New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and American Museum of Natural History

It rained cats and dogs the entire day that one Saturday. So, I had a quick change of plans and decided that it’s a day to be spent indoors … at the museums. For the entire day, it was spent at the The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History.

Many of the museums in New York are located along what is known as the Museum Mile which runs along 5th Ave by Central Park. Along this stretch are ten museums .

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the “Mets” is not the same as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The Mets is actually one of the most influential art museum in the world along with the ranks of the Lovre in Paris. It is the home of numerous important art pieces too.


Being a Saturday, it was very crowded. Looks like a lot of people had the same plan as I did too … spending the day at the museums. I first headed off to the cloak room. There was a long line which took me about 10 minutes before I could hand off my bag and jacket to them. All I needed for the day was my camera.


Got myself the all important audio guide, a map of the museum and I am all set. Checking the floor plan, it appears that there is no way I could cover everything as I also wanted to visit the other museum too in the afternoon. They have an extensive collection and are located on two floors. I decided to cover the several Asian Art sections and European Paintings, and leave what ever time I had roaming the place until it’s time head off to the Natural History Museum.


After my visit to Europe earlier this year when I had a chance to visit the Lovre and the Rijksmuseum, I had gathered quite a bit of knowledge about European Art. There was quite an extensive collection of Rembrandts here.


The painting below by van Gogh is called Mother Roulin And Her Baby. Continue reading

New York: Congee Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown

There were really nothing to see in Chinatown really. On the main road, there were rows and rows of stalls and shops selling the same kind of stuff you normally get in Chinatowns all over the world … knock-off watches, clothings, perfumes and what nots.

I went around to look for Little Italy and true to what I had read, Little Italy is nothing more than a short street of some Italian restaurants. The Chinatown had encroached into Little Italy so much that if I did not already know I was there, I would never had known this is Little Italy.

It was beginning to rain heavily … so heavy that I did not take out my camera to take any pictures while there. Since it was quite late already and the only thing I had since morning is a bagel and a giant pretzel, I thought it’s time for some food.

It was in Bowery Street that I saw what really appealed to me in this cold rainy weather … congee. The restaurant I went into was just simply called the Congee Chinese Restaurant.


They have a really extensive menu. I find that the Chinese restaurants in the US (for example San Francisco, New York) have bigger menus than what we have in Vancouver. It had also a wider variety of menu items.

In this restaurant, their congee menu is quite extensive … and have quite a few unique types that you normally don’t find else where. I ordered the Abalone and Frog Porridge.


The porridge is served boiling hot in a hot pot. With a few dashes of pepper and soya sauce, this pot of congee was just what I needed. Besides warming me up, I had not had real chinese food for the past few days. Moreover, my feet is killing me. I stayed in the restaurant for over an hour and took my time reading and planning for my trip the next day.


Congee Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

New York: The NYSE and Federal House

After the visit to the WTC, I headed next to the direction of the NYSE. Lower Manhattan is really small and compact. Seems to me like everything is about 5 minutes walk from one place to another.

I wanted to check out the Federal Reserve Bank. It is here that a quarter of the world’s known gold bullion is stored deep inside this building. There are 10s of billions of dollars worth of gold bar stored 5 stories underground. The gold here are mostly owned by governments and international organizations around the world. As countries made payments to each other, gold bars could simply be wheeled from one country’s vault to the next. This is not the only Reserve Banks in the US … this is one of twelve but this is the biggest of all.

My guide book says that there is a exhibition of “The History of Money” and is opened for visitors but I just could not find the entrance. Every door seems to be heavily locked … no opened welcoming doors. I am guessing that they do not open for visitors anymore after 9-11. Anyone could confirm this?


Security around the New York Stock Exchange is really tight. All around the block, there are barricades designed in the form of street art. Also, there are not only policemen but there are heavily armed SWAT team patrolling the place. They are armed to their teeth. I wanted to take a picture of them but had second thoughts!


Right in front NYSE is the Federal House, where the bronze statue of George Washington looks on down Wall Street.


It is on these steps of the Federal House that George Washington took his oath as the first President of the United States in 1789. Continue reading

New York: The World Trade Center

So … where were you on 9-11 when the World Trade Center was attacked?

For me I remember that morning well. When I switched on the TV in the morning, the first plane had just hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It was all surreal. At the time, all the report was saying is that a small plane hit the tower … and then everyone saw it … a second plane coming in from the south and hit the other building. I still went to work that morning, I thought I had to because my company was only days from cutting over to production a $30 million project. Before I left home, one tower came down. Driving to work, I heard on the radio that the second tower came down too. Nothing much happened at work that day even though we’re in a different country and thousands of miles away. It’s the day the world stopped. This is just my little account of the event.

In New York, there are over 8 million people. I know everyone of them has something to share of that day when it happened, if you ask them. It happened to them and their city. The 9-11 event will stay with them for the rest of their life.

The first plane screamed just over the light brown building below before crashing into the North Tower. Everyone knows that both 1 WTC and 2 WTC collapsed but seven hours later 7 WTC (48 stories high) too collapsed from the damage and fire. When I was in NYC, they had completely rebuilt the 7 WTC building (the glass tower on the right).


I went very early to the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. If there is one thing I wanted to do for the day, I wanted to visit the WTC site. I was determined to get myself signed up for the walking tour around the perimeter of the site of the Freedom Tower. It costs $10 for the entrance to the exhibits and another $10 for the walking tour. I believe that the CityPass covers entrance to the Visitor Center because I was only charged $10 when they found that I had a CityPass with me.


The visitor center was well organized into several galleries. The first gallery started off with showing us how life had been in the Twin Towers back then. How it was a little city on its own … how people’s life centered around the towers. It was not just a complex of office buildings but a real community just like your own neighborhood.


The next gallery shows the entire event on that day it happened. Continue reading

New York: NY Bagels in Rockefeller Center

Since Rockefeller Center was so famous, I made it a point to visit the place one morning. Actually, there were hardly anything to see or do. It’s just a massive complex of buildings. As a matter of fact, it is considered as the largest privately held building complex in the world.

I can’t recall any more what the name of this church … maybe it’s St Patrick’s. It’s supposed to be one of the biggest in NYC. Since I was there early … at 8AM, it was still closed.


I had a view of 5th Ave. It was not really my cup of tea … I don’t care for all the fancy expensive fashion outlets. 5th Ave is perhaps the most expensive real estate in New York.


I have heard of Radio City. I think it is the headquarters of NBC. Nothing happening here too early in the morning.


If there is only one thing I wanted to see, I wanted to visit the sunken plaza in the Rockefeller Center and see Prometheus, the Greek mythology Titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind. But the sunken plaza was closed for the day. They had taken over the place and put in a curling rink with broadcast equipments. Continue reading

New York: Times Square

He he he … I really do not have a lot to share about Time Square but I reckon a series about New York will not be complete without any mention of Time Square.

Time Square is very much like a staging point for me everyday. During my vacation, I stayed in North Bergen in New Jersey. It is just a $2 bus ride from the front steps of the hotel to the Port Authority. So, I almost always ended up walking around Times Square for a bit.

Times Square is THE place to celebrate the new year … it is where the site of the new year eve ball drop. In this narrow strip of road, at least half a million, sometimes up to a million, people will converge here to usher in the new year.


Time Square is named after New York Times. The New York Times offices are no longer located here these days … they have moved but the name remained. While equally brilliant in the day time, the best time to visit Times Square is at night. It is characterized by the hundred of animated digital advertisements on every square inch of the building facade.

I was told that there is actually a bylaw in New York that buildings in Times Square MUST have such illuminated signs. Strange! But it sure makes this place looked so beautiful.


In my first morning there, I came across the curved sign of Good Morning America. This, I later learned, is where the Times Square Studios are located.


I just caught the taping of the show in progress. I could not get in … frankly I don’t care about Good Morning America because I had never had the luxury (unlike Suanne!) to watch morning TV shows. Anyone knows how to get on to one of these tapings?


Well, being food blogger, I will not miss a chance of at least taking a peek at the Hershey’s store.


And just right right across the street was the M&M’s store. I went into both … ended buying stuff from Hershey’s. I guess I prefer Hershey’s over M&Ms.


Times Square is very touristy, I’ll say. I felt very very safe even at night. I also deliberately went to Times Square on a Saturday night thinking that it would be the most crowded … it sure was. I enjoyed myself there, just people watching and all. I guess I will have more fun if Suanne was there too. Oh-oh … I am feeling homesick and I have four more days to go!


I’ll blog about food tomorrow … New York Bagels.

New York: B&H Photo Video Superstore

I must confess. Although Suanne kind of suspects it, we had never really talked about it. It’s kind of awkward discussing these sort of things, you see. Suanne knows how badly I wanted just a little bit more lens for my camera but after already spent so much on what I had, I know she will frown on me spending more on photography.

I had this B&H Catalog below lying next to my bed for months already. That should be hint enough. Suanne knew the hint but she just refuse to acknowledge it … grrrrrr.


I know Suanne would not tell me not add anymore lens or that she gives me that disapproving look … but it is her not showing me the approving look itself kind of makes me worried. Anyway, I sort of told her that I will just go to B&H look-see … and if there is anything cheap … and only if it is something really-really cheap, I might just buy one … maybe two … maybe three? No … maybe two. :-)

But … but … but then … I reasoned, the Canadian dollar is so strong against the US, right? Moreover, I am going to the US buying it direct which mean we do not need to pay for delivery and postage. Coincidentally too, B&H, the biggest photography store, in the world just happen to be in New York.

Oh well, I did go to B&H to look-see … and bought one thing … and another … and another. They are all pretty cheap stuff. No “L” lens this time.

For you photography buffs, going into B&H is just like a kid going into a candy store. I am not kidding. Geez, those guys have all the expensive cameras for people to play with, and mounted with expensive “L” lenses even. Why, their tripod section itself is bigger than all the tripod sections in all of Canada combined. Anything you want, they have it. I had a great time there.

Two stories high but it takes up a complete block … in here the entire purchasing process is automated. You just need to walk up to a counter, tell them what you are looking for and the conveyor belt brings the stuff to where you are. Fancy! And if you decide to buy it, the conveyor belt will move your stuff down to the ground floor waiting for you to pick it up and make your payment.


Here is what I bought … I got myself the Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. This is one of the better lens in the Canon collection. Great for portraits. It also kind of fill the gap I have between 40mm and 70mm. I like this lens but it is not as versatile for taking pictures of food in a restaurant as the 17-40mm … I needed more focal distance while with the 17-40mm, I could put my lens as close as 3 inches.

IMG_0344 Continue reading

New York: The Empire State Building

Of the thousands of pictures I took in the entire trip, it is this picture from the top of the Empire State Building I liked the best. So, I just gotta put it up as the first picture of this post. I just simply love the twinkly glitter of the entire landscape and have used this as a wallpaper on my computers. I know … it is so busy that it makes a lousy wallpaper. I even have a difficult time locating my icons on it! Who cares … I like it.

See the bright spot on the top left? Guess where that is.

What I like to tell people is that this is taken hand held. I find it amazing that it came up so sharp that I can even make out the cars and road markings on the street. Go on … click on the picture and see it in higher resolution.


I was pretty excited about making the visit to the highest building in New York. As you all well know, the Empire State Building had been the highest building in NYC since September 11, 2001. This 102 story building was also the tallest building in the world from 1931 and 1970 — which also meant that it held the world tallest title for the longest time.

I got to the base of the building about an hour before sunset. This will be the high point (pun unintended) of my first day in New York City. Frankly, looking for the building is dead easy. All other buildings around it looked so short compared to it.


The Empire State Building was built at the height of the Great Depression. I was amazed to learn that it was built in just 13 months. When it was completed and since the US was in deep recession, the building stood empty for sometime. They built it because it provided jobs but ended up with the nickname of the Empty State Building.


I went on a Friday night and just before dinner time for most people. So there were not many people there. Despite that, it took me 20-30 minutes to get to the top. To get the observation deck, I had to go through lines after lines.

First, it was to get into line to purchase the ticket. I dutifully lined up not realizing until I got to the counter that for CityPass holders, we could skip this line and head straight to the next line.


Then it was this other line right after the ticket booths. Looking at the way the snaking lines were setup, I sure was glad I picked a good time to come. It was later that I learn it will take up to 3 hours on weekends to get up to the deck. Oh man … oh man … Continue reading

New York: The Museum of Modern Art

On the first day in NYC, I also had the chance to visit the Museum of Modern Art which is also called MOMA. MOMA is perhaps the most important museum of modern art in the world. This is the home of van Gogh’s Starry Night and famous art pieces by Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Monet. I do not know how to really appreciate art and whatever I know of art is from my visits to art museums. So, I did not really spend a lot of time here. The reason I was here was because the CityPass includes entrance to MOMA and I simply had to see for myself what MOMA is really about.


I got myself a floor plan and an audio guide. My plan was to cover as much as possible to shortly before the sun starts to set. The reason was I want to be on the Empire State Building and take pictures of the sun set from there. It was not easy because the MOMA had six stories of exhibits.


I started with the Architecture and Design exhibits. This, I could relate to. What follows after this I could not understand at all …


I really tried my very best to understand. This is a “painting” by an American artist and is called The Italians. It’s all scribbling in oil, pencil and crayon. Here is what is described of this painting:

“Wild, scribbled, graffiti-like marks energize the expansive white surface of The Italians, revealing the artists’s sensous joy in manipulating his medium. The explosion of signs, ironically, is not without order or clarity: the rubbing of charcoal on the far left side of the canvas reveals the stretcher bar beneath it, a red heart can be seen at the bottom, and “rom” is written just beneath the artist’s signature at the top right”.

Yeah … right.


Then there is this other masterpiece called Leda and the Swan. Can you see “it”? Come on … look hard. Read this description …

“In this work, Twombly refers to the Roman myth in which Jupiter, lord of the gods, takes the shape of the swan in order to ravish Leda, the beautiful mother of Helen (over whom the Trojan war would be fought). Twombly’s version of this old art-historical theme supplies no contrast of feathers and flesh but a fusion of violent energies in furious thrashing overlays of crayon, pencil and ruddy paint. A few recognizable signs – hearts, a phallus – fly out of this explosion, in stark contrast to the sober windowlike rectangle near the top of the painting”.

Alright, if you say so …


I have no idea what this one is but at least this is colourful … Continue reading

New York: Oyster Bar Takeout in Grand Central Terminal

I did comment that most of the subway stations in New York leaves much to be desired and that they kind of smell in some places. Yucks! However, there is one that is the prettiest of all … it is the Grand Central Terminal.

The Grand Central Terminal is located in midtown Manhattan somewhere on 42nd Street. This was the main train terminal in New York City and was built in 1913. During that era, train transportation is at its peak. Even today it is known as the largest rail station in the world in terms of number of platforms.

The station is well maintained but really there is nothing much to see or do. Like the hordes of other tourists, I just took pictures of the main hall and walk around a bit. I would not be surprised if this is the most photographed train station in the world.

One thing I noticed too … there are fully armed soldiers in the building. They try to be inconspicuous but you won’t miss them … standing at corners with their automatic rifles. Should I feel safe or should I not? I guess I should.


A reader of chowtimes (Marie Franco) recommended that I go try Oyster Bar. I did a bit of research before I went and indeed, I found that the Oyster Bar in the station is world famous for their seafood and interior decor. This restaurant is as old as the Grand Central Terminal having opened the same time.

It was easy to find. I went and checked their menu at the entrance of the restaurant. It was expensive to say the least … their catch of the day starts at $25. It’s my first day in NY and I was a bit careful about my spending. I decided it was too much to spend. Instead, I went to their sandwich take out counter.


Sandwiches are much more cheaper. The guy that manned the counter was a spectacle. It was a one man show and I had never seen someone worked that fast before. You got to see for yourself to know what I mean.


The take-out bag looked nice, don’t you think? People would had thought I had bought something from 5th Ave or something. I went to the food court downstairs and had my lunch there. Continue reading