The New York blog

When we go on holiday, I am the family photographer. That suits me just fine. But it doesn’t always work out so well for the less patient, who don’t think that changing lenses is a legitimate use of anyone’s time. So when we went to New York a few weeks ago, I had a few goals in mind.

First, to figure out how to capture some things which I normally only see after I’ve been a city for a long time. That was not going to be an option this time and realistically, I doubt I will ever need to go back.

Second, to do so with one small camera, no zoom (OK, I cheated twice when I borrowed my tiny camera which LoLo was using because I really did need the zoom to get one or two pictures. Yes, I could have cropped a photo, but I had the other option, so I decided not to be entirely stubborn).

And third – totally unrelated – I was also looking out for stories along the way to store up for the future. I had about thirty just in the taxi from the airport. It’s that kind of city. I could see why so many shows are set there – and, I now see – so many books. Three of the ones I read while there were set partially in New York, totally unknown to be before I bought them.

Of course I took a good number of tourist photos, which are by and large the same as you will see if you Google ‘New York City photos.’ The ones I’m including here are, I hope, ones which seasoned New Yorkers might not have seen before, and maybe there’s something to tempt others to consider visiting the city. Just don’t expect any of the Statue of Liberty or the Manhattan skyline.

In no particular order…

These look like chimneys in the middle of the street. If I could be bothered, I would Google what they are for.

Some of the subway signs are miniature works of art, with mosaics and images along the length of the stations. This one was not particularly beautiful, but it was the first place we went because the Lincoln Center is where a lot of the ballet productions take place. I know you are supposed to see a show on Broadway but the tickets at the half price place were $90 each and we already had tickets for four dance shows, so we were happy to leave it at that.

You will not see this for another couple of years – Scottish Ballet in New York (yes, really, at the same time as we were there – their first trip to the US). Because we see them all the time, we tried something entirely different. Seats in the front row ($10 each – can you see why we went?). Normally those seats are hardly worth having because you can barely see the dancers’ feet but because we know who so many of the dancers are, this was a chance to see them up really close. To the extent that we could see the sweat flying off some of them during particularly fast turns. Sorry, too much information?

Dance lowlight – The Joffrey Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet. Not our thing at all; we didn’t like the lack of storytelling or chemistry between their Romeo and Juliet. Dance highlight – New York City Ballet doing three Balanchine pieces. Some of the most beautiful ballet I’ve ever seen, with some parts incredibly risky (and perfectly executed).

And of course we went to every dance shop in the city. More than once, in some cases.

Ellis Island, where so many immigrants were processed when they arrived in America, was for me much better than the Statue of Liberty. It was also free. Unfortunately only if you paid for the trip to the Statue of Liberty as well but as we were going to do that anyway, it worked out fine. The cavernous hall where lines of exhausted souls stood filled with hope for a future in America and the fear of being sent back home again felt like it was full of so many memories. I loved these windows with the sun streaming through and picking up the beautiful patterns.

This is what the Brooklyn Bridge looks like without any tourists. Only because I pointed the camera up though.

And this is what it looks like at night. I’ve commented before on the way cameras pick up and capture light. This is another example of the photo looking better than what my inferior eyes saw. Not that I’m complaining…

I thought there was a simpler way of saying the same thing as these signs, but nobody seemed to want my editorial input:

The tourist guides say to get this cable car across to Roosevelt Island then get the next one back again because there is nothing of interest there. So we spent the entire day on this tiny island right alongside Manhattan and loved it. A haven of sanity beside the frenetic pace of the rest of the city. The views over the city during the five minute ride were also well worth it, but that would be a tourist photo, so I can’t include that.

We were not the only people enjoying a bit of time away from all those skyscrapers:

There is no escaping the memory of 9/11 and the impact it had on the city. We found a particularly touching memorial on Coney Island with photos of all the firefighters and other emergencies services workers who died that day, and the main memorial is haunting with its two huge empty squares right in the middle of what is still a busy commercial area. Water falls down the walls and the names of all the victims are engraved around the edges, including the women who were pregnant, with the suffix ‘and her unborn child’.

The staff at the memorial place a white rose by the name of each of the victims every year on what would have been their birthday:


And then there are the museums. Our collective favourite was the Guggenheim. The building is the gallery, a gentle spiral that takes you past all the paintings with enough space for each of them to be appreciated. We stood in line waiting to get in for longer than we ended up having inside the gallery,  but as we were there on ‘Pay what you like’ evening (designed for the Scots, unfortunately also known to others), we were not entirely surprised. Turns out you can see everything in half an hour and not feel rushed.

This is something you really will not see very often. I don’t know if it’s the best pizza in the city, but Juliana’s was the best I’ve ever had and a 450 degree coal-fired oven must be about the hottest there is. The first time we went, it was an hour’s wait to get a takeaway (we erroneously thought it would be faster than waiting for a table). The second time we weren’t even planning on trying, then we saw there was no queue as it was so late in the evening. Sometimes you just get lucky…

Central Park – possibly in every film set in the city. This was just a beautiful tunnel that the girls were looking for (from Gossip Girl, possibly), and we were there when a couple of newlyweds were having their wedding photos taken.

Just laugh – we did:

And finally, three that are not of the city my family thought we were going to see. This was just by the Whitney museum, all taken within about a minute of each other. Either at just the right time if you like this kind of photo or just the wrong time if you don’t. Me, I just pulled my camera out as soon as I saw the street.




So, I was happy with the photos I came away with. And I managed to go on my personal story-hunt around the city, chasing down a thread that had started as a storyline I began many months ago. It petered out after a while and I filed it away, but I found the second part of the story in New York, as well as one person who was able to point me in the right direction to find out the historical information I needed to tell the first part of the story properly. So I now have a stack of books to work through while I’m editing the first book on the basis of feedback to date. The variety suits me, I think. 

7 Commentsto The New York blog

  1. cm says:

    What fun to read your blog. I felt as if I were with you on the trip. 🙂

  2. LH says:

    We’re going there in 5 weeks so nice to see and read about NY away from the usual tourist reviews.

  3. AW says:

    Love this!

  4. Jae Gruenke says:

    Looks like you had a great trip! Brings back tons of memories..ushering at the Joyce to see the shows, watching Thoth, in loincloth, feathers, and bells, improvise operas in an invented language while playing his electric violin in that beautiful tunnel near Bethesda fountain in Central Park. Catering at the Guggenheim–after a couple of hours holding a drinks tray that spiral will drive you crazy. And those chimneys, which are steam vents. I think if they don’t release the pressure the entire city will explode. A good metaphor.

    Don’t suppose you’ve seen this:

    • Jonathan says:

      Sounds like there is still more for us to do then! They must have forgotten the drinks trays when we went to the Guggenheim!

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