In October 2012, X-Press Magazine’s Global Correspondent BEN WATSON packed his bags and waved goodbye, after 19 years, to Perth. His mission: to see the whole damn world while he can.
New York City. Is there a finer metropolis on the globe? Is there anywhere more awesome and exciting and exhilarating to be in any given moment? Paris has monuments, but they feel like parks. London is vital, but insists on sleeping at night. LA is an epicentre, but without a car you’re toast.
NYC, on the other hand, has everything, all at once. Standing anywhere in Manhattan feels exactly like being in a goddamn movie, it’s just that surreal. Itself an island, just 20km long and less than 4km across, the city’s most populous borough feels as improbable as it is awesome. Everywhere – overground, underground, all around you – the city heaves under the weight of relentless civilisation.
Geography is everything. Uptown, Downtown, East Side, West Side, block after block of numbered streets – Manhattan’s layout makes it one of the easiest places in the world to navigate. Still, trundling on the Subway from Central Park down to Lower Manhattan can seemingly take an age. Not because the trains are slow, but because when you’re under Times Square, not on it, it’s extremely easy to forget the sheer scope of the motherlode you’re traversing.
Still, the trip down to South Ferry, at the very bottom of the borough, is well worth your time, because the best way to really get a grip on this concrete jungle isle is to get the fuck off it. Here the Staten Island Ferry is your friend.
75,000 people ride the Staten Island Ferry daily. It’s a public service, running to-and-fro all day across Upper New York Bay from Manhattan to Staten Island – which is another, less famous, oft-overlooked borough of NYC. At South Ferry, you’re loaded en masse with the commuters of New York, then likewise loaded off at the other end… where it’s possible to jump on a return ferry more-or-less immediately. And, you’ll be pleased to know, it doesn’t cost a cent.
This 50-minute round trip really is a must-do, especially if you’ve never been to NYC before. You hear about these places – New Jersey, the Statue Of Liberty, Ellis Island, Manhattan, Governors Island, Brooklyn – but to see them all laid out in front of you, like America’s crown jewels, is something else entirely.
The Statue Of Liberty in particular is a boon, as full tours take three hours, while the special ‘crown tours’ – which go all the way to the top – are fully-booked until January. Do you really need to climb 22 storeys to the top of that hat, or do you just want to witness the good woman and get some sweet snaps? In the latter case, the Staten Island Ferry gives you ample opportunity.
Plus you may just get a chance to interact with the locals, who are incredibly dry and way more fun than tourists. Then disembarkation and onward, back into the guts of Manhattan, free to pop up anywhere you fancy, to find a bar, get comfortable, and blow the dosh you saved today on a million delicious beers and a cheeseburger the size of a man’s head.