A Visit to New York

In 2023, I was lucky enough to go on a trip to New York to celebrate a significant birthday. I was accompanied by my husband, Bryan, my eldest son, Stuart, and his wife, Laura, and my youngest son, David, and his wife, Jenny. We went for six days, and quite apart from anything else, it was lovely just to all be together.

We travelled to Heathrow with David and Jenny and met Stuart and Laura at the airport with no problems. The flight was on time, and we arrived safely. We landed in New Jersey and had been advised by the travel agent that it was a simple matter to get a train direct from the airport to the centre of New York, with a station literally a few minutes from our hotel, The New Yorker. All good advice, and we arrived safely, though naturally tired. The hotel was ideally situated, though we were surprised to find the rooms were much smaller than we anticipated. We thought everything in America was huge!

The next day, we all met up for breakfast and were not too pleased to see torrential rain falling outside. However, not to be deterred, we decided to walk to the World Trade Centre as we thought we would see more sights that way. The World Trade Centre was built where the Twin Towers used to stand before 2001. It is situated at the southwestern tip of Manhattan and near the shore of the Hudson River. It’s a centre for government agencies and businesses.

At ground level, there are two huge sunken squares where the Towers used to stand, and they are surrounded by a wall with water cascading down and the names of every person who lost their lives at that time. A very moving sight.

This is a memorial along the wall of the museum. “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

The museum, which is built on the foundations of the Twin Towers, is huge and full of everything imaginable to do with the tragedy. We spent over two hours there but could easily have stayed much longer. There are some heartbreaking stories of what happened that day.

Close to the World Trade Centre is another impressive new building called The Oculus. It is a massive building, where we spent a long time trying to find something to eat, as the many signs left much to be desired.

The building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is said to resemble a dove leaving a child’s hands. The sun shines through the skylight and lights up the main hall. It is a beautiful building and well worth a visit.

Of course, no trip to New York is complete without a visit to Times Square, where you can see many unusual sights! I always thought Times Square was actually a square, but, in fact, it is a street. As you can see, it was still raining – though it didn’t seem to bother this gentleman, who was more than happy to pose for the camera!

Here are some very wet tourists making the best of things beside the Big Apple. The term “Big Apple” was originally used by jazz musicians in the 1920s to say there are many apples on the tree of success, but when you pick New York City, you pick The Big Apple. The temperature in New York the week before had been in the late thirties and hot and sunny – we had taken all the wrong clothes!

Another of our days was spent taking a trip on the Circle Line Cruise, where we saw the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge. I say “saw”, but sadly, the weather was still atrocious, and the rain was horizontal, so the photos could have been better. Nevertheless, it was a great day out, and this is a view of South Manhattan as we sailed away.

Ellis Island was the busiest immigration station in the United States between 1892 and 1924, when an estimated twelve million migrants were processed. As the immigration numbers fell, it was used less and less until it finally closed in 1954 and allowed to fall into disrepair. It was reopened in 1990 as a museum.

The famous Statue of Liberty is a huge sculpture situated on Liberty Island in New York Harbour. The copper statue, designed by Frederic August Bartholdi, was a gift from the people of France in 1886 to commemorate the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence. It represents the friendship between the two countries. The statue is of a woman wearing a crown and sandals, trampling a broken chain, and with a torch raised in her hand.

The lovely statue below is the Merchant Mariners Memorial in Battery Park. We saw this moving memorial on our way to get on the boat for our cruise around Liberty Island, and I thought it was beautiful but had no idea what it represented. Since coming home, I have discovered it is the American Merchant Mariner’s Memorial, sculpted by Marison Escobar in 1991. It shows three merchant seamen stranded on a sinking ship, calling for help and trying to reach the hand of one of their shipmates desperately floundering in the water below.

The American Merchant Mariners suffered more casualties than any other US service during World War II, with one out of every twenty-six mariners not returning home. They faced submarines, armed raiders, destroyers, mines, and aircraft and about 8,300 mariners were killed at sea and 12,000 wounded. Thirty-one merchant ships vanished without a trace.

We also visited The Edge, the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. The lift took us to the 100th floor, where you can go outside and step onto a protruding glass floor and enjoy incredible views – well, you can if there is any visibility! On the left is The Edge, with the viewing platform.

As you can see, the weather was still unkind, but occasionally, the mist cleared, and we could see the views. Those who are brave enough can join a City Climb and scale the outside of the skyscraper at more than 1,200 feet above ground. Not for any of us, but there were folk getting the gear on and being trained in what to do. Rather them than me! It took me all my time to look down through the glass floor!

The six of us did not spend all the time together, splitting up sometimes to do different things. We all went to see The Lion King on Broadway, which was amazing, and then another night Stuart and Laura went to see Chicago, whilst we went with Jenny and David to see Aladdin. Another night, we joined Stuart and Laura for a meal in Ellen’s Diner, where the future stars of Broadway earn money by waiting at tables but also gain experience by singing and dancing to the diners. This was an enjoyable evening, with the waiting staff bringing your meal one moment and asking if everything was OK, and then hopping up onto a table and belting out a song minutes later. I was not best pleased with Stuart when he put his hand up to say it was my birthday, and with two other reluctant ladies, I had to stand up and dance whilst the audience sang Happy Birthday. When I say dance, it was more of a shuffle – due to there being little space, of course. However, the compere did make us laugh afterwards by telling us ladies that we could now claim to have danced on Broadway! Well, not everyone can say that! On this particular evening, Jenny and David went to an ice hockey match, which the rest of us didn’t fancy, but they thoroughly enjoyed it.

More famous landmarks. Here is the Empire State Building, built between 1930 and 1931. With 102 stories, it was the tallest building in the world until 1971, when it was outdone by The World Trade Centre. The famous Art Deco building has been used as a setting for many films, with perhaps the most famous being King King, not long after it opened.

This is The Vessel, a fascinating building, which we didn’t have time to climb, but we enjoyed seeing. Its spiral staircase consists of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, around 2,500 steps and 80 landings. I’m sure the views are amazing.

On another day, we did an open-top bus tour – and thankfully, the rain held off for a while. There was a commentary, and this was a good way of seeing more sights, though there was a lot of traffic. On the left is the Flat Iron Building, which used to be called The Fuller Building. It’s a triangular, 22-storey building that was completed in 1902 and is named for its likeness to an old-fashioned clothes iron. No longer used as offices, the Flat Iron Building has been proposed for redevelopment for residential space.

Bryan and I walked the High Line twice during our visit to New York. It is described as an elevated linear green park within the city and stretches for 1.45 miles. It is built on a former New York railroad and offers interesting views across the busy city streets. Although there were few flowers to see on our visit in late September, I would think in summer, the gardens at the sides would be attractive, and there are some spectacular sculptures along the way.

Finally, after four days of constant, heavy rain, on the fifth day, the sun shone! This is Bryan and me at the top of the Rockefeller Centre, where the views were amazing.

Unfortunately, after so many days of rain, a lot of tourists were making the most of the weather, and there were long queues. We didn’t know until afterwards, but due to renovation work, only one lift out of eight was working, and the whole thing was very badly organised – causing us to queue for three hours to go up and one to get down! Of course, we didn’t know how long it would take at the time, or we may have chosen not to go. In the distance behind us, you can just see Central Park.

On our final day, we did not fly out until 10 pm, so we had all day for more sightseeing and chose to go to Central Park. We only saw a fraction of it, given the time we had, but it was a lovely place. Here is a photo of a lake, which, although pretty, was a very unusual shade of green, and I saw no wildlife – I suspect some sort of algae might be a problem here.

There were lots of squirrels and plenty of horses and carts for a ride around the park, but we decided to walk, knowing we would be sitting for hours on a plane later.

Of course, as Brits, we had to find the Strawberry Fields Memorial to famous Beatle John Lennon, who was sadly shot on 8 December 1980. The memorial consists of a five-acre landscaped area in Central Park and includes the Imagine mosaic.

The title of the famous song, Strawberry Fields Forever, refers to a Salvation Army-run girls orphanage situated near to where Lennon grew up. John Lennon did not have a particularly happy childhood and often secretly played in the gardens of the orphanage next door.

On our last day, after our excursion around Central Park, we decided to leave in good time to get the train back to New Jersey and allow ourselves time for a leisurely meal before catching our plane. This turned out to be a wise decision, for after our plane had taken off (thankfully), New York was hit by the worst storm in over a hundred years. Given all the rain we had experienced during our week there, the ground was saturated, and there was extensive flooding. When we got home, we were shocked to see areas of Central Park, where we had been standing a few hours earlier, under several feet of water. The subway we used to access the train to the airport was also closed due to extensive flooding. I suspect we would have missed our flight home had it been a few hours later, as with the trains cancelled, getting taxis to the airport would, no doubt, have been a challenge.

So, did I enjoy my trip to New York? Yes, it was amazing. OK, the weather could have been better, but it was a great week, and I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing some of my memories.

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