Statue of Liberty
This is my only overlap post with my A to Z of France, which I wrote in 2011 before I left Nice.
She stands at the entrance to New York harbor . . . a 46m high statue of a woman holding up a book and a torch. ”La Liberté Éclairant le Monde” (Liberty Enlightening the World). Her American name is the ‘Statue of Liberty’ and she not only presides over New York’s harbor, but also Swan Ally Island (l’Allée des Cygnes) in the River Seine in Paris, and also Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens. There are indeed three Lady Liberties!
The replica on the island was offered to the French by the American residents of Paris as a remembrance to commemorate the Centennial of the French Revolution. It was inaugurated on November 15, 1889 and was placed so that it faced the Eiffel Tower. However, it’s creator Bartholdi insisted that it be turned to face the New York location of the Statue of Liberty. The tablet on the Swan Alley Statue of Liberty has the dates IV Juillet 1776 et XIV Julliet 1789 (the dates of the US and French revolutions and our national days to this day).
America’s Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, is known affectionately as Lady Liberty. The statue was a gift to America from the French in honor of the Centennial of American independence. It is known worldwide as a symbol of political freedom and democracy. On Lady Liberty’s tablet is inscribed “July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals, Day of America’s Independence from Britain: July 4, 1776”, and inscribed upon the base for the statue is an excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” – 1883. An excerpt reads :
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-lost to me.
While I have seen Lady Liberty from various view points, my favorite remains from a sailboat on the Hudson with my sailing buddy, Anne.
My first experience of Times Square (and New York City) was in the summer of 2011. I was here visiting colleges on the east coast as part of my work as a college counselor in an international school. Sadly, on my first day of the tour I had had my bag and passport stolen at Boston University and all I remember was a complete sensory overload in TS, and wondering if I would get lost in the crowds and never make it back to my hotel in the dark or out again at some unearthly hour to catch a train to DC and the British Embassy! First impression = overwhelmed.
Take Two. 2011 was the year I began to write and also the year when I started to consider moving to the US, so I was doing some exploratory visits to see if I really wanted to move here. So, on my way back from my annual Christmas visit to friends in Canada as I had to do a La Guardia airport stop-over anyway, I decided to spend New Year in New York. Times Square is the most visited place on the globe, with 360,000 pedestrian visitors a day. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, the cacophony and crush, I couldn’t help but feel the rush. A million people stood on just a couple of blocks. A million people—and a billion more watching at home watching the Waterford Crystal ball being lowered on a pole atop the building, marking the start of the new year—everyone believing in this moment. They were throwing beads and holding hands and screaming and dancing and singing a thousand different songs. There were people of all ages and races who had come from all over, and they were together. In that moment, Times Square was the center of the universe. It is certainly something to do just once in a lifetime, having emptied your bladder and not drunk for the previous 6 hours!
Since then I have crossed Times Square on countless occasions to go to the theater, meet a friend, head to a subway station. I walk with the snappy determined stride of any good New Yorker, dodging: tourists stopping abruptly for selfies, The Naked Cowboy, Elmo, cops or just some of the thousands who pass through daily.
Upper West Side
Well, as I seem to be on a New York City binge here, let me tell you about the 18 months I lived on the Upper West Side (UWS). I lodged in the apartment of a most wonderful retired Jewish widow, who was the perfect guide to life in the neighborhood, especially to Zabar’s, but I will save that for another post. It is wonderfully far from the tourist holes of Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown, yet a totally rapid subway commute midtown when you want. And it is one of the few neighborhoods left in Manhattan that possesses a strong sense of community.
Firstly, you are straddled by two amazeballs parks, Central Park to the east and Riverside park to the west. The latter stretches for 86 blocks along the Hudson River. It features cafes, art installations, and a terrific bike path which I have used. It is without a doubt Manhattan’s most spectacular waterfront park. I can’t tell you the number of hot humid August afternoons I have strolled over to Riverside to catch a refreshing breeze off the Hudson, or the thrill of snowshoeing or cross country skiing around the reservoir in a blizzard. Not to mention the hours of tennis I played with retirees on the Central Park Courts. I often thought back on when I would watch a movie like “You’ve Got Mail” never dreaming I would one day live in this unbeatable metropolis.
I lived a block from the American Museum of Natural History. With iconic mainstays like massive dinosaur fossils and the blue whale, this museum is the perfect winter destination to expand your wonder and awe even further. It also has an amazing insect department whose head entomologist gave me a special tour and a specimen of a juvenile bed bug, which I needed to prove to myself that I was now bed bug free. OMG, and that is another story I need to tell y’all about!
At the southern end of the Upper West Side we are also so lucky to have the Lincoln Center providing the neighborhood with a high-culture appeal by hosting performing arts institutions like the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City ballet. I was fortunate to be introduced to the Met shortly after arriving in NYC in 2013 when a friend who was a stage manager on Broadway had a spare ticket to see Placido Domingo in La Traviata.
I could regale you about many more attributes of the UWS, but I suggest you go for a wander up there yourself.