It took me over three and a half decades to get there, so I guess the fact that it has taken more than three and a half weeks to get a blog entry written up isn’t too terrible of a timeline! It creates a nice literary parallelism, right? To be fair, much of In Search of the End of the Sidewalk’s time has been dedicated to the new format and kicking off the Card Catalog Review piece for the blog, but the travel portion has not entirely faded silently into the sunset.
The Big Apple
The City that Never Sleeps
The Center of the Universe
A rose by any other name…New York City may have a multitude of monikers, but regardless of what you call it, New York is a unique experience. (Unique New York. Three times fast. Try it.)
As a first-timer to the city, it was the foundation tourists stops that I wanted to hit. Friends who have lived there sent me itineraries of what to do and where to eat, but they seemed to be made for repeat offenders. I was in for the first time and on a very short sentence, so needed to dedicate my hours to the bedrocks of the city: Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Wall Street, Rockefeller Plaza, and Central Park.
The Statue of Liberty was everything I imagined. With the sun shining down from a cloudless sky, the statue looked like something right out of my old history books. Since the trip to New York was very last minute (I think we realized we could swing the days off about a week before actually heading out), tickets to the crown and/or torch were not available, but strolling the grounds, getting an up close and personal 360-degree view of the iconic American landmark was not disappointing. (It took a lot of self-control to not buy myself a water bottle in the shape of the torch. In the past, I have been suckered into a giant space shuttle shaped cup purchase, but my newly minimal-living situation just doesn’t allow space for fun kitsch like that…but it was tempting! Instead, I just got vintage-looking postcards for the niblings and a SofL Christmas ornament for myself.)
A short ferry ride around the corner from Lady Liberty’s line of sight, I set foot on Ellis Island, a place where so many feet had tread before my own. The history there is palpable and the National Parks Service has done an amazing job of making it about individuals, pulling away from the masses and examining real people and their stories. Of course, the combination of Thad and a history museum means there is no skipping placards or displays, so much of the afternoon was spent wandering the various exhibits and rooms of the building. I think Thad was in history-nerd heaven, plus he got another stamp his National Parks passport booklet. That is always a bonus on any trip. (Also, the structure itself is gorgeous. We sat for a bit and just watched the sunlight stream in from the windows on the upper floors, creating beautiful patters against the hardwood floors.)
Living in DC, I am no newbie to beautiful and poignant memorials, but even though I walk past such amazing places each day, I must say that the 9-11 one stands out as exceptional. The waterfalls themselves were stunning and I love the way they sit in the footprints of the World Trade Center buildings. For those of us who never made it to the city while they were standing, it is a great perspective on what existed in that spot before the attacks. The falling water deeply resonates with the images I have from that horrible day, and yet there is a soothing quality that comes from the fluid movement. As solemn as the memorial is though, I love that it is a living, breathing place, with kids and families walking through, lives going on, business and personal interactions striving forward. There is a sense of future in the plaza that I really appreciated.
With so much to see and do, the walking miles added up quickly. Battery Park to Wall Street to the 9-11 Memorial and back. I had some achin’ dogs by the end of that first day, but I’m glad we squeezed it all in.
Of course, no trip to New York is complete without a trip to Central Park, and what an enlightening trip it was for me! You see, my ideas of Central Park are almost entirely framed by what network TV has taught me, namely that Central Park is where you dump dead bodies. Before going and seeing the outstanding space that it is, I was pretty sure that all joggers in the park stumble across at least one corpse at some point in their circuits. (I mostly blame Law and Order for these assumptions, but other NY-based shows are just as guilty.) As it turns out, Central Park is a fantastic green space with trails, a lake, areas for kids to play, a million and one dogs (all of which I wanted to pet, but refrained myself) and runners of every size and shape. Who knew?! I feel like I could whittle away hours of my life on a bench there, just enjoying the view.
In the end, I was given one fantastically beautiful fall day, one slightly drizzly cooler day, and then a final miserably rainy day that made me want to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book, but instead my traveler’s guilt got to me and I (stupidly, as it turns out) tried to hit up the Museum of Natural History, along with every other rain-weary NYC-goer. When the line wraps all of the way around the building and rain is pouring onto the umbrellas of those dedicated enough to wait, I just can’t do it. Rather than wait hours to see the museum, plan B called for somewhere dry and some food. Being a Sunday, a pub with burgers, fries and some NFL fit the bill well.
From Washington DC to New York is just a four-hour bus ride. Why did we not make this trek the last time we were living here? I have no idea, but I do know that our October adventure will not be the last trip we make north. (If nothing else, we’ve got a friend’s wedding to attend next summer, which I am already planning to make an extended weekend to fit in a few of the things we missed the first time around. Broadway play? Yes! Empire State Building? Definitely! The Met? Only if I can wear a crazy ball gown!) New York City, you’ve not seen the last of us!