Friday, June 23, 2017

NYC Trip- June 12-13 (Part 2)

So, my last post left off Tuesday morning after we left Madame Tussaud's.  I'm afraid that nothing can compare to the virtual tour of Ghost Busters but we have an appointment at the American Museum of Natural History at 12:30.  By the time we find the right Big Bus and wind through Uptown Manhattan, it is nearly 12 once we find the museum entrance.  We find a street food vendor, and Luke and I order chicken on a stick, a Greek variety. Chad and Ed spot the Shake Shoppe across the street and bring back burgers.  After a quick lunch we enter the security door and security calls Ellen, our contact at the museum.  I met Ellen several years ago when I gave she and her co-worker a VIP tour at the zoo.  She had given me her card and said that if we ever made it to New York to give her a call.  So I did. (I know it's a miracle that I didn't lose the card !)  Ellen is the Senior VP at the museum and she had planned for us to have a personal tour of their visiting mummy exhibit.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in that exhibit so I can only say that it was extremely interesting and our guide, Andrew, the mummy expert, gave us information that kept our entire group asking for more.  Much to my surprise he began by showing and talking about the Peruvian mummies. He told us that in South America it was a technique used by everyone, even the most common people. In Egypt, however, the practice was much more elitist. We were also provided with VIP Passes that gave us entrance to all of their special exhibits such as the IMax theater, planetarium and probably others that we did not have time for.  The museum itself took up an entire block and there were 4 floors open to the public.  I think it would take a month to thoroughly see all of the exhibits in their entirety.  We especially enjoyed the dinosaur exhibit but my favorite was the floor with the North America animals.  Our passes are good until next May so I might just have to plan another trip!
The Big Bus, our transportation

Some of the sights on the way to the museum.  A hippo in a tutu!

The Julliard School of Music
The front entrance of the American Museum of Natural History

I apologize, Peg, you didn't know I was taking this picture.

After the Mummy tour we were on our own.  Luke, Lily and I ran from floor to floor like a bunch of school kids, trying to see as much as we possibly could.  I would highly recommend this museum to anyone visiting New York City.  Everyone in our group was extremely impressed with the enormity and quality of exhibits. For more info click here:  AMNH.ORG
In the Hall of African Animals

The Titanosaur

So large he wouldn't fit in one room. The Titanosaur was the last surviving group of long-necked dinosaurs and included some of the heaviest creatures on earth estimated to have weighed up to 90 tons.  The Titanosaurus genus was named for the mythological Titans of Ancient Greece. 
My personal favorite, although I prefer them alive, was the Hall of  North American  Mammals.

Pronghorn and Bison

Lily and Bison

Luke and Lily with the Grizzly Bears
After wearing ourselves out at the museum, Trish, Chad and the kids took a 12 minute Uber ride back to the hotel as they had tickets to see Aladdin.  Ed, Peg and I boarded the Big Bus and continued our circuit that took us around Central Park.  I decided to get off at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, a church that I had hoped to see on our last trip.  Peg didn't want to do the steps and Ed had no interest in either the steps or the church so they stayed on the bus and continued back to Time Square.  I am so glad that I stopped and even though it was near closing I had the opportunity to see inside the largest cathedral in the world. The cornerstone was laid in 1892 and is chartered as "A house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership."  Behind the main sanctuary altar are 7 Chapels of the Tongues to commemorate the major immigrant groups that were pouring into the city at that time. Although the church was anchored in Episcopal and Anglican traditions, the Cathedral is nourished by the ideas and liturgies of other faiths. Priests, Rabbis Monks and Imams share the pulpit during the over 30 worship services held here each week.  Equally important are the visiting artists, writers, musicians and philosophers who help educate. "Art is a window into the minds of others, fostering the empathy that is necessary for community and spiritual growth." Inside this cathedral well known speakers such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama have all used this venue to share philosophies or to address issues of injustice both in America and abroad.
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine

Stained glass windows depict thematic scenes with both religious and secular images.
They included a 1925 TV, a human skeleton and Michelangelo carving David.

The shallow dome you see near the center of this photo was erected as a temporary roof in 1909 by Rafael Guastavino.
The Statue of Liberty (w/o the pedestal) would fit comfortably under the structure

There were many carved figures, the most recent included Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Susan B. Anthony and Mohandas Gandhi.

The Historical Parapet represents revered icons of the first twenty centuries of the Christian era.
The Altar

The Great Rose window

The 8 granite columns that surround the High Altar were quarried on the island of Vinalhaven, Maine.
Each column is 55 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter and weighs 130 tons.

The 8,500 pipes of the Great Organ surround the Cathedral's choir stalls.
The pipes range from the size of a pencil to 32 feet tall.

The Nave, nearest the entrance, had many interesting bronze sculptures on display

Although this may appear to be out of place in a cathedral, it was my favorite.

The Nave floor, known as the Pilgrim's Pavement, included bronze medallions representing
pilgrimage sites throughout the world.

A sculpture dedicated to fallen members of the NYFD

This is the Great Rose window over the front doors. It is 40 feet in diameter
and the largest stained glass window in the United States.

The Great Bronze doors were cast by Barbedienne of Paris,
who also cast the Statue of Liberty.  Each door is 18 feet high, 6 feet wide and weighs 3 tons.

The cathedral was closing to the public as I was leaving and was so glad that I spent some time there. If you would like more information you can visit   Remember I mentioned Trish's 12 minute Uber ride?  Well the Big Bus was a bit longer, try 1 hour and 50 minutes longer.  Had I not been on a bus with no air conditioning downstairs which is where the only available seats were, it wouldn't have been so bad.  It was 5 o'clock and still nearly 90 degrees.  It was so hot that the bus was driving, illegally but much appreciated, with the doors open.  Our narrator made the announcement, as we approached Harlem, that the kids had "uncapped" the fire hydrants and were diverting the water to soak the tourists on top of the double decker buses. I was so hoping that some electronic geek would come downstairs to protect his gear and I would race up the stairs to take his seat and cool off.  It was so hot that no one took the bait although we did take a direct hit and luckily the water dripped down on the poor souls below.  Several stops later a single passenger disembarked and I went upstairs and found the rest of the ride much more tolerable.  The problem was that on this evening there was a street closure for Museum Fest.  The fest is a night when admission to all of the museums on 5th Ave are free. This meant we were taking a detour during rush hour, even though in NYC it is difficult to tell the difference between rush and non rush hours.  I returned to the Crown Plaza Hotel not long after Ed and Peg and we walked down to the Pig & Whistle for dinner.  Ed had the fish & chips, I had Shepherd's Pie and I think Peg had scallops.

On Wednesday morning we slept in and after we packed we walked to Ellen's Stardust Diner.  Peg stayed in bed.  Sharon and I had eaten lunch here on our visit and I really enjoyed it and thought Luke and Lily might like it too.  All of the wait staff are aspiring singers hoping to make it on Broadway.  So they not only serve you breakfast, lunch or dinner, but they also sing Broadway show tunes.  So you get fed and entertained all at the same time!  Our waitress sang a song from The Little Mermaid and even serenaded Luke and Lily, causing much embarrassment, as she walked through the restaurant.  It was the perfect ending to a perfect visit to New York City.
Have a Happy 4th of July!!

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