NYC 2021: Day 2, Off to See Lady Liberty

Breakfast at the hotel hit its nadir on our second day there. I went down to the lobby to fetch food and there was only one “grab-and-go” breakfast box in the cooler. The desk attendant went to get more but came back empty-handed and without solutions. I guess I should have taken the one box they had, but I was dumbfounded by their lack of preparation. Maureen ate my bagel from the previous day, I had some Rice Krispie treats, and we drank coffee and ate raspberries. Without protein, we knew this would be inadequate. So we left. As we exited, we noted that the boxes had been replenished, but no one had bothered to call, despite taking our room number earlier. There was much to report on the hotel feedback survey.

We took the 1 train to its terminus at South Ferry, which is actually just across from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. We had plenty of time before our scheduled excursion with Statue City Cruises, so we went looking for more food and coffee.

As we crossed the street, we noticed a plaque marking the one-time home (and now shrine) of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint. Some members of the Sisters of Charity, which she founded, served my Ohio high school, including our fantastic principal.

Our food search resulted in the purchases of a yogurt parfait and a breakfast sandwich from Pret a Manger, and an Americano from Gregory’s Coffee. We should probably have bought the food from Gregory’s and stuck with their drip coffee, but one lives and learns.

After consuming our food outside the cruise terminal, near the American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, we checked in to the screening facility. The entrance to this queue was the only time we needed to show our electronic tickets.

The first stop on our “cruise” was Liberty Island. There is a museum there, and audio tour handsets are included in the cruise fare, but this island is really about getting up close to the statue. We made a quick lap through the displays, took the obligatory photos of Lady Liberty, and boarded the next ferry as quickly as we could. (Aside: This recent article discusses the role and relevance of the Statue of Liberty as a replica is installed in DC.)

Ellis Island’s Immigration Museum was the main objective of this outing and it did not disappoint. It tells the story of immigration to the United States from 1550 to the present and documents the history of the Ellis Island complex itself. The bulk of the museum focuses on the years from 1892 to the 1920s, during which Ellis Island served as the primary gateway to the U.S. for immigrants arriving from Europe. About 12 million people were processed in that time. Interestingly, first and second-class passengers were usually debarked before ships reached Ellis Island—these facilities were for the folks in steerage (including some of my ancestors).

The Registry Room, which reminded me of the Customs area at any major airport, was the first reminder that this journey was no vacation. Arriving passengers were “inspected” and interviewed. Sick, “feeble,” indigent, or morally suspect immigrants could be rejected and sent back (at the courier’s expense, at least)—and about 2% were. Those with contagious diseases were separated out and hospitalized on a different part of the island until they either recovered, or didn’t. Though this was only about 100 years ago, women traveling alone could not leave the facility unless a male relative arranged to meet them or provided for their onward travel. I wonder how many of us could make this journey that our forebears made for a better life. How bad would conditions have to be to make that choice? The museum addresses many of those reasons in its extensive galleries. I left with much respect for those that made a brave choice to seek a new world.

Fun facts!

When we returned to the ferry terminal, we headed to the Fraunces Tavern for lunch. We went in the main entrance, which seemed a little dark and deserted. Another potential patron told us that no one was monitoring that station, so we peeked our heads into the dining room. The first person asked if we had a reservation and then pretty much dismissed us when we said we did not. We didn’t consider making a reservation, as it would have been very challenging to predict our arrival time after the morning’s tours. Luckily, another employee asked us what we wanted and when we said “to eat lunch,” she invited us to sit in the Dingle Whiskey Bar (sadly not open) to wait and she brought us water a few minutes later. It was only about a 15 minute wait and we had water and (sketchy) air conditioning and comfortable seats, so we didn’t mind at all.

Part of the selection in the Dingle Whiskey Bar

Built in 1719 as a house and converted to a tavern later that century, the Fraunces Tavern played an important supporting role in the histories of New York and the American Revolution. (Can you hear The Room Where It Happens in the background?) The second and third floors now house a museum, while the ground floor restaurant serves hearty meals and a wide selection of beverages. Maureen had a Flat Iron Steak Sandwich and I went with the traditional fish and chips. They didn’t have the ginger beer I wanted and we were too hot and potentially dehydrated for anything stronger, so Maureen and I shared the large Citizen Cider that she had ordered. It was probably the best cider of the trip. Sadly, it’s not available in Colorado. I tried to understand why few non-Colorado ciders are available here, and my conclusion is that most out-of-state imports are blocked in order to protect shelf space in liquor stores for Colorado cideries—not from encroachment of the small producers, but the mega-distributors.

We were not far from the World Trade Center, and not necessarily planning to be back in that part of the city, so we decided to check out the 9/11 Memorial. It may have been one activity too many, but I’m glad we got to see it and spend a few minutes reflecting.

The 9/11 Memorial is hard to capture on film, but I think that’s an intentional part of the design.

At this point we were tired, and I still had some law to read. We returned to our room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Chelsea—which was overall adequate for our needs, but could have used more storage spaces and a chair or two—for a rest. New York’s humid heat is different from Colorado’s dry heat, so we were suffering a bit and perspiring a lot.

We didn’t have much energy for dinner that evening, so we opted to try one of niece’s local recommendations: Taïm. This small chain serves mostly vegetarian Mediterranean food in pitas and bowls. I had the Greek salad—with more Kalamata olives than I’ve ever seen served at one time, but I think Maureen made the better choice with the falafel bowl. I can attest that the falafel were delicious.

My ice cream itch hadn’t been scratched since we left Denver, so we headed next for Ample Hills Creamery. The flavor list outside did not match the flavors inside, which were also written in “artistic” style, so it was challenging to make our selections. I can’t even remember what they were, as nothing on their website rings a bell. It was good, creamy ice cream, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it (unless I knew what flavors were really available in advance).

We packed a lot into this day. With the return to travel and human interaction, I think everyone wants to make the most of their now-available choices. May it continue to be so.

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