There has been a great amount already written about New York by the world's great poets, writers, lyricists and screenwriters that a mere Aussie who likes to prattle on can barely add anything new or worthwile. The only thing I will say is that what these great artists have said before is all true. New York is a Bruce Springsteen and a Bob Dylan tune. It is an F Scott Fitzgerald novel and a Woody Allen film. It is West Side Story minus the spontaneous bursting out in song (the weirdos that hang around the Port Authority Bus Terminal are the exception).
Day 1 -
I decide to take the train down from Boston because the approach into NYC would give me more of a view of the city than a plane. Besides I would be leaving by air so this way I would get the best of both.
I arrive at Penn Station and wonder where the hell Amtrak have dumped me. The place is teeming with life and noise that I can see how this city can overwhelm you. I get some sense of my bearings in this subterranean metropolis and head for the number 1 train uptown towards my hotel on Broadway and West 77th St on the Upper West Side (because that's how I roll).
Checked in (and upgraded) I head off in the late afternoon swelter to scope out the local 'hood. I make it to the fringe of Central Park when a summer storm hits hard. Wearing my havianas I run and squelch my way back to the hotel to dry off and grab a meal at a local Italian restaurant.
After dinner I spot a cafe nearby that has free wifi (not as common as I assumed) so that immediately becomes my morning and evening coffee joint.
Note: Although Americans and Canadians love their java, they don't produce great coffee. The best I have had so far (by a country mile) is Balzac's in Toronto.
Day 2 -
My plan is to break up my days here into geographical sections. That way I'm not travelling back and forth between different landmarks all the time. Do I have to see Central Park on my first full day? It isn't going anywhere, it can keep.
I head right to the bottom of the island and grab the ferry to Ellis Island. It stops off at Liberty Island first but as I can't go inside Lady Liberty (add low brow gag here) I skip it and get a decent photo from the ferry. Ellis Island was the point of call from the late 1800s to 1954 for immigrants who came to America looking for a better place to live.
After it closed it was left to decay until they began restoring it in the 1980s. A brilliantly laid out museum, Ellis Island is a visual document of immigration policy and the multicultural society of early 20th Century America.
Back on the Island I walk towards Wall Street and the Financial District hoping to stop off at the National Sports Museum along the way. However there is a sign on the door saying it closed down back in February. I read it only opened last September. The recession has hit this country hard.
Bad news turns to good as I walk past the defunct museum and discover the Fraunces Tavern. It is here that General Washington gave his farewell to his officers following the end of the American Revolution. It seems rude if I don't go in for a pint.
My next major stop is the WTC memorial museum, but along the way is the heavily guarded Stock Exchange (the latter is the result of the events of the former) and the grand Federal Hall where Washington was sworn in a President.
I didn't think that the memorial to the 9/11 attacks would affect me the way it would but by the end of it I found myself weeping. I had just viewed remnants of the towers and personal possessions found among the rubble and it became too much. I looked around and found to my comfort that I wasn't the only one in tears.
That night I went down to the East Village to see singer-songwriter Pete Yorn perform. Pete and band sounded great in the intimate Webster Hall playing songs culled mostly from his debut album (still his best).
My first full day in NYC and I think I packed a fair bit in.