An American sojourn; traversing the breadth of the country for nearly a month, waking up every two days in a new place, sampling and feasting on new experiences or maybe revisiting old memories. The author has previously lived in the US for a while and now visiting the country after a long hiatus; sharing a page from his recent travelogue …..enjoy !! 🌸🌸🌸
San Francisco 🚦
Coastal Redwoods are the world’s tallest and oldest tree species, found in the San Francisco region. Welcome to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County near the town of Felton where the 40-acre redwood grove is a nature’s offering. Here, every visitor can smell the forest, breathe fresh mountain air and regard the amazing tree life in a sublime neighborhood. One can’t get any closer to embrace profound peace and solitude. The park is a nature lovers’ paradise ideal for hiking and relaxing, and to those who prefer the light and easy 1.5-km long Redwood Grove Loop Trail, the growth and history of these gentle giants (280–300 feet tall, 2000 years old) can be a great learning experience.
Even the tallest trees have a root system that is just 6 to 12 feet below the ground but they spread out, wrapping and entwining with others to form a redwood family circle for strong bonding. They feed on the coastal fog and temperate rain forest climate, which is typical of this region, for moisture and sunlight and can survive even severe forest fires which do not penetrate their thick fibrous bark. Trees are cinnamon red in color due to the tannic acid present in the bark and serves as a defense against insects, bugs, fungus, and fire. Even if some portions are burnt as it happened in the forest fire nearly 100 years ago, other regions regrow and live on – a true testimony of the nature’s endurance and capability to preserve the eco system. The park is home to bats, bobcats, raccoons, sandhills, and gopher snakes as described in the museum located at the entrance.
We were witness to the micro-climate around the bay area that wraps the Golden Gate Bridge under a shroud of fog (often cold and windy); the fog flows in from the cold Pacific on the one side and is dispersed in the Bay water on the other.
The main span (suspension) is not the longest anymore at 1.2 km, but the bridge has earned an iconic status in the US probably next only to the Statue of Liberty. It has a walking path and the road is nearly 65 meters above water while the towers rise to 225 meters into the sky. It is said that, during its 50th anniversary celebrations of the bridge in the year 1987, the suspension span had sagged nearly 7 feet due to the weight of nearly 300,000 people crossing it on foot.
The clam chowder, a creamy concoction of onion, potato, carrot, and clam served in a sourdough bread bowl is an exclusive delicacy in the Fisherman’s Wharf area and keenly sought by most visitors from other parts of the world. Rich and filling, it tastes best in the cold and foggy weather. So are the grilled banana splits caramelized to perfection and topped with ice cream, which are special for the more discerning.
New York City 🚥
A visit to the USA is considered incomplete without stepping into the most vibrant place of all, the New York City (NYC). Our sojourns took us to the east coast where the landscape has been subject to phenomenal growth and resurgence from an erstwhile landfill and garbage dump. Of the five counties, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island, New Yorkers follow their hearts to the Manhattan or the City. Its development has been phenomenal as the cultural, financial, fashions, media, and entertainment capital of the world. Banked by the Hudson and East rivers, Manhattan is conveniently classified as Lower, Midtown and Uptown regions. It the heart-throb of millions, seeking opportunities and fortunes, comprising of visitors and residents with diverse cultures and background. It is The City That Never Sleeps, a well-known nickname that was popularized by Frank Sinatra in the theme from New York, New York with the lyrics, I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps…🎵🎶🎵🎶
All we could see was a decimal of those which were happening – be it fashion, art, cuisine, architecture, or music; but we were fortunate to be a part of it at least for a day, and amazed by what we saw, unarguably the best of everything from coast to coast.
The Times Square is easily the happening place in NYC, where people let the hair down and freewheel themselves. We found ourselves in the midst of exotic street food, fashion clothes, and curios, all sold by makeshift traders from around the globe — Afghans, Mexicans, Chinese, Pakistanis, Arabians, (East) Indians — all of who had a stake here. Times Square showcases multi-cultural street plays, large billboard advertisements and offers a comfy place for everybody to be a part of it. It’s the heart of NYC and is more fondly known as The Crossroads of the World. It was a Saturday and all the New Yorkers were out in the street.
We were taken in by several diverse images of NYC. The 102-storied Empire State Building (after NY’s nickname) which was hitherto the tallest skyscraper in the world (for nearly 40 years since 1931, as we learnt in formative years) and is still classified among the 7 architectural wonders by the civil engineers; as per the guide, about 30 people have attempted suicide by jumping off its 1250-feet roof, but two have miraculously escaped thanks to heavy gusts of wind which landed them on adjacent floors.
The Pennsylvania Station (popularly known as the Penn Station) delivers nearly 600,000 visitors and travelers every workday round-the-clock from deep below the city near Madison Square. It serves both the intercity Amtrak, and commuter rail carrier Long Island Ring Road (LIRR) and is one of most busy stations in the world.
The vintage Macy’s (the 1902 flagship store covers almost an entire block of New York’s Herald Square and has 1-million square feet of fashion retail space that boasts world’s largest department store) and the Statue of Liberty, the beacon of freedom (of choice) and opportunity that are enviable icons of fashion and independence, respectively, vividly illustrate the American way of life 🗽.
The Charging Bull is a sculpture (bronze weighing 3 tons) and an iconic display of financial optimism and attracts most visitors on the Wall Street. It symbolizes the entrepreneurial spirit and prosperity, and often presents an opportunistic buzzword to millions around the world inspiring and motivating them in an aggressive style.
We saw it all from the comfort of an up- and -downtown bus (hop-on hop-off) and cruise boat, but the images are likely to remain for a while🚌.
The highlight and most endearing part of our visit was undoubtedly the walking tour of the Memorial Ground of the 9/11 (~18 years old) carnage. In the exact places where the twin towers once stood, two water cascades named North and South Pools, have been built with great reverence and the promenade walls ingrained with the names (nearly 2800) of those who perished that day.
The setting largely appeared as if nothing had happened here but this is strong testimony to the fact that nothing could beat the patriotism, unity, and resilience of the American country and its people. Despite the numbing loss and brutal attack on them, the City had responded with a display of genuine humanness and grit. It was pointed out by our bus guide that the city’s firemen worked by the hour for 8 months assisting the recovery from damage and in restoration of land/buildings both at site and in the neighbourhood. Many of them are reported to be infected and afflicted by lung and terminal diseases today. Indeed, a large price to pay for peace and goodness!
In due respect and honor of those who perished and were memorialised, visitors are invited to touch the memorial names panels. Let us join in prayer for their souls.
The One World Trade Center that houses the Observation Deck and Memorial Museum was instituted in remembrance to all those souls and events on The Day of 9/11 and The Day After 9/11. It stands tall in testimony to the strong national pride at the height of 1776 feet, the numeric value for the year of independence.
This trip was particularly dear to me as my senior colleague’s son (then on deputation from an IT company in Bangalore) was in the building at the time. The parents were devastated by their loss, and all of us could only watch cluelessly from the sidelines. Since then, it was a wish and dream to visit the memorial, and this was godsend. Interestingly, his name came up to our sights within 2 minutes of the walkway to the South Pool among the 2800-odd names.
The experience could not have been more fulfilling.
The author Saji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till next post, take care !!