This second of our 3- day New York City trip, we come up from the PATH into the Oculus, the subway station close to the World Trade Center. It is incredible. It is white. Marble. High (160ft/48.7m). Empty. Sparse. Massive. Impressive. And to me resembles the bleached carcass of a Spinosaurus or the chest section of a tyrannosaurus.
It was designed by Spaniard Santiago Calatrava and finalized in 2016 after it went both over time and over budget. As someone who simply visits New York for the first time and is on their way to the September 11 Memorial, I like it. It may not be to everyone’s taste (when is anything ever?) but this does make a statement. And one that says that no matter what, we’re here, we won’t be beat. In a very American ‘go big or go home’ kind of way.
Especially as it’s so close to the September 11 memorial. The two big, black and square reflecting pools are the opposite in every way. Though they too are minimalist, the black contrasts the white of the subway station. That goes high where the memorial goes low in depth, in memory, in despair. Life versus death. Mourning versus celebration. We don’t visit the museum, it is too fresh for us (who only experienced it from abroad) and just trying to explain to our kids what it all stands for, it is enough. Both for them in terms of understanding what happened and the ‘why’ , and for us in remembering.
With a short visit to St. Paul’s Chapel, we close the chapter and keep on walking.
Past the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. The influence on the world markets is bigger than it’s foot print. In that respect much like the Trevi fountain in Rome. Of course, in light of this building we also have to see the Raging Bull that represents the bull market, but that is not that easy. Fortunately the streets narrow like a funnel to point you in the right direction but other than the bulls ample behind, it’s not visible through the ant nest of others with the same idea.
The walk from Wall Street, so named because of the wall that was built as a fortification between the Hudson and East River to fend off a potential English attack takes us to the Netherland monument. This sculpted flagstaff pedestal (donated by the Dutch in 1926) in Battery Park is to commemorate the establishment of New Amsterdam around 1621.
Walking by the monument and ‘the Immigrants’ depicting all those who made it into the country in search of a new life, we wave at the Statue of Liberty. Note to the wise: if you know that you’ll be visiting New York and would like to get onto the statue, be sure to book it early on. In our case this option was fully booked until December. All we could have done was either pass it by by ferry or make it to the Liberty Island and gaze up. We decided that seeing this gift from France from shore was enough.
The bridge to Breuckelen
We keep on walking along the edge of Manhattan Island, past the Staten Island Ferry, Pier 15 Esplanade and make it up to and through Beekman Street (Dutch, anyone?) to the bottom of the 135 year old Brooklyn Bridge. No matter how useful it is to see pictures online, it never trumps actual experience. This cross between a suspension and a cable-stayed bridge is nearly 2 kilometers long.
As with many big projects done in the past, it is near impossible to even imagine how this had to be done. The river had to be dug out using caissons. These boxes hung in the river upside-down trapping oxygen so men could breath ‘under water’. This method came with the dangers of caisson illness which befell the chief-engineer Washington Roebling and subsequently led to his wife Emily becoming his stand-in. The sheer tonnage of building materials is mind boggling, as is the fact of how much of that is -still- hanging off the twisted strings of steel.
Naturally, we had to walk the bridge over the pedestrian/bike lane that sits at the center of the bridge above the roads. The views are fantastic all around but to make it across is harder than expected. So busy! Though the lane is split between cycling and walking traffic, each gets blocked constantly. One by cyclists that can barely cycle. Second by those getting pictures of the bridge, the view, the cables or the traffic underneath directly or as part of a selfie.
Of course, we add to the same problem posing for the best pictures ever, we’re tourists after all. For best results for photographs however I would recommend coming here either early in the day or late at night.
Celebrity sighting in Chinatown
The return trip to Brooklyn has left us hangry. In terms of weather today is strange. It is not hot nor cold. It doesn’t rain but the clouds hang low and create a suffocating somewhat dark atmosphere. That in combination with heavy legs and empty stomachs makes that we glance at the Supreme court from the corner of our eyes. The rest of it is only interested in finding somewhere to sit down for food. Chinatown is still on the to-do list so we keep moving in that direction. There in the end, is where we find a road side terrace with a straightforward menu.
Oh, how nice it is to sit, take a deep drink of water and just look around. There’s not a lot of bantering going on until we get something in our stomachs. With some sustenance, we start to feel a lot better again and our surroundings become more interesting again.
The roads are busy that Saturday afternoon. Fun cars speed by and something seems to be going on across the street. A door looks to be guarded by people in similar t-shirts, it’s too far to make out what they say. Some make it in and then a big pair of sunglasses framed by blond stands in front with people posing. After she has entered, off and on, passersby stop in front of the windows. Excited shrieking, arms beckoning friends to come see something and selfies with the windows in it. Who on earth?
Paris Hilton apparently.
After lunch, we keep on. We walk through the neighbourhood until we make it back to the Oculus, back to New Jersey and back to the hotel to soak in the hot tub, and read a book pool side.
What does the Oculus remind you of?
Day 2- 10 km/6.2m : the Oculus – National September 11 Memorial – St Paul’s Chapel – New York Stock Exchange – Bull Statue – Netherlands Monument – Battery Park – East River Bikeway – Brooklyn Bridge – New York Supreme Court – Chinatown