Saturday, November 6, 2021

[ALBANY] Another Capital Another Capitol


New York every year since 2016 and I never really got to go sightseeing. I tried to find the Brooklyn Bridge once. I got lost. I sailed by Lady Liberty via the free Staten Island Ferry and bought a ticket to see her up close the following year. I woke up late. Never have I been to the Empire State Building or the 9/11 Memorial. At least I went to the MET once to admire their Egyptology collection. What a geek. Every year has been all about Broadway. And so, this year I thought, maybe it’s time to see what lies north of Central Park? Booking a ticket to Albany, I guess I overshot by a few hundred kilometers.


Another capital, another capitol. Albany does not really rank that high in everyone’s priority list of sights to see in New York state. Finally, having visited the place, I can see why. I’m not really the authority when it comes to itineraries like this because my gallivanting is often restricted to the downtown area, but to me, the main attractions of New York’s capital are all on that one stretch real estate straddling the museum, the plaza, and the capitol. All of them are downtown at Capitol Hill.


Getting off at the Megabus' stop at Rensselaer, you are given a panoramic view of Albany’s skyline from across the Hudson River. I had to find an Asian resto to get myself some rice. I’m so not having bagels at Dunkin Donuts again. Luckily, I found a Thai restaurant down the street, and the chicken fried rice was legit. Hailing an Uber after that, I left my luggage at my Airbnb and started heading north towards Capitol Hill. Since it’s getting colder, my phone’s battery started draining faster, which explains the lack of photos.


Walking along Madison Avenue you will be greeted by the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to your left, where someone was getting hitched when I passed by that afternoon. Stop contributing to the future divorce rates, guys. The New York State Museum is on the next block to the left. But before indulging your inner geek there, turn right and up on the flight of steps leading to Empire State Plaza.


The Empire State Plaza sort of bridges the New York State Museum and the New York State Capitol on opposite sides of the street. At the middle is an artificial body of water divided into two outer squares and a central rectangle. Rumor has it that one of the three becomes an outdoor ice-skating rink when the water freezes during winter. There was no water when I was there, so, perhaps it was under repair? What I found there instead were skater boys practicing their craft. And the Egg.


What egg? There is a curious-looking building to the right immediately visible from afar and joining Albany’s skyline as seen while approaching from Rensselaer. It is shaped like an egg and according to Google Maps it houses a McDonalds inside along with a performing arts center. Cool. I guess I would’ve loved the Egg, except that it was closed when I was there. Damn pandemic.


The New York State Capitol is on the opposite side of the street, ever imposing with its renaissance revival style. It is flanked by parks on both sides. They say you can join a tour of the interior, but the building was also closed to the public when I was there. What is open, then, Albany? Well, the New York State Museum was open. Inside you will find a museum as well as the New York State Archives and library. That’s where I spent most of the afternoon to kill time after my phone died. It became the definitive highlight of my trip.


As with most museums, you get a hall for prehistory, but what I liked most about NY State Museum is its focus on New York. Obviously. I guess it was able to fill in all the missing info I’ve glossed over about the state, from its past as New Amsterdam all the way to its rise to prominence as the center of the universe. Some ongoing exhibitions when I was there were the history of Harlem as the center of African American New York, 9/11, history of NYC’s skyscrapers, Fifth Avenue, etc. It was all worth it in my book so I guess that’s the only thing I can suggest if ever you want to head north to Albany. If not, I’m sure upstate NY has a lot to offer as far as nature tripping is concerned.

[ALBANY] Another Capital Another Capitol

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