I can now say I’ve totally been to the state of New York, as well as its eponymous island city (and Queens for a bit, too). All of the media I’ve ever seen about New York feels largely validated, although I never got above 60th Street, so the Upper Sides, Harlem, and The Bronx are still mysteries to me.
Staying in a hotel near Times Square definitely put us smack dab in the middle of human traffic incarnate. It matters not what day or time it is, people were just around and moving to and fro, like some eternal orchestration. The automobile traffic was no slouch either, and a bus that went on a 10 mile tour through the south part of Manhattan took over 3 hours. Life always seems hectic in the city, but it felt more hectic than any other big city I’d been in before. Seeing tons of trash bags lining the street everywhere was really disconcerting, too.
As tourists, we of course took in some sights. Some of the attractions we visited were the new 9/11 memorial, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Wall Street, Battery Park, and a boat tour that cut its jib from the West River to the East River and back again. Seeing the city by day while on a bus crawling through traffic was like the yin to our dusk-to-evening relaxing sail’s yang. Both methods are equally good ways to see NYC, so I recommend them each if you ever visit.
Once our initial interest in the overwhelming civilization section of New York had been slaked, we hopped on a train headed toward Albany. Getting through Penn Station was as much of a taste of chaos as I thought it would be, so watching green foliage race by as I sat in my window seat on Amtrak was a nice change of pace.
We picked up a rental car in Albany and drove to Rochester, making a pit stop in Syracuse on the way so my father-in-law could revisit his hometown. Upstate New York definitely looks and feels like the South. Lots of trees and too much humidity (in Aug/Sep, at least). The whole reason for the trip was to go to my wife’s cousin’s wedding reception, which was held at a community center of sorts, replete with free alcohol and an area out back that allowed us to play football and go on nature walks. The weather was nice, but there were mosquitoes to fend off. It’s all good when there’s an ice cream truck at the event, though.
The end of our trip was spent in actual Canada at a bed and breakfast in Niagara Falls. Liquid H2O dropping over an embankment at such a scale was very impressive, and getting really close to it in a boat was a uniquely pleasing experience. I’d never stayed at a B&B, so that was both interesting and just a tad bit awkward at times. The food we got served for breakfast was exquisite, though, and I’d go back just for that if I had to.
It was too bad that the actual town of Niagara felt a bit like mini-Vegas, trashy in its transparent desire to ensnare tourists with every chain restaurant you could think of, wax museums, and laser tag establishments, all crammed into a few blocks. This scene was just on the other side of a huge center of sorts set up for the Falls, a very weird juxtaposition of natural and artificial spectacle. Still, all in all, the area outside the kitschy glitz felt quite bucolic, and my wife and I enjoyed sitting on a swing on the front porch of the B&B, swinging and taking in the atmosphere.
FOR THE ROAD
I’m always glad to add another state to my US experience. Despite being born in Pennsylvania, I’d never traveled anywhere further north until now. It has piqued my interest to go back to New York, as well as visiting the New England states. Honestly, I could just spend an entire day in Central Park, because hot damn that is a sweet piece of real estate.