This morning we took our first ride on the NYC subway. We weren’t too intimidated by the complex system after we had mastered numerous subway systems in Europe. I think we can both still name almost half of the stations in both Paris and London. Our journey to Lower Manhatten went quite smoothly. The subway system is definitely not as scary as everyone makes it out to be.
Our journey this morning took us right to the start of our Sandemans walking tour. You may remember this name as our favorite company of free walking tours in Europe (we went on enough of them…at least 6). New York is their only location so far in North America. We eagerly await more!
The tour was exactly as we remembered: a lot of history, sights and fun facts over 2.5 hours of walking. We are huge fans of walking tours. You can wander through Lower Manhatten and see the sights but it’s on the walking tour that you learn that the Statue of Librety’s pedistal was funded completely through donations & the majority of these donations were less than a dollar. Most came from children. Our guide also gave us 4000 years of New York history in under 6 minutes.
On the tour we caught our first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty (while on land…we won’t count the plane). The Statue of Liberty was given to the US by the people of France in1886, 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The statue is 46 m tall, 93 m from ground to torch and made of copper. Basically shes big, but not that thick. The statue is actually hollow with a skin only as thick as two pennies pressed
together. Lady Liberty has come to be an icon of freedom and the United States: a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad. You can pay big bucks to go out to the statue but we likely won’t do that, instead we’ll take the free Staten Island ferry later this week.
The tour also took us down Wall Street and by the New York Stock Exchange, which isn’t actually on Wall Street. The Stock Exchange is surrounded by crazy security and the adjacent streets are blocked off to traffic. Did you know that if New York city was its own country it would be the 15th richest based on GDP?
The final stop was the 9/11 Memorial. We discussed how the events of 9/11 are one of those defining moments, one of the first of our generation. Almost everyone over the age of 20 remembers where they were and what they were doing that September morning. We both do.
The location of the twin towers has become a memorial site. Built into each building’s foundation are manmade waterfalls. The names of the almost 3000 people who lost their lives that day are etched into the perimeter railing. It was a very moving site, quiet except for the sound of water. The city could easily have rebuilt on these sites but the absence speaks far greater.
Just beside the memorial is the new 9/11 Museum. There is a large amount of controversy concerning this museum; the families who lost loved ones are not happy with the way the events are portrayed. We’ve heard it’s very historical and factual. We plan on visiting later in our trip so we will provide more detailed description then. For now we think we like the idea of the museum. The events of that ill-fated morning are a part of history and need to be remembered as such. It’s the same way that we are now able to visit Aushwitz and tour WWII sites. These events and their tragedies need to be remembered so we can do our best not to repeat them.
Nearby is the Freedom Tower or One World Trade. This building is nearly complete and is the new tallest building in the city. The building is the same height as the old North Tower with a spire that brings it to 1776 ft (1776 being the year the United States became a country). This is just one of four buildings that will soon make up the new world trade complex.
After the tour we were starving and only had a little bit of time before our next event. We spotted a food truck selling lobster rolls. Eating lobster from a truck seemed slightly sketchy but our rolls were delicious: Kris had a spicy roll and Justine’s was scampi.
We viewed our first broadway show of the trip today; our only play. We bought tickets to The Cripple of Inishmaan strictly for one reason; we didn’t even know what it was about, just that Daniel Radcliffe was in it. Daniel Radcliffe! Aka Harry Potter! When you are part of the generation that grew up on HP books & movies and you get a chance to see Harry in real life you take it! Turns out TCOI was a comedy about a crippled boy & his neighbors on an Irish island in 1934. There is love & lose & tuberculosis…so basically everything you need to make a top notch play. And it was top notch. The actors were superb and the story was unexpected & touching. Plus we laughed literally uproariously through most of it. Daniel Radcliffe was everything we could have hoped he would be. And then after the show we got his autograph!!!!!!!!!!!!
The natural next move for us was to try to scope out the Tony’s red carpet. It seemed like a long shot but also like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we had to try. We ended up weaseling our way into a second row spot right where the celebrities got out of their vehicles. It was a perfect location for sneak peeks of all of the stars…and I mean all of them. Here’s a brief list of the A-listers we spotted: Neil Patrick Harris (soon to be Tony winner!), Orlando Bloom, Daniel Radcliffe, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sting, Ethan Hawke, Matt Bomer, Leighton Meester & Adam Brody, Lucy Liu, Fran Drescher, Rosie O’Donnell and Aladdin, The Genie (another of the night’s winners…can’t wait to see him in action this week!) & President Fitz from Scandal. We also saw Nick Fury (aka Samuel L Jackson) and Elsa (aka Idina Menzel)! Justine is obsessed with award shows so seeing the real red carpet entrances of her favorite stars at an EGOT event was a dream come true. (EGOT is an abbreviation for the 4 main award shows in case you didn’t know: Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony. There is only a very small group of people who have managed to win all 4.)
After being part of the red carpet festivities we were eager to watch the award show itself. There are restaurants and bars around New York that host viewings but they are terrifically expensive & have to be booked in advance. As we only found out yesterday the Tony’s were happening this weekend we obviously had not had the forethought to buy tickets to one. We considered trying to start a viewing party in the hostel common room, but it was too early to give up on the city and go “home.” Then Justine spotted an ad on one of the giant screens: “Watch tonight’s Tony Awards in Times Square #TonysSquare”…it was perfect! After sitting in the wrong location for a while and scarfing down some classic New York style pizza we found the large screen displaying the event accompanied by speakers pumping out each show-stopping number. It was a surreal experience to sit & watch & sing along with hundreds of like-minded fans. The Tony Awards just might be the most entertaining awards show, so many musical performances from Broadway shows we’ve seen and many we can’t wait to see. People clapped after each number & cheered when their favorites won. And to top it all off it was hosted by some girl we’d never heard of & Justin Guarini…yes, American Idol Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini…Did we accidentally travel back to 2002 without anyone telling us? We had had a blast this past winter at our Oscars Drinking Party but nothing could compare to this. To top it all off, the venue could not have been more amazing. It got darker & the lights got brighter and we felt like we were in a movie…so NYC.
WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY:
– The Statue of Liberty is made of copper. We know we’ve already said that but then we thought it through: That means the Statue of Liberty hasn’t always been green! She was originally all bright & shiny but oxidization left her looking the way she iconically does today.
– The Cripple of Inishmaan is a comedy!
– Justin Guarini is still alive.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DAY:
– Seeing Harry Freakin’ Potter in real life!
– Getting Daniel Radcliffe’s Autograph!
– Spending our evening singing along to show tunes with hundreds of other people. Do you hear the people sing??
Love, Luck & Lights,
Justine & Kris