Day two in New York saw us up and about early in the day. We booked a city tour of New York the previous evening and the driver was going to pick us up at 9h00 in the morning.
On the dot 9h00, in walks a near look alike of Sammy Davis,Jr. He introduces himself as Johnny, our designated tour guide. We quickly hit it off and we just knew it was going to be a fun day with him constantly reminding us that he’s got his eye on us two South African Optometrists.
Back on the bus we pick up the other tourist from nearby hotels, a 3 generation trio of woman, mother and daughter from Upstate New York and grandmother from Pennsylvania, a couple from Kansas and a couple from down state Los Angeles.
On our way Johnny opens a big map and starts to explain the layout of New York. According to him our tour started in the East side of Queens close to the John F Kennedy airport and will eventually end in the West side of Manhattan at Liberty Island.
Arriving in Manhattan our first stop is the United Nations building. In front of the building, in a long row, hang all the flags of countries belonging to the UN.
Before going into the grounds, Johnny quickly points out the Trump World Tower, apparently one of many apartments owned by Donald Trump in Manhattan. The Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza is one of the most luxurious residential towers in the world and owning one of these apartments can set you back by as much as $40 000 000. Some of the noteworthy rumoured to have owned an apartment here is Harrison Ford, New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter and a Saudi Prince. As Johnny kept on reminding the Kansas couple, “You are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy!”
The United Nation building is the headquarters of the UN and is an international zone belonging to all Member States. It has its own security force, fire department and postal administration. Visitors from all over the world can send postcards back home with United Nations stamps – these stamps can only be mailed from the United Nations.
On the grounds in front are several statues from different member states commemorating or reminding all its members of why the UN exists.
Here I’m standing in front of a round statue called Sphere within a Sphere by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. The sculpture was presented as a gift to the UN by Lamberto Dini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy and represents the brokenness of the world.
The famous knotted gun is the anti-gun statue at the UN Headquarters and reflects the organization’s anti-gun bias. The sculpture, donated by Luxembourg, was created by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward who designed it as a tribute to John Lennon and stands as a peace symbol for the world.
Inside the UN headquarters various displays were on view highlighting different world issues. Two topics in particular were close to heart for Chris and me – Education and Health development in 3rd world countries.
Next on the tour agenda was the Empire state building. Its name is derived from the nickname for New York, The Empire State. The building has a 102-stories and is 381 meters tall. It was the world’s tallest building for more than 40 years, from its completion in 1931 until the construction of the World Trade Center’s North tower was completed in 1972. Following the subsequent destruction of the World trade center during the 9/11 bombing, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York City.
After enduring 40 min of queuing, an x ray scan and body search and stopping for the obligatory photo set, we finally got to the top of the observation tower to be treated with the beautiful panoramic view of the New York skyline.
An hour later, after grabbing a typical New York pastrami on rye sandwich, we were back on the bus taking in the sites. Next stop was the Rockefeller center. The Rockefeller Plaza, as it is also known as, basically consists of a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th and 51st streets in Midtown Manhattan. It was built by the Rockefeller family in the 1930’s and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Buildings that form part of the plaza include Madison square Garden’s, Radio City Music Hall, and the GE Building. The GE building, with its observation deck, is the headquarters of NBC and houses most of the network’s New York studios, including 6A, former home of Late Night with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brien and current home of The Dr. Oz Show; 6B, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; 8H, home of Saturday Night Live; plus the operations of NBC News, MSNBC and local station WNBC.
Rockefeller Centre was also among the last major building projects in the United States to incorporate a program of integrated public art. Sculptor Lee Lawrie contributed the largest number of individual pieces — twelve — including the statue of Atlas facing Fifth Avenue and the conspicuous friezes above the main entrance to the RCA Building.
Paul Manship’s highly recognizable bronze gilded statue of the Greek legend of the Titan Prometheus recumbent, bringing fire to mankind, features prominently in the sunken plaza at the front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The model for Prometheus was Leonardo (Leon) Nole, and the inscription from Aeschylus, on the granite wall behind, reads: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.” (Courtesy Wikipedia)
Jotted about in all the buildings was also shop upon shop of world famous brand names from Versace, Gucci, Kelvin Klein to la maison du chocolat.
But probably the most famous shop, and to this my two boys will agree, was the LEGO shop. Need I say more?
The tour ended at Liberty Island, home of the most famous of landmarks in the United States, the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). The statue was a gift of friendship from the people of France and was dedicated to the people of the United States on October 28, 1886.
It was designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and depicts a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence. The statue has become an iconic symbol of freedom for the people of the United States.
Later that night found Chris and I on our way back to Broadway, after detouring through the Furrier district, yes ladies, we got to look at $15 000 mink coats. We were on our way to see “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic Theatre. The Phantom is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s master pieces and the longest running show in Broadway History.
The Majestic Theater itself is a wonder to behold and we tried to take some pictures of the building inside but were not allowed to take any during the show itself.
Later that night saw us back in Times Square for the now customary Doughnut and coffee.
Tomorrow it’s off to Oak Brook, Chicago home of Lions International and the final destination for the Orthokeratology Vision By Design Congress.