Foreword: This article is shorter than it should be, because my mother told me that if I wrote very long articles, she would consider that I should study more instead of blogging. But I need to press this post this week; indeed this article is (in part) related to the US presidential campaign (it would be a pity if I published it a week later, after the election).
If you want to read this article in French, do click there | Si vous voulez lire l’article en français, cliquez-là : New York! New York!
I was on a trip in New York, NY from October 2 to October 4. The trip was organized by the MISN (McGill International Student Network), it takes care of the transportation and the accomodation. This report is not aimed at being a complete description of the city (the exchange students in NYC could do it better than me), but I expect from it to be a subjective and non-exhaustive view of my trip. That is why you may think that the article is not structured at all.
The border: part 1. We left Montreal by midnight and according to the schedule, we should have arrived in New York at 8 am. How optimistic this schedule was! Our bus was standing in line, several other buses were before ours. The point was that we could not forecast the duration of waiting, so that we did not know whether we should sleep or wait by night. As far as I am concerned I read articles on a tablet, but actually I read a lot of articles! Eventually, after at least 4 hours of waiting, we got off, went to the customs: we filled and handed a green form (which asked if I took part to the Shoah or if I was already convicted of murder), we paid $6 (in US dollars) and we got on back. We arrived in NYC at noon.
What did I visit? You cannot expect to visit everything in New York in 3 days only, even if you reduce your expectations to a very short list of places. I hope that Sciences Po students in NYC can discover New York in a more deeper way. Eventually, I visited: Times Square (plus the 5th and 6th Avenues), Wall Street (though I could not go in the building of New York Stock Exchange), the roof of the Empire State Building (by night), Central Park, Columbia University, the UN Headquarter, the Grand Central Terminal, Chinatown, the 9/11 Memorial. I also walked around the Columbus Circus, Soho and the Greenwich Village, the Rockefeller Center… I did not have enough time to visit museums, neither to go out of Manhattan. Below are short focuses about some of these places.
Times Square. As soon as I put my baggages in the youth hostel, I took a map of the subway network and I noticed that a subway line went from my hostel to Times Square. I was excited and feverish in the subway that reaching Times Square was a kind of ecstasy for me. I saw the large screens on the buildings, the news tickers, advertisings everywhere. I went back later, by night: Times Square was still crowded, I understood that there was nothing « particular », except the crowd and the lights. Nevertheless I was delighted to be in Times Square.
Columbia University. I wanted to meet Morgane, who is also a Sciences Po student (we were in the same team for a field internship, then for a presentation in an administrative law course). She is now enrolled for a dual BA (Sciences Po – Columbia), and she also works part-time in the Visitor Center. Therefore, Morgane made me visit Columbia! However, it was raining so I did not take any picture. We also chatted about both our abroad experiences.
The UN headquarter. An other ectasy (I guess that other visitors found my behavior a bit strange). Though we could not go to the podium or sit in one’s country desks, we were able to see the General Assembly hall and the (temporary) Security Council hall! There were also exhibitions about the Millenium Development Goals, the Human Rights and the weapons’ control.
The subway. The New York public transportation network is very different from Montreal’s one. Subways run 24 hours a day, the network is more concentrated (at least in Manhattan), the train frequency was far higher, some lines are express (while other are omnibus) but they run less deeply than in Montreal. But this comparison is not really relevant: in Montreal the network is recent in a large town, in Montreal the network is one of the oldest subway networks of the world and it is located in a global city!
What did I eat? Shame on me, what I ate was not really healthy. I wanted to know what McDonald’s and Dunkins Donuts looked like in the US. I think that this kind of food is cheaper in New York than in Montreal. I also had a lunch in Chinatown: the restaurant offered only noodle soops, but these soups are tasty and really cheap! For a dish for only $6, go to Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, Doyers St (it was recommended by Michelin and TripAdvisor) – nothing amazing, but pretty good.
Chinatown. New York’s Chinatown is far larger than Montreal’s one. But it has the same characteristics: I really appreciate the district, there are tons of restaurants and groceries and other small shops; but one could find the area a bit dirty (sidewalks were not really clean), while some shops windows seemed shady.
An unexpected purchase. As I was going to the UN headquarter, I saw a DNC office (Democratic National Committee) and I went inside. There was very little bustle, Democratic supporters seem to be idle. I bought two badges in order to support Barack Obama for President. American citizens, do not forget to vote (for Obama)!
Other places I visited: Central Park, etc. Central Park is very large, so do not expect to cross the whole park. Its designer (Olmsted) also the designer of the Mount Royal Park in Montreal, although Central Park seems more urban. You may find traffic lights by the pathside; I did not understand why… until I tried to cross this path: runners run so fast that you fear to be knocked over! The Central Terminal Station is also a very beautiful place, but you will find suburban trains only. However, I deliberately forgot to find the Sofitel or the house where Dominique Straus-Kahn stayed during the judicial procedure.
The border: part 2. So, you remember that we waited during ~4/5 hours in order to go in the US. While we were returning, the bus stopped several miles before the border: the line was several miles long! We thought that we would have to wait during a whole week in order to cross back the border, but the driver was very genuine: he reversed until the last ramp, went out of the highway, drove through an alternative road so that the bus came just in front of the border. Eventually, we did not wait at all.
Postscript: For more details, do read a guide, or do go to NYC.