Manhattan on the cheap

Ah, yes…it’s a pleasure to see how perceptive our children are! When we first heard the phrase “Cheapo Snobs,” we knew right away that it described us perfectly. Our cheapo-snobbishness, which has been cultivated during forty years of marriage, refers to the fact that we appreciate the finer things in life while always looking for the best deal around! Through this blog we hope to pass along tips so that anyone who so desires can adopt this enjoyable way of life.

To begin with, let’s take taxis. This mode of transportation is, in our estimation, for the very rich or for the rest of us only in times of dire need. Before our latest trip to Manhattan, we researched various options and found that the most convenient way to get around the city is to purchase a MetroCard for use on subways and buses. An individual ride in the city costs $2.25, and on the bus you must have correct loose change, no dollar bills. Highly impractical! Another option is to buy a one-day “Fun Pass” for $8.25. Since we were spending four days and three nights in the city, we opted for the seven-day unlimited ride card for $27 per person, figuring that, if we took four separate trips a day, we would come out ahead. So, upon arriving at Penn Station, we headed straight to the subway and found the MetroCard machines with our credit card ready for its first purchase.

In terms of sights, New York is a terrific place for Cheapos. There are so many things to do that simply cost nothing. Think of Central Park with its winding trails, its toy sailboats on Conservatory Pond, its lakes, and Strawberry Fields; South Street Seaport with its views of Brooklyn Bridge and the East River; Times Square; the Staten Island Ferry, to name but a few. Check out the opulent lobby of the Palace Hotel behind Saint Patrick's; it's quite a sight! We also discovered some lovely, tree-lined neighborhoods to walk around such as “the block beautiful” on East 19th Street. After googling “free stuff to do in NYC” (or something to that effect), we found some really super tours that are absolutely without charge.

Our favorite discovery this trip is the free, hour-long tour of The New York Public Library. At eleven and two Tuesday through Saturday, you can tour the library located at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue and hear about its history, architecture, and collection. Our guide, Florence, explained that in 1895 Samuel J. Tilden donated the funds to merge the Astor and Lenox libraries into one onto bedrock that once held the Croton reservoir. A competition to decide the style of the building was won by two former students at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris: Hastings and Carrère; hence, the designation of beaux-arts for this style of architecture. The result of the original 9 million dollar investment is magnificent: from the outdoor marble lions (named Patience and Fortitude by former city mayor Fiorello Laguardia), to the solid marble walls, and the lovely ceilings made of plaster that look like decorated wood. Many of the original furnishings are still in place, including lamps, tables, walnut paneling, and murals. The special collections of the research library—some of which are open to the public—consist of the map division, a history section, a collection of works by British, Irish, and American authors, like Shelley, Dickens, G. B. Shaw, Mark Twain, and Jack Kerouac among others. There are rare books (a Gutenberg Bible, folios of Shakespeare) and manuscripts (a Babylonian clay tablet, Chinese and Japanese scrolls). The only lending division of this branch of the library is for children; the room is worth visiting if just to see the original stuffed animals that were A. A. Milne’s inspiration for writing Winnie the Pooh. Not to be missed is the main reading room on the third floor. Renovated at the end of the 1990s, this glorious, spacious area is beautifully decorated and has room for 800 readers.

Well, there you have it: the first posting by one of the Cheapos. More to come next week!


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