New York City Daytrip
Nov 4, 2007
|This is going to be an exciting day - we are going right into New York City. When we first thought about where to go on this adventure, we were not sure we wanted to go to New York City. But now that we are here, so close that we can see the city, it is all very thrilling and exciting. After checking in with the office and getting the low-down on transportation, we will be taking the PATH train into New York. It is only $1.50 per person and takes about 25 minutes. We definitely do not want to drive into town; parking can be as high as $13 per hour if you can find a spot. We walk the 5 blocks to the train station and have some fun trying to figure out the machines to buy our tickets. Once you have tickets, you have to deposit them in the turnstiles, so there is no proof you have paid. There are turnstiles for entering and exiting, lots of camera's and police presence. It is Sunday, so it is fairly quiet, and we all get a seat on the train. It runs underground the whole way, so unfortunately we can't see any of the scenery. We arrive at 33 Street station and get out on the street. It is amazing!! Large buildings all around, and the noise!! Yellow cabs everywhere honking their horns, and pedestrians walking against lights. You need to stand there for a few minutes to take all this in and get your bearings. We think taking a city tour of New York might be the best way to go about it and get a brochure from City Sights NY that has a 'Hop on, Hop off' way to see it all.
We walk around and find Madison Square Gardens, home of the New York Rangers. It does not look anything like a stadium from the front; as a matter of fact it looks more like an office highrise. The actual stadium is behind the highrise and the arena is on the second floor. You have to take a tour of the stadium in order to see it, the Knicks are having their home opener tonight and the tours are restricted to certain areas, but the price is the same. The boys are not that keen on the tour, so we walk further and get to Macy's department store. We are getting hungry and Macy's has a couple of restaurants on the 4 th floor; we get on the wooden escalators, which look to be original, and find out from the mainfloor you go to 1 1/2 then to 2 etc. On the 4 th floor there are a couple of take out restaurants with tables, right in the middle of the young ladies clothes. Steve wants to try real New York City pizza, but the restaurant is not open yet. Then we realize the time has gone back 1 hour and he did not change his watch! It is only 11 am, not 12 pm. After a short wait, the boys get their pizza while Sandra has a cinnamon pretzel.
The Macy's store is an icon in New York; the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is only weeks away and they are busy decorating the store and windows for Christmas. We are in the older section of the store; it actually takes up almost a city block! The floors are wood, which go with the wooden escalator, and even the elevators are the old, wide ones, you almost expect the elevator attendant that tells you the floors you are on. Reminds you a bit of 'Are you being served?'
We have looked over the brochure and have decided to take the 2 1/2 hour city tour with the Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty option. This will show us Manhattan and the downtown core including Times Square. The tour is such that you can get off at any or all stops and take the next bus when you are ready. The tickets are good for 24 hours, so you could come back tomorrow and finish it or see parts of it again.
You buy your tickets from the dispatcher that is stationed at each stop, and ours is from Senegal and once he finds out we are from Canada, he starts speaking French to us! We tell him we are from Vancouver, and he laughs and speaks English again. They get a lot of people here from Quebec, so naturally assume all Canadians speak French.
The bus is a "double-decker" style, but only has seats at the top. The seats are all open, but there is a small plastic canopy covering some seats. We opt for the open seats; the weather is great and this way we get a great view of all the buildings we will be passing by. We have a good tourguide, who gives us all the details about the things we are seeing, but does not overdo it. We drive through downtown and see Macy's, Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Wall Street, the list goes on.
We are close to the street lights and the overhead street signs, sometimes it looks like the signs would hit you right in the head! We are able to see the magnificent architechture on each building; most buildings were built by new immigrants who brought the building style from their own country and add their own touch. Without this tour, we would never have been able to see all this up close. It helps too, to find out some of the backgrounds and stories that go with the buildings and areas of the city.
We took our first stop off the bus at Ground Zero or G.Z. as it is known by New Yorkers. We had to walk a block to get to the site, it is hard to describe what you felt when you looked at it. At the moment they are building 5 new buildings that are going up in height in steps, one building a bit taller than the last. The final building is supposed to be completed in 2009, and is supposed to be as tall or taller than the World Trade Center.
We have seen and heard so much about 9/11 and it kind of numbs you to what happened. Standing here in the spot where it all took place, it really takes you back, just thinking if you were at the Hilton across the street, just getting up and looking out your window.
Or if you happened to walk or drive down the street and suddenly you are covered in ash and people are screaming with the noise of the planes hitting the building. It is amazing nothing else was hit in the process; the Deutsche Bank building is the only one still standing in the immediate area. It was severely damaged by debris, asbestos was discovered in the building when they were going to tear it down, so now they are taking it down floor by floor and cleaning everything in the process.
Unfortunately, there is no memorial area, just rubble where the buildings used to be.
They are still excavating where the buildings used to be, you can still see twisted metal and rubble going down what is obviously far into the ground. It looked like a few floors compressed together, it was a bit eerie to think that so many people died there and hopefully none are left in the rubble.
The New York City area was first discovered in 1609 by Henry Hudson, who later had the river named after him. In 1624, the Dutch claimed the area and called their new settlement New Amsterdam; in 1626 Peter Minuit, who was with the Dutch West India Company, bought Manhattan Island from the local natives for about 60 guilders/$24 dollars. In 1664, the English came back and seized the settlement, renaming it New York for the Duke of York. The Dutch were not defeated yet, and returned 9 years later and in a surprise attack reclaimed the area and named it New Orange. The year 1674 finally brought peace to the area; the treaty of Westminster saw New York go back to English hands.
New York really started to develop after the Erie Canal was opened in 1825; this connected them with Buffalo and other cities in the area. More overseas trade was done, and this brought about a lot of immigration to this area. People from all over the world came to New York to start a new life, either staying on or moving to other areas in the country.
1855 started a century of immigrants, who first came to New York to a center close to where Battery Park is nowadays - next to the Staten Island Ferry. By 1890, this had become too small to process the flood of new immigrants, so the federal government found a 27.5 acre island that belonged to Samuel Ellis. It was used as a dumping ground for ships ballasts, and after the government bought it, they built the immigration center that would process every immigrant into the US until the 1920's, when the government decided to use US embassies in foreign countries to approve and process new immigrants - before they came to the US.
This immigration center processed a total of 12 million immigrants between 1892 & 1954, when the center closed. On April 7, 1907, a record number of 11,747 immigrants were processed! The immigrants would come to Ellis Island after weeks on a ship, where some of the other passengers might have died or gotten very sick during the voyage. Each person was screened for disease, and had to wait about 5-6 hours before their name was called. People that were found to be diseased had to stay on the island in one of the hospitals until they were fit enough to be released and admitted to the country.
Once you come to Ellis Island, it is hard to believe that in these halls, this many people passed through. There were lots of displays and stories to make this experience seem very real. It really made you think about all the hardships some of these people had to endure to come to another country and start a totally new life, often with nothing.
You could look up your ancestors, it is said 100 million Americans today can say their ancestors came through Ellis Island.
They also had a display showing the distribution across the country of different nationalities, which was interesting. The Dutch made up about 2.5 million, more than the Brits but there were more Swedish and Norwegian people.
When people arrived in New York harbour after weeks at sea, the first thing that greeted them was the Statue of Liberty. It was built in Paris in the 1880's and placed in New York harbour in 1886. It was the tallest structure in New York and the tallest statue in the world; the height from the ground(including the base)to the top of the torch is 305 feet, 1 inch. The Statue was built by French intellectuals as a protest against political oppression in their own country, who saw America as the new world, free of oppression.
The Statue was completely refurbished for $84 million, completed in 1986, in time for the centennial celebrations.
On the ferry to the island, we got a very good view of the Statue, but once you are standing on the island in front of the Statue it is massive and very imposing. You could understand people were impressed and happy to see this welcoming sign to their new country.
After our visit to both islands and waiting for the ferry to come back to get us, it was getting past 5 pm, and with the time change, it was starting to get dark. We managed to get back on the bus, and finished the rest of the tour. The end of this part of the tour was at Times Square, and it was unbelievable!! We have watched Times Square on tv during New Year's Eve celebrations and know it is bright, but we were not prepared for the brightness it projected into the night. There are no words to describe this, except you have to see it to believe it. A sign on the billboard costs $3 million per year, and anyone that has a building in Times Square needs to have 25 percent of the building dedicated to a lit sign, which also has property tax brakes attached to it.
We have to change buses in order to make it back to our PATH station; the traffic in Times Square is just as wild as the lights lighting it up. There are taxi's everywhere, honking at each other and pedestrians and we have to walk a few blocks to get to the stop where the other bus is waiting. It is an interesting experience to be part of all these people and all this chaos.
We make it back to the motorhome around 8 pm and decide that tomorrow we will go back into the city to see the last part of our tour in the daylight.