Back to NYC. I hadn't been there since 2000 and never on my own terms (usually in tow behind a friend, who knew the city better than me). Shauna and I had a week, so we knew we had the time to see the city well. To change things up a bit, we stayed the first four days in West Harlem and the final three in Brooklyn (Downtown). Both of these neighbourhoods would give us a different feel and take on NYC, but not being too far from the action of Midtown. We would also find out that our accommodation dollar went further in those neighbourhoods.
I am always in awe at the size and density of Manhattan. I can only think of Hong Kong Island as possibly being more densely populated. Once one gets down to Midtown or Downtown the true sense of this takes hold. Realizing the size of NYC, we made sure to be strategically situated close to the north/south express trains. We did such a good job of this that we never ended up transferring to another subway line during our entire week! I can never remember that happening before. In this respect, the west side
Here is a sign you don't see everyday...
of the island is certainly better serviced than the east side. From our hotel in West Harlem we were only a couple of blocks away from the 125th subway station. If we took an express train from there, our first stop was 59th Street (Columbus Circle) -- a ten stop journey on the local train!
While the NYC subway is incredibly extensive and convenient, its lines are literally rotting away. Many of the stations look like they have not had a makeover since their inception. It is actually kind of sad given how proud New Yorkers are of their city, but then again aging infrastructure is not unique to this city.
I am also impressed how NYC keeps reinventing itself. Since my last visit in 2000, the Meatpacking Area has come into is own along with he lovely High Line (elevated walkway). I guess great cities seem to do that just a bit better than others. West Harlem is another area that has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. I remember last time I was here I ventured about three blocks into Harlem and then quickly took the train to the Bronz Zoo. This time the entire
Central Park in April
Cherry blossoms out in full force
area has been somewhat gentrified. It is certainly an area in transition, but there are many nice restaurants and bars opening up and the area really looks cleaned up. Given it approximation to one of the express lines on 125th Street and its unique character, I would certainly consider this area as a potential home if I ever had the opportunity to live here. Like our hotel, I am sure one's dollar would go a lot further than nearly anywhere south of here in Manhattan.
We packed in a lot of touristy things during our week and attempted to combine them logistically so we weren't moving around the city too much. We picked up a New York Pass (prepaid pass allowing one to see many of the cities attractions for one price), which made seeing everything easier and more convenient. I do think we got our moneys worth, but not likely by much.
Some of the more memorable experiences were a trip the Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees take on the Blue Jays, a trip to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and 911 Memorial, and a night out in the Village.
Not that I am
a big baseball fan, but I have seen a few major league games over the years. Yankee Stadium, which I thought was more like a temple to baseball, was also about as big of an attraction as the Yankees themselves. Given we were staying in West Harlem for the first few days, it was only a four stop subway ride to the Bronx and Yankees Stadium, so we picked a beautiful Sunday afternoon for it as well. We bought nearly the cheapest tickets we could get more so to take in the experience than the game. We arrived early to get a good a look and feel for the stadium. It even has a Yankees museum in it.
On our last day, we focused on the Financial District, which included stops at the NYSE and the 911 Memorial. It is not hard to see how NYC and America in general has been traumatized by 911. The NYSE, which is located along the narrow streets of the Financial District, is heavily fortified and no vehicles are allowed in the area. The Government takes the threat of a terrorist attack on this building very seriously. Only a few blocks away is
Come a long way in the past 10 years
the 911 Memorial and the nearly complete Freedom Tower. Not anticipating large line-ups for the memorial, we didn't make reservations. We sorely misjudged that, as there were long lineups. The site was one big construction zone. The memorial was easily the most popular tourist site we visited during our stay.
For our last night, we headed to the Village with some friends for dinner (Bobo) and music. What caught me off guard were the number of people on the street late at night and into the early morning hours. Perhaps I have spent too much time in Edmonton, but there was certainly a buzz to this area like nowhere else I had seen during our trip.
While Manhattan is only 86 sq/km, it boosts a population of nearly 1.6M people. While one would think it would be next to impossible to bump into the same person or people twice, think again. On two incidents I was proven wrong on that point. First, we had brunch at a little bistro in Harlem and then the next day we saw the picture of the family sitting across us on a big screen in Times Square. It looked like someone was taking random photos of the people in the square at the time to post on on the screen. Second, after having a fun night at a piano bar on the Upper East Side earlier in the week, we saw the same crew (piano player (Michael Isaac), waiters, and singers) at another piano bar in the Village a couple of nights later. What are the odds???
Now that I have seen the city "my way", my next trip here will be a bit slower and more relaxed - just to soak it up.
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