Every city in the world has a pulse of its own…a fast paced pulse like that of Mumbai or a slow languid pulse reminiscent of any smaller city in India such as Nagpur. It could be a pulse where u see money and opulence everywhere, like Dubai or yet another pulse, that of power, like that of New Delhi where the heart of politics can be felt. It could even have a pulse of heritage, which the great cities of Europe with all their works of Art and architecture revel in. There could also be a pulse which is cosmopolitan as compared one that is very regional like Chennai. Well, the New York City has this vibrant pulse to it…one driven by money from the Wall street, by the power that comes from the money besides its imposing sky scrapers, a pulse that is as heterogeneous as the mix of global cross cultures that inhabit it, a pulse that draws hordes of tourists and dreams from all over the world.
New York or the ‘Big Apple’ was always a city that I looked forward to seeing. After living virtually for several years with the characters of all the television serials, Friends, How I met your Mother, Sex and the City etc, apart from watching a string of Bollywood movies such as ‘Kal ho naa ho’, a movie called ‘New York’ itself etc, Well, I had to go see the place!
As I got out of the subway at the Penn Station, the neon lights of Times Square dazed me as did the sheer vibrancy of the place. The Desperate Housewives and other television stars winked tantalizingly at me from the massive lit up hoardings. Broadway musicals dotted the road and the huge swarm of tourists buzzed around happily in wonder. Everything wore a festive look including the NY Police Dept. and the Subway! It certainly was difficult to tear away from the place in the coming days. I have never seen as many tourists in one place as I did in the Times Square.
New York has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. We took this pass called the New York City Pass, which was quite cool. Most of the entry charges to various places, are indeed quite high (in the range of $20-$40 per head), because of why these passes help save atleast a bit. We had taken a 3 day pass that gave us admission to most places and a metro unlimited pass that allowed us to hop off and on any trains for that fixed cost for seven days…Well, for first timers, it would be helpful to check out all these offers on travel, and sight seeing before they venture out and pay individual destinations. There are options to travel by the metro, by the Grayline sight seeing buses and cabs. It was fun taking up the map of NY City and exploring all the various options.
Amongst the touristy buildings in NY, the Empire State Building is well known throughout the world, and has featured in several movies such as KingKong, Sleepless in Seattle and some older classics. The 86th floor observatory gives panoramic views of the entire New York City on a clear day and they say one can see as far as Massachusetts on an ultra clear day. It certainly is worth the wait of well over 2 hours, after being a part of the hordes of tourists, who throng the place from all parts of the globe. It was awesome to just look and look down below at all those tall buildings! The New York sky ride was also an interesting experience too in a 4D theatre and almost felt like we were actually in a helicopter seeing the city down below!
The other tall building which we saw by night was the Rockefeller center from the 68th floor observatory deck or the ‘Top of the Rock’ as it is called. The illuminated city of NY and the grand Empire State building were another visual treat from way up there.
Coming to the museums, the Madame Tussad’s Museum was a lot of fun, and let us hobnob with the celebrities around the world including our own Gandhiji and Amitabh Bacchan. The other interesting museum was the American Museum of Natural History where the dinosaur loving Ross Geller of ‘Friends’ worked for sometime and where the movie, ‘Night at the Museum’ was set. For Art lovers, the Metropolitan Museum of Art located on ‘Museum Mile’ near Central Park, is one of the world’s largest art galleries.
Another famous landmark, the Central Park is a vast expanse of greenery and beauty, and an oasis among the high rises. With artists sitting around the park, drawing caricatures and portraits for a small fee, horse drawn carriages with horsemen dressed in medieval attires, the Central Park is a wonderful picnic spot where one can sit back, relax and just chill out in the open. We also entertained ourselves at the Central Park Zoo where we unfortunately didn’t see Marty the Zebra or Alex the lion of ‘Madagascar’ though we did see the cute penguins!
Another really touristy thing that one can do, and we did, was to take the Circle Line Sightseeing cruise. This 2-3 hours twilight cruise, took us across the Manhattan shoreline on the Hudson river across the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty, showing us the high power Financial District in Manhattan, Chelsea etc.. We ended the tour with a bang as the Diwali firecrackers took off onto a spectacular show!
There are also interesting regional nooks in the city such as Little China, where the early mandarin population clustered around and where even all the sign boards are in Chinese! A romantic dinner in one of the quaint restaurants in Mulberry Street which is one of the dwindling lanes of Little Italy should certainly not be missed.
I guess, there is a lot lot more to be told and even more to be explored. But I guess, these are some of the things that I found quite interesting.
Apart from seeing the city, its living there that is an altogether a different experience. Cities like NY, Mumbai, cannot be really seen. They have to be experienced. Like I said at the start, it’s the pulse of the city that makes all the difference. Its not just tall buildings and neon lights that make the city’s heart beat but the power that is reflected in the great throng of ordinary and brilliant people who go about their work purposefully day after day.