Wednesday, 29 April 2015

New York City - April 2015

I was only in New York for a limited amount of time - 2 full days with an evening and a morning added on - so there was no way I was going to do everything that I wanted to. Therefore I had to be very picky about how I was going to spend my time and what I was going to do. And I feel like I managed it well. I got a brilliant overview of the city, and while I am certain that I will return in the (hopefully) near future to explore more deeply, I think my time here served as a great introduction to the city.

So if you are on a tight itinerary like I was, these are the sights that I believe you just can't miss when you visit New York for the first time. And I will tell you a little bit about my experiences there.

Visit the 9/11 memorial

I was 9 years old when this tragedy took place. But although I was young, I can remember this day well. I was so annoyed that all my normal cartoons were cancelled replaced with news item after news item about New York, my screen filled with the smoking buildings. And those images will stick with me forever: the devastation that was caused, the suffering that I could plainly see. I was so young and there was a lot I didn't understand, but I still could see the hugeness of this event. And it was the first time that I was properly faced with how the world wasn't an entirely nice to place to live.

The feeling that I experienced when I was at the memorial was unlike anything that I had ever felt. After so many years, the terrible event finally became real to me. Not that I thought it was a fake - but I was a child when I had viewed it being splashed across the television like something from a film. Now here I was faced with a literal hole in the skyline of New York, where two towers should have stood. I was faced with hundreds of names of people who were having a normal day at work. I was faced with hundreds more names of people who died trying to help others to safety. It was shocking. And incredibly humbling.

The memorial consists of two huge pools of water, set at the exact points where the bases of the two towers would have stood. Each name of the people who worked there is etched around the edge and I read all of them until it made my eyes go funny. And on a wall opposite was a mural depicting those from the services who had lost their lives, helping others to safety. It was all a little overwhelming. What a waste of humanity. I hope something like this never happens again.

Go on a boat tour
I went on the Circle Line tour and yes it is very clichéd and touristy, not to mention slightly on the pricey side. But I loved it.

The tour was just over an hour and a half, taking me down the Hudson River, around the bottom of Manhattan and then back again. I got to see the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, The Statue of Liberty and of course, it was a perfect opportunity to see various landmarks of Manhattan within the skyline. I don't know why but I have become a little bit obsessed with the skyline - the layout is just so...busy. And so different to anything I have seen before. In fact, I was so busy looking towards the city, that I almost missed The Statue of Liberty. I was literally the only person on that side of the boat, still staring in completely the wrong direction.

We had a tour guide on board as well who was obviously extremely knowledgeable about everything to do with New York so he pointed out all the landmarks to us and the various villages and told us a little about the history. Which was all fascinating. If you don't have a lot of time, it is a great way to see the entirety of Manhattan very fast and to gain an excellent introduction to the city.

Go up the Rockefeller centre

Whenever I look at a painting in a gallery or wherever, I always start by looking closely at it - I get my face right in there and stare at the individual brush strokes. I marvel at the intricate detail and the technical prowess of the artist. And then I take a step back. And then another and then another. Until you take that final necessary step and the picture suddenly becomes clear. That's what it was like looking at New York from the top of the Rockefeller centre.

It took 67 floors (up to which you were elevated at breakneck speed. We went so fast my ears popped) to take that necessary step back. After which, I walked up two more until I was on the roof itself. And then I really felt I could breathe. While I loved the intricate detail of New York, it was when I had taken the step back I could appreciate the city as a whole. It took out all the people, the cars, the noise, even the roads. And it was so incredibly peaceful up there. I could have sat up there all day, just staring out across the city. It was fascinating. You noticed so many different things that didn't catch your attention while you were rushing around below.

The reason I went up the Rockefeller Centre and not the Empire State Building was a conscious decision. It was based on the advice of a friend who had recently visited NYC and told me to go up this building which was pretty well matched in height, so I could have the Empire State within my view of the city. Something I would not have considered but probably thought of later. Best advice ever.

Sit in Central Park
This was easily my favourite place in New York. The atmosphere just completely changed, like you were stepping through a portal to another world. Gone was the hustle and the bustle and the cars and the millions of people. Hello calm tranquillity. It's like an oasis in the desert and a much needed break if you have become a little exhausted by the city.

Like everything else the place was huge. And was just stunning. I got lost in here many times but I didn't mind. I found the Alice in Wonderland sculpture which I was faintly proud of, but I was unable to locate the zoo (don't even ask me how - surely the zoo is pretty big). I also found the Literary Walk and Shakespeare's garden so I was feeling suitably inspired by various literary greats. Belvedere Castle gave me a good viewpoint of the park, and I got lost in the woody bit, otherwise known as The Ramble, which wasn't very imaginative of whoever named it. I think they did it on purpose so if you did enter The Ramble, there was no way you were going to get out alive.

My favourite bit though had to be Bethesda Terrace. Even if you haven't been to Central Park, you should recognise this, because it is used in countless films including Friends with Benefits (which is my go-to sick day film). I spent a long time here, listening to the various buskers and gazing out over the lake. Clearly I looked lonely because loads of people came up to me, and they were even more eager to chat when they heard my accent. And considering the rest of the city was relatively unfriendly, it was quite a welcome surprise. If you don't do anything else in New York, I strongly urge you to visit this park. It's one of the prettiest I have visited.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tips! I wanted to do a boat tour but wasn't sure what it would include exactly so this has been really helpful, thank you! I've also heard the tip about going up the Rock instead of the Empire which does actually make quite a bit of sense - thanks for reinforcing that tip! Loved reading about your time in NY, it made me so excited to go and visit the Big Apple!

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