Thursday, April 07, 2011

New York

7 April 2011

We had a brilliant week in New York. It was my first time there and we did just about all the main tourist attractions – and walked for miles! We stayed in an apartment in the Upper West Side with views over Central Park and quickly got the hang of the grid system and the subway. Manhattan is an amazing place – self-contained and small enough to find your way around easily but littered with iconic landmarks and a sense of familiarity from hundreds of movies. At the end of our first, exhausting day we collapsed into a cinema for a rest and chose the first available film which was ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, only to discover that not only was it set in downtown Manhattan but that we had just visited most of the places featured mere minutes before! We had great weather for most of the week – glorious sunshine and cloudless blue skies but extremely cold (even for New York). I think our highlight was the boat trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: the Museum of Immigration is fantastic, particularly with the audio tour which puts the voices of people who passed through the entrance hall and tiled corridors to secure their American citizenship in your ears as you tread in their footsteps. And it was amazing to discover that this huge operation of screening people for suitability to enter the USA resulted in just 2% being turned back to the ships that had brought them. We enjoyed the views from the ‘Top of the Rock’ (the roof of the Rockefeller Center) and the Empire State Building, the tackiness of Times Square and the preponderance of excellent cheap cafés, each with an enormous range of fresh food. We visited Ground Zero, though there is not much to see at the moment as new buildings are well under way and the area is now a fairly inaccessible building site. The Frick Collection – a relatively small but elegant art gallery with a passing resemblance to London’s Wallace Collection – was charming and the massive Metropolitan Museum of Art was awe-inspiring. To cap it all, as we approached the Met we noticed crowds gathering outside and police positioning barriers along the side of Fifth Avenue. We asked a police officer what was happening and she told us that President Obama was about to drive past so we joined the crowds and caught a fleeting glimpse of the President as his motorcade sped past. Manhattan felt very safe and clean and we found most New Yorkers extremely polite and welcoming. We had a great time.

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