The Old Fogies go to the Guggenheim Museum in New York

Whilst in New York, I was keen to visit some of the famous art galleries and museum and fortunately the New York Pass gave us free entrance to a wide number of institutions. Although Mrs Nice enjoy art, she was not that keen to use valuable time running around art galleries, therefore a decision was made to limit it to three and I chose the Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum and The Museum of Modern Art.

The Guggenheim Museum or Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located on Fifth Avenue on the corner of East 89th Street near Central Park.

We were curious to see the iconic building at close quarters and as we approached the building, it unmistakable form began to take shape. The museum was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and was developed as a cylindrical building with a large base, however the building is wider at the top than the bottom.

Its style is certainly unusual on the outside but it is unique ramp gallery that extends up from ground level in a long spiral up to the top of the building that is stunning. When we entered fully in the museum we are faced with large wooden boxes, at first we thought they were a strange installation but they were full of artworks that were being hanged for an exhibition.

The museum opened in 1959 to considerable acclaim, unfortunately Frank Lloyd Wright had died six months before the opening. Although now considered a masterpiece, at the time not everyone was happy with the building. Some people believed that the building would overshadow the museum’s artworks and artists questioned whether their works suffer from the lack of natural light.

Some of the highlights of the museum are Constantin Brancusi’s Adam and Eve and King of Kings

Pablo Picasso’s Woman with Yellow Hair

Édouard Manet’s Before the Mirror

Pablo Picasso’s Fernande with a Black Mantilla

and a set of Edgar Degas bronzes, Dancer Moving Forward, Arms Raised; Seated Woman, Wiping Her Left Side and Spanish Dance.

When you walk around inside the museum, you do tend to admire the building more than the artworks and there is often a lack of focus as you meander around the various levels. However, this is a fascinating space and it is difficult not to look upwards towards the light streaming through the top of the galleries.

As we slowly descended back to the entrance and back outside, we were both agreed that it is an incredible building and well worth the all too brief visit.

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 here.

The Old Fogies visit Ellis Island in New York

Visitors to Liberty Island on the ferry, can use the ferry to visit the nearby Ellis Island.

Ellis Island is an important pilgrimage for many Americans because it was the gateway into the US for over 12 million immigrants. Ellis Island was the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. Ellis Island  opened in 1892 on the site of what was known as Fort Gibson, the site had been used for defence since the early 19th century. After Ellis Island was closed,  the island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965 and has had a museum of immigration since 1990.

Like many tourist sites in New York, since the September 11 attacks in 2001, security is taken very seriously  and if you want to just visit Ellis Island you will still go through the airport style security. 

Much of the island has been closed to the public since 1954 and visitors tend to congregate outside the main building. 

The station’s main Building which now houses the Immigration Museum, was originally opened in 1900 and is considered one of the most symbolically important structures in American history.

The museum that opened in 1990 includes exhibits such as the  Hearing Room, Peak Immigration Years, the Peopling of America, Restoring a Landmark, Silent Voices, Treasures from Home, and Ellis Island Chronicles. 

The processing of immigrants was done on an industrial scale and time spent on the Island could vary from hours to weeks.

It was estimated that around 2% were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as having a chronic disease, criminal background, or insanity.

Initially many of the immigrants came from Northern Europe especially Scandinavia, Britain and Germany, over time immigrants from Southern Europe were attracted to the shores of the USA.

Walking through the exhibition, you cannot fail to be moved by the thought of how many people had given up everything to travel to the United States for an uncertain future in a strange land.

How many would look out of the window at the Statue of Liberty and wonder if they would be allowed to make a new life in America.

In a time when immigration is a hot topic around the world and especially in the USA, it is worth remembering that the modern United States was built by many of the immigrants that passed through the doors of Ellis Island.

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 here.

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 here.

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 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 here.