Coast to coast: two major cities in just two months

Makena Cruse, entertainment editor

This spring break I traveled from the sunny skies of San Francisco to the cloudy urban life of New York City and back to the cornfields of Indiana.

Growing up in the suburbs of Indiana, I had never been to a bustling city before, let alone the skyscrapers and busy streets of New York City or San Francisco. However, this year that changed. During Spring Break, I flew to New York City, the city of dreams. And then, only a month later, I flew to San Francisco.

My first impression of New York City was found in my interaction with our cab driver, Ann Maria, a kind bubbly woman originally from Colombia who moved to the U.S in her 20’s in order to raise her daughter. She told stories of her daughter growing up, the amazing people she had met as a cab driver, and all of the best places to find food in the city. She especially raved of the empanadas shop that was located 45 minutes from our hotel.

As I stepped out of the taxi to my hotel in New York, I was immediately greeted by the bustle of the city. After dropping my stuff off at our hotel located in the middle of Times Square, we turned down the street and decided that the most fitting breakfast was New York style bagels. I ordered the biggest bagel I had ever seen with a huge glob of strawberry cream cheese. I bit into my long-awaited breakfast, and I knew I was going to like New York. 

The excitement of the city was overwhelming with different people of all ethnicities and backgrounds hustling through the street; the energy was contagious. I noticed almost every person walked with a sense of purpose and with a steaming hot cup of coffee in their hands. Even when the sun was out, the sidewalks were usually cloudy but never gloomy. We walked on the sidewalk through the swarms of people to our next destination, Grand Central Station.

Walking into Grand Central Station felt like stepping into a different world. The name made it seem exactly as it was- grand. The ceilings were tall and glimmering with images of koi. Every other turn there were flower shops and places to eat. It was truly overwhelming the beauty of something as simple as a train station. We rode the train to one of New York’s newest tourist attractions, the Vanderbilt building.

On the 96th floor of the Vanderbilt building was SummitOne, a completely clear floor where visitors can look at the entirety of the New York skyline. The view was truly breathtaking and seeing the city in its entirety was a once in a lifetime experience. 

One of my favorite things I was able to see in New York were two museums, the Holocaust museum and the 9/11 Memorial museum. Walking into the 9/11 museum visitors are told a heart wrenching story about a country that was torn apart but a heartwarming narrative of how the nation built itself back together stronger. I was moved to tears walking through the museum as stories of families banding together after the tragedy. It was truly an amazing experience to see how a story of devastation became a story of remembrance and unity.

The last stop in New York was meeting our cab driver Ann Maria again. She had offered to pick us up to go back to the airport, and as we got in the car, we noticed the smell of baked goods. As we settled in the car, she handed me and my friend a fresh bag of empanadas. The people of New York were just as warm and welcoming as the batch of empanadas. 

Only a month after my trip to New York, I was on a plane again to a different destination, San Francisco. My first impression of San Francisco was much different than my first impression of New York. We arrived in California around 2:30 a.m so there was not much to see stepping off of the plane. 

My first morning in San Francisco I woke up to the bright and exciting city. Even at 8 in the morning, the city was bright and buzzing. Before I began my day, I decided to walk to a nearby Starbucks and pick up a drink. When I was walking on the sidewalks I noticed that most people carried a drink of some sort, but usually not coffee. 

After finishing my breakfast our group went on a walking tour. Our tour guide, Fillipe was the most enthusiastic and joyful people I had ever met. He came from Yugoslavia and came to the U.S as a teenager to work at the Ghirardelli chocolate factory. Fillipe showed us around the place he called home and introduced our group to many new things we had never seen before. We walked through the streets of Chinatowns and learned of the rich history that the neighborhoods held. We even got to try some of the last homemade fortune cookies to be made. It was a unique experience learning about the past while exploring the future.

After the walking tour, our next stop was Alcatraz. As someone who is frightened very easily, I was feeling a little unsettled on the ferry ride to the island. We arrived at the island, and I quickly realized that it was not going to be as scary as I had expected it to be.  We walked through rows and rows of cells that had formerly held some of the nations most wanted criminals while narrations from the prisoners themselves played in our headphones. We even got to see where famous prisoners had famously carved their way through the vent using spoons and escaped. 

Getting to experience two of the United States biggest cities was an amazing experience and a fun way to learn more about my country.