The 9/11 Memorial was the main ticket on the cards for the day. On a walking route, I would pass the Flatiron Building, Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park, Soho and more. Along the way taking a detour from Washington Square Park to visit the outdoor store REI (303 Lafayette). From REI, I cheated taking the Metro to 9/11 Memorial. Still, it was a long day, I must have done close to 20km. Well worth the walk. Why hop from one tourist spot to another when you can explore and get a real feel for the city?
Grand Central Terminal
I had been past Grand Central Terminal a few times in previous days; the closest big station to my accommodation, Pod 39, around 3-4 blocks away. It’s a stately looking building. Back in the day I’m sure it would have stood more dominant and proud. These days, it is dwarfed by skyscrapers, making it look podgy and out of place, more like out of fashion; like a relic of the past standing its ground, refusing to change with the times. It reminds me of old colonial buildings with a Romanesque lineage and imagery. A new building trying to enforce gravitas by copying ancient structures like the Parthenon in Athens. I’m not being critical, I like the building. When I see a “new” building replicating an old it reminds me of The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
Grand Central Terminal may look like a concrete dinosaur compared to its surroundings, which cannot be said for its interior. The weather throughout my time in New York wasn’t great. Similar to London’s autumn weather; overcast with persistent possibility of rain. Back to Grand Central Termina (keep the weather in mind). Entering the terminal, the interior is a stark contrast to the exterior, like day and night. An exterior, worn, weathered stained concrete as all cities do to buildings. The interior, opens up into a huge vaulted blue ceiling, lit by huge ornate chandeliers more befitting a countryside mansion or stately ballroom. As train stations go, Grand Central Terminal should put a smile on any commuter’s face…I’m sure most commuters don’t take notice.
World Trade Center Memorial
9/11. I remember the day clearly. I was sitting at my desk in Kingston-upon-Themes…not that that matters. My brother called to say a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre, assuming he meant a small plane, like a Cessna. Thinking he called as a matter of interest; thinking it was odd to call me to tell me about something so mundane. The call was short, I asked him a few questions to clarify though still wasn’t clear why he was pressing me to check the news. I tried to access BBC’s website…but the internet was extremely slow. Coincidently we had around 10 of our colleagues over from the US. They we rushing to one of our meetings rooms with a TV. From there we watched as events unfolded. Well, the rest is history….and that day’s aftereffects are still ever present today, circa. 22 years on.
The 9/11 Memorial reminded me of Hiroshima; it is difficult to imagine what the place looked like on 9/11. Today, the area feels “back to normal”. Just like in Hiroshima today, only the pictures of 6th August 1945 can give you some idea. Go there now, it’s like nothing happened, making it impossible to really comprehend. The 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan, surrounded by the largest financial district in the world, business here goes on without the slightest concern. Whilst wondering around I couldn’t help but get irritated by the thought of the financial debacle of 2008. Anyway, I detract from my visit.
Looking at two deep square granite holes where once stood two 415 metre buildings is a poignant sight. Once famous tall standing structures of steel and glass. Now their granite outlines are like footprints left by dinosaurs to tell their story to future generations. The black granite accentuates the void in the ground, but the gentle sound of water running down its face gives the area a serene feel. If you closed your eyes you be in a forest standing by a trickling brook. Like a cemetery or battlefield, the brain struggles to reconcile the current with the past.
World Trade Center Transportation Hub
I won’t get into politics nor my point of view on the events which followed 9/11. Nonetheless, it was interesting to visit. As a standout must see would be the World Trade Center Transportation Hub transport hub. An elegant piece of architecture inside and out (Santiago Calatrava, the architect) – call the Oculus. A stark contrast to its surroundings. Like a birds wings just before take-off. White shards of metal flaring up making it look jagged and fluid at the same time.
Inside the World Trade Center Transportation Hub looks like a modern take on a cathedral, beautifully industrial. This could be a gallery, or modern auditorium, New York’s version of Sydney’s Royal Opera House. The Oculus is the name of the station building, the station itself is called the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
….after world trade centre
Whilst I was down this neck of the woods, I thought, “why not take a trip to see the Statue of Liberty”…big mistake! The queues, WOW! It must have been hundreds of metres long! It would have been interesting to see, but surely not worth standing in a queue for hours? So I didn’t. No regrets either. Instead, I ambled about along the water’s edge taking in my surroundings. Nothing to write about, but I enjoyed being away from the crowds. Lots of interesting views, buildings, gardens. Even just watching the water passing by.
Charging Bull / Bull of Wall Street
This is one of those place (and there are many around the world) that is a perfect example of “Instagram world” vs “reality”. All those movies, shows, pictures or the Charging Bull. Reality….unless you get there at the crack of dawn…you can hardly see the thing! Surrounded by people, on top, underneath all trying to get the impossible Instagram moment. It’s not worth the hype in my opinion.