Thursday 22 October 2015

Liberty and Culture

Liberty and Culture
October 2015

We picked up the No1 downtown subway from near our 49th St apartment and rattled our way south to the final stop at the Staten Island ferry terminal. 

The world's most iconic view?

This was our first experience of the subway system and it's fair to say it shares most of the negative dimensions of the London version i.e. hot, smelly and crowded. But on top of that the ride is anything but smooth. But then it is certainly cheap - less than two pounds to ride anywhere so long as you only change once (and with the tracks faithfully following the gridiron streets above you only need to change once).

Manhattan skyine 2015

The station at Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan is a temporary affair as the main station is still being pumped out after hurricane a couple of years ago, and evidence of  the destruction remains ongoing. 

Statue of Liberty, New York Harbour

We used a pre booked ticket to Liberty Island and with the sky a cloudless blue we had fantastic views back over the Manhattan skyline, with the gleaming new One World Trade Centre rising majestically above the rest.

The selfie brigade

The Statue of Liberty is an impressive construction in itself, but more profound is the message it conveys and the aspiration it stands for. It's link to American patriotism is palpable and its a must visit site for any itinerary. 

We did stop off at Ellis Island, the gateway to America for millions of immigrants, but without any personal connection it was less than gripping. So we just watched a 30 min film and caught the boat back to New York.

We wandered into the financial district in search of lunch and came across George's, a family diner which managed to trade in the aftermath of the 9-11 disaster, but which was ultimately condemned as a result of broken foundations and water damage. Because the building was still standing the insurers refused to pay out so the family sold their assets and rebuilt at a cost of two million dollars. 

The new One World Trade Centre and Ground Zero

And so we found ourselves just a block from the 9 11 memorial and in spite of not intending to visit we stumbled into the site almost by accident. The two gaping chasms into which an endless cascade of water flows is very moving, ringed by the names of the thousands who lost their lives in the tragedy. The backdrop to this is an array of new glass fronted building which sparkled in the mid day sun - if nothing else the site demonstrates the resilience of New York.

The Opera House at The Lincoln Centre

By contrast we went all cultured in the evening, attending the premiere performance of Wagner's Opera, Tannhauser. The Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Centre is a majestic gilded setting and the ambiance of the event made up for a rather unengaging musical dimension. We were obliged to take pot luck with the opera and maybe Wagner is not really to our tastes. We stayed for two of the three acts (which were about already 3 hours long) and skipped the last.

Another big day in the city which never sleeps.

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