Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Circling New York by Water

Passing under the Brooklyn Bridge on our harbour cruise around Manhattan
Yesterday the summer heat definitely arrived, the same day we decided to do a harbour cruise around Manhattan. We went down to Pier 83 on West 42nd Street and caught the 12.30pm cruise.

Even before the hour and a half tour started, our guide was already telling us interesting facts and figures about New York. Not only was he a fountain of information, but also funny too. What a change from the guide who took us around Kykuit.

Passing by the Statue of Liberty on a gorgeous hot day
We learned that the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for 45 years with 102 floors, and has two zip codes. The guide pointed out that you will never have a record of 45 years anymore since everyone is in a race to build a taller building.

Before the Empire State Building it was the Chrysler Building that was the tallest building for only seven months at 77 stories. The building's outer layer is made of nickel alloy -- the same metal used to make five-cent coins, which is why the building is so shiny.

Our guide then told us to look to the right to look at New Jersey for a few seconds before continuing on about Manhattan, as a joke. But one interesting fact was that Hoboken, New Jersey has more churches and bars in one square mile. Go figure.

Another trivial bit of information about Hoboken is that it was where the game of baseball started, and where they began manufacturing baseball caps.

Not many people know who Audrey Marie Munson was
He also talked about a woman's likeness being on more than a dozen statues on top of several buildings and places in New York. Audrey Marie Munson was considered America's first supermodel, or "American Venus" and acted in a few films.

In 1909 she was discovered by a photographer in New York and he introduced her to his artist friends, including sculptors who used her as their muse. From there she acted in some silent films.

But then things went awry -- Her parents divorced when she was young and so she and her mother lived together in a boarding house owned by Dr Walter Wilkins. According to the story, he fell in love with Munson and even arranged to have his own wife murdered so he could marry Munson.

The Enterprise was named after the Star Trek spacecraft
She and her mother fled New York and Munson denied having any romantic relationship with Wilkins. He was eventually tried and convicted of murder with the sentence of death by electric chair; however, he managed to hang himself before his execution.

A about two years later Munson tried to commit suicide by swallowing a solution of bicholoride of mercury. When she was 40 years old, her mother had her committed into an insane asylum where she lived out the rest of her days until she died in 1996 at the age of 104.

A half niece found her in 1984 when Munson was 93. But after she died, Munson was buried without a gravestone in the Munson family plot in New Haven, New York.

What a sad story.

Our tour also took us to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and we later passed under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges before turning around and returning to where we started.

Under the wing of the concorde, that no longer operates
Apparently New York is called the Big Apple because apples have a lot of sugar. And that was a metaphor for rich. So jazz players would say that getting gigs in New York meant getting the "big apple"...

Afterwards we went onto The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum next door. The aircraft carrier was built in 1943 during World War II and served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The Intrepid was destined for the scrap heap, but property developer Zachary Fisher and his brother Larry saved it and parked it on the water and stocked it with lots of military planes, and even has the British Airways Concorde and the space shuttle Enterprise.

The Chinese consulate is a big compound
It's more for military buffs, but still worth checking out at least once. Visitors can also go into parts of The Intrepid, seeing where the captain worked and slept, and the equipment they used, precursors to GPS and such. The bunks don't look too comfortable, but that's the way things were at the time.

As we left The Intrepid to go back home, we passed by the Chinese consulate, a massive compound seems to house its staff as well. Wonder if they get many protesters, though NYPD officers were standing around the door leading to visa applications...

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