Friday, July 30, 2010

Another age regression....among other things - New York (June 23-July 5) Part 2

We spent quite a bit of time at Ground Zero and visiting the memorial gallery. We did the audio tour and walked around the perimeter of the site listening to the stories from people who were in some way connected to what happened on Sept 11, 2001. We heard from people who had lost loved ones, people who escaped the towers on the day as well as stories of the inspiring volunteers who assisted in the recovery process. This was followed by time spent in the gallery where we saw the faces of the thousands of people who lost their lives that day, we watched video footage of the clean up and viewed items recovered from the wreckage. It was a strange feeling to know that we were standing in the place where such a terrible tragedy happened and hearing the personal stories made it all the more real and sobering. It made us stop again and appreciate the joy of being alive and how much we need to value what truly matters.

The faces of those who died....this is no more than one tenth of the whole wall

Ground Zero

A few weeks before arriving in New York, we posted some online couchsurf requests to be hosted during our stay ( Although we didn’t manage to find a host, we were stoked to find that the couchsurfing network in New York is very active and so we joined in on a few activities. We met up with a few people at a sushi bar, we hung out and had a few drinks with about 50 csers in an upstairs bar, but the CS highlight was definitely sitting on the lawn alongside the Hudson River with about 30 people to watch the Independence Day fireworks. Although these were all whirlwind gatherings and we didn’t have any major deep connections, there was so much energy, everyone was so friendly and we felt really proud to be a part of a really cool worldwide community.

Sushi with couchsurfers

Couchsurf meet up on the Hudson to watch the fireworks

The best toy store in the world, or at least the best one we have ever set foot in was FAO Schwartz. Made famous by the movie ‘BIG’ and the giant piano, this is possibly home to the cuddliest, cutest, most creative and innovative toys anywhere in the world. The moment we walked in, we instantly regressed to about 5 years old I reckon. All the giant stuffed toys shouted ‘cuddle me’ (which I quickly responded to) and we had that overwhelming sense of ‘how could we possibly see and play with all of this in one day!’ LOL. I think we spent about 2 hours in the store simply fascinated with everything that we saw. Giant stuffed giraffes, elephants, polar bears, pandas and a soldier made of jelly beans! There’s even a section where you can design your own muppet! We had fun playing on the BIG piano, despite not being able to come up with anything better than ‘Mary had a little lamb!’….yep, sad I know! We watched all the staff who really didn’t look like they were working at all....just having fun demonstrating how the toys worked. I’m sure the store gets many applicants for that job!

The polar bear that screamed for a cuddle

On the 'BIG' piano

We couldn’t really say we had done our visit to New York justice without seeing the Liberty lady, but we were obviously among the other hundreds of thousands of people….unfortunately tickets into her crown were booked out 3 months in advance, and even getting into the gallery was not available for about a month! The only ticket we could get was onto the island and we weren’t that enthused about having a sore neck from looking up or about what we might see from being that close other than catching a glimpse up her skirt. So the better and much cheaper option was catching the Staten Island Ferry, a 15 minute trip from the mainland and travels within about few hundred metres of the statue. We got a great spot on the boat that gave us a very satisfying view and we were glad we didn’t have to spend one dollar for the experience.

Riding a bike through Central Park was on our list of things to do and we managed to find 50% off vouchers online which meant that we scored full day hire for $18 each….a bargain considering most of the signs around the place advertised the same price for 2 hours! I was a little nervous about getting on a bike for the first time in 14 years, but I was relying on the old saying of once you’ve learned you’ll always remember. Hmmmm….not so sure about that! It didn’t help that I’ve never really used gears before! That’s right, my last bike had the brake on the pedals (can’t believe I am admitting that)! Despite my humiliating ‘wobbles’ and my desire to return the bike to prevent further embarrassment, I continued on hoping that at any moment, my memory would kick in. Tim’s part to play in all of this….well, lets just say I didn’t get a whole lot of sympathy, just the firm words of ‘ON YA BIKE!!’ lol. It did actually take me about an hour to completely get the hang of it again, but when I did, all of those incredible freeing feelings returned. The ones I felt as a kid when I rode my bike everywhere….riding in the breeze, the sun on my skin, without a care in the world. It was so nice to have these feelings return and that’s when I completely let go and I discovered that actually I can ride a bike and I really do love it! Why have I let so many years go by without these two wheels in my life!? There couldn’t have been a better place to discover these feelings again. Central Park is such a beautiful place and because it is so huge, it is a haven from the city. When you’re in the middle of it you forget where you are and it’s easy to see why so many of the locals would come here to retreat from the hustle and bustle. I kept thinking about how beautiful it would be in Winter as well with the trees and shrubs capped with snow. We could have stayed in the park for much longer and were disappointed to have to return the bikes. Definitely one of our favourite periods of time in NYC.


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