Agnes Krup, a literary agent, had a not-so-wonderful Christmas in 2004. This year, she is embarking upon a travel adventure in New York City, where she lives. Notes from New York will be posted throughout the week.

In the last two days, I have spent a lot of time on line, waiting to go through security, to buy a ticket, to get to a coat check. It is the holiday season in New York, and locals and tourists alike are descending on the city’s museums in droves.

Being on line is actually not such a bad thing, especially when you are not in a hurry and when you carry a book wherever you go and don’t mind reading in a standing position. Lines really mean that many people care about art and science and history and culture and make use of what the city has to offer.

Except that on Dec. 25, the city’s offerings were limited to The Jewish Museum, where lines sneaked around two sides of the block. Inside the small lobby, the lines became a disentangeable knot — the museum is housed in the old Warburg family mansion and simply not meant to be the only open cultural institution in a metropolis this size on any given day.

Once safely inside, I viewed the show entirely dedicated to Alex Katz’s portraits of his wife, Ada, and a feeling of sadness sank in.

Here she was, beautiful and stylish and almost regal over and over again, seen for 50 years through the brushstrokes of a deeply admiring husband, and yet she never seemed happy, her posture never relaxed. Perhaps it was a bit of jealousy for all she has that made me feel this way, and perhaps it was unfair, too. Her husband, the painter, is known for his cool detached depictions, so perhaps it is he who hid all her smiles?

I left a bit confused and famished, too. The line to the cafeteria (or rather, the tangled knot consisting of people trying to get into the cafeteria or the restrooms opposite) dashed my fantasy of a fresh bagel with lox and a schmear. In fact, the only place open on the whole Upper East Side seemed to be a Starbucks on Lexington Avenue, and the lines stretched all the way out –- but you don’t want to hear this again.

By Tuesday I had learned my lesson. I started with a late pancake breakfast at the Lexington Candy Shop, which has to be one of the few real old diners in Manhattan. Thus fortified, I made straight for the vast expansion of the Metropolitan Museum.

I don’t go there nearly often enough and always end up seeing some special exhibitions, so the goal today was to walk through parts of the permanent collection instead. I studied the floor plan in great detail — I had ample time to do this while waiting to check my coat — and decided to focus on the European paintings on the second floor.

And then I got lost in the splendor of the place. Walking through the galleries of the Metropolitan is like walking through a beautiful parkscape – with every turn you gasp at new vistas and delicious surprises. Your eyes feast, and your heart literally jumps with joy walking down the sculpture court (at least mine does).

I wandered aimlessly, revisiting old favorites and discovering new treasures I had never noticed before: a Byzantine candleholder, gorgeous abstract paintings by Sean Scully. I lingered in the galleries for modern art, drinking in the Bonnards and Modiglianis, the dignified small sculptures by Giacometti.

"We have thousands and thousands of paintings," I overheard a grey-haired guard explain to a small boy when asked what his favorite was. And I realized that I had had enough for one day.

I went and sat very still in front of a small painting of sunflowers by Emil Nolde – a German expressionist probably not terribly well known here, but a major presence where I grew up, near the North Sea.

I had been walking around for four hours without making it near the Italian and Flemish and Spanish masters of old. But the thought that their works would wait for me, that there would be thousands and thousands of paintings and other treasures to return to in what is perhaps the greatest museum of all, made me very happy.

Agnes Krup is a literary agent and chair of the PTA fundraising committee at her daughter’s public school in Brooklyn Heights. She grew up in Hamburg, Germany and has lived in New York City since 1994.

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