THERE ARE VERY FEW THINGS THAT ARE AS MUCH FUN AS A PRIVATE TOUR OF NYC.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT PRIVATE TOURS OF NYC IS THAT YOUR REALLY GET TO KNOW YOUR GUESTS, AND OF COURSE YOU GET TO SHOW OFF THE CITY IN A LITTLE MORE DEPTH THAN ON A PUBLIC TOUR.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of conduction a private tour of NYC with Miranda and Terry from Canada, they had never been to the city before. It’s important for a guide to bring enthusiasm and freshness to every single tour, it’s not that hard when NYC is the muse. I picked them up at their East Side hotel, where we said hello and discussed an itinerary. Since we were close to Grand Central Terminal, and the Library, we decided to visit both and then head over to Central Park.
Central Park has become my favorite place to visit, if there is one thing I can take away from tour-guiding, it would be my love for Central Park. It is a living breathing work of art, and no matter when or how many times one visits, the park reveals a new aspect of itself. I revel in the genius of Vaux and Olmsted. After the Library we walked west on 42nd Street and jumped on the C train up to 72nd Street. They had never ridden the subway before, so had a little underground adventure.
We emerged from the train and walked over to Strawberry Fields. We strolled down and around Loeb Lake, crossed Oak Bridge into the Rambles. A magnificent dry stone arch heralds your entrance into the Rambles.
We were making our way down one of the tree lined, circuitous trails when out of the corner of my eye, I spot a frantic bride. She was alone and lost, and in the middle of one of the most confusing parts of the park. I asked if she needed help. She had a heavy German accent, but she managed to get out that the event was taking place at the Ladies Pavilion. I tried to explain the route to her, but she wasn’t getting it. I needed to take her to the LP. So back down the hill, through the Rambles Arch, and over Oak Bridge where I showed her the Ladies Pavilion. It was framed in the lovely reds, oranges, browns and greens of the fall foliage. It was a perfect day for a wedding. Frantic as the bride was, her audience would wait.
Terry and Miranda were waiting patiently for me when I got back, and we continued our stroll out onto Bow Bridge. We had to stop for some snaps. First Terry took photographs of Miranda, then I took photographs of Terry photographing Miranda, then I took pictures of them together. I enjoy this type of photography, snapping shots of our day. We made our way down to the Boathouse, over to the Model Boat Lake, and then to the wonderful bronze statue of Alice in Wonderland. What a wonderful day we had been given.
We left the park at 79th Street and Fifth Avenue and spoke briefly about the Metropolitan Museum, but discussed mostly the mansions that line the Avenue between 79th & 78th Street. They are magnificent window into a long gone era, and give you a vivid understanding of what the Gilded Age was.
Miranda wanted to see the WTC site, so we started to walk East on 77th towards the subway. We stopped on Madison for coffee and a pastry, and then jumped on the Lexington Avenue subway down to Fulton Street. We emerged from the brand new canopied exit on the west side of Broadway and walked over to St Paul’s. Inside, the artifacts of that horrible day still tap into an endless well of sadness.
We walked across West Street to the American Express building to view the Memorial of the Eleven Tears. Because of its immediacy and the simple paragraph about each lost person, it is a very peaceful and moving place. Respect must be paid to those poor souls who could’ve been anyone of us. I never take anything for granted.
The World Financial Center has been turned upside down by the construction going on as it is adapted to the changing reality of lower Manhattan, an area that has gone from business to residential in ten years. It is a maze of sheet-rocked passages and sharp turns into unexpected warrens. We made our way over to the windows on the South side of the building and viewed the World Trade Center site. No matter what you may feel about the architecture or the politics, it is a real miracle that a new city is rising on the spot where I, like many, believed there would be nothing but a hole in the ground for years to come.
I had read that the underground passage into the WTC site had opened on Friday, October 25th. I was anxious to see it. For me, it was the first tangible taste of the new WTC that I would experience. We followed the signs and emerged into a beautiful sunlit indoor plaza. The glass wall on the east side had a spectacular view of the WTC, we could see the 9/11 Memorial, One WTC, and the rising steel of the new Path station.
In front of us was the bank of escalators that took you down into the underground passage that led under West Street and to the PATH Station; eventually it will connect with the Fulton Street subway complex, a vast improvement over the long walk back to the subway.
It was so gratifying to finally be able to re-enter the WTC, as we rode down the massive escalators to the bedrock, I remembered how I had watched this underground take sh
ape. recalling when it was filled with water, now walking through it, under the sign that proclaimed World Trade Center. I felt that in many ways we had come full cycle, from disaster to re-birth. I know there are many people who lost much more than I did, I knew no one who was murdered on that day, or even anyone that knew anyone, but we were all wounded on that horrible day and have healed in our own ways. Entering the site that day, past the slurry wall and under the iron ribs of Calatrava’s new terminal gave me a profound sense of progress.
Miranda, Terry and I entered the PATH Station and traveled up the huge bank of escalators that is so reminiscent of the bank that used to disgorge riders into the old WTC concourse. We walked up Vesey Street to Broadway, they wanted to go have a drink and a burger on Stone Street, I showed them how to get down there on a map Miranda was carrying. They thanked me graciously for the tour, I told them how much fun I had, we shook hands and said goodbye. See you Terry and Miranda!