On our second night in NYC, we had a group dinner scheduled at El Vez. We had about an hour between our work day and our group dinner and while I definitely wanted to go back to the hotel to drop off my laptop and work bag, I didn’t want to spend the time sitting in my hotel room, so I went out with the intention of exploring.
Well, first I made sure I could find the restaurant. Then I turned around ready to explore. The first thing I saw was this strange little garden-like oasis in the middle of the city. It seemed so odd and out of place. People were walking up it, but I could not see any purpose for their walk other than to get to the top of it. It didn’t connect them to anything else. It was far too small to be a park. And, although it was garden-like, it was a bit unkempt and seemed sort of sad.
I was fascinated and had to know more, so I hurried across the only non-busy street I’d found in the city to check it out.
It took me a bit to find the entrance as there is a bit of a fence in front of it, so you can’t just walk right on to it. I had to walk around to the back of it, which was surrounded by this strange wall that had strips of metal on it. When I looked closer, I could see the metal had names on it, so I realized this had to be some sort of monument or memorial. I had no idea what it was to, but my interest was peaked. Trying to find the entrance made me even more confused about what this could be memorializing.
When I finally got to the back of it, I entered a slight tunnel and heard a disembodied voice. Finally the mystery was solved: this was the Irish Hunger Memorial. Turns out, it is a park…of sorts, just a sad, reflective one.
The voice that fills the tunnel explains the purpose of the monument, to pay tribute to those who died due to the potato famine. The monument itself contains stones from all 32 counties in Ireland. It also has vegetation and soil from Ireland. In the middle of it, completely hidden from the outside, are the remains of an Irish cottage. The cottage actually belonged to the Slack family. While I’m not quite sure how long people actually lived in this cottage (I’m assuming it had a roof at some point), it wasn’t abandoned until the 1960’s. The Slack family donated the cottage to the memorial builders as a testament to all of their family members who moved to America and did well here.
After I found my way out of the small cottage, I began climbing the little trail that lead to the top of the monument, something that is also not visible from the street. The path cuts back and forth in a bit of a serpentine pattern up the smallish hill. On the path the voice from the tunnel can no longer be heard. Neither can most of the noises of NYC since it is a bit secluded near the end of Battery Park. The climb is surrounded by wild grasses and limestone. It’s a pretty if a bit somber climb.
At the top there is a rather spectacular view of the water. I found myself looking out and enjoying it for quite some time. I was the only person up there and it was such a quiet spot in such a bustling city. It’s one of the things I really enjoyed about this trip. I kept finding these quiet, reflective places in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. It was calming and made me feel a little more at home in the really big city.
I love the fact that on this trip to NYC I got to see a very different side of the city than I saw in my 20’s. Aside from viewing the Statue of Liberty, not a single other sight on this trip was a duplicate. I wonder how many more times I can visit and still see completely unique wonders.