Monday, April 21, 2008

Day Four!

Thursday began with tasting our first New York bagels. For some reason, on our last time here, we never even had a single one. Since Ess-a-Bagel was right right on our way to the Statue of Liberty tour, we stopped in. They were very, very good – especially their “everything” bagel toasted with lox spread- yum-O -but I have to say that nothing beats a warm, fresh Western Bagel here at home (we love to go to the factory in Van Nuys and get ‘em fresh and hot).

Top: Damaged sculpture that used to be in one of the World Trade towers, now displayed with eternal flame at Battery Park. Bottom: Drew and Rich in the eerie morning fog.

So, with happy bagel bellies, we headed for Battery Park for our 9:30 tour of Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. As you can see by the photos, there was quite a bit of fog on that morning. I was a little bummed, because the Statue of Liberty could not be seen through that thick fog from the shore. I remember when I saw the Statue for the first time in person a couple of years ago. I was walking toward the dock for the tour, and *there it was* and I was simply floored. For me, it is a very moving experience actually being on the Liberty Island. I did not expect to have that reaction, but I was truly awestruck. There is just something about being there in person with the Statue of Liberty when you have only seen her in photos and on TV your whole life. It is a very cool thing to just sit on the patio and gaze at our country’s great symbol of freedom and liberty and think about how blessed we are to live in this country. I know that if the Statue prompted this reaction in me, I can only imagine how the thousands of immigrants’ hearts must have leaped when they saw her come into view, after a long and treacherous boat trip from their countries far away. For them, it meant something life changing but unknown – a chance at a good life here in America. One of those people was my very own grandfather - Charles Vida -more to come.

One interesting bit of trivia about the Statue of Liberty: As you know, it was a gift from France to the United States, and in gratitude we in turn gave them a Statue of Liberty as well. It is exactly the same, but much smaller, and its location is in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. If you saw the movie National Treasure 2, you probably remember seeing it. I never knew that!

Rich and I on the boat over to Liberty Island

First view of the magnificent Statue of Liberty

Full view of Statue, after fog cleared. The miniscule people below show you just how large she is.

Interesting can't help taking a million photos....

Looks like a the zoom lens!

I love this photo of Emma, with Manhattan in the background.

Emma & I gazing at the Statue

You used to be able to climb the Statue inside all the way up into the torch in her hand. Long ago (over 75 years ago) they determined it was unsafe; now you can only climb inside the base to the bottom of the statue, and look up into her hollow frame. This is an engineer's delight (read: Rich) and quite fascinating to an ordinary person too! If you ever visit, I highly recommend taking the "monument" tour (optional, for additional price), which provides a park ranger ushering you through a small museum and explaining the whole story of how the statue came to be. You also get to view the original torch and a lifesize mold of her face. It is very interesting. If you don't do the monument tour, all you are able to do is wander around the island patio.

After the Statue of Liberty, we visited Ellis Island. Ellis is included on the Statue of Liberty tour, and is a separate island close to Liberty Island. Ellis was the place that immigrants arrived to be checked over before being allowed to set foot on U.S. soil. It is a significant place for me, because as I mentioned above, my grandfather, Charles, came through Ellis Island many years ago as a teenager, from Hungary. I looked up his name on the computer of immigrants - kind of sent chills up my spine! Ellis stopped processing immigrants in the 1950’s, and lay dormant until several years ago when the buildings were restored and made into a wonderful visitor center and museum. They have a wonderful movie including actual immigrants telling their story of coming through Ellis. You can also walk through all the processing rooms, see artifacts, and look at immigrants photos and propoganda. It's an amazing history lesson!

Entrance to the processing building on Ellis

Well, those tours took nearly the whole day, and we were tired, so we headed back to the hotel for a little bit of rest before dinner and another show.

We hopped a cab to Brooklyn, to take the kids to the historic Peter Luger Steakhouse.
Peter Luger has been voted the top steakhouse in New York for 24 consecutive years, and is on the Top 10 steakhouse list for the entire U.S. as well. Peter Luger is a very interesting place. It is old (120 years old!) and not really very nice at all by means of décor. It looks somewhat like an old tavern with its well-worn wood tables and floors.

They basically have one thing on the menu – you guessed it - steak. The menu choices are: Steak for 2. Steak for 3. Steak for 4. These kind of menus are good for me (I'm so indecisive). They also have a few appetizers, salads and sides. But, the waiters want you to have the following: bacon appetizer, tomato and onion salad, steak, skillet potatoes and creamed spinach. You kind of feel guilty if you deviate. And, if you try to order something else, such as a baked potato instead of the skillet potatoes, the waiter will most likely say, “you don’t want that” and proceed to tell you what you do want. I agree to an extent; you do definitely have to start with the bacon appetizer. You heard me right: Bacon – sold by the slice- as an appetizer! But, this is no ordinary Farmer John or even Applewood smoked bacon. It is kind of like a cross between bacon and ham, thick and smoky, meaty with just the right amount of fat to remind you that it really is bacon. It is absolutely amazing! You have just never tasted anything like it, that's all I can say!

But this is where we deviate and disobey the waiter's wishes for us. I have concluded that the tomato and onion salad is really only for people eating by themselves who won’t be near anyone else for the rest of the day (or week for that matter). The onion slices are raw and about 2 inches thick; I cannot imagine how your breath must reek after eating them! So, we opted for the Caesar salad, which is top notch. Then the steak arrived: hot, sizzling, and in a pool of juice and melted butter. It’s simple but makes a statement. The waiter turns a small plate upside down on the table and rests the large oval steak platter on it so the juices flow to the bottom of the plate to be spooned over the meat. And he will serve you, thank you. (He doesn't really care what piece you want.) This whole experience is rather amusing, but let me tell ya, all it takes is one bite and you realize this is indeed a very special piece of meat. We wisely ordered “steak for 2” for all four of us, and had leftovers. It is very rich anyways -you cannot possibly eat too much of it. Nor should you eat too much of it... last time Rich and I came, I kid you not -we saw someone collapse on the ground after exiting the restaurant. Peter Luger could probably clog your arteries faster than anything else. It’s a good place to visit once, for the experience. Other than that, I find a grilled steak at home to be just as pleasurable (especially if it’s from Costco – seriously, they have the best meat!).

Then here’s where our evening went a little bad…

We wanted to see two shows when we were in New York – Wicked, of course, and also one we hadn’t seen. I thought Mamma Mia sounded rather cute, but wasn’t quite sure of the content. I had gotten a good recommendation from someone at church, but to make a long story short, I was literally ready to walk out of the show after just a couple minutes into it. It was extremely vulgar and inappropriate; my conscience was highly violated for being there, and I felt sick and uncomfortable that I brought my children to it (the worst part). We did end up sticking it out until the end, with hopes that it might not all be that way, but unfortunately it was pretty much was. If I had to say something nice about the show I would say the music/dancing was really quite fun. The music was all songs from ABBA– really great songs -and it was very cute how they wove all the songs together to tell a story. Nevertheless, I must strongly not recommend this show. Incidentally, it is being turned into a movie to be released this summer (starring Meryl Streep) – I doubt that it could be any different than the show so I’d be careful with that one too.

Well, after that experience, we had to drown our sorrows somewhere, so what better place than at Junior's Cheesecake – a New York fixture for many years. They have amazing desserts. Rich and I shared the chocolate mousse cheesecake, which was a layer of chocolate mousse over a layer of plain cheesecake, with a chocolate crust and fudge topping. Insanely delicious! I only indulge in cheesecake about once a year, so this met the quota par deluxe!

Emma's strawberry cake, and my beautiful chocolate mousse cheesecake in back

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