April 6, 2010

Leisure and Amusement in Manhattan

During my recent visit to New York City I stayed on the Upper West Side. I spent some time walking around that neighborhood in the mornings as I headed out and then again in the evenings as I walked back to go to bed. It is a side of New York average tourists are less likely to see. It is not Park Avenue with its fancy shops and ornate apartment buildings. It is not the Village with its eclectic mix of culture, art, hipsters, and academia. It is not high pressure business stakes of Wall Street or constant hum of the cranes that have perched on Ground Zero since the cleanup and rebuilding began following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This is where ordinary people live. There are city housing communities, apartment buildings, and condominiums. There are corner stores and coffee shops, pizza shops and pharmacies. And there are parks where people sit and read the paper.

But, I also visited other parts of the city on this trip. I walked along Broadway, read a book on the High Line, and had tea with friends at Chelsea Market. I went to Century 21 and shopped in SOHO. I walked and walked and enjoyed the sunshine. And I ate some fantastic food and bought fabulous things to bring home.

While I visited many different places during this visit, there are three cafes that I want to share with you. The first two are new discoveries – and the last one is a long time favorite of mine.

La Bergamote Patisserie
is a small bakery on 9th Avenue in Chelsea. Inside over a one third of the shop is filled with a long counter filled with wonderful French pastries and other delightful edibles. After reading about this bakery on Yelp, I decided a visit was essential. So, one morning I took the subway downtown to have breakfast La Beramote. I ordered some hot chocolate and a croissant and sat at a table along the wall of the cafe. The hot chocolate was very good – mild, creamy, and not too sweet – and my croissant was flaky and excellent! A very cute bakery.

Friday evening after shopping in SOHO my friend and I walked towards Greenwich Village in search of a place for dinner. With the beautiful weather the streets – and cafes – were packed with residents and tourists enjoying the beginning of spring. We ended up in Piadina, a small and cozy Italian ristorante on West 10th Street. Tucked behind a rustic and charming painted sign, the entrance to this restaurant leads you down slightly below street level to a simple brick-walled dining room. There is a very comforting ambiance to this place and the staff is very friendly and accommodating. The menus are presented on wooden clipboards. I ordered rigatoni with eggplant and ricotta cheese with wine. The food was perfect – uncomplicated and delicious!

The last place I want to share with you is back in SOHO. My first visit to MarieBelle – a chocolate shop and cafe on Broome Street – was several years ago, but I am still charmed by this adorable boutique every time I visit. The interior is reminiscent of a romantic Parisian cafe with mirrored walls, chandeliers, and a calming atmosphere. But, the real attraction here is the chocolate. The front half of the store is the chocolate shop where you can purchase fabulous chocolates, confectionaries, and teas. And the back room houses the cafe serving amazing delicacies and beverages (including dark, milk, white, and spicy hot chocolates). I always enjoy visiting MarieBelle whenever I am nearby.

So, I concluded my trip snacking on a bagel as I waited for Bolt Bus to bring me back to Washington. I had a lovely time visiting New York, but I was also happy to be back home with Jonathan!

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