New York, New York!

So we did quite a lot in this one day. So I’m continuing this blog from the last one just to break it up a little…to be honest it’s amazing what you can do in a short amount of time when you know that that time is all you have. If only we could all live by this philosophy everyday. Like if everyday we chose to be tourists I reckon there is no end to what we could discover and achieve. Unfortunately when you get into a routine it’s far too easy to just let time slip you by and not make the most of it. I’m promising myself here and now to constantly be a tourist. Even in my home town. I think every day deserves to be a story.

 

Anyways…. After sunning ourselves in Central Park for quite some time we then made our way to the subway where we took a ride down to ground zero. Here we feasted on some luncheon that overlooked the ‘occupy’ people of downtown New York, and they had situated themselves pretty much directly by the world trade centres.

 

We then went through a small queue to get into the 9/11 memorial at ground zero. Obviously you don’t have to pay to get in. But if you want a 9/11 wrist band you need to donate at least $10 to get one. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I mean as some kind of subtle money maker it works, and goodness only knows how much it is costing to keep the two massive waterfall memorial fountains going. But compared to the other times I visited ground zero, this put me slightly on edge.

 

So the first time I visited was in 2004. At this point ground zero was very very quiet. People walked around the site, (still full of debris) and read the billboards that gave information about the 9/11 incidents. It was really quite a moving experience. I mean; I never saw the twin towers when they were standing, but I have watched movies where they feature, and sit coms etc. so in a way I grew up watching them pop up here and there. And of course I watched 9/11 happen pretty much live on the tv screen at home. So even though I had never seen them stand tall, I still felt moved by the whole experience. It made what had appeared on tv come to life I guess. I’m sure most of you watched the twin towers falling and can remember where you were and what you were doing. But I guess the whole thing seemed a little unbelievable. We’ve become so desensitised to horrors like this going on in our world because of the amazing things that movies and special affects can create on our screens. And often we are so far removed from these seemingly other worldly happenings that it is very difficult to relate to an experience that you’ve never really had.

 

Anyhow the point I’m making…. Right. So the second time I went, there was progress, there was still rubble, a lot of building work etc, but new buildings had started being erected and in general it was a hub of activity. Still however there was relative silence. A profound respect for the loss of lives and ability to deeply reflect on the goings on at that place some 7 years ago at the time.

 

This time however was weird. As soon as I got into the area I wanted to get out. There were tourists everywhere. Outside the entrance men were lined up selling memorabilia, there was no silence, and it felt really wrong. The waterfall fountains were incredible. Don’t get me wrong. And what they’ve done to create a memorial site is absolutely incredible, and beautiful. And it should end up being (hopefully) a wonderful memorial space for anyone to come to sit, reflect and pay their respects. But I couldn’t help feeling what the family members of those that perished in the events of 9/11 would be thinking if they were there now. I don’t want to be too cynical about the donations situation, but I was uneasy about it. Nevertheless, I gave my $10 and received my souvenir wrist band…. The whole thing was weird. But in retrospect I’m glad we went. And its just fascinating that every time is different and will evoke different thoughts and feelings. I guess in summary; I was overwhelmed by what they had achieved there. It is indeed incredible. And with the new world trade building still being built it will be great to go back again in a few years and see its progress. I just hope the true meaning of why the memorial was constructed in the first place doesn’t get lost behind the swarms of tourists, the to-be constructed museum and the heaps of tacky memorabilia for sale around the area, and that the inevitability of people trying to maximise off the back of this tragedy doesn’t taint the perception of the original vision.

 

 

After the literal 10 minutes we spent at the memorial we walked down to battery park where the idea s to get a boat out to Ellis island to the museum there. Unfortunately it was closed, which is quite sad as it’s the one thing I’ve never done in New York City (amongst many I’m sure!) and really wanted to. By this point though we were shattered and so we headed back to the tube station to go back to our hotel to freshen up before disappearing out for dinner and night time in NYC.

 

A short walk around the corner from our hotel and we were in Times Square. Another hub of tourist activity! For the sake of nostalgia mum and I went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. We had been there 5 years ago when we were last here together. Nothing had really changed much in 5 years in Times Square. The lights still blazed over the street, people on the street still tried to sell us tickets for comedy shows and musicals, music burst out of every venue, the Golden Arches of McDonald’s still had a gigantic queue of people inside and the naked cowboy still patrolled the sidewalk singing and shouting at everyone he came across.

I think after dinner we were so unbelievably tired that I couldn’t have stayed out if I tried. Beside I also had an extremely strong cocktail wi my dinner and with the heat and how long I’d been awake for I literally stumbled back to the hotel with mum where we practically just fell into bed.

Tomorrow we pick up a rental car and start our road trip to Chicago. First stop Rhode Island…

The Big Apple

Day: Saturday June 1st 2013

 

Today has been a long day. But an amazing one too.

 

There is nothing quite like arriving into New York via ship.

 

I think last time I did it in 2008 I didn’t fully appreciate the significance of entering into New York via ship. The truth is, it’s a pretty epic experience, following in the steps of millions before you. Especially having been on the ocean for 7 days….

 

The ship itself arrived into New York waters sometime in the night. It was to be passing the Statue of Liberty at about 4.45am. This meant we had to set our alarms for around 4am in order to get a good spot where we could watch as the ship comes into port. So it was dark when we awoke and looked out of our balcony. But we were going right underneath a bridge that was all lit up and you could just see manhattan in the distance and the Statue of Liberty on the left. We quickly put some clothes on and quick marched our way down to the front of the ship. Here there were already swarms of people, but we still managed to get a decent spot to watch and take pictures. There was a strange silence out on deck. I think perhaps people were just in awe (or crazy tired) There had been a few lectures on board the ship about all the immigrants coming over to the states, and in particular a lecture about Ellis island where they all had to pass through. It is so hard to out yourself in the shoes of those people, the ancestors of those in America today. But to see the Statue of Liberty as they arrived into this new promised land of freedom having left behind goodness only knows; must have been an emotional roller coaster. The ocean entrance into America does indeed inspire hopes and dreams, nostalgia (for myself) and just genuine wonderment. I’m unsure of how much more I can express in words, and until you do it yourself I don’t even think pictures would really satisfy. But as a visual aid I thought I’d give you some anyway….

 

I’ve been fortunate enough to go to New York a number of times since 2004. However I never saw New York with the twin tower skyline. And it’s bizarre, because even though I never saw them standing in person, I did see them in movies, tv series etc and therefore even now, and with my lack of previous skyline experience (!) you really feel their absence. However, nicely enough, the skyline is still pretty epic, and as you can see they still haven’t quite finished the new world trade building. Last time I was here it was only a third of the way built. So it’s been nice to come in stages I guess!

Once we docked at around 6.30am we then had a pretty long wait until we could disembark. Obviously with thousands if people onboard they have to do it in stages.

However the weather was a bonus…

Sitting in 30 degree heat at the early hours of the morning was pretty surreal. And quite a shock to our British skinned selves! That mixed with general tiredness from being up so early, excitement, adrenaline etc meant that today really was going to be a long and exhausting one. Nevertheless we only have the best part of two days in New York so we need to make the most of it!

I sat with some new friends I had met onboard at the back of the ship overlooking Brooklyn and manhattan before saying my goodbyes.

We finally got off the ship and touched down on a American soil at about 10.30am. Fortunately they let me in the country this time. Last time I was here they claimed that I had been living illegally in the states for four years. I had initially thought it was funny, but in actual fact they could have just had me arrested and sent on the next flight back home.

Hopped into a taxi and made our way to our hotel we were staying in. W New York hotel on Lexington Avenue and 49th street. Quite a trendy young vibe of a hotel, and luckily we were able to check in so early which meant we could dump our bags before heading off out to explore the city.

With it being such a hot day, and already feeling tired, we decided to go to Central Park and maybe find somewhere to sit in the sunshine. However we didn’t really sit anywhere but ended up walking around pretty much half of the whole park, enjoying an ice cream and just generally soaking in the atmosphere. Everybody seemed to be in Central Park! People playing baseball, basketball, having picnics, sun bathing, jogging, running, at the fairground. Was cool, and nice to see some green after seven days of blue.