Travelling Tales: 9/11 (New York, Day 3)

Today, of course, was 9/11, and a very interesting day to be in New York it was.

I started off fairly unhistorically, meeting Ellie for some absolutely amazing pancakes for brunch in the West Village (lemon pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup: amazing).

Ellie and I then went for a lovely walk down the riverside, dodging cyclists as we atoned for eating so many pancakes. In fact, I took Ellie to the Irish heritage hunger memorial that I visited with Carmel a couple of days ago, which was fun. I noticed something that I hadn’t before, which was that the names of Irish counties and cities were carved into the granite rocks they had scattered around the place. I took photos of a few (especially Clare, for my ma).

We then walked past the World Trade Centre site – or we intended to. The main road that we needed to cross in order to get there was, just as we got to it, the site of a massive, miles-long avalanche of motorcyclists, hundreds and hundreds of them pouring down the streets. I believe it’s a memorial ride in honour of those who died on 9/11, but there were definitely some tensions between them and a guy carrying a ‘build the mosque now’ placard.

There were a lot of demonstrations going on around Ground Zero today, which is why it was so interesting to be there. Not just commemorating the dead, but pro-war on terror and anti-war at all, ‘Grief should not be an excuse for bigotry’ pro-Islamic centre, ‘Jesus loves America’ which was ostensibly honouring the dead and those who gave up their lives, but spent a lot of time shouting about how Jesus made America great and made New York great and how He built America just for us so we should be grateful and love him, which I thought was a shame because it made it a bit contentious (Native Americans?) and sort of detracted from honouring those who died. Politics was everywhere today.

It made me wonder: who’ll be happy if this centre doesn’t go up? Who’ll be happy if it does? And what, if anything, does that say about them?

Here are a few photos of the different rallies:

These are the Christian demonstrators:

And these are the pro-Islamic centre people:

The funniest demonstration was a group of Marxists who were standing by the pro-Islamic centre crowd but criticising all the other demonstrations, saying that everybody else’s demonstrations were a sign of the evil of the capitalist system and how the power should be in… different hands. It was all very Doctor Horrible. I picked up their pamphlet, anyway, just to see what was in it (a lot of Trotsky. Seriously, there’s an ‘Honour Comrade Trotsky’ thing on the second page). Anyway, I thought it would be fun to unleash my Deconstruction Skillz on it, which I intend to do later on.

Anyway, after our encounter with the conspiratorial communists, Ellie and I went to that bastion of Americana, Starbucks, and had tea. We then walked up through various districts of New York, via some japes in jewellery shops trying on lots of bling, through Soho and along the edge of Chinatown, and then we went up to Times Square and broadway (because I’m a really terrible tourist, I’ve only seen the Statue of Liberty from a distance and I’ve been to no other famous NY landmarks). So I took some shiny neon pictures and a nice shot of the Empire State building:

And then we spotted Mickey Mouse on his way home from the office:

And then I came back to New Jersey and went out to dinner with Carmel, her sister Rita, and some of their high school friends who are still in the area, which was a lovely evening. Her sister Rita lived with a couple of the friends for a few years when they were younger, I think, which sounds like it was a pretty lively household. It was a great night, though (and the food was amazing, especially a hand-made spicy guacamole dip that was just incredible).

Wow. Today’s post has been pretty long, but it merited it. It’s getting late now, and I have to get to bed! My legs aren’t so happy with me for making them walk so far today, but hey, I fuelled them with pancakes, so I’m not sure why they’re complaining.

Tomorrow, alas, is my last full day in New York/New Jersey. I’ve had a wonderful time here, and it’s been great to spend time with Carmel and catch up with Ellie. I’m not sure what we have planned for tomorrow, but I’m sure it’ll be amazing fun – though maybe not quite so exciting as guessing at the demonstration that’s going on around the next corner and having a man confess to you that he’s a Trotskyist while he’s trying to talk to you about the underlying problems of the system.

Travelling Tales: Natural History (New York, Day 2)

(Edit: I’m expanding this on Sunday early afternoon, because on Friday I didn’t have enough time to do the post justice.)

Today I took my first solo steps into New York, and went to the American Museum of Natural History! It was amazing, I spent hours and hours wandering around taking photos and generally being thrilled by all the science. I’ve wanted to go there since I was a little girl (that is, when I was three and decided to be a dinosaur hunter because my dad and I watched a documentary about dinosaurs and a good portion of it involved this museum).

I started off in the Room of the Universe, which is basically a giant model of the near universe with added information (and was full of small children and their parents). Naturally, I located Sirius and took photos of it!

And I found out what my relative weights are on different planets! And for the sake of comparison and thoroughness I weighed myself on Earth and I’m 120 pounds.

I also saw an enormous iron meteorite, but it was surrounded by people so I didn’t get any good pictures.

After the space science, I moved into the rooms of biodiversity, which had models of hundreds of different species covering the walls and hanging from the ceiling. There was an Ocean Life room, too, which was lit a murky dark blue and had a life-size model of a blue whale in it. My first book was about a blue whale, so naturally I took a lot of photos of that. This is one of the best:

And there was an absolutely ENORMOUS chuck of sequoia tree, which obviously I took many photos of (and definitely didn’t plan on tagging my sister as it on Facebook) and on it was written a number of significant dates, from 550 ad when the tree started growing, to 1891 when it was cut down. Here’s a shot to show you the scale of the thing, the detail photos will be in my album!

And then I spent a long, long time wandering around the dinosaur rooms! There were lots of little kids up there, too, so my inner three-year-old was in good company. It was so exciting to see them, and to remember watching them on TV when I was a sproglet. I was EXTREMELY alarmed that an empty case was labelled ‘velociraptor’, though. (On further inspection, it had a skull in it, but still! It was a very large case to hold such a small skull!) Anyway, here’s a triceratops:

And after the dinosaurs, I asked a security guard how to get to the room of gemstones. I received the best directions I have ever received in my life, which were, “Go down this corridor, hang a left at the bear, continue until the giant canoe, turn right, and you’re there.” I did indeed hang a left at the bear and turn right at the giant canoe, and then I got to the geology rooms. My favourite room was the room of precious stones (magpie!) and the sapphires in particular were amazing:

So that’s my Christmas present sorted, okay?

As always, I took a load of photos, which I’ll be putting up in albums later. This is just a report and a taster. But I survived the subway, anyway, and then when I came back Carmel introduced me to her partner, Tom, and we went out to dinner with some of his friends, where he introduced me as their love-child, in town until the paternity suit is done. Dinner was in a barbecue place a few streets away, with a swing band playing in the background – a fun way to spend a Friday night, especially since Tom’s friends are former rock’n’roll musicians – Jerry played with Debbie Harry for years, and has a very impressive list of people he’s met and partied with.

I’m tired now, though, and still haven’t quite got over my jet lag – it’s not too bad, it just wakes me up ridiculously early in the morning, and broken sleep isn’t the best.

In conclusion: I love museums, dinosaurs are still the best, and the Museum of Natural History gets my seal of approval:

Travelling Tales: New York, A Day (Day 1)

I thought it might be nice, since I’ve got my computer here and have access to the internet, to update every now and then on stuff I’ve been doing in America!

So yesterday marked the first time in my life that I’ve flown further west than Ireland. The flight from Heathrow was okay, it just sort of – went. I was tired, though frustratingly enough not tired to sleep, so I was absolutely shattered by the time I landed at JFK. I felt quite strange, like my body clock was protesting that I was still awake, but had got very confused about the amount of light there’d been flying over the north Atlantic. It’s funny, this is the first time I’ve gone on a long flight where it hasn’t been aiming east or south, so I guess it’s appropriate that it’s the first real solo trip I’ve made. I entertained myself by taking a lot of photos out of the window – largely of the light on the clouds, but at a jaunty angle, to account for the wing of the plane. This is my favourite, taken somewhere over Quebec:

I’m staying in New Jersey at the moment, in a lovely little place called Montclair, with Carmel, an old friend of my mum’s. Carmel and my mum met because Carmel’s aunt lived in the house next door to my grandparents in Ballaghaderreen, the family hometown in the West of Ireland. I had a lovely hour this morning chatting with Carmel’s mother, who lives downstairs, and is Irish. This morning was pretty relaxed, actually, because Carmel picked me up from the airport last night, we got in at about 11pm (which was 4am GMT) and I pretty much checked my emails, informed my parents that I survived, and fell asleep. It was strange waking up this morning, though, because my body definitely felt like it was afternoon. So we were pretty relaxed and had a leisurely breakfast, then headed out to New York at about half one.

We ambled around downtown Manhattan for most of the afternoon, starting with the World Trade Centre site, which is a massive building site now, and then going around the corner to this tiny little Irish Heritage place that is basically a plot of land about twenty metres square on a plinth, and on the plot of land is a lot of grass, some drystone walls, various Irish rocks and a transplanted tumbledown Irish cottage. It is actually an Irish cottage that was brought over stone by stone and pieced together again – and the massive plinth it rests on is covered in quotations, in Irish and English, about and from people who moved from Ireland to America (many at the time of the Great Famine). It was very surreal to see it sandwiched in between two enormous, sparkling skyscrapers. ‘Skyscrapers’, what an amazing word. And there are some very, very shiny buildings in Manhattan. Anyway, this is a shot of the buildings opposite it, just to illustrate the point (those massive cranes are actually on the World Trade Centre site):

Anyway, after that we wandered down Wall Street (with a quick side-step into a Tiffany’s shop: I love love love the Tiffany’s Keys collection, but don’t have $900 handy to spend on my favourite) and past the court house with all the steps that’s shown in all the cop shows (and I think Batman?) – sadly no sign of any actors, but still a beautiful building. And we went to Brooklyn bridge and past City Hall before heading to Chinatown to meet up with Carmel’s sister, Rita, for dinner.

On the way back we decided to take a detour and get the ferry to Hoboken, which was fun, because it was getting dark, so the buildings were all lit up and reflecting in the water. I’ve been pretty tired for the last couple of hours, though – it’s twenty past ten here, which means it’s 3.20 GMT, so no wonder. But the walking was good, it was so nice to just walk and walk after spending so much time yesterday cooped up on trains and planes. Anyway, since good things come in threes, here’s a shot of the New Jersey side of the river from the ferry just to round things off:

I’ll post the majority of my photos in albums on Facebook, but I thought it would be nice to stick a few in here. Anyway. Those were the highlights of my first day in America. Those, and talking to a very nice NYPD officer and secretly being very excited that he was a Real New York Police Officer. I think it’s time I called it a day (I am definitely going to call this post ‘A Day’ now) and got some rest.

In conclusion: yay America, wow New York, camera happy, sleepy. But I really hope you actually read the post and didn’t just skip to the end, because that would make my day look really boring.