Is Winnie the Pooh already a centenarian. He might have been if he was a living, breathing creature. In the minds of zillions of children and adults across the world he is pretty much alive. I’m a bit confused though. How old is he exactly? He is not far from 100 or already past it according to different websites. Bought from Harrods and given to Christopher Milne on his first birthday by his parents, he and his friends went on to inspire Christopher’s dad to create the much loved Pooh stories. Christopher’s childhood toys now have pride of place in the children’s section of the New York Public Library. Roo is missing, but the rest of the cast are here along with Pooh bear. NYPL is the third largest public library in the world and houses over 50 million items. I was surprised to read that the British library holds 3 to 4 times this many items and is the largest in the world.
After visiting the children’s section we climb the stairwell to reach the famous ‘Rose Main Reading Room’. Featured in many a Hollywood film, the vast breathtaking room with painted ceiling resembles more a museum than a library. Most of the seats are occupied with patrons intently browsing through books. In the meantime visitors are pouring in and out just to take a photo of this famous venue. An unreal experience which becomes even more surreal when I read that famous writers used to grace this room.
This was two days ago. The library is closed today for the long holiday weekend. I walk past Bryant Park underneath which the library’s vast stacks are stored. The library occupies the border of this park on 42nd street. Times Square becomes visible as I walk further along. The most popular tourist destination in Manhattan is just waking up. It is still too early for the Sunday crowds to descend on the entertainment hub of New York City. The advertisement boards and billboards seem to be losing their battle as they compete and try to outshine the bright sun today. I turn on to 8th Avenue and walk down to Central Park. The cafes are getting busy. I am not hungry yet.
In the park, stall keepers are setting up their pretzel and ice cream stands. I wonder if I should get a pretzel, enjoy the shade and laze on one of the inviting benches which line the route. Instead I join the joggers, cyclists and tourists, walk along the boundary and marvel at the sights. The horse drawn carriages are doing brisk trade today as they take the tourists around the park.
The reservoir, lake and lawns provide a tranquil setting in the midst of this busy city. I pass Shakespeare’s garden and John Lennon’s Strawberry fields. Bird songs fill the air and I try to identify them. The common starlings, sparrows and wrens are easy to spot. The American robins can be seen everywhere with their distinct reddish orange breast. They are not closely related to the European robins but are named after them because of the similar coloured breasts. I find out later that Central Park is one of the popular bird spotting places in New York City with both native and exotic birds migrating through the park this time of the year. Occasional hovering helicopters disrupt the peace and bring me back to reality.
It is predicted to turn into a very hot day today and I can already feel the heat rising. I turn around and make my way back. On the way I find a cosy diner to have brunch. When I walk in it is not too busy and I find a quiet spot. I wonder whether an omelette and tea will fill me up but when I see the platter I know that I won’t be able to finish it. I tuck into it, savouring each piece and read my morning paper. The place fills up slowly and I am ready to leave. The perfect way to spend a morning in NYC before catching our flight back home.