Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Visit to the United Nations

I've always been interested in visiting the United Nations.  It was my idea of a "dream job" when I was a kid.  I thought it would be great to be able to meet people from all over the world just by going to work each day.  I never got that job, but I finally got to visit the building.

We arrived about 1130 AM on a Monday and the line was nearly a block long to get into the gate.  I was glad I'd made a lunch reservation on-line, and took out my ticket to check instructions before we got into the long line.  Turns out if they are expecting you for lunch, you give your name to the security people at the head of the line and they make a phone call.  We were in about five minutes later, though we still had the mandatory bag check and security stop that everyone goes through. Our reservation was for noon.

Once you're inside, you present a form of identification in exchange for a badge.  If you have a passport, bring that, even if you're an American and you don't expect to leave the country.  The United Nations has an office in the basement where you can get a special stamp for your passport because technically it is international soil. How cool is that?!  We had our badges and a personal escort who took us to the Delegates Dining Room upstairs. You can read about making a reservation at their website.  You won't pay in advance, so bring a charge card or cash to pay for your lunch.  It's a flat fee of $34.99 per person for a buffet with three courses of international cuisine.  Your drinks are extra. You must wear business attire or you won't be allowed.  This is the space where visiting dignitaries, heads of state, and tourists meet to enjoy a meal prepared by some of the best chefs in New York...maybe even the world! Our lunch that day consisted of foods prepared from six different countries.  The escort said the menu is never repeated.
The place you swap your ID for a visitor badge
A waiter brought us drinks and a bread basket which was filled to the brim with a variety of tasty breads and crackers.  The white breads were fluffy.  The dark breads were dense with flavor, and the baked crackers with browned cheese were simply amazing. Be sure to go hungry!  First we tackled the table of salads.  There were selections of veggies, greens, pickles, fish, cheese, beans, and fruits. Omar is a picky eater and only 10 years old so he skipped this table completely.  He wasn't much happier with the table of main course items because there was no pizza or plain pasta.  I, on the other hand, was excited to try roasted lamb, eggplant dishes, kebabs, potatoes cooked a variety of ways. Not only were the foods cooked to perfection, but they included sauces which kicked it up a notch.  The ultimate destination though was the dessert table.  Actually Omar ate only bread and desserts and somehow lived through the experience.  Cheesecake, truffles, pecan pie, OH MY!  This was a great deal for the price.  I would recommend it to anyone with an appetite.  The views from the dining room were pretty nice.  Be sure to check out the toilets too- the toilet paper is readable!  Whoever thought you'd get a lesson in economics, better health, etc. from reading a toilet paper roll?  Great call!



After our lunch we had about a half hour before our tour so the dining room cashier called us an escort who showed us to the gift shop, where they had a mini replica of the United Nations done in Lego bricks!  Omar found a really nice travel coffee mug for his teacher, but the selection is good with toys and books too.  You can buy a tour on the day you visit, but it's easier to buy on-line so you are sure to get in.  Children are half price, but no one under the age of 5.
All done in Legos

We joined a tour with about 15 people.  There were 3 tours at the same time in various languages.  We had to strictly follow the guide.  The artwork in the building was really interesting, but the rooms were equally as nice.  We saw three of the meeting rooms and Omar tried out one of the earpieces, used to translate the meetings to a different language.  Of course, there was no meeting at the time so there was no talking- just white noise.  Most of the displays focus on the international mission of peace.  I didn't realize that anyone representing the military for the UN just wears their own uniform. There isn't a special military force just for the UN.  There are 193 member states and the organization is 70 years old this year, formed just after WWII to prevent all future wars.  You can read all about it at this link for the United Nations. The tour took just about one hour, and then we were free to visit the public areas and walk the grounds outdoors.
Our tour guide with a selection of landmines

Omar trying out the translating listening device

One of the assembly rooms


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