You can just randomly wander around almost any block in Manhattan and find something interesting to look at, whether it’s people, a store, a monument, or something you just really weren’t expecting. And they’re getting pretty good at the monuments.
Washington Monument, Washington Square, Manhattan
As much as it’s easy to loathe tourists, there were a few touristy things I did want to do, such as the obligatory visit to the Statue of Liberty. Me being me, I managed to get the time completely wrong and get up at 6am only to arrive an hour an a half before I needed to, and to then find that the Leatherman pocketknife I had with me that had made it through four sets of international customs security checks, couldn’t make it through the security to Liberty Island. Perhaps they thought I was going to hack it down. Thanks and goodbye $100.
Sun rises over the Financial District & Battery Park
Still, in between experiencing the Orwellian police state of the future, it was a beautiful clear morning which enabled a couple of snaps. You leave for Liberty from the southernmost tip of Manhattan Island, an area called Battery Park. On the wharf there’s a bronze memorial to lost merchant seaman, I assume mainly from WWII.
Merchant seaman memorial @ Battery Park wharf
Then once you get out to the Statue itself you’re now allowed up to the observation level, which has only recently re-opened following the 9/11 attacks. While the statue’s crown doesn’t re-open til July 4, Independence Day, the observation deck still affords a fairly magnificent view of the downtown Manhattan skyline.
Downtown Manhattan from the Statue of Liberty
Going up the statue it’s not quite as big as what you expect, although certainly nothing to sneeze at, and it filled me with all sorts of weird emotions of what it must be to be an American in this place. For a sense of scale the viewing windows in the statue’s helment are about the size of airplane windows, and it’s a very steep, narrow, and winding staircase to get to the top when it does open – only wide enough for one. I basically skipped the museum on the way up in my haste to avoid the tourist hordes, digital orcs the lot of them, but I think it would have been interesting to soak up a bit more of the story of the statue, it’s construction, and the context of the time. Once you’re at the top of the plinth on which the statue stands there’s not much to do but take a couple of snaps and then wander down again.
Leaving the place I paused to take one more photo before boarding the ferry, and given how monolithic and removed from the people the US government has become, it was hard not to feel like I was looking back on liberty, as it were.
Looking back on Liberty
Mind you, that’s probably a big part of the reason why there’s so much emotion surrounding Obama’s election – they really love him here, particularly in NYC, as you’d expect.
Obama to the rescue?
I went up the top of Rockefeller Plaza to the esteemed Rainbow Room for a couple of cocktails, which, while well made, certainly had a location premium built into them @ $US20 a pop – plus tax, plus tip of 15%-20%. The view was certainly outstanding; from Central Park to downtown you’re swimming in a mountainous sea of twinkling skyscrapers, which led to me foregoing that other tourist in NYC ritual: the Empire State building. I felt I’d already seen a comparable view, and didn’t want to pay another 20 bucks to queue for an hour to go up and check out a view for 15 minutes before coming back down. So I went a bit more downscale instead, to the famous Katz’s diner which is just around the corner from our apartment, and host to the infamous scene in When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan mimics an orgasm for Billy Crystal’s benefit.
A grand temple of meat
I thought I wanted a pastrami on rye, cos that was pretty Noo Yawk, but when I saw the massive pile of steaming meat an inch and a half high between some thick white bread I changed my mind. It’s been there for about a hundred years, so it’s interesting, and the food’s great (if you like that kind of food), but it’s really just another expensive tourist trap – a place you do once, to say that you’ve done it.
Running out of time before my flight boards so it’s time to go – next blog hopefully within the next 24 hours.