• Ruth Towell

New York, Concrete Jungle.

Updated: Aug 30, 2019

I recently found my feet wandering along the concrete streets of New York, whilst this was my first time in the city it felt strangely familiar - probably because of the countless movies, photographs and TV shows which feature its cityscape.

Upon arriving in New York, the first thing we did was explore our neighbourhood for the trip, heading down to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and watching the sunset over Manhattan with the mixture of visitors and locals that flanked the East River.

The streets of New York are a maze of straight lines, creating a crosshatch pattern across the city. New sights are around each corner, with yet another impressive skyscraper greeting you alongside the mass of coffee shops to feed the caffine-habit of this city that never sleeps.

To get a full respect of the scale of this maze-shaped city, we embraced our inner tourist by heading up both the Rockefeller Centre and Empire State Building. A complete change in perspective from what was offered at street level greeted us, the tops of skyscrapers now not so far away whereas the yellow cabs turned into small toy cars.

The popular Jay-Z and Alicia Keys song 'Empire State of Mind' refers to New York as a concrete jungle. Whilst this may feel the case in midtown and lower-manhattan, there is plenty of green space around. I found myself exploring the vast trails around the iconic Central Park, but also small hidden spots such as the High-Line, which snakes it way through Chelsea atop an abandoned train track, now transformed into a green lung for the city.

One thing we knew we had to do in New York was to visit the 9/11 memorial. That day is etched into my memory. I don't remember much from when I was 7 years old, but I do remember that day, sitting in front of the television with my family with the sense that something terrible had just happened.

The memorial was unexpectedly emotional. Two large water features now frame the site where the twin towers once stood, the names of those whose lives were lost bordering these footprints. So much thought and meaning had been put into creating this memorial, it truly honours those who lost their lives in 9/11.

The new One World Trade Centre, also known as the Freedom Tower rises beautifully above ground zero, representing hope and resilience for those connected to this city. It stands the same height as the original One World Trade Centre and is the tallest building in New York City, towering over downtown manhattan's financial district.

There are so many iconic sites in New York and I couldn't help but hunt some of them down. From the symbolic Statue of Liberty, watching over the entrance of New York's harbour, to the constant rush of Grand Central Station's golden hall - each site is iconic for a very good reason It may feel 'touristy' to visit them, but it's worth it to take in the unique architecture and culture of the place.

I particularly enjoyed exploring Grand Central Station and it's tunnels leading to platforms, shops and foot courts. It's easy to forget the main purpose of the station as you take in its grandeur, but hiding behind its stone walls are rather less grand platforms serving the many commuters and visitors travelling to and from the city.

While Manhattan is vibrant and has so much to offer, my favourite district is Brooklyn. This is where we stayed, it steps a little bit back from the craziness of the centre of the city and gives you space to breathe. Most evenings we would head down to DUMBO (the name is a descriptive acronym for the area, Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) - it sits next to the river and is filled with street food markets and places to enjoy the view with a cocktail in hand.

I'm a big fan of a good sunset and if you are too, the best place in the city (in my opinion) to enjoy one is DUMBO, Brooklyn. You can watch the sunset over the harbour and downtown Manhattan, as boats drift by and helicopters glide across the sky. It truly is a beautiful way to end a day in this non-stop city.

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© 2020 Ruth Towell