians from Toronto…

IMG_1981…we made our way onto boulders overlooking the Wolman Ice Rink.

P1010480Since I’m on blood thinners and one fall would be my last, we deferred from taking to the ice.

IMG_3703Next we walked by The Dairy/Visitors Center. The dairy was constructed in 1870 after scandals and a cholera outbreak put the dairy industry in a bad light (cholera will do that), so this place provided families a place to purchase milk.

P1010483Tracy said, “Let’s go to The Mall.” I told her I really wasn’t in the mood to shop, but she assured me this mall contained no Brookstone or Gap stores.

IMG_1984Instead we headed down a pathway of elm trees.

P1010492According to literature we read, “The trees of Central Park have an important impact on the urban environment. They improve the quality of our air and water; reduce storm water runoff, flooding and erosion; and lower the air temperature in the summer. This is why Central Park is called the lungs of New York City.”

P1040578Speaking of literature, the southern end of the Mall is called Literary Walk.  The first statue we saw was of that great literary figure, Christopher Columbus.

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Well, Robert Burns WAS a poet, and we walked past his statue.  Soon we were at the statue of composer Ludwig von Beethoven.

P1040580This sculpture originally stood on the site of the present Bandshell, but now resides at the site of the original cast-iron bandstand that was demolished in the 1920s. I guess you could have called that transition “Beethoven’s first movement.”

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After giving a couple of bucks to a gentleman playing a mean saxophone…

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…and enjoying the park’s beauty, we carried on toward the Bethesda Fountain, which was dry.

P1010498The fountain has the only statue that was commissioned for the Park. It was created by Emma Stebbins, which was the first time a woman received a public art commission in New York City.

From there, we walked over to the Cherry Hills Fountain that some dub the “Friends Fountain,” mistakenly thinking this was the fountain where the characters from that TV show frolicked.  That fountain was actually located on the Warner Bros. lot in Los Angeles, but that didn’t deter my beloved wife from being photographed in the fountain.

P1040586Fortunately, it too, was dry.

P1010500Not dry was the 18-acre Central Park Lake, which up until the mid 20th century was open for ice skating in the winter and boating during the summer months.

IMG_1988The 27-story San Remo Building (a co-op apartment) stands majestically behind the lake. It opened in 1930.

IMG_1989Up ahead was the graceful Bow Bridge, the first cast-iron bridge built in the park (1859 -1862) and the second oldest in the United States.  As you can see, the autumn colors were vibrant.

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We (and lots of others) paused for photos on this bridge.

P1040593The colors were popping.  We rambled over a wooden bridge in the Ramble, a 36-acre “wild garden.”  This is the spot in the park to get lost…literally.

P1010519Paths go every which way, and if you had a short memory, you’d be hard pressed to believe you were in the middle of a huge city.

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This was a great part of the park.

P1010499Everything was beautiful…

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…especially this tree with red leaves, where we could not take enough photos.

P1040599The other trees were no slouches either.

P1010514At every turn, it was a photographer’s dream.

P1010522Once we passed the Great Lawn and hit the Reservoir…

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…it was time to head over to 5th Avenue.  There was a painting with our name on it that we wanted to see in person.

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We popped out on 86th Street, took a quick left at the MET, and after passing an array of gorgeous flowers, we arrived at our appointed destination: The Neue Galerie, a museum for Austrian and German Art.

IMG_2005The painting we wanted to see was the famed Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (aka The Woman In Gold) by Gustav Klimt, a work of art that Tracy has more than a passing acquaintance.  Adele Bloch-Bauer (1881–1925) was a wealthy member of Viennese society. She was a patron and close friend of Klimt. After she died, her husband had to flee when the Nazis annexed Austria. For those of you who don’t know the background on this painting, Maria Altmann was the niece of the Adele Bloch-Bauer, the woman in the portrait, Woman in Gold.

Her aunt gave her the diamond necklace as a wedding gift.  When they were forced to flee Austria, the painting, the necklace and many other items were seized by the Nazis.  This painting spent decades at the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna and is considered Austria’s Mona Lisa.  Mrs. Altmann took the Austrian government to court and ultimately won the return of this and four other paintings.  The necklace was never recovered.

In June 2006 the work was sold for $135 million to Ronald Lauder for the Neue Galerie, at the time a record price for a painting.  See the movie (Woman in Gold) or read the book!  Fascinating painting and even more fascinating history.

Tracy happens to work with an attorney who was Mrs. Altmann’s longtime neighbor and who told her that the movie (Woman In Gold) was pretty darn accurate (90%).

It was $20 apiece to get inside this beautiful building with an ornate staircase.  There are no photos allowed inside (the staircase was ok to photograph).

P1040606We saw the painting, and similarly to the Mona Lisa, it’s much smaller than we had envisioned. I know a lot of people are enamored with this museum, but truthfully after viewing a couple of other Klimt paintings that we liked, there was nothing that interested us throughout the rest of the museum, so we hightailed it out within a half hour.

IMG_2006Tracy then took out her phone and showed me a photo of The Woman In Gold. “How did you get that?” I asked. She smiled and replied, “The bathroom.”  It turns out there is a poster in the bathroom where you can take a picture of it.

By now our feet were aching, and we wanted to have lunch at a Spanish restaurant called Toledo that was all the way down at 36th. With memories of yesterday’s fiasco, I hailed a cab when we got to the MET. Now, we had a new fiasco.

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Traffic on 5th Avenue in the early afternoon travels slower than molasses. I swear I saw a guy in a wheelchair zoom past us.

By the time we reached the Plaza Hotel, the fare was already at $12. We got out there and instead of The Woman In Gold, there was The Statue In Gold. At the Grand Army Plaza in front of the hotel is a golden equestrian statue. It features Union General William Tecumseh Sherman sitting on his horse right behind “Winged Victory.”

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We were standing at 5th Avenue and 59th Street, and when Tracy asked me what street Toledo was located on, I wished I were in Toledo…Toledo, Ohio. “36th,” I whispered.  Fortunately it was sunny so Tracy had no umbrella to impale me with, so on we marched.

P1040610After just a couple of blocks, we looked across the street and there stood Trump Tower.  We didn’t hear any insults, so we figured “The Donald” must be in Iowa or New Hampshire yelling at someone.

P1010558The ritzy stores along 5th Avenue had window displays awash with rich clothing and richer jewelry. I told Tracy I would have bought her a bejeweled necklace, but the cab ride wiped me out.

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Soon, we were at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church located at 53rd Avenue, which is the fourth church to be built at this site. This one dates from 1913.

IMG_2016The High Altar and Reredos of Saint Thomas Church was designed by architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue.

IMG_2018The New Chancel Pipe Organ also stood out.

IMG_2024A few blocks later we were faced with an embarrassing moment. “Wow, look at that cathedral across the street! What is that?” I asked.

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To backtrack a moment, when we visited NYC in 2011, we thought we had visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We left underwhelmed. After walking across the street on this day to find out what this church was named, we came to the stark realization that we were, indeed, idiots. We found out that we were standing in the incredibly beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“Where the heck did we go last time?” I asked Tracy.  We were at a loss, but since there was a service going on, we crept around as quiet as a church mouse.

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St. Patrick’s was dedicated in 1879 and is in the final stage of a $175 million restoration.

P1040620It is the largest decorated Neo-Gothic-style Catholic cathedral in North America.

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We walked by the Pietà sculpture. The pietà is three times larger than the Michelangelo’s Pietà.

P1040636There are Gothic-style carvings and…

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…I, of course, had to pay respects to my buddy and hospital mate, St. Michael.  His altar was designed by Tiffany & Co.

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The windows were made by artists in Chartres, Birmingham and Boston.

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So let me right now offer my apologies St. Patrick’s Cathedral. You really are quite stupendous, and I am quite stupid.

P1010557Walking outside, we looked toward Rockefeller Center, made a left and soon our steps were becoming more and more of a chore. At 45th Street, it actually felt like we had hiked to Toledo, Ohio. “Let’s make a right and have lunch in Bryant Park,” I said. Once again, I believe I barely saved our marriage with that call.

P1040645After walking past the NY Public Library and upon entering the park, we saw that the Bryant Park Winter Village was set up with numerous booths…

IMG_2059…that I knew would cost us some money later.

IMG_2062First, however, the Bryant Park Grill beckoned.

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After being seated…

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I enjoyed a White Bean and Tomato Soup, while Tracy started with a Country Pear Salad.

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We split the chicken sandwich on a brioche roll, but it was dessert that had caught our eye.

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Knowing that if we each had a Salted Caramel martini that we’d probably be asleep before we reached the subway platform, we split this delicious cocktail (although they made a hefty split for us) made with Stoli Salted Karamel Vodka, Bailey’s and Patron Tequila. It was fantastic, and I made many of them over the holidays.

P1040663Back outside we hit a few booths (I bought a new wallet and Tracy bought some scarves).

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It was getting cold…so cold that even Gertrude Stein was wearing a winter scarf.

P1040656We walked by the skating rink…

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…fountain and carousel, and we took the correct subway (miracoli) back to the hotel.

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No nap today…next stop: The High Line. Built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side, we had walked this nearly 1 1/2 mile stretch a few years back, but on this day, we only went a small distance.

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I didn’t know you could see the Statue Of Liberty from here, but you can!

P1040675The sun was setting as we walked out past Einstein.

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I don’t even know how this nearby building stays up.

P1040690There were a few colorfully decorated stores on our stroll…

P1040691…and a restaurant called Fig & Olive.  We had planned to go to Greenwich Village for dinner, but my feet told me, “Stay close to the hotel old man!”

IMG_2104Our next stop took us to the nearby Chelsea Market. Inside are a number of shops from a great bakery we visited on our last trip, wine stores, floral shops and a wonderful restaurant, The Green Table (ate there in 2011…very good).

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There’s always something colorful going on at Chelsea Market…

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…and today was no different.

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We hung out for about 20 minutes just walking around looking at the various stores.

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The place was jamming on this Friday evening.

P1040695Back at the hotel, the desk person made 8 o’clock reservations for us at Fig & Olive.

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This place was also bustling and filling up fast with mostly hip 20 somethings (we fit right in). “How the hell do they afford these NYC prices?” I thought.

IMG_2116After our $13 Manhattans, Tracy ordered three crostinis ($13), and they were a “Wow” dish. The apple gorgonzola/roasted pepper, prosciutto/ricotta/fig and goat cheese with caramelized onion and chive crostinis were “amazing,” so I was told.

P1040712By the time I took the photo and put my camera away, they were gone. Fortunately, I loved my Butternut Squash & Chestnut zuppa ($13…seems to be a theme).

For dinner, my “Wow” dish was the Fig & Gorgonzola risotto.  Fabulous!

IMG_2137A little less fabulous was Tracy’s roasted chicken, but it was still very good.

IMG_2138Since I could still fit into one pair of my pants, I ended up with a chocolate and orange fondant with vanilla ice cream for dessert. \

IMG_2139We got out of there for slightly less than $200 (the $58 bottle of pinot noir kind of jacked up the price).

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We walked slowly back to the hotel past another colorful window display.  I might have eaten a tad too much. Nearing the hotel, I joked to Tracy, “You can just drop me off here.”

P1040707We were standing next to Redden’s Funeral Home, a place I almost ended up the previous evening.

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Asleep before our heads hit the pillow (ok, that’s not really possible), we got a good night’s sleep before our last day in NYC. Tomorrow, we’d get up early to check out another outdoor market in the park. Then we’d head to our favorite NYC food store before hanging out with the throngs at a famous NYC shopping mecca ready to sponsor a Thanksgiving parade.

Next: Day Five – A More Perfect Union, Yep It’s Still Flat, The Best Coffee I’ve Ever Tasted, Our Eataly Fix, No Parrots Please, Police Presence, Miracle On 34th Street, You Can Never Have Enough Squirrels, Death Escalators, Taco Time, I Think You Have The Wrong Fare and Adios NYC

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