Second stop: Grand Central Terminal
We booked a cab which took us straight to the super iconic Grand Central Terminal Train Station.
It is equal parts beautiful and imposing, have a look:
There are a lot of small cafés and shops inside the station. And then there’s the famous Apple Store which once was Apple’s largest ever retail outlet (spread over 23,000 square feet). It’s blended so well that you never actually enter the store or leave the station.
We then had lunch at a restaurant called Café Spice (There was no cake cutting because that’s for kids) and proceeded towards South Manhattan.
Third stop: National September 11 Memorial (9/11 Memorial) & Museum
The 9/11 Memorial commemorates the horrific September 11, 2001 attacks and consists of two pools constructed at the site where the Twin Towers once stood. Each pool has a waterfall at the centre and the names of all those who lost their lives in the attack are inscribed on a panel surrounding the pool. The waterfalls are the largest man-made ones in North America.
We went there on a Tuesday which proved to be lucky as the 9/11 Museum offers free admission after 5 PM on Tuesdays. Entry costs $24 (₹1,600/-) at all other times. Though we had a ticket to the neighbouring 9/11 Tribute Centre (by virtue of the NYC Explorer Pass), we decided against going there because we wanted to check out the museum first.
The Museum re-creates the entire 9/11 scene with such impeccable detail that it’s almost disturbing. Every minute detail and artefact from September 11, 2001 has been preserved.
We hardly talked to each other during the three hours we spent inside the museum. It was a mentally exhausting visit.
We took a train to our hotel, chatted for a while and then decided to head out for what was going to be the fanciest dinner of the trip.
Final stop: Uva
We searched on Zomato for good dining places around Central Park and eventually narrowed down upon a restaurant named Uva. It was once again on the east of Central Park, so taking a train wasn’t an option. 15 minutes later, we were being led to our table by an extremely attractive young girl.
This happiness was however, short-lived as ordering food there was, to put it mildly, impossible. We scanned the menu for any English term. There was none.
I gave it the same blank stare that I had given my CA Final Corporate Law question book around 10 months ago.
See for yourself. Here’s an extract, courtesy Zomato:
In the end, I ordered something whose description contained the word pasta and Hrishikesh ordered something with chicken in it. Classic Indian Jugaad mode: Activated.
Another thing to note is that Valentine’s Day coincides with Hrishikesh’s Birthday (or is it the other way round?). Barring a couple of tables, the place was filled with couples (Pun unintentional). Hmm.
Though I’m unable to remember the exact name of the dish that we had ordered or the amount of bill (that we had not ordered), I can say that the food was top-notch. This disclaimer is necessary since my review could have been different had I remembered the bill amount. After all, I’m an Indian guy.
New York City boasts of the largest subway system in the world by number of stations. It operates 24 hours a day and I found it to be quite reliable and efficient (though admittedly, my sample size was quite limited). The stations are spread throughout the five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island.
It’s a good idea to buy a prepaid Metro Card since it eliminates any need to carry change and costs just $1 (₹ 67). The regular subway fare is $2.75 (₹ 184) which is deducted from your Metro Card balance every time you board a train. There’s a screen on every platform which tells you when the next train is going to arrive and also if there are any delays along the route. The route map inside the train also tells you which stations are accessible by wheelchair, something I felt was quite thoughtful. It also tells you all the transfer options available at a station.
First stop: Statue of Liberty National Monument
I’ll let the following picture speak for itself,
Ah! I know.
The Statue of Liberty is situated on Liberty Island, to the south of Manhattan. For getting there, you need to take the 1 train all the way to its last stop, called ‘South Ferry’. A thing to note here is that you need to be in one of the first five cars of the train to be able to get down at the South Ferry Station. From there, Liberty Island is a short 20 minute ferry-ride away. You can purchase one of the three available types of tickets – Reserve access (i.e. access to the grounds of Liberty Island), Pedestal access (i.e. access to the pedestal of the Statue), and Crown access (i.e. access to the crown of the Statue). Though all of them are reasonably priced, the Crown tickets sell out weeks in advance, so it’s best to book early. We could only manage a pedestal access ticket.
The 160 year old statue, a gift from the people of France to the people of US, “honours the alliance of the two Nations in achieving the independence of the United States of America and attests their abiding friendship”.
Made of copper, the statue was originally bronze but is now bluish-green due to effects of oxidation. We must have clicked a million photos here, given that it is such a spectacle.
Liberty Island also offers breathtaking views of Manhattan’s famous skyline,
Also, did I tell you that the Statue looks spectacular at the time of sunset?
To sweeten things up further, the ferry had a double-deck,
It was evening by the time we returned to Manhattan. Since this was the last day, we quickly ran through our checklist and realised that we hadn’t covered two major attractions – Wall Street and Brooklyn Bridge.
Second stop: Wall Street
So we quickly hopped on a train that took us straight to Wall Street. We climbed up the stairs on to ground level and found ourselves face to face with this:
Wall Street has another famous attraction – the site where George Washington took oath as the first president of the United States of America (April 30, 1789).
We then crossed the East River and entered Brooklyn. By this time, we were extremely thirsty so we decided to stop for a shake at a place called Brooklyn Bridge Diner. The shakes were incredible, though punched a $ 23 (₹ 1,600/-) hole in our pocket. But then, things aren’t always great value in this part of the world.
We did go to Brooklyn Bridge, even rode on it to Manhattan, but couldn’t click any pictures owing to my camera’s not-so-good low light skills. Once back in Manhattan, we took a train to the hotel.
Hrishikesh’s flight to Seattle was scheduled to depart from LaGuardia Airport early next morning, so we asked the guys at the reception to arrange for a cab, which they did. My bus to Boston was scheduled to depart at 11:10 AM the next day, so I was going to have the luxury of sleeping for a bit longer. We chatted for a lot of time that day, since it was our last. Hrishikesh’s mom had sent an entire bag full of ‘Indian’ goodies for him – by bag, I don’t mean a sack, but a suitcase. But then, I guess that’s just how Indian moms are – sweet. So we packed our things, had a look at the photos, watched a few funny videos (that’s what friends are for), discussed life, set alarms – and slept off.