Concrete Jungle

Instead of flying directly to our main destination of Woods Hole, we decided to make a two and a half day stop over in New York City since we were going to be on the east coast already. Trying to make the most of our daylight hours in the Big Apple, we thought it would be a good idea to take a red-eye flight. Although I’ve flown on red-eye flights before, I feel like I now know the true meaning of this aptly colourful name because bloodshot eyes were my day-long companion. Our decision, however, paid off as we were able to survive a long day of sightseeing without having to pay for an additional hotel night. Chalk that reasoning up to the fact that we’re of Dutch background or that we’re all poor university students. You can take your pick…they both work.

After being picked up by a shuttle van, we dodged in and out of traffic like our lives depended on it as we drove to our hotel. There were a couple times when I thought we might not make it in one piece…but the driver seemed to know what he was doing. Maybe “seemed” is the operative word in that sentence. I’ve come to the realization that people love the fact that their vehicles have horns. Passive aggressiveness abounds on the roads of New York…maybe subtract the passive part and leave in the aggressive aspect. There’s nothing really passive about honking horns and cutting people off left, right and centre. It seems that both the pedestrians and vehicles think they each rule the road.

I must say that driving (and walking) through New York is quite overwhelming. Not only is the city pulsing with energy and noise, but there’s so much visual information that your senses go on overdrive. It’s quite a sight to behold! Buildings tower above you on all sides, lights are flashing, horns are honking, and people jaywalking into on-coming traffic like they own the roads. The concept of concrete jungle seems to become a reality.

Our first official sightseeing adventure was the Walkin’ Broadway Tour led by an energetic aspiring Broadway actress named Rory. After donning our somewhat dorky little headsets, our small group of six (made up of us three girls, two Germans and our guide) headed out to brave the chaos. Rory toured us through the streets pointing out old and new theatres, and telling us their history and the impact they had on today’s society. Throughout the day we had perfect weather. It was warm with a slight breeze which made meandering through crowds of people and cars much more pleasant!

I must say that the highlight of my day had to be going to the Rockefeller Centre. We took an elevator (equipped with fluorescent lighting and psychedelic music) up to the 67th floor called the “Top of the Rock”. The 45 second ascent brought us to an awe-inspiring 360 degree view of New York City. Some of the landmarks that were visible included the Empire State building, Chrysler building, Central Park, Hudson River, Statue of Liberty, and Yankee Stadium. It’s astounding to think about the vastness of the city, but it’s also overwhelming to think that originally this was untouched land. Now, there seems to be no part of the land that hasn’t been altered in some way or another. Even Central Park which stands out as a lush green oasis has been cultivated and molded to look a certain way.

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