We woke Sunday to chilly temperatures and strong winds: awesome weather for a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty. We bundled up (though not warmly enough) and rode the subway to the southern tip of Manhattan to catch the first ferry of the day. Our tickets were for 9AM, but we were through security by 8:20 and were underway on a boat that wasn’t even half full by 8:30. Cold wind whipped hair into my eyes on the upper deck of the ferry, but it was worth shivering to have an unobstructed view of the statue as we approached.
We were the first to the island, and therefore had it mostly to ourselves. As the later ferries began arriving, filled to capacity with tour groups, school groups, family groups, church groups, and large groups of all sorts, we were glad we had that first half hour or so alone with only 10 or 12 other folks to enjoy the quiet and open spaces of Liberty Island before the masses arrived.
From Liberty Island we rode the ferry to Ellis Island and witnessed the Great Hall where immigrants were processed upon entry to the U.S., along with the 750-bed hospital complex — the United States’ first public health hospital — for quarantine and infectious diseases.
By this time I was quite cold, and the sky darkened with spitting clouds. We made our way from the southern tip of Manhattan up to the 9/11 memorial, which was a sobering sight: two city-block-sized holes in the ground, the footprints of the twin towers, now pools with water that falls forever into unknowable, unseeable depths. From the memorial pools, I looked up to see the new, One World Trade Center
These were heavy to behold, and we spent time in quiet to absorb them before moving on. We were cold and hungry after a morning on the windy water and under clouded skies, and we both wanted a hot lunch. We had no real agenda after the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial, except that we both wanted to visit Little Italy, so we started walking away from Ground Zero towards where we thought we could find the subway that would take us near Little Italy. It was these wanderings that were often my favorite parts of our trip because we happened upon unexpected wonders, like the intricate, decadent Woolworth Building, when we did so.
We arrived in Little Italy and sought refuge in one of the first restaurants we came to, where it was snug and warm. I ate a plate of lasagna, and my mom had eggplant parmesan, and I was toasty and content. The small, cozy restaurant, the hot food, the warm Italian staff were exactly what I wanted. We stopped next in a pastry shop where I ordered a cappuccino and ate amaretti cookies while we waited out the rain that started as soon as we dipped into the cafe. Finally, we were exhausted after our big and somber morning, and after our full first day on Saturday, so we walked back to our hotel, stopping off in a couple of Italian cheese shops, and accidentally happening into Chinatown on our journey.
I snuggled under the blankets to get warm, and we both napped in the quiet of our room. We had nothing else planned, and once we were rested, we both thought it would be fun to close out our trip with Times Square.
Immediately on exiting the platform, we knew were in the liveliest of all the subway stations we had been to. We heard music — trumpet and trombone and drums — and it was toe-tapping and good. These guys blew beat up brass and played plastic bucket drums, and the lack of fancy instruments did not stop them from producing fine boogie woogie music. They played with heart, with fun, and with passion.
These street performers were the perfect introduction to Times Square: vibrant and high-stimulous. When we exited the station onto the street, we were assaulted with the visual loudness of it all.
Times Square, and a walk over to the Empire State Building, were the perfect way to close out our NYC touristing. We headed back to Soho for a taco dinner, and went to bed early, exhausted from our two big days. This morning, we said goodbye with a great delight of the city: there’s always an excellent coffee shop nearby. One block away from our hotel, I enjoyed a final cup of coffee, and a surprise doughnut (the shop looked too small to have treats, but they had an amazing, if tiny, selection of doughnuts and pastries — my mom selected a delicious ham and brie croissant).
That’s my favorite thing about New York City: the happy little surprises.