Two months ago, back from a wonderful week in Italy, I started to plan my next trip to New York and Washington, scheduled between the 16th and the 24th of April. I had no idea that the world was going to be completely paralysed just a few weeks later… The word “coronavirus” just appeared on the news, but no one at that point in France could imagine how it would so dramatically hit us. It was soon clear that this trip would have to be cancelled, which seems a bit futile now compared to the horrible situation in many countries and cities, especially in New York, one of the most deeply impacted places in the world. So instead of travelling there, here’s a little tribute to this wonderful city based on my memories from my first trip there in 2015.
📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery of photos of New York City.
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Is there a more iconic city than New York? I tried to search how many movies have been shot there, how many tv shows take place in the city or how many songs have been written about it, but the list seemed to be never-ending (have a look at this Wikipedia page for example, which only includes films!). Everyone has seen thousands of images of New York City, everyone knows what the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty look like, everyone knows the names of Manhattan, Harlem or Central Park. So travelling there for the first time was a very weird feeling for me, almost like being in a waking dream: at many occasions I had this impression of déjà-vu, of being in a familiar place, recognising monuments I had never seen before.
I arrived in New York City by bus on the 21st of July 2015. I came from Boston, where I had spent the three first days of my trip to North America (have a look at the gallery of images of Boston I recently uploaded here). It already prepared me a little bit to this landscape of huge skyscrapers, completely unusual for me as I had never left Europe before, but it still was a very exciting moment when I briefly caught sight of the skyline of the city by the window of the bus for the first time.
My hotel was ideally located in the middle of Manhattan, on the 51st street, close to Times Square and to Central Park. These were the two first places I went to after the check-in. What a contrast between the (relative) calm of Central Park in the afternoon and the constant traffic of yellow cabs, the giant flashing billboards and the loud digital screens of Times Square in the evening! It is often said that New York is the “city that never sleeps”, and this world-famous intersection is the best illustration of this sentence. Or at least it was; I recently saw a few pictures of Times Square being completely deserted, a brutal and terrible example of how life completely stopped in so many places around the world.
After eating a delicious burger in one of the streets nearby, I randomly walked around a few blocks, constantly looking up and staring at these giant skyscrapers around me. I eventually arrived at a lovely little park (called Bryant Park) with a great atmosphere, where dozens of people were enjoying this warm summer evening. It was another emotional moment for me, as it was the first time I saw the silhouette of the Empire State Building above me, one of the most iconic buildings in the world and probably still the most beautiful of New York City with its Art Deco architecture.
I went to the observation deck at its 86th floor a couple of days later, by night. I have to admit that even if the sight of the city lights going all over the horizon in every direction was really spectacular, I was a little bit disappointed. It might sound stupid brought up like this, but once you’re on top of the Empire State Building, there’s something missing on the picture: the Empire State Building itself!
In my opinion (and I tried three different places), the most amazing view over New York City is from the top of the Rockefeller Center, with a very different sight to the North and to the South. There’s the huge green void of Central Park on one side, with Harlem and the Bronx further north; and the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan on the other side, with the Empire State Building and the One World Trade Center overlooking their neighbours, easily recognisable landmarks in this concrete jungle.
Built between 2006 and 2013, the One World Trade Center is now the tallest building in North America (1,776 feet/541m high with the spire). It’s the third viewing platform I went to, and the panorama was again extremely spectacular: a 360° view over the entire island of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Upper Bay and the Statue of Liberty. The only default of this observation deck compared to the Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building is that it’s not an outside platform and taking photos through the large windows wasn’t easy because of reflections.
You can’t mention New York City without talking about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This is probably the event that had the deepest impact on our world in the past decades, and everyone will always remember where they were and what they were doing that day. The One World Trade Center was built directly next to the former Twin Towers. The area has now been turned into a memorial, with two square reflecting pools marking where the towers stood. The names of the almost 3,000 victims are written on parapets around the pools. I found this memorial beautiful and really moving, almost bringing me tears; I had the same kind of sensation a few years later when I visited Hiroshima.
I walked a lot during these holidays, so on my third day in the Big Apple I decided to relax for a while in Central Park. It turns out that I clearly underestimated how big it was, and it probably was the day during which I walked most! It measures 2.5 miles/4km long and 0.5 miles/800m wide. 600 soccer fields could fit in it! There are dozens of attractions in the park: the Central Park Carousel, a zoo, countless baseball fields, many ponds and lakes including the large Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, world-famous museums all around it such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art… I got lost many times on the countless walking paths, sometimes so deep in the park that I couldn’t hear the noise of traffic anymore. One full day would barely be enough to visit Central Park entirely!
There are many other places I loved in New York City and I can’t mention all of them here, but I’d like to end this article with a word about the two things I liked the most: crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge (yes, I know, it’s already the third time I’m using the word “iconic” in this article, but is there a better word for all these places?) and admiring the view over Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I went there twice; once on a bright afternoon…
…and the second time during my last evening in NYC. This time I walked across the Manhattan Bridge instead, around sunset, which offered an even better view with the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground and the silhouettes of the skyscrapers of the Financial District in the background.
There was something magical in the air during this last night, as I was almost alone to stare at such an extraordinary sight. When I eventually left to go back to my hotel room, I knew I would come back someday… Now I just need to figure out when again exactly! Today, all my thoughts are going to the people in New York, with the hope that this fantastic city will heal as soon as possible and shine again in the future, as it always did.
Have you ever visited New York City? What did you like the most? Let me know in the comments!
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