New York is a city like no other, an iconic metropolis that looms large in the world’s collective imagination. For me, a first-timer to the city, my wonder is magnified as I pinch myself and say ‘I’m really here!’
The first thing I notice is the Manhattan skyline. The facets of clustered towers of silver, gold and black, seem to rise straight up from the river banks. I watch, entranced, from my room in Brooklyn, as the buildings turn a burnished bronze flecked with gold in the light of the setting sun. Days later, in the Gem Room at the Museum of Natural History, I see the scene reflected in one of the extraordinary giant crystals there, nature imitating man.
There are endless firsts –first view of downtown from the Hudson River, standing on the deck of the Liberty Princess, then the first view of the Statue of Liberty herself, strong and sure. First bagel and not-very-good coffee (but at least it’s hot!) waiting to enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I watch art students inspired all over again by the European masters.
Deep inside the maze of city buildings, the streets are a vibrant parade of festivity and winter wonder. Each corner reveals a vista that seems at once new and reassuringly familiar. Have I been here before or do I just remember it from a movie? I don’t know the answer.
For me there are other, more personal firsts. The vaulted star-scattered ceiling of Grand Central Station. Ellis Island’s Immigration Museum, where thousands of migrants to the United States first made landfall. The holiday windows of Saks on Fifth Avenue. I take my daughters ice-skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park, partly because they want to, but in all honesty, because I do too. In the winter sunshine we shuffle around gracelessly on the ice while young children whizz past practising pirouettes and arcing turns balanced on one leg.
Later, I take them to the 14 St subway station to see what has become known as Subway Therapy, New York’s antidote to a bad day, week or four-year term. On individual brightly-coloured post-it notes I read ‘Fight hate with kindness’; ‘Jesus was a Middle eastern refugee’; and ‘Adrianna is hot’. Subway therapy takes many forms.
For me, these small, quirky sights say more about New York than some big-ticket attractions. As the sun goes down on Lady Liberty I think about the many sights that will have to wait until my next visit – Brooklyn Bridge, the vibrant streets of Harlem and Flushing, a Broadway show. What were your favourite New York firsts?
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