A city of superlatives. Manhattan seems oddly familiar when you arrive because you have seen its buildings so many times in photos and in films. For example, the image of the soldier kissing a girl in Times Square is a typical representation of the end of World War 2. Packed with sights and museums, the challenge will be to fit in as much humanly possible in a limited number of days. However, New York is more than a city of skyscrapers. Arriving into JFK on a sunny day, the famous Manhattan skyline shimmers in the distance. Other parts of the city are far more human in scale. On top of that, people are actually willing to help you if you’re lost. Like any big city, this is a place of contrasts. Wealth and opulence sit beside poverty and deprivation. Forget what you’ve seen on TV and in the movies, go and discover The Big Apple for yourself.
I arrived in New York after a six and a half hour flight from Dublin on my way to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The great thing about US preclearance in Dublin is that I was able to go straight to the city without needing to go through any immigration formalities. My first impression was that the city was light years ahead of Europe in terms of public transport, something that would soon change once I got to the subway. I took the sky train to the Jamaica stop where I then connected into Manhattan with the Long Island Railroad. Once there, I had my first experience with the New York Subway since I wanted to get to Fifth Avenue to see the Puerto Rican parade, giving my first day ever in the US somewhat of a Latino flavour.
The parade turned out to be full of colour and music. While watching it, I was struck by the size of the buildings all around me. It seemed as if the city was almost a template for the modern city. Of course, many contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern cities have copied the template, but the original still holds its place in the popular imagination. The event also highlighted the diversity of the city given that so many of the crowd spoke Spanish and not English.
The heat of the day was considerable and the fact that I was carrying a heavy daypack didn’t help that much with my jetlag, so eventually I decided to head off and explore a bit more of Manhattan Island. After some aimless wandering, I found myself in Times Square, which was not really that impressive by day, but a place I will certainly return to by night on my way back to Dublin. From there I made my way down to Bryant Park, which I really quite liked, but by now I was almost ready to pass out so the quest to find the nearest Long Island Railroad began. I always thought New Yorkers would be rude and unhelpful, but people were incredibly friendly and one even took me down the street to show me where I needed to go. Europeans, take note, I can’t say that I’ve always found the same level of friendliness in European cities, despite often speaking the local language.
The next stop was Buenos Aires, so there was still a long night of travel ahead. However, New York cut quite a dash despite the time limitations. There will be more updates on this city as I’ll be there for a few days at the end of July.
• The amazing view of the Manhattan skyline as you enter New York
• The surprisingly helpful people
• The diversity of the people- a true world capital, even though it’s not a capital city at all
• The New York subway- dirty, no indication of when trains will arrive and not particularly easy to figure out
• The heat! How am I going to bear it in late July? It was only 26 Celsius and I was already dying…