Tag: travel blog

New York … where the wild things are!

You’ve heard of how All roads lead to Rome – in the U.S. it’s a bit like that, except … All roads lead to New York. New York City on Manhattan Island.  Manhattan

And what an island it is – nothing prepares you for the noise of a multitude of people; the architecture – immense, classical, modern and every style inbetween. The stink wafting from the sewers beneath the roads; brilliantly design and efficient subway system; honking, impatient drivers; some of the world’s best art galleries. Gotta love this city!

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New York firey at work

Our hotel, the Comfort Inn on Central Park West is comfortable, quiet, cheap for NY, in a leafy street in a block opposite Central Park and around the corner from where John Lennon was shot. It’s also close to most of the galleries and museums I want to see.

And our luck holds true – this year is the 400th anniversary of Dutch explorer, Henry Hudson’s journey from Amsterdam and in 1609 ended up on a small island, known locally by the Lenni Lanape natives as Mannahatta. So this year, the Dutch Government lent one of their most famous paintings to the Metropolitan Art Gallery for the occasion – Johannes (Jan) Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.

I’ve seen images of The Milkmaid, in art books, but paper images never do justice to the real paintings. This is no exception – it’s another heart-stopping moment in art for me. (Yes, I know, get a life, Sheryl!)

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Waiting for the dog-walker

We join the reverent group staring at the work in a room dimmed to protect the assembled Dutch masters. It even has its own security guard standing next to it – a stern-faced, black American dressed in black … no one gets too close to the work, no photographs even without flash.

The canvas is small, intimate and beautiful – only 45.5 x 41cm – but it’s obvious why this painting looms so large in the imagination. Vermeer was 25 years old when he painted it in 1657-58 in his home-town of Delft. As an artist he was fascinated with light and with direct observation of his subject.

The Milkmaid

That excellent movie, The Girl with the Pearl Earring with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson gives a good insight into Vermeer’s obsession with light, and setting up the scene, and mixing his own colours.  He was ahead of his time and his work even has its own art term now, the Delft School.

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Celebrating fall season

I can’t tell you about every wonderful, amazing, beautiful, stunning art work we viewed in New York – you’d run out of patience with my blog! Any art lovers out there? Guess what lined the walls of the twisting Guggenheim Museum? All of Kandinsky’s works! In glorious technicolour. Ahhhh.

But for lovers of children’s books reading this blog – here’s a treat. And yes, it was another serendipitous moment.

We happened across The Morgan Library & Museum in Madison Ave – a collection put together by another dead, wealthy, magnate, Pierpont Morgan. (Think pages from William Blake, Jane Austen, Bob Dylan, Beethoven and Mozart scores, Oscar Wilde letters to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, Hemmingway, and paintings by Picasso, Rembrandt,  to name a few.)

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In a special room are the original working pencil sketches and drafts of Maurice Sendak‘s Where the Wild Things Are – a story familiar to millions of readers.  The drafts show scribbles of a story filtering in his head, ‘Where the wild horses are’ and a wild boy who searches for them. They also show the appearance of Max in his wolf suit.

At the bottom of the paper, Sendak gives up in disgust . “Drop this story for time being—I’m forcing it, and it won’t be forced.” After another try at a verse story about Max and the wild things Sendak scrawls ALL BAD!!!

Even the best of them have self-doubts. 

Stuck in Depew with nothing to do….

Never heard of Depew? No, neither had I, but if one travels from Chicago to Niagara Falls via Buffalo on AMTRAK, the inside of Depew Railway Station becomes very familiar.

We’re used to waiting for planes and trains now – there’s always something to do to fill in the time in the cities. Depew-Buffalo should be no exception. It’s the main crossroad rail link to Chicago, Canada, New York and Boston. We’ll catch the 3.30pm train to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

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Depew Rail Station

How was I to know Depew Rail Station is not in the middle of Buffalo? It’s on the fringe. And we were there after an 11 hour rail trip (overnight sitting up in Coach class) from Chicago, and now with 7 hours to kill on a Sunday.

Conversation with Depew’s Station Master….

‘So, what’s there to do in Depew?’ I say. The station only has a softdrink, packets of crisps and chocolate dispensor and we’re starving.

‘The Mall’s just down the road,’ he says.

That sounds promising. We can at least get something to eat and a cup of tea in a Mall. Maybe. Well, if desperate, there’s always dripolator coffee.

‘How far to walk to the Mall?’ I say. ‘About four miles,’ he says.

Walking to Depew Mall loses its appeal. Ever adventurous, Ross says, ‘Let’s head down the road a bit, there’s sure to be a cafe or something.’ So we set off with our packs on our backs in the early morning, chilly autumn sunshine.

The rail station is close to the light industry area. Of course, nothing is open. Not even the houses along the street – we see no people, no cafes, except a dog that follows us for a while.

After thirty minutes I’m freezing. So we head back – I’ve remembered the stale bread-roll and smoked pistachios in my pack. We won’t starve. Then Ross sees a large building with activity – cars parking and people heading inside.

‘Hey, we’ll get a cup of coffee in there,’ Ross says.

‘Maybe it’s a church,’ I say. ‘I don’t want to go in there.’

‘C’mon, be adventurous,’ says Ross.

So we go inside. It’s an ice-hockey rink and the game is starting – Depew’s teenagers – v – Visitors. Parents sit behind the glass to watch. We buy hot chocolate and salty pretzels and join them.

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Pretending to be a 'hockey-mom' - eat your heart out Sarah Palin.

Neither of us watch much sport on TV so we don’t know much about ice-hockey except that it’s hockey on ice. Then the man next to us hears my foreign accent and asks where we’re from. We learn a little more about ice-hockey from him, and from the action behind the glass. It’s fast, rough, noisy, skilled and exciting.

And the hot chocolate is good.

The moral of the story?

It’s good to be adventurous, especially when stuck in Depew with nothing to do.