Writing about New York City is a pretty daunting topic. Many people already know so much about it, having seen it on TV or in films, or read about it in the, perhaps millions of accounts which discuss and detail all aspects of the city, in a style better than I am capable of, and using bigger words. Therefore, instead of in-depth detailing all the different attractions (go elsewhere for that), this blog post is merely going to be a personal list of some of what I saw in my 2 and a half days there, and any accompanying thoughts. Now, New York is a crazy city; there is so much to see and do, on every block, and round every corner. Just walking you see loads! Who knew we’d bump into the pub from ‘How I met your mother’ or the fountains from the ‘Friends’ intro.
So, here goes…
Arriving in New York City – After coming from two weeks at the ranch and a further nine at camp, the differences were especially highlighted. The ranch seemed a world away; people walk with purpose here in the city. Heads down, eyes focused on their feet, not pausing to see what surrounds them. The sheer mass of people takes some getting used to; riding the subway, there were more people in my carriage than I had seen in the past 3 weeks alone! The city is deafening. The ranch’s call of crickets replaced by whining sirens, distressed horns and talking. People talking loudly to be heard above the racket! Life feels so busy and rushed here. I think I’d probably struggle to live here long term, but, as with all cities, I love visiting!
Macy’s – I’m not really a fan of shopping; I am, after all, a man. However, I felt I should check out Macy’s – the three girls I was travelling with were, unsurprisingly, pretty keen too! I’m glad we did; it is only by going in you can appreciate the size. It looks big from the outside, but once inside, I was questioning if it was actually the tardis! Other than size, my other observation was about the prices. I had obviously heard about many of the big brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, but the price tags were still quite the shock. I had to consider who has that kind of money to spend on things such as a handbag, and what else I’d rather spend the money on! (It is a great place for a game of ‘guess the price’.)
Times Square – Times Square is, quite simply, one crazy place. So busy and with so many people, I’m pretty sure I suffered sensory overload as there is just too much to take in. Too many sights, too many noises, too many smells. My brain just can’t process it all. The huge amount going on means you can spend hours there. We sat down, just watching the world going by, and moments late, the hour hand on the watch had done two laps! It is the perfect place for people watching (discussed in a different post). You may think it quietens down as it gets later, but I’d argue that’s not true. New York City has truly earned its reputation as the city which never sleeps and even in the early hours of the morning, the shops around Times Square still proudly opened their doors, people sat down to eat, and many people strolled around.
Apple Store – The Apple shop is iconic. Like their products, the glass entrance seems to me, very simple and unique, yet aesthetically pleasing.
FAO Schwarz – Again, I’m no shopper, but I managed to enjoy some time at this awesome toy shop. The staff show off their products as paper planes swoop over and around you, remote controlled helicopters whir just above your head and magicians perform mind-blowing tricks. It is a very interactive experience.
The price tags are outrageous and suggest to me the products are aimed at a certain kind of child; probably those who own oil, or have arrived at the store in their own private helicopter! Who has the money to spend on $1,400 cuddly toys, a slinky cast in gold, and a jewelled ‘etch-a-sketch’? I wonder how better such money could be spent?
Broadway Show – Watching a Broadway show was something I hadn’t done on my visit last year, as hefty price tags had put me off. This year, the price tag was, once again, a deterrent, however we found a show (Rock of All Ages) with a student price of only $37 (shhh, it doesn’t matter I’m no longer a student – I am at heart). After some short deliberation, we bought 4 tickets. I had no idea what to expect. Not only had I never seen a broadway musical, but I’d never seen a musical. And in fact, I can’t remember if I’d ever even been to the theatre, excluding the handful of pantomime performance I’ve seen. Would I like it? I genuinely had no idea, but there’s only one way to find out! Well, I loved it; perhaps it was the highlight of my time in New York City. There was awesome, sing-along classic, songs. it was also absolutely hilarious, with the 4 of us all leaving the theatre clutching our sides from laughing too hard, and there was a great atmosphere with audience participation; clapping, singing along and laughing throughout and finishing with a standing ovation. I must comment on the women, who were all absolutely stunning. In many scenes (read: all) they were not wearing many clothes (read: virtually none). Now, I haven’t yet said, but the student tickets puts you on the front row, and front row means your legs are literally pressed right up against the stage. This meant we got an outrageous amount of upskirts, and an experience that would rival the intimacy of almost every strip club in New York. It’s safe to say we all came out buzzing, absolutely hyped, wearing huge toothy grins.
Central Perk – Who knew it was 20 years since the pilot of ‘Friends’. Well, I didn’t. But luckily my friends did, and so, we went to Central Perk, the fictional coffee shop, which for two weeks only, is opening its doors in New York City. We spent an hour queuing up on opening day; I’m not going to lie, I was a little reluctant, especially as I don’t even like coffee! I’m glad we waited however. We went in and collected our free coffees. It took me about an hour, but I’m pleased to announce I managed to drink all of a Central Perk coffee – It’ll be the last coffee I drink for quite a while I expect!
There was lots of original memorabilia from the outfits they wore to the signed script from the pilot episode and the final episode. The personal highlight however, was the presence of the red sofa used in the show. We got our chance to sit on it. Does that mean my bum has touched the cast of Friends’? #FeelingFamous Slightly embarassing, as we got out of the old, sunken sofa, I put my hand on the back-rest to help me up, and nearly toppled the sofa over backwards. Perhaps the most valuable sofa I’ve ever sat on, in front of a coffee shop of ‘Friends’ fans, many of whom were waiting their chance to sit on the sofa. That may not have gone down too well!
9/11 church – At the base of the twin towers stood the oldest church in Manhattan, St Paul’s Chapel. Even with two skyscrapers falling down around it, the church was undamaged with not a single window broken. It played an important role in the aftermath, acting as a base for operations. It still carries out its role as a church today, but also acts as a touching memorial to 9/11. As we walked around, the mood was melancholy and thoughtful. People had come from far to look at the different exhibitions in the church. The real human impact of the events was evident and it was easy to witness how far and wide the impact was. 9/11 was an event even more powerful and influential than I had realised. Letters from schoolchildren, notes in the visitor books and badges from police and fire forces the world over were testament to this.
Although 9/11 was a terrible event, St Paul’s avoids dwelling too much on this. The general feel I got was one of resilience, of union, togetherness, of community and strong support, not one of hate. One of the quotes reads “There was never a thought of race, creed, color or gender. I just hope that once this has all passed, that is not forgotten“. This strong support is further evidenced as everyone was put to use whatever their skills, from ministers to masseuses to musicians – a wonderful sense of humans working together for the greater good. By chance, we happened to be at the church at 12:30pm which coincides each day with a short church ceremony lasting a few minutes. It started with 4 sets of 5 ringing the bell, the firemen’s remembrance for a lost comrade. Every toll sent a shivers up my spine and welled up my eyes. The church service continued with a few short prayers and ended with an encouragement to meet someone you didn’t know. It truly was a touching atmosphere to experience for the hour or so we spent there.
9/11 memorial – As I approached the memorial, two fountains standing in the exact footprint of the two towers, the setting was peaceful. Green trees were planted all around, the lapping of water audible. The environment seemed very sterile. I was struck by the amount of names cast in the memorial, remembering all those victims. There were so many names! Flowers go in the name of each victim on what would have been their birthday, which struck me as a great idea to keep the memorial personal, and ensure the individuals were remembered and brought to life in some way. There was a sense of resilience, and new life, presumably to indicate that the terrorists hadn’t defeated New York City. The newly-built freedom tower which dwarfs the memorial site, and in fact, most of the other skyscrapers in Manhattan is a good example of this. A volunteer, keen to continue reminding about the importance of 9/11 talks proudly of the only tree in the area to survive the devastation. It was nurtured back to life, over the course of 9 years. You can see the two colours of bark, pre 9/11 and post 9/11, but it is still very much alive, with over 30 foot of growth since 2001! Staten Island Ferry – I love the Staten Island ferry. It is free, which is always a bonus, and I simply love the view it offers of the statue of liberty. Also, I find it great to get out of the city, and look at the monstrous skyscrapers from afar without having to strain my neck skywards! What a great way to appreciate their size! Wall Street –
Brooklyn Bridge – Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in the last hour of the day’s sunlight was an experience! We got to see the rush as commuters crossed the bridge on foot or on bike leaving the city and heading for their homes, and cars stuck in traffic, themselves queuing to leave. From the vantage point on the bridge, the city seems to come especially alive at night. As the sky darkens, bright lights illuminate each office window. The top of the Empire State Building dances with vibrant shades of blue and pink, lit up for all to see. What an amazing sight
Central Park – Central Park is an oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. Greens look like an even more vibrant colour after the various hues of grey seen so much the previous few days. It is a place to really take life slowly and relax, whether it’s laying in the sun, sitting next to one of the numerous ponds, or walking through the grassy, tree-lined trails. Central Park seems alive with energy as people exercise in various forms, cycling, running, power-walking or even unicycling. For one of the first times, life doesn’t seem so stressful. So yeah, that was a bit of a rush, but then again, so was my short time in the big city! Have a great day!