28.09.22 — Travel

Alone in New York

I pick things back up after leaving Megan on the metro to head back to the airport as we finally parted ways after three weeks together exploring Canada and the northwest of the United States. I was now alone in New York City and had a full 24 hours of time to go and explore everything it had to offer, so how would I begin? Heading back to the hotel for a nap, of course.

After my nap I spent some time journalling, looking through my photos, and starting a little bit of light packing so I wouldn’t be in such a rush the next day. Once that was all done, I headed on to the metro in my half-broken shorts and headed to the first spot on my solo adventure where I’d craftily planned to kill two bird with one stone.

I hopped off the metro near Hudson Yards, where I first searched out the Uniqlo shop in the fancy new shopping centre in order to buy some new shorts. I changed into them in the changing rooms there and threw my broken ones into a recycling bin as I headed outside to see the next attraction: the Vessel.

I’d seen and heard a lot about this sculpture on some of the YouTube channels that I indulge in from time to time, from the technical challenges of the whole Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project to the controversy surrounding deaths by suicide from the Vessel itself. While they work on solving this last issue, the Vessel is closed to visitors wishing to climb up, but we were allowed inside at ground level to take some photos.

On the way out of the newly developed Hudson Yards area, I grabbed a hotdog at one of the trusty New York food trucks. I wandered down past the sprawling rail yard and headed up on to a landmark that I’d briefly visited last time I was in the city: the High Line. This lovely park through the west side of Manhattan has the curious prestige of being constructed on an old elevated railroad, and offers a slither of greenery and some interesting views over the city’s streets.

I gave Ellie another quick buzz as I thought she’d like the concept of the High Line. We had a quick chat but she was already in bed, so I then gave Kevin a ring and we had a great laugh as I wandered down to the end of the park.

My idea had originally been to head back to the hotel to freshen up and change before heading out for the evening, but as I reached the end of the High Line it was already getting quite late. Not wanting to miss the sunset, I stayed out and decided to head down to Ground Zero to see the 9/11 Memorial as it was on the way to the place I’d decided I wanted to spend the evening.

After a frustrating incident trying to sign up to use the public bike system and then a painfully sweaty wait for a train in the city’s decaying metro system, I finally made it to the memorial. I spent a while wandering round, taking in the solemn atmosphere of the place, and taking some photos as the sun began to set behind the buildings.

The area is a lovely and fitting tribute to those who died during the attacks, but part of me did question the almost excessive commercialisation of the area and the events that it is unavoidably associated with. Having the site become a tourist attraction that felt almost like a theme park didn’t sit 100% well with me – and I say this knowing that I’d come along to look at it too. It left me a bit conflicted.

They place these flags on the names of the people for their birthdays.

Not wanting to have my sunset plans ruined by New York’s unreliable-at-best public transport, I headed over early to my next destination. The metro dropped me off at Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the other side of the water from Manhattan. From there, I began a slow wander down to the water’s edge, where my plan was to watch the sun set over the infamous skyline.

This view was cool with the Brooklyn Bridge hidden in the background.

Upon turning the corner and being confronted with the sight of the skyscrapers over the waters of the East River, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a bit emotional. I then pottered further down and to the water’s edge, where I spent a good amount of time just taking in the views. This spot provided view of it all: the remains of the old dock, the Statue of Liberty in the distance, the colours of the evening sky, the impressive the Manhattan skyline, and a panoramic view of the Brooklyn Bridge that we’d been on just a few days prior.

This view struck me as very unique, combining greenery with the skyline.

These pylons are all that is left of the old dock.

After taking countless photos from this awesome vantage point, I finally turned the camera on myself and took a rare selfie to prove that I’d actually been in New York. It was also time for me to stop gawking at the views and listen to my body for a second, which was now crying out for something to eat and drink. I wandered down the length of the park in the hunt for some food and knew I was getting closer as I saw people were holding nearly immaculate ice creams – call me Sherlock Holmes.

I wound up queuing for a while for a pizza place under the Brooklyn Bridge before I realised that the line didn’t seem to be moving and there was seemingly complete chaos inside. Impatient thanks to the hunger and thirst, I abandoned the line and looked for a while for an alternative before settling for yet another food truck meal. The food isn’t great but they are always there like guardian angels when you find yourself in a pinch!

I took my chicken kebab back down to the waterside, where I sought out a free bench and sat down to watch the sunset advance. As day became night, the city lights began to appear and I spent another good time in the dark photographing everything that caught my eye.

As the dark and cold grew more intense, I said my goodbyes to this awesome spot and walked back to the metro. Once back in the hotel, I finished off some more packing and headed through the masses of photos that I’d taken on the trip so far before heading off to bed. It’d been a beautiful and somewhat emotional last night in New York City!

The next day, as my journal from the trip notes, was a “pretty mechanical day”. I woke up, finished off my last bits of packing, showered, left the hotel, and dragged my trusty blue suitcase down to the metro to head off to the airport.

This journey back to the airport didn’t go like clockwork, however, as I saw a turn come and go as we sped past and some kind of interior compass or innate directional intuition told me that my train should have taken that turn. I checked Google Maps and, sure as hell, I’d gotten the wrong train and we certainly should have taken that turn.

I don’t know where I get this refined sense of direction from, but I sure as hell was grateful for it as I jumped off the train at the next station, took the next train in the opposite direction, and then waited for the next train that actually would go to the airport.

Three trains later, I eventually arrived back at JFK, where I grabbed my last cream cheese bagel and headed to my flight. It’d been quite the hassle of a journey to get me back to my gate out of New York City after having arrived only four days prior, but it was well worth it as I headed off for the last stop of my grand American adventure.

After a few days there with Megan and then 24 hours alone, New York had been an absolutely amazing experience that turned my perception of it from a once-and-done trip to a place that I’m already planning to revisit. The absolute chaos of the Big Apple is overwhelming, so I could never stay there for longer than a few days, but the diversity that forms the city and the always-on electric atmosphere make it unique amongst cities.

I’ll definitely be back to New York, but for now, I was off to another US city…