OUR two-week visit to the United States, via Korean Airlines, brought my wife Grace and I, and our children Jandy and Cheska, plus grandson Kyle, first to exciting New York City, making landfall at JFK International Airport. Called “The City That Never Sleeps”, New York City is home to big-name attractions, as well as charming neighborhoods and hidden green spaces, trendy boutiques and classic bars. When one thinks of New York City, the first place visitors’ picture is often the borough of Manhattan and this was to be our base. For the first three nights, we stayed at the vibrant Hampton Inn Manhattan Grand Central. Near the hotel is the Grand Central Terminal, one of the most majestic buildings of the 20th century. It has both monumental spaces and meticulously crafted detail, especially on its façade.
Any visit to the city is never complete without dropping by the Statue of Liberty. This colossal neo-classical sculpture, on Liberty Island (a short ferry ride from Battery Park) in New York Harbor, was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the US dedicated on October 28, 1886, and designated as a National Monument in 1924. More than a monument, it is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy to millions around the world. Part of the tour was our visit to nearby Ellis Island where, at its museum, we heard moving tales of the 12 million immigrants who entered America through the golden door of Ellis Island.
We also visited a number of the best museums in the world that stand on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue (known collectively as the Museum Mile Consortium). The famous Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the largest art galleries in the world, boasts of works from Classical antiquity, as well as nearly all of the European masters. The iconic Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the final project of legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, houses 300 representative works culled from the Guggenheim Foundation’s 7,000 piece collection. We also visited the beautiful and famous Museum of Modern Art, which features the most prestigious art collection in the country.
The skyline of New York is also a treasure trove of Art Deco architectural gems, such as the 443.2 meter high, 102-story Empire State Building and the 318.9 meter high Chrysler Building (still the tallest brick building in the world with a steel structure), both for a time (42 years and 11 months, respectively) the tallest buildings in the world.
Another of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, drawing an estimated 50 million visitors annually, is the iconic Time Square. Brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, it is one of the world’s busiest pedestrian areas, the hub of the Broadway Theater District and a major center of the world’s entertainment industry. The brightly lit (at night) Times Square is also the site of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop.
A New York City tradition is crossing on foot the Brooklyn Bridge, a quite popular tourist attraction, via the pedestrian walkway (there’s also a bike lane). One of the best things to do in New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge isn’t much more than a mile long (its length is 1,825.4 meter). Being tourists, we wanted to savor the experience and took it slow, posing for photos, admiring the bridge’s distinctive web-like cable arrangement and river views and finishing the crossing in about an hour.
A New York pilgrimage site is the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (also known as the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum), located at the former location of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center site. It commemorates the September 11, 2001, attacks, which killed 2,977 victims, and the World Trade Center bombing (February 26, 1993), which killed six. It features a forest of trees with two square memorial pools (its walls attached with 76 bronze plates inscribed with the names of the victims) in the center where the Twin Towers stood.
Prior to leaving for our flight back to Manila, we visited Central Park (the city’s green lung), the New York City Library (the second-largest public library in the US and fourth-largest in the world) and heard Mass at the Gothic-style Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, another prominent New York City landmark. Directly across the cathedral is the Rockefeller Center.