Thursday, 14 July 2011

“New York! New York!”

I have great expectations of New York, so I hope the city lives up to them.  Family members, friends, acquaintances as well as movies and television series are all to blame for these ‘images’ of this wonderful city.

Our bus ride this morning from Boston to New York, left me with mixed emotions.  As much as I couldn’t wait to get New York, Boston didn’t want me to leave either.  We had a connection, and I’m already missing it!  Boston fit me like a glove.  Honestly, I don’t know what to expect from NY, yet I know I’ve been patiently awaiting our friendship.   After 5 hours of bus travels, the bus walls vibrated as our group cheered.  We saw the NY skyline in the distance, and we warned the city that we were approaching...  We made our way through the Manhattan tunnel, seriously pumped!  Some were singing, some were playing music which features New York; it was a time of great celebration, I’m sure you understand. 

We arrived at our college accommodation (FIT), which was not exactly ‘crash hot’ facility wise, yet the location was brilliant.  After all, we were advised of this many weeks ago.  We unpacked our bags, threw our belongings everywhere (as if we were at home) and set out to explore the city.  The race was on, and many had already left the dorm, disappearing into the great concrete jungle.  It didn’t take long until we were consumed by the sights, smells and tastes of NY.  Everything seemed surreal, but dodging the speeding cars gave us a reality check and we soon realised:  we really were here…  Many tried their hardest to blend in like locals, but fellow NY citizens very quickly ‘figured us out’.  The store owners, stall traders and metro assistants are very gifted at picking out tourists.  We didn’t need to open our mouths, nor did we have to take out our cameras.  Unlike locals who don’t look ‘up’, we were amazed by the architecture and the sheer size of the city.  This is one of the secrets that gives tourists away…

I was already impressed.  It was early afternoon and the city was buzzing.  I couldn’t wait till evening, when life apparently ‘begins’.   To satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst, we visited a pizza store on a corner near Penn Station.  We ordered two large pizza slices.  We learnt our lesson when we could not physically digest such portions, contrary to what our eyes told us.  We knew the slices were HUGE, but we mistook them as being ‘manageable’.  How wrong we were…  Here, Snapple ICED TEA is popular.  I quickly learnt why.  There were many flavours but in the end I decided it was a day for a peach-flavoured Snapple.  I didn’t regret my decision.  Shortly after our pizza corner stop we snuck back to our dorm and finally re-arranged our belongings.  We prepared for the night that was creeping upon us very quickly!

Our first pit stop with the group was at Ground Zero – the location of the September 11 attacks on the skyscrapers.  It was certainly emotional, yet probably not as much as it could have been several years ago, when the region was empty and the ground was scattered with rubble.  At present, serious development is taking place.  Nonetheless, the tragedy is great and is still sharply felt by many, hence the sheer amount of tourists as well as locals visiting the site.  What grabbed my attention most – though I guess you could almost say shocked me – was that fact that the area was not large.  How two enormous skyscrapers were built there continues to astound me.  You’ve got to come, only then will you be able to appreciate my point.  Glenn (our supervising lecturer) initially decided that it’d be best to leave us alone at this emotional site.  However, there was no way we could continue without a brief introduction of just how significant this catastrophe was and how it continues to strike fear in the heart of fellow Americans as well as residents of the International.  

After circling Ground Zero, we were left with free time for the rest of the day.  We were able to shop, but our group was adventurous.  Hence, the majority of us decided to visit the Brooklyn Bridge as well as walk along it.  It was certainly a fantastic idea, and I’m glad I tagged along.  It took us some time to walk the entirety of it, but the view was spectacular.  Those who chose to walk from one end to the other were left with an overwhelming sense of achievement!  It is a marvelous structure, and the walking path is in the middle of the bridge, very friendly to both pedestrians and cyclists.

As evening approached, we further explored the city.  Sure, we were tired and our feet were seriously hurting, yet we persisted.  Visiting Grand Central Terminal was not in our initial plans.  But who said plans are important?  Exploring is best with little planning and preparation.  Some can argue against this, but from my experience, it’s more exciting and you leave with a greater sense of awe, achievement and satisfaction.  After we seemed impressed enough with the wonderful station (*note to photography and architecture students*), we yet again decided to disregard maps and instead walk out and just explore what was on offer.  It didn’t take us long to find Times Square due to its proximity to the Grand Central terminal.  Once we arrived, a stream of satisfaction filled us, and we ran and jumped around, thinking of how to take it all in.  It’s impossible I shortly learnt, and it would take a few days to see it in greater detail.  Times Square is as impressive as it is depicted, and perhaps exceeded my expectations (quite rare I know haha :P ).  Plenty of vendors were out, but we didn’t really feel like pretzels or hot dogs.  We were much to busy exploring this wonderful district of entertainment. 

My first impressions of New York overly exceeded my expectations of this well-renowned city.  Some are scared of its size; others are scared of its people.  I found neither something to be worried about…  Sure, many homeless people loiter at the streets, the drains let off funky stenches, and it can seem difficult to navigate at first, but I’ll leave you with one piece of advice:

One step at a time…

Until next time readers :D

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