On my second full day I signed up for the mammoth “Jerri’s Grand Tour” and grand it was indeed! Starting with the Brooklyn promenade, which is definitely one of my favourite places in the city, we made our way along the side of Brooklyn and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge back onto Manhattan, the bridge is fantastic, with a busy wooden walkway stretching it’s length, the view is spectacular as you might expect and its from here that I started to gain an idea of New York’s sheer scale, some buildings like the Empire State and Chrysler were much further from the bridge than I expected.
Decending off the bridge, past the frankly tiny city hall, we made our way to the World Trade Centre memorials. Dominating the New York skyline and towering over the site itself is the enormous (and apparently terrorist proof) WTC 1. Its not finished yet but I’d love to come back and go up it some day, its very impressive and sort of sums up Americas attitude to recovering the site – making it better than it was before. A polite two fingers up at those who caused the destruction remembered below. The memorial itself was vast and looking out over the two squares you get an idea of the huge part of the skyline that the towers made up. A lot of people talked about the metaphors of the falling water, but I found the squares themselves summed up pretty well the gaping hole left in the lives of those connected directly to the attacks, through family and friends. Our guide said it pretty well “Everyone knows someone who either was lost or lost someone” so you can get an idea of the sense of togetherness that New Yorkers feel towards the attacks. However I was taken slightly aback by some of people around the site who were taking smiley holiday snaps and even “selfies” at the sides of the squares, I didn’t really feel the need to even smile all that much while I was there. The mood did become more jubilant just before we left though as we were treated to a great rifle drill display from the US Coast Guard, I wish I could throw around a .22 rifle around so well!
After that we made our way along the Hudson river down to the Staten Island ferry terminal and went on the free ferry itself past the Statue of Liberty the statue is a little smaller than you’d think from photos but its still very impressive. I saw it exactly the way I wanted too as well, from a boat, just like the early migrants to the city would have seen all those years ago.
From the ferry we then headed through Chinatown and Little Italy, both were pretty cool, and surprisingly literally right next to each other, thought there would be a block or two of mixture or genericness, but its literally from one street to the next. We then visited some artists in trendy Soho and then made our way to an Indian restaurant.
By this point we’d been on the go for nearly 12 hours and jet lag was beginning to make everything seem all the more surreal! My jet-lagged state made the sheer size of everything seem even more crazy as we wandered through the streets to the incredible Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Centre and finally Times Square, I spent much time gaping and staring upwards at this point, uttering phrases like “It’s just massive” and “I can’t get over the scale of it!”. Times Square was particularly mental, for anyone reading this who hasn’t been there; take what you expect from pictures of it and multiply that by about 100. By this point it was well past midnight and time for me to promptly pass out in my hostel bunk!