(click on pictures to enlarge)
It was exciting to be in Manhattan which is the opposite of Rome. Where no building in the centre of Rome is taller than St. Peter’s Basilica, Manhattan’s skyscrapers soar into the sky creating a vertical landscape. There is a sense of intense energy and freedom of expression, from the designs of the buildings to how people dress. One gets the feeling that anything is possible and you can be whatever you want.
We stayed in a lovely and spacious apartment on Mott St. on the edge of Chinatown and Little Italy which we got through friends who rent it out on Airbnb. We loved this funky area with lots of restaurants, cafes and interesting shops. Great changes are occurring in the neighbourhoods on the Lower East Side. The Bowery, which was once derelict and crime ridden, is becoming gentrified and we felt quite comfortable walking around, where a few years ago, there would have been the fear of getting mugged. As always, it was a pleasure to see the old iconic buildings like the Chrysler and the Empire State but it was some of the new things that caught my attention.
The High Line is a green walkway constructed on the disused elevated railway line running along the west side of Manhattan between the buildings. Trees, plants and wild flowers line the sides and there are places to sit and enjoy the view. Starting in the Meatpacking district, on Gansevoort St., it now spans about 20 blocks or so with a further extension planned. Close to the beginning of the Line is a new building designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano which will be the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art early next year.
In NYC art installations are no longer confined to museums and one suddenly comes upon pieces like this one by Robert Indiana installed on 7th Avenue and 53rd St to mark the 1st International Hope Day on Sept 13, which also happened to be the artists 86th birthday.
Time Square is visually overwhelming with its giant electronic screens, fluorescent colours, advertising, and constantly changing pictures and slogans. A part of it has been pedestrianized and there are stalls selling various types of food and tourist knicknacks. People dressed like Disney characters (or hardly dressed at all) mill around trying to make a few bucks by posing for photos with tourists. Its all quite surreal. I found it too frenetic with the constant movement, changing images, noise, and people and couldn’t stay there for too long.
The Ground Zero site where the twin towers used to be, now has two large pools each occupying the footprint of the tower that once stood there. The pools have a second pool in the centre which you can’t see the bottom of, giving the quality of water falling into a hole in the depths of the earth. The names of the people who died on that day are engraved on burnished bronze ledges running around the perimeter. A white rose is placed on the name of a person whose birthday is on that day which is touching. A Memorial Museum stands between the two pools.
At the edge of Ground Zero Square stands “1 World Trade Center”, supposedly the tallest building in America and called the Freedom Tower. A stylized soaring dove, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, will span the site and is now under construction. We thought that the portion of the Calatrava piece built so far looked more like a dinosaur than a dove but it might look different when completed.
We did a lot of walking including tramping around the major museums which are magnificent in their wealth of exhibits. Museum entrance fees are not cheap and neither is eating out compared with Toronto and Rome. Even food in the supermarkets is quite costly except for junk food. However, electronic goods are still relatively inexpensive. I bought a little ‘point and shoot’ camera. Hopefully, my posts will benefit from improved photos!