Julia’s Guide to New York Part 3: Manhattan East
Begin at Canal Street. Head along Canal and into Chinatown. My favourite parts are around Mott and Mulberry but the whole area is interesting just to see how different it is from other nearby areas. I can never suppress a snigger when I pass Mei Dick barbers. Vietnamese businesses are slowly colonising parts of Chinatown and of course it has Starbucks et al, but it remains a very Chinese neighbourhood. It’s also a great place to pick up a bargain I ♥ NY T-shirt or Hoodie. Haggle hard!
Next, take the J or Z subway (brown) to Essex and Delancey. Head across the street to Orchard Street and visit the Lower East Side Tenement museum. By European standards this isn’t old, but it is for Manhattan and the room sets give a clear picture of what life would have been like for garment workers in this district back in the 19th Century. Architecturally it’s very interesting inside too as some of the rooms are in their original condition complete with years of peeling wallpaper. You can book in advance at www.tenement.org and there are various tours you can book onto which give you a themed talk into an aspect of tenement life that appeals. It really does bring history to life and helps you understand the context of the buildings.
Cross the street and head for 205 East Houston Street, in particular Katz’s deli. This old Jewish deli has been there for years; it’s a New York institution. The food is amazing; the setting is humble. I can recommend the pastrami on rye and you should also taste the knish. Wash it down with an egg cream. This was the setting for the famous fake orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally but as you’ll see from the many pictures that adorn the walls, this is a favourite of many celebrities and politicians as well as the NYPD and FDNY.
Two of my favourite squares are a short walk from each other. Take the subway to Union Square which has a thriving farmers’ market every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It began in 1976 with a few farmers and the number of stallholders has grown steadily to around 140 today. North of Union Square at 23rd Street is Madison Square Park, alongside which you’ll find the triangular Flat Iron Building which dates from 1902.
North via the subway again at 42nd Street is what’s been termed the greatest railway terminal in the world: Grand Central station. It certainly outshines Liverpool Street at rush hour. This building is spectacular on a sunny day when the light shafts in through the windows, rivalling nature’s crepuscular rays. Walk across 42nd Street and pass the Chrysler Building. You can’t go up, but the building is worth a look nevertheless.
Keep heading towards the river for a look at the United Nations Building (44th Street and 1st Avenue). You can book guided tours which are interesting, with the disarmament exhibits particularly poignant. It is necessary to pre-book tickets at http://visit.un.org/wcm/content/site/visitors/home/plan and as with the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State you do have security screening for which you need to allow time.
At 59th Street and Lexington, you’ll find Bloomingdales. Buy a Little Brown Bag and walk a block up to 60th Street. Serendipity 3 is a cute cafe featuring as its signature drink frozen hot chocolate, located at 225 East 60th Street. From there, head for the Roosevelt Island tramway. There isn’t a lot to see on Roosevelt Island itself but this tiny cable car is worth a ride in itself for the view back to Manhattan. Metro cards are accepted. Website http://rioc.ny.gov/tramtransportation.htm has the schedule.
Museum Mile is an integral part of the Upper East Side and my two favourites are both alongside Central Park. The Guggenheim is an amazing building for its architecture, all white curves of loveliness. Frank Lloyd Wright designed this building; if I’m honest, it fascinates me more than the exhibits inside but this is a must-see on your itinerary. Find out about the current exhibits at http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york. Up at 103rd Street is the Museum of the City of New York. Overlooked by many visitors, it tells the story of New York’s growth over time via a must-see film. Exhibits change, but will stay in your mind. A permanent fixture is the Activist New York display, featuring campaigns that range from anti-slavery to the suffragette movement, artefacts such as the Gay Bob doll and changing attitudes to the preservation of historic buildings. While you’re up here, it’s worth crossing the road into Central Park to see its only formal space, the Conservatory Garden, and Harlem Meer.
For dinner, head into Spanish Harlem. A block north of Tito Puente Way, a street named in honour of the outstanding Latino musician though I couldn’t find a plaque, I dined at Amor Cubano. It’s Cuban, obviously, though much around it is Puerto Rican. The food is delicious, the welcome familial and the atmosphere enhanced by live music. Camaradas el Barrio, a couple of blocks away, offers the best Puerto Rican food in the area and again has live music most evenings. But if you want to follow in the footsteps of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett, then there’s only one place to go. Patsy’s Pizzeria has been a favourite since it first opened its First Avenue doors back in 1933.