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Manhattan, New York: One Day of Affordable Landmarks
Manhattan, New York - The Most Expensive Place on Earth?
There is a huge list of beautiful, inspiring, education and spiritually moving places to connect with in New York. I had a day in the Big Apple recently to take in the sights. Always looking for the budget-worthy options, I elected for the bucket list items of cruising over to Lady Liberty and second tour at Ellis Island. This was followed by a driving-tour through Manhattan to catch the ongoing construction of the new World Trade Center, Broadway, the Trump Towers, and Central Park.
I elected to drive to the heart of Manhattan, the financial district, near the embarking point for those bound to visit Lady Liberty. Driving into Manhattan is not for the faint at heart. At 9:30 am, I found parking across the street at the early bird special - $32 until 7:00 pm. I walked across the street, enjoyed purchasing the tickets in the old military battery, located near the boarding area for the ferry service, which had large informational boards on the battery’s history.
The Classic Rude New Yorker
In visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, managed by the National Park Service (NPS), you will always find NPS Rangers fully informed, polite, respectful, and helpful. I only wish this was also true of the subcontractors hired for ferry service, audio tour organization, and food service. The only-contracted ferry service known as Star Cruises gets only a one-star rating from me due to lack of friendliness, lack of customer service, and rude employees. While in line, one large security member insisted that people cut in front of others yelling, “If the people in front of you don’t want to move, walk in front of them!” at the top of his lungs. When everyone looked at him like he was cross-eyed and no one started cutting in line, he told some people in the back of the line who hadn’t heard what he said to come up in front of us. Really? I didn’t wait 30 minutes in 95 degree weather for someone to be told to cut in front of me. Wow, a truly horrible start to the day. Many people were angry with him but no one cut in front of me. I think the look on my face pretty much said it all. After all, it’s not like the tickets are inexpensive. A family of two adults and two children can well expect to pay about $40 for basic tickets. By the way, this didn’t make the line move faster because there are more security members searching handbags at the front of the line and the line only goes as fast as that front-line security members work. What’s good to know is that you can go to the islands by water taxi but if you want a ferry service, this is the only one allowed to go to the islands.
After the initial shock of dealing with him, many people from France, Italy, Germany, and other countries were talking in line about him for some time but, as I joked with a neighbor, we surely could not expect to get out of New York alive without running into a rude New Yorker, now could we? Everyone laughed and this broke some of the tension. I also am an American and I was embarrassed to think that new visitors to our country might think all Americans are this way so I wanted others around me to know there are smiling and friendly Americans in this country, too. I thought maybe it was just one surly employee and wasn’t overly bothered… until I was onboard the vessel. The employees were nearly frantic for us to get onboard as quickly as possible, asking people to walk faster, making people in wheelchairs wait until last to keep the entering crowd flowing quickly and I had to wonder to myself if it’s okay to make the handicapped wait after they have waited in line as long as the rest of us? That was poor form. Once onboard the Star Cruises, it didn’t end there. As we were due to depart the boat, the same issues of rushing the passengers off and threatening them with not letting them off if they didn’t move fast enough to depart was enough for several passengers to be overheard remarking upon this rudeness. I hoped I would catch a ‘nicer’ boat to Ellis Island and again, later to Manhattan but every boat was the same. No smiles greeted me as I entered the line, came off the gangway, or reached shore at any time from the employees of Star Cruises. I would give them zero stars but I must give them one star because, after all, the boat didn’t sink, so the captain was doing his job right. Other than that, they reduced the excitement so many of us were feeling previously at getting to finally visit Lady Liberty. As many of us had traveled thousands of miles for the experience, it dampened the mood a bit.
Lady Liberty - A Gift of the People of France
At the home of Statue of Liberty, created by sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi, the well-kept park was lovelier and more spacious than expected. Currently undergoing a renovation, there is no access to the interior of this art piece but it is easy to see the major difference the renovation is doing by listening to a Park Ranger on a guided tour. The paths were marked well with information of the great men and women of the period, men and women that made State of Liberty a possibility - from concept to creation to public relations. It was interesting to learn, for example that the Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel created the interior framework to which the sculpture is attached. Yes, that would be the same man who came up with the Eiffel Tower. It was great to know that women were involved in the creation of this masterpiece. When the Statue’s interior is reopened for access to the public in October 2012, visitors will be able to see the original torch (by reservation) and Mr. Eiffel’s mini almost-Eiffel Tower that awaits inside the Lady. Without the interior tour, a visit to the Lady takes about an hour. With the interior tour, it takes 2-3 hours.
Ellis Island - Gateway to the USA
At Ellis Island, you can really get a true appreciation for what people went through as newly arrived immigrants. The audio tour (included with the cost of your tickets) adds so much value. What’s amazing is that, because of the audio tour, though there may be hundreds of people roaming the three story museum, the volume is rarely above library voices because everyone is ‘plugged in’ and listening to the riveting stories on audio of people who actually lived through the Ellis Island processing and share their remembrance of the times. These audio stories bring to life the artifacts available at every floor and add to the available printed information in each room. Some discoveries were terrifying, like the medical equipment they used to use! Some discoveries were heartwarming, like the social group – one of many that helped the newly arrived - that found a young girl a warm coat for the biting-cold New York weather before she left the island that winter. Some were sad, like the story of a two-year old that contracted measles and died at the Ellis Island Hospital, not allowed to see his parents due to hospital policies and well-placed fears over spread of the disease (which did not have a helpful remedy at the time and was highly contagious). Many diseases were contracted or incubated at sea. An entire medical staff tried their best to combat the illness the immigrants arrived with.
So many interesting stories wait on the island for the new visitor. One interesting story is of an older woman who arrived dressed as a man, with short hair, identifying herself as a man during processing. Well, upon arrival, men were separated from women and children for medical review. When this ‘man’ was discovered to be a woman during the medical exam, a full judicial review was conducted to determine whether it was appropriate to allow her into the country. She was allowed to stay in America because she had a working trade she had done for fifteen years and could support herself as a printer/press operator (a very serious concern for females traveling alone was the ability for them to be self-supporting without resorting to prostitution) and because she insisted that she would continue to dress and live her life as a man. They identified her in her documentation as “Mr.” and processed her into America as a man entering the United States… Now, that was progressive for the early 1900s!
After a terrific time on the historic islands, it was time to return to Manhattan and eat the requisite hot dog whilst watching the street artists. This terrific trio included amazing acrobatics, flipping into the air. You will find musicians, cartoonists, sketch artists and even another Statue of Liberty putting on their best acts to attract the most tourists to their particular corner of the park.
Soho - A Famous Part of Manhattan
Wrapping Up the Day in New York
We left for our driving tour, driving most of the length of Manhattan (that takes at least an hour), seeing the buildings The Big Apple is famous for, plus Central Park and Times Square, before arriving in New Jersey. In New Jersey, we secured our roach-infested hotel (the horror stories of bed bugs and roaches in most New York and New Jersey hotels are true so unless you pay top dollar, you will have to deal with the crawlies. Beware!) We made our beeline for our hotel where I slept with all the lights on all night. The hotel was located near Hoboken where we visited the bakery of the Cake Boss the next morning, but that, my friends is another story.
- Statue of Liberty National Monument - Statue Of Liberty National Monument
Statue of Liberty National Monument
- Ellis Island National Monument - Ellis Island Part of Statue of Liberty National Monument
- Office of Tourism - USA - NY, New York City, Manhattan Midtown
Office of Tourism, the web-resource for travellers, USA America United States of America New York