Tuesday, July 12, 2022

New York City Adventure - Day 6

If the goal for today was, like past days, to completely underestimate New York City, then good news, we nailed the day.

We started our adventure with trips to Liberty and Ellis Islands. I figured that our stay on Liberty Island would be relatively brief: we'd get off the boat, ooh and ahh at the statue, snap some pics and be back on the boat in 20 minutes. Oh, how wrong I was.

The boat ride to Liberty Island was as iconic as I hoped, and I was pleased to find that we had access to an audio tour once we landed on the island. The kids weren't sure what to make of the strange handset like devices that deliver the audio tour, and were all quite skeptical at first.

Our first priority on the island was to go inside the statue and climb the 224 steps to reach the top of the pedestal. To do this, we had to clear yet another security check point, and like the security checkpoint to get on the boat to arrive at the island, this one was quite rigorous. I suppose protecting one of our Nation's most sacred icons is a priority I can get behind. The kids tackled the steps with a minimum of complaining, and we all enjoyed the cool breeze and views of New York City from the pedestal observation deck.

After the view from the pedestal, we had snack time and I decided I'd give the audio tour a bit of a listen. Stationed around the statue are markers that tell you what number to dial into the audio tour to listen to an explanation of what you're seeing. At each stop there's both an adult and kids explanation available. After listening to the kids version at the first stop I was sold. In an approachable way, the audio guide deftly explained the motivation for why the statue of Liberty was created and gifted to the United States.

I returned back to the children who were enjoying some down time after their snack and explained, they *had* to come check out the audio tour.

So yeah, the kids version of the audio tour was--to me--an absolute hit and a must do.

We walked the perimeter of the statue, took countless photos and learned the remarkable history of this beloved sculpture.

I'd always been told that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France and I just sort of accepted that explanation. While that may technically be true, the motivation and execution of the statue far surpass anything I'd imagined.

First off, consider that the statue wasn't intended merely as a passive symbol. The United States had just come through the Civil War and had finally abolished slavery. Édouard de Laboulaye, the man who came up with the idea for the statue, wanted to honor this achievement and highlight to his fellow Frenchman, as well as the rest of the world, that freedom for all was a realistic goal to strive for. I always thought of the statue as a sort of universal ideal, but in fact, Laboulaye was making a striking political statement with it. The broken shackle at the foot of Lady Liberty speaks to this.

And then you had the technical challenges of how to construct, transport and display the massive sculpture. These engineering obstacles alone mean that Lady Liberty, even without any of her symbolism, was a massive achievement.

And then there's the question of location. Imagine you build this amazing sculpture and put it in a place where nobody sees it. That could have easily happened. Instead, they managed to absolutely nail the placement by putting it in New York Harbor. It would be among the first recognizable symbols seen by millions of immigrants, making it both a beacon of hope and an idea for us to strive for.

I came away from my tour of the Statue of Liberty truly amazed by what I'd seen. This was art with a noble and intentional mission. The artists didn't merely honor liberty, but by touching so many, spread the very value itself. There are so many ways this project could have failed, and yet, it was a success beyond imagination.

After the audio tour we stepped into the museum, where we got a sense of what went into making the statue. The kids enjoyed posing next to various replicas and fragments of the statue.

We then boarded the boat and headed over to Ellis island.

We did a relatively brief walk-through of Ellis Island, again with audio tours in hand. I think the kids at least got some sense of this pivotal location in American history, though after the time we spent at Lady Liberty, I couldn't fault them for not having much energy left for another historic site. I'm eager to go back Ellis Island to give it the full time and attention it deserves.

Once we finally made it back to the main land we were about two hours overdue for finding lunch. Still, we couldn't resist heading to Nish Nush a vegan, Kosher spot that on the map didn't look terribly far from where our boat had docked. Of course it took longer than we hoped to reach the restaurant and their service seemed positively glacial. But, the food was quite yummy with their vegan shawarma being a standout.

C, T and J all enjoyed falafel sandwiches and D, because of the timing and his diabetes, had eaten his sandwich as soon as we walked into the restaurant. We ordered 'shawarma' for G and when we put the massive and foreign looking food in front of her, she was initially overwhelmed. She immediately objected and said there was no way she could eat that. We calmly regrouped, opting to have her try a small portion of the food which to her credit she didn't just eat, but truly enjoyed. For G, who's tends to be the most restrictive when it comes to food, we were truly proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone and trying something new.

After recharging ourselves at Nish Nush we headed to the nearby 9/11 fountains. All I can say is, wow. Just wow. I knew that the 9/11 fountains were a thing, and perhaps because we're so close to the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, I figured I was somehow more prepared than most to take in this sight. But I was blown away.

The massive scale of the fountains, with their all black, multi-tiered design speaks so well to the tremendous physical and emotional loss of that day. I'm not sure what I expected to see at the 9/11 memorial, but whatever it was, the designers surpassed it.

Our final stop of the day was over at Midtown Comics, where the kids browsed and picked out a book of their choice. In hindsight, I think I should have leaned on the knowledge of the clerk more, asking him to direct us to comic books that would have been new to the kids, but would have still interested them. Oh well, next time.

All the kids except for T purchased graphic novels. T picked up a write your own comic book, that had illustrations but no dialog in it. When we got back home, I was impressed how she quickly went to work creating a story. I'm quite certain that the fear of 'messing up' would have kept me from ever writing a single word in that type of book. So bravo to her!

By the time we made it back to our Airbnb we were all pretty wiped. The kids mustered enough energy, however, to have some Lego play time while Shira and I made dinner.

Tomorrow I drop J off at the airport and we spend our last full day in NY with the rest of the kids. I can't believe our adventure is coming to a close so quickly.

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