Last week, remember I told you I’m always taking notes on all those hidden gems and things to see when I’m next in New York? Well, once I’ve made my list, flights are booked, the holiday is creeping closer – and I’m drooling at the thought of a New York brunch session – I’ll start working out where I’ll spend my time snooping around. So today, once again, I’m opening up a few more pages of my trusted travel scrapbook to share some of the mini adventures I’ve been on, in a series of itinerary posts, starting with a morning adventure around uptown Manhattan. (Handy map included so you don’t get lost…) Let’s go out!
1. Morning coffee in a people-watching dreamland
Where? E.A.T Deli and Bakery
We all know New York would not be New York without its countless time-worn, trusted delis. Although this place has been at this address since the 1930s, to look at, this isn’t one of those traditional time capsule, no-frills places, instead it’s more of an upmarket deli, with a long-standing reputation for serving great food and coffee to New York’s rich Upper East Siders, which makes it the perfect people-watching dreamland. The first time I visited, I hardly spoke to Mr New York On My Mind as I scoffed every last lettuce leaf of my $24 salad, eagerly watching while the serious-faced lunching ladies chatted idly, pushing the food around on their plates, leaving most of it! Hello people!? The food here is too good to waste – not to mention $$$! I highly recommend any of the deli treats or things on the menu, but if you don’t want to pay the price tag, just have a coffee, do a spot of people watching then grab a pastry to go, and get ready for a stroll up Fifth Avenue to our next destination.
Find E.A.T Deli and Bakery at 1064 Madison Avenue.
2. A visit to a hidden gem uptown Manhattan museum – with a showstopping chandelier
Where? The Museum of the City of New York
Let’s leave all those people to queue up for hours at The Whitney or The Met, while we disappear to find our more about hidden New York at this lesser known gem of a museum. Tucked away at the far end of Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile not far from the Central Park Conservatory Garden, look for the sign outside a stately red-brick Georgian Colonial Revival building with grand white columns on the front. Climb the grand marble steps, push open the heavy glass door and let your wandering eye be lured into the majestic entrance way with its sweeping staircase and floor-to-ceiling chandelier, as the hum of the Fifth Avenue disappears. The Museum of the City of New York was opened in 1923 by a Scottish-born immigrant called Henry Collins Brown (go Scotland! Yes, I’m Scottish…), to preserve the history of New York and is one of the city’s most important museums, although a lot of tourists probably don’t make it here. Before you explore its three floors of exhibitions, take a seat in the cosy little theatre on the ground floor to watch a mesmerising 20-minute film in which the story of New York City told by Robert De Niro unfolds from the time it was a Dutch Trading Post to its present incarnation as the greatest city on Earth. Meet me out front when you’re done wandering…
Find The Museum of the City of New York at 1220 Fifth Avenue.
3. A stroll through a little-known conservatory garden
Where? Central Park
Heads filled with stories of a bygone New York and its menagerie of interesting people, it’s time to clear the air and work up an appetite for lunch over on the Upper West Side with a stroll through Central Park, staring at its majestic Conservatory Garden – six acres of flowers arranged in three styles: English, French and Italian. Hop across Fifth Avenue, walk through the stately Vanderbilt Gate and along the path to the Untermeyer Fountain, before strolling south towards the reservoir and across the rest of the park emerging on West Side Drive.
4. Lunch at a time-worn Upper West Side Jewish deli
Where? Barney Greengrass
Open since 1908, this is one of the city’s best Jewish deli institutions, serving the freshest fish, cold meats and other delicious high-end deli goods to hungry New Yorkers. They’ll deliver your favourite products to your office or apartment, cater your party, or you could take a seat in its intriguing Formica-clad time capsule restaurant next to the shop. The smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels and pastrami sandwiches come highly recommended:
Find Barney Greengrass at 541 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street.
5. A spot of fantasy house shopping
Where? Upper West Side
Walk off all those salmon and cream cheese bagels with a walk around the Upper West Side’s beautiful brownstone-lined streets, weaving your way in and along the roads off Amsterdam Avenue towards the Hudson River and back. On Broadway, have a coffee at the cafe inside Zabar’s before ambling past the famous Apthorp building, an 18th-century Italian Renaissance Revival property, once home to screenwriter Nora Ephron, before a browse in the vast Fairway Market…
6. Paying respects at a flower-filled shrine
Where? Strawberry Fields, Central Park
Our little morning adventure around Uptown Manhattan comes to an end on the south-west corner of Central Park, in an area called Strawberry Fields, dedicated to the late Beatles’ legend John Lennon, who was shot dead outside his Dakota building apartment, just opposite this part of the park, in 1980. At the centre of Strawberry Fields is a mosaic designed by a team of artists from Naples in Italy, dedicated to Lennon’s song, Imagine. It’s not unusual to find it decorated with flowers left by fans.
Find Strawberry Fields at 71st and 74th Street.