Having lived in New York City on and off across three decades, I'm often asked by potential visitors to suggest something that they simply have to do when visiting. One thing that invariably goes to the top of the list is, "Take the Circle Line."
Sophisticated people just as invariably look askance and say,"But isn't that the most cheesy touristy thing you can do?" To which the answer is, "No. It is the second most cheesy touristy thing you can do. First cheese log is riding a double-decker bus through Soho on Saturday looking at the Bridge-And-Tunnel crowd as if they were hipsters on their way to Andy Warhol's loft."
The Circle Line is, believe it or not, the single best orientation tool for a first, second, or N-time visitor to New York. I gets you a bit off the island and then, in good weather, takes you all the way around it in a, well, circle. Along the way, you get an informed, if at times laconic, lecture from your guide on the past and present of Manhattan. (Why are there no large skyscraper developments between Wall Street and Midtown? The bedrock slopes down under loose fill after Wall Street and doesn't rise up again until midtown making foundations in between an expensive and risky business. It's called "Canal Street" for a reason. )
When you're done with the Circle Line what you're left with, besides factoids and a wonderfully cheesy photograph of you in front of a life preserver, is an invaluable sense of context when you're roaming Manhattan. Getting off the island places you on the island like no other experience.
So when my wife, Sheryl, went to New York on business last week and she asked me for some suggestions I said, of course, "Circle Line." (She's been to the city numerous times before, but this time was meeting with a colleague who'd never been.) A few days later, with a huge blizzard bearing down on the city, she escaped a day early and avoided being pent up on the 41st floor of the Marriott Marquis on Times Square with only 30 theaters and unlimited room service to dull the suffering. (Whew, a close one.)
But before she left she did get a chance to take the Circle Line -- in 14 degree weather with ice floes on the Hudson knocking on the hull. Still it was a great cruise around a great city at twilight. She brought back a lot of stunning photographs and has arranged them with essential commentary. Now you can take The Circle Line too at Snow strands travelers in New York. But luckily, I was not among them.
Dress warm.Posted by Vanderleun at January 26, 2005 10:30 AM | TrackBack