I travelled on a pre-booked Amtrack train from Boston to New York which took approximately four and a half hours. The trains look like great tin metal monsters but are comfy and reliable. I discovered that although the distances are relatively short from Boston to New York, and from New York to Washington, many people from these particular cities don’t take the opportunity to travel from one to the other, seemingly preferring to stay in their particular patch. Another surprise came when I noticed after a few days in New York how understated New Yorkers general dress attire was. I guess that I expected something more akin to some London flair and eccentricity, but people there on the whole dressed down, which although no problem revealed something unexpected by me. Also, there was a distinct lack of supermarkets! I had assumed that supermarkets were an American invention and I believe that they were, but shopping for food was rather a weird experience as I couldn’t find many outlets. This was due to no doubt being a nieve New York shopper, and all would have been revealed had I stayed longer. But when I enquired about supermarkets when in Boston, I was told that they didn’t have them there! I did however come across a food market, without the super prefix. I’m so used to the usual Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc, logo’s big and bold demanding our attention and our money everywhere I go on this small island, I was rather mystified as to where people accessed their food supplies in the States. Food generally became rather baffling for me, as nothing seemed to be served on a plate. In the general cafes and food vendors, it came pre-wrapped, or in cardboard type boxes. only if I went to a restaurant I found plates, but these places being expensive, I made do on the whole with the packaging. I guess I’m making rather too much of the food aspect, but it is an important factor when travelling and these small shocks put me in my place regarding false assumptions about the great wide expanses of the States and I had to conclude that although I spoke and understood the language, it is another culture.
View from my New York Hotel
I stayed in a ‘Pod’ hotel (17th floor) on 42nd and 9th, which is a budget chain hotel with a massive turn over, mainly of young travellers. The room was very compact, designed to accommodate necessities in a very streamlined and clever way, it worked out fine for me. the area is known as Hells Kitchen – the name apparently derived from a way back area of South London that was considered dangerous. So too was the American version until it was sorted out by the Mayor, and is now quite sort after. Although it isn’t exactly a residential area – as usual in New York, skyscrapers appeared to house the residents that lived there. It’s a stone’s throw from Times Square and Broadway, which made it incredibly busy, overflowing with people – many of whom were tourists visiting for the Christmas New Year period. Times Square was a much smaller area than I had expected from the media photos that I have seen over the years, but it did have an exciting atmosphere full of vague expectations, hopes, and desires, that accumulate in such iconic locations.
Another iconic location that I visited soon after my arrival, was the 9/11 Memorial which I definitely wanted to see. I had followed the project somewhat from when Daniel Libeskind designed the original master plan, but I lost track when things became fraught amongst the competitors and overseers of the massive project. Apparently, Libeskind’s original contribution was followed by further commissioned architects, but I believe that rather unfairly, his name is somewhat understated in the constructions credits. it was a Sunday when I visited and a lovely day, which added to the amazing reflections and shadows formed on and by the waterfalls, which encompass the two square memorials where once the two towers stood. The water flows from the sides of the squares into a deep basin, which houses massively deeper squares within, into which the water flows and is then recycled back again to repeat its journey. This suggests the falling of the towers may be, and a resurrection which is continuous – but this is only my reflections on the significance of the memorial, yet it is a continual presence for people to visit and contemplate, whether it be someone who grieves, or like myself a visitor from afar.