Bowery Mural

New York - Sunday, sightseeing part 1

Saturday, 19 April 2014

I was woken on Sunday by someone in the next room's iPhone alarm going off. They must've had it in the charging unit because that plays your music and, as I found out, your wake up alarm too. It was fine though because I was due to get up in half an hour anyway.

I flicked Netflix on the iPad and continued with my current marathon 24 catch up session. Season 2 episode 15 incidentally. After half an hour I got up and had a quick peek outside. The sky was grey but I hoped that it would clear. Or at least that there wasn't low cloud because I had an appointment with the Top of The Rock today!

Yes. Today was Sunday, my sightseeing day. I'd booked a Sun and Stars ticket for the Rockefeller Centre. It meant I could have a day time visit and a night time visit in one day, plus I'd get a free digital print.

After showering and getting dressed I headed out at 9am. I'd find breakfast outside of the hotel for a change then I'd head for the Rockefeller Centre, which as it turns out I knew was only a 15 minute walk away at most. Just around the corner from the hotel was a place called Pax Wholefoods. I grabbed a tea and the best butteriest flakiest croissant I've had (ever) and ate that. Time was getting on so i walked up Fifth Avenue towards The Rock. The streets were quiet. Maybe those New Yorkers have a long lie on a Sunday I thought. With the streets being quiet I was getting full blasts of the wind hitting me up those long straight avenues. Whoosh. Freezing. When I got to the Rockefeller Centre I was a bit early and so I wandered into a few shops, spied a few goodies and kept a mental note for later...

My time-slot approached and I headed into the centre and made my way to the lift. We came out a few levels up for a security check. Once through there we made out way around an area with the history of the building written the walls with accompanying black and white pictures. There was the option to get a picture taken on a fake NY skyline backdrop by a way too jolly photographer. There were loads of people watching so i decided i didn't want that one, thankyouverymuch. How awkward would it have been? Me, sitting there on my own getting a picture taken on a fake background. Nah. I walked passed when the opportunity came and around to the main lifts that take you all the way up to that top! They squeezed about 20 or more of us into the is lift and it set off. On the ceiling was a video about what you'd see, but you could also see the floors whizzing by. In less than a minute we'd arrived.

Central Park view

New York rooftops, and Empire State
Out of the lift into a hallway area we went and through the windows I could see that famous view. Central Park first. Wow. It was looking pretty grey outside but thankfully no rain and you could still see a fair bit in the distance. There's an inside area with benches you can sit on, and more importantly, FREE WIFI! Something i found very hard to come by whilst in New York. Around the corner were more escalators that take you up one more level and outside. I did just that. The wind was blowing but I couldn't take my eyes off the views. On the other side was the better view (IMO). The Empire State and Midtown, then Downtown in all its glory. Granted, in its rather grey glory today. After taking lots of pictures on my camera and phone I went in search of this photographer to get my free pic. When I found him he was lovely and took some good ones. I could see them when I went back downstairs he said. On my ticket the time-slot was 10.15 to 10.30am but i hung around as long as I could stand the cold so that I could soak in this moment. You never know when you might be back! A little while later I decided it was time to go back down. But I'd be back later that evening.

When I went to the photo collection area the girl said I shouldn't pick just now as the night time pictures could be a lot better. Whoop! I took her advice and headed to J Crew to buy that denim jacket I spied earlier on. Bargain.

As it was colder I opted to go back to the hotel to put a jumper on and change my jacket. It was really quite raw cold by now. After heating up back at the hotel I planned my next few hours. I had a reservation at Minetta Tavern in Greenwich Village at 2pm for lunch. I was to be walking down the Highline to get there. Then later was the 9/11 memorial and a walk across Brooklyn Bridge. With maps in my bag and warmer clothes on I set off at a little before 12 noon. Walking down to Herald Square then along to Madison Square Garden towards the start of the Highline. It was further away than I expected but i got there. Strangely, although it was cold the wind had died down as I walked all the way down beside the Hudson River on the Highline. I saw more sights that I'd seen in pictures (and on Google maps, ha). It's quite surreal being in those places, beside those things, walking that Highline. I mused to myself that this would be a lovely walk in the summer and i vowed that I'd go back and do it then...

Is this familiar?


Some graffiti from the Highline

remnants of old train tracks

Fantastic street views from the Highline
Highline art

Standard Hotel
As I neared the end of the Highline I got my phone out to check my bearings to find out directions to Minetta Tavern. Got it, then set off again. Through some quiet pretty tree lined streets, past a little playground on Bleeker Street then around little winding streets to my destination, I arrived. Erm... It wasn't what i expected. Outside looked like a pub from my local town centre. This couldn't be it surely, but it was. Eek.

Tree lined west village streets, bare trees mind you
I stepped inside about ten minutes early. Wow. I thought I'd stepped into another world completely. Through a rich burgundy velvet curtain I entered into a bustling bistro. There was lots of chatter, lots of people engaged in conversations, a gent in a grey suit and white hair (the maitre'd) keeping a beady eye on all that was happening. I was seated at my table, for one. It felt really awkward as I was on a bench seat in between a party of 2 and a table of 6. Luckily my waitress was just lovely and kept me amused, fed and watered during my visit. I placed my order and waited for it to arrive. It was pretty hard not to make eye contact with people you are in such close proximity too. I think this was the only time on my trip that I felt awkward being alone. Thankfully I just used my phone, pretending to text people. Ha, saddo.

It wasn't long until my burger and fries arrived. I declined the onion accompaniment and so my burger was on the bun alone, like me. The lettuce etc were on the side. The fries came in a little bucket and were very thin but pre-salted. I don't mind that. Salt is my thing, and chocolate. The burger was huge and juicy. But the juiciness meant that by the time i was halfway through it, the bottom of the bun was soaked and kinda falling apart. I ate as much as I could and declined the dessert. I'd have to walk for ages to work this burger off never mind dessert! Out of the warmth of this restaurant and into the cold Sunday afternoon I went.

Next stop was the 9/11 memorial. Again I'd booked this beforehand and my time slot was 4pm. I was over an hour off that. Since it was cold and my legs were getting tired, I got the subway to the world trade centre stop.  By this time my feet were starting to throb and I had to do the unthinkable. I had to get my socks off and apply a blister plaster in the street. Sorry passersby. I just had too. It was still grey, a little windy and cold so I wandered into the 9/11 memorial visitors centre. It was so moving in there, in amongst the souvenirs, because as you walk around this small shop there's a video playing on the back wall. There's pictures high up on the wall with a time line of what happened on that day. People were muted, there were sniffs, there were whispers of "I was here doing this when that happened". Everyone must remember where they were that day. I do. I watched the video for a little while. It was a trailer for a DVD (also on sale in the shop). There were survivor stories, a young boy who'd lost his mum, a man who'd lost both his firefighter sons, a lady who was scarred for life. Just really moving stories. It did bring a tear to my eyes. And actually being in close proximity to that very place... It felt strange and poignant.

As it was nearing my 4pm slot I bought a few bits from the shop (magnets and a few NYPD/FDNY t-shirts) and headed around to the memorial entrance. We went through another security check and were directed around a pathway marked by blue screening you find at building sites, because yes, it's still a building site. Once inside the site, Ground Zero, there are notices on the wall with outlines of both the large square North and South tower foundations. It's colour coded with certain areas on each square being marked out as firefighters, people who were in the towers etc. I'm not explaining it right but I think it's so that if you want to find someones name you knew then you know which direction to follow to find their name on the actual memorial. The area was quiet. People were being quite respectful, and rightly so. It's a place for reflection and even on this grey day it looked nice. The trees were bare and silver in colour. There are grassy areas, but not for walking on. Looking up, the landscape is now dominated by the Freedom Tower which has been built.

Freedom Tower, the sun tried to peek through
The two large square waterfall memorials themselves really are something else. The noise of the water is soothing. The names are all clearly carved out. It's thoughtfully done.

Over to one corner of the space is a new museum that is opening in May. You could see through the glass windows and I can't be certain but I'm sure there are still escalators and large marble pillars still there from the original WTC buildings. Remember how there was a shopping centre and subway stations underground? Well I think this is a part that was untouched when the towers collapsed. It was a little eery. I remember seeing these pictures on TV. Wow...
looking through the window...

Angela x

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