`As I said in Part 1, my first taste of New York City was the hit that spiraled into an addiction. After an incredible- albeit pricey- dinner at Le Cirque, my travel buddy and I caught the train back to Clifton and crashed hard. We rose later than we intended the next morning, though it was still early enough to keep schedule with everything we had planned on our one full day in the city since the next day would be dedicated to finding and maintaining our spot in Times Square.
We started by being one of the first people in line to go up to the observation deck on the Empire State Building. If you like the city from the ground, it will make you fall in love from above. Elevated 86 stories from the cacophony of sounds below, you get an incredible panorama of the city in its entirety as well as a dazzling glimpse of the Atlantic. These visions were all that much sweeter because it was sunrise.
Now I did something illegal up there, but at least I got to cross it off my bucket list. I threw a penny off the ESB when the plainclothes guards (who were easily spotted) weren’t looking. It’s not something I suggest everyone go about doing, but I had dreamed of it since I was little so I went for it.
After the ear-popping elevator ride back down to ground-level, we hiked our way up to Central Park. I’d read about it, and of course, it is everywhere in television and movies. Yet nothing quite prepares you for the simple beauty of the park. The sprawling green snuggled amidst the grey skyscrapers sort of takes your breath away. So, loaded down with shawarma, we strolled through the park, climbing boulders, exploring trails and Belvedere Castle. As an avid Beatles fan, I made a point to pay respects at Strawberry Fields before indulging our literary spirits at the Alice in Wonderland statue.
By the time we walked from the South end of the park to the North end, we had seen a lot but not all that the park had to offer. We left enough unexplored for future visits because we were on a mission that day, after all. My companion Uber-ed us a ride, and before we could really rest our aching legs, we were let out at Yankee Stadium.
Yes, that’s right. Yankee Stadium! My personal baseball Mecca. I got my first glimpse as we pulled off the Major Deegan Expressway and nearly cried. Unfortunately, tour tickets were sold out for the day, but just standing on Babe Ruth Plaza was enough. There really aren’t words to describe what it feels like to finally stand in front of a place you had dreamed about your whole life. My friend indulged me a little extra time than we had originally allotted there because I think she could sense my elation and was maybe even caught up in it a little herself.
Finally, I agreed to bid adieu to Yankee Stadium so that we could make one of the last ferries out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Again, due to the holiday season and our last minute planning, we found out in the Uber ride to Battery Park that the ferries were sold out as well. Quick rebounders that we are, we chalked it up to one more thing that would bring us back to NYC and directed our driver to take us to Chinatown instead.
Chinatown and Little Italy were a blast. It was like stepping out of America for a brief time. As soon as we left the car, we were greeted by unique smells, foreign languages, and a million different sounds. We piddled around a little, bargained with the hockers, and snacked on some fried Chinese donuts before finding a little, local-recommended hole-in-the-wall joint with ducks hanging in the front window in which to eat dinner. Despite my worries about what food poisoning would be like if it struck the next day while we were pinned in Times Square, I scarfed down my delicious seafood soup.
Keep in mind that we had now been walking around and exploring the city in the cold for seven hours at that point. Sure, we were a little sore, but the food and temporary shelter from the wind re-energized us. We went on to explore a Buddhist temple and a bunch of little shops before starting the roughly 25 block trek to our last stop of the day: Ground Zero.
I can’t really say how I felt about the World Trade Center Memorial in any way that would fully encapsulate the event. It’s something everyone should experience for himself/herself. My travel buddy and I were about ten years old when the 9/11 attacks happened, so their history and the resulting impact has shaped our lives in more ways then we probably recognize. To stand where it happened-especially at sunset- robbed us both of words. By some unspoken understanding, we separately took in the memorial and silently ran our hands across the names of the fallen. The rest of the trip could be shared. That moment was for us each to individually experience and process. We choose not to go through the museum, to save it for another visit, but I think we both knew the real reason was that neither of us wanted to cry in front of the other and the museum would have certainly reduced us to tears.
Before we left Ground Zero, we each drew a deep, life-affirming breath and shifted back into our shared existence. It was dark and late, by the time the Uptown N deposited us at Penn Station. Exhausted from a full, mercilessly paced day, we rode back to Clifton in a blissful stupor.
Part 3 will discuss Times Square on New Year’s Eve and our drive through the Hudson River Valley!