On our first full day in New York, we hitch a ride on the Staten Island Ferry to visit...well, Staten Island. Doing so takes us through New Jersey, which means that, technically, we're visiting two states on this trip.
The ferry's route takes it past Liberty Island and the world-famous Statue of Liberty. As Sylvia will note often during our exploration of the city, it feels very strange to see icons like this in person after being so used to seeing them at the movies or on television.
Visiting a famous city forever changes the way you view the popular culture that's been set there. Now Sylvia and I have a much better understanding of how famous landmarks intersect geographically, and what they look like from different approaches and altitudes. Freedom Tower, for example, is located very close to the southernmost end of Manhattan Island. Obvious to the native, not so obvious to the visitor.
On arrival at Staten Island, we take a cab to South Beach, which has beautiful sand and a lovely boardwalk...which we have nearly to ourselves, thanks to an extended heavy downpour.
Here are two of the three people we see at the beach.
The South Beach boardwalk.
The Boardwalk Grill, abandoned - no customers today, so why open?
The Verrazano Narrows Bridge, one of four bridges connecting Staten Island to New York and New Jersey.
Fed up by the unceasing rain, we phone for a cab, which takes its time getting to us. "I don't like being wet and inconvenienced," Sylvia grumbles.
Things look up when we return to the ferry terminal, pausing for some fresh seafood as the storm breaks.
The view of Lower Manhattan from our restaurant on Staten Island.
For some reason, the US Coast Guard escorts the ferry on the way back to Lower Manhattan. I call this shot "Sentinels of Liberty." You can choose to take it ironically or not, depending on your political philosophy. (Note the machine gun on the bow.)
While I'm on the port side of the ship snapping photos, Sylvia is striking up a conversation with a lovely older woman named Mary, who served as an interpreter at one of New York's museums for many years before being recently laid off. She's quite a character, with wild, jet black hair, heavy makeup, a fur coat and heartfelt concern for the well-being of her fellow passengers. Wherever we go, Sylvia makes connections with people, and I find them chatting away like old friends.
Our trip on the ferry is a once in a lifetime pastime. For thousands of New Yorkers, it is a lifeline between home and work. The ferry passengers are uniformly kind to us, though we are interlopers. We'll find that kindness a recurring theme over the coming days.