A bit of a delay due to intermittent Internet access, but here's the breakdown of the rest of my NYC trip, late but present.
On Monday, I made my way to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, which, it turns out, is located right next to Rockefeller Plaza. Hence the "Rock". And therefore, I got to do an extra touristy thing I hadn't intended on doing. The sculpture was impressive, as were all the flags, but I must go back to NYC in the winter so I can skate at Rockefeller. It might be cheesy but I need to do it.
Also, next time I'm in town, I'm doing all the studio tours. I didn't realize NBC was in the vicinity or I would have planned to include that tour in my activities that day. I did get a bit of NBC history anyway, thanks to a short video on the way up to the "top of the rock". Not much I hadn't learned in History of Broadcast/Journalism, but some cool random timbits anyway.
I also caught a short video on being a Rockette, which totally makes me want to take a Christmas trip to NYC. There were actually 2 observation levels... three if you count the one on the roof, a mezzanine 10 steps above the "top" deck. I, of course, took pictures on all three of them, so I have many repeats. Also, I killed my battery, which means I had limited juice for the rest of the day.
The scenery itself was pretty impressive. You really get a feel for how large the city is in terms of buildings and so you wonder about just how many people, tangibly, live on Manhattan. It was a gorgeous day too, so the view was even more, well, scenic.
After Top of the Rock, I made my way to the NHL store, which wasn't very impressive. I actually was kind of disappointed. Their "largest hockey stick sculpture in North America" was just, eh. The NHL motorcycle was kinda cool... but wouldn't really stand out in a crowd, save for the miniature Stanley Cup replica on the back. The amount of gear they had was relatively low, and there was absolutely nothing from Alyssa Milano's "touch" collection, which really frustrated me, since that was basically the whole reason I went to the store. To see if they had more apparel than advertised online and to actually see and get a feel for it. In other words, sucky.
Before my Top of the Rock excursion, I'd made a pit stop at a lovely store called Anthropology, where I bought a heavily discounted gorgeous halter top. Apparently, they're trying to open stores in Toronto or Vancouver... I can't wait!
After the NHL store, I headed to the Museum of Sex, which is not a porn museum, for the record. Along the way, I caught a random sighting of the Flatiron building. Very cool.
The Museum featured 3 exhibitions at this time. The permanent collection, which takes a look at sex toys and sexual culture since way back, was on the 3rd floor. The second floor examines sex through film, from the early days when actors couldn't kiss for more than 3 seconds on screen to celebrity sex tapes and the emergence of sexually charged films. And porn. Though it stayed away from the porn thing, mainly because this is supposed to be an educational museum.
My favourite part was the first collection, which focused on sex and the animal kingdom. It went through regular sexual behavior, demystified the fact that animals have sex just for procreative purposes, and exposed the truth about same-sex and polygamous relationships in the animal kingdom. In other words, all these "extremes" in human sexuality are completely natural and also exist in more "primitive" animals. In fact, some primates have even been observed to trade sex for food and other goodies. Prostitution, it seems, is also natural.
I found it interesting to see that so many animals are asexual or have multiple or changing sexual organs. In other words, being female doesn't necessarily mean the animal is biologically female. It's a matter of attitude, not organs. A lot of sexual concepts that are tough to talk about in our modern world are shown here to be entirely natural and so, if closed-minded individuals took the time to examine the data, they'd realize that homosexuality and other touchy subjects should, in fact, be accepted by society at large. They've always existed, through evolution and through time, and should not be repressed. It was definitely the most enlightening part of my trip.
Armed with all this new knowledge, I headed to the shops. I purchased a few goodies from Bath and Body Works, then made my way to Century 21, where I ravaged through racks upon racks of discounted clothing. I ended up with 2 tops for myself, a couple of ties for family gifts, and some stuff for Ryan.
After that, I met up with my cousin for prayers, and we then found our way to Crumbs, a Manhattan area bakery that makes amazing cupcakes. We split a lemon cupcake and a large apple caramel cupcake that really tasted more like a delicious piece of cake. So moist, sweet but not too sweet. Perfect.
Late night snacking with one of Aleha's friends from school included a sushi delivery, left over dim sum, and that amazing apple cupcake.
On my last full day in NYC, I decided to take it easy. NOT!
My full day started with a tour of the United Nations Headquarters in NYC. Well, not really. As soon as you pass through the gates at 45th St and 1st Avenue, you enter international territory. I think it's basically the only place in the world - apart from other UN buildings - where you can be in international territory, and not in a specific country, like in Embassies. Cross that one off my list!!
The tour itself was pretty uneventful. It included lots of information most educated people already know about the UN and its operations, in general. However, the bit of info I found most interesting was how every year, the UN draws from a list of countries to figure out who gets to sit at the front of the General Assembly. The tables are usually organized by alphabetical order, with 2 countries sharing each table, and about 3 seats each for delegates (I think). In theory, Afghanistan should be first, and Zimbabwe should be last. But since that's unfair, it changes every year, on the third Thursday of September, which is also when the "new" session of the GA starts. The GA sessions are always underway, in theory, with each year marking a full session.
As for the Security Council, it's on call 24/7. Emergency meetings, like the one called on August 8th when Russia and Georgia were going at it, can be called late at night - in this case, 11pm - and last into the wee hours of the morning, aka 4am. Members of the Security Council rotate every few years, which we already knew. What I didn't know is that if the meeting relates to a country that's not currently sitting on the council, representatives are invited to attend the otherwise closed meeting. The same is true for countries that hold a special interest in the subject of discussion. So if the topic was the war in Afghanistan and Canada was not part of the Council, we'd probably be invited in.
All in all, it was cool to just be there. Seeing some of the gifts donated by member countries to the UN was impressive as well. A few from Thailand were pretty spectacular, all covered in gold and intricately carved. Some countries have offered tapestries, some with global themes, others mostly just cultural and pretty. The only Canadian gift I could find was an Inukshuk that sits in the main lobby of the main building. It's a beautiful piece of work, but it's nothing compared to the lavish pieces some other countries have given.
After the tour, I went down to the gift shop, which also displayed Canada's lack of "typical" items. While some countries had shelves and shelves of cultural sculptures, fabrics and jewelry that could be purchased, Canada had a shelf and a bit, and a display of maple leaf broaches. I got myself a UN panda buddy and some gifts for random people.
Then, I rushed off to Grand Central Terminal to meet up with my friend and HIO co-conspirator Brian for lunch. We went to Oyster Park, which is known for its seafood, and it did not disappoint! I had a grilled Maine jumbo scallops with herbs dish, and it was to die for. Also, the conversation was great... The Habs being the main topic of discussion.
Once my tummy was full, I made my way to 59th St and 5th avenue to dance on the Giant Piano at FAO Schwartz. First off, let me confirm that this store is a designer toy store. It's got gigantic displays and it's like an enormous playground - just not in a tacky way. In fact, it's organized the way every parent wants their kids' toy rooms to be displayed. The dollhouse section was impressive, with its multiple fabric couches and tiny pillows to go along. There's an impressive lego collection and a big baby section too. The candy area is probably a parents' worse nightmare... hyper kids in a giant toy store? No thanks.
The piano was upstairs and definitely worth a visit. I was shy and didn't jump around too much, which is probably a good thing considering the little girls who were might have gotten crushed by my intervention ;) I did tiptoe around and took the "feet on piano" masterpiece photo. Next time, I hope to go with a couple of crazy friends and destroy the thing - musically, of course.
I decided to skip Macy's and Bloomingdales, because, honestly... they probably weren't that interesting anyway. I did make a pit stop at Lords & Taylor on an errand for my cousin, and so I got my fill of expensive branded department stores that are better in folklore than in reality.
Instead, I took the subway down to Union Square and toured the shops in the vicinity. I hit Forever 21, DSW and Filene's Basement. I was going to go into Strawberry, but that never happened. Which is probably a good thing, because by then, I was all shopped out.
At 6ish, I took the 42nd St crosstown to Pier 86 and borded a Circle Line Sightseeing tour. The Harbour Lights tour is a 2-hour trip that does a semi-circle around the southern tip of Manhattan Island during sunset. And it was gorgeous! I finally got to see the Statue of Liberty up close. The camera was freaking out due to the crazy twillight light, but I did manage to get some great shots. The tour itself was a suggestion from one of my friends. She'd done the 3-hour daytime tour, and as much as I loved the sunset, next time, I'll go during the day and circle the whole island.
Exhausted from a busy day, I headed home to leftover macaroni and cheese heart attack triangles from Maxies and delicious chocolate from Sarah. And then, just like that, my trip to NYC started to come to an end as the packing began.
My Montreal-bound train left Penn Station at 8am, so I was an early riser at 6:30. I took a cab to the station because, lets face it, my purchases made my Beijing bag way heavier than it was coming in. The cab ride was interesting. I got to read the MSNBC ticker on their backseat monitor, and I guess I can now say I've ridden in a Big Apple yellow cab! I also got to see some of the landmarks I'd skipped out on, like Macy's (ugh) and Madison Square Gardens, which is actually where I went in to the train station.
This time, the ride took the correct amount of time, and I arrived safe and sound and sleepy in Montreal at 7:40pm. This time, I had to share seats since, despite my early arrival, the car was already full. I had an interesting experience with a Kahanwake woman sitting ahead of me, but most importantly, a made a new friend in Rachel, my seatmate. Actually, I was more like her seatmate. Either way, we chatted on and off throughout the trip and exchanged contact info on the way out. Hopefully, we'll stay in touch - though Facebook will make that much easier.
I finally got home at 9pm, pooped and hungry. And I still haven't unpacked.
Real "the last six months of my life" updates to come, I swear.