I have only been to the East Coast once in my life. When I was 17, I went to visit my father and his family who lived in Massachusetts. I saw a lot of an Army base, spent a day driving around Boston (I never got out of the car because of the lovely roundabouts...I felt like Clark Griswold in European Vacation only I was not driving around Big Ben, I was driving around Cambridge!), and we spent a day on Martha's Vineyard. It was a nice trip and I did enjoy trying to decipher what the heck the radio announcers were saying because never once did they actually pronounce an "R", that letter is completely omitted from the Bostonians language.
This time, I was traveling with my husband and two sons to a family reunion in Pennsylvania that was a whole year in the planning. It is my husband's family that was gathering in Amish Country, but we were very close to some amazing attractions that had my head full of thoughts and my heart pumping with excitement. You see, my man is a New Yorker by birth...but he had not been there since he was 8. He was thrilled at the prospect of seeing his beloved Bronx and we were all excited not just for him...but for ourselves as well. I will be 40 next month and had always wanted to got to NYC, but the opportunity never presented itself in all my years on this Earth. I was a Film/Theatre major in college and I had always admired the City That Never Sleeps because of the astounding Theatre District....BROADWAY! Oh yes, every year at Thanksgiving I would drool over the Macy's Day Parade as I watched in utter excitement as the floats slowly moved down the street like little toys dwarfed by the huge vertical skyscrapers. Just to be there, see the city, hear the horns of 10,000 taxis as they maneuver around pedestrians, the thrill of The Big Apple!
So, on our first day we took a train from Philadelphia to NYC's Penn Station which is located just beneath Madison Square Garden. When I walked out of the station...I was delighted to see my first New York street corner.
West 34th and Eighth Avenue. What a sight it was! Oh sure, it may not have been Broadway...but for me, it was like looking at gold! It was loud. It was busy. It was HOT! Arriving at 8:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning in June, I felt the heat like a warm hug welcoming me to a City that was like a legend in my head! I had my camera ready to go and my husband's smile told me that he was more than happy to be back in his first stomping grounds. We had booked ourselves on a double decker sight seeing bus that was already making rounds so we headed to Madame Tussauds to check in and board our New York Adventure! Just walking the streets was amazing....so much to take in!
We found 42nd Street and then found the wax museum. Not much of a wait and we were ready to go! Stepping outside, we came across a NYC Police car and two of NYC's finest standing along side it chatting. My husband approached them and asked if he could take a picture of them with our boys. One of the officers said in a very thick New Yawk accent..."Hey, hows about I take a picture of you and your family with him? Give me the camera..." I handed him my beloved Canon and gave him a 30 second lesson on how to use it and he took some steps back to snap the shot. As he was focusing there were folks walking in front of him blocking his shot. "Hey! Get outta the way!" he yelled to one. "Move!" he yelled to another. One passerby clearly had no idea where they were and stopped to look around right between us and the camera. "Hellllooooo!" the officer behind the lens shouted as he motioned the lost tourist to move, he was clearly quite disgusted at the lolly gagging of the man. We were all giggling at him because he was so blunt with all these people. He finally snapped the shot and then shook all of our hands, telling us to enjoy our visit to his city. It was the perfect introduction to our day.
We boarded the tour bus, and I was impressed with the vantage point that the bus gave me. For this shutter bug...well to say I was in heaven would be an understatement! Snapping pics all the way down as we moved through lower Manhattan, I was having eyeball orgasms seeing all the things I had only seen in movies and on television: The Empire State Building, Macy's, Madison Square Garden, The Chrysler Building, Greenwich Village...where there is a $350 fine for honking (as a matter of fact, our tour guide could not talk over his loud speaker because of the noise ordinance in the tree lined neighborhood), So Ho, Little Italy...BROADWAY!!!!!!!! Oh, I was so thrilled to be there. My husband was taking it all in and I could see on his face that memories were flooding his mind. He had little moments of smiles followed by thoughts of his childhood. All around the city there were 125 statues of men atop buildings that kind of became a game of "Where's Waldo" as we maneuvered the crowded, bustling streets.
We were anticipating our first destination: the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Many times in my life I have seen Lady Liberty on postcards, in movies and in documentaries about how America became the melting pot of the world as she opened her doors to all those who were seeking freedom and a better life. She is a symbol of what a great country this is and at no other time was she more focused on than in the days following 9/11. In our route to get to her, we did pass Ground Zero which was a heartbreaking site to see the place were so many lost their lives on that horrific fall day in 2001. Our whole tour bus looked down the street to see the area where two mighty buildings once stood, and we were all quiet as we passed. IT was a powerful moment for me, and my husband was saddened because unlike me...he had not only seen The World Trade Center but went all the way to the top of one of the buildings when he was younger. Even our children were aware of the significance of those fences that surrounded the immense hole were the Twin Towers stood. A block or two back on the tour there was a street corner that still had thousands of tributes stuck up on a long fence to those that lost their lives and loved ones on that day. I will never forget that.
So we reached Battery Park and hopped off the bus to get over to the ferry that would take us to the islands just south of the city. My husband was wearing a huge grin because he was having flashbacks of being in the park with his most favorite man ever, his Grandfather. I don't think I have seen such a face of happiness since the birth of our sons. Every turn of his head, he was more excited to be there on the tip of Manhattan reliving moments from his childhood. I was thrilled because everywhere I looked I was reminded that it was this city that shaped and molded the man that I love. It was a beautiful park with too many things to look at, including some freaky people in bizarre shoes talking fast in foreign languages that I could not make heads or tails of where they might be from. It was the quintessential melting pot, that is for sure! After shuffling through a long line and a security check, we stepped aboard a ferry called, appropriately enough ... Miss New York. I could not take my eyes off The Statue of Liberty. Something about seeing her across the water. standing so tall and proud...I was in awe.
Tomorrow...The Islands of Freedom and pizza on a street corner