The Tall, Taller and Tallest in Manhattan

“You can do what you like, sir, but I’ll tell you this. New York is the true capital of America. Every New Yorker knows it, and by God, we always shall.”

That’s not me spouting off biased and borrowed wisdom in my two days of being here. I am not a New Yorker yet. I do not know if I shall ever be one in my heart. The quote is from ‘New York’, a historical novel by British author Edward Rutherford. If you like the kind of bulky tomes that you can hurl at people (who annoy you) and thereby cause serious injury, Rutherford is your man. If you are the kind of person however with a penchant for useless dreaming, and you also possess the patience of a beaver, then you would rather flip open that tome. Channelling your inner Om.

‘New York’ introduced me to historical layers of a world that I had no idea of. The story of Native Americans who lived on Mannahatta, or ‘the land of many hills’, the name given by ancient tribes to Manhattan that is the city’s historical birthplace. The plot starts thickening once the European settlers trickle in.

Now that busy streak from Manhattan’s past, my friend, has infiltrated the present day in which I found myself walking down the busiest of the five boroughs of New York.

On a noon hedged in by skyscrapers, there we were, two people ultimately new to New York’s glitzy glory, craning our necks to take in the full view of an army of towers. Some tipped with golden spires, others with sombre spires and facades sheathed in glass in which you could catch reflections. Just a vision of tall buildings looming above us, no matter what angle we turned our heads at. Oh, it was a giddy feeling alright.

A series of impressive court houses with their massive pillars achieved the intended effect of imbibing us with the requisite amount of awe. A colonial building in a leafy park turned out to be the city hall where the mayor of New York sits and an old church in red bricks shot its hand out to declare its presence right after.

Walking beneath old gaslights into the leafy City Hall Park that was the place for public executions and recreations in old times, we soon found that we were at the portals of the hallowed St. Paul’s Chapel. Standing outside the oldest church building in Manhattan, where George Washington prayed and which survived the 9/11 attacks, we were in a sense soaking in the colonial heritage of the city.

Then there’s the iconic One World Trade Center, rebuilt upon the old World Trade Center complex, catching reflections of the changing skies above us and… wait, what was that strange building, presenting a strange vision of bifurcating ribs?

A thorn in the taxpayer’s line of vision, as a New Yorker might say. Or The Oculus. But I cannot and shall not complain about this building that was conceived of as a giant dove by a Spanish architect. It might end up looking like giant claws apart from ribs but that is a different matter. Some have even likened it to a dinosaur.

You do feel for the architect. Creativity requires imagination and not everyone can give into your vision, however grand and ambitious it might be. It might not be everyone’s favourite building but The Oculus is a paradigm of space and modern design. Through its ribs the skyline of the city was broken up in a linear manner, which was strangely engrossing as the three pink balloons winking down at us from its elevated spot upon the glass beams.

Dear old Oculus is now one of my closest buds in New York. I shall not try and explain that odd fact away given that you know me by now. You see, I enter the city through The Oculus which is the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. It replaced the old PATH station that was destroyed by the 9/11 attacks. Just to put it in perspective, the PATH decoded is Port Authority Trans-Hudson, the rapid transit system that connects places like Newark, Harrison, Hoboken, and Jersey City in New Jersey to New York City, apart from linking up lower and midtown Manhattan as well.

You can well imagine then why I shall rely upon Oculus dear for emotional support and extensive hand holding during all the times that I shall find myself goofing my way around New York, boarding the wrong trains and finding myself in places unknown.

I know this that Oculus shall always be there for me.

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Meet Oculus
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Gaping at The Oculus. Just a very normal reaction.
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Manhattan skyline through the Oculus
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A hip photographer hugs the ground as he waits for the four to kick their feet into the air
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Imagine all the times they must have fallen on their heads. I am odd anyway. A fall or two might take it to unnecessary levels.
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Approaching the pillars of justice around the bend
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Hefty pillars of governance
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The traffic is incessant
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The wheels of justice. They grind on.
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Sizing up the city
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City Hall. The office of the mayor of New York.
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City Hall. A profile.
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The goodness of two alliums bobbing their pretty heads inside the City Hall Park
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Gaslights and the city
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City Hall Park
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The old and the new stand shoulder to shoulder
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Brownstone buildings of Manhattan
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One World Trade Center
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Mr. Whippy where art thou?
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St. Paul’s Chapel, cross-sectioned
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Spires. Old and new.

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Entering the picture in silhouette
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‘Show me the glint of light on broken glass.’ What would you have made of this, Mr. Chekhov?

Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

65 thoughts on “The Tall, Taller and Tallest in Manhattan

  1. New York can be overwhelming at times. I went there a few times during a week stay in New Jersey visiting a friend. However, I enjoyed being the observer that I am and seeing the melting pot of culture within each human I encountered. Now the real treat is visiting the burroughs. If you have the chane swing into Brooklyn on the train and headto the Brooklyn Art Museum. Judy Chicago’s “Dinner party” is there and a must see. It was one of my favourite pieces from my art history days

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you Cherry. I will keep these recommendations in mind and surely pop into them by and by. I am trying to keep my head above water here. It is a city for observers. You are right about that. It is quite intriguing and I hope the explorations that lie ahead of me shall keep me from drowning in the workings of a heavy heart.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think if I was ever in New York I would constantly be banging into things and falling over, as my head would permanently be looking up. I can’t get over how massive everything is. I can see why you have grown attached to Oculus. It’s incredible. I wish you luck in your new home, you may get lost, but perhaps on these unplanned excursions, you may find some amazing new spots 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt a bit like a country bumpkin. I always need an Oculus like figure anywhere I go. If you know what I mean. I shall and will get lost so I might as well find points of comfort in a city. I am counting on finding those new spots in the weeks and months to follow 🙂 xx


  3. I have to admit, I didn’t love NYC when I visited. It was too big, too noisy and just too NYC if that makes sense. But the minute I got home from my trip & started going through my photos I was like “OMG I WAS IN NYC!”.. I think it has that effect on you – you either love or hate it but it still grabs you..

    Oh if you want to learn more about the history of the city & surrounding ‘burbs, you should check out the Bowery Boys podcast, if you don’t already know about it 🙂 .. I’ve been listen to them for years (even before I went to NYC) and they have some really interesting stories to tell

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the tip, Sarah. This helps. I shall give them a read and listen in too. Maybe it will help me in getting a better idea of the city.

      I hear you. I am halfway where you were while you were in the city but I have decided that I shall give it more time. You never know when and how something grows upon you, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think with any place you go for an extended period of time, you need to find something that you actually like about the place haha. I don’t always like where I live but I have to say, Brisbane does look good at night time 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I was not expecting backflips. Impressive. The inside of the Oculus looks cool, and the outside looks like a spiny creature. I think this the first I have seen of the One World Trade Center. Lots of interesting architecture in New York.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very modern and very tall buildings, Jen. Very being the operative word and now that I have used it thrice, I shall bring myself to a halt. The One World Trade Center did make me think of perseverance, and as for the Oculus, it has my confidence lodged inside those spines 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Why I would be delighted, Paula. I believe you can make the ‘run’. Maybe we can go running together and you would definitely outrun me. And then sheepishly I would wait up for you somewhere with a cupcake and coffee 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You’ve taken your first steps in the Big Apple. I was waiting for this post. Go slowly. You will find your own places. I look forward to seeing through your eyes. By the way I would never throw a book at anybody. Wouldn’t want to treat a book so badly!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Tracey, yeah a book is indeed a treasured piece. A doorway into a different world. I am going slow mostly because I want to take my time to get to know it. Plus it seems to have enough layers that would take a lifetime to know. Thank you for the support always xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love Oculus. But I am a little strange. We know this. And in that spirit, I too wonder how many banged heads those boys got to reach their perfect flipping nirvâna! Finding the history in the city is certainly the right approach to finding your feet …. that and eating. Definitely eat your way into its heart …. I hardly need push you hard to that end, I think. Sending lots of Euro-love your way and thinking of you as a pioneer woman. This makes you heroic, by the way!! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly what Adi wondered as he saw them execute those backflips many times over for the photographer to get his perfect shot. Heroic! Oh but I have never been called that, Osyth. I shall hold onto the grand thought and eat my way into its heart alright. Also, quirky is It. Does not get better than that 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely pictures. Oculus is amazing. I’ve only been to NY once but I would definitely visit again. It’s definitely fast paced and can feel a little overwhelming. Thanks for sharing. I could learn along with you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The first time I saw the Oculus, I had a strange feeling too. I can’t still believe my eyes when I see this as part of the new urban grid. The interior space, however, it’s quite impressive. We’ll forgive Calatrava for that!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. And you did not disappoint. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love your descriptions Dippy and your photographs are amazing. I’ve been to New York a few times and yet, you’ve still managed to leave me in awe. Your eye for capturing the right angles is beautiful. I can’t wait to see more! Take your time, of course 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. How could I possibly be disappointed when you always present such thoughtful and beautiful content? Grooves definitely take some time to find. They hide in the local shops and faces that become familiar. We live in a wonderful age of Google maps. My last trip there was solo and I was just a bit scared, but knowing that I can wander and always find my way back home made me so much more comfortable. And talking to people. That is a really big factor in feeling a place out, discovering the places that you may miss, the places where you feel safe and can retreat to. You love to travel, so think of it as a traveling excursion. It doesn’t have to feel like home right away yet. This is an extended trip that will eventually become one of your homes 🙂 Sorry for that ramble!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I would rather you be not formal and excuse rambles of any kind. You are on the page of a rambler, for Arundhati’s sake! 😛
        Thank you, those words mean the world to me, Lyz. I am thinking of it as a grand adventure every time the heart quails a bit and I know I am slowly getting there. The homey feeling shall come by eventually – that I trust you on. “They hide in the local shops and faces that become familiar.” I feel exactly the same way. Home is a little bit of everything after all. xx

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Such great photos! Your “New York” book by Rutherfurd caught my eye. I just read my first book of his, “Sarum,” which covers the history of Salisbury England. It was actually very good – at first I thought I would never get through it. But he made history come to life through individual (imagined) characters from pre-historic times through present-day, although my favorite parts were up until about feudal times. After that it did feel like it might have been a little overdone. Still! I know much more about Salisbury and the Stonehenge area now than I ever did before!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is what he does with his books. Introduces you to things and ideas that does exist but that might have not reached you before you picked up his book. I am yet to read Sarum though. I intend to re-read New York now that I have arrived in the city. Just to revive the history through his stories. I shall pick up Sarum too. Sounds inviting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know! When I picked up this book, I had to read it because of a dare from another writer friend. I thought, augh, I will never be interested in this. But, the writing and the way he brought his imagined characters to life won me over. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It is Cheila. A bit surreal. I know you want to see America. Maybe you can choose the parts you want to see and don’t after going through these posts of mine on NY and around…xx


  11. Loving your pictures of New York. I have not been there in over 10 years (gasp, the horror!) and your post is reminding me why I love visiting. Time to start watching airfare, maybe? And the Oculus looks pretty interesting–I think I don’t mind the strangeness of it, and we all know the boys would be the happiest of little men if I told them it was a dinosaur, or better yet a transformer. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have the next visit sorted out then. I can see them gaping at the Oculus and wondering in suitably awed tones if it might start stomping around NYC any second soon. A decade is too long, non? Come to NYC asap 🙂 xx

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Looking at the Oculus reminds me of the Lyon Airport. But the “ribs” of the airport are more symmetrical and spreading outside like wings. By the way, great post as always 😉
    P.S: You forgot a new, tall (and infamous) attraction: The Trump Tower 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] his work previously in Venice in the form of a stone and glass bridge, and later The Oculus in Manhattan. The man knows how to boggle the […]


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