When we were planning our itinerary for New York, Wednesday became known as “awesome day”, so we awoke eager to get on with it. After another quick, cheap and yummy breakfast at Austin’s Café, we took the subway uptown to the American Museum of Natural History. We had both liked the movie Night at the Museum and actually had caught it again on TV a few days before we left Belfast, which reminded us of all the cool and funny things we might just see at the AMNH when we visited for real.
We spent hours walking around the museum, just looking at things on a very superficial level and taking a few photos. It wasn’t that we were disinterested in anything but there really is a lot to see; you could easily spend a whole day there if you wanted to read about the exhibits as well as looking at them.
They had some really cool exhibits. My personal favourites were the dinosaur ones – there’s just something quite literally awesome about the skeletons of all these giant (or sometimes tiny) creatures no longer walking among us. The Yorkshireman seemed to take a shine to the gems, meteorites and minerals but sadly for him we didn’t get to spend much time there. It’s a pity – even I was enjoying reading about the massive meteorites on display. We also saw the Easter Island head as made famous in Night at the Museum (“Me no dum-dum, you dum-dum!”) but could not find that naughty capuchin!
Because we’d pre-booked a “super saver” ticket, we also had access to four special exhibits (you have to pay extra to see these normally), namely the Butterfly Conservatory, Race to the End of the Earth, the Journey to the Stars show in the Hayden Planetarium and Hubble in the IMAX Theatre.
The Butterfly Conservatory was hot, sticky, full of children and, to be honest, not really my cup of tea, although maybe I’m just jealous because none of the butterflies wanted to come and play with me.
We actually gave the Race to the End of the Earth a miss, since the Yorkshireman had repeatedly declared his disinterest in the story that he’d “heard a million times already” and I basically couldn’t be arsed.
I really liked the Journey to the Stars show though. I’d been to similar shows at our own little Planetarium in Armagh but this one was narrated by Whoopi Goldberg (always been a fan!) and the effects genuinely did make you feel like you were flying through the stars. Plus, by this point, anywhere we could sit down for a while and rest our poor, tired feet was going to be a winner.
The Hubble IMAX show, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, was pretty interesting too – I learned a lot more about the Hubble Telescope than I ever knew before and I was pretty impressed by the quality of the images that it’s merrily snapping away up there.
We had lunch at the Museum too, at Café on One. I had thought that the Ulster Museum’s café was expensive, but this place took the biscuit. It was like $11 (about £7.50) for a minuscule panini and don’t even ask how much their teeny tiny drinks were. Also the staff were so rude. In fact all the staff we came across at the Museum were rude. I know New Yorkers are known for being very direct and having a dry wit, but I’m a little bolshie myself and I appreciate a good dose of sarcasm: these people weren’t like the other New Yorkers we came across on our visit – they were just plain rude.
Another AMNH-related pain in the arse was that they had closed off the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda in the afternoon, which meant we never got to see the big entrance or the Barosaurus skeleton. Yes, ok, we are big geeks and basically only wanted to see it because of Night at the Museum, but regardless of why we were interested, we weren’t getting anywhere near it. I could see people still moving around in there and explained to the guard that I just wanted to take a quick photo on the off-chance she would be nice and let us in quickly, but no. “From here only”, declared the brusque and glaring guard. I would have taken it personally but when we walked away I overheard the couple behind us also trying to enter getting the same treatment. Whatever. We didn’t even want to see it anyway. Meanie.
Our last stop at the AMNH was the Museum Shop, which had a lot of really cool things, many of which I wanted to buy and hardly any of which I could afford. Then it was time to force our tired feet to take us back on to the subway and back to Kmart to pick up those other few bits and pieces we wanted to buy. This time they had more sports merchandise and we each picked up a NY Rangers top for 25% off – a bargain and also very appropriate to our evening’s entertainment. We also bought the mandatory bags of Hersheys for our work colleagues and then headed back to the hotel.
On the way we stopped off at the next corner down from our hotel at a little place called Rosa’s Pizza (or perhaps Manhattan Heroes – it seems to have two names!) and grabbed a couple of slices of pizza. I had a vegetable one that was truly yummy and the Yorkshireman had a tomato one, which seemed to also contain a lot of garlic. I bought a bag of garlic knots to even things up in those stakes and also some mini cupcakes to take back to our room (all avenues must be explored in my pursuit of the best cupcakes in NYC – these were nice but not a contender).
A quick change and an even quicker rest later, it was already time to make our way to the event that the Yorkshireman had been looking forward to the most on our whole holiday: we were off to Madison Square Garden to see the New York Rangers play the Boston Bruins. For the uninitiated, it was an NHL ice-hockey game. The Yorkshireman has been into NHL since his teenage years and has forfeited many’s a good night’s sleep staying up into the wee small hours, keeping an eye on the puck and hoping the game might end with one team pulling their goalie. I’ve also been to a few Belfast Giants games in my time and must admit to enjoying the satisfying thud of a man being thrown up against the plexiglass, so we were both looking forward to the game.
It was a brilliant night. When we eventually figured out where the heck we were going (up about a billion escalators in case you were curious), we bought ourselves some Brooklyn Brewery Lager in solid plastic NY Rangers cups (we may have smuggled six of these home) and I ticked another item off my NY “bucket list” by purchasing my first jumbo soft pretzel. It was really yummy – like a big, salty bagel. While I was merrily sipping my beer and chewing my pretzel, the Yorkshireman mysteriously disappeared and came back a while later brandishing a giant foam hand. I love giant foam hands and may have commandeered it for most of the game. The Rangers sadly were not inspired by it though, as they lost 3-2, but it was still a great game. They also pulled the goalie for the last minute, much to the Yorkshireman’s delight.
Before we went back to the hotel we decided to check out Macy's Christmas windows again. Unfortunately we realised we’d left the camera back at the hotel (since zoom lenses weren’t allowed at the Rangers game) but we made an attempt at taking a few photos on our mobiles. We soon realised that the store was still open at 11pm, so I wanted to go in and have a look at their Christmas decorations. It was kind of like Christmas had exploded over the 8th Floor but I was happy as an elf pottering around in the red wonderland, deciding which decorations were pretty and which were fugly. The Yorkshireman and I bought a decoration each, as souvenirs for family, and I nearly had a stand-up row with a woman who blatantly bunked the queue we’d waited patiently in for twenty minutes (how rude!).
We finally got back to our hotel at around midnight and took the opportunity to venture up to the rooftop bar for a quick drink and to check out the view. As expected, the drink was expensive and the view was wonderful, especially of the Empire State Building. With that confirmed, and now feeling hungry, there was nothing for it but to order dinner online again. Another random choice based purely on where was still open and delivering to our area and on online reviews, we ended up ordering from a place called Famous Amadeus Pizza. The Yorkshireman had chicken and spaghetti in vodka sauce, which he thought was nice but very rich. Inspired by my experience earlier in the day, I ordered a slice of vegetable pizza, which would have been nice if they hadn’t covered it in canned mushrooms (eww!), and a cheesesteak hero with peppers and onions, which was nothing special but nice enough.
And so to bed. Only one full day left in the City!