Often the best travel experiences are those which catch us by surprise. I spend a fair bit of time researching and planning my trips, but love to stumble onto unexpected and memorable events. Like when our visit to Kandy in Sri Lanka coincided with the Perahera and we enjoyed the hours-long parade of elephants and performers. Or after a long tiring day of canoeing in the British Columbia rain, watching the skies clear to one of the most peaceful and memorable sunsets I've ever seen. Or watching a perfect sunrise from the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. These special experiences are an important part of what makes traveling so appealing.
And so it was when my wife and I visited the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor for the first time a few years ago (Oct. 2011). This site had been on our travel bucket list for a long time, not only because it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site but because it's such an American icon, a symbol of freedom, a special gift of enduring friendship between the United States and France (where it was designed and crafted). I made ferry reservations for Liberty Island as soon as they became available for the day that suited our trip itinerary and was also able to snag 2 tickets for a hike up to the Statue’s Crown -- great! We were set. So on that day we took the subway to Battery Park at the south end of Manhattan for our ferry ride through New York Harbor to Liberty Island.
(Views of New Jersey shoreline from our ferry to Liberty Island)
The ferry ride is lovely and provides memorable views of Manhattan, New Jersey, Ellis Island and finally, looming ever closer, Liberty Island! When we landed we were surprised to find that the day of our visit coincided with the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. I had not known this when I made our reservations and we were treated to one of those special travel moments. The day was one of celebration, with free birthday cake and Cokes, bands playing, a 21 gun salute, and many special presentations and honors throughout the day. This alone would have made for a very special day but as it turned out, we were also one of the last 250 people who would visit the crown of the Statue for two years, as the interior of the Statue of Liberty was being closed to the public the following day for a two year remodel and upgrade.
(Gustave Eiffel's incredibly strong framework help keep the Lady's shape)
(Staircase to the crown of the Statue of Liberty)
(Inside the Crown of the Statue of Liberty)
The journey to the crown was fantastic. A lot of stairs and climbing, but we took our time, stopping often to enjoy details of the interior of the statue — the sturdy metal skeleton, extensive riveting, and finally the string of small windows that let’s you know you've reached the top. Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame, was instrumental in crafting the sturdy skeleton for Lady Liberty (as has been discussed before on this website). The Crown is a fairly small place, able to comfortably handle only 6-8 people at a time, so you can see why they limit the visitors to only a few hundred in a day. Two rangers were there to answer questions and look after everything. We took in the views and enjoyed the experience, knowing it unlikely we’d ever be back here again.
(Brooklyn viewed from the Statue of Liberty)
It was on our way down that we stopped on the statue’s pedestal to enjoy the views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey. Later we walked the perimeter of the island (which at about 12 acres is fairly small), all the while taking in the different perspectives of the Statue which remains magnificent from almost every angle. From the many photos in the accompanying slide show you’ll see what I mean by this.
(Manhattan, viewed from the Statue of Liberty)
Liberty Island and nearby Ellis Island were heavily pounded and flooded by Hurricane Sandy just a year after our visit, Oct. 2012. Both islands were submerged in the storm surge and were closed for the better part of a year, the Statue of Liberty reopening in July 2013, and Ellis Island in Oct 2013. Winds and flooding from the storm destroyed most of the infrastructure on both islands including; electric, water, sewer, phone and security systems. The main passenger pier on Liberty Island was severely damaged, as were the perimeter walkway and railings around the island. Improvements are still ongoing, but Lady Liberty awaits your visit!
(Empire State Building viewed from Libery Island)
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