We got up early on Saturday (thanks to another girl in our room snoozing her alarm for three hours!) which meant we could fit in everything we wanted to do. First off we got the subway to somewhere in the centre (if you haven’t noticed now you’ll soon notice that geography is not my strong point) and walked the Brooklyn Bridge. Halfway over was the first time I wanted to cry with happiness and disbelieve that I was actually here in New York City, a place so many people only ever dream of. The views are astounding from the bridge and lots of photos were taken.
After that we stopped for a drink and breakfast before heading off in the direction of the 9/11 memorial. We got to St Paul’s chapel first and decided to go in despite none of us knowing it was there. I’m glad we did go in as it was so sobering to see the tributes to the city from all over the world. We walked around to the memorial fountains and stood in silence taking it all in, trying, and failing, to imagine how awful it must have been to be there at the time. After much talking about it we decided we had to go inside the museum and I’m so glad I have been in. It was such a heart breaking experience and we all cried. You think you’ll be okay looking at the wrecked fire trucks and remaining pieces of the planes and towers as you still feel somewhat detached. It’s when you go to the exhibition and hear the voicemails of people phoning their loved ones saying they were in the second tower when the first got hit so they were fine, or when the survivors say they knew they were going down to live while they passed the rescue workers going up to their deaths, or when you read the notes from children to the firefighters saying ‘because of you I feel safe’ and ‘don’t worry that you couldn’t save everyone, it’s not your fault’ that it really hits you. If you’re ever in NYC I urge you to go inside the museum. I know $24 seems like a lot of money but if you think of it as a middle finger to those who were behind this awful act (we’re making money from this) then it seems like no money at all.
We were all feeling a little sad afterwards so we went for lunch before doing anything else. When we were all a little more composed we headed off to the river in search of a boat to take us past the Statue of Liberty. I don’t think you properly feel like you’re in New York until you see the lady herself. We’d seen her from a distance from the Brooklyn Bridge but it’s not quite the same as seeing her up close. We decided on the water taxi (because it was the closet one to us) and got there just as it was leaving so the ticket lady told them to hold it, ran out from behind the ticket stand, and told us to run after her. We felt like VIPs as we frantically ran past all the queues onto a waiting boat. The river was choppy but it was a great boat ride. The highlight was definitely when we went past her, right up close, they played New York related songs (you know the ones, Frank Sinatra etc). This was the second time I had to compose myself and look around me in disbelief. I was seeing the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline from the boat, the statue and skyline that I’ve only ever seen in photographs and on screens, with my own two eyes.
From the boat we just sat for a while to recharge before getting the bus to somewhere close to the Rockefeller Center. It’s such a pretty area around there, with the plaza with the flags all around it and the fountains. They were filming the Today Show with Jimmy Fallon in the Center as well, which came as an added bonus as I’d totally forgotten it was filmed there. We had timed it just perfectly as when we’d gotten past security inside the Rockefeller Center, had the obligatory (and far too expensive) photo taken on the steel beams, and had the best elevator ride ever (15 seconds to get up 70 floors at 15mph, complete with a mini movie on the ceiling) the guy outside of the elevator told us to ‘enjoy our sunset’. I know I’ve said all the views were phenomenal but seeing the city from this high up at sunset was breathtaking and an experience I will never, ever forget. It was also another compose myself and don’t cry moment. We stayed a little after sunset to watch the lights slowly coming on and the city getting ready to totally transform itself. I swear it’s a different place at nighttime; it’s when it really comes alive. If you ever take a trip to the top of the rock I highly recommend going at sunset.
By the time we got to the bottom it was around 9pm and we were all tired so we decided to end our day with a meal at the Hard Rock Cafe. We had to wait an hour for a table but it was so worth it as I had the best veggie burger I have ever tasted in my life there. It was surprisingly not that expensive either, even after taxes and tips. We were treated to the bartender playing the drums to the music behind the bar, and we got a free limited edition hard rock pin because we spent over $25 each (well we almost did. The guy serving us let us off a few dollars). Outside it looked like daylight with all the flashiness of the Times Square billboards, but it was nearly midnight so we headed off back on the subway to our hostel ready for Sunday.
- My favourite moment by far was watching the sunset on this amazing city from the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Center and the watching the city lights come to life. It’s something I will never, ever forget as long as I live.
- The elevator up to the top of the rock. The one lift I haven’t been scared of.
- The water taxi around the a Statue of Liberty. The fact that we felt like VIPs as we ran to the taxi they were holding for us was an added bonus.
- A low point was definitely the heat and the fact that we were out walking in it for pretty much the whole day. I did feel a bit faint and shaky many times. Let this be a lesson to you folks; don’t forget sunscreen and eat/drink if you’re out in the sun!
- I was wearing a flimsy dress on the water taxi and it was fairly windy on that boat. Sorry fellow passengers for having to see that!