One-day express visit, tight budget. Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, 9/11 Monument, Central Park, the “American Dream”.
The United States was for me for a long time a destination that I wanted to visit. Probably because of Hollywood movies. Being our neighbours, it also seemed like an easy option to start my world tour project. Also, the United States roadtrip has been one of the most popular on the planet since the days of Route 66 (1926)! I had decided to use the theme of hippies and this search for freedom for my first film. Living in Quebec, I also had to cross the big cities of the east. A brief account of my visits. Not having too much budget that year for my project (2016), the visit was going to be really express, and, I will be honest with you, my opinion of the city is biased. This is what I visited and my impressions anyway.
From Montreal, the number of driving hours will depend on your driving style. As for us, it took us 10 hours by car. Google Maps says 6am. Add customs. Add the stops you will make along the way. Add the time of day you want to arrive. There is traffic, you can imagine, it is the most populated city in the United States (nearly 9 million inhabitants).
Lacking the budget to pay for accommodation, (it's actually rather intense to start a company) we found ourselves sleeping in the car on the outskirts of the city outside the bridge, but clearly, we slept badly due to stress. I had made a small list of New York icons that were recommended to visit, so, not sleeping anyway, we cross the bridge closest to the Statue of Liberty and begin our exploration. I put you the attractions that I decided to go see in my day in the order that I discovered them. By the way, I also took the New York subway once and it's a great alternative to walking, it's obviously very well organized and right on time!
Statue of Liberty
It's a must in the United States, that's for sure. Not so much for the beauty of the statue, only for the history attached to it, the energy around it, and for the iconography it represents. Imagine the emotion that all these people immigrating to the new world must have had watching this lady with the torch, trying to rebuild their lives.
I do not want to embark on a story of politics and economics of the United States so much, but the statue also has its hidden side. While researching for my film, I wanted to find out a bit more about the hippies of the 60s and 70s and why the movement started. I found myself reading about the American dream and discovering why these young hippies were protesting the consumer movement, established after the Second World War, to revive the economy. Indeed, the American dream is a big marketing stunt… which worked. Becoming prosperous in the United States and Canada is possible… but with a lot of luck and hard work, over generations and generations! It is not so easy to immigrate to the new world. You don't get rich instantly. Funny, I found myself later, during my travels in Latin America and around the Black Sea in Europe, to explain this phenomenon to several people, who still believed in the American dream, or, dare I say, in the ''Canadian dream''!
Anyway, all these things were going through my head when I saw the Statue of Liberty. I looked at all the families around and the tourists, I wondered if they were as informed as me when they came here. I felt for the first time during my travels a certain disappointment seeing all these people who came here for what reason, exactly? This feeling would grow and develop during my first three films visiting several tourist attractions, finally deciding to make a film about mass tourism and some solutions to reduce it in 2022 with MIRAGES.
Despite everything, it is the activity that I preferred to do in New York. It's nice to take a boat trip, to take photos (and videos) of the statue from the boat, its size remains impressive. On site, I also liked to go up to the head of the lady and admire the view of Jersey and New York. The surrounding parks are neat and pleasant for a picnic.
Instead of the two towers that were horribly destroyed, the Americans put two huge fountains there with the names and pictures of the people who died there. I found it gave a zen touch among the gray streets of the old World Trade Center. The space has been very well refurbished and it commemorates the deceased with respect.
The Empire State Building + Time Square
When I found myself in front of the building, I wondered why I had walked so much to see it. I had not climbed the tower because the price is $45 USD per person, which I find absolutely exaggerated. If you have a lot of money, it's worth going up there. If you didn't have much money like I did back then, clearly the drone view we see in the movies is far more impressive, stick with that!
To have the full experience of Times Square, you must go there in the evening and learn about the history of this place.
I found myself in Times Square in broad daylight and therefore the experience was less interesting. But still, it was impressive to see so many animated billboards in one place. Nothing more, however, unless you love buying things and clothes.
Definitely a park not to be missed when exploring Manhattan. Either way, it's hard to miss, because did you know it stretches almost 4 kilometers? This is where we spent the most time. Merchants for trinkets meet there and street artists. There are activities on the water such as pedal boats and large green spaces to reflect. I particularly liked a few times the views of the tall buildings, which remind us that we are indeed still in one of the largest metropolises in the world! The effect of the park is successful. We feel completely disconnected.
So! This concludes my visit to New York, I saw nothing, or almost! In my personal opinion and with hindsight, I believe that New York is not made to be visited in a weekend. Definitely, to experience it well, you would have to find an apartment and live there for a few months, why not? But if your budget is ever tight, know that it is possible to see its greatest attractions in one day and without spending too much money. Other than the Statue of Liberty, all of these attractions were free.
To leave everything and travel, become a nomad. Many people dream of it, but many also fear doing it. Be inspired by the adventures of an independent travel filmmaker who challenged herself to make 10 travel films around the world and become a full-time nomad.
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