Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Manhattan - Closing thoughts

It’s our last day in Manhattan. How was it? In a word – fabulous.

As I have written earlier, this was our first visit to Manhattan in 17 plus years. We are older, wiser and fatter. More importantly, we were independent and not staying with a `fui’ or cousin or other new found, long lost emigrated relation. We depended on nobody except, I must admit, Google, which did not exist 17 years ago. Think about it. Leave everything else aside, how much the internet and Google have changed our lives. Also think that how much time in a day do you spend looking at your smartphone for information, for Whatsapp and for maps and direction as opposed to speaking? Now do you realize why Mukesh Ambani has given voice free? Anyway, I digress.

Honestly speaking Manhattan has been a most pleasurable revelation. This is a lively, throbbing, vibrant, exciting and dynamic city. This has so much to offer that the 11 days we have spent do not even scratch the surface. We have just about got our bearings. The transport system – subway and busses – is simply fantastic. Comparable to the best in Europe. We had bought 7 day unlimited travel passes and used them extensively. The city is safe, well, as safe as a large metropolis can be so long as you do nothing stupid.

Culturally the city is extremely rich. Be it all kinds of music, Jazz, Rock, R&B, to Broadway productions, to movies to art and sculpture to comedy to myriad museums to a thriving literary circle, NYC has it all, and in large quantities.

As far as sightseeing is concerned, you have the skyscrapers, the fabulous shops, the fantastic restaurants, the bridges, the cruises on the water. You can get your fill quite easily here.

We walked a lot, supposedly 14km plus most days – as computed by the Samsung Health app built into the phone – as well as rode on the subway. We ate at the classic places as well as some fancier places. That in a separate post. We went to an evening of comedy and laughed ourselves to tears. We walked on the Brooklyn Bridge and went to the DUMBO area. The MOMA and 9 11 Memorial were visited. In short we did most things tourists would do.

The photographs above are taken when walking along the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn

At Brooklyn in the DUMBO - Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass - is a Park with this ridiculous Ashish Kapur Exhibit. This was literally a giant basin with water flowing down the drain.

 The view from the Brooklyn side.

When walking along one of the Avenues you are at ground level. Towering above you on both sides of the road and stretching for miles, are the magnificent skyscrapers. The Flatiron Building built at the turn of the 19th Century is one of the most distinctive skyscrapers. The Chrysler Building with its stainless steel cladding, distinctive shape complete with ‘radiators’, according to me was the most aesthetic. The film Ghostbusters used the Chrysler Building extensively in the film. Of course the most famous of the lot is the Empire State Building. Some of the photos from the observation tower are quite good. We went to the top of the Empire State Building and it was truly fantastic. Rather stiff entry at USD 35 to the 86th level or USD 55 to the top, is what I thought. A normal tourist with mom, dad and two kids will have to shell out USD 220 which is a lot of money. I know that tourism is expensive and hard work, so I guess that this is par for the course. 

A beautiful building along Broadway on the Upper West Side

Three views of the glorious Flatiron Building

Two buildings in the Flatiron Area

The Empire State Building

The glorious Chrysler Building

The Citibank Building

I have no idea what the above 3 buildings are

View of Downtown from Empire State Building. This is where the Twin Towers once stood.

The preconceived impression I had, in retrospect largely moulded by visits to the USA several years ago, of the US being hick town, was busted. I pause here. USA may still be a hick town, but, Manhattan is certainly not. Just like I could live in London, I could very easily live in Manhattan. There is nothing hick town about Manhattan. No sir absolutely not.
I was quite struck at the use of and application of the internet. I should have realized that the Internet is a US phenomenon. Facebook, Google, Amazon and countless other companies whose services we use are all US Companies. The internet is all over. You get internet in the subway. The train schedules are on the internet, the timings, routes etc. are all on the internet. The invasive nature of Google was experienced by us here. Every time you left a restaurant Google automatically asked you to rate the restaurant. People were always staring into their phones, much like you see in Far East Asia. Everyone and everything is on the internet.

The one thing I did not see was fancy cars. A stray Rolls Royce and Bentley were about all one say. The shiny bright red Ferraris and yellow Lamborghinis and other super cars were not to be seen. I am sure there is an explanation to this.

The TV feed you get is of very high quality, it’s all HD stuff. I guess the primary reason for this is the cable companies with the huge penetration have ensured top quality signals. You will recall the AOL and Time Warner merger. One of the reasons for that was the blending of cable, internet and media or more correctly programming to feed the consumers either by TV or computers. Net result today, you have brilliant TV signals.

In short, we thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Manhattan. If you do visit, do try and stay in the Midtown area closer to Central Park. Everything is all around and there are lots of subway stations all around. This is probably the best place to stay for a first time visitor. For this advice we must than our close friend from Mumbai. Spot on.

It has been warm, hot even, but not much worse than Mumbai. The breeze is cool, the shade is pleasant and the humidity not killing. A cap, sunglasses and copious amounts of water are all you need to get by. If you work hard on your tourism 7 to 9 full days are enough for doing most things. They say that Autumn is the best time to visit. Manhattan is not cheap. This is an expensive city, and, at times, I believe it is as expensive as London and Zurich. Hotels are generally rip offs. You get none of the class of a comparable London, European or Asian hotel. These are generally disappointing. The really comparable ones like the Mandarin Oriental are way too expensive.

The two wrinkles on our visit. The first night experiencing Times Square. That was quite shocking. The second, an absolutely horrid meal at Bills Burgers at Rockefeller Centre. Besides this, all has gone smoothly.

Times Square by night and day

Do come to Manhattan. Fully recommended.

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