Central Park, New York

Wiktionary’s definition of “concrete jungle” reads like a checklist of adjectives one would use to describe New York City. The cityscape harsh, unattractive, conspicuously devoid of greenery, and denser than Jim Hoft. Central Park, comparatively speaking, is a paradise.

I visited Central Park in middle of summer. The surrounding city was sweltering, noisy and smelled like hot garbage. Central Park, natural beauty aside, was the perfect escape from the discomfort of the city. The air was cooler and smelled fresh and clean. In fact, the air in Central Park is literally less polluted than that in the city that surrounds it.

Central Park features a small zoo. All things considered, it’s quite unremarkable, housing a small collection of mammals, reptiles and birds that one would find in any major zoo anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, it’s a nice, relaxing (and surprisingly inexpensive) way to spend a few hours.

Outside of the zoo, the park bustles with wildlife. Sparrows and squirrels scuttle skittishly across the park’s vistas, aiming feverishly to separate humans from their food, while simultaneously trying to avoid making any contact with said humans.

The ponds and reservoirs of Central Park are visually stunning, especially in the evenings as the lights of the New York skyline shimmer across their waters. Paddle boats are popular in the lake at the southern end, while fishing most enjoyable in Harlem Meer at the northern end.

One World Trade Center, New York

I was only eight years old when the September 11 attacks happened. I was in a hotel room in Darwin, watching the live news coverage, with little understanding of the historical significance of what was happening.

Visiting One World Trade Center was an unusual experience. The building is unequivocally and gorgeous magnificent sight to behold as it triumphantly dominates its surroundings. But there is also solemnity lingering in the crowds in the plaza below. Groups speak in hushed voices and shiny eyes are everywhere, as though participating in a decades-long wake.

The elevators to the One World Observatory, floors 100-102, are a technological marvel—travelling 100 floors in under a minute. The elevator plays a visually stunning 3D animation of the tower’s construction and the 500-year evolution of the New York skyline on the way up. The CGI is quite remarkable.

The two fountains, each roughly an acre in size, sit in the footprint of the fallen towers. The names of the lives lost are inscribed on the fountains’ perimeter walls; on which white roses are placed on the victim’s name in celebration of their birthday. I found it impossible to read more than a few names without feeling a lump in my throat.