An Ode to New York – Arushi Prasad
It is called the Big Apple, the City that never sleeps and so on. It is also the city where my favourite TV Show Friends is based. If New York were a person, it would have several personalities ranging from a busy Wall Street-er to a ballerina moonlighting as a waitress. It is the closest I’ve come to India in the USA. It is so different from the rest of the US cities, that it will blow your mind away. Now, I watched dozens of videos to make an itinerary since I did not want to do the extremely touristy stuff (which you will see I did some of, peppered with some hidden gems). Here are some things to be mindful of if you’re on a budget like me:
1. Get a comfortable pair of shoes and be prepared to walk quite a bit (strictly NO HEELS, ladies and gentlemen)
2. Get a metro card from a vending machine at any subway station and load a basic amount like $20. You can keep on topping it up as you go. While the subway system is extremely extensive connecting most parts of New York and there are several apps to figure out routes and train timings, I would HIGHLY suggest doing some research before your land in New York regarding major routes, stops etc
3. If you land at Newark in New Jersey, please do not Uber to New York unless of course you are rolling in money or you’re a group of people or you have a lot of luggage. You could take the airport train to Penn Station, New York and from there take the Subway or Uber to your destination
4. Carry cash. You’d be surprised how many small businesses do not take cards especially the vendors in and around Central Park
5. Be wary of people trying to scam you at places like Times Square or the Staten Island Ferry. I actually saw a couple of guys trying to sell “express line” tickets to the Staten Island ferry which does not have an express line and is completely free. The bottom line is when in doubt, use the internet!
Below are the places I went to and what I thought about them. You can visit them in whatever order suits you.
- Staten Island Ferry- This is one of the gems because of the super views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York harbour and the fact that it’s completely free. You can catch this ferry form the Whitehall terminal in the financial district. It takes about half an hour one way. You could go to and fro if you wanted to in an hour, which is what I did. To get good photos of the statue of liberty, stand on the top deck right hand corner while going towards Staten Island and on the top deck left corner while coming back.
2. Brooklyn Bridge- The thing that struck me the most about the bridge is not so much the views from it, but the architectural marvel it is. Make sure you stop and read the plaques which describe how the bridge was built. Also, please ensure you do not spill over to the cyclists’ lane.
3. Times Square- This was my least favourite place in New York by far. It is super lit and super super crowded. Locals come here to watch Broadway shows mostly. The only thing I liked about Times Square was the fact that between 11:57 to 12:00 all the billboards change to beautiful art work.
4. West Village- How could I go to New York and not to have a look at the “Friends building”. This is the building Monica, Chandler, Joey and Rachel are shown to be living at. A lazy saunter form there would lead you to the Washington State Park which is oh-so-lovely in the evenings with the music from performances floating over the central fountain. Thiru Kumar, the very famous dosa wallah , is at this park though we missed him that day. We did happen to try a slice of the Nona Maria at the Bleecker Street pizza, though why it is the best pizza in New York really beats me. There is a good night scene at West Village if that interests you. We did some ice cream and pub hopping, but nothing to write home about.
5. Central Park- This is the one super touristy place which is worth the hype. Imagine a literal forest in the heart of New York painted with hues of autumn yellows and reds. Sigh, this is the most romantic place I have ever been to. The thing to note is that Central Park is HUGE and it deserves a whole post to itself. I started off on an 8km walking path around Central Park but had to change some of it as I met some friends. Out of all the things that I saw, you must not miss Bethseda Terrace and Arcade, The Lake, Strawberry Fields, Alice in Wonderland Statue. One of my favorites was the Delacorte Clock which has animals moving to nursery rhymes every half an hour.Also, right across Strawberry fields in the main street is the Dakota building where John Lennon was shot.
6. The MET- I’m in two minds about this just for the fact that the MET is so rich and diverse that a day/half-a-day does not do justice to it. Also, the tickets are $25 which I think is fairly expensive. The good part is that the ticket gives you a 3-day access to the MET. I was most impressed by the Egyptian section where they have a whole Egyptian temple and the European paintings section from the 18th and the 19th century of the likes of Van Gogh, and Matisse.
7. New York Public Library- This is a must-visit if you are into books or architecture. Every nook and corner is quaint and full of wisdom. The main reading room takes you to Hogwarts.
8. The Grand Central Station- Grand Central Station is right out another era. The magnificence of the central hall with its imposing roof makes you feel like you’re on a time machine. Like Marty in Madagascar says “It is grand” and “It is central”. Every corner is extremely stately. One almost feels like a princess standing on the top of a staircase waiting to enter the grand ballroom.
9. Financial District: I happened to be staying right next to the erstwhile Twin Towers now home to the twin pools built in the memory of the martyrs with their names etched on the sides. The administration puts roses on the names of those with birthdays on that particular day.
Hope this post has inspired you to pack your bags and go somewhere,anywhere!