We were up by 6:00, and met my sister Lori, and brother-in-law FD, for our complimentary breakfast downstairs by 6:30. The hot breakfast was pretty decent; Sid enjoyed making his own waffle, while Em enjoyed the assortment of fresh fruits and the omelets. Chris was just overjoyed that breakfast was included with our room. The expense of food and dining alone was costing us a small fortune. We were all ready to take on the day, and first on our agenda was the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (SOL & EI).
Lori had purchased our SOL & EI tickets online before our travels. What she and I discovered while ordering tickets, was that the option of climbing up to the pedestal level had to be reserved “weeks” in advance, and to go up into the crown, one had to reserve “months” ahead. Who the heck can plan that far in advance? It didn’t matter, I figured we’d get plenty of exercise walking around the perimeter without climbing up so many flights of stairs anyway.
We took our very first train (subway) ride to Battery Park where we would get on the ferry. It was evident from the start, Sid loved the subway! I marveled at what a genius idea the subway is. And it didn’t turn out to be all the negative hype I’d heard over the years. Sure, you see a diverse mix of people on the train (and some may raise your eyebrows a bit), but it was clean, air-conditioned, and definitely easy to get around on. I will say though, as a nurse, I would highly recommend using some hand sanitizer after holding onto a pole if you weren’t fortunate enough to land a seat!
Battery Park was pretty, and the view of the Hudson River, spectacular! We zig zagged through the lines and security checkpoints (seems security is high everywhere) and boarded the ferry. Lori knew which side to lead us to for snapping beautiful pictures as we were approaching the SOL. I enjoyed my first ferry ride very much, but then I’m a water lover, and the motion of the water only invites me in. Sid, on the other hand, didn’t care for the ferry ride. Even as much as he can swim like a fish, the rocking of the boat made him feel seasick; he must get that from his landlover dad ;-).
Lady Liberty is stunning! If you ever get the chance to see her, GO; definitely! In the photo above, she may not look all that tall, but when you see how small the people look standing at her base, you can kind of get an idea of her stature. She is as magnificent as the story behind her. We spent a fair amount of time walking the perimeter of her base, snapping photos, and just enjoying the view of the New York harbor.
Next, we took the ferry over to Ellis Island. This was one stop I was truly looking forward to, as our Danish grandfather came through here when he migrated to America. The main building, which was the former immigration station, is a beautiful archeological landmark. Once left abandoned, it is now restored to its former glory. The size is magnificent, and yet to see the old photographs of the building packed full of immigrants, hoping for a better life, it was likely not big enough to house so many newcomers.
As we exited the ferry, we moved directly towards the Ellis Island Cafe for some lunch. We dined in a lovely shaded area looking out towards the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson River. We did not waste a lot of time at our picnic table eating because just a short walk away was the American Immigrant Wall of Honor. This wall covers quite a large area, and is in the form of a broken circle, with names inscribed on both the front and back sides. We must have searched for Grandpa’s name, as well as many others, for at least an hour before Chris noticed a sign that explained these were the names of individuals and families who migrated to America, and at some later date (after becoming American citizens) their family made a donation to put their name on the wall. Immigrants today may still have their names added to the wall. This was not an “official list” of immigrants that came to America – it was more like a list of donors. The minimal contribution for a single name is $150. It was a little comical that we had looked so diligently for so long, and if we had just read the sign first we could have saved a lot of disappointment and time!
The American Family Immigration History Center was one of my very first stops in the main building. This is where one can sit down at a computer, and research their ancestors who entered the states through EI. In searching for my grandfather’s information, it was slow progress, as we weren’t even sure of the spelling of his last name (he changed it slightly when he arrived to a more “American” version of his Danish name). We knew his first name and two middle names, where he originated from (Jutland, Denmark), and that he departed from Copenhagen on cargo ship named the Oscar II. It took a fair amount of time, but we did manage to find the hand-inscribed ship manifest record containing his name and information; that was pretty exciting! After doing a little more touring of the various rooms in the museum, we took the ferry back to Battery Park, and the train back to Times Square where our hotel was located.
We were all a bit… exhausted, and it was time for a nap. Emily snapped the photo above; I can’t believe I fell asleep like that!
We decided to part ways for the evening, and do our own things. FD and Lori enjoyed a romantic dinner at a nearby French restaurant, where FD was served half a duck! I can just picture the looks on their faces when that was served to him; do you suppose he ate it all?
Our family of four went out for a little dinner of our own, but we had no specific plans, it was a “figure-it-out-as-you-go” kind of night. We walked through Times Square, searching out vendors and partaking in people-watching. I believe it was Chris who suggested we try the Shake Shack a few blocks over. Sid looked at us kind of funny, smiled, and said, “Isn’t that kind of a…..strip club?” We burst out laughing, because even though the name alone might suggest something less than a family oriented spot, there apparently were signs posted for a gentlemen’s club right next to it. This kid is observant, I’m telling you!
We ordered our burgers and hot dogs, walked back over to Times Square, and found a spot to stand around and eat while we watched all the happenings of the evening. In the busy atmosphere of Times Square you’ll find countless “characters” from movies and such, walking around and taking pictures with visitors. We kept to our little corner, because it never fails, when we venture out into the crowd, we lose Chris. Not lose literally, like we can’t find him, he just seems to have this neon sign across his chest that says “Not from NY” and the vultures come out! It was shocking to us just how many people tried to get money from us, and actually expected us to pay them for assistance, or for detaining us with casual conversation – even though they were taking up our time! One guy stopped Chris to tell him a whole slew of jokes, but then when we went to leave, he asked for money for entertaining us. Chris is just too nice, which is usually a good thing. I probably had “bitch” written all over my face while I kept turning around to him to say, “Just… walk… AWAY!”
We ended our day walking back to the hotel, with dishes of gelato in hand. Em and Sid had never experienced the sweet bliss of gelato before, and I must say, it was an instant hit! We met with Lori and FD briefly to talk about the evening, then promptly hit the sack as we were all very tuckered from another big day in the city.
Watch for day #3, coming soon!
Note: If you would like to see our vacation through my sister Lori’s eyes, feel free to jump on over to her blog at Day by Day the Farm Girl Way!