Wednesday, May 27, 2009
1,250 Feet Above Sea Level
This past Memorial day weekend I ventured to the heart of an unexplored territory, the East Coast of the United States. Interestingly enough, despite having done a fair amount of traveling internationally, before this weekend aside from layovers in Dulles I had never visited anywhere east of Chicago, and even my time there could scarcely be termed a 'visit.'
With a whole branch of the family living along the Eastern Seaboard, I decided it was high time to alter this state of affairs. After viewing the shockingly high prices of Manhattan hotels I contacted my (second, third?) cousin Kris to see if I could arrange a bed at her home in New Jersey. Luckily for me, a bed was available so I booked a flight and was soon on my way.
While I have often been a bit nervous while scrambling across the scree fields of Colorado's 14ers, I do have a passion for high places and the spectacular views they afford. With the hearty endorsement of Kris's husband Steve my first stop in the city was The Empire State Building for a panoramic view of Manhattan and the surrounding Burroughs and states.
Previous travels have seen me at the top of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in London (108 Meters), the Landmark Tower in Yokohama (296 meters), the Eiffel Tower (324 Meters) and Tokyo Tower, (333 Meters). Stretching 381 meters (1,250 feet) the Empire State Building is far and away the tallest man made object I have had the pleasure of ascending. Despite the fact that it was completed back in 1931 it still ranks as the 15th tallest building in the world and since the tragedy of 911 is back to being the tallest building in New York City.
Indeed, while the Empire State Building has been surpassed by other taller structures, I would say that it's never been surpassed in popular imagination. After all, King Kong hasn't climbed Taipei 101, or any of the behemoths under construction in Dubai! In a way, the Empire State Building is still The Skyscraper, just as the city below is still The City.
There are two observatories at the top of the building, an outdoor one on the 86th floor, and a smaller indoor one perched at the very top on the 102nd floor. I had to see both. The view, as expected, was mesmerizing, and the 102nd floor was shockingly devoid of tourists. Most people opted for the almost as fantastic view, at a cheaper price. I'm glad I paid the extra though, both for the amazing vistas in ever direction and for the bragging rights!
Interestingly enough, on the ground floor was a Chipotle Mexican Grill, with the requisite photo of the world's first Chipotle, located a few blocks from where I grew up here in Denver. Also, while on the 102nd floor, I overheard a tour group from Scotland chatting about the view... and correctly picked out the one from Glasgow! After descending back down to the bottom, I headed to the subway to see if I could find my way uptown to the American Museum of Natural History.