Wide awake in the ‘City that Never Sleeps’

After fulfilling a life long dream last year and visiting New York City for the first time, I was back this summer – and how much more relaxed I was this time. As I had seen most of the major sights already, I didn’t have the permanent feeling of not being able to linger somewhere and constantly thinking “Got to go, there’s so much more to see”. I still managed to make my feet hurt by the end of each day; I do prefer exploring places on foot, if possible, which means I could end up walking from the upper end of midtown to downtown, on to Brooklyn and back again, crisscrossing the island of Manhattan. This time I also got to explore parts of the other boroughs and even spent a day at the beach, enjoying a refreshing swim in the Atlantic during the heat wave.

Back home while looking through hundreds of photographs I was wondering what exactly to show you. So I’ve decided to go for the places where there weren’t that many tourists around. It doesn’t mean these are less interesting or less beautiful places but sometimes just that extra bit further away. I will try not to bore you with too many details, you can always look things up.

The Cathedral of St John the Divine (nicknamed St John the Unfinished) is located at the north western end of Central Park in the Morningside Heights neighbourhood. Building began in 1892 and, as the nickname suggests, it remains unfinished to this day. But my main reason for visiting: it’s MASSIVE!! There is a dispute whether St John or Liverpool Cathedral is the world’s largest Anglican cathedral and church but it definitely is the fourth largest Christian church in the world. Entry is free, however they ask for a donation. Please give some, so they might be able to finish it one day. DON’T MISS: the Keith Haring tryptich, his last work before he died!

The northern part of Central Park is far less crowded and much hillier than its southern part but doesn’t lack attractions. You can come across several foundations of old forts, Harlem Meer is a nice spot and the Conservatory Garden is one of the hidden wonders of Central Park. It’s the only formal garden in Central Park and is divided into three separate gardens: the French Garden, the Italian Garden and the English Garden.

The Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens is probably best known for its unisphere and the water towers which have featured in many films and movies. Created for the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair and also hosting the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair it is the largest park in Queens. The nearby zoo and science museum make a nice addition for a day out and in summer they offer open air screenings of movies. DON’T MISS: the mosaics when you enter the park from the subway station. Where else can you step on a Salvador Dali?!

The Staten Island Ferry offers some spectacular views of Manhattan’s skyline, and it’s completely free! It’s not really a secret anymore and tourists are flocking to the ferry  but it’s not as crowded as on the boats to the Statue of Liberty. Make sure you have enough time for a wander around Staten Island and taking in some of the sights. DON’T MISS: the Battery Maritime Building next door to the ferry terminal. It is being redeveloped now but you can still imagine the old splendour. The Governor’s Island Ferry departs from here.

South Street Seaport and Pier 15 East River Esplanade are a good option if you want to chill out. Pier 15 offers a bi-level recreational space on the water with sun lounges and a nice view over Brooklyn. Next to it you can see the The Peking, a steel hulled 4-masted barque. South Street Seaport is a designated historic district and features some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan. It offers some nice boutique shops and bars. DON’T MISS: the Brooklyn Bridge mural and Fishbridge Park Garden (corner Water St & Dover St), probably the smallest garden open to the public I have ever been to. (Oh, and there is a water taxi IKEA Express Shuttle departing from Wall Street Pier 11 in case you’re in need of some Swedish furniture.)

When you walk amidst all those skyscrapers in Manhattan you easily forget that this is actually an island. Whereas the stretch from  North Cove Yacht Harbour to South Cove Park is less touristy it’s still worthwhile to continue through Battery Park. It’s beautifully planted and offers some interesting monuments too. DON’T MISS: The Sphere that once stood in the middle of Austin J. Tobin Plaza, the area between the World Trade Center. 

If you fancy a day at the beach I’d recommend Rockaway Beach in Queens but the most famous beach resort is still Coney Island. Very colourful, a bit commercial and tacky but the beach is nice and the Atlantic Ocean wonderfully refreshing. DON’T MISS: Eat a hot dog at Nathan’s, the most famous hot dog in the world. It’s celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and the first Coney Island store is still there, though I preferred to eat mine on the promenade.

Obviously architecture and the ‘weird and the wonderful’ are a big part of New York City as well, so here is just a small selection of some other things I came across.

 

There is plenty more to see and do. I can’t recommend the American Museum of Natural History enough; make sure to catch a movie at one of the movies in the park events, (the one in Brooklyn Bridge Park has the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop!), but be sure to protect yourself from those mosquitos; try some food from the original The Halal Guys, there’s usually a queue in front of the carts but worth the wait; The Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum is great, based on an old aircraft carrier you can see lots of planes, a Concorde and even the space shuttle Enterprise; catch a sunset at Brooklyn Bridge Park and roam the streets of Manhattan at night with all those colourful lights; and get on top of one of the skyscrapers (I like Top of the Rock) for some stunning views (DON’T MISS: look up the elevator shaft when going up and down at Top of the Rock).

Fulfilling a dream – New York Part 1

For many many years I had been talking about visiting New York and as I celebrated a special birthday this year (Not 29 any more. No, not 39 either) this trip was a birthday present to myself. Some might think, oh that sounds like a midlife crisis – well, so be it. But instead of getting myself a flashy sports car I invest the money in travel instead.

I’ve been here for two days now (well, 1 1/2 really) and what can I say, I love it. I have seen many of the major sights already but have yet to try my luck on the subway. I like to walk to get a feel for a new place or city, a habit my feet don’t always appreciate.

So I wanted to share a couple of first impressions and experiences:

For a city that has to struggle with a lot of traffic there aren’t many ‘city cars’. The overall attitude seems to be ‘the bigger the better’. Maybe it’s the need to conquer the urban wilderness. I can count the number of small cars on one hand so far and for good measure I put the only VW Beetle into the count as well.

Cyclists seem to have a suicidal tendency. Not just because they even attempt to cycle in this mad traffic but because of the way they drive. It’s more likely to get run over by a bicycle than a car.

I never thought I could get a worse sunburn whilst walking in the shadows of skyscrapers than lying on a mediterranean beach.

Central Park is amazing and was just the right choice for a long walk after arriving here. There are some other beautiful parks and squares throughout the city which makes it feel quite green actually.

central park upper west side small

View from Central Park towards ‘real estate heaven’ on Upper West Side.

I like Little Italy, it feels like being on a holiday whilst on holiday. Reminded me of some Italian places I’ve been to.

I’ve never seen that many people on one bridge than on Brooklyn Bridge.

brooklyn bridge

Always stay on your side of the walkway and be aware of the cyclists. I’ve witnessed several almost collisions because people were taking photographs and not paying attention to their surroundings.

brooklyn hights manhattan

Time for an afternoon snack with a lovely view from Brooklyn towards Manhattan.

The High Line was a marvellous idea and gives you a bit of a break from all the hustle and bustle while still getting new impressions of the city.

the high line

The High Line was once a dingy elevated rail line.

Times Square is just madness and somehow looks bigger on TV. A wide-angle lens from an upper floor can work wonders.

times square

Just to give you an idea this was round about 9pm and still bustling.

Some other well known buildings of the city:

flatiron building

Flatiron Building – it’s worthwhile taking a closer look because it features some beautiful exterior details.

empire state building

One of the landmarks – the Empire State Building.

chrysler building

I love the fusion of art deco and a bit of Gothic. Those must be the most famous gargoyles on a skyscraper. The Chrysler Building.

radio city music hall

Can’t be missed, Radio City Music Hall.

Just a few observations so far. Obviously there’s more to see than just your usual sightseeing destinations but that’s something for a later date, just too many photos to go through and there’s so much to do and see…