Liberty Island and Ellis Island

15 Mar

Our fourth day in New York

was freeeeeezing.

10 degrees Celcius is about as cold as it gets where I live.

So negative seven degrees was unbearable to us.

(Little did we know what was to come in future days!).

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Yes, we all looked like this.

And yes, I realise what we look like

(I don’t know if you can say the ‘T’ word online).

We gave up caring what we looked like.

We were too cold.

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But we didn’t let the cold

get in the way of our adventures.

We jumped on a subway

(they are so easy to use)

and headed south.

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Guess where we went?

Here’s a clue…

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Yes, we went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

First we had a cold choppy ride across the bay on a ferry.

It was exciting as we neared our destination.

The day before, there had been talk about not visiting the island

because we’d seen the statue on our cruise.

But thankfully plans changed,

and we got to ‘properly’ visit Lady Liberty.

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Sadly, we did not get to visit the museum,

within the statue’s base,

or climb to the crown.

There are only a limited number of tickets

for these opportunities

and to acquire them

you had to line up super duper early in the morning.

Plus neither opportunity was included

on our attraction pass.

But that’s okay.

The day before, we weren’t even planning

to step foot on the island.

So we were delighted with what we did achieve.

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However, our attraction pass did include an audio tour

that guided us around the island

so the first thing we did was collect our devices

and head out into the cold.

Yes, outdoors in negative seven degrees,

and did I mention the wind.

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In the photo below I think Hubby is reassuring Brayden

that he won’t actually freeze to death,

even though he feels like he might.

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Oh and this is the back side of the Statue of Liberty,

in case you ever wanted to know

what she looks like from behind.

If you are entering the pedestal,

you enter from behind.

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Did you know that the original door into the statue,

before she was placed on her pedestal,

was under her foot?

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The views from Liberty Island are amazing

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but I could not convince my troops

to remove their coverings to take my photos.

Party poopers.

It was only negative seven, plus arctic winds.

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Once again,

what we gained out of our visit to the island

was directly proportional to the amount of research and reading

we had done before we visited.

Most people walked right past these sculptures (below),

but, when we saw them,

we knew exactly who they represented.

This is Édouard René de Laboulaye,

who conceived the idea of a monumental gift

from the French to the Americans.

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This is Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi,

who designed, sculpted and created the statue.

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This is Alexandre Gustave Eiffel.

(Are you startled and wondering

what the guy, who built the Eiffel Tower,

has to do with the Statue of Liberty?)

He actually designed the internal structure that supports Lady Liberty.

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And this is József Pulitzer.

(Yes, he’s the guy who bequeathed the money to start the Pulitzer Prizes,

but at the time he was a newspaper publisher).

He motivated the American public

to donate the much needed funds to build the pedestal,

by promising to publish the name of every donor

in his newspaper.

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The story of the Statue of Liberty is fascinating

and I urge you to read a book about it.

But, standing in front of these sculptures

was freezing so we didn’t dally too long.

My little men were frozen to the core.

In this photo, Ethan was begging me, miserably,

to readjust his scarf to cover his nose,

because he hands were too cold to pull out of his pockets

(and he had TWO pairs of gloves on his hands!)

This kid has barely any fat on him so suffered badly in the cold.

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As we continued to walk around the island,

we approached the front of the statue.

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It was a goosebump moment

(or perhaps that was the cold).

We were standing at the feet of the Statue of Liberty

…a statue we had casually read about last year, out of curiosity,

and were now visiting!!!

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So, of course, we all had our mandatory

photos taken at the foot of the statue.

But we did it quickly!

To stand still,

in that arctic wind,

was painful.

Yes painful.

Heat and humidity is uncomfortable

but the cold really hurts.

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As we continued on our circuit,

we moved around to the other side of the island,

and the wind hit us full on.

(Sorry, there are no photos on that side of the island

as I was just too cold to take any.)

We were all freezing,

like we’ve never frozen before.

We didn’t know whether we should return to the other side of the island,

which was further,

or continue on in the frigid wind,

which was pressing us backwards.

There was a point at which the boys and I just huddled together,

not being able to go forwards or backwards.

We were so cold.

The decision was made to run onward

to the nearest building to find heat

…and quickly.

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Of the glorious heat of the cafe.

To revive the boys,

we got them hot chocolates

and it was quite possibly

the very best hot chocolate we’ve ever had.

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Eventually, we convinced ourselves to leave the heat of the cafe,

to catch a ferry to our next destination,

Ellis Island.

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That tan and reddish series of buildings

(in the left of the photo),

is Ellis Island.

(Quick fact, Ellis Island was greatly expanded by land reclamation.

Originally is was 3.3 acres and it’s now 28 acres.

And where did that rubble, to recreate new land, come from?

Why the dirt that was excavated to create the New York subways of course!

And when a dispute between New York and New Jersey came up,

about who owned the island,

New York used the fact that most of the land came from New York.


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Ellis Island was an immigration inspection station

between 1892 and 1954.

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Millions of immigrants entered this building during these years

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with hopes of making the United States their home.

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Approximately 5000 immigrants filled this registry room every day,

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waiting to be inspected and registered.

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Here they discovered that bureaucracy had their future in their hands

and didn’t care all that much about the individuals themselves.

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As the immigrants entered the hall,

they were walked passed medical officials.

Those that were physically or mentally deficient

were marked in chalk with a letter on their coats.

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A chalked ‘X’ on your coat, meant that they suspected you of being mentally deficient,

and you would be sent for ‘testing’,

which usually involved some kind of puzzle or Math challenge.

Considering the educational level of many of the poor,

it hardly seems fair.

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Those marked with a suspected health condition

could be separated from their families,

involuntarily hospitalised on the island

(if your condition could be cured)

or deported (if it couldn’t).

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The story of one family, told on our audio tour, was devastating.

The whole family had excitedly come to America for a new start,

but the grandmother was rejected because of a degenerative eye disease.

The grandmother was deported and no one in the family ever saw her again.

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Hospitalisation itself would have been terrifying.

Many of these people may never have been to a hospital before.

One plaque in the museum told the story of two year old Walter who was admitted to the hospital.

While he was sick, his family was confined on the Island.

However, only one person could visit the sick toddler,

who had probably never been away from his family in his life,

and they could only visit for 5 minutes, ONCE a week.

Little Walter was in hospital for six weeks,

but sadly died.

Imagine, not being able to spend those final weeks and hours with your dying child.

And what of poor little Walter.

It’s hard to put myself in their shoes.

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So when they refer to Ellis Island as the ‘golden door’,

I find it a bit of a stretch.

Yes, there was hope on the other side,

but I think I’d classify the Inspection Station as more of a dirty tunnel,

filled with desperate people just hoping to make it through with their families intact.

Despite the sadness of the place,

Ellis Island was well worth a visit.

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By this point in our day,

daylight was running out

and we only just caught the last ferry of the day back to the mainland

(not sure what would have happened if we’d missed it).

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Back on the mainland,

we walked through Battery Park

to the subway station.

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Subways were such an easy way to get around Manhattan.

I’d imagined them as scary and difficult transport

but they weren’t.

Yes the stations were a little dirty and often dark,

but what do you expect underground.

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And on the subways, the people we encountered were lovely.

So many times, locals would give up their seats to us.

(Perhaps we just looked old).

Folks regularly asked where we were from

(we were clearly tourists with our maps and cameras;

it’s kinda hard to hide)

and struck up conversations with us.

We didn’t feel intimidated on the subway

and we always felt like we could ask strangers for help

(and we often did!).

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So that was our day on the islands,

bracketed by our subway trips.

And no, that’s not all we had in store for that day.

There were still available hours in our day.

We did not waste them!


Posted by on March 15, 2016 in Family Events, Field Trips, Geography, US Holidays


3 responses to “Liberty Island and Ellis Island

  1. Petra

    March 15, 2016 at 9:01 am

    Well, I didn’t mind looking at Madame’s derriere but I certainly didn’t like the story of poor little Walter 😦 Good to see you braving the slightly cooler temps!

  2. Tracy Kelly

    March 15, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Well no one could accuse you of having a “holiday” – that is some schedule to keep, love reading your adventures so far. Great pictures too, having grown up in a cold climate I can only smile as I see you all rugged up and battling the cold wind, knowing exactly what that stinging feeling is like.

    • Tracey

      March 15, 2016 at 11:52 pm

      Totally agree. When we holiday, we need a holiday at the end of them. That’s how we like it. I can not fathom lying around on a cruise. So not our style.


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