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Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Different Look at New York City

By Valerie Battle Kienzle

Last month friend Stephanie and I traveled with our college-age daughters to New York City.  Sporting comfortable walking shoes and cross body purses, we looked like thousands of other tourists who’d traveled there from all parts of the world.  We were anxious to experience the city that never sleeps.

Thanks to, we secured a room at the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for a reasonable (by NYC standards) rate.  We wanted that “grand hotel” experience; it was that and more.  We spent time just wandering through the hallways and ballrooms, carefully studying framed photographs of historic events that have taken place there through the years.

We had dinner in Times Square on a Friday night (unbelievably crowded), saw “The Lion King” on Broadway (amazing costumes and choreography), roamed through Central Park on a Saturday (a beautiful oasis among all the concrete), and wandered through So Ho, Chinatown, Coney Island and The Guggenheim Museum (each could be described as a cultural experience). 

We spent a somber Sunday morning at the World Trade Center Memorial, where the names of the almost 3,000 people who died on September 11, 2001, are engraved around two large fountains built where the twin towers once stood.

We literally walked miles each day, heard an amazing number of foreign languages (local lore says more than 200 languages are spoken in the NYC area) and ate some incredible meals in places like Little Italy.
I’ve visited New York City many times.  I’ve traveled up to the Empire State Building’s observation deck for a bird’s-eye view of the city, and wandered through the different neighborhoods, but for the first time ever I noticed the Old World craftsmanship and architectural details to be found on so many structures throughout the city. 

By the end of the trip, my traveling companions knew that if our foursome became a threesome, I had stopped somewhere to take yet another photo of a gargoyle or an Art Deco building.  They knew I’d soon catch up with them.With childlike wonder, I wandered along sidewalks with my eyes focused up, marveling at the creativity and talent of long-gone unnamed artists.  

So the next time you visit New York, or any older established city for that matter, take time to look up and around.  The main tourist attractions aren't the only items of beauty and interest to be found.  Thousands of nameless and faceless artists left their mark on urban America.  Most of us just never take the time to notice and appreciate their work.