new york city – day three

I know, I know. It’s almost been a year since my trip to New York City. But, life gets in the way and the blog project takes a back seat. Here’s day three:

For a third day in a row, we were graced with absolutely beautiful weather, which made the jam-packed agenda a little more bearable. Our third day was going to be just as busy as our first and second, but it was planned to start with a much more somber tone. After two days of exploring the sights of midtown Manhattan , we were headed downtown and to Ground Zero.

After leaving the hotel, we set out for the stereotypical New York City morning commute: bagels while riding the subway downtown. We found bagels near the hotel and while standing on the sidewalk attempting to figure out which subway line to take downtown, a very friendly stranger looked up from her coffee and offered help. I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be rude? Honestly, riding the subway was quite exhilarating. I’ve ridden the subway before in cities around the world, but there was something about being on it in NYC.

We took the 1 train and got off at the Chambers Street Station. As we emerged on to the sidewalk, you could sense that something was different about this part of the city. The air was palpable with the sense that something major had happened, even though it had occurred fifteen years earlier. I wrote about my experience of Ground Zero in this post from last September and it’s honestly too much to recount again. I recommend reading it again if you have a chance.

I lingered at One World Trade Center, delaying the inevitable wave of emotions that I knew was coming once I approached the memorial. Much like the day of the attacks, I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for the scale of the pools of water. I wasn’t prepared for the seemingly endless ring of names. I wasn’t prepared for the vivid flashbacks. I couldn’t look away from the waterfalls as they cascaded down into the pools and then further to the middle where the water completely disappeared.

The density of buildings in downtown was truly astonishing. Buildings towered over the sidewalks in a way that I’ve never experienced in a city before. There was a frantic energy in downtown NYC that was much different than the other parts of the city we had seen over the last two days. There were a few buildings that I wanted to see while exploring downtown. The first was the Woolworth Building located across from City Hall Park. A gothic styled tower completed in 1913, the building was the inspiration for the 1916 zoning ordinance that governed how tall a building could be before needing to be stepped back from the street. This was done in an effort to alleviate the canyon-like feeling that came as downtown towers grew taller.

Next was the first of two Frank Gehry buildings on the day’s itinerary: Beekman Tower aka New York by Gehry aka 8 Spruce Street. As with most buildings in NYC, this tower was best viewed from a distance. We took in the sights from City Hall Park and a brief walk up the Brooklyn Bridge. Architects seem to either love or hate Frank Gehry’s work and I fall in the former category. While some of his buildings can be a touch too derivative, Beekman Tower is a dazzling addition to the downtown skyline. While the facade form is varied and dances in the light, the windows follow a regular pattern similar to older, neighboring buildings.

We walked back through City Hall Park on our way to Chinatown and Little Italy. The park was alive with street performers and tourists and food trucks. For a lunch appetizer, we got some ice cream and walked towards Chinatown. Stepping in to the neighborhood was like stepping into a completely different world – just a few moments prior we were surrounded with skyscrapers. Just as soon as we had stepped into China, we then set foot in Italy. The change in cultures within a few city blocks was incredible. We dined on delicious pasta at Ristorante Luna on Mulberry Street and splurged on dessert and afternoon coffee at Ferrara Bakery on Grand Street.

Active, vibrant street life in Chinatown and Little Italy.

After seeing vibrant neighborhoods of Chinatown and Little Italy, we walked over to the SoHo neighborhood. The streets were lined with intricately detailed cast-iron facades and boutique designer shops. I stopped in at the TASCHEN store and bought a Renzo Piano book to commemorate my visit to New York. I could’ve easily spent all afternoon in the store and would’ve spent all of my money on architecture books.

Our afternoon plans were to see the new Whitney Museum of American Art – designed by Renzo Piano – and as soon as we got out of the Uber, a massive thunderstorm squall line moved in from across the Hudson River. We watched from the porch before being chased inside by the driving rain. Tired from walking and exhausted from taking in so many sights, we elected to simply enjoy a glass of refreshing white wine at the museum cafe before taking a stroll down The High Line after the rain passed. The High Line was simply wonderful and provided a new perspective to see the city. You’re above the streets, but not fully removed from the activity.

Our stroll on the High Line took us to the second Frank Gehry building on my list: the IAC Building at W 18th Street and 11th Avenue. The building is atypical Frank Gehry: instead of billowing and shimmering aluminum panels, the IAC Building is made entirely of glass curtainwall. However, it maintains similar billowing characteristics of other Gehry projects. I asked an employee as she exited if I could go in to see the lobby. Her comment: “It’s just an office building, it’s not that interesting.” So much for architecture. Located next door is 100 Eleventh Avenue by architect Jean Nouvel. This building is not nearly as refined as the IAC largely because it boasts one of the most technologically advanced curtainwall systems in NYC. I was not a fan, especially next to the IAC.

One thing on Nicola’s list was to have a nice dinner out on the town one night. After a thoroughly busy day, we refreshed ourselves at the hotel and took the subway to dinner. We celebrated our last night in NYC with a delightful evening at The Odeon located in downtown. We were originally seated inside, but it was so loud that we could hardly hear ourselves think. Our waitress accommodated our request and moved us to a table outside on the sidewalk, under the canopy. From the restaurant, our table had a view of One World Trade Center . Honestly, this was one of the best dinners I’ve had in a long time. We ate at our own pace, enjoyed the food and wine while watching the street life of downtown.

Day three was busy, busy, busy. What started as an emotional rollercoaster with a visit to Ground Zero and ended with a relaxing dinner, was a day filled with making memories while seeing numerous different parts of the city. However, day four still had many adventures waiting for us after a good night’s sleep.


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