Friday, July 20, 2012

... and the land of the free - 20 July 2012

When young Emma Lazarus penned her sonnet containing the now immortal words, "Give me ... your huddled masses" I don't imagine she was thinking about the masses of tourists huddled under umbrellas and ponchos in the middle of summer as they were today. We had booked our tickets for the Statue of Liberty visit today based on the long-range foarecast which promised Friday was the best day of our stay in New York. However the reality turned out quite different with drizzle all day and occasional heavy showers.

 As it happened it was not a bad day to visit as the tour also takes in Ellis Island and that is several hours of indoor activity when it would have been a shame to be inside had it been a glorious day. So, all we missed out on was blue skies behind the statue and the Manhattan skyline for our photos.

The subway to Battery Park is right outside the hotel door and then there is only a short walk at the far end to get across Battery Park to Castle Clinton where the ferries depart. Naturally there was the full, shoes-off, belts-off, even watches-off, security hoo-haa before getting on the ferry for the short ride to Liberty Island. The statue is really very impressive, close-up and it is amazing to think that when completed it was the tallest structure in the eastern US.

There was a short intermission in the rain which enabled us to take a second walk around the island without umbrellas getting in the road when snapping pictures. Because the statue is under renovation there is no access to the interior or even the pedestal so it was time to make the short hop to Ellis Island.

Renovated in the late 80s after falling into disrepair following its closure in 1954, the facility is now a stunning tribute to the 12 million immigrants who poured through these rooms between 1898 and 1924 at the rate of about 5000 per day. The exhibitions are really well done and are very moving, as well as educational (10% of the population of Sweden emmigrated to the US) and cover the immigration to the US from the times of the early colonists up to modern times, including the 12 million Afrcans who were forcibly "immigrated".

 At the end of all this, the question is posed, but not really answered, "What makes an American?"

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