Sunday, January 1, 2012

New York City

I've always thought that my own personal version of hell would be to spend eternity in New York City during winter. So, what to do while back in Philadelphia? Diana's answer? Hey, let's go spend a nice winter's day in NYC! Yeah! The reality was that I was curious how I'd feel about it now that I have been living in Barcelona, which it turns out is, in a lot of ways, similar. You've got lots of people walking around, you've got the subways running everywhere, and it's just plain busy, busy, busy.

It takes about two hours to get there from my dad's house driving and about 45 minutes more than that via train. We opted to take the Riverline that runs from Camden (New Jersey) to Trenton and switch trains there for the rest of the trip up to Penn Station in New York. The train from Trenton was packed with tourists like us going to New York for the day. After arriving to Penn Station, we immediately took the subway down to the old World Trade Center to check out Ground Zero, the 9/11 Memorial, and the new Freedom Tower that's still under construction:

Unfortunately, you need to reserve a space in advance to visit the memorial so we just walked around the perimeter. About a block away is the now-famous Zuccatti Park where the Occupy Wall Street protests took place for a couple of months. It's fenced off and empty now and there's a strong, obvious, police presence I'm guessing to keep the protesters from moving back in. (I didn't see any OWS activity during the whole trip but I also didn't go looking for it.)

From Zuccotti, we went over to Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange building, neither of which I had ever seen before:

The NYSE building also was blocked off and had a ton of police around. I can remember back when New York seemed dirty and dangerous. Maybe New York's not that bad...hmmm...

The next stop was at the famous Charging Bull statue that's located about half-way between Wall Street and the southern-most point in Manhattan, Battery Park. The bull was also blocked off (sense a theme here?) but they were nice enough to decorate it for Christmas. Here's to a bullish 2012!

I had on a wool shirt, a wool sweater, and my down jacket but it really wasn't enough as it was verrrry cold and somewhat windy that day. Walking around Battery Park was extra-extra cold and windy so we didn't stay there too long. From there, we walked up the east side and across the Brooklyn Bridge, which was surprisingly less windy than Battery Park:

Once in Brooklyn, we took the subway back over to the city to go to lunch at Momofuku's Noodle Bar. This Asian-fusion place is not too far from Chinatown and was a recommendation of my friend, and former-NYC resident, Lubalisa. She had told me about the pork buns, which turned out to be incredible, and the kimchee noodle soup, which was even better than the buns. (Thanks Lubes!) We found it ironic that there was a kid wearing a Messi shirt at the restaurant (I now am 100% certain that it's impossible to get away from Barca, like when I was in Tibet and saw a car completely decked out in Barca stuff.):

Our late-afternoon lunch was a little pricey but worth it. I'd recommend it if you find yourself in NYC. From there we went up to the southeast corner of Central Park so that we could check out the 5th Avenue Christmas lights and some of the holiday store-window displays. I guess the store displays are famous but I didn't really know anything about them other than pretty much every department store in the world now has some sort of holiday window displays, which originated here in New York. I particularly liked the super-highly-detailed ones at Bergdorff Goodman, which, unfortunately, aren't holiday themed (yes, that's a life-sized mannequin in a store window):

What Christmas-time visit to New York would be complete without seeing Rockefeller Center? Not this one for sure! Even though I've seen the display there a bunch of times, it never fails to impress. The huge tree with lights, the folks skating on the temporary ice rink, and the 1,546,811 people in the square:

I saw two extra-cool things while at Rockefeller Plaza that didn't make for good photos. The first was where they've set up a film that projects about every 20 minutes on one of the neighboring buildings. It's designed to match the architecture of the building and has music playing along with the film. The other cool thing was a couple of Salvation Army bell ringers on one side of the plaza that were singing (and dancing to) Christmas songs. They both had amazing voices and were really good dancers.

We ended up staying there for about 30 minutes or so before heading back to Penn Station via Times Square. They've blocked off traffic from a couple of the streets in Times Square to create outdoor cafes and pedestrian plazas. The whole area is chock-full of tourists, folks selling stuff, and people busking for money. I was excited to finally see the famous Naked Cowboy, which was kinda' like seeing the famous naked guy of Barcelona. The (almost-naked) dude's pretty buff and cruises around playing his guitar and singing. I was cold in my multiple layers so I'm not sure how he does it in his little euro-style bathing suit. How's this for one of the last things you see before leaving New York?

It was a fun visit to NYC. Lot's to see and do with really good food too. I'm still not sure that I'd actively try to live there but I'd probably give it a go if I had the opportunity. That's a huge jump from it being my own personal hell, which says a lot!

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