Standing at a bustling corner of times square on a busy Monday evening, i was left thinking- how much is enough in life! This is the feeling New York City leaves one with. If one wants to get back to being ambitious, this is the place one should visit. Another outstanding thing about the city is the space it offers to everyone- cyclists, joggers, even dogs! Walking along the banks of Hudson river and watching the crowd pass by was my favorite part. I loved the pace the city moves at. Jogging at 2 in the afternoon; playing tennis on the roadside (there are tennis courts along the road) at 11 am. I loved the independence the city offers. This is how our day 2 in the city started.
On Day 1, we could only get a glimpse of the city, as we could come out of the airport only at 5.30 pm, which was followed by a cab ride to our place of stay (an accommodation booked through airbnb in lower Manhattan). It was a cozy room with attached kitchen and bath and bunker beds. It was after so long that we got to sleep on bunker beds :P. Arrival was followed by a quick walk to the nearby market to pick some ready to cook food items (all of us were terribly hungry after the long flights from our respective locations). After a quick dinner and a promise to wake up early the next day (we had only 2 nights more and a lot to cover), we went off to sleep in our cozy beds.
Back to day 2, it was quite surprising how 4 girls staying in one room managed to leave at 8 am sharp (may be the excitement of being in NYC was the catalyst). While the girls were busy getting ready, I followed my morning cup of coffee with a walk in a nearby park (near 111 Manhattan) which ended up being another photography session (well, it was my first morning in NYC and i was EXCITED).
Due to high cab fares and an urge to travel like locals, we decided to take the subway pass and commute using trains to the extent possible. We took a 7 day unlimited subway pass ($32). The same pass can be used to access all modes of public transport available in the city, so we were able to make good use of it in the 2 days that we were around. Our journey started with a train from 145th avenue to 14th avenue i.e. the first stop of the day - downtown Manhattan.
After a roadside breakfast of baegles, croissant and apple crumble, we started walking towards 9/11 war memorial. It was a good 1 hour walk from the subway (someone we consulted for direction suggested that we should walk given the weather was quite pleasant and well, we took her seriously!).
One feels like a true New Yorkers while walking along the banks of Hudson river on a normal weekday in the city. Everybody in the city has a space for themselves - cyclists, joggers, walkers, dog lovers (there are parks specifically for dogs), sportsmen (with tennis and badminton courts along the river on one side and road on the other), and off course the normal traffic of cars and buses.
And hence, after a long walk (which didn't seem that long to the eyes given the view and the pleasant weather for company; but our feet had a different story to tell), we reached our first check-point for the day. After a brief photography session, we started walking (again!) towards the world famous financial street. Financial Street is one of the most happening part of the city (after times square!) with Broadway and the Raging Bull on one end and the financial street (where New York stock exchange is located) on the other. One of the world's most expensive street, this place is an architectural marvel. Walking along 14 wall street which is deemed as the symbol of american capitalism gives you the feeling of having 'seen it all' (which is only momentary, of course). Would have loved to spend more time at wall street doing nothing and just observing the crowd passing by, but we had booked ourselves on the ferry which leaves NYC for 'Statue of Liberty' at 12, so after a brief walk we rushed back to reach the ferry point.
Getting on the ferry is another experience in itself. Frisking, frisking and more frisking. For impatient Indians like us who are used to having our ways around, this was a gentle reminder to us- hello! you are in the US of A. Jugaad doesn't work here and you have to abide by the rules howsoever long does it take (that was a good lesson to learn). So, after a long wait in a never-ending queue, we got on the ferry which would take us to 'Lady Liberty'. Pacific wind with the majestic Manhattan skyline in the background and a diverse crowd of tourists from all over the world made the ride real fun.
The 46.5 meter statue standing tall overpowering the huge expanse of pacific ocean is a treat to the eyes. ' In all ages, the achievements of man and his aspirations have been represented by symbols' quoted an official at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour more than 100 years ago. Originally of cooper colour, the statue has gone green over a period of 30 years due to oxidization. The Statue is a legend in American history.
Next stop booked on the ferry ride was Ellis Island: National Muesum of Immigration chronicles. The museum has a beautiful location and houses numerous facts on how the history and culture of America has evolved over time with influx of immigrants from all over the world.
Totally exhausted after the long walk and ferry ride, the gang decided to eat. Like aimless wanderers, we started walking towards 60th street NYC where the popular 'SERENDIPTY III' cafe is located. On one of those numerous turns, we spotted 'ali baba halal food' van and we couldn't resist the smell of Indian curry and rice. A quick decision was made to eat the popular 'frozen hot chocolate' at Serendipity while we tried some Indian food at ali baba. (it was only our 2nd day in the US and only 5 days since we had started from home, but the craving for Indian food was irresistible).
Desserts at Serendipity are out of this world. For a big time chocolate dessert fan, the place was no less than heaven. We tried the world famous frozen hot chocolate and four of us couldn't finish one serving (such was the serving size- check out the photos to know more). It was friday afternoon and we had to wait like 40 minutes to get a seat, but the experience was worth the wait. Serendipity has been in the scenes of various famous movies, including its namesake- serendipity, where the leading couple visit the cafe to share a dessert (after they meet at bloomingdales- which is just round the corner). So the place gives you that starry feeling :)
After satiating our hunger pangs, we did some random window shopping in some of the most expensive outlets located on the 3rd, 4th and 5th avenue , visited the St. Patrick's Cathedral, a Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic Cathedral Church. The cathedral stands as an architectural gem amidst the high rises of the 5th avenue.
Used to our corporate lifestyles, the day long walk was finally showing its impact. We were all tired and the desire to spend more time roaming on the 5th avenue was overpowered by the need to sit and relax. So we decided to take a subway to times square where we could just sit back. But we couldn't have missed to see the grand central terminal for anything. Few more miles of walk and there we survived to reach the GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL. This terminal has featured in numerous popular movies for shooting the most dramatic scenes, including our own Bollywood melodrama 'kal ho na ho'. It looked more of a five start accommodation than a railway station. After our 5 minutes of 'oh-wows, this is so cool', we wished we could have such clean railway stations in India and boarded a train to 42nd street (as we had no strength left in our feet to explore the numerous cafes, restaurants and shopping arenas- all at the station).
Times Square, is not famous for nothing. With huge billboards all over the place, bustling crowd, multiple shopping outlets cafes, restaurants, commercial complexes,it is rightly quoted as the 'crosswords of the world' and the 'center of the universe'. The site of the Annual New Year's eve ball drop, the place receives millions of footfalls everyday. Tired after our day long sojourn, we sat down to absorb the vibrance of the place. Given that we were all girls travelling in a completely new city and we were completely exhausted, with a promise to come back to times square the following day (one visit is not enough to see the multiple dimensions ), we decided to call it a day and took a train back to 145 Manhattan.
Having covered majority of our check points on day 2, we decided to have a relaxed Day 3. After a sunny 2nd day, we woke up to a foggy new york morning (jackets were out to cover the strappy dresses). The day started with an early breakfast at Zabar's. Back to subway, i was getting comfortable with the city now and was travelling like a local (yay!!) With plenty of popular shows like friends, sex and the city among many others getting shot here, the place needs no introduction. Among other things, i loved the coffee and muffins.
Breakfast was followed by a bus ride to the central park. I enjoyed the bus ride more than the subway as it gives one an opportunity to look at the spectacular architecture of the city at leisure. After a walk along the park and couple of photo shoots later (the park is an absolute delight for all nature photographs out there), we started walking towards the Belvedere castle. Doing justice to its name (Belvedere translates to 'beautiful view' in Italian), the castle offers the best and highest view of the park and its skyscraper. With a soothing background music, spectacular view, the castle is a perfect romantic getaway on a foggy day.
Given that we were in a rush to catch up the free guided tour of the New York Public Library, we ran out to catch a bus to NYPL. NYPL is one of those places where I would wish to spend my entire lifetime at (if given a choice). With over 53 million items, it is the 4th largest public library in the world. For book lovers, the huge reading rooms and the beautiful lights adorning the place makes the library a delightful place to sit and read for hours altogether.
Hunger pangs again, and it was pizza which came to our rescue this time. Wanting to try the traditional new York pizza, we took a train ride to Greenwich village and after getting lost few blocks here and there, we discovered Joe's pizza. Established in 1975, Joe's pizza is the regular new York's weekend take away. Sitting by the window side on a busy corner in the village and hogging on a yummy cheese pizza slice with coke, it was the perfect new York experience.
Stuffed with cheese, among other things, we took a subway to our next destination- Brooklyn bridge. One of the oldest bridges of new York, Brooklyn offers a spectacular view of the city from either sides- with pacific ocean to one side and the sky touching architectural marvels on the other.A walk on Brooklyn bridge, where some other friends joined us, was followed by a walk in the Brooklyn park. As the evening started descending, it was time to go to times square, absorb the city lights and do some souvenir shopping. One of the best moments of the evening was , we , on a billboard at times square. and i just love Revlon for that. After spending some time exploring the multiple outlets on the square, we headed towards our last destination for the day- the Empire State Building. The empire state building is a 102 storied skyscrapper Located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, the 86th and 102nd floor observatories provide unforgettable 360° views of New York City and beyond. Well,not everything can go as it is planned to be. As the evening hours passed by, the city of new York was engulfed in fog and we got a 'zero visibility stamp' on our tickets. We anyways decided to go up to the 86th floor and try our luck. All we could see was fading city lights amidst the dense fog. Although, we couldn't see how NY looked like from up there, but it felt like we are standing on top of the world. After waiting for some more time, we decided to head back home and bade the foggy view a heavy good bye. Nevertheless, we utilized the time up there by snacking on Indian delicacies (we were famished by then) on the 86th floor!
And as soon as we reached back, our tired feet and an early morning flight to catch to Vegas (oh yes, next on the list was Vegas) could't permit us to explore more and we retired to our respective dream worlds!!
Vegas chronicles coming soon!!!!