Saturday, July 4, 2009

Give me liberty...


Our first glimpse of the Big Apple...

We tossed around the idea of visiting the Statue of Liberty for so long that we managed to avoid making any concrete plans before leaving on our not like me. In the end, an opportunity to visit New York City and Lady Liberty proved to be too tempting to turn down. We scrambled to plot our course, trying to figure out a way to see the most sights in the shortest time for the least amount of money. I feel like I should title this What NOT to do on Your Visit to the Big Apple, but for now let's just say ours was an oxymoronic goal in many respects.


Welcome to New York City...

Our plan was to drive to Staten Island to catch none other than the Staten Island Ferry. Parking at the Staten Island terminal is a mere $6, and the ferry itself is free! The ferry takes you right to Battery Park in lower Manhattan, where you can catch the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. That ferry is not free. From Battery Park, we were going to walk to St. Paul's Chapel, then catch the subway and take a gander through Chinatown on our way to Times Square. It sounded doable. After all, we've used the subway systems in several big cities, including Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China. Heck, we mapped out and negotiated our entire visit to Hong Kong without the assistance of a guide or translator. Trekking through an American city would be, in comparison, a piece of cake, right?


And we're supposed to drive where?!

Unfortunately, we left the hotel in New Jersey just a little later than we'd hoped, and we had reserved tickets for the Liberty Island ferry at noon. We were anxious that we wouldn't have enough time to catch the free ferry in order to make it to Battery Park on time, so we scrapped Plan A and decided to drive straight to Battery Park. Which meant figuring out, en route, our avenue of approach. We chose the Holland Tunnel and paid $8 for the experience. I'm telling you, we are not born and bred of toll roads and bridges. The tolls for the Pennsylvania Turnpike alone were enough to add another column to this vacation budget and would have paid for another nice meal out. Sheesh.


There she is...the true Miss America...

Now, those of you who might have visited New York City before are now either shaking your heads or laughing them off right about now. Parking does not exist in lower Manhattan. Well, there are exactly four parking garages visible to the human eye. And in those four garages there are exactly seven open spaces. Each of them will cost you a pretty penny. Or your firstborn. Your choice. We kind of like our firstborn, so we took the cash option. And it wasn't pretty at all. But I'll save that for part two of our New York story.

The Brooklyn Bridge

As the clock ticked closer to noon, we drove around and around and around...and around and around...and around and around, looking for somewhere to ditch the van. It might have been my panic-stricken state, but the crowded narrow streets and slow-moving Sunday morning traffic really made me feel a little claustrophobic. Finally, Jon dropped us off about a block from the terminal, and we sprinted across Battery Park, only to find that our reserved ticket time was flexible...we could take any subsequent ferry. Jon had parked the van in, literally, the first garage he could find and joined us just in time to find out that we had plenty of time. Thrilled, he was. He was even more thrilled to share with us that the parking garage he found cost $38. Totally in the same ball park as the $6 parking fee on Staten Island, eh?


We went through airport-type security and boarded the ferry for Liberty Island. The weather was gorgeous, and it was a really pleasant ride out into the harbor. I stood out on the bow, and, as she came into view, Lady Liberty somewhat took my breath away. I have such a patriotic soul, and I have long imagined what it would be like to finally see the Statue of Liberty, much as it was seen by so many of our country's ancestors. She didn't disappoint. I think I went a little overboard on photos as the ferry approached. Miss Liberty was that irresistible.


For access to the pedestal or the crown, you need to make reservations a few weeks in advance. Had we done that back in May, we would have at least had access to the pedestal level. I don't think the crown was accessible when we visited, but is now. But, no, against every vacation-planning bone in my body, we hemmed and hawed until it was too late. With our night-before booking, we got tickets just for the island itself. I admit, I was bummed at first, but, truthfully, the beauty of Lady Liberty is not what you can see from a few stories up. It is what you see when you look up! Once on the grounds, I think I took another 20 or 30 pictures of every angle!




Oh, yeah...every angle...

Another unforgettable sight was the sobering view of where the Twin Towers once stood. You could see the empty space in the skyline that is marked by construction cranes. In this serene moment on a quiet Sunday afternoon, it reminded me a bit of Victoria Harbor in Kowloon, standing there, taking in the Hong Kong cityscape. I couldn't help but also think back to that fateful day in 2001. I tried to visualize the scene as it unfolded. I easily imagined the panic that consumed lower Manhattan and the surrounding area. It's a crowded, congested area on its best day. I also remember wondering all those years ago, as the consecutive attacks were being reported, what was happening to our nation. Even in our seemingly safe midwest location, I felt vulnerable and frightened. Can you even wrap your mind around what it was like to be here? We are, I believe, forever changed by that day and its events.


Manhattan...the Empire State Building in the distance...

Ground Zero marked with the cranes just to the right of center...

check out the cropped version on flick'r...



I don't love this picture of me...

really not grooving on my new hair yet...

But I love Caroline's smile, and it reminds me of this picture

we took in Hong Kong on Victoria Harbor.

Caroline and me Hong Kong

On a lighter we continued around the base of the statue, we tried some creative shots. I should have changed my lens, but, by that point, the troops were short on patience (and food) and I was short on time. Jon grabbed my camera and tried to show me how it's done. Instead of creative shots, we got some rather hilarious ones. I love the bloopers I posted a while back so much that I'm posting one of them here again, plus my new favorite! But be sure to click the flick'r link for the rest.




If you could just read her shirt a little better, this would be my favorite shot.

So back to the boat we went and cruised on to Ellis Island, about five minutes away. I couldn't help but recall the scene from Hitch as I watched a jet ski scoot across the harbor...and then stop. Did he lose somebody, perhaps?



Decidedly not the best family shot, but I'll take what I can get...

Jon is usually the museum buff and insists on painstaking examination of every exhibit, but he'd had it with the heat and hunger and was ready to go after about ten minutes in the Ellis Island museum. I rather enjoyed it, though. Much of my family immigrated from Europe, although I haven't traced any connections back to Ellis island. But I am fascinated by the stories of people in search of what I so easily take for granted. I am so thankful to live in a country that not only grants me incredible freedoms but allows me to share those freedoms with my child from the other side of the world! I don't take that at all lightly.


Ellis Island


I loved the seemingly red-white-and-blue patterns. I adjusted the exposure slightly in this photo, but there's no other Photoshop magic at play. That's just how the building looks.

And on we went to return to Manhattan. Too late, it occurred to me to take a picture of our icon of freedom with my relatively new cell phone. Jon had it buried in a backpack that he ended up taking to the restroom with him. By the time he returned and we called it repeatedly, it was a lost cause. I think I can upload one of my photos to my phone via the computer, but I've yet to try it.




The flag above rotated back and forth from stars and stripes to photographs that represent the diversity of our great nation. The bottom photo is of a word tree, highlighting the origin of words we use in our everyday conversations. I thought it was very cool. But I love words.

One last note on this adventure...don't listen to me when it comes to being prepared unless you promise not to whine about it. I was fairly certain that I had read on the official website that, even in summer months, the harbor winds can be chilly and that it might be wise to bring a jacket. In further defense of my jacket initiative, I had just read Pioneer Woman's post about her chilly visit to the very same locale in late May. AND it had been extremely cool and rainy most of our trip. I wasn't about to get on a boat and freeze my behind off if I could help it. Looking out for my troops, as any good leader does, I insisted that everyone bring a jacket or sweatshirt. At the precise moment our ferry left Battery Park, the day's temperature must have spiked a good 10 or 15 degrees. And every stinking one of my troops, except for Caroline and Alex, logged their complaints for hauling a sweatshirt and wearing pants while, indeed, sweating away. Fine. Whatever. Next time they can all freeze. And I'll withhold my sunblock warnings, as well.


Scouting out our next destination...

My one real regret in visiting the Statue of Liberty is that I missed seeing the inscription from the poem by Emma Lazarus that reads, in part, "Give me your tired, your poor..." and ends with "I lift my lamp beside the golden door." I sadly discoverd that it is not engraved on the outside of the pedestal, but on the inside. As Jon likes to point out when I put on my "I didn't get to see and do it all" look, we now have a good reason to come back.

Just in case you missed it above, here's the link to the day's photos on flick'r. Details of our authentic New York City lunch and the rest of the day's activities are next.


Allison said...

I LOVE your hair! It's super cute!

Great, great pictures! We never do much of the touristy stuff in NYC anymore as we've been so many times and we have friends who live there.

Ally said...

You just have way with story telling. Seriously you should write a book!

You know it is the crazy times like these that really make a mark in family memories:)

Tricia said...

I like your hair a lot. You look pretty hip!

I have a reflection picture of Kylie & Caleb from this weekend. Check it out if you have a minute and let me know what you think (constructive criticism welcome!!).

Tricia said...

Did that link post right? It doesn't look like it...