After catching a brief and distant glimpse of her the day before, it was time to get up close and person with the lady herself.

The trip to Liberty Island is, by the way, no joke. You have to pass through airport-worthy security before you’re even allowed on the ferry, which includes a mandatory passport check.

Manhattan’s Financial District as seen from the ferry.

Just as we were approaching, the sun came out from behind the clouds and struck the Statue of Liberty full force. It was one of the most impeccably-timed, postcard-perfect moments of the entire trip.

We, were, coincidentally, seeing the lady in the background thanks to this lady in the foreground.

Security measure #2 came into action on the island itself, whereupon all of our bags had to be checked into lockers before we were allowed to enter the statue.

And then, 93 metres and three hundred and fifty-four steps later…

…we came face-to-face with the Lady herself! A view I’d never seen of one of the most photographed statues in the world.

Entry to the crown was booked up for the next two months, but – because Steph had reserved the tickets as soon as we’d confirmed our trip – we were lucky enough to go up the whole way.

The most wonderful part of this entire excursion, however, was the three of us being together in New York, inside the Statue of Liberty, when – fully 12 years earlier – this conversation took place:

(We were watching the first X-Men movie and John and Steph had gotten their wires ever so slightly crossed.)

It’s not actually possible to see the torch from within the crown but – if you’re brave enough to stick your camera out the window and aim in the right general direction – you might just catch a shot of it. I, for one, was not – and so I asked the attendant to do it for me, thereby ensuring that way he’d be liable for any damages should disaster strike. This is particularly ironic in light of what happened to my camera just hours after this was taken, but more on that later…

One hell of a view.

The one major downside to having my bag security-checked at the entrance was that my spare battery was down there with it and my camera had begun dying the minute we started our ascent. Oh well, it’s not like I wanted to photograph the original torch on display at the base of the pedestal.

John wearing Steph’s hat. Perfect fit.

Does anyone else look at the pedestal and think of Talos from Jason and the Argonauts? No? Just me?

You’d never know that I had to photoshop out the guy who walked right in front of us whilst taking this photo.

Mark éclairant le monde.

Being prepossessed of very little shame, I had no qualms taking this photo. Thankfully John was embarrassed enough for the both of us.

You really did it. You maniaaaacs! You blew it up! God damn you! God damn you all to hell!

A brief stopover on Ellis Island.

On arrival back on the mainland, disaster struck. Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews had descended upon the financial district to protest the universal draft bill, which seeks to extend mandatory military or civil service to the ultra-Orthodox. By extension, public transport became something of an issue and – not helping the situation – we were also on a timer because Steph wanted to take us to her favourite brunch place before 4pm.

After being kicked off a bus and out of a taxi, we finally found a driver willing to take us to the East Village. Sadly, as the meter crept ever higher, our taxi stayed firmly in place – inching ever-glacially through the sea of Jewish protestors. $20 later, we were at last close enough to hop out of the taxi and make the rest of the journey on foot, but – in the rush to get out of the car and sprint the rest of the way to the restaurant – my camera took a sickening lurch from my lap and landed squarely on the concrete below. Insult to injury, there were no tables available when we got there, but – after the nightmare involved in getting there – Steph suggested we just order while standing and wait for a space to open up.

When we finally did get seated, it’s safe to say that food was the furthest thing from my mind. On closer inspection, however, the damage to the camera proved – thank Tetragrammaton – to be superficial. A corner of the body had, nonetheless, bent so far inward that I could no longer close the one of the side doors and generally made me want to cry into my French toast. Fortunately the inner mechanics were all in working order, but – on returning home and paying £144 for the repair job – this still turned out to the be the most expensive brunch I’ve ever had.

Few things numb the pain of technological woes, however, like surprise reunions with the birthday twin you haven’t seen since your time in Japan 4 years ago who just so happens to be in New York on the exact same day as you!

And alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

Jez’s and my reunion seemed particularly fated on account of the fact that it not only occurred transcontinentally, but during our actual birthday week: our initial bonding experience having been the shared experience of the worst birthday ever.

One final walk through Times Square. We’d actually grown a tiny bit sick of it by the end of the week, largely because the teeming mass of gawking tourists becomes a nightmare to navigate the minute you stop being one. Taking one last look at the towering neon mosaic of light and motion, however, it wasn’t hard to recapture that sense wonder we’d felt just seven days earlier.

After saying goodbye to Jez and dropping round to bid a further farewell to a sadly migraine-ridden Steph, John and I took separate paths back to hotel: his the direct route, and mine a slight detour via what was, for 31 years, the tallest building in the world

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