By and far my favorite way to explore a new place is to walk around, wander by foot, and see it up close. Tour buses and taxis and subways are fine, but I think there’s something special about the pace of walking, the ability it grants for you to be flexible to stop and stare or change direction as you please. Walking in a new place allows you to not only see what’s around you, but also to activate your other senses and to interact with that place more directly than the other more passive modes of transit permit. So naturally when I was in New York City last weekend, I took full advantage of the time I had to wander around the world’s most famed and storied city!
I start my day off at Rockefeller Center, staring up into the clouds to glimpse the top of the rock, the top of the building where radio and television magic is made. The iconic building grounds itself beside 5th Avenue, where shopping is always in style. Beside 30 Rock is an ice skating rink surrounded by flags from every nation, creating a multicolored display as the wind blows them in rippling unison. Rockefeller Plaza offers a beautiful array of floral decor to match the season, which now features pink and white lilies surrounding a topiary Easter bunny who is balancing an egg on his nose! And a live Easter bunny character skates around the rink, to the delight of the children.
In this part of town that’s perfectly primed to dazzled visitors, across the street from Rockefeller Plaza is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the city’s finest displays of architecture. This mecca of Catholicism draws in visitors from near and far, especially on special occasions like Easter and Christmas. Popular mass times leave a line of people out the door waiting for a chance to stand in the back and marvel at the church’s imposing stone columns and stained glass windows while listening to the word of the Lord. Visiting for mass is the most authentic way to experience the cathedral, in accordance with its purpose, though free tours are offered regularly.
Up 5th Avenue I stroll, admiring the glamorous facades of stores whose offerings I cannot afford, and watching the latest styles walk past me on the model-esque bodies of NYC’s finest. And before long I’ve reached Central Park, the center of Manhattan and the luscious green playground that welcomes city-dwellers for a perfectly leisurely Sunday stroll. There are children running as their parents try to reel them in, runners and joggers in packs and pairs, cyclists and bike-taxis, a little league baseball game with a youngster racing for first base, a field trip lined up for a group photo, couples walking with coffee in hand, and friends set up for a picnic with a bright floral blanket spread across the grass.
Central Park is so much larger than I realized. How could I think that I could traverse 51 blocks in less than an hour? With its winding paths and diverse scenery, Central Park is a delight to walk around but I’m ready for a New York style bagel so I peel off to Madison Avenue to scope out my options. The scent of freshly baked bread at E.A.T. intoxicates me and I’m drawn in the front door uncontrollably, like a cartoon character. Tempting, tempting, but I press on. Perhaps a bagel at Champignon Cafe will do the trick. But then out of the corner of my eye, I spot a sign with funky type, it looks like it says Dough Loco. I’m crazy about bagels, I think this will be the spot! To my surprise it’s actually a doughnut shop, offering only a handful of flavors in a small window display, but they look expertly handcrafted. Miso Maple or Blood Orange Poppyseed or Dark Chocolate or Raspberry Sriracha? Do I have to choose? They’re large, I really must choose just one. Miso Maple it is. I have chosen right, it’s absolutely scrumptious!
My search for a NY bagel ends with a fancy doughnut instead, but I’m not disappointed. Feeling refueled, I head back to Central Park. I want to explore the Met. My friend here in NYC loves the Met, goes frequently and raves about it. I know I don’t have much time but I need to walk through the halls filled with art and history while I’m here. I need to soak up this cultural gem, walk among the tourists and the locals as we all hope to learn something during out visit here. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, what a treat to explore its rich interior. I’ll have to return on many occasions if I hope to see all of what it has to offer.
And similarly, I will need to visit New York City many times in order to see all of what it has to offer. Perhaps it is so large and culturally rich as to demand I live here for some time. Who knows what the future will hold. For now, I have sore feet from a long day walking and a big smile on my face from a day spent exploring a magnificent city. New York, it’s been a real treat.