New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothin’ you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York,
New York – “Empire State of Mind” by Jay Z (featuring Alicia Keys)
And when there is nothing one cannot do, this is a list of must-dos in NYC.
Zoom up in an elevator to the 86th floor of the Empire State building - "She is no longer the tallest, but she still behaves like one" announces the guy in the yankee shirt cajoling tourists to buy tickets for a trip to the Empire State Observatory deck. In the middle of the milling crowds that stream in and out of the deck, one can spend minutes and hours gazing as the sun sets and the lights come on - in the city that never sleeps.
Amble down the quiet, leafy streets and uneasy history of Harlem (courtesy Free Tours by Foot). While vestiges remain, Harlem is no longer the unsafe neighbourhood it once was. In fact, a trip to New York is incomplete without experiencing the distinctive African-American character of Harlem. It is as famous for soul food, as it is for its quirkiness. Stories abound, including one of Fidel Castro having checked into the Hotel Theresa with his delegation in 1960, after storming out of the Shelburne Hotel in Manhattan, where he had a spat with the owner on his having brought live chickens with him, throwing lit cigars on the expensive carpet floors and what not. While in Theresa, Castro was visited by Nikita Khrushchev, Malcolm X and Jawaharlal Nehru amongst others.
Stare in silence at the streams of water trickling down into the abyss at the two World Trade Center Memorial sites. The glitzy new World Trade Center One rises like a phoenix, dominating the skyline and seen practically from every street in lower Manhattan. But it is the small things that make one appreciate the resilience of the American spirit; like the tree earmarked at the memorial site that was once inside the lobby of one of the twin WTC towers and survived the disaster. Etched on all four boundary plaques of the memorial are names of those who died, reminding one that this was a global tragedy which killed people of all ethnicities.
Set sail on the Staten Island ferry late at night to watch the copper green Statue of Liberty, the glittering Manhattan skyline and if you are lucky, a thunderbolt hitting the spire of WTC One. They say that the best things in life are free. So why go on expensive cruises when a ferry ride is all you need! The Staten Island ferry operates every half hour from the terminal.
Enjoy the NY summer with picnickers and street performers at Central Park. There are many different worlds coexisting here - the cyclists and runners pacing on the tracks, the tourists lounging around the 'straight from a fairy tale' fountain at Bethesda terrace, the sun bathers stretched out on the grass, the acrobatic street performers flipping over and backwards with equal ease, couples lazily rowing the boat across the lake, artists selling imitations of New York life et al.
Amble down the Brooklyn Bridge. Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world's longest suspension bridge for several years. An interesting trivia borrowed from Wikipedia - "On May 30, 1883, six days after the opening, a rumor that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede, which was responsible for at least twelve people being crushed and killed. On May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum helped to squelch doubts about the bridge's stability—while publicizing his famous circus—when one of his most famous attractions, Jumbo, led a parade of 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge". Given this, is it not incredible that the daily traffic statistics for the bridge in 2011 were as follows - 120,000 vehicles, 4000 pedestrians and 2600 cyclists.
Meet the T Rex and Mammoth at American Museum of Natural History. An interesting display at the museum is the geological timeline. If the age of the earth is equated to a 24 hour clock, humans have been around for just a few seconds! Not to forget, the AMNH has an amazing cafeteria.
If there is anything close to the magic alleys of Rowling’s enchanting wizarding world, Grand Central Terminal it is. Walking down Vanderbilt Avenue, one almost expects to run into you-know-who.
Experience the real New York in its subway. A seven-day pass worth $30 is all you need to navigate through the city. If you a true traveller, a subway ride is must to know the gritty, in-your-face character of the city.
AUTHOR'S BIO: An economics graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi and an MBA from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar, Gitika started flirting with photography in 2011 and it has been a constant companion ever since. She enjoys taking photographs related to travel, humanitarian causes, festivals and celebrations and once in a while, likes to connect dots and find the common thread between images of people and places.More on: www.gitikasaksena.com