We woke up feeling better than yesterday and with a clear blue sky over Manhattan. It seemed the perfect day to visit World Trade One after we’d dropped it during our first weekend because of a grey and cloudy sky.
Our original plan was to see Midtown with Times Square and 5th Avenue as central attractions. But while visiting Manhattan for the first time requires a visit to Midtown simply to cross it off the list, it was never a real priority in my eyes. Thus, it felt the perfect time to take a detour south visiting the observatory of Freedom Tower.
When we arrived I was dying from hunger and instead of making our way to Freedom Tower immediately, we headed off towards Brookefield Place across the road for a quick coffee and pastry.
After shopping in one or two of the fancy bakeries, we sat down at the large glass windows overlooking North Cove Yacht Harbor and the Hudson River.
Knowing that we’d have to spent the day in between some of the most recognisable skyscrapers of the world all day, it was fantastic to enjoy the view and a quick tour outside for a slight breeze.
One World Observatory
When we returned to One World Trade Center a small line had grown, but fortunately we managed to pass through quickly ending up in an elevator which during the 47 second travel time reached 1,268ft (386.5 m) while showing us a time lapse of Manhattan from 1500 AD to now.
I found this one on YouTube, but it can’t really measure with the real thing:
Once we reached floor 102 we were shown a short presentational video on a long and 3D canvas. As the final touch the movie screen open up to the outside view.
Up until then I had no orientation and felt as if we were hiding in the dark shadows of a presentational hall in the centre of the building. To realise that we stood by the windows overlooking Manhattan took my breath away.
Reaching the observatory deck, we spent an hour or more enjoying the blue sky over Manhattan. My favourite part was looking north towards Midtown and Central Park with the bridges to the right crossing over to Brooklyn. Such an iconic view.
We started at Herald Square taking a slow walk down 7th Avenue and Korean Town passing Empire State Building as we turned on to 5th. At 37th street we crossed to Broadway slowly making our way to Times Square.
However, we decided to make one more detour of the day crossing into Koreatown which lies on East 32nd Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue. It is a nice little place though I imagine that with more time, we would have gained more from our visit.
The Korean enclave is a relatively new phenomenon as it started in the 1980’s with the opening of a Korean book store and a few restaurants. Today the area holds more than a 100 shops and eateries and is a centre for the Korean community in the US.
I absolutely love the idea that even in modern times it is possible for small and culturally interesting enclaves to pop up in this massive metropolis and that they are offered some sort of recognition in the official nickname of this section of 32nd Street as Korea Way. It shows how this city continues to develop not only from the high-rises, but also from the multi-ethnic groups which call it their home.
As we moved closer to the epicentre of Manhattan tourism more and more cartoon dressed people started to show up. I knew there had been a Comic Con in New York from the 6th to the 9th of October , but all these dressed up people didn’t really fit the profile. Most of those I saw without their Iron Man or Goofy head on were short Mexicans.
They intermingled with the tourists getting money for pictures. I must admit that I myself fell for a photo with Iron Man mostly because it seemed the thing to do as we neared Times Square.
It seemed so similar to the young men with Middle Eastern and North African roots who sell small metal Eiffel Towers in Paris for 1€ at every major tourist attraction.
Here however, they were standing out in their cartoon customs moving about the tourists or off to the side in groups taking a break. It seemed so sad in my eyes and made me even more reluctant to hang around Times Square.
But we were getting hungry and before we knew it we were finding our way to a massive amount of mediocre American food at Dallas BBQ on West 42nd Street.
While the food was as all such chain restaurants can offer – nothing special – I did get a massive virgin Piña Colada which gave me an extensive brain freeze. I am still in shock regarding the portion and drink sizes in the US and it is not difficult to comprehend how the country has such major issues with obesity. I must have gain five kilos from just walking in the door at Dallas BBQ.
Once again moving towards Times Square I was surprised at how small it felt and how excessively dirty. Before leaving for the US we’d watched an episode of ‘Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations’ about New York City in which he contemplated on how Times Square had turned into an amusement park far detached from the everyday New Yorker.
Standing here crushed by tourist masses and Mexicans dressed up like cartoon characters with massive stores for Disney and M&M, I could only agree.
However, we were tourists ourselves and I’ve never claimed not to be a hypocrite in some sense of the word and before long we were enjoying the wonders of the Disney Store considering whether or not to by a BB-8 or R2-D2. A discussion we’d also had while in Tokyo. Disney Stores just bring out that inner child. We’ll probably have the same discussion the next time we see a Disney Store.
Leaving behind the masses at Times Square we made it up Broadway to 57th street and on towards 5th Avenue and Trump Tower. With absolutely no interest in standing around that place, we moved on to 53rd street and the Museum of Modern Art.
On Friday nights nearby Uniqlo – one of my favourite stores – sponsors free entrance to MoMA between 4 and 8 pm. While I am not much for art museums, I am well aware that a visit to New York is not complete without a stop at MoMA.
While the museum itself did not fascinate me more than similar museums in Europe, I was happily surprised at how full it was because of the Uniqlo Free Friday Nights.
However there was one exhibition which caught my attention namely Bouchra Khalili: The Mapping Journey Project. I was caught by the travels that these immigrants had been on crisscrossing Europe and returning to Africa before criss-crossing Europe again. All of it in hopes of a better future and through constant exploitation by other.
One had given up a good living in Italy where he had found a peaceful job in order to pay for a ticket to Barcelona where his uncle could exploit him by forcing him to work under dismal conditions.
These fates and their stories as migrant workers was terrifying and the installations through which they told their stories were so brutally honest.
And yes, off course I ended up at Uniqlo after our visit to MoMA. Still awaiting the brands arrival in Denmark, I take every chance I can to shop in one of their stores.
After intense shopping in Uniqlo we took a few minutes to contemplate in peace at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue, while watching a couple saying I do.
We ended the evening in our own neighbourhood with a well deserved pizza.