Days 52 – Monday June 11, 2007 – New York, New York
Last night we stayed about an hour outside of Newark, New Jersey so we had a bit of a drive this morning before arriving. By the time we drove in, unloaded our stuff in the hotel and took the train into New York City, it was about 2pm. We decided to buy the City Pass in New York. The City Pass gave us a 50% discount to six different popular attractions in New York City. It includes a Harbor Cruise, The Natural History Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Empire State Building Observatory. We thought that with our limited time this would give us plenty to do in the city, while keeping us on task with an itinerary of sorts. In addition to the six items covered by the City Pass, we also plan to see a Yankees game tomorrow night and a Broadway show on Wednesday. Throw in Times Square and Central Park and it becomes pretty evident that we are going to cram as much as we can into these four days in New York City!
The train from Newark took us right into lower Manhattan at the World Trade Center Station. Our first taste of New York City was the big hole in the ground now commonly known as “Ground Zero”. Shawn Reece was one year old when this horrible tragedy happened, so I tried to explain all of the details to him. He understood it as best as a six year old can. Jasmine and I were truly humbled by seeing how big the actual area is. The good news, it appears, is that they are finally starting to build the Freedom Tower to replace the Twin Towers. In two separate viewing areas, temporary memorials can be seen. We spent about an hour walking around viewing the different stories, pictures and names of the many victims. The only remaining part of the twin towers is a floor down in the subway station. A sign reminded us of what happened just a few feet above on September 11, 2001.
After leaving the World Trade Center, we headed over to the Circle Line Tours dock to buy our City Pass and book our harbor cruise. We arrived at 3:30pm and they informed us that tickets were still available for the sunset cruise at 7pm. It sounded good to us, so we booked it! With about two hours to kill before our cruise, we decided to head up to Times Square! At this point New York hadn’t won my heart. I only had a mild crush!
Times Square in a way reminds me of Las Vegas. It is big, bright and crowded. The atmosphere is fast and fun, but at the same time it feels very safe. Since Times Square is on Broadway, we decided to find the half price ticket booth for Broadway shows. This way on Wednesday when we need to go there to buy tickets, it won’t be a wild goose chase. We eventually found the ticket office on 46th street and Broadway. To our surprise, right next door, we also found something else!
As it so happened, on 46th street just of Broadway, they were setting up for the annual “Taste of Times Square” food festival. Yes, that’s right, it is only done one night a year and we stumbled on it. The food festival went on for four blocks and featured food from many of the fine restaurants surrounding the Times Square and Broadway areas. For just a few dollars, we were able to taste food from a variety of great restaurants that we would’ve never been able to experience given our backpacker budget. Not only was the food great, but they had several musical street acts that were wonderful. Shawn Reece and I even got into the spirit with our horrible bongo drum banging. Ok, I have to admit that my crush was growing to Angelina Jolie (or Brad Pitt for Jasmine) type levels by this time in the evening. I just didn’t know the city well enough yet to call it love. This would change soon.
After spending an hour and a half walking around the festival and tasting a varying array of wonderful food, we headed back to the dock for our cruise. The harbor cruise, took two hours and did a semi-circle around Downtown Manhattan before circling the Statue of Liberty. It started on the west side of Manhattan at 42nd street, went around the southern tip of the island and then continued halfway up the east side. It then turned around and circled the Statue of Liberty before heading back to the dock.
As night approached, some light storm clouds rolled in. This made for a spectacular sunset. From the harbor, we saw many of the landmark buildings in the city, along with some others that we weren’t familiar with. It was so beautiful that I snapped pictures almost continuously and eventually ran out of space on my memory card. The cloud formations, along with the many colors formed by the sunset, provided stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. It was a great introduction to the city and the tour guide was great! We learned a lot and just felt so great about New York. At this point my crush developed into the deep love I now have for New York City. It didn’t take quite seven hours for me to say I love New York!
When the cruise was finished at 9pm we headed back to Times Square to see what it looks like at night. Again, it reminded me a little of Las Vegas’ flashiness, but in a more beautiful way. Times Square certainly reflects the fastness and energy that the city effortlessly exudes. We took a few pictures and then headed back to the train station. It was midnight before we arrived back at our hotel in Newark. We are full of joy from our short time in this city so far. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
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The Coomer Family