I spent a week in New York City in the middle of April, taking little bites from the Big Apple. I had been there once before, in July 2008, on a zoom-zoom visit with my two favourite ladies. Back then, we stayed in a fine hotel on East 64th, and took big bites; no time to waste. This time, we rented an AirBnB apartment in the East Village, took our time, and allowed the City to wrap itself around us. New York can do this very quickly.
I was a tourist—I surely looked like one—but never felt out of place. I soon realized that nobody pays too much (any?) attention, at least not in the areas I frequented. Everybody blends in, at least that is how I felt, free to take my camera with me wherever I went, free to wear whatever I felt like wearing. So I did! Loved it!
We walked until our feet ached…then we walked some more; that’s how I remember my first visit as well. It seems we only looked for a subway station when absolutely necessary, as a last resort, afraid to miss something on the surface while we whizzed by underground. We took the subway (and the bus) from the East Village to LaGuardia Airport on our last day. Daring. Again, something that seemed adventurous to my wife and I—a little out there maybe—proved to be a common occurrence for everyone else around us.
I love the New York architecture. There is nothing quite like it: an eclectic potpourri of cultures. The old and the new, the grandiose and the subtle, where brick and limestone meet steel and glass, where it seems every square inch of land is occupied, yet another structure emerges. So many contrasting epithets to describe it: bold, dingy, trendy, old-fashioned, artistic, practical, opulent, economical, functional, ornate, colourful, drab, bright, dark…
Born in a small town close to Montreal, and living in a relatively small city (compared to New York), I still find crowds a little intimidating, but very interesting. New York never disappoints from that perspective. A bit of a statistician, I choose three broad categories to describe people I saw (on weekdays): going somewhere in a hurry, standing still, and tourists. Early on weekends, two new categories emerge and often combine: out for a jog/stroll, and walking the dog. While strolling in Central Park, a young jogger with bright pink runners approached me, handed me a small camera, and asked me to take a picture of her, pointing at the lake and the buildings she wanted in the background. She smiled, thanked me, and as she jogged away I added a new subset to my categories: people not from here, who live here, and who post/send photos to friends and family.
The trees lining the path had provided some protection from the elements, but as the rain intensified, we set out to find shelter. Eventually we made our way into The Met. What an experience! So much to see in so many galleries on four floors. One better leave a trail of breadcrumbs to avoid walking in circles, and to ultimately find the way out. I could not remember ever seeing such a collection of art and historical artifacts: pottery and coins, statues and paintings, furniture and sculptures… I don’t think a week would have been sufficient to take in all that the museum had to offer. Three hours left me a little dizzy, my sponge full, art saturated. Nevertheless, my visit to The Met made a lasting impression.
One World Trade Center also provided an unforgettable experience of a different kind. At 1,776 feet, the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere, the tower dominates the Manhattan landscape. Standing by the reflecting pools of the National September 11 Memorial, frozen in time, the waterfalls brought a flood of emotions and left me speechless. We then decided to make our way up to the Observatory; not for the faint of heart, the 60-second ride (that’s almost 30 feet per second) excites the senses. In a flash, we emerged at the top only to realize that the motto See Forever is very fitting. The view was absolutely breathtaking! The light-and-shadow combinations from the sun sinking towards the Jersey horizon and the clouds created an ever-changing panorama. Two hours flew by and soon we made our way back to the ground, the elevator ride virtually taking us away from the building, only to bring us back in a rush through glass and steel columns, just before the doors opened.
Back home and a few weeks removed, our visit to the City that never sleeps almost feels like a distant dream…
Here is a small sample of the hundreds of photographs I took, from the East Village to Central Park, the Guggenheim to the Met, Battery Park to Bryant Park, World Trade Centre to Empire State Building, and back. By foot or by subway, we criss-crossed Manhattan and wore out our soles, and truly enjoyed a week in the Big Apple.