Wednesday 4 March 2020

Town Travel - New York, USA


Town Travel - My favourite town by Lucia Davis

I have been to many places and I love discovering new cities. In a way, my favorite city is the one I haven’t been to yet, because everything is new. But there are a few places I will always want to come back to, because there’s so much to do and see. I am guessing I’m probably not being very original here, but one of my favorite cities in the U.S. is New York City.

New York City is awesome. It’s bold, and progressive. My short post may not do it justice. There is so much to enjoy: the many museums, the amazing shows on Broadway, the beauty of Central Park, and the multitude of historic places. I took my eldest to NYC when he was in third grade, and I’m planning to do the same with my middle child this year. It is an experience that’s not easily forgotten.

NYC started out as New Amsterdam, which for me, being from the Netherlands, makes it a special city. I love pointing out the origin of some of the names to my kids, like Brooklyn, Harlem, Yankee and Coney Island. As an immigrant, I think NYC really drives home the point that most people living in the U.S. have ancestors that came from somewhere else. Especially in a time of divisiveness, having this common thread in our past—whether it be more distant or more recent—is something that is powerful and uniting.

I took my son to the Statue of Liberty, and afterwards we came through Ellis Island. We sat in the main hall and we realized that a little over a hundred years ago, several of his ancestors entered America through this very hall, embarking on a new journey. Coming from Poland and the Czech Republic, some as young adults and a few still in their teens, traveling with family or all by themselves, this place must have been daunting. But they endured.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny day, taking in its elegant structures, as well as its fascinating history. The bridge was designed by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling, who was to be in charge of the project. In 1869 however, during inspections of the site, he injured his foot, and subsequently died of an infection, presumably tetanus. Construction of the bridge started in 1870, under the supervision of his son, Washington Roebling, by building two big wooden structures (caissons), filled with pressurized air, in which the workers could “safely” remove the sediment. The caissons would slowly sink to the bedrock, after which they would be filled with concrete and function as bases for the suspension towers.

As it turned out, spending all this time in pressurized air deep under water was not good for humans—hence the word “caisson disease”— or decompression illness.  Quite a few workmen ended up having symptoms or lasting effects, as did Washington Roebling. It left him bedridden and unable to return to the site again. Instead, he provided written instructions and sent them with his wife, Emily Roebling, a determined and well-educated woman, who ended up supervising the construction for the next eleven years! At the opening, in 1883, she was the first to cross the bridge.

NYC is a place of beauty and wonderful architecture, but also contains much evidence of hatred and terrible violence. I have only visited NYC twice, but the first time was many years ago. I have pictures of me, as a young girl, on top of one of the Twin Towers. When I was there with my son, everything had changed. The 9/11 Memorial is a deeply emotional place to visit. Even my son, then eight years old, was still for quite some time, taking in the large spaces the towers had occupied.

Later, we walked around in Central Park, taking a break from the streets and concrete, but not from the people. We loved having so much green in this big city, but also the fact that we enjoyed this space together with so many other people, a sense of cohesiveness perhaps. We ran, played, watched the entertainers, and had a terrific afternoon until dusk.

New York City has so much to offer. And even though I have been there before, I can’t wait to go back again!

Lucia N. Davis, author of the Dunnhill Mysteries.

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