In summary: New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August, I visited there for the first time. On the first afternoon we visited Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. We started our first full day with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Next was the full cruise (two and a half hours plus) around Manhattan – south down the Hudson River into the Upper Harbor, up the East River under the “BMW” bridges, past Midtown and the UN, into the Harlem River., and around the northern tip of Manhattan Island into the Hudson River.
As soon as you turn south on the Hudson River, two things are obvious. First, the Hudson is a honkin’ big river. It’s also a true river, not a glorified tidal estuary like the East River or a man-made ship canal like the Harlem River.The second thing, of course, is that honkin’ big bridge crossing that honkin’ big river. It’s the George Washington Bridge, connecting Manhattan with New Jersey. Unlike the East River, which we saw with dozens of bridges across it, only the George Washington Bridge crosses the Hudson from Manhattan.As we got closer, I noticed something at the base of the East Tower. I had not known it was there or expected it at all, but I immediately knew what it was.The George Washington Bridge is a tall one, allowing ocean-going freighters and ships to pass underneath. It reminds me of the Golden Gate Bridge in many ways.At the base of the East Tower is The Little Red Lighthouse. The subject of a favorite children’s story, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift, it was to be torn down in 1948, after the bridge was built. However, the beloved book had come out in 1942 and the uproar that followed the announcement that the lighthouse was to be dismantled led the Coast Guard to donate it to the New York Parks Department.Not only was I caught off guard by the appearance of The Little Red Lighthouse, I was completely caught off guard by my reaction to it. I remember the story as a favorite of mine from when I was very young, but I don’t remember thinking of it in decades. Suddenly seeing it there took me straight back to being four or five years old. The whole experience was quite moving.South of the George Washington Bridge, Upper Manhattan stretches away to the south, with the skyscrapers at the southern tip of the island visible far away in the distance.This side of the island not only has more rows of matching high-rise apartments and townhomes, it also has the main north-south train line. Here’s an Amtrak train headed north toward that bridge we just had swung open for us a few minutes earlier. Just beyond these Washington Heights high-rises are several hospitals, including the Columbia University Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Next, we’ll see Upper Manhattan and the Upper West Side.