I made my first trip to New York City as part of a family vacation in 1988. There is a whole backstory to that, which I will tell as part of my travel memories at a later date. While my parents and I were, I think, walking from our hotel to the United Nations Headquarters, we took the walkway along the Park Avenue Viaduct through the Helmsley Building. When we came out the other side, I realized that we were close to Grand Central Terminal. I asked my folks if we could walk the couple hundred feet to Grand Central so that I could see it, but they didn’t want to go out of our way, so I didn’t get to see the station on that trip.
My son has always been a fan of trains, and with a Midtown Manhattan hotel, I knew that we would be able to fit a trip to Grand Central Station into the week somewhere. As it turns out, when we checked Google Maps for a subway trip to Battery Park for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruise, the best way from where we were was the 4 or 5 train from Grand Central. We had about three hours to get to Battery Park, so that gave us plenty of time to explore the station.
I told my son that “Grand Central Station” is a metaphor for places that are crowded or busy, often to the point of confusion. I am also a fan of Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series and in the books, Grand Central is home to a worldgate, which can take you to pretty much anywhere else in the universe. So we looked for the deli that marks the entrance to the worldgate. That deli, by the way, is gone, and, as of the New Millennium Editions, the entrance to the worldgate is Li-Lac Chocolates in the Grand Central Market.
I took lots of pictures of the inside of the station, most of which ended up just a little bit blurry because I didn’t want to block traffic for too long in any one place. I also attempted to take a picture of someone walking along the walkway in the windows, but couldn’t get my camera organized in time.
We also found the rectangle of dirt on the ceiling. The ceiling of Grand Central is cerulean with constellations drawn on and marked with lights. Over the years, the color and constellations disappeared under a layer of what they at first thought was smoke from the trains. When they cleaned the ceiling in the late 1980s and early 1990s they discovered that the dirt was actually from tobacco smoke. They left a rectangular patch of the grime in place so that people could get an idea of what the ceiling looked like when it was dirty.
As I said before, we had plenty of time, so we decided to head down to the Dining Concourse and get something to eat. We couldn’t agree on any one thing, so since the Dining Concourse is a food court, we split up. My son got a slice of pizza from Two Boots Pizzeria (he said that it was very good) and I got some chana masala over rice from Cafe Spice. I found their chana masala to be very good (at least from my white-girl perspective). It was spicy, but not nearly as hot as the chana masala at the Indian restaurant that my father and I used to go to here in Texas.
On our way back from the Statue of Liberty tour, we got to go through Grand Central one more time. Knowing that when you search for supermarkets on Google, you get several of the stores in the Grand Central Market, we cut through there on our way out. Mostly the shops down there are more along the lines of produce stands and fish markets. It would be fun to shop there if we were staying in a place that had a kitchen, but they really didn’t have much that would be useful in our situation. We also, by the way, couldn’t figure out how to get to the worldgate from the chocolate shop.