Help! We are surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of Santas.
Putting the Santas to one side for the moment, getting to the Statue of Liberty is an exercise in patience and shuffling through queues. Even though we’d paid to skip the worst of the queues, and that saved us 90 minutes at the start of the day, the fast and slow tracks soon merged into a mosh-pit of poorly organised security screening (everyone has a lot of warm clothes to remove and replace) followed by another queue and another mosh-pit (“Aint no queue here, just push on up.” shouted the person organising getting us all jammed into a warehouse before we could board the boat.)
Ultimately it was all worthwhile because the Statue is both iconic and objectively beautiful. Going inside the Statue was fascinating, you can see how it was built, see all the rivets holding it together, and see the obverse side of all the folds that make its skin. Getting to the crown involved climbing a tiny, tight spiral staircase – like in some medieval tower but made of steel instead of stone. I must admit, though, that when you get to the crown it’s a little underwhelming. The space is tiny and the view is very limited – you can see Liberty’s shoulder quite well but that’s it. Still it was a cool place to be.
Retracing our steps through boat (queues again!), subway, and, streets, we were again surrounded by Santas of all descriptions. It’s worth pointing out that, in spite of Santa living at the North Pole, Santa suits do not seem to be intrinsically appropriate to a day with the temperature hovering around zero. Today, it turns out is Santacon when huge numbers of young people dress as Santa and descend on the centre of New York and drink. Well, it certainly brightens up the streets very effectively.
After warming back up at the hotel for a while we went in search of New York’s bright lights and found… yet more queues. Times Square is just round the corner from our hotel and it certainly has the bright lights – so many lights that it is close to daylight on the streets. It also has unbelievable crowds, meaning you are shuffling along the streets and simply cannot escape.
We made our way through the crowds and lights to the Rockefeller Centre. The crowds there were, if anything, even thicker around the Christmas Tree. The tree is huge and covered in bright Christmas lights, at its base silver flags flap in the wind.
After the least healthy meal we’ve had on this trip (greasy pizza if you want to know), we made our way up to the Top of the Rock – the viewing levels of the Rockefeller Centre. Again with the queues, the security, and the piles of people – and much like this morning it would all have gone so much more smoothly with a tiny bit of decent organisation. Also like this morning, though, it was worth it. The view on a cold, clear night over the lights of New York was just stunning.
Strangely, at one of the highest points in New York, on the top level where the only thing higher is the mobile phone tower, I could only get spotty telephone reception. I know this because it was just then that my mother accidentally phoned me – her silence leading me to believe she’d had an accident and causing several fraught minutes of frantically trying to find reception. All was well in the end.
Finally, after an hour of appreciating the view in the open air, we definitely deserved the hot chocolates we treated ourselves to to round out the day.