February 24, 2013

Goodbye for Now: An Aerial View of New York City

On the plane, while waiting for the snow to be cleared and killing time by watching the sun set, I spotted Manhattan in the distance.

Uptown (right?)...

...and downtown...

...and beyond.

While there were whole swathes of the city I couldn't see (not to mention the other boroughs), I wasn't too sad because I have a feeling it won't be the last time I visit New York.

Grand Central Terminal

The Tokyo metro system itself may be amazing, but in terms of aesthetic beauty, with the exception of Tokyo Station, the stations themselves leave much to be desired. My heart sank a little when I saw Grand Central Terminal in the flesh for the first time -- how can we compete with this?

Following 10 years of construction (as you can imagine, extensive excavation was required), Grand Central Terminal opened on just after midnight on February 2, 1913. In a happy coincidence, my visit took place just a few days after its centennial.

The opposite end of the Main Concourse. It's every bit as vast and busy and beautiful as it appears in the movies.

I was amused to no end when I read that the constellations on the ceiling have been painted on backwards. I suppose no one will be mistaking it for the sky, then.

Over the years, GCT has faced the threat of great change as well as inevitable deterioration. A large-scale renovation project began in 1998, and this also led to a new set of restrictions that were mindful of preserving and flaunting the history of the station.

The official website summarizes the history of the station with refreshing frankness.

A stroll through the shopping arcade.

One of the exits.

February 23, 2013

Midtown Fancy

Midtown Manhattan. A random building I walked through, simply because it meant I wouldn't have to walk a whole block. Each block seemed to have at least one building that had entrances at both ends of the street, usually manned by a young male security guard/receptionist.

I assume from the decor that this is either a fancy office building, or a fancy apartment building. What I loved most about Midtown was its grandness: cluster after cluster of tall buildings with beautiful facades, the wide streets that divide the city into manageable squares, and iconic monuments that you encounter almost unexpectedly. Most of all, I appreciated that the city's architectural history had been preserved so well.

The post box in the lobby. [And sigh.]

Gold motifs on Fifth Avenue stores.

Out with a Whimper

Columbia University in early February, the day Hurricane Nemo hit New York.

This was taken in the afternoon, when it looked like things were building up to a huge storm, but in the end, NYC didn't face too many difficulties.

By the time I went out the next morning, the streets had more or less been cleared in Midtown. Here, all the paraphernalia for snow-clearing has been assembled: shovels, salt, and a salt-dispensing machine.

At first I thought the icicles were simply for display.

Workers clean up the snow on the Rockefeller Center ice rink.

The trees looked so pretty, dusted with snow.

Green road salt. I thought it was so pedestrians could see the difference between snow and salt (and it looks rather pretty), but it seems it has a multitude of more important benefits. 

February 20, 2013

The Upper West Side after Snowfall

In the taxi, zipping from Midtown to the Upper West Side.

I was impressed by how quickly the streets were plowed after it stopped snowing, but piling it all in the corners like this made crossing the street rather dicey.

It was the weekend, so I suppose many people decided to stay in for the day.

A pretty little church on the corner.

I peeked into this vet's office hoping to see a cat, and lo!

An industrial sewing machine at a dry cleaners.

Flag cake?

People take snow-clearing very seriously.

Brunch at Sarabeth's, understandably considered one of the best breakfast places in the city. It was crowded, and there were quite a few Japanese tourists.

February 19, 2013

The Jaw-dropping Beauty of the New York Public Library

The main branch of the New York Public Library system, in Midtown Manhattan.

I was actually on my way to see Grand Central Terminal, but the white marble expanse caught my eye and I was too enthralled not to go in. Considering that the library is only a few minutes' walk from the station (and the Chrysler Building visible from it), it seems like an overwhelming wealth of beauty.

Moldings on the door.

Construction on this building took place a little over 100 years ago, and the exterior is noted for looking virtually unchanged since then. (The New York Public Library has been immortalized in so many films over the years, all you have to do is watch them for proof. The 2008 Sex and the City film even has an almost-wedding scene filmed inside the building.)

So much beauty and I haven't even stepped inside at this point.

The entrance/exit. Security was remarkably relaxed, with visitors merely asked to show if they had borrowed a book or not.

People are free to enter the library, and photographs are allowed so long as flash isn't used. All of the tourists around me were uncharacteristically quiet when they entered the lobby, as if they had been awed into silence.

Up the stairs to the second floor reading room.

A different set of stairs leading back to the lobby.

A super-dapper boy sitting on a bench at the foot of the stairs, looking like he'd stepped off a period movie set.

The hallway of the third floor, leading to the Public Catalog Room.

The Main Reading Room, which, like the rest of the library, is beautiful to the point of distraction. How does anyone get anything done here?

A chandelier in the Main Reading Room.

The next time I visit, it could look greatly changed: a 300 million dollar plan is in place to renovate the interior of the building. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2018.