News from Nationals: New York City Impressions

I’m a California gal who hadn’t been to New York City before, so being there was a novelty.

My initiation began with the shuttle ride from JFK International to the Marriott Marquis. That’s a ride I won’t forget any time soon. I used to think there are a lot of vehicles in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but NYC has more, I feel certain.

Times Square with Broadway show advertisements

My knowledge of the city had come from TV and movies. I’ve decided they must clear the streets when they film those scenes. There aren’t nearly enough pedestrians or cabs to give a realistic picture. At times I witnessed a sea of yellow cabs flying by at warp speed, the drivers dodging the flood of people who seem to think walking before the “green man” appears is fine. By the end of the week, I’d grown adventurous enough to join ’em. 🙂

Marriott Marquis on Broadway

I arrived at the conference hotel, the Marriott Marquis, on Monday morning tired after my red-eye flight. Though I hadn’t been able to sleep due to the turbulence, I was too wound up to crash. I ditched my stuff in the room and ventured outdoors.

The Romance Writers of America had said on their website that the hotel was in the heart of the action, but I didn’t understand just how true that statement was. I left the lobby and found myself standing in Times Square at Broadway, the very place I’ve watched the ball drop on television for the past few decades. Talk about exciting. (Note: I took the shot below at 7 a.m., which is why the place is practically empty. At night it’s jam-packed.)

Times Square with a view of "The Ball"

I’d not had a full meal since my final Taco Bell fix in California some twelve hours before, so I went in search of food. I never did locate a Taco Bell, to my dismay, but I found a McDonald’s across the street from the hotel and was happy. Turns out there are several Mickey D’s in the area. I found a less “touristy” one a block away on one of my forays.

Times Square McDonald's

Once fed, I had the afternoon free since the conference didn’t kick off until the next day. There’s plenty to see and do in NYC, but I had limited time. I asked myself what was the one thing I most wanted to see. That was easy. When I was in the sixth grade I’d written my first term paper on the Statue of Liberty. A quick stop at the concierge’s desk provided me with the info I needed.

Within minutes I was in a cab hailed by a bellman headed down Manhattan toward Battery Park at the tip of the island. I’m a small-town gal who’s ridden in a taxi a whopping five or six times, so I was being uncharacteristically brave. The driver got me there in one piece, gave me directions, and I was off.

My choices were to take the free Staten Island ferry that takes passengers by the statue or pay for a ride on a boat that stops at both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Being a historical writer who loves visiting historic sites, I chose the latter.

Keli with Liberty Island in the background

Seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time was quite a thrill. As the boat rocked and swayed on that warm day, I relished the feel of the mist on my skin and the gentle breeze dancing in my hair. I kept my camera clicking as the boat passed by the island.

Since I’m both claustrophobic and afraid of heights, I wasn’t too disappointed to find out that the tickets to go inside Lady Liberty that day were sold out. I could have gotten off the boat at Liberty Island, but one look at the thousands of people waiting for the return trip helped me make my decision. The Statue of Liberty is far bigger than I’d realized, so I felt I got the best view from the boat. And what a view!

The Statue of Liberty

I chose to use the limited time I had to debark at Ellis Island. What a thrill it was to tour the three floors of the facility where up to 5,000 immigrants a day went through the many steps required to gain admission to the U.S.

Keli at Ellis Island

Inside the Ellis Island Registry Room

The large Registry Room pictured above is where the immigrants waited their turn to talk with the Immigration Service officers. They stood at podiums like that pictured below, which can barely be seen in the distance in the photo above.

Keli inside the Ellis Island Registry Room

After my enlightening self-guided tour of Ellis Island, I returned to Battery Park. Now I faced a challenge. I’d never hailed a cab in my life and couldn’t remember the instructions RWA had given us on how one goes about doing so. I watched for a cab and saw one pull up to let another passenger out. I raced over and leaned down to make eye-contact with the driver, who opened the window and motioned me inside when I asked if he could take me to the Marriott Marquis.

That cab ride was one of the highlights of my NYC stay. The driver was a native New Yorker complete with the delightful accent I expected. I told him he was carrying a passenger who was spending her first day in New York City and that his was the first cab I’d ever hailed on my own. The gentleman turned out to be talkative and spent the entire ride imparting interesting information about NYC and the places we were passing.

At one point, we went by Ground Zero. As many times as I watched those horrifying images on television ten years ago, I didn’t realize where the Twin Towers were in relation to the rest of the city. They were right in the heart of Manhattan.

Ground Zero

The sight moved me to tears. The driver stopped for a red light just then, and I asked if he’d mind if I rolled down the window to take a couple of pictures. Knowing he’d lived through that day, I didn’t want to appear insensitive. He had no trouble with it and proudly pointed out the Freedom tower being built next to the Ground Zero memorial. The loquacious fellow spent the rest of my ride recounting his experiences on 9-11 while I made liberal use of a tissue.

The Freedom Tower

The conference kicked off on Tuesday. I took advantage of my free time in the evenings to walk around Times Square. By the third day I was growing tired of McDonald’s, so I went in search of a salad. While on my quest, I discovered some fun sites.

Radio City Music Hall

Right next to the Radio City Music Hall I spotted an entrance to the subway. While I chose not to take a subway since I’ve ridden on many during my days living in Germany, I did want to see what a subway station looked like, so I ventured below ground. What I found was that a person can get almost any kind of food she wants in the city’s underbelly. I located a shop that sold salads where I could choose my toppings, a bakery with yummy scones, and–yes–even a Subway restaurant.

NYC Subway Map

Because I’m a writer who was in NYC for a writers conference, I got quite excited when I read the names on the skyscrapers I passed on my way back to the hotel and saw Simon & Schuster, which is right across the street from The McGraw•Hill Companies. Apparently I was the only one to experience the thrill of seeing some NYC publishing houses because no one else whipped out a camera to snap shots of the buildings the way I did. 🙂

Simon & Schuster

One evening I braved the throngs in Times Square to get a feel for the city at night. I can see why NYC is known as The City That Never Sleeps. At 9:30 p.m. I was in the three-story M&M’s World, and the place resembled a Christmas Eve rush at the malls back home.

One can see the most unexpected sites in Times Square when the crowds are in full force. I saw the Naked Cowgirl by day and the Naked Cowboy by night. There were scantily clad young gals in red and black advertising the Broadway hit Chicago. But what I will remember most are the ginormous neon billboards everywhere.

Times Square at night

Thanks for taking time to read my impressions of NYC. I apologize for getting the post up late, but I brought back an unexpected souvenir from my stay, a pesky cold bug, and am feeling pretty crummy. Even so, I plan to blog about the conference itself on Friday.


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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20 Responses to News from Nationals: New York City Impressions

  1. Angi Morgan says:

    Nice, Keli. Looks like you had a great time.

  2. Keri Stevens says:

    Oh, Keli. We went on a boat tour, and the guide/owner told about using his private craft after 9-11 to deliver supplies, pump water because the power grid was out. I teared up, too.

  3. Erica Vetsch says:

    You are so brave! I think I’d have been freaking out all by myself in NYC. Love the photographs!

  4. Wow! What a town this IS. NYC! Your pics are splendid. I’ve never been to New York City. You did well with your camera! Thanks for sharing, Keli. Blessings to you…

  5. Thanks for letting us view NYC through the eyes of a newbie. i remember my first view. I could not believe the traffic, the people, the accents heard everywhere! You have earned my respect for venturing out on your own!

  6. territiffany says:

    I’ve been there so many times but never alone! You were so brave to hail a taxi and all! I hate their rides and they are a thrill. I never made it to Ellis Island and wish I had. I would have loved that. Glad you had such an awesome time!

  7. infinitieh says:

    Thanks for your first-visit report! Next time I’m in town, I’m going to try to visit Ellis Island, if I could manage to pry myself away from my niece and nephew, that is.

  8. Jeannie Moon says:

    It was fun reading your post! As a New Yorker (I live about an hour east of the city and worked in the city in my 20’s) we forget how overwhelming Manhattan can be. Glad you had a good time and made some memories.

  9. I sooooo enjoyed your pictures, Keli. I’ve never been to New York and I felt like I truly was on a guided tour with your comments and photos. Thank you very much.

  10. Lisa Jordan says:

    What a fun post! I can’t believe you did it all by yourself though. I’m so impressed!!

    I’ve never been to an RWA conference. Maybe the next time it’s on the east coast, I’ll consider it.

  11. cynthiaherron says:

    I second Erica and Lisa! You were so brave, Keli, to venture out and about by yourself! Thank you for letting us live the trip through your eyes! 🙂 (And when you mentioned Ground Zero and as I scrolled through the photos, I must say I became teary-eyed, too.)

    I pray you feel better soon! (I think I’m fighting a similar bug.)

  12. the writ and the wrote says:

    Sounds like you had a great time, Keli. I’m so envious you go to go to NYC. It’s been #1 on my list of places to visit since I knew such a place existed.

  13. Susan Mason says:

    Thanks for sharing your take on NYC! Your pictures are gorgeous! If you give up writing, you can always become a travel photographer!!
    Hope you’re feeling better!


  14. Beth Vogt says:

    So glad you had so much fun in NYC! I spent a weekend there with two good friends–it was the same weekend I found out I had landed a contract for my non-fiction book, so NYC is a special place for me!

  15. I’ve never been to NYC but your post did an excellent job of making me feel like I was there with you. Fantastic pictures!! I don’t think I’d have been bold enough to travel around alone, but you obviously saw lots of wonderful sights and had a great time. Can’t wait for your Friday post to hear all about the conference.

  16. candidkerry says:

    Loved seeing NYC through your eyes! You’re very brave venturing out in the big city. I grew up in CT. and remember seeing Broadway, China Town, various museums, and Lady Liberty as a child. It’s definitely a city everyone should see at least once in their life.

    I’m so glad you had a good time, and I hope you feel better soon. Might be those airplane germs.

    Take care! Looking forward to your Friday post!

  17. Hi Keli! Welcome back!

    When I lived in NYC, I temped in the World Trade Center for a day, seven years before 9/11. I was very familiar with the massive presence of the WTC, as I worked in Manhattan for four years.

    9/11 gave me PTSD for about a year, even though I lived in Atlanta at the time. I started crying almost immediately when I heard about the planes flying into the buildings, before the towers even fell. My reaction surprised some people who were still in shock, but I think knowing the reality of those buildings made it too close to home. I can tell you understand that, now that you have seen the site.

    On a happier note, I look forward to hearing about the conference!

  18. Loree Huebner says:

    Looks like it was a great time! I’ve been to NYC once (2007) and it was a real pleasant weekend trip. Saw many of the sights you posted pictures of. Ground Zero made me cry too.

  19. I’m so glad you made it to Ellis Island! I knew you would love it. 🙂

    And your subway story reminded me of a blonde moment I had the last time I went to NYC. I was there for work a couple years ago, working in our office on Times Square late into the day and was starving! Not knowing the restaurants and not wanting to sit by myself at a fancy place, I saw a Subway across the street and thought, “Perfect!” I ventured out, walked across the street, and looked inside the Subway. No sandwich counter anywhere. Yep, you guessed it. It was the actual subway. I know, I know…Feel free to throw out the dumb blonde jokes. Not one of my finer moments. 🙂

    I hope you’re feeling better soon!

  20. I’m a few days late reading this post, Keli – – but thank you for sharing your NYC adventures with us. WOW!! You sound very brave getting out on your own and exploring – – I’m impressed! 🙂 I’ve never visited NYC so I really enjoyed your perspective and all the photos. ~ So sorry you brought home a cold – – YUK – – a summer cold is no fun. Please feel better soon!

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