Central Park sits serenely amid the frenzy that is life on the streets of New York City. An oasis of calm and place of recreation and relaxation. Our exploration of it came complete with hangover from the night before but that didn't take away from what has to be the most beautiful park I've ever had chance to walk around.
Getting out of bed was hard. I felt like someone had crawled inside my head and spray painted my internal organs grey to make them all feel down and not want to pull together to make me function at a regular speed. I managed to get up so that was a start and the adrenalin of another day in New York was enough to get me showered, dressed and down the road to a diner. In the diner my ears were not quite in sync with my brain as the guy asked for our order. Not feeling up to anything hot, sweet or breakfast-like, I asked for a chicken salad. Turns out chicken salad in this context is Chicken Salad sandwich filling and not an actual Chicken salad. I think the guy asked what bread I wanted. Off the pace with reality, I internally made the decision 'no, too heavy' so I said "no thanks". In retrospect this really wasn't a valid answer. Credit to the dudes in the Diner though, they did their best to make a lettuce leaf and chicken mayo sandwich filling look nice on a plate by itself... and indeed taste very nice too - I may have inadvertently created a new meal for their menu!
Feeling a little more human after a bizarre breakfast but still not quite with it, we went about our plan for the day. A subway ride and short walk later and we were at the gates of Central Park up by Strawberry Fields. Even before we had entered the park I had my camera out trying to capture some of the amazing colours of the leaves on the trees. As with the previous day, the sun was bearing all skinny dipping in a clear blue sky. It was a warm 16 degrees centigrade which for November is quite toasty especially when out in the sunshine. It all made for quite a sight as we entered the park.
First of all was Strawberry Fields. An area with lots of tall trees and exposed rock. A tribute to John Lennon is at its centre but a photo of the imagine mosaic with people sitting in the middle of it didn't seem very fitting so we gave it a miss. Norngirl explored some rocks in a shrubby area and I tried to get a photo of trees and buildings mirroring one another upwards.
We then headed down towards and along the lake where we were met by some ducks and some foraging grey squirrels. The view over the lake was very pretty and even prettier from a bridge further along.
We then wandered through some heavily wooded areas that are part of 'the Ramble' and took a break on a bench to have a drink of water and to give my still hungover head a minute to catch up with the body.
Once we got back under way we found ourselves heading up hill until we came across Belvedere Castle with a view of the Turtle Pond and the Great Lawn.
From the aerial maps I was under the impression Central Park was pretty flat with all the ponds, lakes and lawns, however turns out, not so flat after all.
We then passed some statues such as the Romeo and Juliet Statue before we made it out onto the Great Lawn where people were picnicking, laying out and having a rest, playing soccer, baseball, softball and frisbee to name a few.
After we had strolled the lawn we stumbled across what I think were some Tai Chi enthusiasts before we headed up to the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir where joggers and rollerbladers outnumbered slow pokes like ourselves.
The view over the reservoir was very pretty with the fountain casting a rainbow from its spray.
We didn't go any higher up the park as it's quite big and we had a lot more to cover even just heading down the other side. We made our way to a big obelisk and past the Alice in Wonderland Statue which was covered in kids the whole time we were looking at it.
It was then a question of refreshments by the model sail-boating pond called Conservatory Water. We were not very impressed by the service nor standard of food at the café but it was a nice spot to watch the people sail their boats.
Then it was on to the Bethesda Fountain and the Mall which were swarming with people having a good time in the sun, enjoying performers and just generally taking in the atmosphere.
The trees along the Mall had very few leaves left and looked quite human with outstretched arms.
We then went in search of a toilet which we found down by the playground to the west of the Wollman Rink. It was then up to the Wollman Rink where scenes of ice skaters and cones reminded me of sprinkles on an ice cream.
We were planning to visit the zoo but time was getting on and our feet were throbbing from all the walking in the sun. We still had some extra walking to do through the urban forest surrounding this green space at the heart of a metropolis.
From just our whistle stop walk around the park I think we understood what makes the park such an icon in TV and movies and what makes people talk of it so fondly. It's a diverse taste of nature just where it is needed most, almost a merging of two worlds, the natural and the man-made. Though planned, maintained and built to function, it really is like a wilderness in a snow globe, a hidden gem waiting for you to peer into, tempting you to try to take your mind away from the grey and blandness of living inside boxes, a kaleidoscope of possibilities so accessible to so many people. I dunno about anyone else but I'd love a Central Park near me.
That night we curled up in bed after ordering a take away to our room and enjoyed a much needed rest.