We welcome our new ambassador Bella Tipping, creator of the 'TripAdvisor for kids' site, kidzcationz.com Bella will be writing a regular blog for Out & About with Kids, so stay tuned for more. In this first contribution, Bella tells us all about her wonderful trip to New York city.
New York is an amazing place to visit, there are people everywhere and they are all in a hurry to get to where they are going. New York is made up of five boroughs: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. Each borough has many attractions and loads of personality.
The police force is called the NYPD and it is America’s biggest police force. They are everywhere and always happy to get their photo taken, which my mum did a few times because she's embarrassing.
New York’s largest chain store is Dunkin Donuts, which has 515 shops in the five boroughs. Dunkin Donuts even beats Starbucks, which only has 283 stores - only! So pretty much on any block you will find either Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. The Apple store on 5th Avenue is the largest Apple store in the USA and is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It employs over 300 people and gets thousands of visitors thought the door each day. So it isn't just packed, it is swamped.
We made sure we visited Ground Zero and the 911 Memorial. There is a huge line to get into the Memorial and you have to be searched twice before you get in. It is a very, very sad place. The main part of the memorial has two huge ponds, which represent where the Towers stood. They have water cascading down them and it drowns out the noise of the city. In the centre of each pond is a hole and you can’t see the bottom so it looks like the water disappears into an endless hole. The water creates a mist, which reminds you of the smoke rising up from the fallen towers.
The Freedom Tower has just been completed; they built the Freedom Tower as a sign that America cannot be destroyed and will come back stronger than ever. In the Memorial shop they showed interviews of survivors and families who lost someone in the terror attacks. Pretty much everyone in the shop was crying, mum and I cried a lot.
We went across the road to St Paul's Church. St Paul's survived the New York fires in the late 1800s and it has a graveyard in the grounds with graves that have been there since the 1700s, it also has beautiful stained glass windows. When the towers came down, there were buildings not even close to the towers that were damaged, and most of the buildings in the first 2 blocks had all their windows smashed. There was even a building a block from Ground Zero, which also came down. But even when both of those huge buildings fell and all the debris was strewn for miles, little St Paul's Church that is right across the road from the towers didn't get harmed at all. There was rubbish in the grounds but none of the windows were smashed and not one part of the church or the old gravestones in the cemetery was damaged at all. People said it was a sign that God will prevail in the face of terrorism.
The firefighters used the church as a place to rest in between shifts, they would lay on the pews with all their gear on, which scratched the pews. They have kept those scratched pews as a memorial. The locals used the church as a place of worship and friendship and a place to find answers for such a terrible thing. The church became a place where people from all walks of life would come to get comfort from each other. People looking for their loved ones would put signs up asking if anyone had seen their missing loved one. People would volunteer their services and offer massages and other help for the rescuers.
The church is still a place for Mass but it has become more a place for people trying to understand life. The church is full of memorial items and letters from people all over the world. It is sad because of what happened but it also makes you feel proud that there are more good people than bad people in the world. Of course, it made mum and me cry ... again!
We used the Hop on Hop Off bus to look at the New York sights. The tour was for 2 days and we sat upstairs again and froze to death. Dad and I ended up getting colds, we wore all our warm gear but we were still cold.
Times Square is huge but it is also a bit scary because people are everywhere. I was a bit surprised when I saw the globe that drops on New Year's Eve. I have seen it on TV and I expected it to be huge but it was quite small and easy to miss if you didn't know where to look. There is a grandstand where people go up to see themselves on huge screens, it captures their faces and the shows them on other bodies.
There is a Toys'R'Us store in Time Square with a full size ferris wheel inside the store! Everything is big in America!
The cost of living is really high in NYC. To rent a tiny two bedroom unit costs $4000 per month, so there are usually too many people living in the one unit just to be able to afford a place to live. Waiters get paid about $7 per hour and they have to rely on tips to make ends meet and pay their rent. There are people always trying to sell you something on the street and it makes you feel bad when you don’t buy it, there are lots of homeless people as well, which is really terrible.
You really can’t get lost in NYC because all the streets are numbered one way and the avenues in order the other way, so it is like a grid. You have to do lots of walking though and everyone walks really fast. The car drivers are crazy and people always walk out in front of the cars, it’s a wonder more people aren't killed but we didn't see any accidents.
We went on the Intrepid. It’s a huge war ship, which was used in WWII and was also used after 911 to house 750 FBI agents. It is a huge carrier and there were lots of planes on it as well as the Space Shuttle and Concorde. But to be honest, mum and I were bored out of our heads because we had seen most of the things at NASA and the Air and Space Museum, but dad loved it so we pretended we did, too!
We went to the Magnolia Bakery three times. It's really famous for its cupcakes and they are the most delicious cakes you will ever eat. The line to get in there is long, but it is worth the wait.
Central Park is huge. It is over 800 acres in the heart of NYC. The whole park is man-made and there are lakes and castles and heaps of playgrounds. Some of the area was used as a rubbish tip, as well as a village called Seneca Village where a lot of African American families lived. A man called Mr Bryant asked the council to turn it into a park for everyone, rich and poor. The council agreed, but Mr Bryant had to design it himself and set up a Trust to care for it. The Council only pays for the lawns to be maintained and the rest is paid by the Trust, which gets its money from people dedicating park benches to people they love and donations. All the benches have plaques on them and nothing is vandalised. It is nice to see nice things not being destroyed.
Central Park has horse-drawn carriages to take people through the park. The horses are so smelly and sad-looking that it broke our hearts. There was no way we were taking a carriage through New York; the council is trying to ban them because of the cruelty. The poor horses are often hit by cars and killed and there are people demonstrating against them every day. I hope they stop it or at least make the conditions better. In Australia the RSPCA would shut them down.
The squirrels in Central Park are gorgeous and you can buy nuts and hand feed them, I got lots of photos.
New Yorkers are really friendly, one day mum and I were trying to work out which way we had to go to Magnolia Bakery because we had come down a different street, a man came up and pointed us in the right direction. People said New Yorkers wouldn't do that sort of thing, but they did it often.
We did so much shopping that we had to buy two more suitcases to get our things home. On the day we were checking out we shared a lift with a man we had spoken to quite a bit during our stay. He was very friendly and talked to us a lot. The lady he was with told us how lucky we were that we shared the hotel with one of the world’s most famous authors; his name was Salman Rushdie. We couldn't believe it because even I had heard of him.
I loved New York and I can’ wait to go back!
- Bella Tipping, kidzcationz.com