UNITED STATES – Having been obsessed by cities for as long as I can remember, there’s one city in particular that has always fascinated me. For many, it’s also the place that comes to mind when they hear the word ‘city’. I’m talking about the original towering megacity, which, of course, is New York.
I finally got the chance to go there in January 2020, when a friend of mine who was there for work (and ended up being sick in bed during my whole stay) offered me the spare room in his Airbnb. With return tickets costing under 300 euros with Norwegian Airlines, this was an offer I couldn’t refuse. And I’m glad I didn’t, because New York is everything I thought it would be, but even better!
1. The trip from JFK Airport taking slightly more than an hour, I arrived at my friend’s AirbnB at about 9 in the evening, which was 3 in the morning back at home. Conveniently, this meant that my biological clock thought it was afternoon when I woke up to this view early the next morning. With a whole week in front of me in which to explore a new city on a new continent:). And I was lucky: it was going to be sunny and 18 degrees Celsius, which is abnormally warm for January where I come from, let alone in New York!
2. It wasn’t much later that I stood here waiting for the bus from Weehawken, New Jersey, through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan, on the other side of the Hudson river. This being a country with a totally free market, I had the choice between the state-run NJ Transit bus (for which you have to buy tickets beforehand) or a minibus run by some local Cubans. I took whichever came first on what would be my touristic commute for the next six days
3. The short trip through the permanently congested tunnel (in which the bus driver expertly avoided potholes) terminated at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT), an enormous building with many ramps to allow buses to reach the upper stories. PABT is located in the neighbourhood of Hell’s Kitchen, which I knew from the movie ‘Sleepers’ was rather crappy in the 1960’s. As you can see here, it’s still rather crappy, despite being near Times Square, Penn Station and the new billionaire’s development Hudson Yards
4. Wanting to see the famous New York, I took the blue line from PABT to Fulton Street, which is near Wall Street, the heart of the Financial District. I have to say this is not the place to come to feel the true spirit of New York, especially on a Sunday morning. But it is the place to come to see some of New York’s finest classic skyscrapers, which are still very impressive despite being dwarfed by their more modern neighbours. It’s a place to enjoy yourself looking upwards for a while (or for a very long time)
8. The modern skyscrapers are impressive, but I like the older ones even more. The mixture of art-deco and more classic styles looks European but not quite. I had truly arrived on another continent!
9. New York is the only place I’ve been where the buildings are like mountains
10. Castle Clinton in the Battery, the southern tip of Manhattan and the oldest part of New York. The Battery is a good place to see some ensembles of classic skyscrapers. There are many more that I’m not showing here. Look the other way, and you’ll see the Statue of Liberty. If anyone told you that it’s a lot smaller than you would expect, then they are right. In fact the people looking at it seem a lot bigger
12. From the Battery, I walked along the East River towards Brooklyn Bridge. The neighbourhood on my left looked like it went from pretty run down to exaggeratedly expensive in a short period of time
14. I knew from pictures that Brooklyn Bridge was big
15. But you have to see it in real to realize how enormous it really is. You could easily fit a five-storey building into the on ramp (which did have some kind of building inside parts of it)
18. More classic skyscrapers, with One World Trade Center just visible in the background
19. People (locals and tourists alike) enjoying the abnormally warm January weather on Brooklyn Bridge
21. How could anyone not enjoy walking across Brooklyn Bridge? (unless it’s being attacked by giant reptiles or destroyed in other plausible ways)
22. Looking towards Midtown Manhattan, with the Empire State Building in the middle. Like Brooklyn Bridge, you have to see the Manhattan skyline to realize how enormous it is. Seeing it gave me a thrill every time!
24. As you can see here, Brooklyn Bridge has different levels for road traffic and cyclists and pedestrians
25. I have read that the neighbourhood on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge – which goes by the intelligent name of Dumbo – was quite dangerous until the ’90’s. Nowadays it is very gentrified and touristic, which doesn’t stop it from being very nice
26. I think this view is so famous that I don’t have to tell you what it is (note King Kong looming ominously in the background)
27. The Empire State Building seen from Dumbo
28. Having tired feet from my first longish walk in a while, I got on a train at High Street station, hoping it would run on one of New York’s elevated train lines. I briefly thought it would at Broadway Junction, but the next train I took went underground again straight away
29. I got off at Lorimer Street and spent the brightest part of the afternoon walking around the Brooklyn neighbourhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint without making very many pictures. At the end of the afternoon, I reached Long Island City, which is in the borough of Queens
30. There’s a lot of construction going on in Long Island City, which used to be an industrial part of town
31. View of Manhattan from Eleventh Street Basin
32. The new Long Island City seen from the same place
33. I was looking for views like this!
34. For some reason, this is where I ended up in time for the best light for making pictures
35. Looking back to Long Island City’s new skyline, which is easily as big as famous European skylines such as Frankfurt and Rotterdam
That was all for my first day in New York, so stay tuned for the rest!
Series Navigation New York January 2020 – Day 2 and 3 >>
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