Exploring Central Park and the Guggenheim Museum

10th October 2014

Entry to the beautiful Central Park surrounded by elegant apartments

We have all been looking forward to visiting the famous Central Park, an urban park in the central New York City borough of Manhattan. It was initially opened in 1857, on 778 acres (315 ha) of city-owned land (it is 843 acres (341 ha) today). In 1858, soon-to-be famed national landscapers and architects, Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903) and Calvert Vaux  (1824–1895), won a design competition to improve and expand the park with a plan they titled the “Greensward Plan”. Construction began the same year, continued during the American Civil War further south, and was completed in 1873. Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States.

The area of the park is so huge, it would be almost impossible to see it in one day so we planned our route to catch the subway to a point where we could enter the park, walk through it from 8th Avenue to 5th Avenue on the other side of the park to visit the Guggenheim Museum.   We soon came to the lake, named the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, and walked around it as far as we could (strict instructions are given as to walking or jogging in an anti-clockwise direction only, and no bicycles, but like most similar instructions in New York (crossing the road!) these instructions are mostly ignored).  It was a lovely sunny day and we eventually had the opportunity of seeing the entire width of the park and the apartments and buildings on both 5th Avenue and 8th Avenue.

Buildings on 5th Avenue reflected in Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

We could see the top of the Guggenheim Museum which we kept in sight to help us find our way out of the park, and eventually came upon this most unusual and exciting building.  The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, often referred to as The Guggenheim, is an art museum located at 1071 5th Avenue on the corner of East 89th Street in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan. It is the permanent home of a renowned and continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist early Modern and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. The museum was established by the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation in 1939 as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, under the guidance of its first director, the artist Hilla von Rebay.  It adopted its current name after the death of its founder in 1952.

In 1959, the museum moved from rented space to its current building, a landmark work of 20th-century architecture. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the cylindrical building, wider at the top than the bottom, was conceived as a “temple of the spirit”. Its unique ramp gallery extends up from ground level in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building to end just under the ceiling skylight. The building underwent extensive expansion and renovations in 1992 (when an adjoining tower was built) and from 2005 to 2008.

The fabulous Guggenheim Museum opposite Central Park

 

 

 

 

The floors of the Guggenheim which form a ramp, allowing one to walk from the 7th floor to the ground floor and (below right) our view having lunch in the cafe overlooking Central Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all loved the Guggenheim, it was a special feeling to be able to walk through such an unusual building and view the wonderful exhibits, we even found the cafe for a light lunch before walking back to finish our exploration of Central Park.

The Great Lawn is a huge expanse of open space, used as playing fields, sports practice and picnics, and is a welcome open area after some of the heavily wooded areas.  Nearby we saw Belvedere Castle, then walked on to the fabulous Bethesda Fountain and spacious surrounds.  A busker was entertaining the crowd and we spent some time “people watching” in this open area.

Belvedere Castle with 8th Avenue apartment buildings behind

The spectacular Bethesda Fountain with the Boathouse and lake in the left background

I had heard of a wonderful cafe/restaurant in the Park and by sheer coincidence came across The Boathouse (left), where we decided to spend some time, have a coffee and a snack.  It is a beautiful building with an outdoor cafe at the front, and a large restaurant inside, overlooking a lake on which were several rowing boats – very picturesque.

 

Jacqueline Kennedy is said to have taken her children for tea at the Boathouse frequently, and there are photographs inside of other famous people who visited the restaurant and café.

Carriages driven by bicycle or horses are available in Central Park

As we continued our long walk we noticed different modes of transport around the park, from bicycles, carriages and horse drawn carriages.  Finally we came to Strawberry Fields and the memorial to John Lennon, maintained by his widow Yoko Ono who still lives in the beautiful old Dakota apartments close by.

The memorial to John Lennon who was shot outside his Dakota Apartments

Needless to say, by the time we reached the memorial we were quite tired and footsore, so we headed for the subway and our hotel.  Again we chose the Trattoria Bianca for dinner, nice and handy.  Tonight we pack up as tomorrow we have an early start on our two day coach tour to Boston – looking forward to seeing those wonderful autumn trees.

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