Friday 3rd June 2022
Robert had planned a route, taking in many of the long list which Matilda had compiled of places to visit, for our first full day of sightseeing in the Big Apple. First we planned to walk the High Line.
On our way however, we came across Vessel in Hudson Yards which was not on the list and was an eye-catching surprise. It looks a bit like a 16 storey chunk of honeycomb and comprises 154 interconnecting flights of stairs with 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings. It is reminiscent of the optical illusions in one of MC Escher’s graphic architectural drawings. Vessel is designed to give people new perspectives and views of the city and each other as they climb. It opens at 10:00 so we were too early but added it to the list for future reference.
A little further on we came to the entrance to the High Line. We wanted to walk this route on Friday as currently entrance is unrestricted on weekdays but visitors are required to book entry times at the weekend.
Stretches of track remain amongst the lush planting and art installations.
Originally, the New York Central Railroad built an elevated spur on the west side of Manhattan to prevent freight trains from colliding with pedestrians on 10th Avenue below. Now, however, it has been handed over to the pedestrians and converted into a 1.45 mile long elevated park.
The Women and Children fountain depicts the female form, in bronze, in a range of styles from classical to contemporary, all weeping streams of tears. No doubt the cartoon-style tears are some form of commentary but Matilda felt that the fountains would have been more decorative with less forceful jets.
We could see Little Island from the High Line and having walked the full length of the High Line we went on towards the Hudson River and the Meatpacking District. Little Island replaced a derelict pier and you can still see some of the surviving piles jutting out of the water.
The park has been built with rolling hills and winding paths and looks as though it is perched on top of a bouquet of artificial funnels or tulips. The amphitheatre has a fabulous backdrop for performances.
From Little Island the route took us down through Greenwich Village. Washington Mews is similar to the mews streets in London where horses and carriages would have been kept for the wealthy families in the larger houses. In nearby Washington Square Park, chess games are set up ready and passersby are challenged to play.
Matilda’s research had identified Eileen’s Special Cheesecake as a suitable place to sample New York cheesecake. She chose an individual plain cheesecake and an individual lemon cheesecake to take away.
We walked through Little Italy. . .
. . . and Chinatown towards Lower Manhattan, the Financial District and Wall Street.
One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the United States and has the same name as the North Tower of the original World Trade Centre, destroyed on 11 September 2001. The last time Robert was in New York in 1988 he recalls going up to the Observation Deck on the roof of the South Tower.
Twelve subway lines go through the Oculus Transportation Hub which incorporates an underground shopping centre.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum commemorates the 2001 attacks, which killed 2,977 people at the World Trade Center site and at the Pentagon. It also commemorates the six people killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Large sunken fountains mark the site, but are almost a third smaller than the footprints of the twin towers which were destroyed. The water descends 30 feet to a square basin and then a further 20 feet into a smaller central void. The names of those who died are inscribed in bronze panels around the edge.
In places, small flags have been wedged into the engraving to mark a loved one including one which has been stuck in the name of a mother who died with ‘her unborn child’.
Despite the number of people taking selfies [we did not] and the tourist memorabilia on sale, it is surprisingly soothing given the horrors enacted here.
Elsewhere in the Financial District, Arturo Di Modica’s dynamic bronze statue Bowling Green Bull, sometimes known as the Charging Bull or the Bull of Wall Street attracts queues.
Di Modica was inspired to celebrate and encourage the American business professional after the stock market crash of 1987 and produced the sculpture at his own expense, installing it outside the New York Stock Exchange on 15 December 1989.
Intended as a symbol of prosperity, members of the New York Stock Exchange [perhaps conscious of their own contribution to the crash] did not appreciate the gift: the police department was called and the Charging Bull was impounded and removed the same day. Locals had already formed an attachment and demanded it be returned and it was reinstalled less than a week later in its current position.
Queues form at both the front and rear of the sculpture although the queue of people waiting to take a photo at the rear end was noticeably shorter.
From here we walked to the Staten Island Ferry terminal.
The trip was windy despite warm sunshine. We realised we had sat on the wrong side for views of the Statue of Liberty but planned to stay on for the return trip.
The ferries pass each other mid-journey and Robert realised that as a roll-on/roll-off style craft it would not need to turn around and we positioned ourselves accordingly.
However, all passengers have to disembark and wait for the next ferry. We managed to walk quickly back through the terminal and were able to reboard the same ferry and find ourselves a good position to view the Statue of Liberty on the return trip.
Since the Statue of Liberty is not currently open we felt we did not need to pay to go out to the island. The Staten Island Ferry is free and also provides a good vantage point for views of Lower Manhattan.
At this point, our feet were telling us they needed a rest so we dropped into McSorley’s Old Ale House [see Selfie of the Day] which claims to be one of the longest continuously operating ale houses in the city. This is based on the fact that during Prohibition, it served something called a ‘near beer’ which contained too little alcohol to be illegal so that might not have met Robert’s definition.
The urinals are famous and Robert went to inspect them. Matilda was shocked to learn that McSorley’s only admitted women when forced to do so by legislation in 1970.
We tried to visit The Immigrant but unfortunately although the wine bar side of this establishment was open the tap room was closed so we made our way straight to Pete’s Tavern.
The Old Town Bar had also been highly recommended and the barman here was impressively efficient and friendly. According to Robert, the Old Town Bar also proved to have original porcelain Victorian urinals. The ladies restroom was unremarkable.
Back near our hotel we found Lily’s which has a rooftop bar and is right next to Madison Square Gardens, where an ice hockey match was underway.
Various health Apps told us we had walked a total of 13.75 miles around New York and although our feet were fully aware of the fact, we felt as though we had barely scratched the surface.