Whilst I was thinking of a title for this article, the word Mayhem came instantly to mind! Albeit in a very nice way. There is no confusion in Manhattan – just a huge buzz – people walking very briskly, some on skateboards and roller blades (all dressed up in suits and overcoats trying to get to work), shoppers dragging their branded bags around, tourists gawking (like moi), street vendors, Evangelists (preaching gloom and doom and the end of the world), hawkers selling everything from mementos to fake handbags, gyro and hot-dog carts…the list is almost endless.
I remember the first time I stepped onto a street in Manhattan – I’d taken the bus over the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to Port Authority (the main bus terminus). I stood there transfixed for a few minutes just drinking in the hustle and the bustle of the place. They say you either love or hate this city! I totally fell in love with it from the word Go. There is just so much to do and see.
If you are a museum freak like me, go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Ripley’s Believe it or Not, American Museum of Natural History (don’t miss the dinosaur section). At last count, there are 274 museums you can visit in Manhattan. From Monet and Picasso to modern painters, you can imbibe the art! They have regular exhibitions – check on the net and find something that interests you.
The New York Public Library is top on my list of places to visit. Over a 100 years old and guarded by two lions – Patience and Fortitude – this is a haven for readers. Visit the Astor Hall which has some amazing architecture.
Just walking along the streets is so much fun. I happened to step on a grate and for a minute stood there in sheer fright because there was a gust of hot air trying to scooch up my jeans! If I had a dress, I would have had a tough time keeping it down a la Marilyn Monroe!! The underground train tracks that run beneath the city are as deep as the towering skyscrapers that seem to touch the sky. This island that houses the Empire State building, Wall Street, UN Headquarters, Central Park, Greenwich village, Brooklyn, Bronx, Broadway, Times Square, Saks 5th Avenue is also known as the Big Apple. Some of the beautiful buildings are the Chrylser, Empire State, Grace, One World Trade Center, Rockefeller Plaza with its famed skating rink, Radio City Music Hall, to name a few. Ride up to the Top of the Rock observation deck (your ears will go ping) but so worth the 360 degree view of this magnificent city. Manhattan’s most famous building The Empire State is another must visit. Towering 1250 feet above ground level, the deck on the 102nd floor is something else. On a clear day, it is said you can see up to 80 miles and spot NJ, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. There are so many magnificent buildings to see. My cousin took me for a drive in the night to see the NY skyline and the lights! It’s simply awesome.
Amble on over to Central Park which stretches from the 29th to 110th Street. You must see the lake (you can skate there in winter), see strawberry fields (memorial to John Lennon) and the Central Park zoo. Stand in the middle of Times Square and if you get lucky you will see yourself on the big Revlon screen in the square.
Gape at the huge billboards; see where the ball drops on New Years’ Eve, be part of the milling crowds, have a gelato, buy tickets for any show on Broadway. Shows that are mesmerizing and an absolute must see in my book – Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia! Broadway is an experience – the props, the singing, and costumes – just so fantastic. If you book on the net, you get some great deals especially for the matinee shows. If you’re there in early December, go to Radio City Hall for the Christmas Extravaganza show. It’s mind blowing.
Take the ferry to Liberty Island to say hello to the Statue of Liberty. With great views of lower Manhattan and the New York harbor this is a must see place. For a few moments of peace, duck into St. Patrick’s Cathedral through its massive bronze doors. The statue of Pieta in one of the side altars is worth a dekho!
Look out for the Brooklyn Bridge which spans the East River. Completed in 1883, it is the first steel bridge in the world. The Gothic arches have been featured in many a Hollywood film including Godzilla (if my memory serves me right).
Visit the Chelsea Market on 9th Ave, Red velvet cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery on 11 St W, East Village, Greenwich Village when you get hungry. There is nothing you will not get here – Thai, Chinese, Arabic, French, Mexican, Continental, Indian, American etc. You can also snack on caramel popcorn, gyros, hot dogs, shawarmas, pizza, dumplings, and sandwiches. Make sure you eat the famed pretzels, cheesecake and bagels. Don’t worry about putting on weight – not a chance because you have to walk miles to see this city.
Walk along the famed Saks 5th Avenue and take pictures for posterity.
Window shop at Tiffany, Cartier, Jimmy Choo. For affordable stuff go to Macys (their shop décor during the Christmas season is par excellence), Lord and Taylor, JC Penny, Gap, H&M and the like. When I say affordable, I say it very broadly – when you convert the Indian Rupee into Dollars, it doesn’t seem much! There is a street which houses stores that sell reasonably priced gowns for every occasion. Since I’m not a gown fan, I sorta breezed through. I’m more a jeans and tee kinda person. I stood in a line almost a kilometer long to try on some Jimmy Choo shoes. They looked fantastic but when he told me the price, I nearly tottered and fell! Took them off real quick! Shopping districts for the shopaholics are Century 21, Brookfield Place, South Street Seaport, China Town, Canal Street Market, Broadway, Manhattan mall, Lower East Side, St Marks Place etc.
I could go on and on about this wonderful and so alive city but have a hard stop with words. So…on on and more in my next!