In the summer of 2013 my partner and I visited New York City twice, just three weeks apart. On the second occasion we swopped our Victorian house on a Canadian lake with a large and spacious 1940s apartment close to Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. This was a major change from our usual lodgings in Chelsea or the Meat Packing District.
On this latter occasion we decided to see a different New York by exploring new sites around the boroughs and experiencing situations different from our usual rituals.
The following three travelogues began life as a blog to family and friends.
A short walk across the 161st. Bridge and we’re on Malcolm X Blvd. and in Manhattan. The boulevard is lively and ethnic but in no way threatening. We wander down a side street and are surprised and captivated by the chic and grandeur of classic brownstones. In Harlem of all places! I have not been here before and I have never stayed in The Bronx before, but it has taken less than a day and now I’m a convert. My only regret is a mere passing acquaintance with Spanish. In this part of the Bronx it seems to be the de facto language and especially useful when shopping at the supermarket for the evening meal.
Previous visits to NYC have seen us housed in the Meat Packing District or the West Village, our favourite haunts in Manhattan. This time it’s a different New York City.
Yesterday I took the subway here for the first time in over 40 years. I was a student in the seventies on my way to a summer job at a camp for rich kids in the Catskills when I last rode the lines to a much less salubrious and much more threatening Bronx than where I’m staying now.
The subway this week has already taken me to the other New York. First, to The Staten Island ferry. The wait to board seemed long but the payoff was great. Both coming and going afforded a fabulous view of the Statue of Liberty, that great French gift to the US and the lady second in notoriety only to The Mona Lisa.
A little nostalgia is always good for the soul, so lunch at the Chelsea Market on 9th Avenue and 14 St. was our fix for the day, although changes to the general structure, by widening the central alleyway, have altered the feel of the place and we don’t like it as much.
The second day here it rained, hard, which meant we had the boardwalk at Coney Island practically to ourselves. A visit to the famous Nathan’s had provided my partner with two onion-smothered hotdogs and myself with a massive quantity of unbelievably delicious chilli-cheese fries.
The best part of the day’s adventure was walking the main drag of Brighton Beach and its myriad Russian stores hugging the lower edges of the elevated section of the subway. I’ve known about this place since Natasha, a friend I met while spending time in Moscow and who eventually moved to the Eastern shore of Maryland, regaled me with stories of visiting friends here and finding foodstuffs she could find nowhere else.
The street was crowded and I’d guess most of the area’s 75,000 inhabitants were out and intent on filling their larders for the next week. For a buck I sipped a strong and delicious Russian coffee and headed back to the boardwalk, more crowded now the afternoon was showing promise of sunshine. Entire families headed for the beach and cowered under bright parasols but not even the children were brave enough to put a foot in the water.
With subway pass at the ready we could go anywhere, and we did. Off to Queens and the trendy Astoria. Broadway here seemed to go on forever with its assortment of restaurants of various ethnicities and much Italian spoken in delis and on cafe terraces. Meandering down the side streets provided the best surprises. Houses and gardens of varying architectural styles, some bricks thankfully left without aluminum siding.