At the airport‏

Hi,

I’ve made it to the airport. There’s been some big thunder storms, and the plane has been delayed by 2 hours. Both my flights are Qantas – I think they should hold the other plane, so hopefully I’ll make my connecting flight.

Yesterday I had my most beautiful day in New York to date.  I went to the Met again. Despite spending several hours there, I still didn’t get around the whole collection.  Overall I thought the Met had a great 19th and 20th century collection.  The contemporary collection was great as well.

I was disappointed with the European collection. I think the Frick has better pieces, and nothing can beat the hermitage for this.  Actually the gallery I visited in Berlin last year was pretty good as well. For shear gander the Hermitage is still the best I’ve seen.

Dad, you would have loved the musical instruments collection. They had old instruments I haven’t heard off, but which I’m sure you know all about thanks to classic fm.

It was a glorious afternoon. Not a thunderstorm in sight, so I finally got to wander around central park.  It was beautiful with sunlight flickering through the trees and dancing on the water.  There were heaps of activities from people bike riding and running, playing volleyball, listening to music, sun baking in their bikinis, rowing on the lake, kids playing with model boats, to adults ballroom dancing in the park.  It was a magical afternoon.

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I didn’t leave the park until 8.30. I wandered down to Times Square, where I bought Emma her runners, and then I just people watched until I couldn’t handle the throng of bodies any more. Oh and I went to the m&m store. They have a machine that tells you what colour m&m you are. They have all these unusual colours like pastel. They have m&m t-shirts, pjs, cups, lolly dispensers, etc. They even had a Janice mug. (Didn’t buy it though.)

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Some more thoughts:

– NY city council has this summer streets programme. They close one of the main roads on Saturday morning except for bikes, runners, walkers, roller bladers etc. I was walking to the subway and I saw what I thought was a fun run. When I realized what it was I felt guilty, so I gave up on the train and joined in with the walkers.
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/summerstreets/html/home/home.shtml

– The French have driven me insane!  The only good thing is that don’t seem to go to the cultural sights. They just do the shops and the real touristy stuff.  Man they are annoying!  Jenelle said it’s their school holidays and they always come over this time of year. They drive her crazy in the shops as well. I punched one of them today. A sure sign I’m over them.

– Tell Eugine the US churches haven’t changed all the words to the mass.

– I’m not sure what’s so exciting about pretzels. They’re too salty.

– But I had the best waffle I’ve ever had.  The only problem was it gave me indigestion for the rest of the day.

I think that’s it from me.  See you soon.

Lots of love
Alison

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Evacuated from the UN‏

Oh my God I just got caught in another thunder storm. It was the craziest one yet. The lightening was so loud. I thought the earth was going to crack open.

I think the best way to describe the weather is that it’s like Darwin in the wet season.

I had just finished a 3 hour cruise around the island. At the start it was hot and sunny and we were putting sunscreen on, but it started to cloud over towards the end, and we could see lightening in the distance. The storm hit just as we pulled into the pier.

The cruise itself was really good. You got to see another side of New York.

I also tried to do a tour of the UN today. I got through all the security and was second in the line to purchase a tour ticket when the fire alarms went off and everyone was evacuated from the building. It was chaos. Stood around for a while to see if they would let us back in, but there was lots of security around.  So I gave up on that and went and saw Grand Central station and bought an ice-cream instead.

Yesterday I just wandered around Chelsea.  I went down to Chelsea Piers where they have a driving range. You basically hit the balls towards the water, but there’s all this netting around to stop them going into the water. The range is four levels high. It’s amazing how people adapt to no space.

I caught up with Jenelle (a librarian from Australia who is Nadine’s best friend) and her husband Bill for dinner yesterday. It was great seeing them both. Last time I caught up with them was at their engagement party last year.

Some more comments about New York:

– Did you know that they have no unemployment benefits like our dole? Instead they have temp. unemployment insurance. In New York this lasts for 86 weeks (it has just increased), after that you get nothing. Which would be okay if you didn’t have the long term unemployment issue that’s here in the US.

– And good news New York does have a recycling program. Paper goes in clear garbage bags, plastic in blue garbage bags and rubbish in black garbage bags. There’s not a lot of recycling bags.

– Amazed at how well people treat those begging. There’s not a lot of it,to be honest I would see more in Melbourne. But in Australia everyone ducks their head and says “sorry mate”. Here everyone gives money. Big money too. Not just $1 bills.

– Also amazed at how polite people are on public transport. They are much more likely to give their seats up.

– Dad have you heard about air rights in New York? They don’t only sell land they also sell air rights.

– And Leanne did you find all the wooden water tanks on top of the building amusing?

That’s it from me.  I think it will be fine tomorrow so I’m going to check out Central Park.

Lots of love
Alison

“I cannot live without books” – Thomas Jefferson‏

It’s 11am here and I can’t get out of bed. I’m so tired. My legs are aching and I have blisters on the soles of my feet from walking so much yesterday.

Yesterday I went on a day trip to Washington DC.  I set my alarm for 4.30, got up and called Mary for her birthday, then I got ready to leave. I ended up deciding to catch the 7am super fast  train instead of the 6am slow train.  I did however catch the slow train home. The slow train is like your vline train – but first class. The fast train is designed for business people with free wifi. There’s about 1 hour difference in how long they take to make the trip.

The tickets were rather expensive. The return trip cost me $366. I think that’s because I booked them so late.  But who knows when I’ll be back here, and seeing the White House would be cool. Besides $300 is probably good value when you’re going through 5 states of America to get to your destination.

I got to Washington DC at 9.47am. It was hot and I was dressed inappropriately. I had jeans and a shirt on, so the first thing I did was roll up my jeans to make them 3/4 length.

First stop was Congress.

On my gosh this is a beautiful building.  It was definitely the highlight of the day.  It’s so elegant and imposing. I did a tour of this before going to the Library of Congress and doing a tour of that.

Then I walked down to the White House and visited the House White info centre. You can do a tour of the White House, but you have to organize it 6 months in advance.

Then it was onto the Washington monument, and then I walked down to the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately the Reflecting Pool is being rebuilt, so it was a bit of a construction site.  From here you can see Congress which is down the other end of the Mall – about a 50-60 min walk away.

You could have easily spent another day there, as there are heaps of museums, but I’m happy with what I got done.  Seeing Congress, the Library of Congress (the biggest library in the world) and the White House were definite highlights of this trip.

Some more thought on my day:

– Really loved Washington.  I think I could live there over New York. There’s lots of green spaces, and parks. I didn’t realize how much I was missing that in NY.

– Was the design of Canberra based on Washington? They are incredibly similar.

– Less annoying French tourists. Actually less tourists altogether than NY.

– Americans are incredibly friendly. Met some great people on the train. Talked politics and the economy all the way from Washington to Phillidephia.

– They seem to have a lot of conductors on the trains. Another example of the way that there services are inefficient, but how they provide greater service to customers. EG if you’re asleep they come by and tell you it’s your stop.

I think it will be a quiet day today. I’m meeting Jenelle (a librarian from Australia) at 4.30 today. I  might wander around the shops, but I don’t think I have the energy for anything else.

Lots of love
Alison

An affair to remember…

Hair last night was amazing. One of the most enjoyable musicals I’ve been to in ages. Probably because I knew all the songs thanks to Janice.  The poor French family beside me didn’t seem to get it. A lot of the dialog seemed the be lost in translation for them.   Although the two girls had giggling attacks during the nudity scene. I’m guessing they didn’t know about that?  At the end of the show everyone got up on the stage singing and dancing.

So today I had a bit of a sleep in. Didn’t wake up until 9am. Bad day to sleep in, because I’m visiting the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art). It’s amazing – like the American version of the Hermitage.  I got here at 12pm, and so far in 3 hours all I’ve managed to see is the 19th and early 20th century collection of paintings and sculpture. I think I’m going to need to come back again…

The hermitage is definitely grander, but this is the closest I’ve come to it.
Some of my favorites today include:
Edgar Degas – The little fourteen year old dancer (sculpture)
Renoir – In the meadows
Pierre-Auguste Cot – Springtime and The Storm
van Gogh – Wheat fields with cypresses
Monet – View of Vietevil
Redon – his still life flowers – simple buy joyous.
Gorky

Okay funny thing just happened. I’m in one of the cafe’s here having a late lunch, and one of the waiters came up asking me about the cat and the dog?  I finally worked out he was talking about the “Talking Tom” app. He asked to see it so he can show the other waiters….

Some other notes / reflections on New York:

– There is no sense of style here – nothing, zip, zero. It’s even worse than Sydney! I feel overdressed in jeans and a nice t-shirt. And I don’t think anyone wears make-up. The best way to sum up NY style is sporty/daggy.

– On every corner there are food vans.  I haven’t eaten anything from them yet, but they sell everything from pretzels, to hot dogs, to kebabs, to whatever. Some of it smells really nice, but I wonder how they make enough money to survive.

– There are also all of these fresh fruit and veggie stalls. Many of these seem to be an initiative of the New York city council.

– There are also heaps of WholeFood supermarkets. Did you go to these Leanne?  They seem to be upmarket supermarkets specializing in organic food. I often go there to buy a salad or some fruit instead of going out for dinner. A lot of people obviously do that, as they have plastic forks and spoons at the door.

– There are no fat people in Mahatten. You always hear about the obesity rates in the US, but there’s no sign of that here. Why?  Well it goes to show you how bad cars are for our health. No one has cars in Mahatten.  You either catch the subway or you walk.  Even when you catch the train there is a fair bit of walking required to get around the city.

Okay, back to my day. I didn’t get through a lot more of the Met before it closed at 5.30. I probably managed to see half of the European art section including the Frans Hals’ “The Fisher Girl” which was another favourite. There’s so much more to see. I’m going to need to go back.

It was a glorious evening, and after such a beautiful day I decided I would end it in style by visiting the Empire State Building. I managed to get there to see it before the sun went down, and then at sunset and as the lights of the city came on. It was beautiful. But my god I never want to see a French tourist again!!! All up visiting the Empire State Building took me 3 hours. You can’t do anything quickly in this town!

Hope all’s well at home. I’m a bit worried I haven’t had an email for a day or two.

Lots of Love
Alison

Hair!!!

Hi,

So today’s Monday. My plan was to go to the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art), but like many museums that is closed on Mondays, so instead I went to the American museum of national history.  It was free with the city pass tickets I had purchased. Can’t say I was a real fan. It was overrun by bloody kids.  The dinosaur section was done well, but otherwise it kind of reminded me of an old fashioned style of museum. Like what the Melbourne museum was when we were kids. I think they are doing it up, but boy do they need to. They had a good collection. I’ve never seen so many stuffed animals in my life, but they really need to liven up the exhibitions.

Got lost on the trains again today. I got on express trains twice, heading for the Bronx and Queens.

Today’s ice flavour: Oreo Overload
Sweet vanilla ice-cream, chocolate fudge and crushed Oreo biscuits. Good, but still doesn’t beat the cake mix one.

Just after I bought this there was a massive storm, and I was standing under cover watching the rain bucket down as I ate my ice-cream.  I had to buy a new umbrella today after my Melbourne one died. The new one is keeping my head dry, but you seriously need plastic pants or gumboots to keep your jeans dry. The bottom of mine are wet again.  Good news though the sun is shinning now.

I’m currently just filling in time.  I bought a ticket to Hair tonight.

I’m sitting in the tourist info centre that has free Wifi.  That’s it from me for now. I might go and check out the m&m store. The have a whole shop dedicated to m&ms.

Lots of love
Alison

PS I woke up dreaming about US politics this morning. The tv channels are full of the Iowa Strawpoll results, which the tea party chick won.  They don’t think she’s a serious contender though for the Republican nomination because they don’t think she can compromise.

Gumboots everywhere!

Right, I haven’t emailed you about Friday yet. I’ve fallen a bit behind.

On Friday I got up at the crack of dawn and caught the subway downtown. I caught a ferry to the Statute of Liberty and then to Ellis Island.

Some comments on my day:

– The Statute of Liberty was really cool. I thought it was going to be touristy and tacky, but it was actually a buzz to see. Like seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or Buckingham Palace in London. You know those icons you grow up with, and you can finally say I’ve been to see them in the flesh.

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– The USA park rangers are amazing. They do these really informative free tours, and the rangers are so passionate about their jobs. I went on this tour at the Statute of Liberty where they gave you the background. It was really interesting.

– I didn’t climb the crown. I did have a ticket to climb up the pedestal, but they wouldn’t let me in because I had an iPad in my handbag.  I had to go and put the iPad in the lockers provided. Decided it wasn’t worth lining up again.

– This was probably the first day I felt overwhelmed by tourists. You had to line up for everything. And I swear there must be no one left in France. Every voice I heard was French.

– Ellis Island and the migrant history was really interesting. I had read that you needed 5.5 hours to do both the statute of liberty and Ellis island. I couldn’t see how I could spend that much time, but I think it ended up taking me over 6 hours to do both.

– Americans are very polite and friendly. I’m going to miss being called Maam.

Today is Sunday and it has rained all day. The weather was forecast after a couple of glorious days. By the time I got home my feet were soaked. The number one fashion accessory in this weather appears to be a pair of gumboots. I’ve seen so many today it’s not funny – really pretty patterns as well.

I’ll tell you about my Saturday and Sunday in my next email.

Lots of love
Alison

Starry night‏

Hi,

So today is Saturday morning here in New York and I’ve finally worked out how I can illegally listen to the afl. Would you believe the afl blocks the radio stations broadcasting the games over the web. Worked out a dodgy way of getting around this. Thought it was delayed but it seems to be live. Managing to catch the last half of the Essendon vs Bulldogs game.

So I missed out on Obama on Thursday. Just couldn’t fit a meeting with him into my schedule.  Instead I had a very arty day.

My first attempt at the subway wasn’t exactly a success. Accidentally found myself on an express train heading to Harlem and the Bronx. Didn’t work that out until it went zooming past all my stops. I think I’ve got things under control now. If I don’t want the express trains I need to catch the one that says “local”.

Eventually I found my way to the Frick Collection and then MoMA – Museum of Modern Art. I had also planned to go to St Patricks cathedral, which I did manage, but there was a huge funeral the in the morning (an ex New York mayor), so I had to do that in the afternoon.

Back to the art. The Frick Collection was probably more my thing. Some of the MoMA collection I loved, but some pieces I just couldn’t get.

There was one piece you would have loved Dad. It was called “Thread”. Basically it was a pile of hay bales – 48 to be exact, with a gold thread around it. Once I let go of my practical side which questioned why this was art, I really liked the piece.

Another favourite was a piece that contained all these empty containers. Here’s a picture: http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1145

And there was another Dad I think you could have created. Basically it was bits of wall. The piece is called Bingo http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=91762

The pieces I didn’t get were a pink plank, a blank canvas with a border, and another canvas with a grid of it. Sorry but my practical side wouldn’t let me get these pieces.

Other favourites:
Frick Collection
– Boucher – The Four Seasons
– Holbein – Thomas Moore
– Renoir – Mother and Children
– Vermeer – Officer and laughing girl

MoMA
– Thread
– Bingo
– Andrea Bowers – Promises Promises
– Boris mikhailov exhibition – amazing photographs
– Gold Marilyn Monroe – Andy Warhol
http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79737
– Vik Muniz
– Menstruation Machine – Takashi’s Take
– Kardinsky – http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?object_id=79450
– van Gogh – The Starry night http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79802
– Monet’s Water Lilies
http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=80220

I finished my visit to MoMA by sitting outside with a glass of wine listening to a South African band that was playing. It was really lovely.

By the time I left it was about 9pm. I had been trying to do Top of the Rock for a couple of days. Top of the Rock is going up to the top of the Rockefeller building and seeing the New York skyline. Leanne had told me to do this at sunset, but I had been having trouble getting there at that time. So I decided would do top of the rock at night and then the Empire State Building during the day. I bought a ticket, but I had to wait for over a hour for my time to go up the building.

So I did what anyone else would do while waiting, I went and bought a ice-cream. This time I tried the cookie dough ice-cream. Imagine this: French vanilla ice-cream, chocolate chips, chocolate fudge, caramel fudge, and then cookie dough mixed in. It was good, but I still think the cake mix ice-cream is winning.

Eventually I got up the top of the building where I had a lovely view of the lights of New York, including the Empire State Building. I was a bit scared of the edge. Really not good with heights, and to think yesterday there was a man who climbed over the edge and threatened to jump. The police got him eventually, but thank God I wasn’t there to see that.

Footy is over. Sounds like Essendon had a win. Going to have a nap before I head out toady. The plan today is to wander around the shops in Chelsea, visit the meatpacking area, central park and the Lincoln centre. I’m going to try and spend most of today outside because the weather is going to turn bad on Sunday and Monday, so I’ll visit museums on those days.

Lots of love
Alison