August 20, 2008

A Meandering Walk Uptown to Bryant Park

On Monday I didn't have any particular walk in mind, but on a whim I decided to start walking north. From my usual starting point in Washington Square Park, I meandered around a bit until I found myself in Bryant Park and then the steps of the New York Public Library. As it was lunchtime, I joined the office workers in grabbing a to-go lunch (in this case, the British chain Pret A Manger) and sitting at a table in the park. After lunch, I took in an excellent photo exhibit, Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City, at the main branch of the New York Library. Afterwards, I wandered over to check out the Library Hotel at 41st and Madison (about which I'll say more later), and from there it was just a block or two to Grand Central Terminal and the 6 train back home.

I recommend this walk to visitors. It's only 2.5 miles, and it takes in some famous sites - Union Square, Madison Square, the Flatiron Building, Bryant Park, the NYPL, Grand Central Terminal, but the few blocks on 23rd and up 6th Avenue afford a look at some great buildings while also offering a glimpse in the everyday workings of the city. For example, visitors usually don't think about going into Home Depot, but the building that houses the chain store on W. 23rd. is a beautiful building dating from the 1870s. While browsing the Chelsea Flower Market, I thought the view of the Empire State Building from the intersection of 6th Avenue and W. 28th looked mighty peculiar behind palm fronds.

The walk is also fine for residents needing a medium stroll to walk off last night's dinner. When I'm needing to walk off the Big Apple for any sort of reason, usually STRESS, my modus operandi is driven by the relative distance between two landmarks, for example, from Washington Square Park it's not far to Union Square, and from Union Square it's not that far to Madison Square Park, and from the park it's not that far to 42nd Street, and then 42nd is close to 59th and Central Park, and then, well, maybe the Met.


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While the initial impetus for the walk was vague, I am preparing a long themed walk for September, one that's been in the works for a long time. The area encompassed in this section of New York overlaps the fashionable New York of the mid-19th century. The novelist Edith Wharton was born at 14 W. 23rd Street. If you want to get a start on WOTBA's fall reading, this would be a good time to secure a copy of The House of Mirth. The novel begins in the month of September. The scene is Grand Central Station.

Images: Tropicana ESB, and a planter in Bryant Park (the Radiator Building/Bryant Park Hotel in the distance). More images of the walk at Flickr WOTBA.

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