Anyway, back to my weekend in New York. The bus arrived at 2 p.m. and we (my colleague from the internship and I) proceeded to move into the apartment where we were staying. Earlier in the week I had had the great idea of checking craigslist for apartments in NYC and sure enough I found something outstanding. One block from Times Square in the heart of the city (and next to a Gentlemen's Club;-) and all that for the very affordable price of $55 per night per person. You really can't beat that!
So off we were to Times Square and - oh my God - had I forgotten just how overwhelming this place is. Needless to say I love it! I could easily spend a day or two just sitting there, sipping coffee and watching all the madness and people on the streets.
Given that the weather was quite acceptable and the forecast for the remaining days wasn't all that good we decided to take the ride up to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Back in 2000 when I was in NYC with my parents we also went up there but I remember not liking it that much. First of all because the weather was quite crappy when we were up there and secondly because I was spoiled by the view from the top of the World Trade Center. However this time 'round I actually really enjoyed it. Admittedly the conditions could have been a bit better and a little bit of sun would have done wonders to the quality of my photos. Having said that the view from the 86th floor is still quite stunning, my favourites are looking along 5th avenue towards Central Park, the top of the Crystler Building and lower Manhattan.
We then went up 5th avenue until we hit Central Park and strolled around there for a bit. The park is definitely an absolute highlight and just looking at all the skyscrapers while standing in the park is a great thing. In the evening we still wanted to grab a beer somewhere and after some deliberation we decided to head towards an area on the Lower East Side which promised to have some interesting bars. Unfortunately we ended up walking through relatively empty streets and somehow we missed the area so we didn't really find anything. So in the end we went back up to Times Square and went into an Irish Pub that was close by.
Friday started with a trip down to Battery Park at the very south end of Manhattan. Since there's really little point in waiting in line for 2 to 3 hours just to visit the Statue of Liberty (which is mostly closed to visitors anyway) we took the free ferry over to Staten Island. Again the weather conditions could have been better but especially the approach to Manhattan on the return trip was still quite impressive with the view of all the skyscrapers. We then walked up a bit to the World Trade Center Site (as it's called these days). There the most amazing thing happened as I bumped into a friend from Vienna! Isn't that crazy, I mean really, what are the chances? Talk about the world becoming smaller and turning into a global village. This is certainly a story that I'll still be telling 50 years down the road.
Back to the World Trade Center Site. I'm not quite sure how to describe how I felt while walking around the construction site. All the images from 9/11 came rushing back to me. I thought of my previous visit in 2000 when the World Trade Center was definitely one of the if not the highlight of the city. It was simply overwhelming to stand in front of this enormous skyscraper, then slightly turn your head, and look at an identical 2nd tower. This time though I was looking at a hole where these buildings used to be. Already from both the Empire State Building and the Staten Island Ferry it was obvious that something was missing in lower Manhattan. The other buildings all looked slightly out of place. I can't quite describe it but it does feel as though the heart of the whole area has been ripped out in one violent motion...
After this slightly depressing experience we proceeded towards City Hall and consequently headed over Brooklyn Bridge. This is another one of those unique sites that makes New York so special. The bridge in itself is spectacular and so is the view towards both lower and upper Manhattan. From Brooklyn we headed to Chinatown and Little Italy to stroll around a bit and get some lunch. Having been to Taiwan and China in the past years I obviously wasn't quite as impressed with the area as last time but it's still a good place to spend an hour or two.
Back up at Times Square I went to an interesting photography exhibition at the International Center for Photography before we got some tickets for the evening's Broadway show of Marry Poppins which we went to with my friend from Vienna and her travel companion. Admittedly I know nothing about musicals but I did find the show quite entertaining. The second act wasn't too great but the 90min of the first act went by very quickly. What I liked best was the stage design, both the 'special effects' and all the sets were really quite amazing! Plus being in New York I felt like I almost had to go to a Broadway show anyway. Though next time I'll probably go for a play that's both cheaper and more exciting. I also had the semi-regular "I should really go to theater performances in Vienna" thought but that quickly passed.
Saturday until noon was spent walking all the way down from Times Square through Chelsea, Greenwich Village and SoHo. (Useless fact #860: Did you know that SoHo stands for South of Houston, which is the street that designates the beginning of the district.) Chelsea is a nice residential area but all in all not too exciting. Things really started to pick up once I saw the Flatiron building which is quite the sight. From there we went down to Union Square which featured a very nice market with lots of organic food and artists who sold cool things such as this t-shirt which I obviously had to get:
Moving right along we headed to Washington square where many of New York University's buildings are located. I certainly wouldn't mind my university being in such an area, don't get me wrong, I enjoy Vienna's Karlsplatz just like the next guy (or maybe even more) but I'd swap it for Washington square and the surrounding buildings in a heartbeat. Next we walked through Greenwich Village, definitely one of the nicest neighborhoods I've ever seen. Lots of young people on the streets, cool bars and cafes to hang out, nice buildings, relatively quiet streets,... All in all I imagine this being a really good place to live in. SoHo on the other hand is probably the place to do some serious shopping these days. From an Apple store in a beautiful building that used to host the post office to inviting delis and shops the area just screams "spend your cash here if you're cool!!!". While walking through these streets and taking in all the fascinating scenery I couldn't help but think how unbelievably great it would be to live in Greenwich village, shop in SoHo and work somewhere in lower or upper Manhattan. Unfortunately there's this tiny issue of having to pay the bills for such a life-style plus admittedly I don't think I'm cool enough to actually live in those areas. So that bubble quickly burst.
Saturday afternoon was spent completing another one of the items on my "things to be done in NYC" list: sitting in a baseball stadium and watching the New York Yankees while drinking beer, eating a hot dog and waving a foam hand. Ain't I predictable? The time went by very quickly, not necessarily because the game itself was that exciting (it wasn't) but rather because I simply enjoyed the atmosphere in the stadium that much. Some United States Special Forces members being introduced one-by-one before the game. The singing of the national anthem. The guys walking through the ranks and selling beer, hot dogs and peanuts. The Yankees fan behind me who was shouting all the time. The guy in front of me who was overly excited and jumped up even before things got interesting. And so on. If that pipe-dream of mine about living in New York were to come true I'd certainly go to a game every now and then. Because really, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than being in a stadium and having beer and hot dogs ? (Now that doesn't really sound like me at all, right?)
The evening was again spent with together with the other two Viennese folks, first drinking some beers in a cool southern-like pub before moving into a bar/club with decent and danceable music where a great time was had by all.
On Sunday the last few hours in the city were spent the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which is definitely amongst the best museums I've ever been in. I particularly liked one of the special exhibitions which is called "Design and the Elastic Mind". It showcased a large variety of unique designs ranging from "Accessories for Lonely Men" over the OLPC XO, nano-bio kits and "Pixeltape" to visualization of complex data. Good stuff indeed! Unfortunately the photography section was closed but obviously there were enough other great things to look at.
The weekend ended on a high note with an extensive walk through Central Park. There really is no better place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than Central Park! The atmosphere is extremely relaxed, thousands of people and are strolling about, sitting on benches and lawns, others are enjoying a ball game, bike or jog around the park and the more artistic people play an instrument, take photos or draw something. It really is quite a unique feeling to be there and be able to enjoy the scenery.
Afterwards it was time to slowly head back to the apartment and then to get on the bus which took me back to Washington, DC.
All in all a great weekend in an outstanding city! I'll definitely try to head back to NYC for two or three days in the week before I fly home to Europe...
P.S. This certainly being the longest blog post I've ever written. Plus it was all written while traveling from NYC to DC thanks to the free wifi on the bus. After all, what better way to spend a 4h ride than doing some serious blogging? Especially since I really don't feel like dealing with the 220+ e-mails that have arrived in my inbox since Thursday morning... By the way, it was a good idea to bring along the OLPC XO as it made for a great travel companion.