01 May 2008

Two Seasons of Central Park

I quite like the Jardins de Luxembourg and Hyde Park and St James's Park are both pretty good, as parks go, but they can't really compare to Central Park, somehow. Maybe it's the sheer size of Central Park (more than twice the size of Hyde Park), which makes it such a great oasis amid the skyscrapers. I had never really strayed much into the northern reaches of the park before last September, when I was staying in the relative ghetto of 103rd Street, which made it a pleasant, 45-block stroll from Midtown and which allowed me to take an almost infinite number of routes, following the overly curving paths and roads within CP. Watching pick-up games of volleyball, laughing at the couples who paid for the cheesy carriage rides, admiring the view of the skyscrapers from the reservoir and not feeding the ducks or squirrels (as per the strict, hyperbolic signs) are just a few fun things to in CP. My favourites, though, would have to be:

2. Picknicking on the grass near the southern extremes on a glorious sunny afternoon in the summertime. Whole Foods has made this a whole lot easier now that they have a branch at the Columbus Circle shops on 59th Street, which contains all you could ever want for a gourmet picnic and more. Last June, when it was the brother's 21st, we filled a whole basket full of treats, which was way too much for five people, but it was so nice to just sit back, drink some champagne, eat some cake and read the wonderful publication that is the New York Times -

And I love to live so pleasantly,
Live this life of luxury,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.
In the summertime

- and all that. The most amazing thing of all is that less than two blocks away, the frenetic buzz of the ubiquitous traffic jams is still humming away; somehow, the noise is soaked up by the trees and all you can hear in the park is laughter and lovers whispering sweet nothings, floating along in the breeze.

1. Much as I like CP in summer, my favourite CP moment would have to be on the Wollman Rink on a freezing cold December night, preferably with a little light snow in the air. The rink is often crowded and you frequently have to queue to get in but it's so worth it just to feel the buzz from skating with such an amazing view of the city's skyscrapers, edged in a starry sky. Holding someone's hand as the current '80s power ballad plays, "Take my hand and we'll make it - I swear, Whoa, livin' on a prayer" or similar (Giant's I'll See You in My Dreams and 3 Doors Down's Here Without You are also qual songs I've discovered at the rink). And then, of course, your feet hurt like hell because you have forgotten to wear a second pair of socks and so you go to sit down on one of the benches and sip a shockingly rich hot chocolate while looking up at the skyline. I haven't skated in New York for ages; the last time I went when the rink was open was last October but as they were in the middle of a 25-degree heatwave, it didn't feel quite right to go skating, somehow. Oh well; I'll have to schedule another New York trip for later in the year.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to pack but I'm not excited yet because I know tomorrow is going to be a long day and I need to get through it and the subsequent road trip back to the Shire first (which reminds me - road trip playlist to get me in a New York state of mind!) but this time tomorrow, if I'm not completely brain dead, I will probably be very excited.

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