The Old Fogies visit the Empire State Building in New York

New York City is a city full of skyscrapers with at least 113 buildings are taller than 600 feet (183 m). Of all the skyscrapers, there are relatively few that engage with the public imagination, an exception is the Empire State Building.

Therefore we decided that the Empire State Building would be high on our list of attractions to visit. Wandering around the streets of New York, the Empire State Building is one of the few skyscrapers that you instantly recognise and we took the short walk to the west side of Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets.

The Empire State Building is a 102-storey skyscraper which was completed in 1931, the building stands a total of 1,454 feet (443.2 m) tall, including its antenna.

The building is the 5th-tallest skyscraper in the United States, however when it was completed in 1931 to 1970 it was the world’s tallest building. It has been a popular tourist attraction since the building opened, with around 4 million visitors to the building’s 86th and 102nd floor observatories every year.

When you enter the building you pick up your ticket and make your way to the security section before eventually making your way to the entertaining lifts which shows a short film as you make you way up the building.

Visitors can visit the 86th and 102nd floor observatories for a different admission price, we were happy just to go to the 86th floor because it is the highest open air observatory in New York.

Once you get to the 86th floor, you can look at some of the infrastructure and look at the various posters including one that features the building in the famous version of King Kong was released in 1933.

Most visitors visit the Empire State Building for the spectacular views of Manhattan and beyond. It was a clear sunny day when we visited and we could enjoy clear views of New York and its environs. You could even see the Statue of Liberty in the distance and down into the streets of New York which seemed to be gridlocked most of the time with traffic.

Looking at the rows and rows of skyscrapers which seemed to have little character, it is easy to see why the Empire State Building is loved by most New Yorkers and the millions of visitors. The buildings art deco designs help to distinguish the building from the other skyscrapers that surround it.

After a enjoyable hour or two, it was time to make our way back down to ground level, on the way back to the entrance you can more of the art deco decor and buy a gift from the shop.

In a city full of high buildings, it is very difficult to get an idea of the city and where different buildings are in relation to each other. It is really only from the considerable height of the Empire State building or similar that you can see Manhattan and the surroundings in all its glory.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

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The Old Fogies visit the Statue of Liberty in New York

Like many visitors to New York, we decided to visit some of the iconic sights of New York. Probably one of the most iconic is the Statue of Liberty which stands on Liberty Island, just off the southern tip of Manhattan.

On a warm and sunny day, we went on the subway system to take us from Midtown down to Battery Park where the ferries take the thousands of passengers to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Arriving in Battery Park, we were directed to Castle Clinton from where we could pick up our tickets for the ferry.

Although most people ignore Castle Clinton, it has a remarkable history.  Castle Clinton or Fort Clinton was previously known as Castle Garden, is a circular sandstone fort which was America’s first immigration station (it predates Ellis Island), where more than 8 million people arrived in the United States from 1855 to 1890. The original fort was built between 1808 and 1811 on a small artificial island just off shore. When Battery Park was extended the fort was incorporated into the mainland of Manhattan.

Liberty Island and Ellis Island are run by the National Park Service who use Statue Cruises as the official ferry boat service to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Memorial Museum. Like most of the major American attractions, once you have your ticket, you have to go through airport style security screening prior to boarding the vessel.

Depending on the time of day you may find large queues to board the ferries, however the ferries do run very frequently and eventually it was our time to board the crowded ferry. There is little doubt that the best way to approach the Statue of Liberty is from the water and many of the people on board had their camera’s ready for that iconic photograph.

The statue resides on Liberty Island, although the island was known Bedloe’s Island up to the 1950s.The Island is located nearly a couple of miles southwest of Battery Park, so the ferry ride is very short.

There is little doubt that the Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous statues in the world, however when you see it in real life, its size comes as a bit of a surprise. In all it stands over 300 feet high and towers over the small Liberty Island.

The Statue of Liberty or Liberty Enlightening the World which is the correct name was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel. The statue was dedicated in 1886.

The statue quickly became an icon of New York and the United States, and was always a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving by sea.

You can get tickets to go inside the statue but we were quite contented to get an ice cream and wander around the statue. The island also gives great views of Manhattan, New Jersey and Brooklyn.

The statue’s location is interesting because in some ways it is influenced by the large statues of antiquity like the Colossus of Rhodes which stood in a harbour entrance. In 1984, the Statue of Liberty was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and welcomes over  3.5 million visitors each year.

As we made our way back to the ferry, we saw the crowds of excited visitors making their way to the statue. The Statue of Liberty has been attracting the crowds for over 100 years and is still as popular as ever.

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.

The Old Fogies go to New York

There was a slight delay to our flight from San Francisco to New York and we arrived in the evening at Newark Airport. We used the Airtrain and then the New Jersey transit train to arrive in Manhattan. The train staff collected our ticket, tore them and put them in a holder in the seat in front, only to collect them later. This bizarre behaviour was compounded by their less than friendly behaviour to the few passengers on the train.

We arrived at Penn Station and found our way to the exit to make our way to the hotel, thankfully the hotel was a relatively short walk along Seventh Avenue. The sidewalks were crowded and the heat and car fumes did not make for a pleasant walk. Eventually we arrived at the hotel and were grateful that the room was at the back of the building meaning it was relatively quiet. The next day, we decided to take a relatively relaxed day before some serious sightseeing. We took a walk up to Central Park which is often known as New York’s ‘backyard’ and is a large 843 acre park which took 16 years to create in the mid 19th century. The park is an attractive mixture of greenery and water features with a number of buildings dotted around the park. The Central Park Zoo occupies one corner before walking around the Sheep Meadow brings you to the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace. We stopped at Boathouse for a bite to eat before making our way to Belvedere Castle which is a 19th century stone castle that gives visitors great views over the park. Walking down the side of Central Park West, we stopped at the Dakota Building before walking into Strawberry Fields which was created by Yoko Ono. After the 10th rendition of ‘Imagine’ by the buskers in the gardens we decided was time to leave and visit the nearby Lincoln Center.  The Lincoln Center is a large cultural complex that houses an array of venues for The Metropolitan Opera, New York Ballet and New York Philharmonic. It is also a great place to people watch around the spectacular and entertaining fountain. The next place on our itinerary was the United Nations Building which involved walking to the east side of Manhattan. Walking past the famous store of Bloomingdales, we began to come across roads blocked off and groups of police standing around. A bit further on groups of demonstrators lined the street and we realised that the area around the United Nations was in lockdown due to the General Assembly of the United Nations taking place. In the evening we began to explore the madness around the area around Times Square, which is not really a square but is where a number of roads meet. This is also the Broadway Theatre district and where a lot of television shows are recorded.   Before we set out on our trip, we had purchased a New York Pass because virtually nothing in New York is free and it would enable us to be fast tracked at some of the busier attractions. The pass is not cheap but does provide a wide range of attractions, tours and cruises for your money. However it does need a certain amount of planning to make sure that you get the most out of the card and therefore the next day we decided to concentrate on the Downtown area. We took the Metro down to the World Trade Center to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It is only when you visit the site, that you fully understand the scale of the disaster, outside two large memorial pools sit in the footprints of where the towers stand and inside the human stories are told in a restrained and sensitive way. The new One World Trade Center, the tallest building in New York stands like a sentinel above the site. From the Center, we walked down past Wall Street to Battery Park where you get your tickets and catch the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The ticket offices are in Castle Clinton and then it’s a case of joining the queues and going through tight security before boarding the ferry for the short ride across to Liberty Island. By this time the heat of the midday sun was approaching 85 degrees and many travellers were beginning to feel the strain. However the cool breeze from the water was most welcome as we made our way to the Island. The Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous statues in the world and with clear blue skies looked magnificent as we approached the jetty. Close up to the statue, you have some idea of its enormous scale being 305 feet tall and weighing 200 tons. From Liberty Island you can return back to Manhattan or take another ferry to Ellis Island. Fascinated by the story of Ellis Island, we took the ferry across to one of the symbols of America’s immigrant heritage. Between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island was the arrival point for over 12 million people, the Museum gives some insight into their experience of landing in America.Over the next few days, we enjoyed great views of Manhattan from the Top of the Rock in the Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. Had a cultural fix at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Had a bus trip around Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca and Harlem. Went shopping at Macy’s, Bloomingdales and looked around some of the various markets.

One of the highlights off the usual tourist path is a visit the Grand Central Station, the vast terminal is one of the great public spaces in New York with its vaulted ceiling full of moving constellations.

The abiding smell of New York is the food from the various street kiosks and car fumes as the gridlocked streets are full of taxis and other vehicles. New York is not a place for enjoyable stroll, the grid system is great for locating where you are but the endless crossing of the junctions becomes tiresome after a while. It often says in guidebooks that you are more likely to be in a road accident rather than being mugged in New York and crossing the road is a major undertaking with police patrols at many places to enable traffic to keep moving.

The high temperatures when we were visiting did mean that walking the main thoroughfares with crowds of people were not particularly enjoyable and being stopped every few yards by people selling bus tours and other rides got quite irritating. Whether it was the hot weather or not, people could be quite brusque in shops and restaurants but if you are open to having a conversation with a local, they often would show the famous New York sense of humour.

Both our first impressions of New York were not exactly favourable but after a few days, you do begin to understand some of the ways of the city and it grows on you. We both thought it would be nice to revisit to explore more of the city away from the main attractions.  

Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.

Our articles are published on our blog but also listed on the website of our friends at Visiting London Guide.com here.