Subway, Statue, Staten Island, Sorrow and more...

Trip Start May 22, 2010
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Trip End Jun 28, 2010


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Flag of United States  , New York
Sunday, May 30, 2010

New York's Subway is supposed to be scary, right? It’s supposed to be dirty, and confusing, and full of crazy people muttering to themselves and spitting. Urban Legend would have unsuspecting folk think that as soon as they stepped down that stairwell and into the underground lair of the Manhattan Transport Authority, that chaos would reign and they would get stabbed by a mental patient, mugged or they would step in something squishy and foul.

But it’s not TRUE! Yes, the Subway tunnels do smell a little funny, and yes, there are a couple of homeless people riding the trains, holding both sides of a conversation with thin air. But overall, as we stepped into that Subway car heading downtown, I saw through the tall tales. The air inside the carriage was cool, the train moved fast, and because it was a Sunday morning, there were a lot of families and tourists riding along with us.

The Manhattan Subway runs up and downtown, and out to Queens and Brooklyn. We took a number 1 train, headed down to Lower Manhattan, Battery Park and South Ferry.

We exited at the last stop, into the blinding sunlight. At last! A city where it actually felt like summer! Dressed in a denim skirt and singlet, I was basking in the warm rays – I’d almost forgotten what the sun felt like.

There was a feeling of jubilation in the air. In America, this weekend was Memorial Day long weekend, with a public holiday on the Monday.

Battery Park is at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, and from it there are delightful views over the Harbour, and more importantly, to the Statue of Liberty, standing tall and proud on Liberty Island in the hazy summer distance.

We wandered through the park, taking a scenic route towards the brick building – Clinton’s Castle, barely visible through the trees – where we could purchase the tickets that would take us to the very base of the Green Lady.

"There’s a lot of people just hanging out on the pathways," I commented to Shane as we wandered down to the waterfront. In fact, the paths that meandered through the park were loaded with people, who just seemed to be waiting for something to happen.

“Um, I think that’s the line for the Statue of Liberty tour,” Shane warned me. I shook my head emphatically.

“No! It couldn’t be! It covers the whole PARK!” I denied it. I could hear music coming from the direction of the concentration of people. Maybe they were standing on the path to watch the musicians.

But as we arrived at Clinton’s Castle, the crowd of people snaked away from the building, around the other side of the park, and back to where we stood. My eyes widened as I turned and looked back in the direction we had come. The line continued on for as far as I could see!

“But, that lines about three kilometres LONG!” I complained, utterly deflated. It would take HOURS to even get on the ferry. And it was already midday – we’d slept in that morning, still on West Coast time.

I pulled out my Lonely Planet New York Encounter guide – a gift from Mel and Bede when I was in hospital with my appendix last year. I was sure I’d read that there were other ways to get a closer look at the Statue.

“Ha! I cried, tugging at Shane’s arm and dragging him back the way we’d come – in the direction of the Staten Island Ferry terminal.

Staten Island Ferry is a free service, and makes the half hour trip from Manhattan to Staten Island on a continuous loop until well into the night. And better yet, it would take us past the statue – obviously not as close as actually getting off on the island, but Hell, it was FREE.

We weren’t the only people with the same idea. The railing on the Liberty Island side of the ferry was crowded with onlookers as the boat left Manhattan, gliding gently through the waters of New York harbour.

Being a Sunday, there were a lot of pleasure craft out on the harbour. Sail boat, jetskis and speed boats all zoomed around the big, bulky ferry, getting so close that I was sure they would be swallowed by the much bigger vessel.

Liberty Island was crowded with people – we could see them from our stellar (free) viewpoint. The Statue presided regally over the island, her gold flame held high in her green hand. She was beautiful.

There was much more than just a green statue to look at though. From our vantage point we had views of the entire south point of Manhattan, of the Brooklyn Bridge, and of both the East and Hudson Rivers, embracing the tiny island that is home to over three million people.

Staten Island, AKA the Garden Borough, was leafy, and had I had more time in New York than just four days, I would have liked to explore it more than just as far as the ferry terminal, waiting to get the next ride back to Manhattan.

Back on our temporary home soil, we strolled through the blistering middle of the day heat, wishing that we’d thought to bring our sunscreen with us.

Lunch was purchased from Subway, just outside the Bowling Green; a small park in Lower Manhattan. The restaurant was crowded, and the air conditioning wasn’t working. The heat inside was moist, and I could feel sweat beading on my brow and in the small of my back as we waited in line. The atmosphere was chaotic – people talking over one another, skipping forwards or backwards in the line. We both ordered our Subs in a regular meal, and my eyes popped at the size of the soda cup – larger than our LARGE cup! And they were offering refills for 99c! How anyone could even drink ONE full cup of soda I don’t know!

We took our food out of the humid, claustrophobic restaurant and into the Bowling Green to eat. The benches around a central fountain were crowded with people who’d had the same idea as us, but we managed to squeeze into a small space between a pair of old men and a big bird poop that everyone was avoiding.

After lunch we wandered through Lower Manhattan, detouring off Broadway, which runs the length of the city, to take a trip down Wall Street. Being a Sunday, there was no financial hustle and bustle, but the pale buildings with their big columns, wide steps and intricate embellishments, were impressive enough on their own.

Back onto Broadway, our next detour took us past Ground Zero – now officially known as the World Trade Centre Site. The entire, enormous block was completely obscured by temporary fencing, but cranes could be seen jutting up into the sky inside the obscured zone.

A shopfront nearby lead us to a multimedia memorial to the 911 attack, featuring interviews, interactive displays, and a big timeline mural of the worst terrorist attack the world has even seen on the wall. There was also a scale model of what was being built on the other side of the barrier, including two enormous sunken fountains in the dimensions of the Twin Towers, set on the site exactly where the towers once stood.

I found tears rolling silently down my face as I took it all in. Yes, it was a shocking event, one that changed the entire world. But it’s a completely different experience being here, metres from where it happened, and seeing the images of people fleeing through the dust and smoke, seeing the emotion on people’s faces as they realised just what was happening. It affected me in a way that none of the indelible images we have all seen on TV, in the papers and online, could. The injustice of an event that killed thousands of people just walking distance from where I stood broke my heart in a way I had never expected it to.

Shane took me by the arm and led me out of the place, too soon I felt, but I couldn’t argue. I was too busy mopping my eyes with his proffered hanky.

He told me later that the reason he was so keen to get out of there was because it was affecting him in much the same way.

We continued to wander back uptown along Broadway, passing many small, tree filled parks. I had never expected to see so much green in the Big Apple! There are many trees on the streets, and the parks were all full of people enjoying a little shade.

Even though Manhattan is so much bigger than anywhere else I’ve been, it feels much more open than other cities. There is no sense of being closed in, with the broad avenues and open spaces. The air moves better here, and although there are far more people on the streets here than in Sydney, for instance, it doesn’t feel crowded.

I had expected to enjoy my stay in New York, but what I hadn’t anticipated was the feeling of being at home here, in this metropolis. Yes, I could easily live here. That was something I had never been able to imagine, but being here now, it’s easy.

I sit here writing this, at the desk in my hotel room, midtown, right in Times Square, and I look out at my view Uptown, and west over the Hudson river, and I feel a bit like Carrie Bradshaw, typing away at her column, looking out her apartment window at the city that she loves.

The city that I am very quickly falling in love with.
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Comments

Tim on

Hey Katie and Shane,

Sorry it's been awhile since I've read Katie's musings. I've just finished reading New York, and have found it quite interesting. I'm starting to get the travel bug myself!

Hope that all will be well for you as I try and get more up-to-date on my readings of your travels. See youse both in the future!

All the best,

Tim.

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