NOTES ON NEW YORK, Gönül Midesiz | 10.03.2014

I always think of Frank Sinatra’s famous song “New York, New York” whenever I think of New York City. Of course part of what New York means to us is inspired by the hundreds of books and dozens of movies that one’s seen and read about it.

When I first visited North America and New York in November 1999, even though I wasn’t fully aware of them I did have some expectations for the city. After a 10 hour flight I took a taxi on to Manhattan and on the way from the airport I tried to match the passing images of Jamaica and Queens with those of the movies I’d watched. I was sure that for my second visit that there would be a different New York everyone who visits that would change and become enriched by each person’s new memories and experiences.

Our first day in New York started with a stop at the Empire State Building near our hotel. One of the first things to do in New York is to peak out over the city skyline. However, just our luck the day was cloudy so we didn’t go up to the top floor. I managed to make it up another time on another trip and I got to see the city’s full 360 degree view from the observatory deck despite waiting in line forever. It was great to see the Hudson River and New York’s monumental buildings from up on high. If you don’t like long lines you can see basically the same view from the top of the Rockefeller Center Building.

From there we went to another of New York’s monumental buildings, Macy’s Herald Square. The first known elevator was installed in this building built in 1902. Macy’s is one of the most famous department store chains in USA. Their branch in Herald Square is said to be the ‘largest department store in the country’ which covers an area of 10.5 blocks. We didn’t do any actual shopping certainly window-shopped for a minute or two! It probably would take a full day to see the whole store.

After Macy’s we went for a walk on the famous 5th Avenue. Fifth Avenue is a shopping avenue with all the most luxurious brands right next to one another. Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord &Taylor and several other department stores are all right here as well as the New York Public Library with its magnificent door, the second largest library in US.

After the Library we walked towards the Rockefeller Center. The Atlas Statue of Atlas carrying the world on top of his shoulders is right in front of Rockefeller Center. We sat at a nearby café to have lunch while watching the ice skaters.

After lunch we walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a gothic-style cathedral in the alleyway across from the statue. Stories of more than 200 saints have been painted on the church walls and its altars. The Cathedral also has a giant copy of Michelangelo’s Pietá built by the sculptor Partridge who made the lion statues at the entrance to the New York Public Library. The St. Louis and St. Michel altars designed by Tiffany Jewelry catch the eye as well.

Our first day ended with a walk through Times Square which is full of Broadway theatres and the bright lights of all the advertising boards shining from all corners of the square.

The next day we left early to see the Statue of Liberty. We took the subway to Battery Park in lower Manhattan and it took us only 5 minutes to get to the pier where boats for the Staten Island leave. As it was early, we didn’t wait too long but you should expect long lines regardless of what time of day you get there.

Our ferry first stopped for a tour of Ellis Island, which is also known as the gateway to America because it’s where the first immigrants to America arrived. Back in the day, immigrants from all around the world came here for medical examinations, name registration, some were sent back home and those accepted were allowed into the country. Ellis Island now serves as the Immigration Museum in which personal belongings and photos of the first immigrants are on display.

Our next stop was Liberty Island on which the Statue of Liberty is housed. This statue was a gift from the French in 1886 to celebrate America’s 100th Year of Independence. This robed female figure bearing a torch in one hand and tabula rasa (the tablet representing Declaration of Independence) in the other represents “Libertas”, the Roman Goddess of Freedom. We waited in line to go up to the crown of the statue but the narrow stairs made me dizzy half way up and I gave up, so I couldn’t go on top of the Statue of Liberty to take the classic photograph of Manhattan in the background.

After our half-day tour was over we returned to Manhattan Island to walk around Wall Street and the Financial District to have our photo taken in front of the place where the Twin Towers once stood (On my second visit after 9/11 to New York I went to where the Twin Towers had stood and felt an immense feeling of sadness wash over me. The empty lot once where the World Trade Center or Twin Towers once were is now known as “Ground Zero”). You can also stop at the nearby famous outlet center Century 21 or Trinity Church, which was built in the 19th century with influences from Gothic European cathedrals.

Other must-see locations in Lower Manhattan include Chinatown and Little Italy. Go to Chinatown to enjoy stores selling Chinese products, colorful signs in Chinese and a crowdedness that certainly resembles China itself. You can even buy cheap imitation products just as in China. There’s almost no need to ever travel to China itself! J Then all of a sudden you find yourself in the Italian neighborhood known as Little Italy because they are right next to one another. Although you don’t feel as if you are in Italy like the Chinatown there are more than several Italian restaurants, shops and stores selling Italian products and food. We ended our day at an Italian restaurant and returned to our hotel.

The next day we went to the Metropolitan Museum and Central Park.

Known as the MET, the Metropolitan Museum has two floors and is one of the most famous museums in the world … This museum also hosts the biggest collection of Ancient Egyptian civilization artworks outside of Egypt. So first we visited Museum just for the Egyptian collection but ended up spending the full first half of the day perusing its magnificent art collection. Compared with the most famous European museums, the Metropolitan Museum is smaller but you can still spend a full day here.

After we left the Metropolitan Museum and entered through the iron gates of Central Park, which covers an area of 3.41 square kilometers between 59th and 106th (Midtown to Harlem) Streets. This park is an oasis in the middle of Manhattan Island amidst skyscrapers allowing people of New York people to have a place to breathe and enjoy themselves. We walked around lakeside walking through the gorgeous autumn colors of the trees, after which we sat down at a café to breathe it all in. People run, ride their bikes, walk their dogs, play games, play music, and read their books in the shadow of a tree, lie down on the grass to have short nap, take a boat ride on the lake or feed the squirrels in the park. Try the Natural History Museum where the movie “Night at the Museum” was filmed after taking a stroll through the Central Park.

Chelsea and the Meatpacking districts are fun and full of stores and shops for all tastes, trendy restaurants and art galleries. Union Square is where Occupy Wall Street demonstrations were held and Greenmarket is held for farmers to come down to New York to sell their produce. Madison Square Garden is also one of the more well-known features of the district. We spent our last day in New York by walking through Soho and Chelsea.

Manhattan is a small island but every time I walk around, I discover a something new. There are endless numbers of places to see including Radio Hall, Madison Square Garden, Penn Station, Seaport, the United Nations Building etc.

The vitality and dynamism of New York makes me just love it… Sometimes you may not be able to see the sun over the skyscrapers, or you may be forced to walk through the rain pelting down on you from the cold ocean breeze in the winter, not to mention the snowy blizzards or scorching summer heat waves… Still New York remains the apple of my eye for travel in all 4 seasons!

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M. Timur Sever


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