Yet another perk of working at French school: we get a Toussaint holiday break (though the French-American version is only one week).
Past Anne knew, somehow, that she would want to travel again come October. So, she planned a birthday trip to the East Coast to visit my best friend from elementary school, who is an almost-Master of Bassoon at Yale. At 4:30 AM the day after my birthday, I headed out.
I arrived in New York City, Destination 1, that same day and made it to Astoria, where some very lovely Whitman friends had offered me a place to stay. Whitman alumni couchsurfing is the best. I got to see an old friend and experience a new alumni house (there are some in every city, I’m convinced).
My one full day in the city started with being stuck in a subway car, between stops. Apparently there was a track fire. I’ve been initiated, now I can really pretend to be a local! Here’s the view from the stuck car…
I spent the half hour listening to a guy speak French into the phone, trying to figure out the nationality of a beautiful, blond, clearly European family (German?) and listening to a mother scold her daughter for breathing on the window glass and drawing pictures in the condensation (“that’s disgusting, stop”).
My very ambitious plan had included Central Park, two museums, a subway ride, 14th street and NYU, the Strand bookstore, and a walk all the way down to the 9/11 memorial. Turns out all that is not even accomplishable in a day and a half. I cut out my morning plans when the subway stuck, and started right from 14th street/NYU. Here’s the beautiful Washington Square Park:
I glimpsed Greenwich Village, the hipness oozing out into the streets by way of stylish older couples on arm-in-arm strolls, with green trenches, berets, and small dogs on leather leashes. I continued down the streets to the Strand, described by my friend as New York’s Powell’s. There were floors upon floors of shelves and more shelves of books on books on books! It was my Wonderland. I shrunk just looking at them (screaming “read me!”), and then so did my wallet.
After much walking, through SoHo and Tribeca, and a quick stop at Whole Foods for lunch, I reached the 9/11 memorial. The $24 price of admission put me in a suitably solemn mood for exploring the memorial and museum of the national tragedy.
Having never been to New York when the Towers still stood, I hadn’t realized how iconic they had been in the images of NY’s skyline, or how many people worked in them. There was a lot more I didn’t know about the day’s events, as the museum exhibit quickly proved. I remember hearing about the Towers falling, but I never even saw it on TV (I was 9 at the time). After spending a couple of hours ingesting all the carnage and destruction wreaked on that day in 2001, I understand what an act of Terror it was. It would have been truly terrifying to watch the tallest buildings in New York collapse into a cloud of fire and dust, blood and body parts, before your eyes, especially without knowing why or how. I have so much respect for those who lived through the tragedy, rescue workers and not. And those who designed the memorial museum as well, it was just sombre and beautiful enough to commemorate this profound tragedy.
After a day full of sights and walking, I was ready to head back to the house, where Trivial Pursuit and takeout awaited! My last morning in New York, I packed up and hauled my luggage with me to the center. I stored my bag, and near the storage place was Times Square! How fitting it is that one of the most famous places in America is famous because of advertising. Thx capitalism.
I made it up to Central Park and got a chance to walk around and catch some views.
Then, per the recommendation of a friend, I had the best cookie of my life. No exaggerating. It was so warm and gooey that it melted in the bag before I got to eat all of it, and I got chocolate all over my hands.
I made it back to Grand Central early to catch the train to New Haven! Now I’m in Connecticut, feeling the Ivy League vibes. I’ll let you know if I really should have gone to Yale (I always dreamed of following in Rory Gilmore’s nerdy footsteps).