New York Bits and Pieces

Today I did a bunch more walking, went to the American Natural History Museum, went on a tourist bus trip which went around the entire south of Manhattan Island, checked out Ground Zero, aka the Hole, aka the World Trade Center site, saw the second oldest suspension bridge in the country, went up the Empire State Building.

Unfortunately the weather turned on me and it was raining yesterday morning when I set out, but by the afternoon’s bus trip it had cleared up, and I even saw the sun for the first time (whilst on the ground, it doesn’t really count when you’re 30,000 feet up) in about 2 weeks.

Given the weather change I decided to head up to the Empire State, thinking that this’d be the best time to do it now that it had cleared up a bit. I knew I was about ten blocks away so I set my sights on the building and started walking.

Unfortunately once I got within about 4 blocks I was surrounded by massive buildings and completely lost my sense of direction. It is surprisingly hard to find the cities tallest building when you can’t see it.

Anyway, eventually I found it and went up – along with a billion or so other people who thought sunset might be a good time to head up there. The wait wasn’t too long – maybe 45 minutes or so from bottom to top. Every time you turn a corner you find yourself in another queue for a lift.

I got the special extra super high pass, which gets you up to the 102nd floor – the view from the normal observatory, which is on the 86th floor, is pretty good though and if you want to save the fourteen bucks you can probably live without going to the 102nd, unless you’re an altitude junky like moi.

One of my earliest memories of anything to do with the Empire State is watching the original Spiderman movie (not the Toby McGuire one) – at some point, Spidey gets some device pinned to his shirt and it takes over his brain and makes him try to jump off the top of the Empire State. As he’s climbing over, I remember some safety prong thing luckily tore off the mind control device, bringing him to his senses and of course saving his life. I was very excited to see that those prong things actually exist.

The bus trip around the south of the island was also great, got to see a bunch of cool places.

The WTC site was weird; it appears to be a massive tourist attraction – I didn’t think anyone else on the bus would be getting off to check it out but most of the other people did. There were hundreds and hundreds of people wandering around the site, which is protected by some big fences. In true capitalist style there are people walking around trying to sell you WTC mementos, despite signs on the fences asking citizens and tourists not to buy anything from them.

I suspect it is called ‘The Hole’ because of the massive hole in the ground that now exists where the two massive towers once stood, but really to me it seemed more like a hole in the skyline.

I didn’t spend a lot of time there; its a little depressing and the ghouls wandering around make it more so.

Will try to write more later but now I have to go and battle the New York hotel system. It seems everything on Manhattan Island is totally booked out at the moment – except the $800-$2000 per night (seriously) hotels.

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