I always thought I'd know what New York would be like. Many a movie and photo do a good job of painting a picture of the city that never sleeps. And usually - like when we read the book before watching the film - we're often disappointed by the contrast between our imagination and reality. But New York wasn't only what I imagined, it was more. (Slideshow below)
Every avenue corner has it's own personality; if it's not home to an iconic brownstone apartment with windowsills prettily clad with flower boxes, it's home to a deli serving the frothiest coffee or a towering skyscraper where deals are made and broken. Wherever you are, New York has a way of combining it's importance and grandeur with casual effortlessness.
There were a couple of times I was star-struck by the city. And seeing as I'm a Friends addict, it's no surprise that Bedford Street - the Friends apartment building - and Central Park were some of those places. (I'd love for there to be a real Central Perk though). Similar feelings were conjured up by The Plaza Hotel and also Brooklyn Bridge, where scenes from my favourite Christmas film - Home Alone - were shot. And funnily enough, my excitement at being in New York was the same as eight-year old Kevin McAllister's. (For my sister Eleni, it was mainly Carrie Bradshaw's house!)
One World Trade Centre and 9/11 Memorial
I vividly remember 9/11. I was four years old, scared and unable to understand what I was seeing on the news. So visiting the One World Trade Centre and 9/11 memorial was always going to be an overwhelming experience. Having got to the top of the building - the tallest in the Western Hemisphere - we were shown a slideshow. At the end of this, the screen/wall rose up to show us the incredible view. Goosebumps and emotion levels were through the roof (for want of a better phrase!). It felt so overwhelming to be in a place that is a symbol of strength and of rising from the rubble of such a tragedy.
The 9/11 waterfalls carried this same feeling, with the engraved names of the victims making the experience even more real. I later found out that the memorial - designed by Michael Arad - was inspired by the Hudson River. The flowing of water is meant to represent 'a sense of rupture and continued absence'. Also, the water was especially made to flow over the edge as individual strands, until it joins the water at the bottom - representing individual and collective loss. And while there's an incredible sense of what I can only describe as heaviness, there's a sense of continuation of both memory and life. And a perfect example of this is The Survivor Tree, a Callery pear tree whose branches and roots were burnt and broken. Despite this, it now stands tall - a symbol of defiance and strength in the face of tragedy.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, my favourite parts of the city included Bryant Park, riverside Brooklyn and the New York Public Library (no surprise there). And still, the part of New York that has stayed with me the most was the view from our hotel by night; seeing taxis zoom by, weaving in and out of Times Square like plastic toy cars and ant-like people going about their lives. Instead of making me feel like we're all just tiny dots on Earth, it made me realise that life is always happening. Especially in this city. And that's probably why NYC is the city that never sleeps.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!