|The Big Five-O
Walking to Brooklyn
It was more of a DIY room service this morning. By that I mean I popped out to a Pick-a-Bagel on the corner of Vessey Street and brought back a smoked salmon and cream cheese for Julie and a plain cream cheese for me. (I make that sound so easy but there was a certain bagel buying protocol which I was unfamiliar with and it took me the best part of 10 minutes to succesfully pick-a-bagel and leave!)
Also for breakfast we had tangerines which we had already bought from a deli yesterday in Tribeca and, to round it off, a coffee from our little Nespresso machine in the room. It was a good start to the day.
With our walking shoes on we made our way to One World Trade Centre. When we stood at the base looking up our perspective made it look like a pyramid. It was so tall, we couldn't see where it ended, it disappeared into infinity.
It did have an observatory deck but we decided to leave that for another time.
We walked a little further and came to the 9/11 memorial. The empty spaces where the twin towers once stood had now been turned into a poignant reminder of what happened here in 2001. In the void water gently cascades down into a pool and then disappears into the deep. Around the rim names of those who died that day were cut into bronze plaques.
As we walked around, reading out the names, we came across one which had a flower pushed into the cut out name. It was a simple yet incredibly powerful remembrance. Madeline Amy Sweeney suddenly became more than just a name, she became a person about whom our thoughts turned, about her life, her family, and their personal tragedy, one that was repeated 2976 times.
(We later found out that everyday white roses are placed by 9/11 museum staff to celebrate what would have been a birthday. Not too sure what a pink rose signified.)
Another moment of overwhelming sadness took hold of us when we read the name Dianne T. Signer and her unborn child. She was one of ten "mothers-to-be" who died that day. How desperately tragic.
With a little more time on our hands this morning we popped inside the iron winged structure of the Occulus. It was even more impressive inside as it opened out into this vast cathedral like open space. It would have been a worthy home for the 9/11 museum, but instead that was housed in an adjacent non-descript building. I had planned on visiting the museum but there was already quite a queue so we carried on walking.
Our route took us past St. Paul's Chapel of Trinity Church, built in 1766 it's definitely one of the oldest surviving buildings in Manattan and given its proximity to the World Trade Centre it was quite miraculously still surviving!
Apparently it didn't suffer any damage, not even a broken window. It was protected by a large tree that bore the brunt of the blast.
We peered in through the railings into the cemetary where old gravestones stood lopsided, listing with age. The nearest one to us was that of a family, John Ritter who died in 1810, with his wife Elizabeth, who died in 1816. Then also two children. It was tragic to see how young the sons died. Infant death was so common back then. Frederick died in 1790 was aged 6 years and 8 months and Peter who died May 22nd 1787 aged 7.
Now that was somewhat spooky to say the least because it was 232 years ago to the day poor old Peter Ritter "departed this life".
We continued towards the City Hall when I started to hum the song "Walking to Memphis" by Cher but then changing the lyric to "Walking to Brooklyn". My walk also changed from my usual stride to more of a strut. Not quite a John Travolta strut but a strut nevertheless. Julie looked at me as if I had lost my marbles. I quickly stopped.
In no time we had reached the beginning of the Booklyn Bridge.
The bridge, originally known as the Great New York and Brooklyn Suspension Bridge opened to traffic 136 years ago, on the 24th May 1883. If we were to come here on Friday we would have another "on this day" moment!
At first we were a little confused as to where the pedestrian access began but we got there in the end. The walkway lifted us above the busy traffic. The first section had several stalls along one side selling the usual tourist stuff. It was a little congested here, with people stopping to browse.
The promenade was divided into two, with a thick white line down the middle. Stray over the line and you risked the wrath of cyclists whose lane it was. A sharp shrill of their bell and a "get out of the way" was heard on several occassions.
The rest of us were restricted to the right hand lane. It was interesting to note that people even walk on the wrong side of the road here! Oncoming pedestrian traffic passed us on the left as we kept to the right. The unwritten rule was needed. There was a surprising amout of people walking over the bridge. Apparently on average 4000 people walk over every day.
It wasn't the only bridge spanning the East River. A little further up was the Manhattan Bridge, but that had no pedestrian access, as it was solely a railway bridge.
The closer we got to the first of the bridge's towers the more we were mesmerised by the web-like pattern of the suspension cables. Stopping to take a photo wasn't easy. To start with you had to stop, which meant you inconvenianced those walking behind you. Then to reach the middle to get the best angle you had to wait to cross the path of those walking to Manhattan, whilst also making sure there weren't any cyclist coming in case you caught one with a stray elbow when lifting the camera up to your eyes.
The cables looked as fine as thread from a distance but when you got closer you could see how bound like a thick steel rope it was. It needed to be strong as it was effetively holding the bridge up.
Apparently it was the first "steel-wire" suspension bridge in the world. (We have a beautiful suspension bridge near to our home built in 1826 but that originally used iron chains.)
With the photo in the bag we rejoined the pedestrian thoroughfare and reached the first tower where there were several commemorative brass plaques. One celebrated it's renovation in 1954 and another to mark it's entry in the list of New York designated landmarks.
There was no view as such of Brooklyn as it's quite a low rise city, all the dramatic skyscrapers were behind us, so there was nothing to do but march our way across. It was over a mile long and took us 30 minutes to walk over its entire length.
When we reached the other side Brooklyn had put out their welcome mat with a 'WELCOME TO BROOKLYN' imprinted onto the tarmac of the approach ramp. Here it split with an off-shoot to the left to reach a neighbourhood known as DUMBO. We wondered why it was named after Disney's flying elephant but it's actually an acronym of Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass!
Nowhere better illustrated being DUMBO than a spot down Washington Street where we saw what has become quite an iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge spanning over the warehouses of the old port district. So popular is this view on social media that it has become a hotspot for Instagrammers.
Like lemmings, and I was guilty of this, we all walked in the middle of the road to find the perfect angle for the photo. It was a proper road with proper vehicles driving up and down it, and we were all making a real nuisance of ourselves. Some more than others. Many were striking a pose, even lying down on the floor to get that top Instagrammable photo.
I literally had to have eyes in the back of my head, which came courtesy of Julie's, keeping an eye out for traffic and other obstacles like lamp posts and dog dirt!
We continued along Washington Street down to the East river and walked back towards the Brooklyn Bridge. All the warehouses here had been redeveloped and were now very expensive apartments.
We stoppped at warehouse which had been turned into a shopping mall/food court. It was a little early for lunch but that didn't stop us.
Out on the front was an Italian restaurant called Cecconi's. It had a lovely outdoor area overlooking the river which for us was the main attraction. The only snag was we couldn't work out how to get there. It was well boxed off. It was like some Crystal Maze challenge!
In the end we realised we had to go inside the food court and then walk back out through the restaurant to access the outside again. Having reached our table we made full use of it and spent over an hour relaxing over a glass of wine and a light lunch.
Julie ordered the spinach and ricotta ravioli which we shared and I went for the locally produced Buratta on a Peperonata, which I didn't! (share that is)
The food was top quality as were the wines, a little expensive perhaps at $80 for lunch but we really did enjoy it. So it was worth every penny.
It was now beginning to fill up so we decided to give them their table back and began our slow walk back towards Manhattan.
We continued along the riverfront under the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge marvelling at the sheer scale of its construction. Tucked away underneath the overpass, in an area still known as DUMBO despite being blatantly DUBBO, was a lobster shack.
"If only I had known this was here!" said a disappointed Julie seriously considering having a second lunch only minutes after the first one was finished. Luke's had been voted New York's best lobster roll.
Moving on we reached a platform jutting out into the river, it wasn't exactly a pier but it did have that end-of-the-pier feel to it with its wooden boards and balustrades. The sweeping panorama of the Manhattan sky line and Brooklyn Bridge reaching over the East river was incredible.
We sat down for a while to soak it all in. We could have sat here all day and still not reached saturation point. You simply couldn't tire of looking at it.
Eventually we did tear ourselves away walking back towards the corner of Water and Washington for one more look at the iconic view of Manhatan bridge over DUMBO.
It was only then I realised that framed between the stantions of the Manahattan Bridge was the Empire State Building. I had been too preoccupied by the bigger picture I had earlier missed the gem in the detail. I'm not exaggerating when I say I gasped when I first saw it.
A patient Julie waited for me to get the shot right before we left. We walked up Washington Street to the Hot Dog seller on the side of the road, beneath the approach ramp to Brooklyn Bridge and took the steps up.
The walk back took us a littlel longer as we stopped often to admire the wonderful view.
Once we reached the other side our aim was to find Wall Street and the financial district or FiDi as its known. Armed with Google maps we found ourselves walking down the aptly named Gold Street where we came across a bar called Stout. It was time for a pit stop.
It wasn't an Irish bar despite its name's connection to Ireland's greatest export (other than it's people) but a regular bar specialising in various stouts and porters. Whilst in such an establishment it would have been rude to of drunk anything other than the dark stuff.
They did sell Guiness, of course, but I went for a locally produced porter which was amazing. I do like a good stout or porter. There's a bitter dark chocolate / strong coffee flavour to them which I really like, in small measures, of course.
I'm not too sure what technically is the difference between them only I know a porter is a little lighter somtimes sweeter whereas a stout is, well, more stout, I suppose.
Quenched and rested we continued our walk. Wall Street was only a few minutes away and we joined it along William Street. Next to Broadway, Wall Street is probably one of the most famous streets in New York. The heart of the financial district, home to the stock exchange and super banks that epitomise American capitalism.
Legend has it that when this was a Dutch Colony and known as New Amsterdam there was a boundary wall to the city that ran along here. As the city expanded traders began to set up along the wall and over time a small market area developed. The wall remained as did the traders, so the name Wall Street stuck as did the financial centre.
At 37, Wall Street, we came across another Tiffany & Co. This time it wasn't inaccesible on the other side of a busy road but on a street with no traffic so we crossed over for a closer look.
Julie had always loved the idea of buying something from this exclusive jewellery store, so we went inside. Now there's expensive and then there's eye-watering ridiculously expensive. However she had done some research and found one of the cheapest item in their catalogue. It didn't have any diamonds, silver or gold but was made instead with plastic and a bit of string.
When we were approached by a sales assistant Julie tried to describe the pendant and eventually after trawing through their on-line catalogue they found it. It was by a designer called Elsa Peretti and was described as a round pendant in black laquer with a silk cord, ($250).
They didn't have one in stock but just as I thought our bank account had got away with it she said "there is one in stock at our store on 5th Avenue, would you like to reserve it?" So we did.
We continued to walk down Wall Street to what we mistook to be the stock exchange at first but it was in fact the Federal Hall. A statue of George Washington stood outside. Big moments in American history took place here, althoug this building wasn't the original hall, this was the location where in 1789 the first president of the United States of America (George Washington) was inaugurated and the "Bill of Rights" was also signed.
The New York Stock Exchange was behind us, its grand facade facing onto Broad Street. It was certainly making a statement with its fancy frontage. It was far more ornate than the Federal Hall.
In Greek temple terms one had plain doric columns, a basic frieze and unadorned pediment, as simple as you can get whilst the other had decorative Corinthian columns with a busy frieze and a crowded scene on its pediment.
To the left of the building there was a tree, a mere twig of a sapling it looked but it was symbolic of the American Sycamore also known as a Buttonwood tree, beneath which in 1792 the founding members of the stock exchange formalised the rules. It was known as the Buttonwood Agreement.
Whilst all that was mildly interesting what really grabbed our attention was a bronze statue of a defiant looking girl stood behind us looking with contempt at the stock exchange.
Titled the "Fearless Girl" it originally stood facing down the famous "Charging Bull" a few blocks away. After only a month and a complaint from the bull's artist it was moved here.
The statue was actually a publicity stunt (if you like) to advertise an index fund investing in gender diverse companies which sounds really really boring but it's also represented female empowerment.
Sculpted by artist Kristen Visbal the four foot tall bronze statue of a young girl standing with her clenched fists planted on her hips looking disapprovingly towards the New York Stock Exchange (in my opinion) also symbolises something else.
What I hear is the message "Don't ruin my future, yes I'm looking at you." The greed that brought about the 2008 financial crash reverberated across the world. The hope for the future is that those institutions are more responsible and accountable from now on.
The bankers bullish behaviour was perfectly embodied by the "Charging Bull" . In 1989 Sicilian artist Arturo Di Modica turned up with the bull on the back of a lorry and dropped the 3 tonne sculpure in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The artist says it was intended as a gift to the American people in the wake of another financial crisis in 1987 but I'm sure secretly it was a protest!
It was impounded by the authorities almost immediately but following a public outcry it was installed at its current location on the Bowling Green, where Broadway meets Whitehall St.
It was a far more popular attraction than the fearless girl with a large crowd swarming around it, trying to get a selfie with the oversized bull.
We chose not to get involved in the melee. We were getting a little tired now and opted for an afternoon siesta instead.
Back at the hotel we got in the lift or elevator as it's known in America and chuckled to ourselves at the difference between our great nations. Here the first floor is the ground floor whereas back home it is the first elevated floor, i.e. one floor up.
Then Julie noticed the absence of a 13th floor. It was her kind of elevator! But it seemed strangely superstitious for a large corporate hotel to avoid the unlucky number!
As we ascended up the floors Julie asked "Shall we check if the roof top terrace is open?" It hadn't been open since we arrvied because of moderate winds. It must be in a very exposed spot and susceptible to the slightest of breeze.
When we got off on the top floor, the 15th it dawned on us the rooftop terrace was on the 16th. Fortunately our confusion was only momentary as we realised only two of the four elevators went all the way.
Once we worked it out we reached the 16th floor and was happy to find it was opened. It was called the Loopy Doopy Bar and was very busy full of a mixture of hotel guests and young hip New Yorkers meeting up for a drink. Not trying particularly hard to fit in with the young hip crowd Julie got her knitting out and did a few rows whilst enjoying a glass of prosecco.
I asked for a Mahattan, the classic New York cocktail which I was surprised wasn't on their drinks menu but they did have all the ingredients seperately in other cocktails, rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, angostura bitters and a mascharino cherry for garnish.
Our siesta was long overdue so after an hour we left the Loopy Doopy Bar and retired to our room.
To our surprise the hotel had left a "little something" for us on the bed. A bottle of prosecco on ice. The label was La Marca, one we were familiar with and often buy from the local supermarket for £7.50.
Whilst it was a day late and wasn't champagne it was still a really nice gesture especially the cheescake and chocolate dipped strawberry that accompanied it. It even had a little edible chocolate Happy Birthday sign!
Once the bottle of fizz was gone falling asleep was easy. We drifted away into a deep sleep.
We had a dinner reservation booked for 8pm. Luckily we had set an alarm otherwise we would have quite easily slept through to the morning, which with hindsight probably would have been better!
Not even half asleep we traipsed across the city rather dazed and confused. It was a lovely evening but we hardly noticed. Retracing our steps back towards Wall Street we passed One World Trade Centre and the Occulus, heading towards Trinity Church.
With the attention span of a child Julie kept on asking "When are we there?" It wasn't far but it was beginning to feel like a bit of trek. It didn't help when we took a wrong turn.
Our mistake did at least bring us to a lovely, faux-medieval building which looked straight out of Harry Potter. It was also a restaurant bar called The Dubliner. "Best looking Irish Pub I've ever seen!" remarked Julie.
We were soon back on track and after almost completing a full circle around a block we came to a door with the sign "Harry's" above it. We entered down some stairs into a small dark cellar bar. It turned out we had come in through the back door.
Despite appearing from nowhere our presence was noted and we were ushered to our table.
It was very dimly lit. Despite the small lamp at our table we struggled to read the menus. Holding it up to the light we browsed our choices. Julie went for the fillet mignon which in the UK we just call it fillet steak, none of that fancy French talk. I've sometimes heard it referred to as tenderloin with the mignon being the most tender part of the tenderloin.
Anway, no matter what its called it's always the most expensive cut of beef.
I went for pasta, my only real choice other than a Greek Salad but it was a steakhouse after all so I wasn't expecting much.
It was described as Lumaconi Pesto alla Genovese . Being a little pretentious I asked if I could change the pasta shape from the small shells of lumaconi to the pasta twists of the strozzapretti, which they had on the menu but with a meat ragu. They were very accomodating.
Pasta alla Genovese is one of my favourite dishes and the recipe I'm familiar with uses trofie a short cut twisted pasta. When it arrived I was a little disappointed. I was expecting some potato and green beans (or peas) thrown into the mix but it was just pesto. It tasted fine though, so all was not lost.
Julie was struggling to eat her steak. The chewing motion seemed to be sending her back to sleep. We decided to ask for the bill before the waiter found us slumped in our chairs. We apologised for our sudden urge to leave halfway through our meal, blaming jetlag and quickly paid our $125.
There was still $25 left on Julie's plate but it wasn't the sort of establishment where you felt comforatble in asking for a doggy-bag.
We left through the front door, then spent the next five minutes walking around aimlessly trying to spot a familiar landmark. Eventually we stumbled across Trinity Church and from there we knew our way home.
Our path took us to Ground Zero which looked incredible under the lights.
We didn't hang around for too long because of two things. The first had to do with my age and the sound of gushing water. It would have been bad form to have urinate in public so our walk was more of quick march.
Secondly the final episode of the final series of Games of Thrones was on TV tonight at 9pm on HBO. (I think it had already been aired on Sunday and was being repeated tonight.)
We made it to our room in time to be settled in front of the telly to witness the aftermath of Daenerys Targaryen's destruction of King's Landing (or Knot's Landing as I often mistakenly call it !)
Julie was asleep before the opening credits had finished. I fell asleep after the first ad break only to wake up two minutes before the end to see the final scene! Bit of a spoiler. Once seen, it cannot be unseen.Next Day >>>
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