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New York is such a city that even a quick trip through it is enough to leave a lasting impression.
The looming expanse of the postcard skyline of Manhattan is waiting on the other side of the East River. We are driving through the Brooklyn Bridge in the crisp early morning sunlight, its radiance streaming through the girders, creating a kaleidoscope of constant flicker upon the moving cars like an old 16mm film. After a red-eye flight from Los Angeles, we are in New York for only a few days.
We took a rental car from JFK airport to the hotel. Even with only 25 percent of New Yorkers owning a car, the one-way streets are crowded and noisy, and a lot of gypsy yellow taxis are weaving in and out, dropping off and picking up passengers. People in business attire are walking briskly to work as we arrive at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Tribeca in Lower Manhattan.
It is a four and a half hour flight from the West Coast, and my body clock seems to have been left in L.A. time and the comfort of the cozy hotel room is tempting. However, the city is waiting, welcoming, begging to be explored.
Our first destination is Uptown. With coffee in hand, I peek through the jungle of tall buildings and try to catch the pointed spire of the Rockefeller Center. That’s the way northbound. We drop the rental car because the best way to get around and explore the city is underground.
We purchase a seven-day subway pass, and subway map in hand, we proceed through two flights of steps down to the station across the hotel and board the Green Line northbound.
Take it to the top
Emerging from the subway at Herald Station and up into street level, I am surrounded with fine shops as I walk towards 5th Avenue. With tickets bought online, we bypass the long queue at the ticket-counter, and ride the elevator to the viewing deck at the 80th floor of the 103-story Art Deco skyscraper, the Empire State Building. The observation deck is the best way to take in the vast expanse of New York. My easy landmark is the rectangular swath of green, which is Central Park to the North. Working my way clockwise, I gaze at the concentration of buildings below bordered by the East River and get a glimpse of the cluster of tall buildings of Lower Manhattan in the distance, with the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) significantly being the tallest. That’s where our hotel is located, and now making my complete rotation walk of the deck, I can see the crowded buildings of the Garment District with the Hudson River carving its way gently along the west of the concrete island jungle of landmarks, buildings, and history which is Manhattan.
The fun part, though, is looking straight down and seeing the line of tiny yellow cabs on the street intersections moving like toys. I half-expect King Kong to materialize out of nowhere.
Eataly and the Flat Iron Building
Now it’s time to go down to the ground level and grab a late lunch.
The place is huge and bustling with activity. The smell of wood-fired bread and pasta fill the air. I spot a huge cheese section and a full gelato station.
Eataly is not your usual restaurant. The place feels like a European market with sectioned clusters of small restaurants in one place. We find a spot inside the cured meats bar and order the Grande Piatto Misto di Salumi & Formaggi served with bread. This is the best place to slow down and enjoy lunch.
Across the street is the famous pie-shaped Flat Iron Building, an iconic attraction and the perfect backdrop while people-watching and finishing our gelato as we sit on a bench at the Madison Square Park.
Whisper Sweet Nothings
There is so much to see and so little time. I certainly do not want to miss the Grand Central Station, which is described as the world’s loveliest station. The main concourse is splendid, as is the Dining Concourse one floor below which boasts numerous restaurants connected by stairs, ramps, and escalators. I can only imagine the many wedding photo-shoots as well as the scenes from movies like The Avengers filmed here. Then there is the famous Oyster Bar restaurant. If you climb the small flight of stairs next to it, there is an archshaped wall of corridors where I can whisper towards one corner, facing the arch, and my voice will be heard on the opposite side of the arch, almost like the sound is coming from the wall. This is the Whispering Wall. Try it. It really works.
I feel like I have walked a thousand miles, with the subway as my only rest in between the following obligatory things to do: strolling through Central Park; window-shopping around Rockefeller Center; watching droves of teenagers caged in line for the morning taping at NBC; catching the big lights of Times Square at 3 a.m. in a city without a curfew; and for my love of photography, visiting the mecca of my craft, B & H Photo and Video store, which spans a full block near Penn Station and boasts of a product catalog as thick as an old phonebook.
Uptown is amazingly lovely. But I must explore Downtown, too – Lower Manhattan, that is. Near our hotel is Ground Zero a few blocks south. Across the street is a new development called Brookfield, which is slated to be the newest destination for Friday night jazz and blues outdoor concerts facing the Hudson, fine-dining, a collection of high-end fashion shops and a European-style marketplace. Construction is set to complete hopefully just in time for my next visit.
Going up through the West Street entrance, I reach the American Express Tower and, from the second floor, I look down at the ongoing construction on the first floor. With emotions contained and eyes gaping, I marvel at the completed 11-sided granite memorial dedicated to the 11 American Express employees America lost during September 11th, their names etched on black marble. A creation by Ken Smith, a 600-pound healing crystal, is suspended from the ceiling, which creates droplets on the water. It is called ‘Eleven Tears.” Facing out the window is Ground Zero.
In the short walk through Holy Trinity Church, and passing through the Statue of George Washington at Federal Hall on the place where he was proclaimed the First President of the U.S., I discover that the cobblestone streets are embedded with four-by-four hardwood stumps. I learn that there used to be a wall here built by the ancient Dutch settlers who called this place “New Amsterdam.” Now, it is called Wall Street, the financial center of the world, where every surge and dip of the stock market has a worldwide ripple effect.
We cap the evening with a lovely dinner at Little Italy, where filmmaker Martin Scorsese grew up, while his parents worked at the Garment District, and I can only imagine the influence it had on his filmmaking.
I must leave, but I will visit again, for with every visit, I can only taste a small bite of the Big Apple.
Delta Air Lines in New YorkIf you want to get to the Big Apple with a New York state of mind, there’s no option better than Delta Air Lines. Even before the state’s famous John F. Kennedy International Airport was named such, Delta has been flying in and out of New York with a frequency and an efficiency that made it a popular choice among locals. Not too long after it entered the state for the very first time, its presence was soon felt throughout the region. Back in 1956, Delta-branded 70-passenger Douglas DC-7 propeller planes began serving Newark, N.J. Come 1957, Delta’s presence at JFK, then known as Idlewild Airport, followed suit. In 1972, Northeast Airlines merged with Delta, thereby consolidating JFK operations in Terminal 2. Six years later, Delta completed a $3.2 million modernization at LaGuardia. In 1983, Delta opened a $90 million flight center at LaGuardia. Considered back then as the world’s most modern airline terminal, it could handle new wide-body jets such as the Boeing 767. Currently, Delta Air Lines serves about 165 million customers each year. Just this year, the company was named the 2014 Airline of the Year by Air Transport World magazine and was named to FORTUNE magazine’s top 50 Most Admired Companies in addition to being named the most admired airline for the third time in four years. The company currently has a massive global network that allows it to offer service to 324 destinations in 59 countries on six continents. Headquartered in Atlanta, the company has a worldwide workforce of nearly 80,000 employees Including its worldwide alliance partners, Delta offers customers more than 15,000 daily flights. Among these, of course, include its flights to the Big Apple.