Thursday 15 December 2011

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A Carriage Ride in Central Park

I'm beginning to think that there's actually no end to the list of romantic notions that bounce around in my wife's head. I wrote before about Lori's "Plaza in June" fascination (and how well that turned out), but after taking care of that for her, you'd figure I should be off the hook for fulfilling romantic ideals in New York. If not the entire city of New York, then at least the Northeast sector, and if not the entire Northeast sector, then I must have at least finished my duties for the corner of E59th Street and 5th avenue.

Nope, I'm not even done one corner of the city. My wife's next picture of romance consisted of a carriage ride through Central Park. Now I don't begrudge my wife some romance in her life (as long as it's with me), but I can't say I'm particularly fond of what romance is these days. A long time ago, being romantic consisted of going on a noble quest and slaying a fierce dragon to rescue your damsel from a tower. You know...guy stuff. At no point did Guinevere ever ask Lancelot to sit in a carriage and be pulled through a tourist area by a horse wearing a top hat. Apparently, however, I'm not Lancelot.

So faced with this potential assault of my manliness (which, let's face it, is in question at the best of times) I went with every man's first technique of job avoidance - distraction. I took my wife shopping in Times Square, we went to watch the skaters at Rockefeller Center, and I even took her to see a Broadway play staring Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman. I still say that if either Daniel or Hugh had taken their shirt off during the play, I would have been home free. Alas, everyone stayed fully clothed (Where's Matthew McConaughey when you need him?) and the inevitable "So now can we go do the carriage ride?" question resurfaced.

This wasn't going to go away, so I resigned myself to reliving a movie cliche and accompanying my wife on a ride. We made our way up to Central Park, and got in line for a carriage. It kind of works like a taxi line-up where you just get the next cart available, so I did a little moving around in the line to make sure that we didn't end up with one of the more frilly carriages. Eventually we made it to the front, and we were seated on a kind of plush couch on wheels that was way too comfortable to allow any images of a wild west stagecoach ride. This was Victorian romanticism at it's finest, and my wife was thrilled.

Strangely, the carriage rides start off going along 59th avenue. It's a three lane road of typical New York traffic, but the right hand lane is taken over completely by these horse carriages trying to get on to the road that takes them through Central Park. We found ourselves  at the back of a non-moving line of carriages, and I was just grumbling to myself about how "on display" I was when our driver decides to pull out to pass.

Now this was fun! We cut off a taxi in the middle lane who honked at us, leading our driver to yell something at the cab in a language that I didn't understand (It might have been New York-ese. I never knew what anybody was saying in that city.) and we began passing the other carriages. I started to get visions of the carriage ride through the park being an actual race, and scenes from Ben Hur began to replay in my mind. Unfortunately, the excitement was short lived, as we were simply taking a different path than all the other carriages, and sure enough, within a couple of minutes, we were back on a slow pace making our way through the paths of Central Park.

Now I should give the carriage ride it's due. The guys who drive these things really know their stuff. What I had feared would turn in to me having to recite poetry to set a romantic tone became a very informative tour. Our driver pointed out all the buildings we were passing and explained a little of their history. He told stories of celebrities who lived in the area, and he even explained some of the social hierarchy of the city and why people chose to live where they do. I found myself enjoying his spiel, and when I looked over at another carriage whose driver was attempting to entertain by singing to his passengers, I mentally added $5 to our drivers tip.

On a value per minute basis, I don't know that the carriage rides in Central Park would score that high. It cost about $50 for a 30 minute ride, plus we gave a $25 tip (Yes, I really did give him an extra $5 for not trying to sing to us.). On a "Brownie point" basis though, I'd say the carriage ride was a pretty good investment. Lori was thrilled to tick another item off her bucket list, and for a brief time I thought that perhaps I had finished slaying dragons in New York. Alas, I've now been informed that visits to both Kleinfelds and Carlos' Bakery are on the list (stupid reality TV), but at least I'm finished with the corner of E59th Street and 5th Avenue.