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Big Apple Unpeeled 8th October - 8th November 2010

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Exporing New York Public Library on 42nd Street

It was a bright and sunny Tuesday, when I decided to take a walk down the infamous 42nd Street. Having consulted the map I figured I could fit in the New York Public Library, Empire State Building and Grand Central Terminal.

I took a right out of my apartment, a right onto 9th Avenue and walked the seven blocks south to 42nd Street, the whole while I had the 42nd Street song from the musical playing in my head. I sang along (to myself!), but could only remember the lyrics, "Come and meet those dancing feet, on the avenue I'm taking you too, forty second street", but that was enough to keep me happy as I headed into and passed Times Square.

I took a little detour into Bryant Park and stopped to take some photographs of some very speedy chess players, who were deep in concentration.

Now, New York Public Library actually consists of lots of different branches, which consist of 87 libraries altogether! They serve the New York boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island.

The main library that was my destination that morning, was built between 1902 and 1910, and has 75 MILES of shelves!

New York Public Library, 42nd Street, NYC

Upon entering the library and a security guard giving a cursory glance into my bag, the first thing I noticed was an unattended empty cloak room. I love old buildings and began to imagine the people who must have handed in their coats to the attendant over the years; the academics and the students. Perhaps grand events were held there and society ladies would undrape their furs and hand them in to the cloak room in return for a ticket.

Cloak Room in New York Public Library, 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

Not knowing the layout or having any particular plan, I just followed my nose along a corridor and found myself in what I think would be called a reference room. One side of the room was filled with metal shelves of heavy reference books, the other side hosted tables with lamps and studious looking people with their noses in books.

Reference Room in New York Public Library, 42nd Street, NYC

I started to take some photos with my DSLR which makes a clicking sound as the shutter opens and closes. This noise managed to raise a few heads from books and I was given some annoyed glances. Hmmm...

....I switched over to my Canon G9, my more compact, and quieter camera.

Now I must reveal my ignorance! When all the immigrants from other countries arrived in Ne York, I had no idea their details were so meticulously recorded! But here was the evidence, before my eyes.

Record of Famine Immigrants - New York Public Library 1846

Germans to America list of passengers arriving in USA ports

I was more or less just looking at these records randomly, though with hindsight I wish I had spent more time in this section of the library.

New York Times Obituaries 1858-1968 New York Public Library

With Strunks being such an unusual name, I though I would see if I could find some possible ancestors.

But with no luck! I'm sure if I had of delved into a few more books, particularly the German immigrant books, I would have found a Strunks or two.

Moving on, and up a flight of stairs I found this sun drenched area.

Artwork in hallway of the New York Public Library rs

And looking up, this hand painted ceiling.

Ceiling artwork inside New York Public Library, 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

Further exploration made me stumble across a photography gallery. I imagine this space is always reserved for photography. Near the couple standing to the right of the photo is a water fountain. There seemed to be a few of these dotted about the corridors.

Photography gallery in corridor of New York Public Library (NYPL), 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

I was trying to find the reading room, but didn't want to ask for directions. There is a certain pleasure to be gained from getting lost from time to time!

Eventually heading in the right direction, I stopped to capture this message engraved above the door that lead towards to the reading room.

New York Public Library, NYC

"A good Booke is the pretious life blood of a mafter fpirit, imbalm'd and treafur'd up on purpofe to a life beyond life"

Actually, there are two reading rooms, though one is marked 'no photography'. Perhaps the reading room that does allow photography attracts a less shy library user!

The reading room inside New York Public Library (NYPL), 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

Although the room is lined with reference books, the main thing that people were looking at were their laptop and computer screens.

The reading room inside New York Public Library (NYPL), 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

As you can see, the room is lit my some beautiful chandeliers, as well as the light that streams in from the window. Floor to ceiling it measure 52ft!

The reading room inside New York Public Library (NYPL), 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

I tried a little time lapse photography.

Click to view video on youtube.

And I put the photos to music, if you like that sort of thing!

It was certainly worth a visit, I just wish I had allowed myself a little more time there to explore all the books!

Say hello on twitter!

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

FAO Schwarz brings out the big kid in me

I had promised myself a visit to the iconic New York toy store, FAO Schwarz.

It was a chilly day, and I wrapped up against the cold and walked from my apartment on W 49th Street (between 9th & 10th) to 5th Avenue & 58th Street to the flagship store, which, by the way, is the only bricks and mortar store with the other FAO Schwarz outlets being housed in existing department stores.

As I approached the store I was surprised at how modern it looked with floor to ceiling windows. I guess I was expecting an older more traditional looking store, with lots of fancy brickwork and wood paneling inside.

FAO has quite a history. It was found in Balitmore in 1862 by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz, and he opened the New York store around 1870. Back then it was called Schwarz Toy Bazaar. FAO has had a few moves over the years around the city before it settled in it's current location. It originally dealt in unique European toys, but it is certainly more main stream in it's toy selection now.

I received a very friendly greeting from Carlos, who is a FAO toy soldier/greeter/doorman - you'll meet him in the video!

So enthused by Carlos' enthusiasm I went exploring with my flip camera. There was certainly enough going on in there to please every child big or small! All the staff were really friendly and I was soon getting hands-on with the toys and games! My friend Karmadillo set me the challenge of 'playing' the Big Piano and having a light saber fight with someone. Oh I do like a little challenge!

After swooping around most of the store and playing with toys, I set forth to find the Big Piano. In the end I had to ask someone where it was & I found it on the second floor. In the Big Piano's heyday I imagine it was in a more prominent position at the front of the store.

I didn't feel silly at all taking my shoes off and trampling the colourful keys and being the only grown up there who wasn't with a child and standing on the side lines watching! I found a Dad nearby who kindly became a photographer and videographer.

Hey! Get outta my way kid! (Whoops, my new New York attitude slipped out there!)

That's better!

I can tell you this, Tom Hanks was lucky to get that piano to himself! ;)

Sadly I couldn't find any light sabers. I guess they are just not in the toy fashion at the moment.

These little fellas were my favourite thing in FAO. I really wish I had brought one home with me, but I was aware that my suitcases were filled up to the max going over to NY and was afraid I wouldn't be able to squeeze one in for my return journey :(

So, say hello to Carlos and step inside FAO Schwarz!

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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Decompressing from New York!

I've been home from New York for about 10 days already and I am adjusting back to Birmingham life.

How does one get over the best trip they've ever had to the best city in the world?

Well, it isn't easy! First the jet lag to contend with, which pretty much kept my brain numb for a bout a week. I think that might have been a good thing as it probably kept the post holiday blues at bay. Next letting the New York experience sink it. Did that really happen?!

Now I have in front of me the pretty huge task of photo selecting and editing and of course, video too! I'm getting there and am about a third of the way through.

So watch this space. I'll be telling you my tales from the Big Apple. From the people I met and the friends I made. To getting lost and having adventures. To all the sights, sounds and energy of a city like no other!

New York! I miss you! :)

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