Exploring New York City!

Aside from wonderful shopping opportunities, phenomenal theatre shows and an incredibly multi-cultural society… New York City is, also, an absolute mecca for some fantastic sight-seeing. As one of the first European settlements in America, almost 500 years ago, New York has a great number of historic sights following on from a European dream of the “New World” – and, later, a call for independence.

Medal Engraving!!

NYC Marathon - medal

First stop this morning, was a trip up to Colombus Circle on the South Western corner of Central Park… I’d heard that there was a shop in the “Time Warner Shopping Mall” (located here) which does free medal engraving for yesterdays’ marathon finishers – so, first things first, I made my way to the shop, and handed my medal in ready for engraving my name and official finishing time. (For other first time New York marathoners, I’d recommend not booking any sight-seeing tours for this morning – as the shop had a group of professional masseurs on hand to relieve the marathoners aches and pains from the day before!! Although I arrived super early, there was already a waiting list of about an hour for the masseurs – unfortunately, I was already booked onto a Statue of Liberty tour, so didn’t have the time to spare… Let’s just say stairs were a major struggle that day – and there were plenty of them to navigate!!)

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

I arrived back at the hotel to meet up with my parents again before setting off, on the metro, to downtown Manhattan ready for our boat ride across, from Battery Park to Liberty Island, for the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty - from the boat

I managed to get some pretty good pictures of the Statue, looking at the island from the boat, before disembarking and joining the queue to redeem our (pre-booked) view from the pedestal. (Please note: when we arrived, they were turning people away if they hadn’t pre-booked because there were too many people wanting to go up – I would recommend pre-booking just to avoid disappointment. If you want to go to the crown, as opposed to just the pedestal, tickets often sell out weeks in advance.)

Inside the statue, we were able to see the original torch, which has since been replaced, and replica’s of some of her body parts to give the general public an idea of, for example, the size shoe she might wear (just in case you wanted to buy her a present 😉 )… The torch and the body parts are bigger than you could ever imagine when just looking up at the statue from afar!!! There was also a lot of information about the history/engineering background and much more once inside… Including a whooooole bunch of very. Painful. Steps. 🙁 (215 to the pedestal be precise!!).

Old Torch - Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty – the Old Torch

Statue of Libery Foot!!

Statue of Liberty – Foot Replica… in relation to my foot, and to me!

Walking around the pedestal, you could see a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline… And I also found it pretty incredible to see, from afar, just how far I’d run yesterday… Looking out at the start line of the Varenzanso Bridge and tracing my eyes right across through the entire of Brooklyn, into Manhattan, right up to the Bronx and back down through half of Manhattan again – I felt a real sense of pride and achievement that I don’t think I fully appreciated yesterday!! 🙂

Manhattan - view from Liberty Island

On the boat back, we had the opportunity to stop at Ellis Island so we could see the old official immigration reception centre used in the early 1900’s mass immigration – we chose instead, however, to use our short, remaining time in New York to see the new “Ground Zero” and pay our respects to all the victims of 9/11.

Ground Zero

When we first arrived, we watched a couple of screenings, documenting different standpoints, on the events of 9/11 and the immediate aftermath. We spent around 2 hours or so, afterwards, looking around the museum and reading about the events and the victims of the tragedy… as well as at the destruction caused to some of the original building foundations that have, purposefully, been left free standing within the new building – it was an extremely sobering experience which left me feeling slightly depressed for some time after.

Ground Zero - water fountain
Ground Zero - engraved names

The 2 waterfalls outside, depicting the areas where the twin towers once stood tall above the Manhattan skyline, are a slightly happier symbol of resilience and remembrance… Each surrounded by a wall of engraved names, ensuring the individual victims of the tragedy will never be forgotten.

Grand Central Station

After picking up my medal from Columbus Circle, we made our way to Grand Central Station. As America’s largest, most historic, busiest and most featured (in film/TV) train station – Grand Central was always a must visit for our trip to NYC. We walked into the main concourse via one of the large shopping corridors, and the first thing I noticed was the infamous clock in the centre of the expanse… Commuters were surrounding it in search of travel information, tourists were stood around taking photographs and groups were meeting and chatting away to each other. I then looked up at the roof to notice the fantastic artwork depicting the astrology belt – being a bit of a stargazer myself, I was able to really appreciate what the artist was trying to achieve.

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station - Ceiling Art

Just as we were leaving, I noticed 2 friends go to opposite corners of a particular alcove just leading off from the main concourse… They both turned to face the wall for a moment, then turned around and giggled at each other!! I thought this rather strange activity for 2 adults, so I thought about it a moment and came to the conclusion that there must be something in it!! I told my dad to stand in the opposite corner and (after some coaxing to get him to try out my silly experiment, which he didn’t believe would work) started speaking, quietly, into the wall “can you hear me?!” and sure enough – my dad’s echo-ey voice came back, from across the busy hallway of numerous commuters, telling me he could!! The architecture, of some of the alcoves, is such that the sound can travel from one corner to the other without shouting to each other!!

Following our interesting discovery in Grand Central, we began to walk back to our hotel – looking for some places to eat along the way. As we meandered, on one particular road we saw several police cars lined up (if I were to guess, I’d say around 20-30 of them!!) – so, after making up a number of humorous stories, regarding what they could be doing there, between us (mostly involving pizza delivery, or our past coming back to haunt us 😛 )… my dad finally asked one of the officers what was going on… He told us we’d missed President Obama passing through just minutes before!!!

Bus Tours

Empire State Building and Macy's

This morning, we were up bright and early to jump on one of the cities’ bus tours – and, by about 9:30am, we were already on the tour bus, heading downtown from Times Square, past Macy’s and the Empire State Building!  It was a beautiful morning with clear blue skies, so we sat on the open top bus as we listened to all the tourist information provided by the guides through the headphones and took photos of the main city sights.  As we passed through Chinatown, I was trying my best (as I normally do) to read as many of the Chinese characters as I could on the shop windows (I tend to get stupidly excited when I manage to read a full sentence – although that happens extremely rarely!!! 😛 )

Brooklyn Public Library

We swapped buses in Chinatown to jump on one which would then take us over the bridge and into Brooklyn – we had a quick tour around the immediate Brooklyn area across the bridge, covering sights such as the Memorial Arch for Soldiers and Sailors… The majestic Brooklyn Public Library – with its golden gilded entrance featuring a number of infamous characters in American literature… and Prospect Park, before heading back into Manhattan, past Wall Street, and up towards midtown again.

Central Park

Next stop, Central Park – we all had the idea in our heads that, whilst in New York, we would like to hire some bikes and cycle around Central Park… so, that in mind, we arrived at Central Park only to be bombarded by people wanting to sell us horse-driven tours or bicycle rickshaw tours etc etc.  We did meet a nice young man, however who, eventually, showed us the way to a good bike rental shop so we could make our own way around.

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We hired our bikes from a place just one street away, and head back towards the, 843 acre, park – armed with a map of all the popular places to visit.  We stuck mainly to the South End of the park, starting our exploration by cycling towards the Bethesda Fountain (in line with 72nd street).  The fountain is the largest in New York, and boasts a beautiful view across the lake, where you can sit watching the numerous rowboats – or alternatively, hire one out from the Loeb Boathouse just a little further round the lake!!

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Next, we cycled, along the lakeside, towards Strawberry Fields (West 72nd Street) – this area of the park has been dedicated to John Lennon.  Strawberry Fields is located across the street from Dakota Apartments, where the famous singer/musician/songwriter was shot dead just outside his home in 1980.  The mosaic, pictured, is located in the centre of the 2.5acre region of the park, in memory of John Lennon’s most famous song – Imagine.

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We then cycled all around the lake, stopping at one or two places along the way to marvel at the vibrant colours of the Autumn tree leaves, and some pretty looking bridges, before heading back to the South to take our bikes back before we got fined for a late return!!

Once returned, we jumped back on the tour bus towards Times Square to get some dinner before heading back to the hotel – ready for our Hip Hop tour in the morning!!

Have you ever been to New York City??  Did you go to see the same things? Any other recommendations for other places to go?  Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below!! 🙂

Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉

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