The Empire State Building
The buildings in New York are ridiculously big. Skyscrapers in London, like The Shard, are tall enough that you have to crane your head to look at them. Skyscrapers in New York, however, are so tall you actually have to drop your head backwards and stare into the heavens. These buildings literally scrape the sky.
The Downtown Walking Tour
If you’re solo travelling in a new city, I highly recommend free walking tours. They normally last for about 2-3 hours and they are run by knowledgeable tour guides who are normally from the area and know about the history, culture and best places to go.
There are loads of different walking tours out there. This one starts off outside the George Washington statue on Wall Street. During the tour, we saw a surprisingly old church before heading over to the World Trade Centres. Wall Street is like a huge and more attractive version of Canary Wharf and the buildings are insane. Glass buildings can look a bit soulless, so I was surprised by how pretty it was in a glassy, modern type of way.
This part is (obviously) going to be upsetting and will involve talking about terrorist attacks. If you don’t feel you are able to read it then feel free to skip to the next section.
The 9//1 memorial is a really powerful and hard-hitting display of shared trauma, horror and survival. The spots where the North and South towers fell are marked by these bottomless waterfalls and the names of every victim are displayed on the side.
I hadn’t known (although it was really obvious thinking about it now) that so many other buildings were effected, but they are still building new trade centres in the area today to replace the buildings that were destroyed or severely damaged. Apparently, the one building in the vicinity which wasn’t damaged was an old colonial church.
The tour guide, who saw the twin tours falling from her office window in Downtown New York, told us the stories of some of the victims with such raw emotion. I’ve heard about 9/11 thousands of times, but I never really heard the individual stories of the victims.
Our guide told us about ‘the man in the red bandana’ who sacrificed his life to rescue others trapped in the building. We saw the names of two people who had met at work and were engaged to be married. We learned about the bravery of some of the people on the flight which didn’t reach its target, who rushed the cockpit door and prevented even more people dying.
I’ve seen a lot of people trivialise 9/11, people who say that those deaths are nothing compared to all those who died in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Our respective governments have a long and frankly shameful history with the Middle East and there may be some truth to the less outlandish conspiracy theories, but whatever you think caused those deaths or whatever you think ‘really happened’ it doesn’t change that the people who died were just regular people working in an office. People who had mothers, wives, children and friends.
Ground Zero is a really upsetting place, but you need to visit it to truly comprehend the horror of that day. Statistics don’t bleed, but these people weren’t statistics. They were all real people with families and friends.
The Strangest Train Station Ever
The World Trade Centre station resembles an American eagle about to take flight. This huge building project cost the American taxpayer billions of dollars and it went over schedule by six years, so there is a lot of controversy surrounding it. Some Americans simply didn’t want to pay for it, and the design reminds others of bones which is obviously uncomfortable giving the location.
The inside of this station is amazing. It looks more like a cathedral than a tube station, the design is at an angle so you can see the World Trade Centre through the ceiling, and our guide told us that the building is designed to give an otherworldly view of the sunset every year on September the 11th.
China Town, Little Italy & Soho
China Town is only one subway stop away from Wall Street, but it is a totally different place. New York’s China Town is quite similar to except that they have this awesome park where people play games and sing. it was interesting to learn more about immigration culture in America and how people from all over the world have helped shape the country and make it what it is today.
This was especially true of Little Italy. Italians have probably had a bigger influence over American food than any other nationality. Little Italy today is more like a ‘living museum’ than anything else and a lot of the restaurants are no longer authentic because a lot of the original businesses have moved on, but there are still some good places there if you know where to look.
We also learned a bit about the Mafia and one guy in particular who was shot in one of the pizza places in Little Italy.
Soho was quite interesting because it has gone through several periods of affluence and poverty in the last hundred years. Today the region isn’t that exciting, but there are still relics from where poor artists used to go and stay in squats.