BY RICKY MONTECILLO
November 15, 2016
You could feel the energy. The speed by which people moved, the fast pace, people in big numbers strutting towards different directions in the subways.
It’s dizzying. It’s exhilarating. People of New York in all shapes, sizes and of various races. Mostly Americans, immigrants and tourists. The scenes in the subways and New York’s streets tell a story of a place, where diversity is the culture.
A true melting pot and beautiful coming together in this City called New York.
It was a special trip for my family. The airline where I work started to fly to the big Apple last year and ever since, my wife Tina has been egging me to go. Our kids are all grown up now and the financial burden of putting them to school is over. Going to New York has been on our list for some time and this November was a perfect chance to go. Weather is good, and flights are not too crowded.
And so there we were with my daughter Samantha, sister-in-law Lyn and my US immigrant son Carlo. An intimate family reunion in the big Apple. It was a once in a lifetime chance. Carlo has been working in the states for more than 8 years already and every year Tina and I go visit him in the Bay Area. This is the first time that we will meet up in New York.
So how does one tour the Big Apple and see the most sites in a short time? Like the Amazing Race TV series, we toured this awesome City in New York fast-paced fashion, brisk walking thru the city streets and thru it’s remarkable and organized subway system!
With limited time, we were able to go and see so many sites. Our secret? Good pairs of comfortable walking shoes and a Millennial daughter who is adept at using the Google Maps. It was like having a tour guide, we never got lost!
Another thing to remember is to book your hotel in Manhattan where everything is happening. We booked ours ( courtesy of my 30-year employee incentive award from the airline) in 32nd street in Midtown Manhattan. A stone’s throw away from Madison Square Garden and on the other side of the street is the famous Empire State Building and Macy’s Department Store . It is also one subway stop away from the marvelous Times Square.
Subway stations are practically everywhere and trust Google Maps to take you anywhere.
The City is simply overwhelming! The seat of Capitalism and democracy, New York exemplifies what America is. We were able to go and see the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Central Park, the Rockefeller Building, the Empire State Building, the National Library, Grand Central Station, the 9/11 Memorial, and the Statue of Liberty the MET and other tourist spots!
It was special cause we traveled as a family. It made our experience meaningful. There’s something special about seeing the world while holding the hands of the ones you love. The joy is shared faster than posting pics in Facebook.
Tina, Samantha and I arrived in JFK from Manila ahead of Carlo and Lyn. They came on the second day of our stay. On our first day alone, we already got to see several spots in New York. With Samantha and her trusted Google Maps, we went to the Brooklyn Bridge.The weather was perfect. Temperatures were comfortable and cool at around 50-65 Fahrenheit, enough for one thick jacket. There were lots of tourists in the Bridge coming from all over the world, Europeans, Russians, Germans, French, Asians, and Middle easterners. From the Bridge, one gets a good view of the Hudson River and from afar you can already see the Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty stands.
That same day we also went to see the Flat Iron Building near the Madison Square Park. We just took the subway and alighting from the station, you can already see the weird looking Flat Iron Building.
Nearby, at the Madison Square Park was Shake Shack. A popular Burger place and since we were hungry we decided to patiently wait in the long line. With the beautiful weather, there were lots of people, tourists and local New Yorkers who ate in the park with the squirrels and the birds. The burger is delicious and Tina says the chicken sandwich is even better.
The following day Carlo and Lyn already arrived and we wasted no time in going around New York. We were able to go up the Empire State building all the way up to its 102nd floor from where you could see a bird’s eye view of the City! From there, the view is just awesome! For $54 per head, you’d expect nothing else.
We also strolled around Central Park where we saw familiar places you see in American movies. The Park is huge and even with so many people taking a stroll, jogging, or playing catch, it is still spacious.
A must see is The National September 11 Memorial & Museum. As one exits from the subway station, you enter this ultra modern building called the Oculus. An amazing structure formed like a giant dove with its spread wings. It takes you to the 9/11 memorial. We took a guided tour inside and it was well worth it. The atmosphere is solemn and the tour and was very educational.
Prior to flying to New York, Lyn bought tickets for all five of us for the Liberty Island Cruise. Liberty Island is where the towering statue of Liberty stands. With many tourists on board, the scene takes you back to the olden days when immigrants coming from different countries arrive in America. From the ship, once you see the Statue of Liberty, it symbolizes your new life in this land of freedom and opportunity.
New York tours won’t be complete without Broadway! Located in Times Square are the legendary theatres of Broadway. And what better show to watch but Broadway’s “longest running musical”, The Phantom of the Opera! We’ve always wanted to see this classic and it was our chance. It was sooo worth it! Carlo and Samantha loved it. It was also Carlo’s first time to watch a broadway play. I think broadway shows are growing on me and we’d like to see more of these. I can still here the music in my mind…
“Say you’ll love me every waking moment
Turn my head with talk of summer time
Say you need me with you now and always
Promise me that all you say is true
That’s all I ask of you”
Our five days stay in New York was brief yet enriching. Seeing all those places and experiencing the vibe and the attitude, filling up the senses with awesome sites, the sounds of the on rushing trains and the noise of the cars and sirens of the police and fire engines, even the stench of the bustling City added to the total experience.
Of course we got to eat in some notable New York eateries like the Papaya Dog where the chilli dogs are a delight. The Little Italy Pizza, Shake Shack for Burgers and the famous Juniors near the broadway theatres.
On our last day we also went to Carlo’s Bake Shop for coffee and desert.
Our New York trip was also historical because we were there during the US presidential elections and you could feel the tension of its significance especially in this City of diverse races. At that point, a few days before the November 8 US Presidential Elections, people and the media were all predicting a Hillary Clinton victory.
In places like New York and California, where most young people are college educated and more enlightened to live together with people of different colors, Clinton was a sure win. And after all the gaffes of Trump, the general perception was nobody was taking him seriously enough.
At the JFK airport before we left for home, initial election results stunned the world as the trend showed a Donald Trump victory. It was a historic footnote to our electrifying trip.
I guess it’s a love or hate impression for different folks. Some love its energy and culture, while others won’t have any of New York. For us, it is a beautiful coming together of a community composed of a people with different life’s purposes. My daughter kept on saying “I love New York” so emphatically. I understood her. It is so easy to get hooked on this awesome and exciting City.