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Posts Tagged ‘West Village’

Some of my favorite places in the world

In cities, culture, life, travel on September 28, 2014 at 12:15 am

By Caitlin Kelly

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I started traveling young — when my parents removed the back seat of our family car and drove from Vancouver, my birthplace, to Mexico, a country I’ve since visited many times. I was two.

So constant motion and long-distance travel just feel normal to me!

In the next few weeks, we’ll be in Pennsylvania, near New Hope; in D.C. and suburban Maryland and on the Delaware River, each time visiting with friends who live there. I love getting away, even for a few days.

In December, Jose and I fly to Paris for Christmas, where we’ve been loaned an apartment. I then have five days in London alone visiting another friend, then another week alone there to do….I have no idea!

Which is my definition of bliss.

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Berlin? Amsterdam? Antwerp? A quick flight to my new friend in Bahrain?

Nothing in the world makes me happier than a travel adventure.

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Here, in no special order, are some of my favorite places around the world:

Porto Rico Coffee and Tea, Bleecker Street, NYC

Porto Rico Coffee and Tea, Bleecker Street, NYC

 

A battered railing on East 9th Street, NYC

A battered railing on East 9th Street, NYC

 

The West Village and East Village of Manhattan

Having lived in a suburb of New York City for more than 20 years, I never tire of wandering these two quieter and residential edges of the city: battered 19th-century doors and weathered stone steps, enormous 18th-cenury churches, cobblestoned, tree-lined streets and elegant brownstone houses with their ornate black metal railings and tall, narrow windowed doors. The area’s many cafes, restaurants and small shops include Porto Rico for coffee and tea, Bosie’s or Tea and Sympathy for a seated afternoon tea and Morandi for spaghetti carbonara. The best perfume shop in the city is on Christopher Street, Aedes de Venustas.

Yorkville, Toronto

I’ve been visiting this chic spot since my childhood in Toronto. The Papery sells lovely stationery; the Craft Ontario shop offers terrific and affordable pottery, jewelry and Eskimo art a new store, Ca Va de Soi, recently opened there, selling the loveliest women’s sweaters. (Queen Street West gets all the attention. I like it a lot, but Yorkville is easier to manage, cleaner and safer.)

San Francisco

Such an elegant city! Spectacular views, great sailing, that bridge, the beaches and Marin County, a landscape of staggering beauty. I ate here, at the Presidio Social Club, in 2012 and loved every minute of it — a former military barracks set in a park. Sacramento Street has dozens of small, gorgeous shops.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Watching the sun rise, filling every valley in the Andes as it came towards us, remains one of the highlights of my life.

One of the eeriest and most memorable sights of my life -- a lunar landscape I saw, alone in the rain, while traveling alone by mo-ped

Corsica

Corsica

I spent five amazing days here, alone, traveling the north of this island by mo-ped, with a top speed of about 45 mph. It was  July and the heated maquis, the scrubby fragrant underbrush, smelled like very good pipe tobacco. Craggy mountains, deep valleys, steep oceanside cliffs. Great food, welcoming people. I wept so hard when the plane took off for Nice the poor flight attendant thought I was injured or dying. Few places have touched me as deeply.

Kenya and Tanzania

I saw both, on safari, in my 20s. The Maasai Mara in Kenya and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania are unforgettably beautiful, filled with wild animals. It’s expensive to get there, but worth every penny to see a landscape that reminds us we’re only one late-arriving species. (Once you see animals in the wild, zoos seem sad and pointless.)

Mae Hong Son, Ko Phi Phi, Bangkok, Thailand

I spent 21 days in Thailand in January 1994 and remember every detail. MHS is a tiny town in the far north; KPP is a sliver of an island two hours by boat from the southern town of Krabi and crowded, humid Bangkok feels like an out-take from Blade Runner. I loved everything about my time there: food, people, flowers, astounding landscapes. If only it wasn’t 19 hours’ flying time away!

Stockholm

Oddly, we went there in November, a time of year when the sun barely rises at 8:30 and is gone by 3:00 p.m. It was staggeringly expensive, but worth it. The colors! The light! I loved the Vasa Museum — a ship launched with great fanfare in 1628, and which promptly sank in the harbor. It’s amazing — you climb a scaffolding so you’re literally face to face with history. I loved everything about this city, especially its attention to design, detail and light. I’m eager to return, preferably in summer.

Lakeside at Manoir Hovey, Quebec

Lakeside at Manoir Hovey, Quebec

The Eastern Townships, Quebec

We return every two years to Manoir Hovey, a five-star inn on Lake Massawippi. The area itself is lovely in every season, dotted with small towns and a gently rolling landscape. There’s skiing, horseback riding, winding roads to cycle, a stunning monastery — and Montreal 90 minutes north. If you’re a fan of best-selling mystery writer Louise Penny, this region will feel familiar, as that’s where she lives, and sets her stories.

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT CAITLIN KELLY 2013.

The Grand Canyon

If you make one journey in your lifetime, make it here. Seriously. And don’t just drive to the edge, snap a few pics and drive away…You must walk deep into it (twice as long to come back up! take plenty of water!) to best experience a place that so powerfully reminds us what a mere eye-blink in time our lives represent. The light, the silence, the hawks and foxes and fossils…Few places so richly reward sitting still for an hour just to watch the light shifting and the landscape changing every minute as it does.

Ireland

I’ve been, (so far), four times; my father owned a house near Galway City for a few years. Hard to name anything I don’t love about this small, friendly, gorgeous country….not to mention my heritage! My great-grandfather was a schoolteacher in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal. Get out to the Aran Islands top see shaggy cows the exact color of Guinness, or wander the streets of Dublin. For a bit of craic, try the annual matchmakers festival in Lisdoonvarna, which I wrote about for the Washington Post. Lots of shy bachelor farmers!

The window of Nevis House, 1843, Irvington, NY

The window of Nevis House, 1835, Irvington, NY

The Hudson Valley, New York

Home! I moved here in 1989 and love its history, landscapes, the Palisades, the Hudson River. The river towns — Irvington, Tarrytown, Ossining — line the Hudson, with quiet parks and access to the water. Lots of great restaurants and  cafes…ancient churches and graveyards…winding roads, fantastic views. Visit Olana to see a spectacular example of 19th century architecture and West Point to visit an American icon.

The view from our balcony across the Hudson River

The view from our balcony across the Hudson River

(all images, Caitlin Kelly)

What are some of your favorite spots?

Bleecker Street: cupcakes, coffee and guitars

In beauty, business, cities, culture, life, travel, urban life, US on April 26, 2014 at 3:07 am

By Caitlin Kelly

When people dream about visiting New York City, they usually think of Times Square, (noisy, dirty and horribly jammed with other tourists), or Fifth Avenue, (now depressingly lined with Big Box retail names, with a line-up to get into Abercrombie, selling the same schmatte you can find in Iowa or Kansas), or maybe 42d Street — all movie theaters and junky restaurants.

I always urge visitors to head instead for one of my all-time favorites, Bleecker Street.

It runs the width of the city through Greenwich Village and goes from a north-south axis on the west side to a west-east, (or vice versa!) route after dog-legging at Seventh Avenue.

Those of us who’ve lived here a few decades remember the old, funky, dusty Bleecker, with the Japanese store and Afghan store, Nusraty’s, filled with jewelry and rugs and Leo Design, now a few blocks west on Hudson Street, which sells a wonderful mix of early boxes, mirrors, pottery and decorative objects, much of it English.

Here’s how bad it’s getting:

Bleecker Street Records was reportedly ousted from their space at 239 Bleecker by a rent increase that would have required the store pay $27,000 a month in rent. Fortunately, the store has found a new place in the neighborhood—no small feat given the escalating rents and the competition from stores intent on replicating the vibe of an outdoor shopping mall or a high-end highway rest stop: the advertisement for Bleecker Street Records’ former space boasted of its proximity to Amy’s Bread, David’s Tea, L’Occitane and 16 Handles.

Here’s an excellent post from one of my favorite blogs, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, detailing the huge and rapid gentrification of this once charmingly bohemian street:

New York Magazine publishes a major profile of the Bleecker boom in an article on micro-neighborhoods: “Soho took fifteen years to become a handbag colony. Bleecker took only three.” One local shopper complains, “I’m not so happy about the Guccis and the Polos coming in here. It seems like we’re losing our neighborhood feel.”

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Today, the western bit of Bleecker is crazy expensive, a long line of spendy designer shops like Ralph Lauren, Lulu Guinness and New York jewelry-maker Alexis Bittar, whose distinctive work is beautiful indeed; here’s a pair of his earrings.

Here’s a blog post naming it one of the world’s best shopping streets; true if you’re planning to drop serious coin. If you like perfume, French perfumer Annick Goutal recently opened a shop on the street.

The original Magnolia Bakery — which opened in 1996 purveying cupcakes — is still there.

But stay with it and head east, and you’ll find the block between Seventh and Sixth a fabulous mix of food to buy and food to eat: Murray’s Cheese, Amy’s Bread, Rocco’s pastry and Porto Rico Coffee and Tea, in business since 1907, with the most wonderful store interior — enormous battered tins of tea and dozens of huge burlap bags of coffee beans beneath a pressed-tin ceiling.

Don’t miss it! You can find every imaginable kind of coffee bean and loose tea, mugs, string shopping bags, even some spices and candy. It’s one of my favorite places anywhere.

And Blind Tiger, an ale house I used to drink in in the 1990s when it was on Hudson Street.

At the east end is this theater, which I recently visited for the first time.

And this elegant restaurant, Saxon and Parole, where Bleecker ends at the Bowery. It’s a great-looking space but expensive; the cheapest entree was a $18 hamburger.

Here’s one of my favorite songs, by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, about it:

Fog’s rollin’ in off the East River bank
Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street
Fills the alleys where men sleep
Hides the shepherd from the sheep

Voices leaking from a sad cafe
Smiling faces try to understand
I saw a shadow touch a shadow’s hand
On Bleecker Street

A poet reads his crooked rhyme
Holy, holy is his sacrament
Thirty dollars pays your rent
On Bleecker Street

I head a church bell softly chime
In a melody sustainin’
It’s a long road to Caanan
On Bleecker Street
Bleecker Street

Here’s a fantastic, photo-studded blog post detailing Bleecker Street.

 Is there a street in your city or town that you especially treasure? (In my hometown, Toronto, I like Queen Street, East and West, Kensington and Yorkville/Cumberland.)

Tell us about it!

A cloudy fall Manhattan afternoon

In beauty, behavior, cities, life, urban life, US on October 26, 2012 at 12:03 am
English: McNulty's Tea & Coffee - located on 1...

English: McNulty’s Tea & Coffee – located on 109 Christopher Street . This is one of my favorite stores. Go!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I take the subway south to Christopher Street from Grand Central Station.

Across from me on the train is a lean, tall, attractive woman in her 40s, maybe 50s. Not an ounce of body fat. Her male companion is equally attractive, equally lean. She’s wearing white skinny jeans tucked into low red suede boots. His hair is salt and pepper, very well cut.

Tourists.

There are always clues — his messenger bag has an unfamiliar label. They are unusually quiet, speaking so low I can barely hear them, in what sounds like Dutch.

I get out of the subway and cross Seventh Avenue to my hairdresser, whose three-chair salon feels like home. I found him more than a decade ago through my husband, (now bald), who came to him when he had hair and Alex was over on Carmine Street. Now he’s on Grove, in the West Village, my favorite Manhattan neighborhood of all, with its low 19th and 18th century buildings, narrow and cobblestoned streets, sheltering trees, its cozy cafes and well-loved indie bookstores tucked into battered little spaces with pressed tin ceilings and worn wooden floors — a place whose intimacy is best experienced on foot, walking slowly, noticing things.

My hairdresser is a classic New Yorker, a gruff guy in his late 40s, maybe early 50s. No bullshit. Someone calls him and starts asking the prices of every possible service. “Are you starting your own salon and looking for pricing?” he asks.

And yet I’ve seen him bend over and offer a gentle, shy kiss to his clients, outer-borough women in their 70s and beyond, one of whom came in a wheelchair with her attendant. Everyone comes to Hairhoppers: trendy young bankers, lawyers, museum curators, a few Uptown blonds. We remember all his assistants, and ask after them, even years after they’ve left, like Brie, who moved to San Diego and got married, and Eddie, who now works uptown, and John.

This day, I’m sharing the space with a state attorney and a retired English teacher. We’re soon deep into passionate conversation about the economy, hard to avoid as we’re all barely feet from one another. There’s no brittle status anxiety here, but one of those rare and special places where strangers immediately feel comfortable, often trading phone numbers after a lively exchange. The teacher and I are talking so much I keep turning my head and Alex gives up cutting. He’s pissed. Chastened, I stare straight into the mirror, and talk to her reflection.

I cross Seventh and head to one of my favorite restaurants, Morandi, to eat outside, even though it’s gray and drizzly. A man with two sons sits nearby, someone famous in a baseball cap, but I can’t remember who.

A blond man in a T-shirt is pacing the sidewalk, on his cellphone, deeply disturbed. “But can he sing? I have to find an arranger, and book a studio and I don’t even know if he can sing. He can’t?”

A man in a black suit, carrying a garment bag, joins his companion behind me. Lawyers, one of whom seems to want to change jobs. “If Romney wins, my heart just won’t be in this work anymore.” They discuss the machinations of the Senate. Can’t tell if they mean state or federal. I love eavesdropping, and look as though I’m reading a book, which I also am.

Two Town Cars pull up, waiting, rain-beaded. A handsome stocky man exits the restaurant with his son, maybe 11, his blond wife with her $1,200 Stella McCartney handbag, and another woman. They jump into the Town Cars and drive away.  I wonder how the world appears to a young boy for whom so luxurious a life  — a $50 lunch, an idling limousine and driver — is routine, expected.

I stop into Greenwich Letterpress to sigh over the beauty of their work, and pick up a price list for their business cards. The samples offer many familiar names, of writers, designers, photographers. I finally feel a bit like a New Yorker, knowing who they are. They’ll charge $340 for 250 cards. Hmmm, is every contact I meet worth $1.36?

I suspect it would take me more than a year to distribute that many cards. In today’s melting-ice-floe economy, who knows which professional identity I’ll be using by then?

Running late for my 3:20 train, I cab it to Grand Central and am so late I have to buy my ticket on the train — paying double the price, punished for my tardiness. In the space of six hours, I’ve spent more than $250, grateful I can afford it right now.

Manhattan often feels like an expensive lover who, exquisitely and charmingly and with great certainty of purpose, shakes your pockets empty.

I dive into “Canada”, Richard Ford’s new novel, as the Hudson River flashes by on my left, the fall colors muted in the mist.

Eating Out In New York City? Go Here

In business, cities, design, food, travel on January 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm
This is actually Tom's Restaurant, NYC. Famous...

Tom's Diner, UWS, immortalized by Seinfeld and Suzanne Vega...Image via Wikipedia

Check this out — a new downtown Manhattan restaurant that will totally change its decor and menus every month.

That space has special meaning for me and my sweetie of eleven years, for in it we had our third date when it was a French bistro named Le Jardin. We loved eating in its grape-arbored backyard, a rustic rarity in downtown Manhattan.

Here’s a list of favorite New York City restaurants from one of my favorite blogs, Eater NY.

Some of my own hangouts made the list; I’ve lived just north of NYC since 1989:

Bars

Old Town Bar. Noisy and crowded in the evening, but great for a quiet lunch. Founded in 1892, its booths are battered and worn, like stepping into a sepia photograph. Head up the narrow steep stairs for a quieter experience in the restaurant upstairs.

Dublin House. Dive bar! Great jukebox. An unlikely find in the pricey upper West Side.

Fanelli’s. Love its heavy etched glass doors and narrow bar. Like Old Town, it’s more than 100 years old, so go for the setting, not the food.  Stop in for a Guinness as you stumble through Soho.

Temple Bar. Look for the small glowing lizard inset — no sign! — into the wall on Lafayette Street. This bar is a tiny, intimate jewelbox. Perfect for a romantic date. Dress up!

The King Cole Room. A drink will cost a small fortune, but worth it for a taste of true old-school elegance at the St. Regis Hotel. Savor the gorgeous Maxfield Parrish mural behind the bar that gives it its name.

Cafes

Cafe Cluny. Tiny, perfect, neutral colors. Not cheap but worth it.

Cafe Angelique. Perpetually jammed with bankers and European tourists, this pretty spot has good food in an interesting neighborhood, the West Village. Fuel up here for your shopping on $$$$$$$ Bleecker.

Caffe Reggio. Crammed with NYU students at its small tables, it’s the perfect spot on a cold winter’s afternoon for a cappuccino and cannoli. Opened in 1927, its ochre walls are covered with art.

Grey Dog. The best! I love its rustic interior, friendly staff, comfy tables. Settle in with your NYT and savor.

Restaurants

Gramercy Tavern. The room is gorgeous, the service elegant, the food delicious. Still thriving after 17 years!

La Grenouille. I had lunch upstairs last year and it was one of the loveliest experiences ever. Hushed, old-school, formal, delicious, expensive. Founded 49 years ago, it has an elegance hard to find and one to cherish.

Toloache. This three-year-old Theater District Mexican is one of my absolute favorites. I love their small, freshly made margaritas, their delicate hand with portion sizes and sauces, friendly service. I love the look of the two-story room, with its hand-painted tile mural. This is high-end dining, not boring old fajitas/tacos/burritos.

Red Cat. Few restaurants in Manhattan last, but this one has. Red Cat is welcoming, warm, lovely to sit in and offers great food at reasonable prices.

Morandi. One of Keith McNally’s faux-aged see-and-be-seen spots, I love it anyway. Sit at the bar and enjoy one of the city’s best spaghetti carbonaras.

Balthazar. Another McNally spot, opened in 1997. Heaven. Huge room, high ceilings, stylish crowd, great food. As close to Paris as you can get on this side of the Atlantic.

Cafe Boulud. We recently treated ourselves to the three-course prix fixe lunch ($35 pp) with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone for $28. The room is calm, quiet, lightened with antiqued mirrors and crisp, bright watercolors. The service is excellent, the food lovely, presentation fab — my vitello tonnato came on a slab of slate, my banana/ice cream dessert de-constructed into three pockets of a white china dish. Can’t wait to go back.

New York Noodletown. Cheap, delicious, cheap, delicious. The white plastic tablecloths and line-up of people eyeing your table reminds me of all my favorite (hometown) Toronto spots on Spadina.

Daddy-o. I just discovered this 12-year-old tiny little corner restaurant with a great burger. Any restaurant lasting more than a decade in Manhattan is doing something very right!


What are your New York favorites?

Manhattan — With A Cane

In cities, travel on May 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Bleecker Street, the old one — the bit that runs east-west is the place to be. Many benches, like every block. Two lovely little pocket parks right at 6th. Avenue. Whew!

Being able to sit down and rest is a blessing, and a rare one in Manhattan. It’s either that or fall to the pavement, not a good look.

Everyone was nice, wishing me the best, wondering why a relatively young-looking woman is clicking along with a cane; the arthritic hip is out of control, a knife twist almost every hour this week, so I finally said the hell with it and took it with me into the city today. Now carrying three kinds of pain relief in my bag: patches, cream and gelcaps of Advil. So fun.

The city is full of tourists for the holiday and lots of sailors in their gorgeous, crisp whites because it’s Fleet Week. Plenty of street parking as everyone flees — I waited for 10 minutes while some poor local wrestled a surfboard onto the top of his already-crammed minivan — to claim his West Village spot.

Distances, certainly in the Village, aren’t far so I managed to have lots of fun within a six-block radius: found a summer cologne for the sweetie at Avignone, a terrific old, privately-owned pharmacy; bread at Amy’s; coffee and tea from my favorite purveyor, Porto Rico; a haircut; lunch at Cafe Angelique and an Asian dinner at a sidewalk table.

A Legendary Manhattan Street, Ruined

In business, cities on May 3, 2010 at 7:50 am
NEW YORK - MARCH 20:  Cars are parked near the...

This is what's left of the real Bleecker. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Hey, if you love Marc Jacobs, you’ll love the new, shiny Bleecker Street, that odd dog-leg of a street that starts out running north-south in the West Village before turning east-west. He’s got five stores on this strip, leaving some street-lovers, like me, mourning the old Bleecker.

I’ve been loving that street since I moved here in 1988, but have watched its hideous yuppification over the past decade with dismay. Nusrati — that crazy corner emporium of jewels and tunics and rugs, out — Ralph Lauren store, in.

Gone is the great Japanese store, several antiques stores, bookstores. Now it’s all faux hipsters and cell-phone-photo-snapping tourists thrilled to be able to shop all the Big Name Designers they can find at home in their malls in Shanghai and Rome and Tulsa, but still cop a Magnolia Cupcake a block away.

Reports The Wall Street Journal:

Other retailers that recently signed new leases and are open or expect to be operating soon include: menswear shop Freemans Sporting Club, French retailer A.P.C. and a bookstore from fashion designer Marc Jacobs—his fifth shop on this stretch of Bleecker. Molly’s Cupcakes and Echelon Cycles have also closed on deals.

Even the William Gottlieb estate—the area’s largest private landlord and one with a reputation for letting leases expire and stores remain vacant for an extended time—is aggressively courting new tenants. It recently hired brokers Ripco Real Estate and CB Richard Ellis. Spokeswoman Lin-Hua Wu says the estate “has signed a number of new commercial and residential leases in the past several months.”

Not everyone, of course, welcomes the influx of retailers. The makeover of Bleecker’s once sleepy stretch of antique shops, pet stores and dry cleaners began when Marc Jacobs arrived in 2001. Even before the area’s newest retailers open their doors, they are already generating angst among long-time West Village residents.

“I hear more complaints about gentrification than about the boarded-up stores in the neighborhood,” says Kim Herzinger, owner of Left Bank Books, who decided to relocate his shop to Eight Avenue from West 4th Street off Bleecker after his lease expired in January.

When the lease for a Laundromat or deli expires and is handed off to a fashion accessory shop, residents complain their quality of life suffers. “Everybody misses the services,” says Marilyn Dorato, a local resident who presides over the Greenwich Village Block Association. “You can’t get a pair of shoes repaired around here anymore.”

If you’ve never heard it, play “Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.” by Simon and Garfunkel, on which they memorialized the street in this beautiful ballad:

Fog’s rollin’ in off the East River bank
Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street
Fills the alleys where men sleep
Lies the shepherd from the sheep
Voices leaking from a sad cafe
Smiling faces try to understand
I saw a shadow touch a shadow’s hand
On Bleecker Street
A poet reads his crooked rhyme
Holy, holy is his sacrament
Thirty dollars pays your rent
On Bleecker Street
I head a church bell softly chime
In a melody sustainin’
It’s a long road to Caanan
On Bleecker Street
Bleecker Street.

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