nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic

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Welcome back, Met

As long as we’ve lived in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been surrounded by hoardings, covering up the work being done to reconstruct the space in front of the museum , which runs along 5th Avenue from 79th Street to 84th Street. It was pretty ugly, made the pavement very narrow in places and it was filthy to navigate in the depths of winter.

This week it was finally over. The front of the Met has been revealed and it looks beautiful. The David H. Koch Plaza is clean, simply laid out and resplendent with circular fountains and rows of bright red umbrellas providing welcome respite from the fierce New York sun.

Walking south along 5th Avenue outside the Met

Unfortunately they didn’t get rid of the ugly looking fast food vendors that line up along the pavement and pollute the air with their smoky cooking. Have a look and see what you think.

Walking north along 5th Avenue outside the Met

Walking north along 5th Avenue outside the Met










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What to do in minus 2 when you’re 2

Gawd it’s cold today. Clear sky and well below zero with a cutting wind when you least expect it. Here is my guide for what to do when it’s blooming cold and you have a fractious 2 year old:

  1. Take him to an indoor gym class but make sure you’ve been before and he doesn’t have a massive melt down because he can’t rampage where he wants; this lasts ten minutes and you have to leave.
  2. Trek down to the Central Park Zoo with your trusty annual pass; a dead cert for an hour’s entertainment in the children’s petting zoo.  Today it’s your own private zoo because no bugger else is mad enough to be there. Spend 50 cents on some animal pellets to feed the goats and bribe them out of their warm sheds. Leave after 15 minutes including bathroom break where you have to tear him away from playing with the taps in the toddler sized sinks.
  3. Move on to the main zoo and check out the ducks and attempt to see the penguins inside their dark room, but freak out your 2 year old with the too dark room and leave with him in tears. Console him with seeing the seals being fed but fail because all he wants to do is get back in the buggy and be grumpy.
  4. Wrest straps onto your 2 year old and bundle up short of suffocating him to ensure he doesn’t freeze on the trek home. Walk through Central Park in the glorious December sunshine, waiting for the warmth to appear in your frozen fingers. Think happy thoughts about hot tea and sitting reading the paper when he’s asleep.
  5. He’s fallen asleep. It’s just gone midday and you are near the Met so take a gamble and put thoughts of reading the paper to the back of your mind for an hour’s browsing without stressing out whether your 2 year old will knock over some priceless antiquity.
  6. Check out the Carlo Scarpa Venetian glass exhibition and marvel at the fact you actually found it in the Met because it is so buried in the bowels of the place. Gaze admiringly at the incredible work of this artist and curb your urge to touch everything because it’s so wonderfully tactile (it’s stuck behind glass, which helps with the restraint). Take photos and get told off. Try not to forget to wheel the buggy as you go so as to prevent having a 2 year old as a bomb risk (especially thinking of this as you are far into Donna Tartt’s new book ‘The Goldfinch’ which is partly based in the Met and is a great read).
  7. And finally, with your 2 year old still asleep and still breathing, wander home via Dean and Deluca to get that well deserved luxury lunch to munch at home.


I should write guide books.

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Does recommended price mean free?

This is interesting. In NYC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an enormous world renowned museum filled to the rafters with art and artefacts from all around the world from a huge span of history. It is popular and always busy. It is in a great location on Central Park and it is a privilege to visit. So they recommend that you pay $25 for this privilege. You don’t have to, but I suspect many do and given how much it must cost to run the place, it’s probably a good deal for a day out.

I was browsing through my latest Groupon voucher email when I saw that the Met was offering discounted admission for $18. Seems like a good deal, but of course the admission is ‘recommended’, so what’s that telling you? According to the Met it’s about giving people the chance to pay in advance and skip the lines. For some it’s more sinister. Yesterday’s NY Daily News shows outrage at this and says “Looks like the Met continues to be the true masters in the art of deception” and goes on to talk about the Groupon deal, the 2000 people who signed up and a legal case about their approach currently in a New York court. 

Bit of a storm in a teacup, I think. It’s a great place and my advice would be to read the notices about admissions and make a decision based on your ability to pay and your attitude to supporting great institutions like the Met. Next time you visit a London museum and don’t have to pay for anything until you want to see a special exhibition, just remember that in NYC you rarely get anything for free. 

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Medieval Manhattan

Ah, I hear you say, but America wasn’t really around in medieval times. Sure, that’s true, but it doesn’t stop NYC from importing treasures from Europe and displaying them in a made up castle in the far reaches of north Manhattan. I kept seeing reference to the Cloisters in tourist blurb and at the Metropolitan Museum but couldn’t quite imagine what it meant. So on a hot and sunny day earlier this week J and I ventured up the A line all the way to 190th Street, which is a very long way away. And naturally it also involved a ridiculous amount of stairs, curses to you stairs, but I think my arms are rather more sculpted than they used to be, so I shouldn’t complain, really.

John D. Rockefeller Jr funded the Cloisters that emerged from the grounds of Fort Tryon Park in the 1930s. An architect called Charles Collens designed the building to look a bit like a medieval monastery and actually included relics into the construction and I think he did a pretty good job. It’s the home of the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum. The cloisters themselves are tranquil and beautifully landscaped and great fun to tootle round if you are 20 months old but hopeless if you are the mother of the 20 month old trying to keep him off the plants, climbing the walls and stopping him from falling into the gardens 20 feet below. But besides that the interior is great if you like looking at really old stuff, medieval stuff isn’t really my thing, but we did get to see the 1930s bowels of the building as we got special dispensation to use the original staff lift to go back up to the entrance – too many stairs. Again.

Fort Tryon Park is a revelation. Snuggled next to the Hudson River, which is very wide at this point, it is an almost tropical haven from the density of the rest of Manhattan. It was hard to believe we were still on the island at all. I doubt many tourists get this far, but on a sunny, hot day, it’s well worth the trip.


From punk to toddler

Well, that’s not quite the title of the fairly new exhibition at the Met, but that is what I renamed it for this afternoon. Taking advantage of a 7 year old-free afternoon, I took J to the Met to see the Punk: from chaos to couture exhibit. I thought it would be reasonably quiet given it’s Friday afternoon and near closing time on a nice, sunny day. And it was. Sort of. I planned it meticulously so that J was in his buggy with snacks, trapped and safely away from the dozens of mannequins sporting bizarre wigs that I’d spied on the exhibit website. Err, well, that would have worked if I hadn’t been banned from taking the buggy in: ‘we don’t allow strollers into exhibits, ma’am’. Arse. I’m here. I’m prepared. I’ll risk it.

And J was the only child there.

I know a bit about fashion and it was great to see so much Vivienne Westwood – although I note she is actually the same age as my mum! We enjoyed the urinals and their graffiti strewn walls, safely hidden behind a perspex screen. J enjoyed the plinths hosting the mannequins of Amazonian proportions but unfortunately they were all alarmed, so every time J went near, the alarm went off and we were scowled at. He loved the enormous screens showing distorted images of Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten with a punk soundtrack. The staging of this exhibition is fabulous. One room has fake vaulted brick walls to look as if you are in a cellar, painted black as a fantastic backdrop to the fashion. It’s a fine line between stimulation and sheer terror for J, who often sought refuge by grabbing my legs. And my favourite bit? The final mannequin wearing nothing but a few lines of black tape with her middle finger held aloft.

And then you go next door and you enter a room of Monet paintings and think happy thoughts as you wander further and stumble across a few Van Goghs or a Gauguin or two. In just a 15 minute walk from our apartment, we can be here amongst the most amazing art in the world: this truly is the privilege of living in NYC.

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The pleasure of the Met

What a lovely morning. The Metropolitan Museum of Art invited members to come in early, before the public are allowed in, to see the Matisse exhibition. I’m not a particular fan of Matisse, but I like to see exhibitions where the art is collected from all over the world into one place for a short period of time. The Met is huge, so big, I get completely lost in there. Being allowed in early is a real treat, it’s quiet, there’s no queues, the attendants are happy and smile at you. The galleries have  a wonderful peace about them and the light is lovely this time of day. I went with J out of his buggy, always a challenge with a marauding 15 month old, but he loved it. Not too many people so that he gets lost amongst them but enough to catch his eye and make him and them smile. He walks in straight lines and veers off randomly, looks up at ladies mostly and does his shy thing. He’s in heaven when a succession of young women who work at the Met walk down a corridor and say hi to him. The exhibition itself isn’t too long and luckily nothing is at toddler height but I do carefully prise J’s beaker from his hand to stop him hurling it at some priceless art. The ladies in the shop offer him some work but he seems uninterested and off we go back through the modern art galleries, also empty, stopping to take in an Edward Hopper or two. The cafe is also very empty and we watch the squirrels and dogs  in central park from the enormous windows at the back of the Met, drinking tea and munching on croissants. Wandering back to find the cloakrooms we get completely lost and end up in the wrong entrance, full of backpacks and teenagers and noise. The gentle quietness, the privilege of the empty Met quickly lost as we forge our way back to the cloakroom and out into the cold, snowy Manhattan morning. How lovely.