The High Line, New York

I mentioned in my blog post about our visit to Bristol that we had been able to travel overseas last December, the first time since before Covid, managing to enjoy a long weekend in New York. Since then and depending on where you're going from and too in a lot of instances things have got a lot easier travel wise but I would still advise that you check the latest Covid related requirements thoroughly for the country you're travelling to well before you go. We went to New York just as the Omicron variant was taking hold so spent a nervous few days beforehand wondering if we would get there as various countries began implementing additional travel restrictions again. In the few days while we were away, and as a result of Omicron, the UK Government introduced the requirement for lateral flow tests before travelling into the UK but despite having to unexpectedly organise that and the return paperwork that we already knew was required it was still relatively, and perhaps surprisingly, hassle free and really lovely after such a long travel hiatus.

For our trip, and as we were flying with British Airways, we were able to use the VeriFLY app which actually made it super simple. I will mention again here that we travelled in December (yes I really am that behind in sharing about our trip) last year so I don't know what any current requirements or recommendations are so please do check before you go. I'd read mixed reviews online about the app and the hassle using it beforehand so we went prepared with all the documents saved separately on our phones as well. Though we didn't in the end have any hassle at either check in with using the app having these saved on our phones too was useful whilst we were in New York for proving our vaccine status at bars and restaurants etc.. As an app it was a bit clunky (at that time) but once we got all our documents uploaded on there it was reassuringly easy to check we had everything we needed for travel. The check in staff were also actively asking if we had used the app and so it made checking in both in London and New York a breeze, they just checked our app and checked us in. The only additional aspect, as I mentioned, was on the journey home where, because we had to get an unexpected lateral flow test for entry into the UK, we still had to show that separately as the app had not been updated to reflect that change. Saving that on our phones though meant we could just switch between the app and the saved document which really did not cause too much additional hassle for us.

We arrived in New York in the evening and after a couple of drinks in a bar near our hotel and a good nights sleep the first thing we did on our first full day there was to go for a walk on the High Line. The High Line walk was something I'd really wanted to do. I'd read about it, knew other people who had gone and so I really wanted to do it if I ever returned to New York. When we started making plans for our trip I was therefore immediately dropping hints about doing this.

On the day we went the weather was perfect, sunshine, not too cold and most importantly dry. We were staying fairly centrally and so walked from our morning breakfast spot to the High Line joining it at the entrance closest to the Hudson Yards area meaning we could then walk the entire length of it at our leisure. By the way, if you aren't sure the High Line is an elevated park on a former railway line. So absolutely the type of thing I'm going to enjoy!

The original railway running through this part of the city was at street level carrying freight trains delivering food and other commodities to lower Manhattan. However this created dangerous conditions for pedestrians in the area with nearby Tenth Avenue acquiring the unfortunate nickname of 'Death Avenue' due to the high number of deaths caused by the trains. Initially men known as 'West Side Cowboys' were hired to patrol the area and warn pedestrians of oncoming trains by waving red flags, this actually continued until 1941 when the last stretch of street level track was removed. In the meantime as well the West Side Improvement project had also begun with the order to remove street-level crossings later leading to the idea of removing tracks from the streets and creating an elevated railway. The first train ran on the High Line, then known as the West Side Elevated Line, in 1933 becoming fully operational by 1934. It was designed to run through buildings meaning it could connect directly with the factories and warehouses in the area allowing trains to load and unload their goods in the buildings, reducing the need to disturb street traffic.

The use of trucks for the delivery of goods increased significantly from the 1950s onwards though and train use for this purpose subsequently dwindled. By the 1960s part of the High Line had been demolished and the decline continued throughout the 1970s with all train use on the line stopping in the 1980s. Perhaps not unsurprisingly then there were calls for the whole line to be demolished but in the early '80s other ideas were also growing for how this disused space could potentially be used and the West Side Rail Line Development Foundation was formed to preserve the structure. Despite this the High Line's fortunes rose and fell in subsequent years and it still faced the prospect of demolition but others continued to see the beauty in the place and how nature had claimed it back for herself and the Friends of the High Line, a non-profit conservancy advocating for its preservation and reuse as a public space was formed. Shortly afterwards a competition was held inviting ideas for what could be done with the space which helped to drive more interest and awareness of the place and in 2009 the first section of the High Line opened to the public. It's now a continuous 1.45 mile greenway filled with plants and trees and is a fantastic use of this once abandoned unloved space. Perhaps the only small negative is that due to what it was originally used for parts of the path can get a little congested with visitors as there are several narrow parts, but if you can cope with that I think it's hard to find much else bad to say about it. Have you been?

One of the many art installations along the route

As you can see from the few photos I've shared along the walk you'll pass through various neighbourhoods passing apartment blocks, various businesses and other buildings. Some of the apartments look like they've got great views and being so close to the High Line it was hard not to peer in at a few windows as we walked past. I'm going to admit here that I'm always on the look out for cat trees in windows or other evidence of pets etc. as well as admiring any décor I can see, anyone else? There are also several art installations dotted along the walk to enjoy too.

After all that walking we needed some lunch before continuing with our day and decided to head to the Chelsea Market (on a recommendation from a couple we got chatting to in the bar the previous evening) for a look and, most importantly, to get some food. The area where the market now is has a long association with food, the Algonquin Indians traded their game and crops on the Hudson river in this area and later the National Biscuit Company established its factory here, the building now being the home of the Chelsea Market. A quick walk around the market will leave you spoilt for choice as to what to eat and in the end we chose Takumi Taco, serving Japanese inspired Mexican food. We'd had a large breakfast so these tacos were just right for a light lunch to keep us going until dinner time. After that and another little wander around the market and its various stores it was time to head back towards where our hotel was and plan what we were going to do next.