Walking somewhat aimlessly and exploring is the best way to see New York. I began to see this on my second day in the city when after trying and failing to get the most out of my expensive New York pass and fitting in a tonne of attractions, I ended up just walking. And I loved every second of it.
I began the day by wandering out of my hostel and headed towards the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine around the corner. I did this mainly because it was at a stop where I could pick up the Big Bus. I didn’t realise quite how wonderful the building would be and I actually spent a while looking around it and sat peacefully on the steps outside gawking at the facade in the sun. I have a few photos but my poor camera struggles with inside shots so try and see past the quality.
When I eventually boarded the bus we sat off on a route that essentially went around the northern part of Central Park. We went down a section of the Hudson and I (once again) heard tales of Sully’s landing. I could feel I could write a book about it. We then rode through Harlem – a fascinating area which I wish I could explore more! Lastly, we headed down the east side of the park, down Museum Road (5th Avenue) where I got my first glimpse of the Guiggenheim. That was another thing I had really wanted to do but didn’t have time in the end. Next time. I got off the bus at the south-eastern corner of Central Park with a mission to rent a bike.
My pass allowed either a 2 hour bike tour or a 4 hour rental in Central Park. I didn’t make it in time for the tour so I went for the rental. I discovered it takes twice as long as you think to go anywhere or do anything in New York. So I spent about 3 hours exploring the vast park from the saddle and thoroughly enjoyed it. In my opinion, you need a bike to get very far in Central Park. It is absolutely huge and full of hidden gems. I still only saw about 10%. Again, I’ll do more next time.
My next destination in mind was Brooklyn. I hopped on the Big Bus at Times Square to get down south to the Bridge. That bus takes a lifetime because of traffic but the stuff I learnt about my surroundings made it worth it. I wouldn’t do it next time though. I was considering renting a bike again to get across the bridge and explore Brooklyn but when I got there I just fancied walking. The bridge was incredibly busy – it was 3pm though so I don’t know what I expected. The views from it are something else. It’s essentially a 360 degree observation bridge. You can see Manhatten behind you to both left and right, Brooklyn in front of you and the islands in the near distance in the river. This includes a hazy Statue of Liberty. Although the scenery was amazing, I spent more time enjoying the people. The one good thing about a place teaming with people is that it makes for great people watching. I heard tourists enjoying the beauty of the area and locals busying themselves getting from A to B. I saw travellers taking quintessential tourist selfies to post on social media no doubt. I saw people taking a rest break halfway, mustering up the energy to walk to the other side in the midday heat, or perhaps giving in and planning to turn back to the Manhatten skyscrapers of the financial district.
The most exciting thing I saw? Love. I’m not a soppy person, but this was something out of a novel. I saw a young couple on their wedding day having their photos taken on the bridge. I really thought it was romantic and I loved observing 2 people so content in that moment. A few other people stopped to take photos of them as well and I felt so lucky to have passed the bridge at that very moment. Their main photo was of her running up to him, and a beautifully staged kiss at the moment they collided. That was lovely. But I then took another photo of them glancing at the photo they just took and this was the most moving moment. He gently placed his hand on her back as they smiled at their photo.
When I reached Brooklyn I didn’t have an agenda. Or a map. So I walked around a bit. I found it charming and dead quiet compared to the hustle and bustle of Manhatten.
The metro took me from the Brooklyn shopping street to Times Square and I decided to complete my day in one of the biggest attractions in New York. The Empire State Building is on the most recognisable buildings in the city, and the world. At nighttime it lights up the skyline and at this time I went right to the top to see the rest of the city lighting up below me. It is a stunning view. Undeniably one of the best in New York. I stood and watched the tiny dancing lights surrounding the Empire State in all directions. Unfortunately, the observation deck is so packed with tourists that you can’t watch for long. That would be my only personal complaint. (In my next letter I’ll discuss the better alternative to the Empire State). Here’s some photos of the moonlit scene anyway…
As you can imagine I pretty much collapsed on my return to the hostel. It was a lovely day.
And only one more day left in NYC…