Day Sixteen

At noon we had lunch in the Grand Central Terminal (GCT) of New York City. Though snowflakes were whirling in the wind outdoors, people were hustling and bustling here inside, and it was hard to find even an empty seat.

"Grand Central Terminal" is one of the most famous buildings in New York, but most people call it "Grand Central Station". The word "station" means a stopping place along a transportation line. A "terminal" describes either end of the line. GCT is a huge train station where train lines begin and end.

Located on Park Avenue at 42nd Street, GCT is the largest traffic hub of New York City, covering 19 hectares. The station is double-decked. There are 41 train lines on the upper deck and 26 on the lower deck.

GCT has several entrances. The entrance on 42nd Street is a building in ancient Greek architecture. Its triumphant facade has a true beaux-arts design. Large arches flanked by Corinthian columns are topped by a 50ft pediment with statues of Hercules, Minerva and Mercury surrounding a 13 ft clock. This was designed by architect Whitney Warren in 1913. GCT took ten years to build, and it changed the city of New York.

Inside, the Main Concourse is the most impressive. It is 470ft long, 160ft wide and 150ft high. The design with zodiac constellations on the ceiling was taken from a medieval manuscript. Light enters the Main Concourse through three 75ft arched windows. The western double staircase in Botticino marble was designed after the large staircase in the former Opera building in Paris. It connects the Main Concourse with the entrance on the Vanderbilt Avenue. The floor of the concourse is of Tennessee marble, the walls of Caen stone. A huge American flag is hanging in the middle of the concourse, seemingly reminding the crowds of people that outward from here you'll arrive in New York City, the largest city in the USA.

New York City used to have another equally impressive train station – Pennsylvania Station. Although there is still a Penn Station, the original one was torn down in the name of urban progress. GCT almost met the same fate but preservationists like Jacqueline Kennedy had it declared a landmark in the mid-1960's. Although it had suffered neglect in the 70's and 80's, GCT has been restored and improved with a massive four year restoration project.

Today, GCT includes many stores, eating places and food markets on the lower level, where you can sample the delights of the food all over the world, the French food, Italian food, Indian food, the local McDonald's, and the Chinese food as well. Of course, most of them are fast food. The price of the food is expensive. A simple Chinese fast food is sold for $6 to $10!

People flow in an endless stream here all day long and it cannot be said that the station is too crowded with people. 500,000 people visit the famous building every day, and it continues to be one of the busiest train stations in the world. More than 150,000 people use it every day to travel to towns in New York State and Connecticut. Being one of the gateways to New York City, GCT keeps attracting innumerable visitors.