35. My USA Christmas. Part II – New York City

I woke up super excited. I was going to see the city that millions dream about. Many consider New York as a center of our world. Is it definitely the biggest business, financial and cultural center of North America. Thousands of movies shot there, books and songs written about it, documentaries shot. No surprise everyone knows what New York is. New York hosts some of world’s biggest banks and financial institutions, corporation headquarters. This city smells power and money. I was always wondering what is it like in real world?

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Passing some poor neighborhoods of Staten Island
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First glimpse at morning Manhattan from ferry terminal

We were really lucky with weather, it was in upper 10’s Celsius with no wind or rain. Almost too good for December. Parking and traffic in NYC is a nightmare, so my friend had a better plan. We drove to the Staten Island, left our beautiful car at ferry terminal parking lot and took a ferry to Manhattan. This approach has multiple advantages. First, you don’t pay for toll roads leading to Manhattan, you don’t need to worry about finding a parking spot and don’t pay $40 for all-day parking in NYC. Instead we spent only about $8 on parking. Then we took a ferry. What a brilliant idea! First, the ferry is free. Absolutely. Second, it is a good chance to have a look at commute of regular new yorkers. And third, the most important, the ferry crosses New York harbor’s Upper Bay, it sails past the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, Ellis Island, and offers spectacular view of lower Manhattan. I would pay for such an awesome boat trip! And it is only about 25 minutes-long.

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Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. A gate to New York harbor.
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Lady Liberty. True Symbol of America. Millions of immigrants have seen it when the arrived to the New World dreaming the American Dream.

 

I spent almost all trip on a front deck, despite chilling wind. The view of New York was just too good to miss. There could be only one first trip to New York. These memories would stay with me forever.

The boat arrives to Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal at Manhattan’s southern tip. It is just about 2 minute walk to Broadway and Wall Street.

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The Wall Street Bull

First attraction that I have seen in New York was the Charging Bull, sometimes referred as Wall Street Bull. The oversize sculpture depicts a bull, the symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity. It is one of the most iconic images of New York symbolizing Wall Street and the Financial District. It is a very popular attraction with long lines of tourists wishing to take a photo. I was waiting for my turn, but the group of about 15 drunk russian tourists went in front of everyone. I hate people who don’t respect others. We had to move on, the time was limited.

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Intersection of Broadway and Wall Street
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New York Stock Exchange

Just after the bull, there is possibly one of the most often photographed intersections in the world – a corner of Broadway and Wall Street. We explored the Wall Street a little, have seen the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building which is surrounded by some of America’s biggest banks. The feelings were unbelievable. Tens of trillions of dollars go through this street.

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9/11 memorial
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Brand-new One World Trade Center tower

Next stop – The World Trade Center. I  wanted to commemorate the victims of 9/11 events. Frankly speaking, I don’t believe it was done by group of people who were living in mountains of Afghanistan. Neither I believe that it was an inside job, it is the United States of America, for God’s sake!  But whoever did, it this was a horrible event of  unprecedented scale. And in my opinion the monument clearly reflects it. Two pools at where the twin towers were located are silent reminders of what used to be there and of the sad events. And names of every victim written around them clearly states that no one is forgotten. My feelings were quite controversial, sadness and tension.

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Brooklyn Bridge
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Not a  typical traffic for New York
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Iconic New York’s fire escape ladders
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NYC subway
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The Flatiron Building

We made a little detour to see New York City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge in a distance. We walked through Chinatown to our next stop – the Flatiron Building. It is a triangular 22-story steel-framed building that was completed in 1902. It was considered a groundbreaking structure and still one of the most famous New York’s landmark.

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This is Empire State Building baby!

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We continued on the Fifth avenue to out next destination – the world-famous Empire State Building. It was completed in 1931 having 381m in height (443m including antenna) and was world’s tallest building for almost 40 years. It was world’s first building to exceed 100 floors. It is a truly American cultural icon and possibly the most famous building in New York. It has been named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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New York is a city of yellow cabs
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Christmas decorations
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Chrysler Building
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Grand Central Terminal hall

We kept waling along the Fifths Avenue, seeing the Chrysler Building in a distance, the tallest brick building in the World, completed in 1930, past the New York City Library to the Grand Central Terminal on 42nd street. Featured in numerous movies, it is one of the biggest train stations in the world, having 44 platforms on multiple levels, all underground.

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Christmas tree at Rockfeller Center

A few blocks west is the Rockefeller Center. Most famous for its huge  Christmas tree and being featured in Home Alone 2 movie. Commissioned by the Rockefeller family, it is a complex of 19 commercial buildings,  it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Surely enough, it attracts people, crowds were enormous, taking a picture was almost impossible.

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NYC is super crowded
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One of Donald Trump’s tower in New York
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Luxury Plaza Hotel

As we approached the Central Park, we have seen the Plaza Hotel, a luxury hotel that was featured in tens of popular movies, such as “Crocodile” Dundee , Home Alone 2, Scent of a Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, The Great Gatsby, The Sopranos and others.

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Central Park
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One of Broadway’s theaters

It was getting late and dark, so we did not have time to explore the Central Park properly, we just touched its southern end on 59th street, and started walking backwards on Broadway, seeing seen some of the most  famous Broadway theaters.

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Approaching Times Square
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Crossroads of the World, Times Square
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Famous police station

One place on Manhattan that everyone wants to see is the Times Square. It is a major intersection at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, sometimes referred to as The Crossroads of the World. It is world’s busiest pedestrian intersection attracting estimated fifty million visitors annually. Times Square was renamed in 1904 when The New York Times moved its headquarters to the Times Building, which is  the site of the annual ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

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The city that never sleeps
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No worries, John McClane is on duty

We returned to where we started in the morning well after sunset. In total we walked over 80 blocks  to Central Park and over 80 on our way back, totaling about 24 km. The biggest walk in my life so far, and the most saturated. I have seen so many iconic places that I have seen a million times on TV.  And there are still many more to see. New York is definitely not a city you can see in one day. It is truly enormous.

And there is something about this city that continues to attract people from all over the world. It is something about its spirit, its energy. I definitely will return there to explore it properly. In my opinion it is a must-see city.

As we were returning to Staten Island, I went to ferry’s rear deck to take one more look at New York City  and see it fading away. I’ll be back.

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To be continued…

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