New York day 5: Museum of Natural History

After visiting the Dakota and the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields, I walked north on Central Park West towards the American Museum of Natural History.

Astor Turret at the Museum of Natural History

It was an absolutely stunning day in New York and a welcome change from the rain that had drenched me the day before.

The Fourth Universalist Society and the New York Historical Society // The Astor Turret again

The American Natural History Museum

The lobby of the Natural History Museum

I think I might be spoiled by now!  I walked around the skeleton of a gigantic dinosaur and took a perfunctory photograph without really taking in the significance of it all.  This is a creature that roamed the Earth millions of years ago!!!  Next time I visit a Natural History Museum, I shan’t take it for granted!

In my defence, I was rushing off to see the exhibition on the North West Coast Indians.

North West Coast Indians


I found this to be a fascinating exhibition.  Coming from South Africa and England, I had never had first hand experience of Native American culture before and it was wonderful to see such a wide variety of differences between the different groups.  I apologise for the shaky photography as the lighting was dim (for preservation purposes) in the hall and I was trying to take shots without a flash.

This is the museum’s oldest hall and contains material from the museum’s first major field exhibition, the Jesup North Pacific Exhibition between 1897 and 1902.  This is considered to be one of the most important anthropological field studies ever made, according to the website.


Unfortunately, the exhibition left me with more questions than answers! How did they obtain the goods?  Were they finds or where they taken from people?  How do Native American people feel about ceremonial or spiritual items being on display at the museum?  Are they happy to have a permanent record of their culture or do they want the items back?

Fearing reprisal from ancient Native American ancestral spirits, I made haste to the next exhibit!

The Warburg Hall of New York State Environment

Section of giant sequoia tree

I loved this section! It was really interesting.  This is a section from a giant sequoia tree that began growing in 550AD and was felled in 1891.  Thank goodness it is illegal to cut them down these days!

North American Forests

I really, really love forests and was quite chuffed that half of the last Harry Potter book took place in them!  Couple that with my dream of driving across America on a road trip and it’s easy to see why I liked this exhibition.  I won’t bore you with hundreds of photos of the various exhibits but it was great in that it showed that every part of the country has different forests and terrain.

Giant Cactus Forest, Saguaro, Tucson, AZ // PiƱon-Juniper Forest, Colorado

Hall of Biodiversity

I was late for a very important date and ran past the Hall of Bioversity.  I just had to take this photo though!  Look at that thing!

Hayden Planetarium

Wow.  How long is it since you’ve been to a planetarium?  It must be at least fifteen years since I’ve been to one before this and the whole universe has changed!  From worm holes to a new theory on how the moon was formed, the show at the Hayden Planetarium blew me away!

I love planetariums and I love space, stars, the universe – all of it!  I certainly won’t wait another fifteen years before I go to another one!!  After the show, I took a walk down the Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway which shows you photographs dating back to the dawn of time.  You read right! Because of the distances involved and the time light takes to travel, telescopes have managed to capture images dating back billions of years!  Wow.  I may have looked a bit silly as I walked along the pathway with my mouth hanging open in amazement. (Yes, yes.  It has already been established that I’m a geek!)

That was it for the American Natural History Museum.  I went in using my CityPass and that gave me free entry into the Hayden Planetarium too which was a saving.  I would absolutely recommend visiting and would certainly go back again.  As it is, I saw maybe 25% of the whole place!!

New York day 5: The Dakota & Strawberry Fields

I’m taking a look at the time stamp on my photographs to see what time I set out on my fifth day in New York and, um, it looks like it was only about noon!  I guess I was pretty tired from my very long day the day before.

My first stop was the Dakota which is an absolutely exquisite old apartment building built in 1884.  It can be found on the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West.

Apart from being visually stunning, the Dakota is famous because it is where John Lennon was living in 1980 and he was killed in the 72nd Street entrance (pictured left above) on December 8 1980.  I stood by that entrance looking in and I got quite a chill now as I realised that was where he was shot.  I don’t remember much about that day as I was only 7 but I remember my mother being devastated and I remember not being able to fathom that such a thing could happen.  Yoko Ono still has an apartment in the building.

I then went across the road to Central Park to visit Strawberry Fields, the John Lennon memorial.

It took me a very, very long time to get the top picture.  There were so many people there and everybody wanted a photograph.  I’m not as shy to take photos with people in as I used to be but it just seemed that this was something you needed on its own.  It is an interesting atmosphere and not at all sombre; there were tour groups, John Lennon lookalike singers and people from all walks of life just milling around and trying to capture the moment.

I took a look out into the teardrop-shaped park and wondered if John would have liked to be memorialised here.  The park is pristine and it was easy to lose myself in its beauty and to feel peace for a moment as I was transported away from the bustling memorial behind me.  I think John would have liked it and I felt a great sense of calm and acceptance, happy in the knowledge that this memorial has done him justice.

New York day 4: Mets vs. Cardinals

It had been quite a day so far! I’d woken up in Manhattan, spent the morning at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the afternoon on both sides of Brooklyn Bridge and in the early evening, I made my way to Queens to Citi Field, the new world class home of the New York Mets.  One of my biggest dreams had been to see live games of the major American sports - baseball, basketball, ice hockey and football and I am happy to say that I achieved one of those dreams that night!

New York Mets vs. St Louis Cardinals, 24 June 2009


The new Citi Field stadium is absolutely gorgeous and so classy inside!  I was absolutely in awe and so obviously a tourist as I stood there taking photos!


I took my seat and hauled out my trusty notebook as I waited for the game to begin.

Well here I am, sitting in a slight drizzle at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets (sorry, that should be “New World-Class Home).  I did a LOT today.  In fact, I’ve done a lot this trip and I’m only half way through.  Thank goodness I have an extra week to blog, read, sleep and rest next week!

Oh man, I hope this game goes ahead!  They just took the ground cover off and put it back on again.  Then again, it is raining again.   I may just become cold and miserable soon!

I got here early as I skipped out the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.  I had the chance to really relax for a while at Grimaldi’s and stayed a little while longer.  Then there was the whole drowned rat Emm experience which took the better half of thirty minutes.  The Tenement Museum sounds interesting but I’m getting a little weary of paying to get in everywhere and didn’t want to pay to get in and not have at least 90 minutes to go around there.

Thank heavens most of the museums and art galleries in London are free!

I’m seriously wavering about going to DC tomorrow.  On the one hand, I could use the bus money to go to the Tenement Museum.  I could also relax and take an afternoon off.  On the other hand, I could use a change of scenery and I would LOVE to see the sights there.

I’m honestly losing memory of everything I’ve done!
Mon: Central Park, Empire State Building, Times Square and Tom’s Diner
Tues: Circle Line Tour, UN, Grand Central, New York Library and the Rockerfeller Center
Weds: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Wall Street, South Street Sea Port, Brooklyn, Grimaldi's and Mets Game

I must say, if it weren't for my precious little notebook and the chronological order of photos on my camera, I would never have remembered everything I did, thought and felt on my trip!


Finally, it was time for the game to begin!


I’d obtained tickets high up on the third tier for about $15 if I remember correctly.  I’d really wanted to see the Mets vs. Yankees game on the Friday evening but the only tickets available were going to cost hundreds of dollars!  Mostly, I was just pleased at the chance to see a real, live game.

Now I’ve been to live football games in England and cricket and rugby matches in South Africa but I have never experienced such a huge thrill before as I experienced that night.  The atmosphere was absolutely electric and yes, in answer to Stephen’s first question, it was complete with the organ and the horns too.  I had loads of fun shouting “Let’s Go Mets!” with the crowd and have to declare that I am now officially a New York Mets fan.

The one thing I had never really appreciated about baseball before is how short the innings are.  Runs are few and far between but I was lucky enough to see a home run by Evans in the fourth innings.  Unfortunately, my photo of the home run has a man standing in the middle of it as he shot into the air as I took it!

I eventually had to leave during the 8th innings though.  I was absolutely freezing and wasn’t sure if Stephen would appreciate me charging a New York Mets sweater to his credit card.  I’d like to say for the record how deeply I regret the decision not to buy one and I will certainly do so next time I am in New York!

The final score was Mets 11, Cardinals 0.  This is the scoring summary for those of you who are interested.


I caught the subway home from Citi Field all the way to West 110th Street for the princely sum of $2.  Take that London!  What you lose in new York on admission fees, you certainly make up in the cost of transport!

As I came to the end of the fourth day in New York, I found myself insanely gleeful to be be in bed after spending at least fifteen minutes defrosting under a steaming hot shower.  I was more tired than I could remember being before but I was pleased with everything I had done so far.