Friday, November 5, 2010

The United Nations and The Guggenheim Museum: New York Travel Tips

International flags fly in front of the United Nations Building (photo by Luis Bastardo) 

When we arrived in New York, we first stopped at the United Nations (which is across from Tudor City where we were staying) to make a reservation for the Spanish-language tour. On Monday morning, we crossed the street for the 11am tour. Luckily, we'd picked a relatively quiet day and time to take the tour and there were only eight people in our group. I have taken the tour several times before with out of town visitors and they are always impressed, so I knew Luis would enjoy it. The tours are very well done, usually given by a multi-lingual tour guide dressed in the traditional clothing of his or her native country, and include a visit to the General Assembly Hall, different art exhibits and gifts from the heads of various countries and a series of exhibits entitled “The United Nations: From War to Development”. The UN also offers tours in Arabic, English, Chinese, French, Russian, Italian, Japanese, German, Korean and other languages (upon request), as well as audio tours.

"The Knotted Gun" disarmament sculpture by Carl Fredrick Reuterswärd, on the grounds of the UN complex (photo by Luis Bastardo) 

According to its website, the United Nations is "an international organization founded in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights...The Organization works on a broad range of fundamental issues, from sustainable development, environment and refugees protection, disaster relief, counter terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation, to promoting democracy, human rights, gender equality and the advancement of women, governance, economic and social development and international health, clearing landmines, expanding food production, and more, in order to achieve its goals and coordinate efforts for a safer world for this and future generations."  The UN currently has 192 member states, but this number changes as members join or leave.

The UN's General Assembly Hall (photo by Luis Bastardo)  

 After we left the UN, we headed across town to 5th Avenue to check out the current Kandinsky at the Bauhaus exhibit at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art. The building for the Guggenheim, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened in 1959, houses a permanent collection of mid-19th century art to today's art as well as constantly rotating temporary exhibits. Tours are included free with admission, so ask at the reception desk what the tour schedule is for that day. When visiting the Guggenheim, it's best to start at the top and work your way down to avoid the crowds, who tend to go in the other direction. Also, the museum doesn't allow photography above the ground level, so be preapred to buy the psotcards of any artwork that you want to remember.

The interior of the Guggenheim from the lobby (photo by Luis Bastardo) 

The Guggenheim is just one of the many amazing museums in New York City, including the jaw-dropping Metropolitan Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the New York Transit Museum, the American Folk Art Museum, the International Center of Photography, the Museum of Sex, the Jewish Museum, Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum (located on an aircraft carrier on Pier 86),  the New York City Police Museum and many, many more. Add to this, the hundreds of art galleries, parks, zoos, historic sites and homes and you could do nothing but visit museums and cultural sites for years. Unfortunately, we only had ten days...

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