Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hello New York!

So much has happened the last few weeks, now I'm finally able to catch up on blogging.  My last post related to my most recent trip is about my 2 fun visits to New York City on July 31st and August 3rd.  I've already talked about the nightmare trip on August 1st, so no need to go there again!  Anyway, ever since I found out that the trip was going to be in eastern PA within driving distance to New York I knew I would make at least one trip to the city while I was there.  As time grew closer I decided to make a trip to New York on my own.  What transpired was a lot of fun (and a lot of walking)!

PATH Train from Newark to the WTC
Back in 2009, while my brother was still living in the Washington, DC area, I took a trip to see him on my Spring Break during student teaching.  I didn't really do a whole lot while there (I was mostly just getting out of town and relaxing), but one of the days I drove his car to the nearest Metro station and took the Metro into town and just spent most of the day visiting things I wanted to see and enjoying the scenery.  I also got a lot of great pictures.  Well, with that in mind, I wanted to do something like that in New York; just take a day and go explore the city by myself and not worry about anyone else.  Initially I was going to park in Jersey City or Newark and take the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) train into Manhattan, but a friend of mine told me if I was going in on Sunday I could probably drive into Manhattan and find on-street parking.  To make a long story short, he was right and amazingly I found on-street parking for free.  Granted, when I crossed the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan I started thinking to myself "what the heck am I doing?!?" but I finally managed to maneuver my way through the river of traffic and I found parking on a residential street between 5th and 6th Avenues.  First thing after parking was I double checked to make sure it was even a legal space to park (it was) and then I found a subway station.  After paying some $26 to ride the London Subways back in 2007, finding out that the NYC Subway was only $2.25 for every time you enter the system (unlimited transfers), it felt practically free!  I got on the first train that came and took it to the end of the line, which was City Hall.  Just FYI, though, on-street parking is only available in a lot of places on Sunday.  Where I parked the sign said "No parking Except Sundays".

Finally got some pictures with the Brooklyn Bridge!
I had a great time re-introducing myself to the city.  I hadn't been to New York since I was in middle school.  My dad took my sisters and me on an East Coast trip in 1996 which included stops in Hershey, Valley Forge, Philadelphia, and New York.  We actually left the van in Philly and took the Amtrak train to New York and stayed there, I think, 3 days in a hotel along 8th Avenue.  In any case, a lot has changed since 1996 as anyone can imagine.  Most of the places I explored I ended up visiting later when I came back on August 3rd with my sisters, dad, and brother-in-law.  It didn't bother me though because I could be somewhat of a guide.  Being able to use the subway system again got me familiarized with the whole map system they use (it's not easy to read quick if you aren't familiar with it), so I was much more of a help on the 3rd.  I was also able to meet up with a friend from who lives in Queens.  He showed me around a bit and it was great to meet him!

New 1 World Trade Center under 
construction in Manhattan
Seeing the World Trade Center site for the first time since 2001 was surreal.  I vaguely remember it from the trip in 1996, where we took the elevator up to the 107th floor of the South Tower to the observation deck.  We couldn't go on the roof that day because of high winds (which we got to experience on the Empire State Building observation deck!).  I remember being up in the tower a lot more than the plaza around it.  Somewhere I have pictures I took of it, but they're in a box I have no idea where!  Anyway, seeing the massive construction site and remembering being there in '96 and seeing what I saw on the news in 2001, it was hard to believe it was the same place.  September 11th is a day that anyone who lived through and was aware of what was going on just never forgets.  I was showing some kids at Roosevelt a documentary about it back in May.  The same emotions I remember from that day were resurfacing as I watched the video.

Manhattan Temple
It was cool to see the Manhattan LDS Temple, right across from Lincoln Center and only a block from Central Park.  Both trips I went to the park via the 66th Street Subway Station, so I saw the temple both days.  It's not the most spectacular temple, but it fits in without totally blending it.  Kinda cool to see Angel Moroni on a spire in the middle of Manhattan!  Both trips were a lot of fun.  Being there solo was just a chance for me to be on my own and go at my own pace.  It was also a chance for me to be alone, which I really don't get a lot of these days.  The trip with my dad, sisters, and brother-in-law was fun too getting to spend time with them and seeing all the sites.  It was also nice having been there a few days earlier so I had a little bit of familiarity with where everything was.  The laminated map I got from my friend (who also recommended driving into Manhattan on Sunday) was a HUGE help!!

Vesey Street at the WTC site
Couple things I did learn: 1st, New Yorkers in general are very aggressive drivers.  Not just New York City, but the entire metro area.  They won't honk or swear at you if you just barge over into their lane or drive close to them (especially in congestion), but don't go slow.  Going slow is the ultimate sin in New York driving.  Keep up with traffic.  Don't drive like that in Ohio though.  We'll think you're nuts and probably give you the finger if you cut us off or drive too close like that!  Next, I also learned that I never really want to drive in New York again.  It's so slow (SOOOO much congestion everywhere) and frustrating.  Traffic congestion is one of the quickest ways to drive me insane.  I'm just not sure why anyone would ever commute into New York by car.  If I ever lived in the NYC area, I'd definitely live near a subway line or a train line.  Not only is traffic absolutely miserable, but there are tolls galore on pretty much every bridge and tunnel (at least in one direction).  The tolls are cheaper for residents and those with the automated EZ-Pass, but still...that can add up in a hurry!  I also learned that for me, New York is a great place to visit.  Keyword VISIT.  It made me even more grateful for living in good old Kent, Ohio and the whole road system we have in the Cleveland area.  It's not because I think New York is a horrible place; New York is a great place, but it's definitely not for me.

On the subway
Anyway, a great couple of trips sandwiched around one of the worst driving experiences of my life!  I'm glad I was able to go to New York and hope my next visit is in less than the 15 years between the first and second visits!  

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