In a New York State of Mind

Two weekends ago I headed to the Big Apple for a work-related conference and was able to spend my first time EVER in NYC, staying right in the midst of it all in Times Square. Not sure what I was expecting but I think that NYC definitely lives up to all of it’s hype. The bright lights, the big city (and I’m from Chicago!), food vendors, culture and diversity, and tons of places to really get lost in if you wanted to!

Our first day in NY, we spent having lunch in Times Square and were able to walk around on 7th Avenue and take in all of the excitement from tourists and New Yorkers alike. There were people dressed up as cartoon characters, tons and tons of NYPD (literally on every half-block), street performers, and we even spotted Nick Cannon doing a promo for a new TV show he has coming up on Nickelodeon!

My co-workers getting close to Nick!

My co-workers getting close to Nick!

That night, we went walking up and down Times Square, where the lights turned even brighter, the crows turned much larger and tons of shopping happened (not by me, of course).  Did you know the stores are opened til midnight there?! What! We didn’t have any food from street vendors, but BOY do New Yorkers love their bagels, gyros and hot dogs from food stands! They were everywhere and flooded the streets with the comforting scents of yummy food.  We spent our first night waiting for hours at a steakhouse in Harlem – you’ve already read that food review.

On our second day in the Big Apple, we did some more adventuring out in Times Square and vowed to not eat somewhere that had an hour long wait. We did have someone with us with special eating needs, so that kinda stunk because we couldn’t stray too much into really experiencing different cultures of food. On our second night, we hit up a place called Bourbon Street in Greenwich Village which I’ll post a review on next week.

1. Walgreens in Times Square | 2. Times Square | 3. NYPD station in the middle of Times Square | 4. Myself and my co-workers enjoying our first day in NY

1. Walgreens in Times Square | 2. Times Square | 3. NYPD station in the middle of Times Square | 4. Myself and my co-workers enjoying our first day in NY

Finally, our “free”/travel Monday we were able to explore the city a little more. We arranged to have tickets for the 9/11 Memorial (it’s free but you have to pre-order online and reserve a time). There was a bunch of security to even get into the Memorial (think airport security) and it was just mind-blowing to be in this place that brought America to it’s knees 11 years prior. Who doesn’t remember where they were on 9/11? I do, and it’s heartbreaking to be in a place where 2,900+ Americans lost their lives in tumbling buildings. The memorial is beautiful, though. The entire space is tree-lined and when those trees bloom with leaves, I’m sure it will be breathtaking. There are two giant pools in the place where the twin towers once stood.  According to the 9/11 Memorial website, the pools are nearly an acre in size and “feature the largest manmade waterfalls in North America.”  The waterfalls rush down the insides of the pools and flow freely into a center square which is like an abyss. You cannot see the bottom of the square. All the names of those lost on 9/11 at the twin towers, pentagon, flights and 1993 bombings are inscribed on the outside of the pools and are organized by where they were on that tragic day.  The names are cut-outs so you can look through the names into the waterfall, and they also allow you to touch the names along the pool.  At night, it’s said that the park is lit up – light illuminates the names and alongside the pools. Pretty intense.

It’s really solemn in the memorial, which is how it’s meant to be. A time to reflect on that horrible day and the innocent lives lost. It tugs really hard on your heart strings when you find a woman’s name along with “and her unborn child.”  It makes you think about what kind of hatred is out there in the world to possess someone to do this to others.

1. Survivor Tree | 2. Signs to entry at 9/11 Memorial | 3. Complex at memorial | 4. Names of lives lost at attacks | 5. Me at the memorial | 6. View into pool at memorial

1. Survivor Tree | 2. Signs to entry at 9/11 Memorial | 3. Complex at memorial | 4. Names of lives lost at attacks | 5. Me at the memorial | 6. View into pool at memorial

After some time spent at the memorial, my co-worker and I decided to visit the Century 21 building across the street for some rejuvenation. Holy moly is that building huge! It’s like a 6-story TJ Maxx and a must visit for those die-hard shoppers visiting NYC. After the shopping adventure, we wandered a bit in the Financial District, waiting for our third co-worker to join us for lunch and stumbled upon St. Paul’s Chapel, where we found a graveyard dating back to the 1700’s, and a place of remembrance for those lost in 9/11.  The pews in the chapel once served as refuge for those civil service works cleaning up after 9/11, there’s memorials erected inside for everyone affected by the attacks. It’s a really special place to visit, if you have the chance.

Memorial inside of St. Paul's Chapel.

Inside St. Paul’s Chapel.

I only spent 3 days in NY and not sure if it’s on my “must-go-back” list, but it was amazing to experience and actually see what it’s all about. I’m also very happy that I was able to visit the 9/11 site and experience some part of that tragic time in America. Hopefully if I do ever go back, I’ll time to see Lady Liberty (which was closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy), and all of the other burroughs that dot that massive city!

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