Day 2 began with a great breakfast cooked by our host Chris and her son. Bellies full and bags packed we boarded the train and headed into Manhattan. I could get used to riding a train to work. Commuting is so much easier when I can read the newspaper and enjoy a cup of coffee instead of dealing with daft drivers. Anyway, the train arrived in Grand Central, a monument in itself. Grand Central is one of my favorite places in New York. It has an old world charm to it. I could not help but imagine walking up to the telegram attendant to send a telegram to the new western territories regarding my safe arrival in the big city. It is a spectacular building. However, time was short and we could not stay in the train station all day.
We knew we wanted to begin the day in downtown (south Manhattan) so we hopped on the #4 subway and headed to Wall Street. Before I go further, I have to say that the NYC subway system is the easiest and cheapest way to get around New York. Being a tourist, I had heard many negative stories about the subway but I found none of them to be remotely true. It is clean (in a relative sense) and extremely easy to navigate. It became our most useful asset this trip. In addition, it is a New York must do. New York is synonymous with its subway system and now I see why.
We made it to Wall Street and the first thing I wanted to see was Trinity Church. Built in 1698, Trinity Church burned down almost a century later in 1776. Built again four years later, the second church was torn down due to storm damage. Built in 1846, the third and current church’s spire, held the record for the tallest structure in New York. Everything about this church is gorgeous. It is a prime example of Gothic Revival (Neo-Gothic) architecture (the Palace of Westminster, where the House of Commons and House of Lords is located is probably the most famous building with a Neo-Gothic style). Ashley and I lucked out by visiting the church during parish choir practice. We walked through the doors and the warm, grandiose sound of pipe organ and chant filled the massive void with a tangible sense of fulfillment and awe. A memorable day just became unforgettable.
More interestingly, Alexander Hamilton is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery. Hamilton is known as the founder of our nation’s financial system as well as Thomas Jefferson’s political opposition. However, when Aaron Burr & Jefferson tied for Electoral College votes during the election of 1800 (interesting fact: this is when the Twelfth Amendment was ratified adopting the election process we still use), Hamilton helped Jefferson defeat Burr because he found Burr to be poor in moral character. This began a public battle between Hamilton and Burr. After a few more public disagreements, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. Burr mortally wounded Hamilton who died a day later.
Moving on in history, Ashley and I headed down Wall Street to the New York Stock Exchange and the epicenter of our nation’s financial system. Having a finance degree allows me to appreciate the complexity of Wall Street; however, other than appreciating the architecture and history, there is not much for a tourist to do in the financial district.
We walked down along the south tip of Manhattan to Battery Park. From Battery Park there is a great view of Ellis Island and the mighty Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to take the ferry to the islands but seeing it from afar is quite nice in itself.
Next, we walked north to the National September 11 Memorial and Visitor Center. Leading up to this trip Ash and I were looking forward to this the most. Everyone remembers that day, and all the publicity and ceremony surrounding the memorial and One World Trade center, had built up our anticipation. The first, and most prominent, part of the memorial is One World Trade Center. It is truly stunning. It stands tall, representing so much pain, heartache, strength, and resiliency. It was a treat to see it after the façade had just been finished. Once we finally got through security (traveler tip: be prepared to stand in line, strip, and go through airport like security to get into this place) the memorial itself did not disappoint. The pools, surrounded by the names of the casualties are genuinely heart stirring. A swarm of emotion surrounds this place and it is was surprising how it made us feel. All I can say is that I hope every American gets a chance to visit this place one day. It will cement American pride deep within your being.
After a morning full of deep experiences, it was time for a lighthearted lunch. We walked north through Tribeca and Soho to Greenwich Village for lunch at Jeffrey’s Grocery. WOW, this could be the best food in New York! I HIGHLY recommend this eatery to anyone. Everything we ate was off menu, recommended by the bar tender, and it was all decadent. After lunch, we walked through Greenwich Village to NYU and Washington Square. Greenwich Village holds a lot of significance to me because, being a huge Bob Dylan fan, it was where he got his start in the late 50’s/early 60’s. The whole village has a really cool vibe to it. Washington Square and NYU was a nice place to digest our lunch and enjoy some music by the street performers.
Next, we headed up through the Meatpacking District to Chelsea and The High Line. I had been looking forward to visiting The High Line for a while because back in 2006 I heard a very interesting NPR story on the regeneration of the west sides above ground railroad tracks (who knows why this one NPR story had stayed with me for so long). The High Line is a 1-mile New York City linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan; it has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway. The story of how the line came about is incredible and I recommend reading further into it. The gist is; the High Line had been an eyesore for years and most people wanted it torn down. A few guys noticed that trees and grass had begun growing on top of the old railroad tracks and thought, instead of tearing it down, they would turn it into an above ground park. Most of the old track is still there and they have created a magnificent park and running trail that has created a surge of development and regrowth in the area. All it takes is one creative thought!
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking up and down the line enjoying the hip, New York City life. The sun was beginning to set which meant it was time to head back to Rock Center and watch the day fade to night on top of the Rock. Unfortunately, a high cloud layer had moved in so the sunset was less than spectacular but it was dazzling nonetheless.
After dinner and drinks, we decided to call it an early night since the next day would be a long travel day. More to come in my next post; enjoy the photos!
iPhone photos from Day 1 & 2 (below)