Monday, January 31, 2011

Hard Lessons on Hard Drives

Don't panic - have a back up plan instead...
It's like being caught in a time warp.

Back in September 2009 I wrote about a hard drive crash that wiped out gigabytes of documents, photographs, and files containing more information that any human could possibly retain in one insignificant little brain.

Now it has happened again.

My poor long suffering Sony VAIO laptop seems to have finally given up the fight, and bitten the dust once and for all. Although I have been travelling with a back up drive, I have been remiss about backing up nightly or even weekly, and now it seems several months worth of work is once again lost in cyberspace somewhere, along with all the other terrabytes of lost information from failed hard drives everywhere.

Since I am still far from home and not due to reach Australia until late February or early March, blog updates will be few and far between until I can get my laptop looked at, and (please God), fixed, or until I buy a new one.

Thanks for reading the Compleat Traveller, and stay tuned for more occasional updates from the road.

Sigh... you'd think a man would learn...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chinese Bicycle Acrobatics

I've never been to China, but it is on my list - along with the rest of the world! The Chinese are famous for many things, not the least of which are their amazing acrobats as the following except from an acrobatics display shows. I can't even imagine the hours and hours of practice that must go into routines like the one seen here.

Did I say hours? Try years. A lot of them.


Monday, January 24, 2011

In Review: For Liberty and Glory

Over the past year or two, I have rekindled my interest in history and some of the greatest events of the past several hundred years.

Because of my two extended visits to America I have been particularly interested in the early history of the United States, and have read numerous books charting the birth and development of that nation, and have many others I hope to read as time allows.

For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions by James R. Gaines deals with two of the most important revolutionary periods in American and French history, and the two principal players in both those revolutions.

Across 500 pages Gaines traces the parallel paths of George Washington, the first President of the newly formed United States, and the Marquis de Lafayette, the man who could have been the first president of the French Republic, but who refused the position.

Although I was familiar with some American place names bearing the name Lafayette and Fayetteville, and had walked along

Lafayette Street
in Manhattan on numerous occasions, I must admit to being completely ignorant of the Marquis de Lafayette, and the role he played in both the American and French revolutions.

I don’t know if every American city or town bearing the name Fayette, Fayetteville, and Lafayette owe their title to the Marquis de Lafayette, but it is entirely possible. Certainly,  innumerable streets, avenues, French and American naval vessels, educational institutions, US counties, subway stations, parks and city squares, and other landmarks do owe their names to him.

Lafayette, whose full name was the jaw breaking, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (and who shall, for the sake of brevity, hereafter be referred to mostly as Lafayette), was a French aristocrat and military officer, who at the age of just 19 years sailed to the New World to join the American Revolutionary War against France’s age-old enemy, Britain. In the process he became one of George Washington’s closest aides and confidante’s and one the American revolution’s most well-known, and well regarded generals.
Amazon reader review:
 “For those who know much about Washington but less about Lafayette, I cannot recommend this story highly enough. Touching [and] at times, poignant, it is not only informative but is indeed a joy to read.” ~ Deborah C. Galiano (Picayune, MS)
Lafayette, himself was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania, not long after his arrival in America, and played a major role in several other important battles. He was also in charge of French troops during the final battle of the war, which saw the defeat and surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.

Having read virtually nothing about either the French or the American revolutions, I didn’t realize – until reading For Liberty and Glory just how indebted the fledgling American nation was for the support of the French. Successive French kings helped bankroll the American revolution, and hundreds of French officers and thousands of soldiers and sailors took part in some of the most crucial battles of the American Revolutionary War.

Ironically, French participation in the American Revolutionary War helped sow the seeds for the French Revolution which saw the overthrow of King Louis XVI (16th), in October 1789. The royal treasury had borrowed millions of livres (the French currency at the time), and was heavily indebt as a result. The only recourse the court at Versailles had to repay its massive debt was to raise taxes and prices on essential foods like bread, which only helped fuel the call for the overthrow of the King.

Compounding the royal court’s problems, were the hundreds of French officers and thousands of French troops and sailors returning from America, most of whom were infused with the idea of, and support for a French Republic. And none was more committed to this cause than the Marquis de Lafayette.
Amazon reader review:
 “… this book is one of the better ones on the American Revolution that I've read in recent years, and it's very well done. I would recommend it to anyone even slightly interested in the subject.” ~ David W. Nicholas (Montrose, CA)
James R. Gaines is a wonderful storyteller, and skillfully weaves together the major players on these two revolutionary stages. No stone appears to be left unturned, no letter unread, and no intrigue left unexamined. The highs and lows of both revolutions are examined in great detail, and again I learned much about the French revolution that had previously been unknown to me.

I knew about the fall of the Bastille, the tumbrel laden carts filled with hapless Frenchmen and women on their way to the guillotine, and the eventual death by guillotine of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. But I didn’t realize just how widespread and horrifying the bloodshed became, as the various forces battled for the control of France. I knew next to nothing about the Reign of Terror (1793-1794) unleashed by Robespierre, which according to archival records show that over 16,500 people died under the guillotine, although some historians note that as many as 40,000 accused prisoners may have been summarily executed without trial or died awaiting trial.

In the end Robespierre himself went to the guillotine in 1794, but that didn’t end the slaughter in France until the French Revolution finally came to an end five years later in 1795.

There is so much to recommend For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions by James R. Gaines. In deed, I am now looking for a good book or two about the French Revolution in particular, since I am sure there is much more to learn about that period in French history.

***** Highly Recommended.
Amazon reader review:
“Gaines' book is a highly readable, insightful and incredibly interesting look at the American and French Revolutions through the lives of Washington and Lafayette.” ~ B. Calhoun (Portland, OR)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Sunnies: George Carlin (2)

WARNING: Adult Humor Ahead!
George Carlin was a stand-up comedian, social critic, actor, and author, who won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums. He was noted for his black humor as well as his thoughts on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects.

Here he is performing part of his routine about airplane announcements. The first part of this video appeared as last week’s Sunday Sunnies entry. If you are offended by coarse language, you may want to give this video a miss.

NOTE: Unfortunately the sound on this video is completely out of sync with the footage, making it quite difficult to watch. You may prefer to simply listen to the clip rather than watch it.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday Photos: Angel Of Semaphore

Close: War Memorial clock tower and angel

In 1925 this war memorial and clock tower commemorating those who fell during the First World War, was erected on the foreshore at the ‘foot’ of Semaphore Road, in the suburb of Semaphore, Adelaide, South Australia.

Although this series of Friday Photos is titled, Angel of Semaphore, the monument is obviously not called that. However, colloquially the locals refer to the statue on top of the clock tower as either the ‘Semaphore Angel’ or the ‘Angel of Semaphore’, and that’s good enough for me.
Closer: Night falls over the seaside suburb of Semaphore
I shot this series of images late one evening after going for a long walk along the beach, which is a great way to relax and gather one’s thoughts after a long tiring day at the office – not that I worked in an office, but you get my drift.
Closest: the Angel of Semaphore keeps an eye on locals and visitors

Maybe I should have called this post, Close, closer, closest. Then again, maybe not.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve walked past this War Memorial, I have always taken the time pause and look at the angel. Lit up at night, it makes for a particularly captivating image, and I know I am not the only person to have tried to capture the monument as the sun sets in the west, and another long, hot summer day draws to a close.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Aussie Way Of Greeting

Signage on Stuart Highway heading north from Adelaide

There's a great tradition still taking place on Australian country roads that has been around for many years, and long may it continue to be so. This tradition involves the practise of acknowledging complete strangers (but fellow travellers), as you cross the nation's highways.

This acknowledgment takes the form of a slight raising of the fingers of one hand just as two vehicles travelling in opposite directions pass each other. It is almost like a mini salute. You rarely have to take your hand completely off the steering wheel to execute this manoeuvre, and it can be so fleeting that if you are not paying attention, you could easily miss it.

I was delighted to see this practise still in use on a trip to Port Lincoln a few years ago (a round-trip distance of around 1300kms).

I don't know if this is a uniquely Australian practise, but it must surely be in danger of dying out as the years go by, and more and more cars take to our national highways. At some point it becomes impossible to acknowledge every driver you pass during a long trip. There are just too many travellers to greet. But it was not always so.

Back in the day, when we went on an extended drive through Australia's bush, there were far fewer travellers on our country roads. Back then, before the nation's major highways were even sealed, we would often stop and chat with fellow travellers to learn about the road conditions which lay ahead. Back then, you could travel, literally for many hours without seeing another vehicle on the road. So when you did encounter another car, you would always stop for a brief chat with the other driver.

Now of course, it is completely different. It is very rare to travel anywhere along our national highway system, and not encounter a continuous stream of vehicles, large and small on the way to somewhere else! Now, too, almost everyone carries a mobile (cell) phone with them, and you are never more than a few hours between country towns, roadside truck stops, and other forms of human contact. Add to that the increasing use of GPS systems, and it is almost impossible to get lost or be out of contact with another human for more than a couple of hours at a time.

I was thinking about all of this on my trip to Port Lincoln, when I began writing what I thought might be a song on the subject. In the end, it seems to have turned into a poem, but all it takes is the addition of a melody to turn it into a song, which I may yet do. Anyway, here it is...

© 2006, Jim Lesses. All Rights Reserved.

When you're driving on the highway,
And you want to say, "G'day"
To a stranger that is driving
Down the road the other way.
Just lift a coupl'a fingers,
Point them up towards the sky.
It's the Aussie way of greeting,
So go ahead, say, "Hi".

It's the Aussie way of greeting,
Nothing flashy, nothing grand.
Nothing over ostentatious,
Like the waving of a hand.
It isn't Regal; it isn't Papal,
It's never coarse, and never rough.
It's the Aussie way of greeting,
Understated - but enough.

It's the Aussie way of greeting,
From the people of the land.
If you ever need assistance
They will always raise a hand.
They will never leave you stranded
They will help you share the load.
It's the Aussie way of greeting,
And you will find it on the road.

It's the Aussie way of greeting,
May it live forever more.
May you never be too busy
Fellow travelers too ignore.
May you take the time to send one,
May it brighten up your way.
It's the Aussie way of greeting,
So raise your hand, and say, "G'day".

Monday, January 17, 2011

New York City Apartment Living

Image: Apartment blocks overlooking the Hudson River, New York City
Many years ago I spent a year living in a small apartment in Adelaide, and from memory, I must say the experience wasn’t all that bad – if you discount the neighbors from hell who constantly fought and argued, and who eventually did a ‘runner’ after leaving their rental next door trashed.

I should say, at the outset that Australians are not big on apartment living. Most of us grow up on suburban quarter-acre blocks, with large back yards, covered with swathes of green lawn, numerous trees and shrubs and other vegetation. The idea of living in a multi-storied apartment block with neighbors potentially residing above, below and to both sides of us, does not cause the heart to beat with anticipation and excitement. So it was with a sense of some trepidation that I approached my two month apartment sitting appointment in New York over the summer months of July and August, 2010. However, I needn’t have worried.

While there are no doubt ‘neighbors from hell’ living in New York apartments, the building I was calling home for eight weeks in the upper Manhattan suburb of Washington Heights didn’t include them. In fact, if it wasn’t for the occasional meeting of fellow residents in the building’s foyer or basement laundry, I could have spent two months thinking I had the building to myself. I was aware of no screaming children, no barking dogs, no blaring televisions or music, and no domestic arguments from my neighbors – although from time to time the occupants of the apartment immediately above mine did sound like they were taking part in an exercise class, judging by the thumps and bumps on the floor/ceiling.

Most New York apartments are notoriously – umm, compact. Well, most of them are anyway. Having said that, apartments can range from tiny one bedroom studio units to plush penthouse accommodations that occupy whole floors of new or renovated buildings – as the following image shows.
Yes, folks, that’s a three bedroom apartment each of which has its own en suite bathroom, with a spare fourth toilet for visitors. Needless to say, apartments like these are not for the average working Joe, and the place I stayed at was certainly on the modest size.

However, that doesn’t mean people spend their leisure time cooped up in cramped apartments, sweating away their evenings in front of their televisions. At least not all of them. I soon learnt that apartment dwellers – on Manhattan in particular – love to get out of their cramped digs whenever the opportunity allows to meet their neighbors in local parks, on sidewalks, to walk the dog, or to just rest on benches watching the world go by.

In deed, after going back through my blog entries I am surprised to see just how often I have written about my impressions of New York City park life, including Central Park, Shakespeare in the parks, my New York promenade, and others. Clearly, this notion of 'park life' made a big impression on me, but the popularity and utilization of New York City parks also testifies to the importance they play in the life the city’s residents.
Image: Streetscape of apartments in Washington Heights, New York City
I don’t know if all New York apartments have laundry facilities in their basements, but mine did, and it was a great convenience to not have to go down the road looking for the nearest launderette when washing day was due. In a previous post, I also wrote about the excellent collection of books that could be found in the basement ‘library’ of my apartment block.

Another thing our building contained – as do many other New York apartments – was a fallout shelter. I couldn’t tell if there was a separate space for the fallout shelter, or whether the basement did double duty as laundry and shelter facility. If the laundry does double as the fallout shelter, it is going to be very cramped and uncomfortable down there, as I assume many other similar shelters will be. Needless to say, I hope it never has to be used for the purpose for which it was intended.
Image: Typical fallout shelter signage… ”Duck – and cover!”
Another aspect of apartment living I found interesting was the number of pets that New Yorkers keep in their apartments. I myself was caring for two cats that never leave the confines of the apartment I was staying in, and I’m sure they are not the only house cats that spend virtually all their lives indoors. Dogs on the other hand need more space to run around in, and every evening a motley collection of canines, large and small took to the streets with their owners – or paid dog handlers – in tow to sniff trees and garden beds, and deposit their droppings wherever they saw fit.

Thankfully, most owners did the right thing and collected the droppings their pooches left behind, but some did not, and it was always worth paying attention to where you were walking in case you brought some of the poop back home with you. In deed, a New York aphorism has it that you can always tell the difference between New Yorkers and visitors, because the visitors are those who are constantly looking up at tall buildings, while the New Yorkers are always looking down at the pavement trying to avoid the dog poo!

After two months living in New York apartment I was sorry to go. It was a luxury most visitors will never get to experience, and I am delighted to have had the opportunity of living like a local. It’s an encounter I will treasure for many years.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Sunnies: George Carlin

WARNING: Adult Humor Ahead!
George Carlin was a stand-up comedian, social critic, actor, and author, who won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums. He was noted for his black humor as well as his thoughts on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects.

Here he is performing part of his routine about airplane announcements. The second part will appear in a future Sunday Sunnies entry. If you are offended by coarse language, you may want to give this video a miss.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Photos: South Bank, London

Image: Salvador Dali sculpture on London’s South Bank of the Thames River
Three images taken during my visit to London in March 2008. Specifically, the shots were taken while walking along the South Bank of the Thames River.

The first photograph is of a sculpture by the surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí. This was part of an exhibition of Dali’s works taking place at the time, although I can’t tell you what the work is called. If any reader does know, please feel free to share the title of the work via the Comments section for this post.

Dali was a highly imaginative, Spanish Catalan painter who liked to take part in unusual and grandiose behavior, in order to draw attention to himself – the most obvious of which was the way he waxed and shaped his moustache to curve upwards towards the top of his head. This apparently irked those who loved his art as much as it annoyed his critics, since his eccentric manner sometimes drew more public attention than his artwork.
Image: Foot of light fitting on London’s South Bank of the Thames River
I am continually fascinated by the way art is incorporated into everyday objects – like the footings of the light fittings along the wall overlooking the Thames River. These objects were produced in an age when building projects often seemed to include an artistic element to them, despite the extra cost of construction that casting something as elaborate as this footing must have entailed. Today, everything seems to be built with eyes firmly fixed on keeping costs as low as possible, with the result that very little excites the eye, or fires the imagination once construction is completed.
Image: London Eye on the South Bank of the Thames
I didn’t get an opportunity to ride the London Eye, during my all too brief visit to London in 2008. Even in early March, when I was there, the queues were longer than I had the patience to line up for. From the ground it makes for a spectacular sight though, and if I find myself in the vicinity again with more time on my hands – and patience – I will make the journey to the top.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Schmap Guides

Image: Triumph of The Human Spirit monument in New York City

Nice to have one of my photographs chosen to help illustrate the City Hall page for the Sixteenth Edition of the Schmap New York Guide. The photograph (seen above) shows the Triumph of The Human Spirit monument located in front of the United States Court House.

Schmap Guides exist for dozens of cities across the United States and around the world, each of which can be downloaded to your computer or mobile device for offline referral. In addition, the guides - which are all free to download - are available in French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and German.
Image: Schmap website screenshot

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Who’ll Stop The Rain?

Image: Residents in flood damaged Lockyer Valley wait for flood waters to recede
Long as I remember, the rain been comin' down,
Clouds of mystery pourin', confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages, tryin' to find the sun,
And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?
Who'll Stop The Rain? ~ John Fogerty
Image: Southbound traffic on the Bruce Highway grinds to a stop due to flooding

As I write this, I am keeping an eye on a live television stream from the Australian Broadcasting Commission reporting on the devastating floods that have swept across vast swathes of eastern Australia.

It is impossible to get your head around the massive volumes of water involved. Flood waters have not only covered hundreds of square miles of Queensland, but flood waters are slowly traveling along Australia’s river systems into New South Wales, Victoria, and eventually even into my home state of South Australia. To give you a sense of the distances involved, floodwaters from Queensland will take up to three months to reach South Australia, although heavy rainfalls in that state are already causing minor flooding along parts of the River Murray, one of the longest rivers in Australia.
Image: Cars piled up as a result of flash flooding in Toowoomba, Queensland
Image: Flash flooding roars down Herries Street, Toowoomba

While scenes of the devastation are reminiscent of those seen after Hurricane Katrina made landfall over New Orleans in August 2005, that is about the only comparison that can be made between the two events. Australian authorities, including various branches of the armed forces, have had plenty of time to prepare as best as possible for the flooding, as have non-government agencies like the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other charitable organizations.

Those readers wishing to make donations towards the flood relief effort will find a mass of agencies collecting clothing, goods and money for Australian’s affected by the flooding.

Some suggested websites…
The Queensland government’s official website is a good place to start.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bussers, Busboys and Busgirls

Image: Three T.G.I Fridays bussers. Source: the internet.
Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to spend a total of five months ‘living’ in New York City and travelling through other parts of America. I have lost count of the number of restaurant and café meals I have eaten during that time – not that I was keeping score – but it was a lot. More than a lot in fact. If there was one element of eating out that I never quite got a handle on, it was the concept of the busboy, although nowadays, the term busboy or busgirl has become desexed, and the generic term busser, is used instead.

According to Wikipedia, busser, busboy or busgirl are terms used in the United States for someone that works in the restaurant and catering industry assisting the waiting staff (that is, waiters and waitresses).

But what exactly does the busser do?

This apparently depends on the size of the restaurant, but generally if you are eating out in America, the busser is the person who brings water to your table, and keeps your glass topped up throughout your meal. They may also bring out the bread and other pre-dinner snacks, although your waiter/waitress will always be the person to serve your meal.

In a busy restaurant, the busser may also be responsible for all assistant activities in the dining hall like resetting tables, clearing away dirty dishes and cleaning up spilled items, shining cutlery, restocking waiter stations with water, bread and/or orange juice, etc. In smaller restaurants where there aren't a lot of employees, they may do additional duties in the kitchen like washing dishes, restocking, and taking out the trash.

One other aspect of eating out in America that confuses and stresses many international travelers is the practice of tipping. While I was a lot more familiar with the protocols of restaurant tipping on my 2010 visit to the US (than I was on my first visit in 2008), I was still confused about how tipping worked vis-à-vis the busser’s. That is, I knew that busser’s were not tipped separately from wait staff, but if waiter/waitresses rely so much on tips to supplement their minimum wages, how are the lowly busser’s meant to supplement their wages?

In researching this question online I was surprised (to say the least), to learn that busser’s are in fact paid from the total pool of tips that accumulates during a restaurant shift.

In effect, busser’s receive a percentage of the tips that wait staff are tipped! I don’t know if there is an accepted percentage at play here, or if the amount of money the busser’s are ‘tipped’ is at the discretion of the waiters, but clearly the concept of tipping in America becomes much more serious when you realize your 15 percent gratuity is being divided up between wait staff and busser’s.

Some Well Known Former Busboys
Image: Collage of famous former bus boys (bussers)
Among a list of former bussers on Wikipedia, I was surprised to see some very famous and well known faces. These include the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.; and Jon Stewart, comedian, and host of The Daily Show (who has named his production company Busboy Productions). Then there are Langston Hughes (dubbed the "busboy poet"); Huey Morgan, musician; Dick Cavett, actor and host of The Dick Cavett Show; and the actors Johnny Depp, Alec Baldwin, Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, Andy Kaufman, and Al Pacino. Finally, Richard Feynman, American physicist and Nobel Laureate, worked as a busboy in his aunt's restaurant in New York in the 1930s; and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnamese revolutionary and President, was a busboy in Boston at the Parker House Hotel.

Pay Rates: Wait Staff Vs. Busser
Just when you begin to think the busser is at the bottom of the restaurant pecking order, you learn that busser’s – as employees – are in fact paid more than wait staff.

But how can this be possible? The answer lies in America’s labor laws.

In a January 2009 article published in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal and headlined, If a Half-Eaten Burrito Lingers, There May Be No Busboy to Blame, Janet Adamy writes: In many states, it's cheaper to keep servers [i.e., wait staff] on the clock than bussers because of a loophole that allows restaurants to pay servers who earn tips less than the minimum wage -- as little as $2.13 an hour. Bussers must be paid at least $6.55 an hour.

Interestingly, while Seek dot Com, 'Australia's #1 job site' did not list positions for bussers/bus boys anywhere across Australia when I searched the site, it did list dozens of jobs for male and female wait staff with wages that would make most American wait staff faint. For example, one ad from Dell Ugo's New Farm, in Brisbane had wait staff salaries ranging from AUD$15 - $24.99 per hour.

Of course, Australian wages for wait staff are much higher because waiters don’t rely on tips to make a living wage. Any tips they get are a bonus received for providing a genuinely great service throughout the dining experience.

More Information:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rockefeller Center, NYC

Image: The Rockefeller Center, New York City
It’s pretty much impossible to miss the Rockefeller Center in New York City. Located in midtown Manhattan, the complex consists of 19 major buildings, the largest of which is the GE Building. Directly in front of this building is a large sunken outdoor plaza which doubles as an ice skating rink in winter and restaurant during the summer months.

During my spring 2008 visit to New York I often found myself in the vicinity of the Rockefeller Center and enjoyed passing the time admiring the skaters, people watching in general, and stopping for something to eat at one of the many restaurants and cafés in the underground concourse beneath the GE building. For some reason I rarely went to the Center during my 2010 trip to New York City. Maybe it was because I had seen enough of the site previously to feel happy to overlook the area in favour of New York’s many other interesting locations.

Rockefeller Center, or Rockefeller Plaza covers an area encompassing 22 acres (89,000 m2), the borders of which are 48th and 51st streets, and Fifth Avenue to the east, and Sixth Avenue to the west (see map). It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Rockefeller Center was named after John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the only son of his namesake and father, John D. Rockefeller Sr. the wealthy oil magnate. Rockefeller Jr., initially planned a syndicate to build an opera house for the Metropolitan Opera on the site, but changed his mind after the stock market crash of 1929 and the withdrawal of the Metropolitan from the project. Faced with the choice of abandoning the project completely or building and financing the Center himself, Rockefeller Jr., chose to build, turning the construction project into the largest private building project ever undertaken in modern history.

Of course, apart from ice skating and people watching and eating, one of the other reasons visitors flock to Rockefeller Center is to take the elevator rides to the ‘Top of The Rock’ as the visit to the observation decks is called. The views from the 70th floor are quite spectacular, as you might imagine, and you have the added advantage of getting great views (and photographs) of the Empire State Building which is near by.
Image: Looking straight up at ’30 Rock’
Unlike most other Art Deco towers built during the 1930s, the GE Building was constructed as a slab with a flat roof. This is where the Center's observation deck, the Top of the Rock is located.

In 2005, the Center’s owner completed a $75 million makeover of the observation area which now spans the 67th-70th floors and includes a multimedia exhibition exploring the history of the Center. On the 70th floor, there is a 20-foot (6.1 m) wide viewing area, allowing visitors an unobstructed 360-degree panoramic view of New York City.

Here is a minute or so of video footage I shot during my Top Of The Rock visit during March 2008.
Getting There:
The nearest subway station is the 47-50th St - Rockefeller Ctr. Station which can be reached by the B, D, F, and M trains (more info:

  • Podcast $2.50     
  • Adult $22.00     
  • Child (6-12) $15.00     
  • Senior (62+) $20.00     
  • Sunrise Sunset $32.00     
  • Sunrise Sunset Child $17.00 
  • Note: a SUNRISE SUNSET ticket allows guests to visit twice in one day.

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