Posted by: gabriellereneeleblanc | May 12, 2012

I <3 NY in Spring, Part 2

I’m constantly amazed by how much of New York I have yet to see or experience. It’s been two years since I set up residence here, and the city remains a constant source of new discoveries.

For example, today: a clear and beautiful early evening in Harlem. I decided to take a stroll from my residence down Broadway to the Columbia University area. With an hour to kill before I had to board a train for work, it seemed the best way to enjoy some of the fine weather before going inside for my shift–also, I’ve lived here long enough to know the closer one gets to a college campus the more prevalent the Starbucks locations. Coffee is my crack: it’s an addiction I’m not even trying to break.

Latte in hand, I meandered on towards the express stop at 96th street, enjoying the breeze from the Hudson and feeling rather pleased with myself for knowing the city as well as I do. I felt quite at peace, a true resident New Yorker, taking the sights of the city in stride and then, out of nowhere—BAM!—giant statue I’d never seen before! Right there at 106th Street.

Now, this may not seem such a big deal to most, but you have to understand I’ve walked this route countless times since moving to Harlem, and yet somehow managed never to step foot in this particular square of green.

Occurrences such as this are far from rare. That’s the magic of Manhattan! There’s just so much shoved onto this tiny little island, it would take a decade of continuous sight-seeing to discover it all.

Which is yet another reason I encourage visitors to come and experience the city in Spring: you can have an adventure with a simple stroll down the sidewalks. (The most inexpensive excursion of any vacation—free!)

Thirsty from your trek or feeling a bit peckish? No worries. In addition to my beloved Starbucks, there are a countless number of outdoor food vendors that cater to every taste. Even better are the great number of cafes, pubs, and restaurants offering outdoor seating: the perfect spot to watch passing pedestrians and enjoy a glass of sangria.

If you have a hankering to take in the Statue of Liberty, hop aboard the Staten Island Ferry (www.siferry.com) —you’ll enjoy a beautiful boat-ride in the harbor with breathtaking views of the lady in green, at that wonderful price I do so love to advertise. What is that again? Oh, right…FREE!

After the tragedy of 9/11, excursions within the statue were halted for good. The closest you can come now-a-days is a brief tour inside the pedestal—this alone requires a reservation and a hefty fee. Any trip onto the island will cost you a great deal of time and no small amount of cash, as you stand in line in Battery Park, navigate security checks, etc.

So, if it’s the simple pleasure of a picture and a harbor cruise you seek, go with the Ferry. It’s sure to impress. Then, with the extra time and money, you can venture to an entirely different area of the city.

For me, there’s no better way to end a day in the city than with a meal in Little Italy. My favorite restaurant is Buona Notte at 120 Mulberry Street (http://www.buonanottenyc.com/). Remember that sangria I mentioned? Well, theirs is the best in the city! Served by the pitcher in a carafe over-flowing with fresh-cut fruit, it’s the perfect accompaniment to any item on the menu . Of course, Buona’s best attribute is their lovely courtyard. It’s located in the rear of the restaurant: allowing patrons to dine in quiet seclusion while enjoying the temperate weather.

Don’t fill up too much on the bread and lobster ravioli, though. For (if you’re following my game plan) you still have one last place to visit: Ferrara Bakery for coffee and dessert (http://www.ferraracafe.com/). Don’t be fooled by other patisseries claiming “The World’s Best Cannoli”. I haven’t been to Italy (yet), but on the Island of Manhattan there is only one cannoli worth having and Ferrara’s is it.

Yes, it’s a bit of a chain now, with other locations scattered about, but the original flagship store is at 195 Grand Street. It originally opened in 1892 is just as charming now as it ever was. The shining brass accents and wooden tables bring to mind the New York of Godfather Part 2. Opt for table service—it’s worth the small surcharge. Just don’t expect five-star treatment: the service here is famously bad. You’re paying to enjoy your pastries in the splendor of the lovely location, that’s all. And enjoy it you shall! Try the “Trio of Miniatures” for a sample of your favorites, with a café mocha or hot chocolate.

Don’t worry about consuming those extra calories: you’re in New York, in Spring—you can always just walk it off!

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