We spent 3 weeks in New York and was about 10 minutes walk from Penn Station. Everyone knows about Grand Central. The only thing we knew about Penn was that Madison Square Garden was on top of it. We found out very quickly how important a transport hub it was. We arrived during peak hour in the evening lugging about the maze of corridors looking like, well tourists.
We were on the ground floor and walking between the entrance to the Amtrak trains and lines of commuter waiting. All of a sudden they started pacing towards us – their train line was open. We had to run to get out of the way quick. In that moment, we felt a tinge of panic and thought the crowd would swallow us up and bring us into the train lines.
Nearly every day we would walk to Penn Station to catch the underground. After a while, we became familiar with the layout. Sometimes, we used it to escape the bitter wind and rain. We visited Duane Reader on the corner at different hours to restock. We also visited Madison Square Garden for a game of Knicks (v LA Lakers and the Knicks won) and saw The Rock and couple of other celebrities from the last last row. So far up, I could have jumped and hit my head on the roof.
It was months later that we saw a documentary on the original Penn Station. From the sound of things, it was even grander than Grand Central. It must have been impressive. It’s such a shame they knocked it down.
Today I read an article on Penn Station:
I remember the post office building mentioned in the article. I would describe it as big and monolithic. The kind of building I image the batmobile would drive through the back doors.
I remember also Gare du Nord in Paris. It was during my backpacking days. I saved a bit and splurged on the Eurostar. There was an unexpected 2 hour holdup at Calais. We were given a complimentary ticket as a result. After arriving at Gare du Nord, I went searching for the platform for the metro. I was completely lost and went to the same platforms. Then a gerndame guided me. As it turned out, I was using the London system of coloured lines for the metro. Instead the Paris lines are coded by number. Silly mistake. I remember coming back to the station just for the Pain Poulet for lunch a number of times not only because it was reasonably priced but it was simply delicious with a rightly boiled egg and brie. Years later I came back and that shop was gone.
I am not sure if airports give the similar memories.
To finish off, here is a photo of Taipei Main Rail station. The outside is a block of big building but I found the inside very impressive and almost moody. I didn’t stay long to have a story but it has that open feeling of what a train station should be.