NYC – Liberty Heights

After yesterday’s marathon of a day we thought we deserved to sleep in just a little! However, my mother hasn’t quite mastered this sleeping late skill yet and so she woke me up at 7.30 with her bustling around. We decided that even if we were not sleeping we should still take some time to rest and so read for a while before having breakfast and heading for the Southern tip of Manhattan, it was Statue of Liberty time.

There are lots of ways visitors to New York can catch a glimpse of lady liberty. Taking the Staten Island ferry is completely free, you can get a good view of her from Battery Park and there are lot of different boat and water taxi companies offering rides out into the harbour to get a closer look. However, because Liberty Island and Ellis Island are National Parks the only way you can step foot on the islands is by taking the Statue Cruise run by the National Park Service which means waiting in line for a long time. Luckily for us the weather was lovely and although a little windy the shining sun made our hour wait a lot more enjoyable.

Battery Park itself is a lovely place to check out even if you are not joining one of the Statue cruises. There is a Korean War Memorial, which is quite insulting after the grandeur of the D.C one and a lot of history dotted throughout the park with memorials and statues symbolising lots of different events. There is also great views out across the harbour and of the new One World Trade Centre.

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As we boarded the boat which would take us across to Liberty Island the wind began to pick up and so we have a lovely windswept look in all of our boat photos. The views back towards Manhattan were amazing and you could also see the skyline of New Jersey and Brooklyn. As we got closer to Lady Liberty there was a rush to the right side of the boat to take photos and selfies with her. The boat journey over was quite short and in no time at all we were docking on the famous island and were given free audio guides to use as we walked around the island.

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We walked straight down to the waterfront to stare back to the gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline which reminded me a lot of the Hong Kong skyline from Kowloon. The audio guide was great and started referring to statues of famous people who had influenced the island in certain ways such as Gustaf Eifel who came up with the engineering of the copper structure. The thing that really struck me about her was her size. The design that Monsieur Eifel came up with was the pin copper to a structure so she is in fact hollow. It is seriously impressive that she has managed to withstand all of the terrible weather the North East coast gets. However, as we sat in the sunshine admiring the statue we could not see the said statues anywhere. Since my mum was getting a bit peckish again, she has to eat every 4 hours, we went to check out the café and passed the statues en-route, we had obviously not came the correct way for the audio tour.

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After a pretty awful fried chicken burger and chips we made our way back to the statues to continue the tour where we had left off. Another interesting fact is that the statue was originally brown – being copper and it took around 20 years for the north easterly winds to turn her the green shade she is today. It is possible if you book months in advance to walk on the pedestal she is perched on and in her crown but we were quite contented just walking around her at ground level. She is facing back to the Old World and is the first thing that all settlers to New York saw when arriving in the New York harbour. She is a symbol of welcome but also of freedom and liberty. Originally as a gift from the French she symbolises the love not hate slogan we still have today, especially since the French had previously colonised America just as the British would later do.

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The next stop was Ellis Island and the ferry zipped us across the harbour in the windy yet still gorgeous sunshine. Ellis Island was where any third class passengers on ships arriving into port were taken to face the perils of immigration. First and Second class passengers were free to walk off into the sunset after answering a question or two. The passengers would arrive and have to walk up a flight of stairs to the processing room. This was a test and doctors would be observing for any sign of ailment. If they saw any you were marked with chalk and would receive further scrutiny before being cleared for immigration. For those whose families passed all of the questions and showed no signs of illness they were free to enter America and build new lives. For other families who had members marked for further observation they had a long nervous wait while their loved one was treated in the hospital wing in the hope that they would be allowed entry. However, this was better than the immediate rejections who tested positive for illnesses like TB who were immediately sent back on the next ship alone. In a lot of cases this would be the last time these families saw each other again.

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After the sobriety of the afternoon we headed back to Manhattan on the ferry and decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in the early evening sun. The bridge itself sits directly adjacent to the Manhattan Bridge and is quite a feat of construction. It was originally constructed in 1875 and has hundreds on spires all a brown bronze colour. The further you walk across the better a view you get back to Manhattan. This bridge was also used on the fateful day of the 9/11 attacks as the only way of connecting lower Manhattan and the financial district affected by the attacks with Brooklyn. It was a lovely sunshine walk and the only time I think we will manage to visit Brooklyn.

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At the other side we jumped back on the subway to Midtown and after a quick stop at Victoria’s Secret we decided to check out Korea town for dinner. Corey had recommended a great Korean deli that has a cold and hot buffet as well as pre-packaged meals you can eat on site or take-out. We opted for the buffet and I had some amazing chilli beef, kung pao chicken, Japanese pancakes and glass noodles with rice and cranberry iced-tea. It was all so yummy and very reasonably priced. The whole street is filled with Korean and other Asian delicacies and is definitely worth checking out if you are in town.

Our final stop for the evening was the Empire State Building for some night-time views of the city. The entrance hall is used in lots of movies and is very grand; lots of marble and gold. The bit they don’t show you in all the movies is the huge queue to get through airport style security – all just to purchase a ticket! It went pretty quickly and we soon had our tickets, another Explorer Pass attraction, and were waiting in another line for the first elevator. The building has exhibitions and an audio guide for those interested and if we had went earlier would probably have got a lot more out of. We took the free audio and listened to it while queueing but we were both pretty tired after our mammoth day. The 80th floor is the first stop the elevator makes due to the significance of the floor when it was built, it was the first tower to have an 80th floor. This was soon surpassed by others, the tallest building in the world is now in China.

The views from the top were as expected – spectacular. It was really windy though and without the sun pretty cold up on the 86th floor. We spotted a few famous landmarks, there are great views of the Chrysler Building and of Times Square to the north and of course the new One World Trade Centre and the Statue of Liberty to the south. You can also get a good impression of how small Manhattan Island is and see the borders with Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and New Jersey. At night all of the buildings are beautifully lit up so I am definitely glad we chose to go up in the evening. It was quite a rushed visit since we were so tired but we both really enjoyed seeing the bright lights of the Big Apple!

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