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Published: April 22nd 2017
A slight drizzle fell from the grey skies onto the pavement as I walked from my hotel to catch the downtown A train to the South Ferry stop in New York City. My destination was the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island—symbols of the United States’ history of welcoming immigrants into our country. After arriving at the Statue of Liberty, the sun began to force its way through the gloom, revealing the magnificent Manhattan skyline across the Hudson River.
It has been 10 years since I had visited New York City. I’d be the first to admit that I am not a city person. But in small doses, I am invigorated by the pulse of a large and diverse metropolitan area. My recent four-day sojourn in New York City reminded me that visiting big cities can be a pleasant and enlightening experience.
My journey began with an eight-hour train ride on Amtrak’s Vermonter line from my home in Vermont to Manhattan. The train ride itself was pleasant enough, but after leaving the scenic hills of Vermont, the scenery deteriorated as the train flew by a series of old warehouses and sewage treatment plants in towns in Massachusetts and Connecticut that had seen better days. As dusk fell, the train pulled into Penn Station. As I existed from the underground tracks, I was immediately hit with the kinetic energy of Manhattan. After checking into my hotel, I sought out a Moroccan restaurant for a dinner of lamb tagine.
On this trip, I wanted to see and do different things. I began my holiday with a visit to the Intrepid,
an aircraft carrier that had seen action in World War II and the Vietnam War. The ship was impressive and imposing and the overall experience was worthwhile. I recommend the self-guided audio tour on headphones that you can purchase. After spending the morning touring the ship and museum, I had lunch at a wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant in the West Village. I assiduously avoided chain restaurants as I wanted to experience all of the flavors of New York City as a local would.
My next stop was a solemn and moving one: the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Seeing the over three thousand names of the dead carved into the two large memorials that were constructed on the footprints of the twin towers brings a hush to visitors. Then when you descend in the museum itself that is filled with the artifacts of that tragic day in 2001, one can’t help but feel an uncomfortable chill in your bones. For me, the most poignant part of the museum was hearing the recorded messages that victims left for their loved ones as they realized that they were facing imminent death.
From the museum, I went to the observatory of the new Freedom Tower for a stunning panoramic view of the New York City skyline. The day I visited the sky was a deep azure and the visibility was more than thirty miles. I highly recommend the experience.
The following day I visited the Guggenheim Museum. The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building is a masterpiece in its own right, with its circular galleries that twist around a magnificent atrium. Wright wanted the building to be a “temple of the spirit,” and he certainly achieved that. The array of modern art that is housed in the building is terrific. After visiting the Guggenheim and taking a quick stroll through Central Park, I took the subway to Greenwich Village for lunch at a Greek restaurant and to saunter through this hip neighborhood.
My trip to Manhattan ended where this essay began—at the Statue of Liberty. With the recent political climate in the United States casting a dark cloud over immigration, I wanted to lift my spirits and rediscover how much immigration has meant to the history of this country. As I stood under Lady Liberty, I thought of the waiter at the Moroccan restaurant who had come to this country from Cyprus to study engineering. And another waiter who came from France to improve his English. New York is a delicious soup of different people, cultures and languages co-existing—for the most part harmoniously. The diversity of the United States is its greatest strength. My trip to New York City reminded me of that.
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