Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New York City

As I was saying a few blog posts ago I was also in New York City for my vacation. It's a great city to visit but as this was my third time I had already seen almost all of the touristy things.

One exception was the 9/11 Memorial site. While it is free to visit you need to get a ticket either online or from the ticket distribution office (which is not near the main entrance, it's actually a few blocks away on a different street). The ticket will state what time you’re allowed to visit the site. Because it was February the city was not packed with tourists so I managed to get a ticket with a time of about an hour later. Security is tight there and there are inspections and x-ray machines, similar to going through an US airport.

The site is a park dominated by two huge square holes where the towers once stood. In one of them water cascades down the walls to another square hole in the center, at the other one the water was still. The names of the thousands who died are inscribed all the way around the memorials.

It was a stark and effective memorial. You cannot see the bottom of the square holes in the center, which for me evoked an image of the water flowing down into an endless chasm. I’m not sure if that was what the architect intended but it was what I felt.

As for the rest of my trip it was mostly spent wandering around. Here is typically what I do when exploring a city like NYC when I have already seen the main tourist attractions:

1) go online and look up things like “best . . . in ”, or look up other things that interest you my list was things like
a. best pizza in NYC
b. best cheesecake in NYC
c. best bagel in NYC
d. best Ukrainian food in NYC (I love perogies)
e. cool cap store in NYC
f. hockey bar in Manhattan (the Olympics were still on so I wanted to watch the hockey)

2) write down the list of addresses

3) take the subway to the nearest location. Don’t take a taxi, it’ll take you right there. By taking the subway to get to wander around the neighborhood a bit as you get to your destination.

This doesn't always guarantee an adventure, you won't know how interesting a neighborhood is until you get there, but sometimes you wind up having a great time. For example:

a. One of the “cool cap stores” was in Soho. I went there but they did not have anything I liked
b. however next-door was a café that advertised pumpkin-flavored treats (I love pumpkin desserts)
c. in the café was a handout map of Soho showing all the stores, which I used to find another hat store
d. on the way to the store I saw what looked like an old neighbourhood bar, so after going to the store (and buying a hat) I went back to the bar
e. The bar was busy with lots of locals. The bartender was a native New Yorker who happily pointed out where “definately the best pizza in New York City” was
f. so then I walked a few blocks to that pizzeria for dinner. A guy stopped me to ask for directions so I gave him my Soho map. (“No, I don’t know where that is but I have a map you can have -- here!”)
g. after dinner, on my way back to the subway station, there was a place that, rather than ice cream, served flavoured rice puddings. I tried a Rocky Road rice pudding. Actually it was pretty good.

All that from going to a store to buy a cap.

Watching the Olympic hockey was another adventure. I had brought a Team Canada shirt with me and thanks to the internet found a place near Madison Square Garden called the Flying Puck. I figured that would be a great place to watch the US versus Canada men's semifinals.

I got to the bar early and managed to get the space at the bar, soon the place was packed.

It was a very raucous American crowd, lots of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chanting and so forth. As far as I know there was only one other Canadian in the crowd (he was wearing a toque with “Canada” on it). One of the waitresses saw my shirt and said,

Her: “You’re Canadian?”
Me: “Yep.”
Her: (looks at the crowd in the bar) “You’re brave.”
Me: “ummmm . . .”

In the end Canada won and you could faintly hear two guys go “yay” before I grabbed my coat and got out of there ASAP.

Enough of my tales, here’s some more pictures of the sights of Manhattan. Enjoy.

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