I was very anxious to start writing this post about my final day in New York, as according to my memories, it was the most intense, rich with emotions day. It was also the most planned day, with all the necessary bookings made and tickets purchased – unlike most of my Great US Adventure!
Sunday was kicking off early, as my first destination had already been booked for 9 am – the 9/11 museum and memorial. I was dreading go there, but at the same I was impatiently waiting for it with a fair share of fearful excitement. The situation had become even more dramatic with a bomb attack of the previous day.
I arrived to the World Trade Center station and headed straight to the Museum. There were people queuing up already, but not too many – in about 10 minutes I got inside, as I bought my tickets well in advance. The hall already imposed a heavy feeling, and I immediately thought that it might be even more tough than I had expected.
I grabbed a coffee and croissant (both were incredibly disgusting, so if you are planning to arrive to the museum early, make sure to grab a bite somewhere else), paid for the audio-guide ($7 and an ID as a deposit) – the story is told by Robert De Niro, by the way, which is well worth the price – and headed straight to the first exhibition room, listening to the introduction.
It’s very hard to describe the details of this experience, as it brings me back to that place and state – the state of horror, despair, feeling of inevitable evil happening – and, what made it even worse, understanding that you’re not even close to the emotions that those people felt when the tragedy happened.
The tour guides you through exhibitions and tells you the story of how the events unfolded – on a seemingly normal Tuesday morning. You will walk the stairs that saved lots of lives that day, see the fire machine (or, rather, what was left of it) and lots of other remains, and artefacts, as well as art dedicated to those who hadn’t survived… But the part of the exhibition which impressed me the most is in a separate room, and it tells you the whole story, including the investigations of the plot and hundreds of hours of recordings. It’s marked as an additional exhibition, not the main one, and Robert De Niro suggests you go there if you have some time, but I’d recommend to start with it if you don’t have that much time to spend there and focus on that exhibition. In total, I spent more than 3 hours in the museum (and I didn’t manage to see everything, but I couldn’t stay there longer, it started to become unbearable at some point), more than 2 of which in that hall. They have tissues at each and every corner, and signs notifying you that the content behind that point is disturbing, though I should admit most of the content within the walls of the museum is disturbing. The moment you enter that room, you dive in the cacophony of noises and screams, desperate and horrified, you hear wives calling their husbands with a hope in their voices, and flight attendants bravely reporting that their plane was hijacked and the pilot was stabbed… You hear thousands of messages on people’s phones asking if everything is ok, and not even suspecting they will never hear back from their friend, son or husband… You will hear stories about people who died that day because they were devoted to their job so much that decided to come with a fever instead of staying at home that day, and lots of unanswered questions “Why am I still alive while they are not?”
Tears were running down my cheeks unstoppably, I couldn’t help that and didn’t even try – when you see the real-time videos of people jumping out of the windows of the twin towers covered in smoke – there’s nothing left to you but sorrow, despair and – fear. Fear that you are not protected from anything in your life and nothing could be predicted. And all is left – is hope, hope that we’ve learnt something from that day, and that it will never happen again, though deep inside you don’t really believe it.
At some point I escaped the place. I couldn’t stay there any longer, I felt scared, trapped, as if I was running out of air, and I couldn’t cry any more, as well as couldn’t stop crying – and the understanding that I can escape any moment now, I’m free to go out while they couldn’t – I would say that was the best and the worst feeling at the same time.
I immediately felt relieved when I found myself in the street – fresh air filling my lungs, sun touching my skin. There’s world around, life is going on, people are smiling, talking, enjoying. And on the place where once there were twin towers now one can find horrifying empty pools resembling the black holes, surrounded by the plates with endless names of those who hadn’t survived engraved on them…
This day definitely left a mark in my soul and I would love to spend the rest of it just quietly thinking and contemplating and being thankful for everything I have. But travel life is not meant to be like that, and I had several items on my list for the day, so I, still astound, shocked and impressed, moved in the direction of the ferry which was supposed to take me to Staten Island. I didn’t plan to spend time there (as I didn’t have that time), but I wanted to see the statue of Liberty from a closer distance. Honestly, the weather wasn’t so good, and so were the views – it was pretty cloudy, the Statue was still pretty far away, but as I love water, I still enjoyed the ride.
The ferry brings you back to Battery Park, which is pretty nice to walk through, which I did, and eventually found myself at a small square featuring some environmental awareness exhibition. That one was pretty cool!
And some contemporary art, I assume:
I had some time before my next destination, so I was just wandering around until I realised that I might be running late – and I definitely didn’t want to be late for the performance I was expecting with great anticipation and excitement!
I’ve heard about Sleep No More from a friend who experienced it in London, and I tried to get there after, but they were not performing at the time I was visiting the UK capital. So when I was reminded by the same friend that they are on in NY, I immediately booked a ticket! I’m currently feel torn between a desire to tell all the details of this fantastic experience and keeping it private not to spoiler, as I bet you would love to live it through on your own, and in that case – the less details the better. But I will tell that it’s not a theatre as you would normally imagine it, it is much more to that, that is why I keep calling it an experience – you will be the part of the whole happening!
I hope I intrigued you enough to go and check when the next show is on. London and New York folks have such a privilege!
I spent more than 3 hours there, and that was unforgettable. As I booked a 3 pm show, I still had plenty of time to discover NY, and several points on my list to be crossed. So I headed towards one of them – Grand Central – the station which is an architectural masterpiece in itself, and a must-see in New York.
For a moment, I imagined traveling somewhere from here, standing in the middle of the terminal, looking around, among people rushing back and forth, I could almost feel the ticket in my hand, trying to understand where’s my platform and – what’s my destination? But then I immediately remembered that I’m not going anywhere (at least not now, and not from Grand Central Station) and that I actually came here not only to see the grandness of the Terminal, but also to have a dinner in Oyster Bar, one of the most famous and recommended to me (Of course, it’s always about food!) It took me a while to find it, and you can imagine my disappointment when I bumped into the closed doors – as it was Sunday, the Oyster Bar closed earlier… I was getting hungry, and had another stop on my list for today, but it was a bar, so I turned to my usual for that time decision – bagel! (especially since they are damn good at Grand Central).
The last stop on my list was JIMMY at the James – a rooftop bar recommended to me by several of my friends independently, so it was a definite must. I decided to walk there (as I always do when travel), and was lucky enough to pop into a shoe shop on my way where I got 2 pairs of shoes. I don’t like wasting time for shopping when I’m travelling, but if a nice shop with attractive window-shop comes across, I can’t miss it.
So with a bag full of shoes, I approached the entrance to the bar. There’s one more details to mention – as I’m walking A LOT, I’m of course always wearing flats, normally sneakers or something as comfortable, but I was told that JIMMY is quite fancy and heels are a must. So the whole day I was carrying wedges in my bag (as I couldn’t predict buying a pair of nice stiletto heels just before coming to the bar of course!) and I changed a block away form the bar.
So here I am, ready to enter the fancy doors, the bodyguard asks me for my ID, and the moment I’m reaching out to it, the bag full of shoes tears apart and all my treasures fall out on the road! Of course, the guys at the entrance didn’t have any bags with them, but were still very helpful and managed to find a trash bag for me 😀 Yep, wearing wedgies and entering a fancy bar with a huge trash bag full of brand-new shoes – that’s not what I was planning! And then the next shock – everyone is wearing sneakers or even flip-flops! Well, next time I’ll know!
It turned out to be a quite popular place, as even more friends of mine who have ever been in New York mentioned loving this bar and getting drunk there!
Last night in New York, I’m on the roof in the middle of Manhattan, center of the Universe, or so I felt then! I still have lots ahead of me, but That moment I knew that NY will have a special place in my heart, and so it does!
I want to summarize the whole NY experience by copy-pasting the note from Facebook that I made on that night, as it describes quite precisely how it felt and what it meant to me.
Last day in NYC was pretty intense
In total, I spent here 5 incredible days, lived a small NYC life – I was buying groceries, heading to work in a rush hour, trying to squeeze into the packed train (sometimes only the third attempt was successful), besides doing all of the touristy things like going to a Broadway show, checking out museums, attending performances, tasting local specialties (NY bagels!), riding a ferry, taking numerous pics and walking unbelievable number of steps! 5 days in NYC is over 100 000 steps taken, over 70 km walked and over 150 storeys climbed…
5 days were enough to fall in love with this city, put it on the list of all times favourites and want to come back again.
But it’s time to say goodbye for now – thank you, NYC for your hospitality and being a perfect home for me for these days.
Next stop – Chicago!