Saturday, March 21, 2009

New York - Day 2

We started out our morning with Starbucks and then headed out to get a Metro card for the Subway. I loved the fact that even the Subway was in lights on Times Square! We planned on taking the subway all the way down to catch the Staten Island Ferry. We made our first NYC subway trip with only one small glitch - we got off too soon. We knew that the subway stop around The World Trade Center was still closed and we couldn't understand what the conductor was saying. We thought he said something about being the last stop and every person in our car got off so we did too. It was when it started going again that we saw other people still on and realized that we should have stayed on. But no worries. We just waited right there for the next train and hopped on. We got off right at the Staten Island Ferry.

Lara was a little nervous when we got off at the wrong stop.

We were only there for a few minutes before it was time to board the ferry. We headed straight upstairs and outside so that we could get a great view of The Statue of Liberty. From the deck of the ferry you have a perfect view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You can see the skyscrapers and bridges of Lower Manhattan receding as you pull away and coming into focus again as you return.

Ferry to Governor's Island


Robbins Reef also known as Kate's Light

While the Statue of Liberty towered above the waters as the symbol of freedom, a diminutive, single mother quietly reigned as first lady of New York harbor at the turn of the last century.

Kate Walker was born in Germany in 1848 and immigrated to the U.S. among the "working class poor." Why she left her native land is unknown, but as a single parent she no doubt shared the hopes of many women who came here with dreams of a better life in America. It is unlikely, however, that she ever thought she would spend that new life on a tiny, rock islet in New York harbor.

In the early 1880s, waiting tables in a New Jersey boarding house, she met and married John Walker, assistant keeper of the Sandy Hook lighthouse. Theirs was a working class union and, in 1883, the couple moved when he was transferred to Robbins Reef an island light about two miles southwest of the Statue of Liberty. In her early 30s, a halcyon social period for many people, Kate was deposited on an reef inhabited solely by harbor seals. (Robbins Reef comes from the early Dutch name, "Robyns Rift," or Seal Rocks.) She was devastated. From a modest home where she had a small garden and a few chickens, she moved into a five-story, cast iron cylinder 20 feet across. The lighthouse covered the entire island.

"When I first arrived I refused to unpack my bags. Everywhere I looked there was water. No grass, no land, just water. It depressed and frightened me," she told a reporter years later. In 1886 John Walker died from pneumonia, leaving Kate, now 38 and a widow with two teenaged children. His last words to her were not romantic but they were prophetic: "Mind the light, Kate." And she did -- from that day on, every single day, for more than three decades.

At first the Light-House Establishment, merged into the Coast Guard years later, refused Kate's application to be the keeper. While officially John's assistant for three years (at $30 per month, paid annually) she knew the job and how to maintain the light. But she was a woman, and a petite 4'10" at that, and the government men believed she could not withstand the rigors of the job. After offering the post to two men, who both refused, Kate was hired at $600 per year.

"I grew to love it here," she told The New York Times in 1909, noting the satisfaction of doing important work, the comfort of routine and isolation mixed with a few social visits. "Someone could offer me a millionaire's mansion and I'd feel like I was in prison." Yet she bristled when told she had nothing in common with women in more conventional roles. She thoroughly enjoyed her domestic duties and entertaining the occasional fair weather visitors on her 'veranda.' But, she pointed out firmly, "Maintaining this light is more work than running any household or any child," she said.

Her life on Robbins Reef was focused: the light was everything. She did not neglect her children, however, and every school day rowed them a mile each way, weather permitting, to Staten Island. In fact, in addition to helping with his academic studies, she trained her son Jacob to be her assistant, a form of on-the-job career training. (He later became keeper of the light when his mother retired.)

But the light was her reason for being and vital for shipping. Many vessels had been gutted on the dangerous rocks, laying close alongside the deep water channels leading up the Hudson and into the Staten Island/New Jersey docks. In her tenure, Kate was credited with some 50 rescues. The most rewarding, she recalled, came one winter night when a schooner crashed onto the reef. Five men were cast into the cold seas. Launching the small boat she used to ferry her children to school, Kate bravely rowed through the surging wreckage and rescued all five.

Kate kept the light until 1919, when she retired at age 71. She left behind two enduring legacies. For years afterwards, harbor pilots referred to Robbin's Reef as "Kate's Light." And, a testimony to her fortitude and spirit, when the Coast Guard last manned the light in 1966, they had replaced this diminutive woman with a four man crew.

Brooklyn Bridge

After the we got off of the ferry, we walked to the World Trade Center site to go to the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. This was a church that we past on the way that I thought was beautiful.

Once we got to the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, we walked through the galleries where you could experience the personal stories, images and artifacts of the events of 9/11, the tragic consequences and the passionate response. It was very moving and at times brought tears to our eyes.

Piece of one of the airplane's windows.

Actual fireman's coat and helmet. Story is told in the picture below.

Wall of names of all the people that died as a result of 9/11

There were 3 walls just like this of pictures of people who died. Seeing the smiling faces of families, Moms, Dads and children broke my heart.

There were several pieces of artwork
depicting the events of that day and this one
really touched me. Description is in picture below.

After going through all of the galleries we met our group for a walking tour around the World Trade Center site. The tours are conducted along the World Trade Center site and are led by people whose lives were profoundly changed by September 11th. Each tour is unique and connects those who want to hear stories with those who want to share them.

Tribute Center Walking Tour Guides are drawn from the September 11th community, (survivors, lower Manhattan residents, recovery workers, volunteers who assisted in recovery and family members). The tour made five stops while traveling around the site. Most of the tour took place indoors, traveling along the windows of the World Financial Center, looking out onto Ground Zero. Guides share key facts and reveal specific events of the day while weaving their personal experiences of survival, loss, and healing, throughout the tour, giving an unparalleled opportunity to connect with history first-hand.

We started right across the street from the site at a Firehouse that had a memorial on the outside wall and then we moved in to One World Financial Center.

When we made our last stop of the tour it was at a memorial entitled 11 Tears.

Eleven silver strands of light,
Eleven facets of a gleaming heart,
Eleven tears, forever falling, on
Eleven names in a tranquil pool.

American Express has commissioned and constructed a work of art to honor the 11 AMEX employees killed in the terrorist attack. Entitled 11 Tears, it occupies a lobby corner of American Express’ corporate headquarters at the World Financial Center. The work was designed by landscape architect Ken Smith, a native of Iowa who now lives and works in lower Manhattan. It “unites sky and ground, heaven and earth” and incorporates natural elements: water, light, quartz crystal and black granite. At the center is a 600 pound tear-shaped piece of Brazilian quartz, which was carved to have 11 sides, one for each victim.

The massive crystal is set into a stainless steel ring and suspended from the ceiling by 11 thin cables. Beneath the point of the upside-down tear is an 11 sided black granite pool; each side is inscribed with the name of an employee and a few words, selected by those who knew them best, to summarize the people they were.

At random intervals, 11 drops of water fall from the ceiling into the pool, creating intersecting ripples, “symbolizing the connections among the close-knit group of colleagues and friends.” The fountain is surrounded by benches of matching black granite.

Visitors sitting there and looking through the windows find themselves gazing directly at the site where the 11 died, working as American Express travel counselors on the 94th floor of One World Trade Center.

After a very moving account of the events of September 11th told from an employee who worked on the 17th floor of the South Tower, our tour came to an end at the above memorial. Lara and I both thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the galleries even though it weighed heavy on our hearts for the rest of the afternoon.

After a delicious Chinese lunch, we walked to Central Park. We thought we would just walk around for a bit and take in the sites but then we realized how massive it was and we didn't want to get lost and not get back to our hotel in time to get ready for our dinner reservations, so we just walked a short bit and decided to come back tomorrow.

Trump International Hotel and Tower right outside of Central Park

View from inside the park

We walked from Central Park to Times Square back to our hotel. We saw where David Letterman's show was filmed last night but I wanted to get a picture in the day time also. My parents love the Late Show with David Letterman so these pictures are for them.

Before coming to New York, Lara and I tossed around different places that we wanted to eat and we both thought it would be a neat experience to eat at Gordon Ramsey's restaurant. According to the website, reservations need to be made 2 calendar months ahead. I called sometime in February to see if we could get a reservation for this weekend and we were able to get a 5:45 reservation. We took a taxi to Gordon Ramsey at the London where we were welcomed into a luxurious fine dining restaurant that is based on Gordon Ramsey's jewel-in-the-crown, Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, the only three Michelin-starred restaurant in London. With only 45 seats, Gordon Ramsey at the London is described as "unmatched in Manhattan for pure gastronomic delight in a cosmopolitan setting". It was a dining experience unlike any that I have ever had before. From the moment you walked in, you were made to feel very special. We started the evening off with a $28 glass of champagne (unbeknownst to us at the time) and continued on with a delicious 7 course meal known as the Menu Prestige which consisted of:
Amuse bouche

Pressed Hudson Valley foie gras with candied ginger, tapioca and calvados jelly, toasted sourdough
(or Ravioli of jicama and red chili, pickled celery, avocado, sweet potato and pistachio)

Sautéed Maine diver scallops with braised veal cheeks, Tahitian vanilla, parsnip cream
(or Chestnut and apple strudel, baby leeks, red wine shallot vinaigrette)

Slow cooked sablefish with butternut squash carpaccio, red wine vinaigrette
(or Carnaroli risotto of roasted sunchokes, mascarpone and shaved parmesan)

Roasted breast of duck with spiced Anjou pear, chicken liver rillette
Loin of venison with celeriac pavé, beetroot and apple strudel, ras el hanout
(or Caramelized celery root gratin, braised endive, sweet garlic and black trompette)
Olive oil gelato on pistachio sponge, fleur de sel
Selection of cheeses from the trolley
($17.00 supplement)

Single-origin Venezuelan chocolate mousse, passion fruit, balsamic reduction and yogurt sorbet

Teas, coffees, infusions and Bon Bon trolley
Lara and I both thought that with a 5:45 reservation that we would probably be finished with dinner around 7:00 or 7:30. We did not get finished and leave the restaurant until after 9 p.m.! But it truly was fabulous and an experience all into itself.

Lara and me after we had finished our meal and had our bon bons "bundled".
Lara in the lobby of The London

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and changed clothes and put on some comfy shoes and walked to The Empire State Building. We thought that we might go up to the observation deck but when we got there at 10, it was about a 2 hour wait. We knew we were going to The Top of the Rock the next day so we decided not to wait.

Empire State Building

Inside lobby of Empire State Building - I wasn't impressed.

Model of Empire State Building in the lobby.

We walked right by Macy's, The World's Largest Department Store

Back in Times Square, I'm still amazed
at all of the lights and signs and people and everything there!

1 comment:

Rob said...

I love New York City. Great pictures.