Travel theme: Secret Places

I have a secret I’ve been bursting to tell you about since I first found out about it, but I held on for three entire days so that I could share it with you today for the travel theme, in the hopes that you might share one of your secret places too.

A very dear friend of mine, Dan, was in town this week with a show. Dan is an extremely talented actor and musician, and a gifted teacher. I know this for a fact because we first met doing a show where Dan was music director, and he not only managed to teach me a series of challenging songs, but also magically got me to understand syncopated rhythm and taught me how to play a number of percussion instruments from around the world. Suffice it to say, in all things acoustic, I would follow Dan to the end of the world. In this instance, however, I only had to follow him to Times Square.

After a wonderful evening catching up on life since we last met, we were walking towards Times Squares when Dan’s eyes lit up and he said he wanted to find the sound installation in Times Square. I was perplexed. I have walked through Times Square countless times and never noticed a sound installation, but I figured if there was such a thing, Dan would find it. I wandered through the neon-lit square which was completely deserted in the wee small hours, looking high and low for some mysterious exhibit to no avail, but when I turned, I saw Dan had stopped on the sidewalk with a great smile on his face. “Listen,” he said quietly, and as I stood on the metal grating in the sidewalk, I was enveloped in a rich, harmonic sound that seemed to rise from the grating and hover somewhere just above my head. It is hard to describe; a resonance with the essence of bells or gongs after they have been struck, or a church organ; a vibration of tones, a texture almost. It moved with me, as I travelled the length of the grating, shifting in volume and tone.

Times Square’s secret sound installation

The artwork, appropriately called ‘Times Square’, is the work of artist Max Neuhaus, and is a skillful amplification of resonances already present underground, caused by the intersecting of several subway tunnels under the spot where the grating lays. There is no plaque marking the installation; it is something I guess Max Neuhaus intended for people to find in their own way. It is a secret hiding in plain sight.

Here’s the best thing about the discovery. In the days since I first stood on the grating, I have passed through Times Square’s hustle and bustle in the middle of the day and made a point to walk over the grating. Each time I do so, the wall of sound drowns out the surrounding clamour and time seems to slow down just a little. It’s like a secret peaceful island in the middle of a sea of chaos, and it makes me smile.

If you’re passing through Times Square, look for the installation in the triangular pedestrian island between 45th and 46th street, and smile a secret smile when you find it.

If you have a secret place you’d like to share, create your own post between now and next Friday, title it “Travel theme: Secret Places” and put a link to this page in your blog post to make it easy for others to find your post.  Where’s your secret place?

xxx Ailsa

About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
This entry was posted in New York, Photography, Travel, United States, Weekly Travel Themes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

231 Responses to Travel theme: Secret Places

  1. Madhu says:

    What a cool installation! This is a tough one Ailsa, can’t think of any secret places off hand 🙂

  2. tms says:

    A great story, well told! If I ever visit New York, I’ll make sure not to miss this installation.

  3. Emma says:

    I know it!
    someone showed it to me in april this year, got excited too 🙂

    • ailsapm says:

      It’s brilliant, isn’t it, Emma, and exciting, like you’re in the select circle who are in the know, when you think about the thousands of people who rush by daily, oblivious to it.

      • Emma says:

        I actually sat by for a while, had a bet with a friend if we will see someone who knows it, after about an hour a girl came, about 12 years old, and just stood there for 2 minuets in total peace..

  4. What a fabulous find! Tough challenge, though – I’ll look forward to seeing what others post while I try to come up with a good response! 😉

  5. Wonderful! Have to check it out… New York City is full of these little secrets and jokes that people have made that most others pass by completely unaware 🙂

  6. trishworth says:

    This was an amazing story, Ailsa. Your writing is thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve managed to come up with a secret place which you might be able to visit one day in France… I think there should be a pingback from it.

    • ailsapm says:

      There’s something oddly reassuring about buildings that have been around for centuries, isn’t there? Like they’ve seen it all, or something. Looks like a very lovely church, Trish. xxx

  7. Pingback: Ailsa’s travel photo challenge: Secret Place « Sounds like wish

  8. frizztext says:

    thank you again for inspiring, Ailsa – I will try to search for a good secret place …

  9. Pingback: Travel theme: Secret Places « Flickr Comments by FrizzText

  10. TJ says:

    Great post! It’s amazing what can hide in plain sight… I hope some day to get to New York, and I will, on that day, find this secret place… Thanks!

  11. Pingback: Travel Theme: Secret Places | Wind Against Current

  12. Anne Camille says:

    Oh wow! Wish I had known about this last time I was in Time Square. I know that I was standing near that grating because I made a joke about acting like a tourist, took out my camera and snapped a few pictures of the neon signs. Generally speaking, I avoid Time Square, find it the most annoying of places, and from experience, know that must be one of the worst places in the world to be when you have a migraine. Now I have a reason to actually go there next time I’m in NYC.

    I am thinking about the secret place challenge. Have so many ideas. What fun!

  13. adinparadise says:

    Now you have me longing to visit NY again, just so that I can also listen to this secret sound installation. I must ask my son if he’s experienced it yet. 😉 Thanks for the new theme. I’ll put on my thinking cap.

  14. Pingback: Travel theme “Secret Places” | Campanulla Della Anna

  15. You always have a very bright idea 😀 My participation to the theme this time I have a special “Secret places” Nice to sharing. My regards to you.

  16. Pingback: Travel Theme: Secret Places | a hectic life

  17. Pingback: Travel Challenge; Secret places « So where's the snow?

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  20. cinova says:

    Hey Ailsa, finally made it back to your blog, some 100 reports later! Despite my quite extensive travelling, somehow I have not yet made it to Times Square, and I must say that your blog post has enticed me even more. This sound installation is such a fabulous idea, every bustling city should have one! Thanks for another fascinating theme. Here’s my entry, it covers last week’s ocean theme as well 🙂

  21. Pingback: All aboard, but mind the elephants please! | Have you ever…

  22. Madoqua says:

    Ailsa, I have never been to Times Square, but know what to look for when I get there! I have posted my version of a Secret Place:…ephants-please/

  23. What a discovery! Love this line “the wall of sound drowns out the surrounding clamour and time seems to slow down just a little.” Great observation, too
    Funny how sounds affect us – (even when we don’t know it)
    Thanks for the head’s-up

    • ailsapm says:

      So true, phil, I’m sure on a subconscious level that installation affects anyone who passes over it, even if they’re unaware at the time.

  24. Pingback: Travel Theme: Secret Places « The Quotidian Hudson

  25. Pingback: Travel theme – Secret Places | thegingerbreadcafe

  26. gingerbreadcafe says:

    What a great secret, in plain sight and no one really knowing. Here is a secret place

    • ailsapm says:

      Now that is a really cool secret place, and I agree wholeheartedly with you when you say getting somewhere before anyone else arrives can make it feel like a secret place. 🙂

  27. Will look this up next time I’m in New York. Thanks for posting it. As I enjoy your blog so much, I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger’s Award. Details can be found on my blog –

  28. Pingback: Travel Theme: Secret Places | The Retiring Sort

    • ailsapm says:

      I also find cemeteries intriguing places to visit. When I lived in Japan I was fascinated with the very different approach they have to cemeteries there, visiting them frequently on family outings to honour their ancestors. Really lovely.

  29. cindyonrhinebeck says:

    WOW! I’m going to be in Times Square tomorrow. Thanks for the heads up.

    Here’s my secret place:

  30. reb says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful thing to find!!! I will most definitely bear this in mind if/when I get to NYC. I had a similar experience last Fall, back home in Sweden! A sound installation, it was the sound of the ocean. I’ll think of a secret place be back with the link, or I’ll just write about that sound installation if I can’t come up with anything 🙂

  31. Pingback: Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Secret Places | Stephen Kelly Creative

  32. Hello Travel Themers!!! I’m a little late to the party this week, but here’s one of my secret places.

  33. Pingback: Weekly Challenges (combined): Happiness & Secret Places « Canadiantravelbugs's Blog

  34. This is my secret place to take a breather on a busy day and recharge a for a minute. Can’t share though would get a little crowded 😉

    • ailsapm says:

      Perfect, CTB, everyone needs that secret place to take some time out. While I’ve been in New York, my place to escape the craziness of big city life has been the rooftop of my building. Nobody goes up there, so it’s the perfect place to just sit and watch the world go by.

      • Yes that would be perfect… sometimes you need that alone time. I like to sit on my balcony here and have coffee when it is still early and people are just getting up. So peaceful.

  35. Pingback: Travel theme: Secret Places | tahira's

  36. Tahira says:

    I have a secret place too!

    And your secret place is so great! :0


  37. Pingback: Travel Theme: Secret Places | 50 Year Project

  38. TBM says:

    That’s pretty cool that we are in the know now about NY. I love learning stuff like that. This was a tough theme. I posted about a place I felt was hidden from me since I didn’t ever hear about it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  39. Pingback: Secret Places « colderweather

  40. reb says:

    Okay … I got one too 🙂

  41. Pingback: Travel Theme: Secret Places « A year in the Life

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