We arrived in New York during one of the coldest spells the city had encountered for years and everyone wanted to tell us. “It’s not been cold like this in a long, long while!” exclaimed a surprisingly friendly border official at immigration. This set the tone for the trip during which New Yorkers couldn’t wait to advise us and warn us to “wrap up warm folks.”
Our first night it snowed a lot but because we were already safely there, all this brought was excitement to our group. The sound of snow ploughs scraping the roads through the night and the sight of small business owners shovelling their doorways clear of snow proved one thing: nothing stops New York moving.
Navigating the streets was a little trickier than normal, as well as the commuters there were huge mounds of snow turning grey from the dust and grime. But our students had been well-briefed and layers and thermals were all present and correct. The wind chill reached -16 degrees at times and the in “look” was definitely everything covered but our eyes. New York is a stunning city at street level at the best of times, but with snow falling it took on another level of beauty.
Indoors, we visited the Museum of Modern Art on the first day. The sheer volume of world-famous pieces and artists on display is staggering. It really is like walking through a textbook: Monet, Van Gogh, Mondrian, Warhol and more. As ever though, it was the weird and wonderful artefacts and painting’s that really got the laughs and the questions flowing. “Is that art? really? And to think I’m getting a D at AS Level.”
The 911 Memorial Museum later on in our visit was a new addition to our school’s schedule- a truly incredible example of museum curation. We probably underestimated how much time was needed: 100 minutes and we didn’t feel we had scratched the surface. Some of the exhibits offer warnings due to their distressing nature, for example you can only listen to perhaps two or three answerphone messages before tears well up. And, emerging from deep below the ground to the memorial park, the two vast waterfalls held even more poignancy than when we had past them walking in.
Visits to The Empire State and Top of the Rock offered clear and crisp views of snow-covered rooftops and in the distance the parks along Broadway formed little pockets of white. Students taking selfies and face-timing family from 70 floors up are always a highlight. “Look where I am, Mum!”
Personally, I have always felt that a lot can be achieved in New York by simply walking: Greenwich, The Brooklyn Bridge, and Staten Island. There are times when just being on the move is experience enough. Any visit to New York will give you some one-off moments of wonder. During this visit, that moment came in Central Park. Leaving the subway at 72nd street meant we entered the park near the Dakota Building and Strawberry Fields. It felt quieter than usual and calmer too. Snowballs sliding down hills and a white blanket as far as the eyes could see made Central Park feel magical. It was impossible not to take a photo that looked stunning. And, for a few minutes, there were no selfies at all…just landscape shots. Imagine that!
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