Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Big Apple

I was in New York city (NYC) this Memorial Day weekend. It was a nice little getaway after a very long time.

For me, the trip was a second. I first visited the city way back in 2000, before the terrible tragedy of 9/11. I still remember that day and its aftermath. I have been wanting to visit ground zero ever since.

The trip started off on a sleepy note. Ended up missing the flight and had to catch the next one. I was cursing myself for being late and was cursing the screaming kid sitting next to me. The ipod helped ease the pain a little. Once in NY, things were much better. I got to travel in a train after a long long time and I loved it. It brought back memories of train travel back in India, especially Tata Allepey Express.

I have been to big cities before, but NYC is unlike any other. Stepping out of Penn station and into the open, was something else. The sheer size of the buildings , the crowd and the streets just awes you. For a moment, you just stand there and gape at everyone and everything. It takes a few seconds to recover. After that you, are on a clicking spree!

The city is called the Big Apple. There are quite a few theories about how the name came about. The most common among them.... "The term 'Big Apple' was originally used in the 1920s and '30s by jazz musicians as a way of saying, 'There are many apples on the success tree, but when you pick New York City, you pick the Big Apple.'"

I think the name Big Apple is quite apt. The city has many things to offer. From dog walking to investment banking, there is money to be made. It is no wonder the city attracts so many. But on weekends (especially long weekends), I feel New Yorkers try and get out and the rest of the world get in. The many different languages you get to hear is a proof of that. A few you know. Some you are familiar with. Many you wonder ...Hmm wonder what language that is !

The city is best explored on foot. That is probably the most intimate way of seeing the city. For lazy cases like me, the open Double Decker tour made more sense. You do have the freedom of hoping on and off. I liked it. The weekend was spent absorbing many sights and sounds. Here are a few.

The Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge like many NYC landmarks, has a larger than life aura to it. One of the largest suspension bridges in the world, it is supported largely by four huge steel wires. Each wire is 15 3/4 inches in diameter.

The bridge has a walkway that runs right through its middle and above the traffic. I walked all the way. You will find people walking, power walking, jogging, jogging with their infants, cyclists and of course out of shape tourists like me!

With the twin towers no more, The Empire State Building(ESB) has a new found stature. All around the city you get to see glimpses of this stately building. This picture is taken from Greenwich Village. I was pleasantly surprised to see no visitor queue outside the building. The surprise was however short lived as the line curved four floors inside. Approximately 4 hours to get to the top. I couldn't gather enough patience. Maybe some other time.

It has about 102 floors. The construction was completed in 1 year and 45 days. It must have been one hell of a project management feat!

I wasn't sure what to expect at ground zero. Sadly though, it has become a tourist attraction. Young and old were getting their pictures taken. Some curious. Some sad. Some polite and quiet. Some obnoxious and loud. A man was playing his flute. A very somber note. A mother and her two daughters were hugging and crying. A group of kids were making a documentary of sorts. A lady was hawking memorabilia. Different people, different meanings, different reactions.

Time flies by when you walk around downtown, engrossed in taking pictures. After a while your feet start to ache. That is the perfect time to visit Central Park.

The park is almost the size of Monaco (principality). The park is designed to effectively drown out the city. You can sail, jog, run, roller blade, sun bathe or read. Me, I found a comfy and shady little spot and slept for about 2 hours. You could just lie there and spend hours together. The simpler things in life are often the most fun. While you are in Central Park, check out the Sheep Meadow Cafe. They have a calorie dripping grilled cheese sandwich.

Statue of Liberty. It took 2 hours of standing in line to get to Liberty island. It was well worth it. 2 hours might sound like a lot, but with all the entertainment included, it is not all that bad. As the line moved , a man would play his violin to the tune of the national anthem of the tourist. Jana Gana Mana was a very frequent one. There were a few statue of liberty dress-a- likes. I thought one winked at me. Another man was singing praises of Jesus. Another would sing jokes. Then there was this couple in front of us who were groping each other vehemently. Needless to say, things were very interesting !

Lady Liberty symbolizes every thing NY. She is a must visit. Did you know that her green complexion is because of copper oxidation? Did you know that the sculptor Batholdi had several models for the Lady. First was his mother. Then his mistress and then his future wife. Hmmm ....

While on the ferry, I heard this unfortunate comment by a teenage girl, "Way to go France. Give us Lady Liberty and then ditch us".

Times Square. Ever felt like you were in a movie or in TV? Times Square will surely make you feel so. The shoulder to shoulder pedestrian traffic, the huge billboards and the lights all make the square the most vibrant spot in the city.

The thing I liked most about the square was this Spider Man. Thanks to fast food, this super hero had a pot belly. The kids were busy poking his belly. It was such a funny sight. I should have focused my lens a little lower. I should have !

I could just go and on. The roadside cafes in Greenwich Village, the art galleries in SOHO, the bustling China Town, St John's Cathedral, Wall Street, Museum Mile, Harlem, the fish market in South Street Seaport, United Nations, Grand Central Terminal....."Never a dull moment" . That pretty much sums it up. Will need several more weekends to fully see the entire city. If it were not for the exorbitant rent, I would consider living here.

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