Last year’s big vacation took Katrin and myself to the beautiful US East Coast once more. We first went there in 2008, our first big vacation abroad. Back then I created a dedicated blog for our trip where I dutifully posted an entry for every day of our stay, including photos uploaded to flickr. I did the same thing for our 2012 vacation to the Canadian West Coast & Rockies. In the end, although blogging everyday while you’re on vacation was a lot of work, especially with spotty WiFi and different hotels every night. Still, the result was a beautiful and rich account of our time and we both caught ourselves reading the old posts every now and then, kind of like an online vacation diary.
This time I had decided against blogging in advance. The primary reason for me was that I have since started post-processing all of my photos and would not want to upload any of my shots on the road. And having a vacation-blog without photos is kind of dull, so the decision was an easy one.
Anyway, with enough time passed, me having crunched through all our shots and over the last weeks uploaded the most interesting ones to flickr, now is a good time to recap some of the highlights of this epic road trip.
New York City
We flew from Frankfurt into New York City on our first day. We had originally planned to stay there for a few days and then make our way north, but due to some work-related scheduling changes we would be heading south just a day later. But we had a few more days in Manhattan after our round-trip, which I’ll include here as well.
Anyway, New York City, the big apple, Manhattan and all the sights that have become so familiar after years of watching all kinds of TV shows. Neither me nor Katrin had ever been to NYC, in fact we had intentionally avoided the stress of the big city when we were in New England in 2008. But this time we were curious enough to get an apartment in the heart of Manhattan, in Chelsea to be exact. Arriving at JFK, we took an airport shuttle van downtown, our noses peered against the windows, glad we didn’t have to navigate the traffic on our first day there. Our driver was a little crazy and amped up, he even took us straight through Times Square. We were a little overwhelmed when we got the hotel but still went out for a few more hours to get a slice of New York-style pizza and got a first glance at the sparkling night skyline.
The next morning we got up early, since we only had until 6pm before we had to leave the city. So, true to our usual routine we made the most of it and spent the whole day wandering the city blocks. We started due south and headed for the financial district. Along the way we came through West Village, Washington Square Garden, SoHo and Little Italy. This small stretch of the city, noisy and sometimes somewhat filthy as it may have been, really made me appreciate why a lot of people love living in Manhattan. At the World Trade Center we saw the 9/11 memorial and like so many other people stared down into the bottomless pools where the Twin Towers once stood. After that we naturally took a quick stroll through the financial district before arriving at the southernmost tip of Manhattan at Fort Clinton.
We then went our our only subway-ride for the day which took us all the way up to East 86 Street next to Central Park and the Guggenheim museum. We walked a few blocks until we hit the Met and then made our way through the park itself. Like the rest of the city, Central Park was alive with people of all ages, but it still felt good to get away from the busy streets for a while. On the western side of the park we joined Central Park West, were apparently a huge climate-change rally had taken place earlier that day since the street was still cordoned off and completely deserted except for some retreating police cars. Standing in the middle of that 4-lane road in the heart of Manhattan was an experience to behold. We did a fair amount of additional blocks that day, seeing Rockefeller Center and Times Square. This was our first day in Manhattan.
On our return trip we had decided to spend two more days in New York since we didn’t manage to see everything we wanted to see earlier. This time we went with a much cheaper hotel in New Jersey (it was located right next to Holland tunnel) and then simply took the subway downtown. We arrived at the hotel late, so on our first night we only went into the city to get something to eat. After some searching we found a nice Italian restaurant which had a very small porch right on the sidewalk. After we sat down we noticed that we could see One World Trade Center in it’s entirety.
The next day we followed the advice of one of my colleagues and started out in the meatpacking district. There, the so-called “High Line” starts out. The High Line is a park on a stretch of elevated railway that was abandoned in the 1980s. At some point the citizens of New York started an initiative to properly develop this railway as a park, building stairs, walkways and planting all sorts of plants, flowers and trees. By now the High Line is almost 2.5km long and is a wonderful way to explore Manhattan, an absolute must-see if you ask me. Since you’re walking above street level it’s a more quiet experience, plus you don’t have to look out for cars all the time.
At the northern end of the High Line we visited the USS Intrepid museum (a Vietnam-era decommissioned aircraft carrier) which is packed with all kinds of different aircrafts on its flight-deck and its hangars. For the rest of the day we explored some more on foot, going to Grand Central Station, the New York Library and the Flatiron building. On the next day we only had a few hours before our flight from Newark, so we spent it in the Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
To sum up our New York experience, we were both positively surprised. Like with Paris, I had expected the city to be lot more hectic and filthy, and more cramped. But Manhattan turned out to be a very pleasant experience: Colorful, vibrant, diverse. Sure, you occasionally get hit with some unidentifiable smell and some street corners are bustling with tourists, but in general I have a much better understanding of what makes New York worth living for so many people. The restaurant and shops also have a big share in that. Needless to say we can’t wait to go back.