It’s been over 6 months since I’ve shared one of my travel posts!
This is sad to me, but I have a good reason! Precisely a few hours after I posted about my trip to Ayutthaya, my son Westley was born. The past half-year has been full of feedings, diapers, tummy-time, and when it can be afforded, catching up on sleep. I haven’t been particularly thoughtful or self-motivated during this time and as is the case, the blog has been neglected. Such is parenthood, I suppose.
One other reason for the delay has had to do with this particular post. This post is from our trip to New York (now 5 years ago), when we visited Liberty and Ellis Islands. Since our visit, the role of immigration in this country—and what America symbolizes, globally—has been…changing. I kept finding myself wanted to use this post to say something about this. But I’m paying good money to host a blog I’m not updating, so I figure it’s time to skip the pretense and share some vacation photos.
On this day, we left Manhattan for Liberty Island, early.
The National Park Service manages both the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Island) and the National Museum of Immigration (Ellis Island) as national monuments. Ferry service links the two islands with Manhattan under one ticket price. Additional tickets can grant access to the pedestal of the statue (or even her crown) but cost more and book out, often months in advance. Such was the case when we purchased our tickets to the statue.
Still, we wanted to get close, so we took the ferry to Liberty Island. And close, we were.
Once ashore, we walked around to the statue’s front-side. It felt inspiring to be up close and personal with one of the great symbols of America. What you can’t see (I’m actually shocked that I didn’t grab pictures of this), is that we were sharing this view with thousands of our fellow patriots (erm…tourists). Seriously, families, matching-t-shirt groups, selfie-sticks—we dodged it all and managed to get a few nice photos of ourselves.
After a lap around the lady, we wound up somewhere you would expect any icon of the sort to have: the gift shop. While Cindy strolled around perusing the shelves of trinkets, I amused myself by watching the bad animatronic they had of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor for the statue. It was a short visit, but it was satisfying.
Soon, it was back to the ferry to catch a ride to Ellis Island. Though the initial ferry departure from Manhattan is capacity-regulated through tickets, the trip to Ellis Island and back to the city are not and it was definitely a less-comfortable ride. Still, it’s hard to complain about the conditions on 10 minute boat ride when arriving at Ellis Island. Others have fared worse.
The National Museum of Immigration inhabits the main Ellis Island building that housed, processed, and naturalized over 12 million immigrants to the United States between 1892 and 1954. The museum experience starts as you walk into a cavernous hall. The space is smaller than Grand Central Terminal but the appearance harkens back to a time where it was just as crowded. It is easy to imagine the queues of folks who waited for an opportunity to start anew.
The museum then splits off into various exhibits that encourage visitors to experience the order of operations any newcomer to the United States would go through. The exhibits portray immigrant life in a respectful, matter-of-fact manner and avoid telling stories with too much despair or rose colored glasses.
We walked among the rooms, reading the information and imagining ourselves in the shoes in the soon-to-be Americans that passed through this space.
While strolling through the museum, one of the things that struck me was how close Manhattan was. It’s right there. I can imagine countless eyes peering through the windows, looking for a sense of the life that lay before them, accessible to them soon (hopefully). As hard as their journey was, I image some of the hardest days were yet to come.
Immigration—both legal and illegal—doesn’t look like Ellis Island anymore. But the island looms large in the consciousness of Americans because it’s a cornerstone of how we like to view ourselves. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are both front page on the “America brochure”: We’re a nation of immigrants who are all about freedom. I fear each of these things are in jeopardy today. But a visit to these historic sites can be a first step in remembering how this country was built—and what made it great in the first place.
For more photos of our trip to Liberty and Ellis Islands, check out the gallery below.