The Bethel tours were all done, and we had an afternoon to tour the city before we all split and headed our different ways the next day.
So after lunch we headed down to the Staten Island Ferry. Interestingly Staten island is a burough of New York city (there are 5 burroughs), but it has no road accesss. The ferry is free for commuters, residents and tourists and leaves eiher every 30 minutes or every hour. It was great to see the big city skyline from the ferry, and to pass right by the Statue of Liberty and Governers Island. Unfortunately we didint have time to explore Staten Island, but had to catch the very next ferry back.
Once we were back at Manhatten, we took a trip over to the 9/11 Memorial. Considering that pictures and videos of the towers coming down when I was 11 are etched forever in my mind, and the day the towers fell changed the world, I really appreciated seeing it. They have turned the base of each towere into a giant water fountain, not a very pretty fountain, but it reflects the somberness of the place. All around the edge of the fountains has thousands of names etched into the metal railing, names and places of each and every victim who died that day. It was certainly a reminder of how fragile life is and how fast your entire life can change.
After the reality check at the memorial site we headed across to an area called Little Italy which borders China Town. The streets of little italy made me feel like in the blink of an eye we were transported across the globe to Europe. With little street side cafes, and italian waiters and restauranteers standing outside, inviting us to eat at their cafe and enjoy free wine, or that they have aircon. As a group we eventually found a nice and quite little cafe to enjoy genuine italian (actually American Itialian I guess I should say) pizza and rest a while in the delightful aircon.
Then we were suddenly all off again and walked down the block and across the road and suddenly we were in China town, going in and out and in and out each little pokey shop. We saw hundreds of NYC & Big Apple curios combined with knock off designer clothes and bags, Pashmina scarves and plastic toys, it was pretty much fairly similar to most chinese stores even back home. Except with these ones it was almost expected that you bargain with the shop keepers. Eventually I found 2 beautiful Pashmina scarves and stuck with that. It was amusing that although I didn’t see many MacDonalds restaurants in the states, I saw one in china town which was not the traditional yellow and red, but was black and red and had madarin writing below the iconic big M.
After we had all exhausted ourselves with walking chinatown flat, I looked at the time, 8pm and the sun was only just starting to sink. So, tired as I was I said I wanted to go walk across Brooklyn bridge and watch the sunset. So with distinct instructions of how to get back to our hotel, I conned, begged, pleaded and possibly blackmailed one of my new friends to join me (yes I’m a horrid friend, I know) and we were dropped off at the Manhattan end of the Brooklyn bridge. I think other than the actual visit to Brooklyn Bethel and doing the self guided tours (bible exhibit and tour through time), Brooklyn bridge at sunset was definitely my favourite experience in the big apple. We rushed along, amazed at the fact that there is a distinct “human road” on the bridge. You walk on the right and pass on the left, with painted lanes, and a painted lane in each direction for bicycles. And its amazing that the walkway really has quite a climb. We ran and climbed and stopped every now and then to just tak it all in. Me still in my long dress deciding that there are no signs that say you shouldnt climb on the bridge and that I could likely get a better photo from up on the railings, I hopped up to get a better shot. Apparently though people decidede t shout to me that I shouldnt jump, and others still yet shouted that they’re gonna call the cops. But I just stood, smiled and waved and took photos. The traffic on the road part below us at nearly 9pm was still crazy busy.
We got to a perfect vantage point and I managed to get some really nice photos. As we crossed the bridge, we went to a park on the banks of the East River and just took it all in. For the first time since I left home, tha evening I stopped and just took it all in. It was so surreal. Sitting amongst other tourists in the twilight watching the city across the river as the lights all started to come on. After taking a few photos and my cameras (I had two cameras with me and my cell phone) all went flat, we started walking around Brooklyn to find the subway back, after a bit of searching and map reading, we found our way to the subway and got onto the correct line back to times square area at the Port Authority where we waited for the airport shuttle which then took us down to Newark airport where we caught our hotel shuttle back and after midnight I crawled into my bed and grinned to myself knowing that my life would never be the same.
Bright and early the next morning I was up and all packed ready vto leave for Cleveland. After teary goodbyes to my new friends, I caught a lift with our tour guides into the city and while most of our group decided to g back to bed and slept in after an intense week, a few came to explore the city. I was so glad I had not packed too much for my trip, because there I went traipsing around in mid summer heat, with many kilometers to walk with all my luggage in tow. We were dropped off on W34th street, not too far from 5th Avenue where we were just a few days back. Walking the fashion district, I was happy to stick with my new friends. We decided to escape the heat for a bit and went into Macy’s. Well that was an experience of note. A high end depsartmen store, well actually all 13 or so floors of it. With vintage wooden escelators and a floor for each department. The bottom floor is just for perfumes anf make up, there’s a floor for ladies’ wear, mens’ wear, children, shoes, houshold decor, and many more. This was also where I tasted my first starbucks. But the day was too hot so I had an ice coffee.
My bus to cleveland was at 3pm and my wonderful friend’s offered to walk me down to the station. So another 6 giant blocks west, with the wheels almost falling off my suitcase, we made it all the way down to the bus station. It was only about midday, so again I said a teary goodby to my friends and I hung out for a while in the wonderfully airconditioned Convention center across the road. There was some kind of exam going on at the time, and when it came out, it turned out to be the Lawyers bar. I had a few intersting conversaions there, and then decided I was ready to face the heat and go explore the High Line Park which I had read so many things about. Most of the places I visited in NYC were wildly underrated and and were way better than I ever could have expected. TYhe high line park on the other hand was not. It is highly over rated. With hot asphalt pathways, ugly views of the cargo trains shunting yard and not a shade tree in sight, which in mid summer with about 40 degrees celcius and high humidiy is not fun! I spent about ten minutes there before quitting that idea and walking down and across the road to sit on a nice bench in the shade overlooking the hudson. I ate a bit of food I had packed that morning and struck up a conversation with a random New Yorker who came and sat on the bench for his lunch break. We chatted about the old pirate ship passing by us, and about his work as a postal worker at the big depot. But it was hot, and I ran out of water, so I strolled down the walkway, still with all my luggage in tow, up to pier 79 where I discovered the aircondidtioned waiting area for the Water taxi. So for a couple of hours I sat there and enjoyed cold water from the fountain and airconditioned area and thought to myself oh how I wish I had a few more days in the city.
But time was not on my side this time around. So I have a list of things that I know, without the shaddow of a doubt that one day I will return to see. I want to spend a day exploring mueseum mile, have a picnic in central park, spend some time and go up one of those sky scrapers to see the city from above. And yes, one day when I return, sunset from the brooklyn bridge is on the cards again.
But that day I had to lug my bags back up the road and with a tear in my eye, climb aboard the MegaBus. I wispered “I’ll see you again you beautiful city” as the bus pulled away.