Monday, October 27, 2014

Statue of Liberty ~ Ellis Island ~ New York, USA

The Statue of Liberty and nearby Ellis Island have both left their marks of history during the years of immigration by millions of people from the old world to the new world in the United States.  

Statue of Liberty, New York, USA 
One of the greatest sights to see when visiting New York is the Statue of Liberty greeting all visitors in the harbour.  The many photos taken does it no justice as it does when we take a ferry ride to get up close to the Statue and seeing it in person.

Castle Clinton in Battery Park, NY
One might choose to take a tour boat that will bypass both Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island but give a view of both, and we did take that first as part of a tour package.  We chose another day to take the tour with the Statue Cruises for a close up look, as did hundreds of others that same day.  The tickets are available in the old fort.

Line-up for Statue of Liberty tours
As with many popular tours, there are line-ups, especially on a beautiful sunny day in October.  We stood in different lines throughout the day that may have added up to at least three hours.  The security is similar to the airport when taking the Statue Tours.  The trip was well worth it but one must factor the line-ups into their time when visiting these sights.

Visitors to Liberty Island, NY
The Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from France, a symbol of freedom and democracy, dedicated Oct. 28, 1886.  The French paid for this sculpture by donation from the people of France from the private sector.  Then when the necessary funds ran out before the base was constructed, Joseph Pulizer, the publisher of a New York paper, appealed to the people of America to donate money to pay for the pedestal and dollar by dollar, they raised the necessary funds.

Statue of Liberty, NY
Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a French artist and sculpture designed the Statue of Liberty.  The story says that this beautiful face was that of his mother.  There was a time that one could go right to the top for the view but that has changed.  You can get crown tours if you book far enough in advance. These tickets also give you priority on the Boarding Queue for getting on the ferry, which might make the extra expense well worth it.

The Tablet and the Flame of the Statue of Liberty, NY
The tablet in the hands of the Statue has July IV, MDCCLXXVI inscribed on it, which is July 4, 1776, the date that the Declaration of Independence was signed.  The tablet is over 23 feet long and 2 feet thick. The upkeep of the Statue is taken care of by the National Park Services.  The torch is copper covered with 24K gold leaf and is lit up at night by floodlights.  There was access to the torch when it first opened but that was closed in 1916. That would have offered quite a view.

Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour
Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was the French architect who designed the 92’ tall pylon to be the primary support structure of the Statue’s interior.  The elasticity of the design allows the Statue to sustain all weather conditions.  The total height from foundation to the tip of the flame is 93 metres (305’) and weighs a total of 450,000 pounds.  The thickness of copper that covers the structure is only the thickness of two pennies, making a total of 60,000 pounds of copper used.

Queue up for the ferry ride
We once again braved the line-ups to wait for the ferry to pick us up and take us over to Ellis Island where we would see the immigration history. One can come and go on any of the ferries of the day; there is a passenger limit and we are counted as we enter, so one may have to wait for a second ferry, which did happen to us leaving Ellis Island.  The crew are very efficient and keep everyone moving.

Ellis Island, New York Harbour
Ellis Island was the gateway for millions of immigrants entering the USA causing this to be the busiest immigration station from 1892-1954. The first day, January 1, 1892, there were 3 large ships with 700 people and by the end of the first year there had been 450,000 people pass through this immigration center.  By the time the Immigration Station closed in 1954, there had been 12 million processed here.

Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital
The south side of Ellis Island is home to the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital. Immigrants with visible health problems were detained and put into the hospital on Ellis Island.  More than 3000 people died while being held in this hospital.  Tours for Ellis Island are also available but tickets need to be purchased ahead of time.  They offer tours of the Ellis Island Hospital including the mortuary and the autopsy room so the tour isn’t for anyone under 13 years of age or in my opinion, faint of heart.  There is ongoing restoration being done to the Hospital and outbuildings so that there will be more to see on these tours in time.

Ellis Island Immigrant Museum, NY
The building is now home to the Museum of Immigration and has been since 1990.  We walked through and read a lot of the stories that brought these immigrants to the USA.  There is a very colourful and interesting history that makes it what we know today.

Wall of Honor on Ellis Island, NY
Around behind the museum is the Wall of Honour, where names of many of those who arrived here are written but we understand it is only a partial list.  The Wall went on forever but 12 million names would go on for miles.  We found some of our family names, although we do not believe them to be direct ancestors, it was interesting to see how many of them with our same surnames arrived here.  Today there are over 100 million Americans who can trace their ancestry to those who first arrived in America at Ellis Island.

View of New York from Ellis Island
Ellis Island had once been one of Fort Gibson that was built to defend New York City from enemy ships that was approaching the Harbour.  They were part of the triangle which included Liberty Island and Governor’s Island for 100 years before Ellis Island became the Immigration Station.   The view of Manhattan Island of New York, the subject of Fort Gibson’s protection lies beyond.

Our adventures today definitely gave us a history lesson that showed what many people had to go through to survive then make that long voyage to America.  One cannot leave here without some appreciation for those sacrifices and the opportunity to learn and visit where it all began.   It was a great day, even with the line-ups.

Visit other New York sights by clicking here and here for more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Central Park, Manhatten Island, New York, USA

Central Park is a treasure for the 40 million annual visitors to enjoy. It is recognized as the premier public urban park in the world, constructed 1858-1873 and is entirely man-made. It is a National Historic Landmark as well as a New York City Scenic Landmark covering 843 acres in the center of Manhattan, New York.  

Maine Monument, Central Park, NY
The Maine Monument, placed in the Park in 1913, is a marble and gilded bronze sculpture commemorating the 250 American sailors who died when the battleship Maine exploded.  It was re-gilded in 1995 along with other repairs and greets the visitors who enter the park at the Southwest corner at Columbia Circle, which is also the point from which all official distances from New York City are measured. 

The band plays in Central Park, NY
There are roads for vehicular traffic through the park that are closed on the weekends, but the miles of  trails and paths that meander all over the Park for pedestrian and horse and carriage traffic offer so many sights to enjoy as well as gatherings such as this small band who just set up on the grass and play for anyone who chooses to listen.  

Sports fields in Central Park, NY
There are ball fields scattered around the Park as well as soccer fields, lawn bowling, croquet greens, tennis courts and tables permanently set up for chess and checkers that many gather to play and enjoy on any given day.  These are used during spring, summer and fall but close down during winter.  The two outdoor ice skating rinks are open between November and March.

Carousel of Central Park, NY
One very special sight is the Carousel that pulls you over when you hear the calliope music floating through the air.  The Carousel, one of the largest in the U.S. and the fourth one in Central Park since 1871, was originally built in 1908 but came to the Park after being found abandoned when the previous carousels were destroyed by fire.  The restoration included the 57 beautiful hand-carved horses.  There are also twenty-one playgrounds in the park, most of them located near a Park entrance, and usually filled with lots of kids enjoying themselves.

Imagine Mosaic in Strawberry Fields, Central Park, NY
Strawberry Fields was one of our first stops to visit, created in honour of John Lennon of the Beatles.  It was officially dedicated on October 9th, 1985 which would have been his 45th birthday, almost thirty years ago.  The 5 acre site is covered with trees that were gifted from all over the world and the mosaic tile “Imagine” was a gift from the city of Naples.  We walked by several times and there were always people lined up to take their photos on “Imagine”.    This is deemed a Quiet Zone, as are other areas in the Park, which means there are no dogs, bike riding, skateboarding, running or sports played in this location.

Burnett Fountain, Conservatory Gardens in Central Park, NY
The Conservatory Garden covers six acres of Central Park where you will find flower beds and color throughout.  There are three areas with different garden styles, Italian, French and English.  This water lily pond is in the English garden and is the Frances Hodgeson Burnett Memorial Fountain in honour of the author of the children’s book, The Secret Garden.  The Conservatory Garden is also considered a Quiet Zone.

The Bow Bridge, Central Park, NY
There are several bridges within the Park, many of them are cast iron and no two are alike.  The star of them all, though, is the Bow Bridge on The Lake.  It was the first cast iron bridge, built in 1862, in the Park and is the second oldest in the world.  The Bow Bridge is considered a very romantic spot, adorned with several large flower filled urns and has been the sight of many marriage proposals.  

The Lake, Central Park, NY
There are several lakes and ponds within the Park, ranging in size from The Lake at 20 acres to the Turtle Pond and The Pool being the smallest.  The Lake, not to be confused with The Pond, has row boats, gondolas and bicycles that are available for rent.  The Boathouse seen on The Lake’s edge has a restaurant offering a great view.  The Pond, a habitat for birds and turtles has a natural environment making it a good place for them to be, as does Turtle Pond.  The Conservatory Water is for remote controlled boats where Saturday morning boat races are held. 

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park, NY
The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir was so named in 1994 to commemorate all that she did for the city.  The JKO Reservoir has a running path encircling it so we followed that around on one of our many walks in the Park.  The 106 acre reservoir was used as the water source for the city for 131 years but was decommissioned in 1993.  It has now become a great bird sanctuary, a perfect place for birdwatchers.

Central Park Zoo
The Central Park Zoo is not a large one but has several very interesting habitats for the 130 different species.  The Zoo, covering 5 acres, is in the Southeast corner of Central Park.   We saw four different kinds of penguins in the Polar Seabird exhibit behind a glassed temperature controlled area,  several breeds of monkeys all in different settings, the cutest Red Pandas, California sea lions waiting for dinner and some beautiful birds in their Tropical Rainforest surroundings.

Bethesda Terrace, Central Park, NY
A beautiful European inspired terrace with two grand staircases leading down to the Bethesda Fountain is one of the most popular meeting places in Central Park.  The fountain is one of New York’s largest standing at 26 feet high and 96 feet wide.  The “Angels of the Waters” was created by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to receive a major sculptural commission in New York and it was dedicated in 1873.  The angel’s outstretched hand delivers a blessing to the waters and the four cherubs represent health, purity, temperance and peace.

The Pond, Central Park, NY
There are some lovely serene locations within the park even when thousands of people are wandering through or spending time enjoying the many other things to see in Central Park.  The leaves on the trees are beginning to turn color with fall weather but I am sure the blossoms in spring would be even more amazing.

The Central Park Conservancy, the Park management, is a private, not-for-profit organization and in a public-private partnership with the City of New York.  Their “mission is to restore, manage and enhance Central Park” and they do so with the help of many donations and volunteers.  There have been several restorations done in the past years to make Central Park what it is today and to be the star that it was meant to be from the beginning.  New York would not be what it is without Central Park, it truly is a treasure to be seen.

Visit more of our visit to New York by clicking here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

a visit to New York City

The sounds and sights of New York City have been seen and documented in so many ways, but like most of the famous cities in this world, there is nothing to compare with spending time walking the streets and seeing those for ourselves!

One World Trade Center stands above the rest of New York City
New York City consists of five boroughs, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island but we spent most of our time in Manhattan.   The total area is 33.7 sq. mi. but Manhattan Island is 13 mi long and only 2.3 miles wide, 22 square miles with a population of 1.6 million people.  Sure is amazing to see all that can be in that small area, it is brimming with amazing sights.

Our Manhattan neighborhood
We were staying in the Upper West Side on a tree lined street in a ‘brownstone’ ,  a neighbourhood with  the subway entrance and Central Park on one corner of our street and restaurants, drugstores, grocery stores, shoe repairs, laundromats, and anything one might need was down at the other corner.   We could not have been in a better location.

Rockefeller Center in New York
We began our New York holiday by taking the open decked tour bus, always a great way to learn and hear the history or stories about the sights.  These tours have a “hop on hop off” so that you can get on and off at any of their stops if you wish to spend more time there.

Cabs of New York
The traffic in New York is a sight to watch and definitely makes one appreciate what the bus drivers and cab drivers deal with every day, let alone the bicycle riders.  When they say there are lots of cabs in New York, they are so right, over 13,000 counted in 2012 all within that 33 square miles!  All streets are filled with them and people do walk out into the middle of the street waving down a cab, just like in the movies.  Pedestrians do not heed the crosswalk traffic signals, seems they have the ‘right of way’, but lots of warning horns can be heard.

United Nations Headquarters, New York, USA
We walked for hours every day for two weeks and surely did not see it all but we did spend our time enjoying the most famous landmarks, heritage buildings, museums, ferry rides, and so much more.  We also spent time in the subway stations, but waits were short and the rides were, as well.  It was an easy system to learn, although our first ride was with a helpful New Yorker, Micki and we found New Yorkers were quite willing to enlighten us when necessary.

Central Park, Manhattan, USA
Central Park is world famous and the largest park in New York.  We were staying within one half block of Central Park and enjoyed many walks, but there are so many lovely places within the Park that I will share more on another page.

Statue of Liberty
If I had to name the highlight of our visit to New York City, I would have to say that it was seeing the Statue of Liberty out in the harbour.   Our first good sighting was from a tour boat that was not making stops on Liberty or Ellis Island so we had the opportunity to go back another day and see it up close and hear the story behind the statue.

The lights of Times Square, New York
Times Square might be considered the heart of the city.  I had expected it to be a “square” but it actually covers several blocks and includes the theatre district.  It lights up best at night and the brightest sights are the billboards that line the main corridor of the Square at Broadway and 7th Avenue.  These billboards rent for millions of dollars a year, the most expensive in the world, seen by the 330,000 people who visit this area daily!

View from top of Red Stairs in Times Square
The northern end of Times Square is Duffy Square and the home of the red stairs where people are gathered at any given time.  The stairs (shown in photo collage above) are actually the roof of the TKTS pavilion where discount Broadway tickets can be purchased.  The novelty of the stairs invites one to climb up but the view is even better from there.

Broadway plays
We would not visit New York without seeing a Broadway play.  It was not easy making a decision as there are many to choose from but it had been recommended to see Wicked.  It was based on the witches of Oz and a great musical to see in the Gershwin Theatre.   The theatre seats 1900 and there were very few empty seats to be seen on a Monday night in September.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
There are so many museums to visit with quite a variety to choose from.  We visited more than we planned to but found some to be surprisingly fascinating, from famous art to dinosaurs and more.
Most of the buildings themselves are a work of art.

Parks of Manhattan
It is surprising the number of green spaces scattered around the city.  There are several that have trees, gardens, benches and fountains to sit and enjoy, and many playgrounds for the kids to play.

National September 11th Memorial
We couldn’t visit New York without spending some time at Ground Zero to show our respect to all those who lost their lives in that devastating event on September  11, 2001.  The National September 11th Memorial was built on the land that the twin towers once stood.  The two granite pools, one for each tower cover 2 acres with a 30’ waterfall.  The infinity pool is surrounded by a bronze panel border inscribed with names of every person who died on that fateful September day.  It is a sad but tranquil place to visit.

New York City, known by many names such as “the Big Apple”, “the City that never sleeps” and “the Capital of the World” due to the size, wealth and being the location of the United Nations Headquarters, is the largest city in the U.S. by population with over 8.4 million people.  It is a spectacular city and one that offered us a wonderful visit and was a very special place to celebrate our 50th anniversary.


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