Last month, my husband and I embarked on the journey of my dreams. Leaving our home behind, we traveled across the sea and set out on a grand adventure to my favorite place in the whole world:
I still have to pinch myself sometimes and remind me that it did actually happen–I didn’t dream it all up.
The first leg of our journey was spent traveling from Dallas to New York, where we would get on the plane to Dublin. Since we’ve never been to NYC, we decided to go a couple days early and see some of the sights. It was quite exciting, to be sure, although these Texans (who are definitely not used to having to walk everywhere) were bemoaning our sore feet by the last day.
Piece of advice #1: take comfortable shoes (preferably with Dr. Scholl’s inserts).
Even so, there was plenty to distract us from the pain. Each day was packed with sight seeing, so we couldn’t complain about running out of things to do, either. And we didn’t even do everything we wanted to. That’s the plus side to New York: plenty to do.
One downside is the amount of people. Not that that comes as a surprise. It’s New York City, after all. Still, way too many people crammed into one place, and most of them aren’t exactly friendly. We also discovered just how expensive it is there. Simply going out for dinner to a sit down restaurant can be enough to make your wallet weep bitter tears. So be prepared.
Conclusion: It is a fun place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. 😉
Now, on to the sights!
One of the first things we did was go to Times Square. A very cool place–but if you’re not a crowd person, let’s just say it’s probably not for you. That evening, we also went up to the top of Rockefeller Center. If you want to see some breathtaking city views, I highly recommend it. Piece of advice #2: go at night. Seeing all the buildings lit up is really something.
And the pro to choosing Rockefeller over the Empire State Building is that you actually get to see the Empire State Building. Just sayin’.
The rest of our visit was spent mostly in museums. And New York has plenty. We went to the Met with some friends, where we walked through an exhibit of ancient Egypt, saw artifacts from Medieval Europe, Greece, all the way up to colonial America. And of course there was art. I particularly enjoyed seeing the paintings by Van Gogh. Of course, that was our last full day in the city, not to mention our second museum in the same day, so eventually we gave up because our feet were killing us.
Piece of advice #3: don’t plan two museum trips back-to-back.
Before the Met, we stopped at the American Museum of Natural History, which I liked a lot. It was probably my second favorite museum. Of course, anyone who knows me can probably guess which was my favorite room:
Space!! The final frontier.
It was pretty cool, seeing all the scale models of the planets and the short movie inside the planetarium that makes you feel like you’re flying through space. There is also a scale you can stand on to see how much you would weigh on the moon. Talk about a picker-upper! I won’t tell you how much I weighed though, because I’m sure someone out there knows the math to reverse it back to my earth weight, which is far less impressive.
On our very last day, our flight wasn’t until that evening. So what did we do that morning? Went to another museum of course. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, which is literally on the U.S.S. Intrepid, a WWII aircraft carrier.
It was pretty neat walking through the ship and seeing what the inside looks like. They also have a section devoted to space travel (as the name implies). In there, you can see beautiful pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope, and, of course, the pièce de résistance:
The Enterprise space shuttle. You can’t go inside it unfortunately, so don’t get too excited. But it’s still really impressive to see up close. The walkway I’m standing on when I took this picture goes all the way around the front of the shuttle, and it’s so close you can practically reach out and touch the nose.
I saved the first museum we visited for last on purpose, because it was my favorite and I thought it necessary to separate it from the rest, out of respect. While the other museums were fun and entertaining, this one was the most moving and sobering.
The National September 11 Memorial Museum.
Piece of advice #4: If you are ever in New York City, and you only have time to do one thing, this is it. Out of everything we saw in New York, this will definitely stick with me the most.
Both inside the museum and on the grounds surrounding it, a reverent silence seems to hang perpetually upon the air. There is very little talking or laughter here. Everyone stands together and looks on in awed silence. No words could possibly do justice to the suffering and the horror that was witnessed here, so it is better to simply look.
Upon entering the grounds, the first thing you see are these:
Two matching square waterfalls, built upon the very footprints where the two towers once stood. It is a chilling and humbling sight. Around the top edges of these waterfalls are engraved the names of every soul lost on this location, September 11, 2001.
This sight broke my heart and, I readily admit, provoked the first (and certainly not the last) tears of my visit.
The September 11 Memorial Museum is the only museum I’ve ever visited that actually provided tissues within its various rooms.
Inside, you can watch a short video with interviews of President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Mayor Giuliani, who each give an account of their experiences that day. It is recommended to view the video first before seeing the rest of the museum, and that’s what we did. The video certainly sets the mood and by the end, the audience was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. We shuffled out of the theater without saying a word to each other. The only other time that sort of effect has happened in a theater for me was when we saw American Sniper.
Inside the 9/11 Museum, you will walk through a visual timeline of the events before and leading up to September 11, 2001 as well as the events of the day itself and the effect it had around the world. Particularly impactful are the audio recordings they have playing of phone calls from those trapped inside the towers or on the hijacked planes before they crashed, as well as the communications between emergency workers.
Throughout, there are pieces of debris left over from the collapse of the towers. Some of it not so small or insignificant, either. Like this steel column from the core of the South Tower, which the extreme stresses of the tower’s collapse caused to fold over on itself:
Or the firetruck of Ladder Company 3:
Every member of Ladder Company 3 died inside the North Tower when it collapsed, because they bravely chose to stay and rescue as many people as possible.
Or this column:
Know as the Last Column, it was one of the columns that supported the inner core of the South Tower. When the tower collapsed, this was the only piece that remained standing, anchored in the bedrock. The emergency workers and volunteers that worked at the scene attached pictures and messages to the column, in remembrance of friends they lost.
At the very end, you come to this display projected on the floor:
On a touchscreen, visitors can write their own message on the map, and it will be displayed here. Seeing the messages from all over the world, from people thanking those who sacrificed themselves and offering prayers for the families left behind, was truly touching.
If you ever have the chance to visit this museum, do not pass it up! Just be prepared to be forever changed by the impact it will leave on you. It is a sobering, haunting experience that has weighed on my heart since.
And on that cheerful note, I shall end today’s account. 😉 Next time, we will journey across the ocean to the Emerald Isle itself, so stay tuned!!