We had come to NYC in 2014 after returning from 2 weeks in Europe, mostly as part of a strategy for managing jetlag and layovers. We only stayed one afternoon and night, and I got very sick shortly after we landed and we didn’t get to do much. I was very disappointed because I love being in New York. So I loved it when Dan suggested we do a stopover here again this trip. This time we planned on 2 nights so we could make it worth the stop. And because neither of us had spent much time in Lower Manhattan, we decided to focus on that area. Our hotel, Millennium Hilton, is across the street from the World Trade Center complex.
This is Oculus. It has the Westfield branding on the outside, and I read some reviews on TripAdvisor of the 9/11 Memorial where travelers were offended that a shopping mall would be here, that it was somehow tacky. Clearly, they never went inside. We noticed people were coming and going quite a bit from our window at breakfast around 7:30am. That would be a bit early for a mall, even in NYC I would think. So yes, it has stores and restaurants, but it’s really a transportation hub.
It was raining a little when we left the hotel about 9:15am so we ducked into this to get to the 9/11 Memorial on the other side of it. And we are so glad we did. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, we are city boys, and while we didn’t use it on this trip, we love the public transportation system in major European cities. And one of the things they do well is create spaces around transportation hubs that allow people to do other things while they’re getting from one place to another – eat, shop, get a haircut, what have you. This felt like that.
We walked through this to the other side and upon exit the 9/11 Memorial Museum was to our left. It was $24 each to get in – pretty high as museums go – and worth every penny. We stayed for 3 hours. It’s really well done, a tremendous collection of artifacts and personal stories, especially in audio. Timelines of exactly what happened, what different government agencies knew when, lots of video, a section on the Pentagon, and a beautiful presentation of life for the people in NYC for the first few weeks after. You really got a sense that if you weren’t here, it would be difficult to understand exactly what they went through.
I forgot to take a photo of the outside; it’s not that interesting a building. And you’d only see a piece of it as most of it is underground. For the majority of the tour inside, photographs were not allowed, which I was really grateful for. That would have disturbed the otherwise solemn atmosphere that’s created by the subject and the presentation.
To the left is a segment of the slurry wall, essentially a retaining wall built in the early stages of construction back in 1966 to keep the Hudson River out. One of the concerns after 9/11 was that this would break and create whole different kind of disaster. To the right is the Last Column, a piece of steel chosen near the end of the recovery to mark the occasion symbolically. Recovery workers, first responders, volunteers, and victims’ relatives signed the column and added memorial messages, photographs and other tributes. It was removed from the site in a ceremony on May 30, 2002. Below: as you went through this first section of the exhibit, these visuals would tell you where you were relative to both the current and the new site.
A remnant of a staircase going up to Vesey Street. These became known as the Survivors Stairs. They …”provided an unobstructed exit for hundreds seeking to escape. To reach the stairs, many had to cross the Plaza beneath treacherous debris falling from the North Tower.”
“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” The mosaic that frames this Virgil quote is called “Trying to Remember the Color of Sky on that September Morning” by Spencer Finch of New Haven, CT. It is composed of 2,983 individual watercolor drawings, each a “distinct attempt by the artist to remember the color of the sky on the morning of September 11, 2001. Commemorating the people killed in the attacks [of 9/11/01 and 2/26/93], every square is a unique shade of blue. Finch’s work centers on the idea of memory. What one person perceives as blue might not be the same as what another person sees. Yet, our memories, just like our perception of color, share a common reference.” Below: the plaque in the far right bottom corner of the mosaic.
“Reposed behind this wall are the remains of many who perished at the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001.”
Memorial pools were created in the holes left from the footprints of the towers. They are beautiful, elegant in their simplicity and the sound of the flowing water is both comforting and moving. The names of each person who perished in the 9/11 attacks are included along the 4 sides of each pool, those in DC and Pennsylvania, passengers and flight crews. Water flows continually from the inside edge of the top of the pool into the basin and then down into a huge drain. Because they are built into the original foundation of each tower, it is perfectly square, the symmetry adding to the beauty. South Pool above, North Pool below.
We got there about 12:30 and got in easy, but soon after it got pretty crowded. We ordered pastrami and roast beef, and they were both amazing. The quality of the meat was superb and made all the difference.
We walked along the Hudson on the Battery Park City Esplanade towards our next destination. That’s Jersey City, NJ, behind me above.
We signed up for a walking tour of SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown, which was scheduled to take 2 hours, and it did, starting promptly at 2pm. There were about 25 people in the tour, most of them from other countries including Austria and Australia. The tour guide, Dante, has lived in NYC all his life so was able to provide a lot of details and perspective. We didn’t take a lot of photos, but saw filming locations for Sex & the City and Ghost, Heath Ledger’s apartment, learned about the Cast Iron district which I hadn’t heard of, and where all the cutesy neighborhood names originate (SoHo = South of Houston; Tribeca = Triangle Below Canal St, etc.). Mostly we were taking notes about where in Chinatown to eat because we wanted to come back here for dinner.
Little Italy sign over the street.
We were done with the tour right at 4pm and walked back to the hotel to rest a bit. A few photos along the way.
We went out again about 6:15pm. Above and below are photos of this building that looks better from a distance, but we liked it and kept coming upon it. It’s the David N Dinkins Municipal Building, at one time called Manhattan Municipal Building and home to the Manhattan Borough President’s office and related administration. I loved that it included New Amsterdam in it’s name on the marble entrance below.
We went around the corner for dessert, Audrey Bakery. Strawberry shortcake and a Black Forest cake. Pretty good (but not as good as the ones we had in Istanbul 🙂 ). After we went walking around more and realized that the Chinese community here is huge. We went several blocks northeast of the Manhattan Bridge then west and south each several blocks and we never seemed to get out of Chinatown. Seems bigger than the one in SF even.