New York City

They don’t come any bigger than the Big Apple – king of the hill, top of the heap, New York, New York. No other city is arrogant enough to dub itself Capital of the World and no other city could carry it off. New York is a densely packed mass of humanity – 7 million people in 309 sq miles (800sq km) – and all this living on top of one another makes the New Yorker a special kind of person. Although it’s hard to put a finger on what makes New York buzz, it’s the city’s hyperactive rush that really draws people here.

In a city that is so much a part of the global subconscious, it’s pretty hard to pick a few highlights – wherever you go you’ll feel like you’ve been there before. For iconic value, you can’t surpass the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park and Times Square. The Museum of Modern Art has to be one of the world’s top museums, and the Guggenheim Museum and American Museum of Modern History aren’t far behind. Bookshops, food, theater, shopping, people: it doesn’t really matter what you do or where you go in New York because the city itself is an in-your-face, exhilarating experience.

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Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

The Statue of Liberty is the sort of thing New Yorkers do only if forced into it by out-of-town visitors which is why I went! I climbed to the top of the pedestal and wasn’t able to make it to the top because of the long waiting lines. Inside you get a glimpse at Liberty’s riveted innards and from the pedestal Lady Liberty offers visitors a unique vantage point from which to admire the buildings rising up in downtown Manhattan. Go as early as you possibly can since there’s a line to buy tickets and another to wait for the ferry. The ferry ticket gets you admission to Ellis Island as well.

Ellis Island is a really interesting place, right from the ferry docks where many of our ancestors first set foot in the new land and the place they had to clear before they could go on to their new lives. They were told to drop their earthly belongings, their jumbled valises, trunks, and rolled-up feather pillows, and led off to be poked and prodded and given literacy tests. Some were sick or detained for other reasons and spent months here; many of the exhibits detail what their daily life was like–where people died, were born, went on, or were sent back, “x” for unfit marked in chalk on their coats. The exhibits are wonderful. In what used to be old examining rooms or dining halls are vivid photographs and stories of what took place there. In each room, the high point is the telephones you pick up to hear real immigrants tell their memories of Ellis Island. Also, although they’ve jumbled up and displayed some of the detritus that had been abandoned when the island stopped processing immigrants in 1954 (a dusty old piano from the recreation room, signs from the infirmary), I wish they had left some haunted dusty corner just the way they found it before they renovated the building into a museum. Still a profoundly evocative place–look out across the water to see Manahttan and realize that it must have meant to people who had left everything behind to be so close and so full of hope.  There are some very interesting exhibits that show what it was like in America at the turn of the century.

The Cloisters

One sunny afternoon in New York City we visited the Cloisters in the northern part of Manhattan Island. The compound is an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and contains some exquisite works of art. A definite must for any visit to the city!

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