Thursday – March 27, 2014
We began our trip around the world by visiting Krista’s high school friend Rhea in New York for a few days. Flights to Cartagena, Colombia from Seattle fly via New York area anyway, so why not see one the largest cities in the world along the way? Arriving in Newark, New Jersey after our five hour ‘red-eye’ flight from Seattle, we walked off the plane at 6 AM, sleep deprived, complimentary ‘red-eyes’ equipped and ready to see New York City! One of the cheapest ways – for travelers on a budget – to get to Manhattan from Newark Airport is a quick bus ride to Newark Penn Station, where we caught our first glimpse of the New York City skyline silhouetted by a bright red morning sky. Then at the Newark Train Station hop on the Path commuter train which will deposit you directly under the World Trade Center. A few minutes spent pondering the new construction and surrounding grounds and we could check this off our list. The 23 degree weather and a brisk breeze discouraged unnecessary loitering, pushing us along to our next destination, the subway.
Riding the subway in New York is an experience in itself. Loved by many, but despised by others, and not to be missed! Taking one of the longest routes in Manhattan, we traveled from Lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side. Here we met Rhea in her cozy apartment and dropped our packs off. After catching up for a bit, we crossed beautiful Central Park to the Upper West side, accompanied by our newly acquired personal tour guide, and then made our way south to Chelsea and the High Line.
The High Line is a 1.45 mile long decommissioned historic freight rail line raised above street level. For years it sat unused and deteriorating but was recently saved from demolition and renovated – mostly through donations – into a flower and tree lined walking path right through the heart of the city. This beautiful free walking path offers raised and unobstructed views of the Chelsea neighborhood of the Lower West Side and much of the city skyline. As you can see the flowers were not blooming yet as we came a little too early in the year. And best of all it ends in an area filled with great restaurants, we stopped inside Artichoke Basille’s Pizza for a slice.
After the High Line we made our way through the Meatpacking District to the Chelsea market, a large group of small shops from which nearly anything of desire can be acquired, particularly food ingredients from around the world. For those familiar with Pike Place Market in Seattle, it is very similar but completely enclosed from the elements.
The Staten Island Ferry and the Statue of Liberty – Our next destination was further south through Chelsea to Battery Park where the Staten Island Ferry Terminal offers free trips to Staten Island every half hour. No ticket is required or asked for – though many helpful swindlers outside are more than happy to sell you one. Walking on we took the ferry across the bay to Staten Island. The ferry offers free views of the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty for those who just want to see it and don’t need to touch it. Upon arriving at Staten Island you can stay and check out what Staten Island has to offer or you can hop right back on the next ferry returning to Manhattan for a second round of photos of the city and the Statue of Liberty. Just in case you weren’t standing in one of the more coveted – and quickly crowded – prime photography locations the first time around.
After returning home for a powernap we departed again from the Upper East Side, this time to Rockefeller Center to watch the ice skaters before heading up to the Top of the Rock, for some great pictures of the New York City skyline just as the sun was setting. It costs $27 per person to board the express elevator to the top where you can expect great unobstructed views of Lower Manhattan to the south and Central Park to the north. One of the benefits of The Rock over the Empire State building is that the top is not surrounded by metal grating blocking your views. Instead the outer perimeter is made of large panes of clear glass, and a central even higher raised platform has nothing to block your view in any direction except a waist high wall. The Rock is also farther north offering better views of Central Park, and being that you are not in the Empire State building you can include it in your photos of the skyline to the south.
The view from the Top of The Rock was spectacular!
Once the sun had set and the throngs of would be photographers had descended from the Top of The Rock we made our way to Times Square, which is best seen at night. Viewing platforms have been set up in the center of Times Square allowing for perfect views of the multitude of brightly lit signs in every direction.
On our first day of traveling we had managed to take just about every mode of transport possible – plane, bus, train, subway, cab and boat. Our long first day complete we walked into Carmines for some amazing and truly massive portions of Italian food.
With our first busy day complete we were able to slow down for our next two days in New York. A casual walk through Central Park was a good start.
Our meandering tour of Central Park ended at the Museum of Natural History to admire the vast collection of dinosaur bones, as well as their collection of meteorites, minerals and gems.
After the Museum of Natural History we walked to famous Gray’s Papaya for their recession special, two hotdogs and drink for $4.95. Fueled up we walked south to Columbus Circle and on the way passed by Julliard and the Metropolitan Opera House to admire the massive paintings by Chagall before returning home for some Chinese take-out.
On our third and last full day in the city we were introduced to a New York rainy day, even for people from Seattle it rained hard! We spent the entirety of our time outside sequestered beneath our umbrellas. Our first stop was the Metropolitan Museum of Art – or just The Met, where one could easily wander lost for days contemplating art from nearly every culture and time period on Earth. From here we caught a bus south to the East Village to meet Krista’s friends from college, Leah and Diana, for some catching up over ramen and drinks. Unfortunately we neglected to take a photo of the group! Then it was off to the west side for some late night dancing until the wee hours of the morning. A lengthy one hour of sleep later and we were off to the airport and sunny Cartagena, Colombia.
A special thanks to Rhea for being our host and tour guide in the Big Apple!
To be continued…