It seems to us, by and large, that New York is the least-dressed-up city we've visited. It might be just Times Square, or it might be the odd spring weather. One of our fellow hotel guests was sporting his new Spider Man shirt this morning. There are certainly lots of tourists -- like us -- carrying maps and cameras and gawking. The people watching here is pretty good, too; the sidewalks are crowded with purposeful striding New Yorkers, workmen, couriers, t-shirt and jewelry vendors, mothers with strollers, dog walkers scooping poop, well-regarded cops, musicians, and sellers at hot-dog carts with multinational menus. The trees are just beginning to leaf, so that the sky above and the skyscrapers behind are visible through a delicate tracery of green and black. Central Park

Sunday we visited Pier 14 at the foot of Fulton Street, with lots of shops and sailing ships to view; then we walked down to Battery Park, where we saw a sculpture damaged on 9-11; it will be restored. Tulips are blooming all over New York, for the government of the Netherlands donated a million bulbs to brighten the city this spring. It's odd how a tragedy can strengthen a city, but the people of New York are full of determination to make the Big Apple better than ever.

The Staten Island Ferry is now free, so we rode over and back, looking at all kinds of boats, ships, and barges in the harbor, not to mention Governors Island, Ellis Island, and Bedloes Island, where Miss Liberty stands tall.

We took the subway back to Grand Central, which is another place that's been fixed up recently. Of course it's no longer the "crossroads of a million private lines," but there are lots of commuter trains. The lower level concourse has been made over into a dining area, a scrumptious market has been added, the Oyster Bar is still serving them on the half shell, and you can even take a guided tour of one of the prettiest railroad stations in the world. From the East River, the UN building rises with a wall of aqua-colored glass windows, intersperced by grey horizontal stripes where the windows are not so colored United Nations headquarters

On Monday we rode the Circle Line boat around Manhattan Island. Many years ago these tours featured all the great ocean liners tied up at New York's piers. Now most of the Manhattan piers are parks or sports arenas, but the ride is just as pretty and exciting. We went under 17 bridges and waited for the North- and South-bound Amtrak trains to cross before the Spuytin Duyvil bridge would open for us to pass through the 18th! We were also fascinated by all the development along the Jersey side of the Hudson, especially in downtown Jersey City.

Probably our favorite sightseeing mode is to ride the subway and come up to the surface and just walk and walk and walk. We passed our old apartment building on the southwest corner of 58th and 9th; it looks just the same, except that the old Wimpy Hamburger shop is now The Flame Coffee Shop. Lincoln Center is a complex of theaters; at least two separate school groups were lined up for a concert or field trip. We've been through Bryant Park (another success for neighborhood revitalization) and past dozens of construction projects. One day it got just too hot to walk -- 96 degrees, a new record in April. We ducked into the giant air-conditioned Toys R Us store on Times Square, with a 60 foot ferris wheel, the Empire State Building in Legos, a full-size Barbie doll house, etc.

Today we walked from fourteenth street through Greenwich Village, SoHo and TriBeCa to city hall. Greenwich Village is almost like a suburb, with tree-lined residential streets; SoHo has some tremendous nineteenth century building with high ceilings. While all of SoHo seemed to be under conversion for designer showrooms and upscale restaurants and clubs, TriBeCa seemed newer and rawer, with a lot of urban space yet to be renewed!