July 5, 2016
This day, July 5, was a bucket list day for Carla; we had the whole day booked for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Carla had our day planned for months. She is a great trip planner, working the details and plans ahead of time (as evidenced in her finding our parking lot for the train into town – see Part 1). Back in February – five months before our trip – she got us tickets to go up into the Statue of Liberty crown. We took the subway down to Battery Park at the bottom of Manhattan to catch our ferry for Liberty Island. There is a regularly running ferry that goes Manhattan –> Liberty Island –> Ellis Island –> Manhattan. She was beaming with delight as we headed over.
As we came to Liberty Island we passed in front of the Statue of Liberty. Look at the scale of the statue; the people are just little specs.
I know, you are looking at that cloudy background and thinking – oh what a nice overcast day. Wrong! It was already about 85° at nine o’clock in the morning with all the humidity you could want and more. It was promising to be even hotter with a threat of rain.
Now, I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before in the blog, but I’m really not a fan of heights – at all. But, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I got over my bad self and headed up. Tickets to climb up inside the statue are very limited; if you want to go, buy your tickets on-line well before your trip.We headed toward the entrance to the trip up and found very tight security. We had to put almost everything we had into a locker. The Park Ranger gave us a wrist band that showed we had access to the statue itself. Other folks had tickets just up to the top of the base.
The stairs up through the base are nice and broad, but there are a lot of them. We stepped out on to the balcony surrounding the upper base (see it in the picture above) which was very crowded. We squeezed our way around the balcony to capture the views then headed back inside to begin our assault on the summit.
After passing another checkpoint we started mounting the very narrow, very steep circular staircase inside the statue itself. At one point Carla heard be breathing heavily and asked if I wanted to stop to catch my breath. I told her that I wasn’t breathing like that because of the climb, but because I was hyperventilating! I imagine there was a view down over the side of the stair case but I couldn’t look. I had my hip pressed firmly into the interior wall of the staircase and made sure I had a good grip on both hand rails before taking each step. Like that would help if the whole thing collapsed. I’m not the only one who thinks that way – the paint on the wall at hip level is worn away.
Finally we got to the top and we stepped into Lady Liberty’s head where you could see the backside of her nose and eyes. We looked south out on the Upper Bay. Here is the picture to prove I made it.
It was hot up there – basically we were in a copper tube with the sun radiating down on us. But it was magnificent. There was a Park Ranger stationed up there to answer questions. He said he had the best gig on the entire island; the hardest is telling people there are no tickets left to go up into the statue. We walked across her head and down another narrow spiral staircase; interestingly enough, according to the Park Ranger there are two fewer steps down than up (I guess they are just a bit taller). Coming down was harder than going up; my legs were pretty much done by the end – cramping up just above my right knee.
Okay, rereading the past few paragraphs, it sounds like I was miserable; I wasn’t – it was a challenge, but worth it in every way.
Then we took the ferry over to Ellis Island where we had lunch.
Carla was thrilled with the museum; I perused a little bit but not as extensively as she did. Ellis Island was for the poor folks; the rich folks got off the ship first and headed directly to the city. The poorer immigrants had to pass a lot of tests to be admitted to the country. The displays of what they brought and stories of the ordeals they went through to get here was very moving. People wanted to come to America for a better life; I wonder how they feel about it today in our current political climate – still better than most alternatives.
Later in the afternoon the clouds dispersed and we were treated to a nice view of lower Manhattan.
By now it was five o’clock and we faced a long line for the ferry back to Manhattan – we had to wait for the third ferry to come by before we got on. We walked back to the subway and took the train up to our hotel stop. On our way back to the hotel we stopped for dinner and a beer at a local bar with lots of regulars and friendly staff. What a great day!
We woke up the next morning facing our last full day in the city. We walked to our local subway stop and took our regular “1” train downtown (south) to Christopher Street and did some sight-seeing around Washington Square Park. After stopping in a little coffee shop for iced coffee we hopped on the subway up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park. First we had lunch in the museum restaurant: bread and cheese with a couple of bowls of cold soup – the best meals we had in the city. Then we split up agreeing to meet up at 4:30. I hit the modern art and photography exhibits. My favorite work was The Massacre of the Innocents
The photo doesn’t do it justice: just look at the light on the faces of the two central characters. Mastery. As we left Carla bought a piece of street art from an artist in front of the museum. She did this in Paris a few years ago. It’s a great way to get some very nice original art.
After walking more than 18,000 steps we were ready to sit. It would be a long walk to the subway, then a connection or two to get back to our hotel, so we made the daring step of taking a cross-town bus during rush hour! The Google Maps app didn’t fail us during this trip (other than getting a bit confused in the valleys of the skyscrapers). We walked half a block to grab a bus across Central Park and jumped off at a subway stop for our trusty “1” train. The stations are all decorated differently – here is a sample from the 77th street station near Central Park.
But we weren’t done for the day by any means; after resting a bit we put our shoes back on and headed east on 29th street a few blocks until we came to a little pizzeria. We each had a slice made to order – mine was pepperoni. The pizza was excellent and the proprietor’s New York accent strong. Fun and delicious. Another block east and we came to a stairway to the High Line Park. This is an old raised railroad bed that has been converted to a park. Hopefully you can get an idea of it on the leftish side of the map below – it is a thin green line running north and south.
In parts you can still see the rails embedded in the roadway – and check out that building on the left whose upper floors are tilted over the park. Every inch is used in New York City.
There is also plenty of art along the way.
We walked a few blocks down and back before going back to our hotel for our last night. What a great day it was.
We passed our commuting midterm on this trip. We took a train into the city, hailed a cab, learned the subway system, and even took a crosstown bus to connect to the subway. And on our previous trip we took the subway to Brooklyn and walked back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge. We were happy with our ability to get around, but there is plenty more to do on our next trip.
The next morning it was time to depart. Grand Central is pretty close to our hotel so we decided to just walk the few blocks – we had seen many people walking with their luggage on the streets so we wanted to join in. Walking on 5th Avenue during the morning rush hour is intense. No way could Carla and I walk side by side, so we just made sure we kept sight of each other. We quickly found our train and hopped on for the leisurely trip north.
If you recall, in my last post I talked about how stressed I was to find a parking spot for the train ride in and was so relieved when the lot was almost empty. Well, if I had driven into that lot on a regular workday I probably would have wet myself – that huge lot was packed. We drove through the lot as we left and I counted maybe 10 open spaces here and there – there were spaces but they were not immediately apparent entering the lot.
We had reached the easternmost location of our trip and headed for the long drive home. We headed to Lancaster Pennsylvania for the night. Carla drove and I navigated. As we headed south we paralleled the rail line and we saw some of the towns we stopped at on the way to and from the city. Then I took a closer look and realized our route was going to take us into downtown Manhattan and through the Lincoln Tunnel! Uh oh! I quickly changed our route to take us across the Tappan Zee Bridge which crosses the Hudson River north of the city, connecting Tarrytown and South Nyack. The Tappan Zee Bridge is huge – much higher than the highest bridges in Portland. But wait! They are building an even larger bridge a couple of hundred yards north of the existing bridge. The bottom of the deck resting on the piers are way above the roadway of the existing bridge. A week or so later we read about one of the large cranes collapsing! Scary.
We drove through New Jersey, into the rural part of Pennsylvania where we would spend the next two nights.