Until two and a half weeks ago, I had never been overseas and had only experienced a plane flight twice, to QLD and back. So the thought of being up in the sky for around 20hrs was something new, and a little bit daunting.
New York was my destination, a city of dreams, and infinite possibilities, at least, that’s what the movies and songs all tell us. So it was only fitting that after 20 hrs of flying, I switched my iPod to Empire State of Mind as we descended into the glowing expanse of NYC lights, grinning like an idiot, and wiping away my tears. Literally, I cried, I was that excited.
As we made our way through the airport, the first sign indicating that we were really in America was a wall adorned with a framed photo of Barrack Obama, beside the words ‘U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Welcome to the United States.”
My beloved Jay Z and Alicia Keys theme song came on again later, as we drove down through the NYC streets to our apartment, and I asked the taxi…. I mean… cab driver… to turn it up, which he happily complied with whilst doing the universally recognized hand gesture for ‘raise the roof’. Loved him.
The first morning we were there, I ventured out by myself to find some breakfast. We were staying in the Financial District for the first 6 nights at my cousin’s apartment (an Aussie expat). I spent most of my walk tossing my head from side to side like I was doing some kind of solo tango, trying to take in as much as I could.
We visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum that day, and it was an absolutely surreal feeling standing there where such an awful thing happened. I still remember the day it happened, watching the two planes hit the World Trade Centre on TV before I went to school. I was in Grade 3 and since then I’d always had this fascination with what had happened, so to be at the site of it 13 years later was the weirdest feeling.
It was mesmerizing to watch the water streaming down in to the voids in the middle of the two huge memorial pools, one in each location where the buildings had stood. The sheer size of the pools amazed me, knowing that the two skyscrapers that had once stood there had been reduced to rubble.
The museum was very moving – we saw the Last Column, the Survivors Stairs, wreckages of fire engines and listened to voice messages that had been left on the phones of loved ones by some of those who had lost their lives that day.
One message was from a man to his wife, telling her he was in the other building, had witnessed the plane hitting the first building, but that he was ok and his building was secure. Little did he know 😦
The Financial district is also home to Wall St, and I half expected to see Leonardo DiCaprio strutting into the Stock Exchange, Jordan Belfort style. Other than that, Wall St is not overly exciting, just a whole bunch of tourists wearing matching t-shirts and cameras round their necks.
That night my cousin took us to Times Square and as we emerged from the Subway we were met by the brightest lights and the most bustling crowd I’ve ever seen. It was crazy, being surrounded by so many people, and you can’t help but feel excited being there. There were people dressed up in Disney costumes and people dressed up in not much at all, especially the girls wearing only bather bottoms and body paint. Clearly anything goes in NY. Times Square makes the rest of the city seem slightly calmer because the atmosphere in this tourist hotspot is constantly GO GO GO.
Standing amid the lights, buildings and lively crowd you can understand why New York is known as the city that never sleeps.
Stay tuned for Part 2. of my NYC adventure