Transitions – a last jaunt in Central Park

The last months have been hectic with me leaving New York and  settling back in my hometown of London in early December 2014.

Life in the UK has been and continues to be a major transition –  hence no posts for months! Getting back to the Blog I’m expanding its scope to cover my experiences in the UK and beyond in addition to those in New York and the US. Since, while in New York, I spent a lot of time in Central Park it seems appropriate to mark this transition with a look back at my last visit on a glorious late-November morning.

I entered at Central Park South and meandered north to Belvedere Castle in mid-Park via Bethesda Fountain and the winding paths of the wooded Ramble. Aptly, there were signs of the Fall-to-Winter transition with trees in late-Fall colours, the popular south end Wollman ice rink up and running, the Bethesda Fountain drained in preparation for  winter temperatures, and an obvious lack of foot traffic at popular attractions, such as Belvedere Castle.

Central park South - Ice Rink
Looking down from rock outcrop to the Wollman Rink and beyond to Central Park South

The view of the skyline along Central Park South and beyond is one of my favourites in New York, taking in iconic buildings such as the Essex House (officially the JW Marriott Essex House) hotel and, further west near Columbus Circle, the Hearst Tower. The rock outcrops in the Park’s south end provide fantastic vantage points – I’m a great believer in getting up as high as possible to access different perspectives.

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More extensive view showing One57, Essex House and, at far right, the Hearst Tower.

While I’ve got issues with the construction of the One57 skyscraper on West 57th Street (more of that in later posts) on a bright day its walls of glass certainly generate some amazing visual effects.

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Closeup of One57 showing light effects on glass walls

Bethesda Terrace and the Angel of the Waters Fountain,  a favourite spot for wedding parties, tourists and buskers, is usually bustling with activity. It was strange to find it so deserted, even allowing for the boat hire season being over and it being mid-week.

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Angel of the Waters Fountain at Bethesda Terrace – the fountain’s turned off and the pool drained ready for Winter

Looking north from Bethesda Terrace you can see the Loeb Boathouse, a short walk away up the eastern shore of the Lake.

The Boathouse
Looking north from Bethesda Terrace toward the Boathouse, amidst late- Fall colours

In my first winter in New York the Boathouse was a real focus to my Central Park trips when I joined birdwatching walks run by “Birding Bob” DeCandido and Deb Allen. These started at the Boathouse and at the end of the walk we’d retire to its Express Cafe to warm up next to the open fire, sup hot beverages, and recharge on modestly-priced hot food (See post A burst of colour in the gloom).

From the Boathouse I continued north through the Ramble, in the words of Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted, a 36-acre “wild garden”. Its artfully-designed to create a tranquil spot where visitors can stroll through woodland along meandering paths. The network of paths creates the illusion of a much larger area, allowing the visitor to escape the city and get lost in nature.

Emerging from the northern end of the Ramble I arrived at Belvedere Castle, my final destination. Belvedere translates to “beautiful view” in Italian and there are great views from the various terraces. The view below is from the third level of the whimsical building, accessed by a quaint internal spiral staircase.

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Belvedere Castle – looking from the top-level west toward the Beresford apartment building on Central Park West between 81st and 82nd Streets

At this point it was time to get back to the humdrum business of packing up our worldly possessions ready for shipping to the UK.  For now I’ll bid the Park, the best I’ve visited by a country mile,  “au revoir” – I hope to get back there sometime.