Well a hop, skip, and a subway ride away we arrived in New York city. Unlike D.C., where the train enters above ground right along the National Mall, in NYC the train enters from underground. Since this was my first trip to NYC I didn't really know what to expect. I mean I'd seen the movies, seen the news, seen pictures on the internet...but it's difficult to know how exactly how an experience like NYC will feel like until you're actually in it! Christine and I arose from Penn Station into the heart of Manhattan with a brilliant view of the Empire State building. My jaw dropped instantly as I spun around nearly loosing my balance. A split second later I was aggressively bumped by a stranger walking by and my ears began to hone in on the endless honking of horns and bustling of traffic. Welcome to New York city rush hour.
After getting our bearings Christine and I managed to find an entrance to the MTA subway system and after taking one wrong train (resulting in about an hour setback) found ourselves in Brooklyn at Christine's grandparent's home where we'd be staying the next two nights.
We were welcomed by classic New York accents, New York pizza, and story upon story of a life-time in New York shared by Christine's grandfather. It was during dinner when we were first told that we were to be given a true, New York experience during our stay. This is a phrase we would continue to hear, but not truly appreciate, until the end of our time in NYC.
So let the experience begin...
We started out our NYC day trip by taking the subway to the promenade in Brooklyn which has quite the spectacular view of the skyline. And, as it happens, is where Christine's grandfather was raised. We were able to spot a couple of his childhood homes on our way to capture this classic photo.
We spent a decent amount of time at this spot simply taking it all in. From this location you can see the Statue of Liberty (although it was quite far away), the Hudson, the Skyline, the Brooklyn bridge, the new One World Trade Center, and the Empire State Building.
Being used to the city of Atlanta (where I'm from), this sight really stood out to me for two primary reasons:
- The Buildings
- The Water
Atlanta has its fair share of skyscrapers, but it is nothing compared to the endless blocks, avenues, and streets of sky-high buildings here in New York. In addition, seeing a city so close to the water always boggles my mind - Atlanta simply doesn't have that.
So yes, I do realize that the above to reasons might be rather obvious and could be compared quite easily to other cities - like Chicago. But keep in mind, this is just the beginning of the experience.
We continued our journey into Manhattan via the subway and ventured to Time Square. Once arriving at Time Square, Christine and I needed to use the restroom and soon discovered that this is a more challenging problem in NYC than we're otherwise used to! The McDonalds bathroom was locked and could only be unlocked via a specific code printed on the receipt of a true customer. Walgreens didn't offer a restroom to its customers even if something was purchased. Starbucks was the same way. Eventually we stumbled upon Bryant Park and were relieved to discover a public restroom...and some beautiful greenery! Turns out this minor inconvenience turned out to be quite the rewarding adventure. [insert winking face emoji]
At this point I think I'm ready to add another two distinguishing points regarding the experience of NYC:
- The People.
- The Lack of Restrooms.
The crowds in NYC are incredibly...how do I put this...crowded. But within the crowds Christine and I discovered that NYC is quite diverse. People from various countries, states, religious backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. are what make up those crowds and it's quite spectacular to be able to see the variation as people pass you by on the crosswalk.
After Time Square, Christine and I walked to Central Park. This was easily my favorite part of NYC. The picnics, the biking, and other activities made me feel like I was part of a great community of people.
Finally, Christine and I visited the High Line. This newly renovated park was created from an old elevated freight train railway that ran through part of the city. A very cool idea that seems to attract quite a few people on a regular basis.
This concluded our first day in "the big apple". On our way back to our host's home, I thought of two more parts of the experience that I had seen today:
- The Parks.
- The Community.
These two tie hand in hand. NYC has some pretty awesome parks randomly placed throughout the city. And within these parks it's really cool to see the communities of people that formed. Whether a connection is made through a game of ultimate frisbee or by asking someone to take your photo, the parks seem to fuel these connections.
Later that evening we ventured out to Coney Island with Christine's aunt and her husband. We were told this was essential to fully have that NYC experience. And quite the experience it was! Coney Island was packed full of people who wanted to have a good time. There were multiple DJs setup blasting songs from a variety of decades. Every DJ seemed to attract a crowd of well over a hundred people.
And these people were dancing...and seriously getting into it!
We walked all throughout Coney Island boardwalk for over a couple of hours. It was quite a different side of NYC to see and it certainly did add to the experience.
- Work hard. Play hard.
- Original Nathan's Hotdogs.
The people of NYC seriously know how to be productive and likewise they are serious about their productivity. On the other hand, these people seriously know how to party!
And yes, of course we ate a hotdog from the original Nathan's!
The following morning Christine and I ventured back into the city again to do some final sight seeing before our train to Chicago departed that afternoon. We saw some fascinating pieces of art at the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art). The Met also had a brilliant view of the city from its rooftop within Central Park.
And with that, we conclude our NYC experience!
Now we start traveling westward...