It was a day of ups and downs and then more ups.
We started today early. Very early. The queues at The Rockefeller Center start early too. But our luck was in and before we knew it we were 69 stories high - Up at The Rock looking out over the amazing, iconic New York skyline. Up at The Rock commands magnificent views of all of Manhattan and beyond. We gazed uptown to the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and further on across Central Park. Turning round we saw Harlem, Queens, The Bronx off in the distance. Then the East River, and downtown to all those impossibly high skyscrapers, the mighty financial district, New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn.
It is quite some spectacle. It took us a while to soak it all in. And it was hot too, in the early morning sunshine.
Today was a Friday and back on street level it was getting busy with commuters and tourists.
Any weekday morning in New York City can be a challenge of course. The rush hour, the people, the heat... But despite being boiling outside on the street we coolly took the E train downtown to take in one of the most chilling places to visit in NYC: the 9/11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center.
Whereas the surrounding buildings have all but risen again to their former glory the original Twin Towers themselves have been replaced by two massive holes in the ground converted into dark, ominous waterfalls. The names of all those who died are etched into the metal barrier around the edge. Sobering stuff.
Beneath the WTC plaza itself is a cavernous museum space packed with much original debris, powerful personal testimony and heart wrenching mementos of that fateful day. Audio recordings of fire crew inside the towers shortly before they collapsed, voicemails from office staff to loved ones trapped on the floors above where the two aircraft hit and messages left by passengers on the planes as they were about to fly into the buildings were almost too much to take. Our tears flowed as the exhibition lead us through the time line of the day and the tragedy of the disaster unfolded before our eyes. Upsetting, haunting and powerful. An unforgettable exhibition.
To be honest it was a tough couple of hours but so pleased we went.
Afterwards we were in much need of something to cheer us up. So we grabbed a bite to eat from a street food vendor before heading on to our next adventure across town.
This one we didn't know much about in advance. We had only been told by a voice message to be on a street corner at 1pm where we would receive further instructions. All very cloak and dagger.
A few other people were hanging around too.
Then a man approached us, spun us a yarn, gave us an envelope, some instructions, swore us to secrecy, and hurried off. The game was afoot...
We were taking part in The Accomplice - an interactive street experience where we had to solve clues, find hidden objects, talk to strangers, and deliver items. There were fish heads, ciphers, locks, keys, codes, drunks, food, and a lot of walking. Brooklyn Bridge, Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, Lower East Side.. Shops, park benches, bars, restaurants, street corners... We did solve the puzzle and eventually ended up in a lesbian bar for the big reveal.
I won't give the game away but it was crazy, lots of fun, and certainly let you see parts of the city you wouldn't have ordinarily have seen. Naturally we bonded with our fellow adventurers en route too.
We were rather knackered after our city scramble so decided to pop back to our hotel for a bit of a rest. But that did last long. We had our daily cheese and wine freebies to take! And our hotel host insisted we finish the bottle too. Hic!
In the evening we had a Broadway show booked: Come From Away. It was a lovely companion piece to the 9/11 museum as the action is set in Canada on September 11th 2001 when dozens of airplanes get diverted and grounded to a small airport in Newfoundland.
The plot is sweet if a little light, the humour spot on, the music and songs very good, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The New York crowd were a noisy bunch though. Whooping, standing ovations, and wild applause. And that was just for the usherette!
We wandered home afterwards through the bustling streets of Hell's Kitchin with our heads buzzing from the day.
It was a day that took us from the top to the bottom and back up again. From the sublime to the tragic to the ridiculous as only New York City seems to do so effortlessly.
Another great day in the Big Apple.