New York City is many things and summing up its experience in one article is next to impossible. My parents had the crazy idea of going on a North American trip in the middle of my semester. But, how can you say no when a trip to NYC is on the agenda?
After travelling from Dhaka to New York, which is roughly a 20-hour journey, you'd expect a person to be tired. More so, because we reached John F. Kennedy International Airport at 9 AM after a sleepless night; miraculously I had the energy to start sightseeing right after getting off the plane.
I started my journey with Manhattan (because, duh) and to get the complete NYC experience, and also because it's a cheaper alternative, we chose the subway as our transport. Not surprisingly, we took the wrong train on our first try and ended up on the opposite side of the city. Then, after two hours of walking around and taking various trains, we finally reached our destination.
One thing you need to know about the subway system in NYC is that it's quite old. It's actually the world's oldest public transit system since it opened in 1904. As a result, the stations are usually dark, dingy, and just dismal. So, as you climb out of the station you can clearly see the Manhattan skyline rising above you which stands in stark contrast with the station that you're climbing out of. The subway usually has a stale stench surrounding it but as soon as I stepped out onto the pavement of 47th Street, the smells of street food made everything better. The streets are lined up with cuisine from all over the world – from Middle-Eastern, French, to German.
I started my sightseeing with the usual tourist spots. As I walked along Sixth Avenue I came across the red and blue fluorescent signs flashing “Radio City Music Hall”. Then just beside it, there was the NBC Studios, popularly featured in the opening credits of 30 Rock. If you book ahead, you could get a tour of the inside of the Radio City Music Hall where you may or may not come across your favourite stars. You also need to book at least 3 months in advance to be part of the audience of The Tonight Show. More of my 30 Rock dream came true when I got to visit the Rockefeller Center. The huge structure also has a viewing deck on top which gives a full view of the Manhattan skyline. There is an age-old debate about whether Empire State Building gives the best view of the city or the Rockefeller Centre. Unfortunately, I couldn't settle the debate since I visited during peak hours and the line was too big for both the viewing decks.
The next two days were devoted to visiting the museums and being awestruck by the “Heavenly Bodies” exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply “The Met”. The thing is, if you visit New York you could spend weeks just visiting museums; unfortunately we only had time to visit the more popular museums for tourists. We somehow chose the hottest day of the week to go to Liberty Island and Ellis Island and returned completely sunburnt. We spent the morning of our last day in Washington Square Park and the rest of the day walking the cobblestone streets of Soho.
Out of all the places I visited the whole week, Times Square was by far my favourite. At night, the place looked nothing short of magic. If you visit Times Square during peak hours, you'd understand why it's referred to as “the crossroads of the world”. I actually preferred the place later at night when the billboards seemed to flash brighter and the sea of crowds dimmed.
To me, the best part about New York was how walking along the city felt like walking inside a movie set. Because so many famous movies are shot in New York, you will come across landmarks from your favourite ones all over the city. Central Park took me back to Giselle singing “That's How You Know” in the movie Enchanted and in Greenwich Village I found the apartment that is featured on the very popular TV show Friends.
A week in New York is not nearly enough to experience anything. The city is so diverse; even a month or two in the city won't give you the full NYC experience. Every day the city has something new to offer – from food, art, to music. When you walk along the financial district, you can almost smell the gazillions being made inside the enormous glass structures. The flashing lights and the gigantic buildings have a way of making you feel insignificant and small but I guess this acts as a constant reminder to strive to do better and leave an impact on the world.
Tasnim Odrika is having an existential crisis at the moment and doesn't really know who she is anymore. Send her compliments at firstname.lastname@example.org