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.
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. 🙂
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.