Pursuing Happiness

In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do…

Day two of four, also the day of the most pictures and walking. Keep in mind that this was a Friday, so everybody else had work, and I spent the majority of the day walking around the city by myself. But that’s also what I like about travelling – just getting yourself lost and experiencing the city. After all, my travels are defined not by what I see, but what I experience.

My day started early at 9 AM on Wall Street. I had very ambitious plans for exploration, and I probably would have been able to get through everything if it weren’t so cold outside! I ended up having to stop quite frequently because I just couldn’t stand walking around outdoors anymore.

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I couldn’t actually get into anywhere on Wall Street. The New York Stock Exchange is no longer open to the public, and I didn’t book a tour for the Federal Reserve, so really I was just walking around on the street. It didn’t take long before I decided I should just find a place to hide from the cold.

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That first stop happened to be Century 21. It’s a bargain department store – I call it a glorified version of Winners. I spent a good hour in here checking out what they had, and it’s also where I bought those fleece leggings I mentioned last day. That’s about it though. Like I said, I’m not on a shopping trip.

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Century 21 is located near Broadway Street, and Broadway is where everything is. I swear there are a bunch of the same stores located along this main street of New York. This Gap was right across from Century 21, and as you can see, it also shows off a bit of the Wall Street neighbourhood.

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One of the things I always see are these ‘police boxes’ everywhere I go. And they’re usually unoccupied. Nothing, I just thought that these things are quite interesting.

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From there, I walked over the to 9/11 Memorial for a look. It’s really just a huge hole in the ground, and if you didn’t know what it was, you might even think it’s a bit random. It’s not obvious because the Twin Towers are not immediately next to each other. If you see two holes side by side, you could probably figure it out, but you can only see one at a time.

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Lots of people were here and taking pictures. (Still not more than an average jeweler in Hong Kong occupied by Mainlanders, mind you). The frame of the pool has all the names of those people carved on it, and it’s a bit humbling to stand in front of this monument. Even just reading the names of people I don’t know. It’s the same as how I felt when watching American Sniper. Everything is too real, too recent, too relateable. It’s not just a story that people tell you. I lived to see all this happen.

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After that stop, I started looking for food. It was around noon anyway. I ended up in a very random panini shop near Wall Street, and sat there to enjoy my lunch. I didn’t spend to much time though. I wanted to see as much as I could!

I walked past this Burger King, and stepped inside just to take a picture of the wall. The stepped back out.

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I walked south along Broadway until I made it back to Wall Street. That’s when I finally checked out the Federal Hall. It’s not too big, which is nice, because I always feel like I have to make it through the entire museum when I walk into one. That’s also why I avoided a lot of the museums. I just wanted to wander.

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One thing that I really liked inside the Federal Hall was this mini exhibit of past Federal Hall buildings. The building models were nice, but I especially liked the maps that accompanied them because they give you an idea of how NY looked like through time.

If you remember that I mentioned last day, New York is typical gridded North American city. That grid-like structure is good proof of urban planning, which is a relatively recent phenomena. If you look at maps of Europe (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, for my Europe trip planning), or go back to how I got lost in Japan on my first day, you’ll see that those cities are not quite as nicely structured. You can see the exact same pattern here, with the snapshots through time of New York. Streets and buildings were quite randomly placed in 1730; the holes get filled in slowly, and by 1850, you see a very clear grid pattern to the north. But alas, the history of this city starts near the south of Manhattan, and even today when you walk through the financial district, you still immediately see the difference from the rest of the perfectly gridded city.

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Directly across from Federal Hall is the main entrance of NYSE. Like I said, I wasn’t able to get in, but there was an information sign on the street that gave me an idea of what it must be like inside.

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One thing I noticed about this city of New York is that it’s heavily barricaded. Cars don’t get by very easily – as if traffic wasn’t bad enough! And this is not just around this financial district area, but also near other key areas of the city, like City Hall. I guess there’s just too much history, and too much to potentially lose.

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The New York Charging Bull. I was amused at how many tourists there were around this thing, but not nearly as many on Wall Street or inside the Federal Hall Museum. (Nope, no selfie here).

Sometimes I make it sound like I’m completely against these kinds of famous attractions. It’s not that I’ll skip these things completely… but I also don’t feel that going to Paris and taking a picture with the Eiffel Tower really means that you’ve visited the city.

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Interesting fact of the day, and it’s another currency fact! Apparently the US has this $100,000 banknote – legit. But of course, they were never put into circulation for the public; they were only used for transaction between US Federal Reserve Banks. I bought this postcard and it has a short explanation on the back. It also emphasizes that these notes were issued “only against an equal amount of gold bullion held by the Treasury”. Now we all know that this is “theoretically” true for any banknote, but here’s a good connotation coming from the US themselves to imply whatever you think it is.

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One more picture for this post, and its one of my personal favourite shots of the day – a look down Stone Street. I read about this place before embarking on my trip: it’s a foodie area for the business people working around the Wall Street neighbourhood. I didn’t try anything, but I sure like the scene.

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I’ll continue rambling on about the rest of this day, but another time. There’s just too many thoughts to organize into words!

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