USA Travel Diary 2016: Swept away by New York’s Central Park

Never in my life did I expect to visit a park and actually need a map to find my way. We’re talking about an actual urban park here– not a theme park, mind you! But that’s New York’s Central Park for you. Maybe it’s because I come from a small country and we have equally small parks, but holy cow was I amazed to be here.

Our exploration of Central Park began on the southern end. My Dad and I alighted at 59 St.-Columbus Circle Station and proceeded towards the southern entrance to Central Park.

As was the norm during our whole stay in NYC, the sky was threatening rain. Thankfully, the whole time we were in Central Park there were only sporadic drizzles– nothing that required umbrellas to be pulled out. Not that the view would be dampened by the rain. The first thing that we saw upon arriving was the USS Maine National Monument, dedicated to the men killed aboard the USS Maine when it exploded at Havana harbour in 1898.

We started making our way towards Center Drive, and already there were plenty of things to be seen. Walking along Central Drive itself, you start getting a good feel of Central Park already.

I spotted a lot of joggers and felt just a tiny bit jealous about not being in gear myself. This is a perfect place to go for a run! Most of my fellow tourists were taking tours on horse-drawn carriages and tricycles.

If you think about it, Central Park is like an oddity against all the concrete and cast iron buildings of Manhattan. Going into the park is like stepping into a portal to another dimension. I’m sure New Yorkers are pretty thankful to have this massive sanctuary to run to when they need a breath of fresh air.

It’s a gorgeous park. Absolutely gorgeous. And I’ll prove it to you with the many pictures I’m about to share!

There were a lot of places I visited in New York but I have to say Central Park was one of my faves. You can spend your entire day here doing a bunch of different things, like heading to the Great Lawn to play frisbee maybe.

Then when you’re tired you can wind down with a good book while picnicking. Once you’re done with that, you can go listen to the musicians playing at Bethesda Terrace Arcade.

Or… Maybe go on a romantic boat ride at The Lake with your special someone? <3

This place even has a zoo and an ice skating rink in the winter. Oh and I almost forgot to mention there’s a reservoir and a number of lakes. If you’ve heard from other people that this place is gigantic, let me say it again: It’s like its own world!

I wasn’t able to comb through the whole park, but my Dad and I did manage to cover a lot of ground. We’re fast walkers haha! Let me show you some of my favourite locations!

The Mall & Literary Walk

This was my favourite place in the entire park. And based on how it’s apparently one of the most photographed locations in Central Park, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Since we were coming from the south end, we came upon Literary Walk first. This area contains statues of famous literary figures like Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Burns.

Oddly enough, there’s also a statue of Christopher Columbus, though he wasn’t exactly a poet was he?

At The Mall stands a quadruple row of American elms. Their branches and leaves form a stunning canopy above the wide pathway– one you cannot help but admire as you walk. The Mall is the only intentionally straight walkway inside Central Park, and this helps to give the full effect of these treasured elm trees.

These trees are well-taken care of and catalogued by the Central Park Conservancy’s tree crew, and one of the most important purposes these trees serve is improving the air quality of NYC. Thanks to these elms, Central Park is called the lungs of New York City.

Despite being a city girl through and through, I like going to locations where there are a lot of tall trees like this one. There’s something about being surrounded by trees that gives you a feeling of unparalleled peace. I really can’t explain it.

Honestly, I could hang out here for hours with a book or a friend, and the jazz music in the background would be icing on the cake.

Conservatory Water

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in this next spot was that there were lots of children with their parents. Well I suppose that makes sense, since this is the only place you can bust out your remote-controlled model boats. At the nearby benches, some people were armed with binoculars and a sketchpad for purposes of bird-watching. Everyone was really busy around here. 🙂

If you’ve read E.B. White’s ‘Stuart Little’, you’ll probably remember this as the pond mentioned in the story. West of the pond is the bronze statue of Hans Christian Andersen where sometimes they hold storytelling sessions for children. The book he’s reading is actually ‘The Ugly Duckling’. I love all these bookish references within the park!

The most popular statue in this area is that of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to the north of the pond. Kids were climbing all over this 11-foot statue, saying hello to the Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat along the way.

The Mad Hatter character here is actually a caricature of George Delacorte, the man who commissioned this sculpture as a tribute to his late wife Margarita. He also meant it as a gift to the children of New York City, and it must be nice to know that the children do appreciate it.

This statue was made by Spanish sculptor Jose de Creeft in the late 1950’s, and I read somewhere that Alice’s face was actually inspired by his daughter.

Bethesda Terrace & Fountain

Apart from The Mall, this area is probably one of the most popular spots in the whole of Central Park. Appearing in a number of films and shows, Bethesda Fountain most especially is one of the most iconic locations in New York. The best part? You can get here by walking straight through The Mall. It’s beauty upon beauty at Central Park! 🙂

The sandstone and brick construction of the Bethesda Terrace makes it stand out. The steps and landings are made of granite, and standing atop the terrace gives you some nice views of the park. But below is where you will get treated to great performances by some pretty great musicians!

The amazing ceilings of the Bethesda Terrace Arcade are made up of 15,000 patterned Minton Tiles. Typically used on the floors of European cathedrals, it is only here at Bethesda Arcade where you will see these tiles used as a ceiling. Made using coloured clays formed and inlaid into the tiles themselves, the colour on the tiles do not fade as easily as those that have colours simply painted on the surface.

On the walls of the Arcade are 24 trompe l’oeil paintings completed in 1991. Some of the panels are in better shape than the others, and I suppose years of maintenance and cleaning of the walls have led to the fading of the colours.

For whatever reason, I actually like the Arcade more than the open spaces in this area. I think it’s the concept of the Arcade acting as a quiet corner to rest, which this place was originally intended for. Despite the fact that there is almost always a performance here, there are spots where the sound doesn’t quite carry. And indeed it provides a bit of respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the park.

Most people would say the highlight of this area is the Bethesda Fountain. At 26-feet high and 96-feet wide, it is one of the largest fountains in New York, and also one of the most well-known in the world!

The Angel of Waters sculpture at the centre of the fountain is the only sculpture that was part of the original planning of Central Park. The angel is an 8-foot bronze statue that carries a lily in one hand, with the other hand outstretched to provide a blessing onto the water pouring into the fountain. She stands above four cherubim that represent health, purity, temperance, and peace.

This statue is actually symbolic since it commemorates the opening of the aqueduct that first supplied New York City with fresh water.

Views surrounding the Belvedere Castle

Okay, so we didn’t go inside the castle, but in all honesty I didn’t feel cheated in any way. Why, you ask? The views on the way there, and on the courtyard of the castle, were too amazing.

The castle currently houses Central Park’s weather station, which if you think about it is a purpose that is more useful than what the castle was originally intended for. As a folly, it mostly served a decorative purpose. It was built simply to make the location picturesque. Now, the castle’s tower is used to take measurements to determine the weather.

As we were making our way up to the castle, we passed by this gorgeous spot. You can see the tops of the El Dorado, an apartment building that has become a typical identifier in Central Park pictures.

Belvedere Castle is a lot less impressive when you see it up close. It doesn’t matter too much since it’s not an actual historical castle. You come up here to see the view!

And what a breathtaking view it is! There’s this amazing serenity in it that words cannot quite capture. All I remember is that my mind was happily blank as I was looking out into this view.

In hindsight, I realized the view might’ve been grander if I went up to the castle’s tower. But staring at this one how can I possibly have regrets? This was the last image etched into my mind as we left Central Park to visit Museum Row, and I couldn’t have wanted it any other way.

There’s not much to say since I feel like the pictures have done a lot of talking. But I will say this: I can’t wait to take my brothers to Central Park in the future. I wish we could visit New York together someday and bask in the glory of this wonderful piece of paradise called Central Park.

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