Story and photos by Barbara Angelakis
additional photo by Eric Marcel
New York City Gambol
As a travel writer I cover all four corners (sic) of the world seeking out destinations of interest, beauty or historical value. So when an opportunity to escort my 10 year old grand nephew Eric Marcel, a native of Germany, around New York City came up I jumped at the chance to “visit” my city with him and see it through his eyes. Having lived here for more then 40 years I thought I knew it all but nothing in this ever changing city is forever and there were more new things to discover than I had imagined. So we investigated together and had a grand – pun definitely intended - time doing it. Tip: wear comfortable shoes, be prepared to wait in long lines, pack a generous dose of patience and always remember this is supposed to be a fun adventure.
Where to begin and how to cover the most territory? New York City has a myriad of attractions to suit every age and taste but to maximize a 3-day visit, a city pass seemed to offer the most opportunities in an organized way. There are many to choose from but given the energy of a 10 year old, I selected The Sightseeing Pass with its all-inclusive feature which means that you can go to as many of their long list of offerings as you have time and stamina for. They also offer a flex pass that limits the number of sites you can visit in a given period of time for those less ambitious sightseers.
So after picking up our passes at the NYC Visitor Center on Eight Avenue between 47th and 48th Street we crossed the avenue and hopped on the Hop-On, Hop-Off double-decker sightseeing bus (included in the pass) and climbed the stairs to the open-air top deck. The bus provides listening devices so you can hear the commentary over the sounds of the city, and rain ponchos should the weather turn inclement… which unfortunately it did.
As we made our way uptown first on Broadway and then along the west side of Central Park our on-board guide pointed out interesting buildings and facts, such as the land-marked 1880 German Renaissance building The Dakota where John Lennon lived and was gunned down, and the Strawberry Fields memorial to him in Central Park his wife Yoko Ono created in his honor. Our first stop was the American Museum of Natural History so Eric could explore the famous dinosaur hall. Of course he was enthralled having spent much of his young years learning about the reign of the dinosaur’s and he was happy to share his extensive knowledge as we made our way though display after display after display.
At Eric’s insistence, we took in the special exhibit on mummies but it seemed to be a bit much for him to handle - Tip: this is not an exhibit for young children, it is dark and graphic - so we searched out the Native American wing and he took pictures of what we saw for his younger brother back in Germany. Of course he and his cousin Aliya enjoyed the gift shops the best and would happily have spent hours touching – and buying - every item had I let him.
Back on the bus we covered the upper west side and Harlem and drove east to Fifth Avenue past the Central Park Zoo which we had planned on visiting but by that time diving into a famous New York City pizza held more interest and we headed for John’s of Times Square on 44th Street. It was a good choice and my nephew Mike, Eric’s father, said it was the best he had ever had… score!
The next morning we again met on Eight Avenue, this time to take the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus downtown with our sights set on visiting the Statue of Liberty. Along with hundreds of other visitors, we had to stand in line for ferry tickets (cost included in our pass) and once we cleared security we headed for the top deck of the ferry. The broad harbor is beautiful and I never take this ride without the emotional feelings of patriotism whelming up as Lady Liberty grows larger the closer you get, until she fills the sky with her welcoming message. The sun caught the torch at just the right angle and it glowed with the light of freedom. I spoke to Eric of our ancestors, fleeing oppression and hardship from their home country, imaging how they felt as they spied her for the first time.
We disembarked at Ellis Island and took time to listen to the stories recorded by people who arrived in a foreign land to an unknown future and I was impressed that Eric, even at his young age, could appreciate what they went through. We left with a sense of awe and gratitude at the courage of our forefathers.
That night we took in a game at Yankee Stadium and ended the perfect day at the top of the Empire State Building watching in wonder the radiating multi-colored light spectacle that is New York City at night.
Eric’s final day was spent touring on foot as we headed for glamorous Fifth Avenue past the recently restored St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a visit to Rockefeller Center and the Channel Gardens decorated with spring flowers. Floating above the outdoor café, which in winter turns into a skating rink, is the golden statue of Prometheus, one of the many works of art scattered throughout the Rockefeller Center complex. Since Eric is a budding artist, I wanted to show him some of the large variety of art that adorns the outside as well as the interior of The Rock. One of my favorites is the monumental paintings by Jose Maria Sert (Spanish 1876-1945) on the ceiling at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Entitled Time it’s an allegory of Titans weighing man’s deeds and as you walk across the marble lobby the main figure seems to move with you. It took a minute for Eric to get it but when he did he was enthralled and recorded a video to share with his friends back home. But as much as he enjoyed the art work, he really lost it at the Lego store entered into from the Channel Gardens.
When I finally managed to pull him away he had a shopping bag loaded with Lego’s. We headed for 42nd Street and Broadway where we visited the M&M store for gifts for his younger brother that has a sweet tooth, and the Disney store for an Elsa (Frozen) plush doll for his baby sister. Sated with gifts, we trudged to 47th & Broadway to TKTS to see if we could score tickets to a suitable Broadway show for the evening, only to be disappointed that there were no performances that night that was child appropriate, so we drowned our sorrows with Deli sandwiches at Junior’s 45th Street Restaurant, home of the amazing Junior’s cheese cake, and called it a night.
What an amazing experience; seeing your town with its familiar sites as if for the first time through un-jaded eyes. Thank you Eric for your wonder and for your good-nature... and come back soon!
For information on all the sites visited go to the Official New York City tourist site: https://www.nycgo.com/
And for information on The Sightseeing Pass visit: https://www.sightseeingpass.com/new-york-city/unlimited.php
(there are a number of other pick-up sites that can be found at https://www.sightseeingpass.com/visitor.php)
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