A day of sights in the Big Apple (happy and sad ones)
I saw names that ended with ‘… and her unborn child’ and spots where a single rose was left in the name of a loved one. That reminded me that this isn’t just about the people that died, it’s also about their family and the ones they left behind.
Those thoughts stuck in my head for quite awhile in New York, but I’m getting ahead of myself, let me begin with happier moments…
For my first full day in New York I decided to jam pack in my top sights to see. I’m learning that doing the most important things first is always a good idea. There is no knowing what will happen in a few days time and you don’t want to struggle to see those things that you’ve dreamt about because you’re sick, injured or the weather turns bad. So this first day was my tourist day.
Turns out you can do a lot of things in New York on the cheap or free, which is great. I took full advantage of this – as you’ll see in coming posts. The way I manage to travel so often is by travelling cheap – staying in hostel dorm rooms, doing free walks and galleries. I like wandering, taking photographs, while soaking up the culture and scenery. I spend money on things that I think are well worth it.
So, first up was the Statue of Liberty. Me, being the budget-traveller that I am (some may read that as ‘tight-ass traveller’), opted to take the Staten Island ferry (which is free) across the river and past the Statue of Liberty.
For me the distance to the Statue of Liberty was fine, I had my zoom lens on my camera and captured her from a reasonable distance away. I didn’t feel the need to walk up to the top of the statue of liberty – there are better views to be had in New York.
I had a giggling group of ladies that seemed to have the same itinerary as me all morning from the moment I got on the subway. Finally I started to loose them as they headed straight for the World Trade Center site. I, on the other hand had plans for the walk up to the site from the ferry terminal.
I wandered through the financial district, checking out the silent Wall Street on a Saturday and the skyscraper buildings that continuously towered overhead. At one point I stopped with my map at my side and looked up only to have an American man ask me if I needed directions, my response ‘Oh wow um, no thank you, I just noticed another tall building.’ That was probably the first instance I realised New York is a lot friendlier than London. People actually WANT to help you. The guy probably thought I was loony just looking up at buildings all the way along the street blocks!
I continued up to the World Trade Center site, aka construction central. This was the part of my day that made me sombre. As you walk up the busy road filled with loads of traffic and people (yes comparable to Oxford Street dare I say it) you suddenly come across this empty patch where there are no skyscrapers, well not anymore that is. This was where the twin towers once were. Now it is the 9/11 Memorial and construction site. It’s a bit of a mission to find out where to get free tickets (they ask for a donation, so its almost free). However, once you find the ticket building – near the top east corner of the construction site, near City Hall, it’s a breeze. All you have to do is go through lines that move quickly, then walk down to the entrance, and go through various other lines and security. It may seem like a lot of fuss, but it is worth it.
As I entered the memorial site I noticed how understated it looked. Two large square ponds lay where the buildings once were, each with another square deeper inside and water flows down from the top to the bottom. Names of all the 2,983 men, women and children that died in the attacks on September 11th, 2001 and February 26, 1993 are inscribed around the perimeter of each of the ponds. The design is appropriate, as a way to remember 9/11 and those who were killed. It’s quiet, peaceful and not flashy. The focus is on the names and the memories that surround those names. The brochure about the 9/11 Memorial explains that:
‘The arrangement of names is based on layers of “meaningful adjacencies” that reflect where the victims were on 9/11 and relationships they shared with others who were lost that day, honoring requests from victims families for specific names to be next to one another.’
It was really sad, as all the memorials I’ve been to are – it never gets any easier seeing them, but I’m glad I do. I saw names that ended with ‘… and her unborn child’ and spots where a single rose was left in the name of a loved one (the names were cut out of the edges rather than engraved). That reminded me that this memorial isn’t just about the people that died, it’s also about their families and the ones they left behind. The disaster that occurred affected so many more people than those listed here. It’s heart breaking.
The entrance/exit from the ponds is an array of swamp white oak trees, selected from nurseries near the attack sites and one specific tree from the 1970s that survived the disaster and was brought back to life, it’s referred to as the ‘Survivor Tree.’ Touching, that something that once may have been insignificant has become so important and reflects the strength to go on.
With my head full of sad thoughts I continued on into the sunshine of the afternoon where happiness filled me again as I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. This was a great way to cheer me up. It was probably my favourite part of New York, because the sun was so warm, beaming down and despite the amount of people I didn’t feel rushed, I just wandered across as the cars below speed over the bridge. I took in the amazing sights of the Manhattan skyline the Manhattan Bridge, the beautiful blue river, stunning architecture in both buildings and the bridge itself and then the autumn/fall colours of the parks in Brooklyn.
My explanation of the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge probably doesn’t do it justice. Sometimes when it comes to travel it’s not the words or the photographs that show how good something is; sometimes you just have to experience it. My experience with the sun, scenery and life around me, meant it was a very uplifting one.
Leading into Brooklyn my feet were causing me more pain than my knee injury (which was surprisingly a good thing!) so I opted to take the subway a few stops to the edge of Prospect Park – Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park. The colours in the foliage blew me away.
I’ve never been amongst a proper autumn/fall season quite like this.
The oranges, yellows and reds were so vibrant and eye catching. However, as I walked on my feet were telling me its time to give them a rest. So I headed for my end target of the day: Dub Pies. Yes, this pie shop was on my New York list long before I arrived in New York. It’s the closest thing I could get to a New Zealand pie, without heading to the complete opposite side of the world (what I wouldn’t do to have a proper pie place like that in London). So, sitting on a bench with a mince and cheese pie and a cup of New Zealand breakfast tea from a lovely little New Zealand pie shop of the edge of Prospect Park finished off my tourist day in a happy way.
Life is good.
The next day in New York (and days to come) would be all about the food… but you’ll have to wait until next week to hear about that.
If you’d like to check out more of my New York and Canada photographs, head over to my portfolio gallery called New York and Canada »