I grew up associating Easter with celebrations that always happen at our hometown in the beautiful hill station of Wayanad in Kerala. After the midnight mass and a good night’s sleep, we always woke up to the delicious aroma of “appam and chicken stew” for breakfast. This is followed by a large spread of lunch and game of cards that fill the day with laughter and happiness. Easter has always been about family and an entire day of celebration, fun and togetherness.
Moving to the United States a couple of years ago meant that I had to rewire myself to admit and adjust to the fact that I couldn’t be with family as before on Easters. After spending last year’s Easter in the super cold loneliness that Michigan’s never ending winters bring, this year I decided that a travel might ease up the void in my heart from being away from home and family. So on Maundy Thursday when families gathered to celebrate the occasion of the Last Supper, we were accelerating on Interstate 80 to the city that is popularly known as “The Center of the Universe” or rather, New York City.
Times Square – The Celebrations Galore
The long drive from Michigan to NYC spans about ~12 hours with breaks and this meant that we reached our hotel in Secaucus only by evening leaving us to start exploring New York after sunset. After checking in and quickly freshening up, we proceeded to learn the way New Yorkers travel – by local trains. We bought our tickets from Secaucus to New York and boarded the train that took us to the heart of the Empire State to do exactly what everyone else who visits New York does – visit every overrated location starting with the Times Square
As we stepped out of the New York Penn Station, we were greeted by a cold blast of winter air – but Michigan has taught us to brave it all. Pulling our jackets closer, we proceeded for the 8 block walk to the much famous Times Square taking in all that was around us.
Times Square, was everything like we had imagined – people, lights, festivities and celebrations.
With honking cars, beating drums, camera toting tourists and guys dressed in every imaginable fancy suits ranging from Disney to Statue of Liberty thronging the street, Times Square remains the world’s most instagrammed location and the place with the largest footfall making it true to its name – the crossroads of the world.
Around the City in a Bus
The next morning began on a positive note because we had the sun smiling down on us for the entire day. The weather forecast for the day had low temperatures but the sunlight lifted our spirits and after gobbling down the lavish spread of breakfast at Holiday Inn Secaucus, we proceeded to the local trains to get back to the city. By now, we knew the drill. We took the tickets, went to the platform, got the right train and exited Penn station without asking passerby’s for direction.
Since we had only a single day to explore the city, which is largely insufficient, we decided to do so by using the hop on hop off bus services that start from the ferry dock near the Battery Park.
The bus tours are an easy way to get around the city and see whatever piques your interest.
We went around for a full hour watching the various sights and scenes around the city – the Manhattan Bridge, the Wall Street, The Rock Feller Center Observatory, world’s largest shop of the Macy’s and the Times Square again.
Being South Indian in NYC
By now, we had already figured that Saravana Bhavan, the very popular south indian vegetarian chain had its branch in NYC.
We got off at one of the bus stops and walked several blocks to walk into the much familiar smells of deliciousness that every south-indian can relate to. Stomach full of food and heart full of joy, we walked back to the city with happy faces to continue our bus tour of the city.
Of Memories and Hope for a Better Tomorrow
By now, though the sun was up and bright, the temperatures in the city had started dropping substantially. Not wearing gloves meant that my hands had started turning purple with the cold and the open bus journey was not helping in anyway. So we decided to get down and walk to the World Trade Center Memorial and the Wall Street Bull.
Certainly, no one needs an introduction to World Trade Center Memorial. We walked around reading the names of thousands of people who died on 9/11 engraved into the granite forming the walls of the north and south pools created in memory of the two towers that crumbled to dust under the terrorist attacks that shook not just the United States but the entire world. The pool is designed after the “Reflecting Absence” design – Each pool is one acre and covers the footprint of the actual tower and symbolizes the loss of life and physical void left by the attacks. The waterfalls are meant to mute the sounds of the city and the white oaks planted all over the memorial area adds an ethereal feeling to the place.
The phrase “and her unborn child” follows the names of ten pregnant women who died on 9/11 and one who died in the 1993 attack.
Because of Easters weekend and large number of tourists visiting the city, we realized that Empire State Building and Rock Feller center observatory were either out of tickets or the queues were extraordinarily long to even make it worth the wait. So we made detours around these buildings, watched the colors change on the Empire State building representing the four basketball teams that were playing on Easter’s day.
That is when we came around the east side of fifth avenue between 50th and 51st streets and chanced across the much decorated Neo Gothic style St.Patricks Cathedral Church and realized that the Easter Mass was in progress.
We entered in time for the final choir performance and watched the music play through the massive pipe organs of the church.
Until next time…
Having spent a full day doing random but memorable things we proceeded to close the day with a good night’s dinner and a full nights rest before we began the long drive back home next morning. New York definitely requires at least 4 days to explore it in detail. We could not manage to go to some of the iconic places like Central Park or Madame Tussaud’s or the Statue of Liberty this time owing to the very tight schedule. Having said that, New York, we shall be coming back again to discover more of your charm! Until then, Adios!