Manhattan

Where the Sidewalk Ends (the final part)

We are now down to the last mile! If you haven’t read my earlier posts, I am recounting the walk my husband and I took a few weeks ago. From the northern tip of Manhattan to the southern tip, 13.5 miles, over 200 blocks, we really got to see the city I call home.

In the last post, we had just finished dinner in Little Italy. It took us a little while to find our bearings after dinner. Once you walk south of Houston St., the easy to navigate grid of Manhattan all but disappears and you’re left wondering the twisted, diagonal streets of downtown. If you’re interested in the urban planning of Manhattan, I recommend this interesting article. The grid of Manhattan was originally described as the “republican predilection for control and balance … [and] distrust of nature.”

After the hectic crowded streets of Little Italy and Chinatown, the city bursts into a collection of impressive, European-looking municipal buildings and lit-up sky scrapers. I always expect to see Batman flying around this area.

During the daytime, Wall Street is bustling with pedestrians and cars, but at night it is nearly empty. This is a really great place to visit (during the day) if you have kids. The South St. Seaport has fun museums and a boardwalk. You can take a boat ride around the city, or just walk the cobblestone streets.

No trip to the Wall Street area is complete with out a visit to the famous bull. It’s always fun to watch people pose in front of the bull and wait for them to come up with the brilliant idea of posing next to the giant bull testicles in the back of the sculpture. This happens almost every time. People are very predictable.

It’s also worth it to visit this area at night to see the construction lights of the new World Trade Center.

By this point in our walk, Broadway, the avenue we had been walking down for the entire day, disappeared and we were just hoping that we were still going in the right direction. I hate to admit how many times I’ve walked this area thinking I was going east when really I was going north. It’s super confusing, I tell you!

Finally finally finally, we reached the Staten Island ferry; the southern tip! We quickly posed for a picture and then ran in to use the bathroom and got some more water.

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We made it!

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The Statue of Liberty is hiding somewhere out in that darkness.

We were tired and exhausted at this point, but we couldn’t go all this way with out stopping by the water and enjoying a few moments of peace. It was now 10 pm, but the docks were busy with men who were fishing. They all seemed to know each other and looked at us like we were the odd ones. Perhaps we were the odd ones. After all, who walks the length of Manhattan in one day?

Would I do it again? Absolutely.  I had been to almost every neighborhood we walked through before but it was so nice to see how they all fit together in the massive quilt of diversity that is New York City. Nowhere else can you see so many different styles of architecture and so many different kinds of people. Nowhere else can you eat so many different kinds of food and hear so many different accents and languages. Walking down Manhattan felt like a tour of the world.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (Part 3)

Three weekends ago, Mike and I had the brilliant idea of walking from the northern tip of Manhattan to the southern tip. In the last post, we had just finished walking 100 hundred blocks, or 4.5 miles. We could do this walk every weekend going down a different avenue (avenues run north and south, streets run east and west) and the experience would be totally different. On this particular walk we went down Broadway for the whole trip.

Walking down from 107th st to the 70s, we noticed all the bodegas. Until I met my husband, a Hoosier, I didn’t realize that bodega wasn’t a universal concept. Bodegas are just small grocery stores where you can get everything from plantains to sorbet. They’re on practically every corner of this city. I always love the fruit and flower stands in the front. It’s a nice pop of color on the otherwise gray sidewalks.

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A typical bodega

Finally, we reached the 70s. This is where some of my favorite architecture of NYC stands. When you visit this area, you really get a sense of the wealth and history of old Manhattan. I’ve never been to Paris, but this is what I imagine it to look like (especially The Astonia building).

Next up, we reached Lincoln Center. On this particular day, there was an arts and craft fair and a farmer’s market. We’ve been to Lincoln Center for lots of different shows, but it was nice to see it during the daytime.

As we approached Columbus Circle, we noticed the drastic change in the buildings. Chrome and glass started to appear. Everything got much higher and squarer. No more frilly French architectural details 😦

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The buildings are like the people – so many styles all crammed together.

Alrighty, we’re about to enter midtown. 8 miles down, 5 more to go. Stay tuned!

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Where the Sidewalk Ends (Part 1)

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bright eyed and bushy tailed at the beginning.

I’ve always wanted to walk the length of Manhattan and watch how the neighborhoods change from block to block. Two weeks ago, Mike and I grabbed our water bottles, donned our sneakers and headed  up to the northern tip of Manhattan.

We rode the A train till the last stop in Manhattan, Inwood 207th St. The subway ride was pretty typical: From 42nd St. to Columbus Circle, there were the usual hoards of tourists, pouring over their subway maps, scratching their heads in confusion. When the A train raced past the next few stations (because it is express), a group of Italian tourists jumped up demanding to know why the train wasn’t stopping. This happens every time. We explained that the next stop was in Harlem and they could turn around there. Upon mention of Harlem, they gave us a look that said, “Please don’t mug us.” The next twenty minutes of the ride was silent – the car filled with depressed looking people who just wanted to get home. We got off at the last station, eager to see Manhattan by foot.

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The entrance of Fort Tryon Park

We were immediately taken aback by the beauty of Ft. Tyron Park. It’s easy to forget that Manhattan was once a wooded, swamp land. This park is a great reminder of what Manhattan might have looked like hundreds of years ago.

A stranger asked if we wanted our picture taken (something I always offer to tourists to prove that New Yorkers are not as mean/rude as the stereotypes suggest). It was fun feeling like a tourist in a city I practically grew up in. Everyone knows to go to Central Park when they visit the city, but I’d highly recommend this park. It has a wide open courtyard (with clean bathrooms), rocky hills to explore, and stunning vistas of the Hudson river.

 

If you’re planning a trip to the city, I would recommend a visit to the Cloisters, a medieval castle in Manhattan, and then a picnic in Ft. Tryon. The fall is really the best time to visit because the colors of trees are stunning.

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I’ve never seen this view of the George Washington bridge.

The next twenty blocks were uneventful, but we did eat some pretty amazing empenadas. It’s pretty remarkable how quiet some parts of Manhattan are – I’m so used to the constant noise of midtown. Just as we were getting used to the peace and quiet, we started to notice a lot more honking and traffic; a sure sign of the George Washington Bridge. We tried to take more pictures of the bridge, but there were too many aggressive bikers in their neon spandex, yelling at us to get out of their way – they were in a rush to enjoy the day.

So far that covers the first 2 miles of our journey. Stay tuned for the next 11 miles!

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