Saturday Feb 6 – we avoided the snowstorm

Luckily New York has mostly escaped the blizzard that hit the Mid-Atlantic coast last night. We got some snow, and it’s freezing cold, but we’re not snowed in. The Colemans in Annapolis got 32 inches of snow outside their place, so we’re grateful.

We’re all still struggling to adjust to the time difference – I was wide awake really early, but then slept till almost midday, when the boys and Jacqui woke me up wanting to go out sightseeing. We headed to Tiffanys, where I bought myself some silver jewellery, then we planned to go for a walk in Central Park.

But it was sooo cold that we stopped to stock up on more beanies, scarves and gloves first (from a stand outside the apple store, we really should have gotten a picture!). I don’t know how cold it actually was, but it felt frostbite worthy. This evening I’ve got chapped lips and bright red cheeks from the cold and the wind.

We then headed across the street to Central Park, but didn’t last very long. The pond in the south east corner of the park was 85% frozen over, and any time we were exposed to the wind it was just totally icy cold. Pretty, yes. Freezing, definitely. Alex and I were both keen to take a whole lot of pictures, but we couldn’t take our gloves off for more than a minute or two at a time, and my Canon DSLR got so cold that some of the images on the memory card were corrupted, and the battery stopped dead! It recovered OK once it was warmed up (although those photos were lost), but apparently doesn’t like the weather. Thankfully Jacqui’s camera is made of sterner stuff and we could take some pictures with that. Bertha also came through like a trouper. Her documents state she’s good down to -20C, and although we haven’t tested it that low, she just kept ticking well below freezing.

To retreat from the cold we decided to explore the Museum of Natural History, which is on the other side of the park. So we hailed another cab (Scott is fast becoming an expert). Thankfully cabs are everywhere, and get you where you need to go fast and cheap, and Bertha folds up easily into the boot (or trunk!). And as a bonus, every trip is another fascinating mini-sightseeing tour. It’s weird how this city is half familiar from countless movies and TV shows, yet still totally different.

The museum was great, but busy. Just about every New Yorker seemed to have the same idea to get out of the weather on a very cold Saturday. The boys were keen to compare it to the movie “Night at the Museum” – I just wanted to have a wander around.

The displays were mainly dioramas, with numerous stuffed animals portrayed in their natural environment. Very well done and fascinating, but in a very “old fashioned museum” style, not many of the interactive exhibits you see in so many places.

It was a really good introduction to America and brought home to me Jared Diamond’s argument in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies that societies with richer natural resources develop faster and build a positive feedback loop, while others struggle to keep up. Seeing the huge size of the bears, moose, and even deer that there were available to hunt, and comparing that to the native wildlife in Australia makes it obvious why our indigenous societies stayed in the stone age while others shot ahead and created more developed civilisations.

They also had a slice from a giant Sequoia tree there that was more than 1500 years old when it was cut, and its cross-section reached to the roof of the very tall gallery it was in. I have no idea how they even got it in there, it almost looks like they must have built the building around it. I’m now REALLY looking forward to seeing those trees alive and growing when I get to California.

We then headed home (for another takeaway pizza for dinner), and Scott and Jacqui went grocery shopping so she’s got food for her trip to Ohio, while I sorted myself out a new sim card for my phone – which came with unlimited internet data for the rest of the month as well as phone calls. That gives me google maps and navigation wherever I can get a signal, as well as skype, email, and all the usual internet functions. We’re all set!