I considered giving this post a special, click-bait type of heading to highlight the fact that the Chelsea bombings happened on this day and we happened to be near-by. I thought better of it because, apart from experiencing the aftermath for half an hour, it was pretty much a normal day in NY. That, and I don’t want to lose integrity for a few more reads as it must have been horrible for those involved.
We spent the morning chasing Bex, Clev and Clev’s family down fifth avenue, when eventually we spotted them sitting on the steps outside the New York Museum. I just managed to sit behind Bex and was thinking of something to say to surprise them, when they turned around and saw us. It had been a full 7 weeks since we had seen anyone from back home, so it was really nice to see some familiar faces; people that we didn’t have to explain our accent to or where Wales is in the UK. Don’t get me wrong, I love every time someone takes interest in us and who we are, but it’s also nice to skip that part. It was good to catch up on anything happening back home, the kinds of things you wouldn’t necessarily message someone about, but you would talk about in person.
I absolutely love talking about the people we meet, but I’ll have to spare the details when talking about Bex, Clev and Clev’s family. We’ve known them for years and it would be a bit embarrassing for us and possibly for them to go into details about what we said or did. Clev’s family consist of him, his brother, his sister and both of his parents. His mum was told the week before that her and her husband would be going to New York for her birthday, but she only found out that she would be joined by everyone else at the airport. Clev’s sister already lives in The Bronx training as a professional footballer, and would join us later.
We walked around central park as a group, and managed to see corners that we couldn’t get to on our bikes last time. Exploring Central Park is a holiday in itself, with towers, monuments and wildlife hidden away behind masses of trees. Did you know that the coldest temperature ever recorded in NY was recorded in Central Park? One animal I didn’t expect to see there were turtles; there were loads of them in the lake! Central Park is definitely my favourite spot in New York, as it’s just as thriving as the streets themselves, and it’s almost possible to get lost for a little while.
That last photo is of Clev playing the rest of us at chess at the same time. He won five out of six games and several people took out their phones to film him, but he eventually lost to his fiancé Bex. I’m not aware in this picture yet, but I would soon be the first to lose.
Just after leaving Central Park, we passed by a very scared looking Elmo trying to cross the street. I don’t blame him; New York drivers are angry!
Our friends were staying right in the centre of New York, just off Times Square, so it was ridiculously easy to get around and see everything. What made life even easier were the open-top bus tours that they’d booked tickets for. We decided to join them, as it was a beautiful day, and the evening tour was set to go over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn and back again. You can get day tours that range from $40-60, but a 48 hour pass is only $64 and allows you to go on all five tours that they have to offer. I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember exactly which busses we went with, but they were red. Our tour guide was so good at her job, that she could stand up and talk to us, whilst ducking under the streetlights with perfect timing. On the way back, we were stuck in a little traffic that delayed us by a few minutes because of the San Gennaro festival. I apologise for the quality of the night-time photos of the tour. As I’ve said before, the camera gives up a little after sunset.
The traffic was a blessing in disguise for us, because it turned out that, had we been on time and ten minutes before, it’s fairly likely that we would have driven down 23rd street when it happened.
It’s bad to admit, and I wasn’t the only one, but I assumed it was New York traffic on a Saturday night and started laughing and how grid locked it was. Everyone was beeping at each other, and before long a few ambulances and fire trucks joined in. It was when the fire trucks didn’t stop coming, and the noise of cars and trucks beeping grew to the point where it surrounded us and blocked out all other noise, that the atmosphere shifted and the realisation that it wasn’t normal started to dawn. Our guide became visibly concerned and opened her phone to look at the news. A fireman got out of his truck and ran towards the centre to try and direct traffic. The bus diverted us away from the street as soon as possible, and at the end of the tour, the guide had found out that the chaos at 23rd street was caused by an explosion. It wasn’t until the next day that we read that 29 were hurt, but there were no casualties, so it was very worrying at the time.
Apart from a few changes to the Subway and the aftermath itself, New York seemed to return to normal almost instantly and I think that’s something to credit the city for. New Yorkers have had to be very resilient in the past, and seem to understand that panicking wouldn’t do anything. I admired how little they allowed the bombing to affect them.