An Eclectic Day -- Exploring Manhattan
Explore a little bit of everything on this day in the city. You'll put your miles in, but don't worry. There will be plenty of snacks along the way!
Begin at Canal Street.
You'll find yourself in Chinatown, passing shop owners cross-legged on crates, enjoying a mid-morning smoke with coloring book pages tacked up on the bricks behind them. You'll catch the caramel scent of roasting ducks marrying plumes of grey smoke, soaking deeply into the stair-staggered buildings. You'll walk past buckets spilling tiny sapphire crabs and pink shrimp like dazzling pools of ocean treasures.
Head North on Elizabeth Street. You'll pass long windows shelved with tiny jade Buddhas and grinning wooden kittens. Pop into the doorway and run your fingers through a box of smooth green stones, carefully engraved with varying charms and tokens, and breathe in the wall of oak drawers containing green tea leaves, Star anise, and lemongrass. Look up to discover a ceiling scaled with painted lanterns and parasols.
Venture on. It won't take long before you run into Little Italy, where storefronts burst with confectionary clouds of buttery pastries, handmade pastas, and shiny balls of fresh mozzarella. Restaurants spill out into the streets, with red carnations on linen tablecloths and an abundance of dark-eyed waiters.
Wander through uneven streets under a canopy of white lights and sweet cherry blossoms. Enjoy the street art before turning onto Grand Street to get a close up look of America's oldest 'mom and pop' shops.
A few blocks West and the restaurants are still spilling into the streets, but not for ravioli and gnocchi. Little Italy fades into NoLita, where restaurants offer cuisine from all over the world. Rintintin serves Medeteranian fare, offering velvety cauliflower soup with turmeric and leeks served with sheep’s milk yogurt, and a sweet Saffron ice-cream for dessert.
Take a seat outside the open storefront, with a basket of greenery cascading to the right and a woman with a striped headscarf sipping freshly squeezed orange juice at a booth to the left. A bowl of soup for now, and a slice of pizza from Lombardi's across the street to take with you as you wander on.
Two blocks down you'll find Rice to Riches. It's an entire shop devoted to rice pudding. Odds are you haven't room for dessert, but the space-age decor and humorous signs cannot be passed up. And besides, when will you ever have another chance to taste two dozen flavors of rice pudding?
Continue on past pink cafes, perfumeries, chocolatiers, and creperies until you find yourself in SoHo. Take a Left on Crosby, another left onto Broome, and you'll come upon Harney and Sons, featuring hundreds of loose teas. There's a tasting bar at the front, but they also sell samplers to go that serve as a fun gift or special treat.
Locally made designer dresses and millinery sit in glass shop windows of Archerie and The Hat Shop like flowers in vases, and enticing cupcake-shaped bath soaps sit on metal trays inviting you inside.
Walk up Thompson Street, and head left on Spring Street to catch the 6 train on the green line up to 68th street. Take a left on 70th street, where you can walk toward Central Park.
Here you can choose between the Frick Collection ($12 for students) or the Metropolitan Museum of Art (pay as you wish).
For this day's iternerary, the Frick is ideal because it is small enough to see the entire museum in one trip, yet offers a wide range of the classics without having to trample though the massive galleries at the Met.
After your daily dose of art has been filled, grab a bag of candied nuts or a chicken kabob from a street cart to fuel your walk across Central Park. Enter the park and head West on the 79th Street Transverse path to Belvedere Castle.
The whimsical stone structure is nested hilltop, overlooking Turtle Pond. Have a seat on the cool grey steps and enjoy music from park performers -- Staccato knots strung and drawn between the smooth pull of the bows. A bumbly capriccio, softly spoken from a bass under sweet, smooth draws of the violin. All in harmony with the peppy lyrics of the house sparrows.
There's a glossy black duck standing on a rock near the center of the pond, resplendent in Spring, with wings outstretched in the welcome sun. More sparrows, dapper with auburn caps and black dotted kerchiefs, dust-bathe in a bank along the path, grooming each other and delighting in the sudden warmth.
A handful of school children on Easter Holiday skirt the fortress, playing hide and seek with rosey cheeks and tell-tale giggling. The disrupted bark chips send an earthy perfume through the park, settled with sweeter notes from the fresh buds that cover the trees.
Put your fingers to work on a daisy chain, an architectural sketch, or turning the pages of a book. Or, if you're like me, you'll be too fixed on the music and the warm droplet of sunshine freckling your face to do anything else.
Next make your way to the west side of the park, where you'll exit Central Park on 81st street near the Museum of Natural History (pay-as-you-wish). Head West two blocks and tun right onto Amsterdam Avenue. Storefronts set in pink bricks and manicured brownstone homes line the sparkling streets of the Upper West Side neighborhood.
If you weren't "riced" out earlier at Rice to Riches, you'll be interested in at least enjoying the window display at The Treat House on 81st and Amsterdam. The shop is bursting with marshmallow melodies of every hue, topped with bubblegum halos, coconut towers, and even varied fondant emoji faces.
Let's hope you haven't spoiled your appetite on rice crispy treats, because the next stop is where the best snacking is really done. Walk two blocks North on Amsterdam Avenue,and turn left onto 83rd Street. Two doors down, you'll come to the wood-paned French windows and welcoming awnings of Cafe Lalo.
Once inside, the red leather chairs and exposed brick walls set the stage for the blossoming pastry counter that spans the cafe's entrance. Tarts crowned with gemlike berries sit next to pans of Amaretto Tiramisu, hand pies sporting whipped cream and cherries, cakes with seven layers, and caramelized rounds of crème brûlée.
Artful cappuccinos are served in sturdy yellow cups, and imported cheeses arrive on trays that whisper tales of Holland, Switzerland, and Wales.
You'll be happy to rest your legs here, with swinging music and an abundance of light.
After you've enjoyed an apricot baklava and a frothy Cap, you can end your day walking South along the river from Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, topped with ornate carved eagles and cartouches on 89th Street. You'll pass statues footed with purple Azaleas and bright pink Camilas, and parks bustling with toddlers in kippahs, pumping their legs on chain swing sets that overlook the Hudson River.
By now evening has set in. The birds are still singing from the white oak trees, but mostly soft lullabies as shop owners roll down their shutters. The yellow of the magnolia trees deepen as the sun sinks low over the Hudson. The sparrow songs lull in time for restaurants to liven as wine lists are explored and the white stone towers are flecked with orange light.
Dinner is on you. After a full day of exploring the city, there's a fair chance at least one restaurant stood out in passing by. The hardest part is deciding which one to return to.