Lady Not Ga Ga
Some places live forever in your memory and my week in New York was something I’ll always treasure. Yes, I did all of the obvious tourist traps and loved them all. It was a privilege to see the Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and so on. Grand Central Station was a revelation. So when you are in New York for the small matter of a few days you have to be fairly ruthless with your time. I had pre-planned with a written guidebook to the Big Apple to make some kind of attempt to plan my time and squeeze in as much as possible. I knew as soon as I arrived that I’d gone down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland when the cab whisked us from the airport to our hotel. Looking up at those tall buildings in Manhattan for the very first time will live with me forever and that was a genuine moment when I was transported back to a Utopian childhood that I’d never actually had. The Statue of Liberty was scrawled on our “must see” list. Consequently, myself, my good lady and the kids made a day of visiting the Statue before we left and this is an account of our day:
The SOL was a gift to the city of New York in 1886 from France. Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. The Statue was a joint effort between America and France and it was agreed that the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly in the United States. The statue was closed to visitors after the September 11th attacks but re-opened in 2004 The SOL is the first sight that many thousands of immigrants would have seen over the years as many millions filed into the United States from all over the world.
We reached the ferry point to get to the statue at Battery Park by subway. Routes 1, 9, 4 and 5 to Bowling Green will get you there or, alternatively, take a cab from your accommodation or you may even be close enough to walk there. By going over ground you will pass through the Financial District in New York including Ground Zero, Wall Street and the UN Building. When we arrived at Battery Park we made our way to Castle Clinton to buy the ferry tickets. Castle Clinton is a monument itself with a queue circling the castle before you get inside via the park rangers to buy tickets at one of 3 booths. Tickets cost $12 adults, $10 seniors, $5 children, under 3s free (no credit cards). There were constant tannoy announcements asking folks to split up so that one person stood in line to get tickets whilst the rest of the party queued on the street to catch the ferry. Most peeps managed to ignore the plea, hence the regular repeats, although splitting up meant saving time in line.
Ferries left every 20 minutes from gangway 5 although total queuing time was not far off 2 hours by the time we left! Whilst waiting you get the usual entourage of buskers, hot dog stalls and even 2 people on stilts dressed as the SOL making money by allowing folks to have their photo taken with them. My lot were far too coy to have their photos taken with the said people on stilts including myself being the shy, retiring type *ahem*
The ferry ride
Before we were allowed on the ferry we had to go through an airport style security check yet again. Scanners were on hand to x-ray any luggage whilst we were asked to remove our shoes. I did go to take a photo of my good lady sans shoes but I was quickly put off by a reprimand from one of the security peeps who told me not to. Security is very strict at these sights just now! The ferries run from 9am to 3.30pm and are in constant use all the time. The Statue is another pilgrimage for many Americans and is incredibly popular so any thoughts if it being just a routine tourist trap for Brits is quickly dispelled when you see the queues. The ferries themselves can crowd on quite a few people and have toilets and a snack bar for drinks and light snacks. There were plenty of seats although some people did end up standing due to the numbers on board. The ride over took about 20 minutes and provides some spectacular views of Manhattan as well as various New York bridges. I did buy us both a cup of coffee on the ferry, which only cost $1 each. However, the young lad that served me looked completely disinterested and borderline rude. This was replicated at Ellis Island and I can only thing that the employees don’t get paid very much or are doing community service or something.
The Statue resides on Liberty Island. Having disembarked we made our way to the far side of the island where a group of schoolchildren were singing patriotic songs. We took up a viewpoint looking back at Manhattan and what a stunning sight it was! We could see the whole of Manhattan Island looking like a model in the distance. Skyscrapers jutted high into the air, what with their different heights and types it really is an incredible sight and one that I will remember forever. The only thing to compete with this was the view from the top of the Empire State Building which also took my breath away. You will find a reasonable cafeteria on Liberty Island as well as a gift shop. The café sold the usual fodder you’d expect in the States i.e. burgers, chips and the like whilst the souvenir shop had all the usual suspects such as mini versions of the statue, books, pencils and all manner of stuff designed to extricate your dollars from you. I can't say that we tried the cafe as we were happy to wait to eat at Ellis Island although we did spend out hard-earned in the gift shop.
You can walk all the way around the base of the statue. The monument itself is amazing. Looking up at the torch bearing lady, you can see why she has come to symbolise the American dream. There are yet more park rangers dotted about at various points although lots of folks were having their photos taken with them and they seemed friendly enough. You can only imagine what those many immigrants must have thought on entering New York harbour, housed in the huge liners that traversed oceans to bring them to a new land. Interesting facts include The Statue of Liberty is around 305 feet high and weighs 450,000 lb. There are various placards with historical anecdotes devoted to the history behind the statue as you walk around her. We did slowly amble around the statue drinking in the view of the famous monument as well as the startling views of Manhattan across the harbour. To tell you the truth, we weren’t prepared to wait the 2 hours necessary to make it inside the statue. I managed to glean the following from information gained on our holiday but can’t really embellish you with first hand experience (much as I'd liked to have replicated those brave Ghostbusters in the Ivan Reitman classic).
*Statue of Liberty Exhibit
The Statue of Liberty exhibit opened in July 1986 and is located on the second floor in the pedestal of the Statue. It traces the history and symbolism of the Statue of Liberty through museum objects, photographs, prints, videos and oral histories.
*The Torch Exhibit
The Torch Exhibit includes the original 1886 torch and much altered flame in the lobby. On the second floor balcony overlooking this torch is a display on the history of the torch and flame, explaining the various alterations through diagrams, photographs, drawings and cartoons.
*The "New Colossus"
This is dedicated to the famous sonnet written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. A bronze plaque, dedicated in memory of Emma Lazarus' contribution to the completion of the Statue's pedestal, has been affixed to the inner walls of the pedestal since the early 1900's.
Tours of The Statue can be organised via choice of 2 tours into the Statue of Liberty: the Statue of Liberty Observatory Tour and the Statue of Liberty Promenade Tour. Both include a guided tour through the Statue of Liberty Museum, which includes views of the Statue's original torch.
We did see people inside the statue at the various levels and it would have been nice to go inside but it would have taken too long and we really didn’t want to wait any longer than we already had for other things.
If there is one thing that didn’t go to plan was the amount of time we spent for the whole Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island trip. It took the whole day and there were other places we would love to have gone. The security checks slow things down a lot although I guess it was understandable that feelings were still running high even though the September 11th attacks were an unwelcome memory only by then. Notwithstanding that, we took some spectacular pics of Manhattan and the Statue itself whilst here for the day and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The trip to SOL comes with an optional drop off at Ellis Island, which houses the Immigration Museum. We did stop and visit but herein lies a review for another day….
Associate web sites:
A similar review appears on Dooyoo under my username marandina although the photos are actual ones taken from our visit