By Caitlin Kelly
Millions of people visit New York City every year. Many of them go to the official places and sights, which are often really crowded and noisy, like Times Square.
I treasure the quieter bits, and this week treated myself to two days’ exploration. What I still enjoy so much is that even a walk of barely 6 or 8 blocks can offer gorgeous architecture, a delicious meal or cocktail, great shopping and people watching.
Below 57th Street lie all sorts of temptations, like Brooks Brothers for classic men’s and women’s clothing and the Roosevelt Hotel.
But the minute you start heading north at 57th. Street, the air thins as you enter one-percent-world. A young woman bashes me with her Chanel purse — and for next few hours it’s just a sea of Gucci, Chanel, Vuitton and Goyard bags, pricy tribal markers.
Alliance Francaise is on East 60th. where I went to buy a concert ticket, and discovered a gorgeous little cafe, Le Bilbouquet, next door. That area is very short of meal options so this is a good one.
New York is about to lose a retail icon, the department store Barney’s, (Madison at 60th.) once a place admired and revered for its style. Now it’s going out of business. I only shopped there a few times, but treasure the Isabel Marant jacket and private-label denim carryall I found there.
The Coach store staff were kind and welcoming, as were those at Fratelli Rossetti, (still wearing a pair of shoes I bought there in 1996!), and for the most amazing gloves, for men and women, Sermoneta.
The Hermes flagship store is gorgeous at 62d. St., opened in 2000. I love their fragrances, and wear Terre, a man’s scent that’s warm and woodsy and delicious.
The stores might be fancy, (and they’ll offer you a welcome bottle of water) but so, so many empty storefronts! I turned around at 68th or so and headed for home.
Take the subway to Bleecker and start with a coffee and croissant at one of my favorite spots, Cafe Angelique. Bleecker crosses Greenwich Village east to west but also (!) north to south. How confusing is that?
This is the easterly most bit. Head east to the Bowery, a north-south street once known as the last refuge of the down-and-and-out and now, of course, gentrified.
I turned south and hit one of the remaining restaurant supply stores, with a dizzying array of everything. I stood in the door, overwhelmed, and stammered: “Do you also sell retail?”
“You have money? All good,” was the reply; I bought a Christmas gift for my husband.
A few doors north is a treasure trove of old New York antiques: chandeliers and tables — but also small, packable items like doorknobs, coat hooks and samovars, Olde Good Things, there since 2013. Want to own glassware or door numbers or cutlery from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel? Greg has them.
I admired a stunning Sputnik-esque enormous chandelier, that he found in a church in the Bronx, and asked his permission (always!) to photograph a few objects.
Same block, all on the west side, offers Caswell-Massey, which sells a tremendous selection of soaps and fragrances, including one George Washington wore. A massive oval bar of soap is $11, and comes in so many fragrances; I bought sandalwood.
Burkelman, at Bond Street, is well-edited and swoon-worthy: rugs, table linens, jewelry, clothing, baskets.
Bar lighting at The Wren
I ate brunch at the bar of The Wren, and savored its atmosphere; cosy, old school.
Cross the Bowery for the elegant riot of John Derian, on East Second St. (north side), with his signature decoupage dishes and plates, Astier de Villatte tableware (at scary prices), notebooks, mirrors, stationery and more.
Next door is Il Buco Vita, filled with hand-made tableware and glasses, an offshoot of the longtime favorite — on Bond Street — Il Buco. Low-key, Italian, it’s been there since 1994, practically unheard of longevity in a city where restaurants open and close within months.
Staggering back west to Broadway along Bond, stop in at the enormous array of temptations at Blick, an art supply store I first discovered years ago in Chicago. I defy anyone to leave empty-handed.
I had a perfect four hours: shopped, ate, people-watched, snapped photos, got Christmas presents, wrapping paper (Blick) and ornaments (John Derian.) Score!