Joys in New York and New Jersey Jaunts

Tuesday August 1, 2017

There is a popular dictum that the East Coast of the United States is one of the places that every American has to experience at least once; New York City is an ideal starting point. A mystery to many Americans who have never visited one of the world’s premier melting pots, New York City can lay claim to a unique character. It is a salmagundi (to borrow the word from a New York institution, the Salmagundi Club) or a stew. Its character is further enhanced by residents who are influencers, movers, and a defiant few.

Although it is a facet of jaunts to choice destinations, conversations in at least five different languages can be overheard during a short subway ride here: Spanish; Russian; French; Chinese Polish; and, increasingly more frequent, Filipino dialects along with English. Culture, fashion, finance, and cuisine are topics that define New York City. It is virtually a country unto itself.

Manhattan owns its very unique rhythm, like that of a symphony played at Carnegie Hall. While in a taxi seemingly in the midst of other vehicles with nowhere else to speed away, try and follow the beat. As the traffic light turns green, the cacophony of traffic and the wind accelerate to a rhythmic crescendo and blend with the tempo of vehicles that zoom past Central Park’s verdant expanse. There, the cadence seems gentler as one gazes at summer’s verde arboreal canopies. From uptown Fifth Avenue, just parallel to the park and is the section called the Museum Mile, the atmosphere seems gentler despite the MTA blue buses, the chauffeured limousines, and Uber pick-ups competing for space. The tempo changes to a staccato as continuous progress is marred by merging traffic at the 59th Street intersection marked by a New York landmark, The Plaza.

After the greenery of Central Park, The Plaza Hotel and Condominiums seems to serve as a contrapuntal structure but its importance among New York’s urban haunts is not an insignificant one by any measure. Here starts Fifth Avenue’s rows of high-rise towers that line both sides of the street heading downtown; and, going west as well as uptown, the beginning of the city’s much-coveted real estate with the view of Central Park.

Once owned by The Donald (a New York monicker for President Trump), The Plaza was run by his first wife Ivanna who was said to have received $1 a year plus perks to run the property, a common knowledge among locals due to the extensive press coverage that created The Donald.

The Plaza Hotel is also associated with several films, “Crocodile Dundee,” among several other popular flicks. Likewise, it is known as the home of the Eloise, a six-year-old fictional character featured in a series of books by Kay Thompson (illustrated by Hilary Knight). Another movie “Eloise at the Plaza,” which featured Julie Andrews, is associated with the location. An Eloise enclave on Level A is a boutique with an all-pink and black-andwhite theme designed to make a little girl giddy with delight. We last toured this Eloise haven with a lovely young relative Amanda Bela who adored the design of Eloise’s school uniform.

Aside from the Eloise boutique, a cornucopia for food enthusiasts and casual diners at the Food Court on the same floor offers a delightful selection of New York classics as well as inventive culinary surprises. The Todd English Food Hall offers a nice sit-down service. No less famous offered at the Palm Court on the ground floor is the a very New York favorite uptown ritual, the grand tea, details of which call for another article dedicated to this tradition.

Nestled just outside this area known as Central Park South–within a five-block circumference, are: Tiffany & Co. (the flagship headquarters), Bergdorf Goodman; Trump Tower (the pink-marbled lobby and banner property that made Trump a household real estate name); all the major designer brands to the east of 57th; and a line of hotels to the west of 59th. The Crown building, associated with the Marcoses in the 80’s and the Philippine government is also in this section of Manhattan.

Should the art scene be on your mind, Manhattan is a stimulating environment for artists and enthusiasts. Art auctioneers Christie’s and Sotheby’s both have a prominent presence in the city. Aside from The Metropolitan Museum (The MET) and The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), there are privately-run museums and galleries. Along the museum mile is The Frick Collection, paintings and objets d’art amassed by turn-of-the century magnate Henry Clay Frick, showcased in his former New York home that is now a museum.

The Metropolitan Museum (Museum Mile)

One of the most impressive in the MET collection is the Arms and Armor, a section that almost brings to life combats fought by knights and soldiers to either ward off invaders or win new territories. The metal vests, shin guards, helmets, and swords are worthy of the impressive battles for which they were made. The designs and workmanship applied in crafting the metal pieces conjure images of kings and barons as if one could actually see visions of courageous knights on horseback; and, hear the clanging of metals and swords at the battlefield.

Gallery 820 on the second floor and its surrounding galleries that feature masters of Impressionism is one of the delightful areas to visit at the MET. This gallery is home to Camille Pissarro’s Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning (Montmartre, Matin d’Hiver), a masterful legacy of atmospheric Impressionism. (As part of the MET’s Copyist Program, I painted this Pissarro masterpiece and worked in front of this winter scene every Wednesday for several hours for eight weeks.)

A fellow artist and friend, Patricia Noblet, a French Art Therapist in Paris was moved to tears when she saw the extensive body of works by French Impressionists at the MET. (The Louvre is said to have rejected a major donation of Impressionist works that later found a home at the MET).

The Medieval Arts, The sculptures in the Greek and Roman Art, among other worthy displays all deserve a visit. The collection of fine silver in the American Wing is exceptional. The MET rotates its collections to enable the display of its extensive holdings. I have visited the MET on several occasions during a period of over two decades yet I cannot claim I have been to all the galleries. The Frick Collection (Museum Mile) One of New York’s gems and an architectural landmark, the Frick mansion, unlike structures that surround its gates, is not so much a testimony to the grandeur of space as it is a fine demonstration of balance and a dignified claim to logical yet graceful use of architectural elements, such as: the courtyard garden where lies a fountain that features two frog sculptures from whose mouth water gently spout into the pool; and, the columns that surround the old courtyard that is now an atrium.

The Atrium corridors displayed a Meissen porcelain The Great Bustard, 1732). This was made for King Augustus the II of Saxony, according to a Curatorial staff member at The Frick. The delicately crafted fowl stood out in my memory: it was displayed as a decorative art, unenclosed. (It may be on loan at the moment). The interior galleries have wall panels that feature decorative gilding and tapestries. The painting collection includes oeuvres by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Renoir, along with other old masters and exquisitely crafted objects. A tour of this building allows a delightful insight into the privileged lifestyle in the early 1900s that includes a focused devotion to collecting art.

The Morgan Library and Museum (Madison Avenue and 37th Street)

This former mansion home of the late Piermont Morgan is the repository of original manuscripts, documents, drawings, prints, and other beautiful objects. A collection of Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) documents are in the Morgan Library. Home of some of the most magnificent Illuminated manuscripts, The Morgan has a movie theatre, a lovely gift shop, and a restaurant. Once one of my favorite hide-outs in Manhattan, The Morgan’s architectural details include an exquisitely carved marble fireplace; and, gorgeously gilded panelling in what was once for the exclusive and private use of the late Morgan family. Precious original manuscripts in may be used by researchers. (All Rights Reserved. JBL Thabet 2017).

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