Well, finally go to see the Big apple what everyone keeps talking about. Got out of JFK, left my bags and laptop at the luggage store at the airport and with just my wallet, cell phone (yes my Qatar sim does work!!) and passport went into the city. Decided to take the bus instead of the subway as i wanted to see a bit of the city while commuting and landed just outside the Grand Central Subway stop in New York. The first thing that strikes you is how well New York is laid out – the city is divided into neat grids with avenues running perpendicular to streets and with the exceptions of a few landmark streets most of them go in numeric order so its quite easy to navigate with either verbal instructions or else through the address. I decided i wanted to see all the major sights so opted for the gray line open air double decker tour of the city. Glad I did that as i probably saved a lot of money in the commute and so pend the next 3 hours taking in the usual tourist spots – the Empire state building, the Little Italy, India, China, Germany, SoHO, Wall Street, The World Trade Center site, City hall, the public library, fashion street, Macy's, Central Park, The Statue of liberty, Rockerfeller center, Battery Park, the Brooklyn Bridge etc.
Some Interesting facts I found quite interesting:-
When going around NY you see quite a few old buildings with their third and fourth floors having very large glass windows – it seems there used to be an aerial train running through the main avenue and so the windows were meant to be displays to attract commuters to shop at them. The train is no longer there.
Rent control – seems some people in NY are still paying the same rent they used to pay in the 1940s. Reminds me of bombay's own rules. Lucky for some!!
When brooklyn bridge opened up, people were really scared to use it so P.T. Barnum the world famous circus owner had 78 of his elephants walk across to prove to them that it was really safe!!
2/3rds of New York buildings have now been converted into high end housing
SoHo stands for South Of Housing street. And yes SoHo in Ny came first
The loft apartments in SoHo made fashionable by the artists and writers were actually illegal!!!
New yorkers feel there is no need to travel out of the city, its all here!!
Macy's is the largest department store in the world at 2.2mn Sq. feet!! Its also one of the oldest.
Penn Station is the largest train station in the U.S. And probably one of the largest in the world and yes, its in the big apple.
The Freedom tower which will come up where the WTC used to be will be 1776feet high in rememberance of the year in which America got its freedom. Its supposed to become the tallest building in the world.
The Empire state builing, built at the height of the great depression was constructed in 13 months entirely from prefabricated parts and steel beams which were still warm from the furnace!! For quite a while it was empty leading a few people to rename it the Empty state building. Today its quite a prestigious business location with its own unique art deco arhictecture.
What struck me about New York
This is truly a LARGE city with unique culture and modern outlook. Its not a new gleaming city but this is the old money. The buildings are imposing and most importantly demonstrate that for as far as we can remember NY has been the financial capital of the world. The city and its people have a spirit thats hard to miss and grow to love. What strikes you most as you glance at people, as you speak to them as you walk the streets – these are real people, they have real worries, fears, aspirations, passions. Nothing is picture perfect, as you see people you can imagine that they are ambitious, have gone through sacrifices and are living life to the fullest but they are definitely not content or complacent. This is really the most remarkable thing esp. when you compare it to places like Qatar or Dubai(in parts) or even Bombay where to a small extent people are not go-getters. Here everyone from the beggars on the street to the tour operator to the bus drivers everyone will tell you how and why you should give them some of your money and why they deserve it. I'm not sure if they are poor, but they definitely have the spirit.
Would I live in New York? Hmm,, difficult call to make esp. after just spending a day in the city. At this point I would rather be in San Francisco which is more tech to my liking but as I leave New York I cant help feeling – If i were to spend some more time here , this place would grow on me!!!