Saturday, Sonia and I had intended to go visit Rockefeller Center, Times Square and St. Patrick’s Church. They’re all basically in the same area, so we figured we could see all three with no problem. I’ve seen then before and Sonia was really excited about seeing them. I usually get off the subway at the 42nd St-Port Authority stop, because I like to do a little window shopping at the bead stores along the way or staring at the ticket offices for the various Broadway shows, but it’s not exactly around the corner and I don’t usually visit all three at the same time; two, maybe, but not all three. I figured that if we got off at the next stop, we would be just a couple of blocks away. What actually happened, though, was that the next stop was not 52nd, as I thought it would be, but 59th.
Although I’ve been living in Brooklyn for almost 5 years, I was totally surprised at what I beheld as Sonia and I exited the train station in Columbus Circle. I’d never seen either the statue of Columbus, the sculptured globe in front of the Donald Trump hotel or… Central Park. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never been to Central Park, although you can be sure that Sonia and I will not limit our visits to the Park to the one on Saturday—there is just way too much to see there.
After we took the obligatory photos on Columbus Circle, we crossed the street to enter the Park. A word of caution, here: you will be attacked by a horde of “service providers” that will do their best to rip off any money you might have. We were first approached by a series of Rickshaw drivers. Sonia and I had already decided that we were going to walk through the Park, so were immune to their bargaining; but, if you decide to take the rickshaw route, take advantage of the outside drivers, because they only charge $2.00 per minute for a 45-minute ride—the drivers stationed inside the Park charge $3.00 per minute. And the worst part is, you can’t really enjoy the wonders of the park, because if you stop, you get charged for waiting time.
If you fancy a more romantic style, there are also horse-drawn carriages. The cost for this runs about $90-$110 for a 45-minute ride; theoretically, the first 20 minutes cost $50, and up to 4 people may ride in a carriage at one time. It looks like fun but, as with the rickshaws, there’s not much chance to actually “see” the Park. Yet a third way, indicated more for the athletically inclined would be bike riding. The bikes offered by Citibank are free, and biking looks like a lot of fun. There are privately rented bikes, but since I have problems pumping, I have no idea how much they cost; anyway, I think free is better, myself. Bikes are allowed almost everywhere in the Park, although they must be walked on certain footpaths.
Personally, I think the best way to see the park is on foot; you can go where you want – at your own speed – see what you want, stay as long as you want and your hands are free to take as many pictures as you want or to eat a nice hot dog and pretzel. You can climb hills, sit under trees, have a picnic, smell the flowers (of which there are legion), even run, if you are on foot. You can also stand in line to go on the carousel or row a boat on the lake, without having to worry about being charged for extra time or losing your bicycle.
Sonia and I had the privilege of listening to a concert violinist as we were enjoying our lunch; she had a full concert planned, including “Summer” and “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. Further along, we met a pair of Reggae percussionists that had the two of us moving to their beat. Another musical entertainment was offered by a couple which combined “Baroque and native American”. They were very interesting to watch and listen to; the young woman had a rather lyric voice while the man, through the enhancement of a shot or two of helium, sang a vibrant counter tenor.
Since this Monday was Canada Day, there was a very interesting exposition on Canada, with a full calendar of events, including hockey matches, Indian dancing, product tasting, free Canadian flags, etc.
Our last stop – oh all right, the next to the last stop – was the turtle pond. It was full of, well, turtles. I also happened to learn something new about my camera: I can actually do super-zooming and get pictures of things I only dreamed about before. There was this turtle that was very camera-shy, but with my new-found knowledge, I caught it in the act. I also caught a dragonfly that I would never have been able to photograph before. The very last stop was Daniel Webster, a man of many words, literally.