Daily report: New York City - Day 2!

By Nils van Kleef

Yesterday's party was awesome. In fact it was so awesome that some of us (I am not calling names) had to be woken at around eight in the morning by someone else who knew we had to gather in the lobby at eight.. Today is the day of a New York City tour, that means that we get to see all the important touristic sights in New York City and have an enthusiastic guide to go along with it. The advantage of the way the tipping system in America works is that everybody works hard to get a decent tip. I would not directly say implement it in Europe or the Netherlands, but it does help in getting good service everywhere.

We got picked up by the tour bus. Because it was thát early, we were served breakfast right there and were allowed to eat it on the bus. While we were enjoying breakfast (the same type of sandwiches we had yesterday, at least from the same toko), an enthusiastic guide told us all about the sights around where we were being driven. He used to be a hippy back in the 70s. He did not at all mind to say that all he did was smoke weed for about 10 years until he decided to quit. Now he is a republican. When we asked him, he told us you do get more conservative as you get older. Seems to me he is right, as you get older you have a lot more to lose and are living a slower life already, making it harder to cope with changes. Maybe it is some kind of evolutionary mechanism? The youngers push for more adventurous undertakings, while the older keep the younger wary?

Our first stop was Central Park. We did not see much of this gigantic park, but enough to get some information to take in. This park was once rocky area. It was flattened and turned into a park following European model of the time, also making it the largest man-made park in the U.S. It was created to give New Yorkers (Manhattaners of the time) a natural area to spend their pasttime.

We went to the Rockefeller Center next. Mr. Guide told us that this nowadays is no longer owned by the Rockefeller family, but by some Chinese investment firm. It is the second tallest building in NYC after the Empire State Building, now that the World Trade Center towers are gone. The tour guide also knew of every tall building the build date, and whether it was the tallest building built at the time and when it was again surpassed. This reminds me that to Americans, dates and facts are very important. It seems that because Europeans have been around for thousands of years, time does not matter that much to them anymore, whereas the U.S. exists less than 250 years, thus if something happened 10 years later or sooner, it is a huge difference in relative time to them.

The Madison Square was a place we had already been to. This is where we first set foot in New York after getting off the train at Penn(sylvania) station. This is still a pretty much impressive place, with tall buildings all around you.

At the Grand Central Station we saw another example of American architecture showing Greco and Roman style influences, but doing it in such a wrong way that it is ugly. It is like taking Jugendstil and removing all the swirls that turn it into the way it makes it the way it is. After we got out we saw an accident just having taken place. A woman was lying at the roadside. Apparently she tried crossing the street when she was hit by a car or something. She was moaning and twisting a bit, suggesting she was hurt but still alive. Police were by her side standing around, probably waiting for an ambulance to arrive. When our guide tried to lead us past them, a policeman said, Southpark style, "move along people" and I conveniently forgot if he added "nothing to see here" or not.

We got to the boat tour but the boat was already full. We had to take one about one and a half hour later. This meant that we could take the tour to Wall Street first. Luckily for Rom, our accompanying lecturer, he could still be on the boat tour before he had to be on the taxi to the plane that would take him back to the Netherlands. Thus, we got to Wall Street. There we had a quick peek around, and our guide of course had some annecdotes on the buildings and people here.

We took the boat trip, where we once again were in the priority line (we are in priority lines almost everywhere, from trains to tours to restaurants, not plane flight though. A couple of us went up the stairs to the upper deck, others remained on the lower deck either on the outside or inside. A lot of Chinese tourists crawled up all around us upstairs to make pictures of every sight from every possible angle. The boat tour guide clearly did not want this. He was an enthusiastic immigrant from Cyprus (got here when he was 6), who clearly had dealt with this before. He started using arm gestures and a loud voice to get the Chinese tourists to move away from the left side on top of the boat, because he wanted the people who sat to have at least some kind of view and his tour would be on that side. When the Chinese did not seem to hear he almost forcefully removed them back to the lower part of the boat.

The boat trip started in the south-eastern part of the city, and gradually moved down and around the island, so we could see down town Manhattan in its tallest glory. With the loss of the World Trade Center, New York certainly lost a great landmark, as they were by far the tallest buildings in the city. After a short while up the Hudson River, the boat turned and we got to see New Jersey. This place also has a couple of skyscrapers, and is a large city in and by itself. But no tourist hardly ever notices it.

We already saw our next mini-goal far away: the Statue of Liberty. The guide told us all about Staten Island, where the poorer people tried to enter America. After we got past that, the boat entered patriotic mode, as did the guide. He went on with "God bless America", but noted that people who do not believe in his God should not feel offended, after which he added a quick and more silent "God bless America" again. Then again he was very enthusiastic all along the way, but a bit too much and too much pro-America at times. The American National Anthem started playing and we went past the Statue of Liberty, where the boat turned around a couple of times.

We sailed up the river east of Manhattan, past the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge. He told us that New York (Manhattan - named after the Indian name for the area, called island of the many hills, which were all sequently flattened), Brooklyn (from Breukelen) and Queens (named after the British queen) were once separate cities. The government (or state for that matter) then decided to add these cities together under the name of New York. Bronx (some Swedish name) was added later. (and Staten Island is also part of it)

After we docked, we gave Rom a fond farewell. He had to go back to the Netherlands, since he filled in because we could not get another teacher to come with us. We were sorry to see him go, because he had promoted the group feeling very well and he participated in all company visits and activities with a lot of energy. He was also a lot of fun the night before!

Ground Zero was our final stop of the day. Back on the bus, we were dropped off at the pit where all we saw were construction sites. We got a good view from an adjacent building and he told us he had been a cop (now retired) back when the events of 9-11 happened in 2001. He became very emotional and showed us with pictures how the site looked like just hours and days after the events. He did not talk at all about the mosque that will be built close by the site.

We had a free afternoon after this. Some people made a round through the financial district, china town, or other parts of the city. Others took a bit of sleepy time back at the hotel (which they really needed).

Almost evening, a few tourgangers went to the Rockefeller Center, for 'Top of the Rock' tour. We had heard the sunset was pretty nice to watch, and thus we ventured there. A couple of other Pixelators also had the same idea, and thus at the top we saw others as well. It was quite a busy time of day at the top of the building, which was because of bad weather the past 7 days. The view was quite marvelous and after waiting some time the sun finally went under. As we saw the lights turn on in all of Manhattan and further, we found the 21 dollars we had to pay for the view to be worth it.

The evening, some groups went back to the hotel after grabbing a bite, while others went out for a drink. I personally went with a couple of other fellas to the Duvel, a bar where they obviously had Belgian beers. They however also had a Dutch flavour. Once one of us went to the restroom, we heard.. Dutch music! Yes! Among the toppers we heard were 'Goede Doel' - 'België', 'Guus Meeuwis' met 'Ik wil je' en 'Clouseau' met 'Anne'. And most of us went to bed on time, taking a well-needed rest from yesterday and getting freshed up for the journey to Washington DC.


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