Thursday, 27 February 2014

New York 2.0

When I last visited New York nearly five years ago, we bought a New York Pass and did our best to knock off as many tourist to-dos as possible - Times Square, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Rockefeller Centre, MoMA, The Met, Guggenheim, etc. It was exhausting, but we managed to get through most of it.

Despite this, we simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to pop down to the Big Apple the first chance we could. Why? Well, it's New York, and it was only a 3.5 hour drive away from Boston. I mean, that's like driving from Auckland to Turangi. Don't get me wrong, Turangi has awesome pies and the best mini golf course in the country, but we don't exactly get the chance to drive to cities like NYC for the weekend back home.

So what do you do in New York if you've already seen the main sights? While I would have loved to have gone up the Top of the Rock again, we decided to save the $27 per person and spend it on something else. Discount theatre tickets, perhaps! Unfortunately that idea went out the window as soon as we got to the TKTS booth at Times Square and saw the length of the queue. Of course, we still climbed the famous red steps to take a few pics
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be Justin Bieber or One Direction? Perhaps a little bit like this? We got a taste when we were standing on those very steps and a group of teen girls were let loose in Times Square. They spotted the top of the steps, and simultaneously decided they all had to get there as quickly as possible while screaming at the top of their lungs. It's probably always terrifying to have a horde of people run at you, but the fact that they were teenaged girls made it that much scarier.

After that, we decided to decamp to less touristy locations and visit the High Line park, another place we missed last time. On the way, we went past Madison Square Garden. For some reason, we both had a mental image of it looking like this:
So imagine our immense disappointment when we got there and saw this instead:
Now, I'm sure you think it's absolutely ridiculous that we thought a real life building would look the same as how it's portrayed in a cartoon set 1000 years in the future, but we seriously did look for a cube shaped building for several minutes before we realised our mistake. Oops. I just hope that in 3014, they really do have a Madison Cube Garden, because it would look a heck of a lot more impressive than the current structure!

In some ways, the High Line was also slightly less impressive than I'd imagined it, probably because it was winter and all the plants were dead. Still, it was an interesting walk above the street level, and yielded some awesome views down the various streets and avenues criss-crossing Manhattan.
With plenty of seating and things like an outdoor projector, I could also see how it would be an amazing space for the community in summer - when it wasn't covered in snow, of course.
At the southern end of the High Line stands the imposing Standard Hotel, with floor to ceiling views of the city, and cultural events like art exhibitions featuring abstract sausage sculptures and talks from guests like Benedict freaking Cumberbatch. Needless to say I would've loved to have stayed here, but unfortunately it was a bit out of our budget. At least I got a photo.
There's been talk of converting the disused Nelson Street motorway offramp in Auckland into a similar park, which would be brilliant. As long as they also include some crazy art, like this.
Later, we ventured to Central Park, where the plants were also mostly dead, but the frozen ponds gave it a winter wonderlandish air.
One thing we'd done before but certainly didn't mind doing again was walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, especially as our hotel was actually in Brooklyn anyway. It was bitterly cold, but worth it to get some amazing views of the skyline at night.
The next morning, we actually did it again to get into town for the 9/11 memorial, since we had the time to spare anyway.
One major change since our last visit was that the 9/11 Memorial was now open, so it was a definite must-visit on this trip. Unfortunately, they don't exactly make it easy for everyone. I suppose it's all for security reasons, but it all seemed a bit over the top, really. First, you have to pre-book tickets online (or queue for hours to get one on site). Upon arrival, it takes a good five minutes to even find and get to the actual point of entry. It doesn't end there, though - everyone is corralled into a twisty maze of crowd control barriers, and eventually get to the security screening. Apart from having to remove your shoes it's pretty much the same as US airport security, all coats and bags go through an x-ray while you walk through a metal detector. After another long walk around the block, you finally get to the memorial itself.

The first thing that hits you is the sheer scale of the memorial pools - which makes sense, as each one is the actual footprint of the original World Trade Centre towers.
The people on the other side look tiny, which gives you a sense of scale
Catching a reflection in the pool
The largest man made waterfall in the US, apparently
The names of the nearly 3,000 victims, including those on the flights and at the Pentagon, are inscribed around the pools. It's very sobering to realise that, on that fateful day, they were all just going about their daily lives. They had no clue as to what was about to unfold, and that one day their names would be carved into stone at a memorial.

It's a shame that the Freedom Tower is not yet open for visitors, as it would've given an amazing new vantage point for the city.
After the visit, we headed to Rockefeller Plaza to find some lunch and check out the famous ice skating rink.
One thing which was either a new addition to the area or merely something we overlooked last time was the Lego store. I absolutely loved this amazing recreation of the surrounding area - just look at all the detail!
By now we were winding down and preparing to head back to Boston, but not before also swinging by the extremely impressive NY Public Library (again, missed it last time).
And because I couldn't think of anywhere else to put them, here are some random pics of steam stacks creating a bit of atmosphere.
Even after this, there still plenty of new things to do in the city, so I'm sure we'll be back again in the not too distant future!

[Flickr set here]

1 comment:

  1. Sorry this took me so long to read, but it was really informative an entertaining thanks :) I've added a few things to my New York list from here (High Line park, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge etc).

    And I loved the Jono and Ben, and Benedict Cumberbatch clips.