Following breakfast in Champs Gourmet Deli on Broad Street we headed towards Battery Park and onto the Ellis Island boat terminal. Tickets cost $18 each from the kiosk at Castle Clinton and include a stop at Liberty Island on the way out. There was only a short wait until the airline type security commenced at 9.00 am and we were able to board the first ferry of the day at 9.30 am. It was a bright, sunny morning but icily cold. As we were wrapped up well, we braved the wind chill on the open upper deck so that we could appreciate the views.
Unfortunately, it became increasingly difficult to operate the camera shutter as our fingers became numb with the cold. Most people were sitting on the lower decks to keep warm so this meant we could move around easily to take photos of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.
As we were amongst the first passengers of the day we were also given tickets to access the Pedestal (top of the granite stone work of the Statue of Liberty) which was really nice and provided us with some excellent views. Afterwards, we walked around the star shaped walls of Fort Wood where we obtained our best photographs of the statue, Lady Liberty, the symbol of freedom to the tens of thousands of immigrants who sailed past her on their way to starting a new life in America. The seven spikes on Lady Liberty’s crown represent the seven continents of the world. The statue was designed by Gustave Eiffel who also designed the Eiffel Tower and was a gift from France in 1886.
After warming up briefly in the cafe and gift shop we boarded the next ferry to Ellis Island. I found the visit here fascinating because my ancestors had passed through these very same doors during the summer of 1912 after travelling from Liverpool on board the SS Lusitania to embark on a new life in the United States. The Ellis Island buildings were restored and converted into an Immigration Museum in 1990. The museum, located in the former immigration station details the moving stories of the 12 million immigrants who entered through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954.
On entering the ground floor we were taken back in time as this was the bustling Baggage Hall now containing exhibits of century old luggage and a gallery on the history of immigration to the United States. To stave off hunger, immigrants could purchase packs of food for 30 cents which included bread, cheese, sausage and lemonade. Moving upstairs we entered the grandeur of the galleried Reception Room with its large arched windows and vast open spaces. Sadly, our ancestors did not view it like this, instead they often found it a confusing place where up to 5,000 immigrants each day had to shuffle along hard wooden benches of lengthy queues waiting to be individually interviewed by the inspector who checked their papers were in order before allowing them to leave the building. Along the corridor was the Hearing Room, restored to how it would have been in 1911. Approximately 10% of immigrants attended appeals hearings to determine whether they could remain in the US or be deported.
The wind had dropped by the time we were ready to return on the ferry so it didn’t feel so cold sitting out on the upper deck taking in the stunning views. Needing to thaw out, we called in to Champs Gourmet Deli again as it was nearby and enjoyed steaming bowls of Beef Barley soup which warmed us up nicely.
Afterwards, we took the Express subway to 72nd Street, I haven’t come across ‘Express’ underground trains before but they are ideal for moving quickly across the city. Trains can be taken to the nearest Express stop to your destination and then a Local line train can be used as required. We walked into Central Park through the entrance gate near the American Museum of Natural History and took the Ramble path, passing the boating lake, Loeb Boathouse Cafe, Bow Bridge and the Bethesda Fountain (this had been drained for the winter). We came across the delightful Alice in Wonderland statue before leaving the park at its south east corner onto 5th Avenue. There is an Apple Store here with a large, minimalist glass box entrance and, walking further we came across many designer stores and the Trump Tower where we took a look inside. Outdoors again, we felt the chill so popped into Genies Cafe just off Madison Avenue for a hot chocolate each. More strolling around the high end stores followed before taking the subway to 8th Street/ NYU for dinner at Mighty Quinn’s a barbecue diner, where we feasted on plates of half chicken, chips and salad.
To walk off our dinner we continued a little further along the road and came to Washington Square with its large arch and Christmas tree lights still twinkling beautifully in the night sky (a bonus as it was three days after 12th night). We explored the area around New York University before returning to the hotel by subway. Sitting in the Club Lounge we enjoyed complimentary hot drinks and a selection of nibbles (M & Ms, nuts, wasabi peas, etc) whilst watching television.
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