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Walking Around Manhattan


Roger, my husband, enjoys everything he does. I think that's why it's fun to do things with him. When our kids were young, I would ask them if they wanted to go to the supermarket with me. They knew that we would buy the groceries on my list and then come home. I ended up going alone. When Roger would ask if anyone wanted to go on an errand with him, everyone would want to go – even my dog -- because his trip would entail stops along the way to pick up treats or to explore something he hadn't noticed before.

I first read about a walk around Manhattan in an article in the New Yorker. Although I don't recall the specifics, the writer and at least one friend had walked all around the borough, about 24 miles, in one day, stopping to eat at various restaurants. I had been interested in doing the full walk in one day, but Roger suggested doing it in sections. As Roger sees it, the fun of such a walk is in discovering new places, in letting himself be distracted by what he finds along the way. I enjoy walking itself which I don't think Roger does; but, for me, the real pleasure is in completing a goal. In addition to our individual objectives, we were both curious about how much of the anticipated Greenway around Manhattan has been completed. However, our plan was not to follow the Greenway, but to keep as close as we could to the waterways around Manhattan.

Last year we had started out, without any particular agenda in mind. We walked from 79th Street and Riverside Drive, where we live, along the Hudson River to 125th Street where we went shopping at the uptown Fairway and then took a taxi home. We never went on to the next stage. This spring I was determined to complete the project. I planned to get up and get out of the apartment with Roger on four Sunday mornings and circle the city. I did not look at a map before we left; I just determined to keep water on our right.


First Stage, Sunday, February 25, 2007: West 79th Street south to Battery Park City

Roger, Kacey (our Jack Russell Terrier), and I started our walk on Sunday morning about 8 am. Roger had mentioned it the day before and the morning felt warm enough to make a start. It was chilly, about 30 degrees, but with some sun when we started. I left the apartment as I do for my morning walks with the dog – dressed but without anything extra. I wore long underwear under my jeans and I'm glad I did. I also wore my dog-walking jacket so after it became brighter out and we saw more people, I really felt sloppy. I took a few dog biscuits, a couple of plastic bags to pick up Kacey's poop, and a bottle of water. We went into Riverside Park at 79th Street, through the Rotunda, and then south until we got past the Trump City area. Having taken that walk several times previously, it was not very interesting to me. Roger wanted to walk out on each pier so we did go a further distance than one might imagine from counting the blocks. We then saw where the Intrepid had been and below that we encountered a helicopter port where Roger stopped to inquire prices and seriously considered taking a 17-minute tour down to the Statue of Liberty and up to the George Washington Bridge for $200. Since 9/11 helicopter tours are not allowed to fly over Manhattan. I quickly told him that he could do this another day. I regretted that I had no money in my pockets so I was a little too dependent on staying with him for my comfort. Just below the heliport we stopped at a ferry slip. The ferry goes to New Jersey and back – we could see the stop across the Hudson. Roger suggested we take the boat, but I insisted that we stick with our original plan. We used the rest rooms, the water fountain, and I had a coffee while Roger had a root beer. It was nice to sit inside, looking out at the Hudson and rest for a moment.

Everywhere there were signs of parks and lovely facilities being built along the Hudson. Many of the new areas along the west side of Manhattan have long, unusual grass growing in them with signs that they are “dog free” zones. They don't want dogs walking, urinating, or pooping on the grass. For most of the Greenway along the west side, there was one path for bicyclers and one for walkers and joggers. Near the West Village the walk became very interesting as the banks of the river were more natural. Roger has been talking about swimming across the Hudson to New Jersey so I kept teasing him by looking for places where he might leave from. We found one real sandy beach, but Roger is convinced that the Hudson is less polluted the further north you are.

As we got to Battery Park City I saw the Sod House, the monument to the Irish Potato Famine. I had read about this being installed and then having difficulty with upkeep so I was glad to visit it. For once it was a diversion that I wanted to make, in part because it was not at all out of our way and Kacey could walk through it with us. The whole monument is open. The basic house is built from stone and was removed in its entirety from Ireland. The entryway has quotations about starvation and oral commentaries on historical starvation. You walk through the house and then above it, following a path past rocks chiseled with the names of the counties of Ireland. I really enjoyed the openness and accessibility of the monument. Roses and flowers grow on the grass and among the stones. It is a bit of the old country right in the middle of the city.

In lower Manhattan there was an area where dogs were not allowed to walk so I had to take to the street while Roger finished up near the river. I feared that we would get separated and I would end up having to walk back uptown with Kacey since I didn't have money with me. But the area was not extensive. We both ended up at Fort Clinton and we observed the #1 subway train stop at South Ferry where we could start again next time.

I was eager to go home but Roger wanted to walk over to the South Street Seaport for something to eat. I was cold and tired at that point and not a very good sport. Roger has always loved the South Street Seaport area while I find it boring and commercial. Roger could not find the seafood restaurant he was looking for and he ended up getting me a latte and himself an espresso and a biscotti. We then jumped into a cab and went home for $18.00 plus tip. Next week I will dress a bit better and try to put on some makeup before we start. I want to bring my own money, credit cards, and my cell phone as there are some lonely stretches along the way. Roger suggested we not bring the dog next week so that we can go into restaurants. For me the walking is the most important part and Kacey was fun and uncomplaining. I suggested that we see how she does with this trip, lest she be particularly tired later on. I was glad we had made a start at it. We had no difficulty with the amount of walking we did. Our major difficulty was in finding places to urinate.


Second Stage, Sunday, March 4, 2007: Battery Park City north to East 96th Street

We left home around 8.30 in the morning after I had taken Kacey out for a short walk. Roger said that we should not bring Kacey although she had done so well last time. I agreed to try the walk without her. We both thought it was going to be warmer than it was. We took the subway down to Battery Park. We walked in the wrong direction at the ferry slip and then went back and righted ourselves so that we began where we left off last time. We walked along to the South Street Seaport where we had coffee but the public bathroom was locked. A little further on we used a bathroom at a lovely restaurant with many books, natural food, and a container of dog biscuits on the counter that made me sorry we had not brought Kacey. The most difficult part was along the East River maybe in the 40s or 50s where the Greenway abruptly runs into the F.D.R. Drive. We tried to follow along the highway on a small area, raised like a sidewalk, that was a little more than a foot wide. I felt it was very dangerous, but once we had gone a ways, I didn't want to walk back and lose our position. There was no way to cross the highway to get to the streets on the east side as there was too much traffic and a large lane divider. Just before the raised area beside the highway disappeared altogether as the road went into tunnel, we climbed over a small fence. There was a pedestrian bridge, seemingly inaccessible to pedestrians as the parks were currently laid out, that led over the highway towards the east side streets. It was a bridge to nowhere. As we were walking along Sutton Place and Roger said, "I think this is where Rick Marick lives," and then we saw Rick leaving his building. We laughed.

While walking on the east side, we assumed we could go back to the path along the river at 63rd street. From a distance we saw the Jane Adams Smith House Museum, the Mount Vernon Hotel as it is called, a hotel from the early 1800s where people used to go for the day. I had noticed the building before and been curious about the building, and so we decided to take the tour. We were told the early visitors would have taken a coach up or gone by horseback to the day hotel from lower Manhattan, but we knew it could also have been a nice walk. It is strange to think that this part of the city was the country so recently. It was a pleasant tour although little of the furnishings were original. Then, once we regained the area along the East River, we kept going until 96th Street. The Greenway is wide and comfortable and popular along this upper east side area. We got off the Greenway at 96th Street and had lunch at Don Pedro's. When Roger showed me this restaurant, where he had a business lunch the week before, I suddenly understand why he hadn't wanted to bring Kacey. The food was similar to that in Puerto Rico; I just didn't really like it but it was okay. We took a bus down Second Avenue to 79th street and then across town on 79th and arrived home in the early afternoon. We both felt as though we had put in a long day, but we were not tired by the walking.


Third Stage, Sunday, March 1, 2007: East 96th Street north to the northern end of Manhattan and then south to Dykeman Street (200th Street)

We left home about 8.30, without the dog. I didn't argue it this time as I couldn't figure out how to easily get her over to the east side. We took the bus across the entire length of 79th Street. At the end of the bus line I had to pee so we went into a coffee shop and had coffee and then took an uptown bus to 96th. The walk north was great as along this portion of the east side there are signs pointing out many attractions – the east side bridges and the Harlem Speedway, for example. But once we had walked further north, we found the Greenway came to an end. In northernmost Manhattan we cut back and forth a few times between streets and the shore and finally found ourselves in Swindler's Cove Park, an area that has been fixed up by Bette Midler. Roger recognized the area from an appeal for money that he had been sent that included cards with pictures of the park. He had not donated before, but pledged to do so after seeing the area in person. It was just beautiful there. No one was around except a park ranger who told us that we had a choice to either stay on the Greenway (which was marked through the streets) or go through the industrial area close to the river. We chose to go close to the river. Beyond Swindler's Cove we had a long walk to where we could take a bridge across the highway to the streets when we could walk no further along the river. Eventually we got to an area where we had to walk through a construction site. We kept going, on streets, moving towards the water wherever we could. Where we were forced onto the street at one point we went into a bakery and ordered coffee and sweet potato pie. Roger got into a discussion with the bakery owner and he didn't charge us for the pie. It was delicious!

We consider our options. Roger wanted to go to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and then maybe have lunch at Wimps or the Dinosaur. My idea had been to walk as far as the #1 subway stop. We did none of those things, but kept walking. It was a bit industrial up at the northern end and we could see across to the Bronx where there was a Target and many people crossing a small bridge. We walked along the Spuyten Divel area and the start of the Hudson River from which we could see the bridge at the top of the Henry Hudson Parkway as well as the Amtrak line next to the Hudson River. We stopped to see the Columbia University sports facilities guarded by a beautiful lion statue, a gift of a graduating class. Roger enjoyed a peek at Bakers Field where he had occasionally attended football games when in law school. At the top of Manhattan we entered Inwood Park and that was lovely. We went to the nature center there and learned that this area is where Peter Minuet bought Manhattan. It was the last wild section of the island. Thank goodness it has been preserved! We then walked along the Hudson until we got to the Dykeman marina – I think this is a little above 200th Street. Walking east on Dykeman Street, looking for the subway, we found a lovely restaurant named Mamajuana where we had an all you can eat brunch for $15 each with free coffee and mimosas. It was very tasty. I ate cheese, salad, hash brown potatoes, rice and beans, and steak. There were also pancakes and frittata and they would make any kind of omelet you wanted.

To get home we started off in an 11 bus and then transferred to the 5 down Riverside. We got home about 4 o'clock. It was a long but good day. I had thought it would warm up along the way, but it never really did. I had put on a turtleneck over my tee shirt, then a sweatshirt under my fleece, and I was glad of it. I thought I was going to be shedding layers, but never did. I was glad to have gloves with me. It was warm walking into the sun going up the east side, but the north of Manhattan was windy and cool.

So these walks have never ended up as either of us expect them to, but we have really enjoyed ourselves. The views are beautiful and it's just fun to see areas we have never been before. We do a little bit less sightseeing that Roger would like and don't get home quite as quickly as I would like, but we both have a great time.

Note: On Saturday, March 17, I had hoped to finish the walk, but after a freak storm, it was cold outside and unpleasant underfoot. Plus, we feared we wouldn't be able to see where we were. Now we will have to wait a few weeks before we finish as next weekend we go to Southampton and then we are off to Florida for spring break. I feel like I am losing momentum! Having started this project, I would like to finish it.


Fourth Stage, Sunday, April 08, 2007: West 79th Street north to Dykeman Street

We had a fairly lengthy discussion this morning as to how to finish up the walk. Roger thought we only need to walk from Dykeman (which we can reach with the #1 subway) to 125th Street because of our walk last year. I thought we have to come back to 79th Street. But it disturbed me to some extent to walk clockwise when the rest of our walk had been counterclockwise. I wanted to take the dog in her carry case by subway up to Dykeman Street and then to walk down the west side and arrive home in time for lunch. Roger wanted not to take the dog because he wanted to walk uptown from here and have lunch on Dykeman and then go to the Cloisters or the Schomburg Center. I was walking to accomplish a goal I had set for myself and Roger was walking to discover new areas of interest and things to do. I believe that his way is really better than mine, as it can lead to wonderful experiences like our exploration of the Sod House and the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum. Even though it's hard for me to relax and enjoy the moment, I decided to try it Roger's way. So I told the dog to stay (she cried) and we started walking north from 79th Street to meet up with where we had ended our last walk even though it just didn't seem right to me.

The weather was cold and I was glad I had put on the long underwear I had put away in my closet for the season two weeks ago. The area above West 83rd Street down by the river, along Riverside Drive, is now closed. You have to walk along the promenade (which is itself being resurfaced) and then go back down to the river at 91st Street. We stopped at Fairway uptown and had coffee and used the bathrooms. We were on the streets for a while above that and then followed the Greenway once more – it is just about a clear shot up the west side. One place had a picture of the Greenway with its history and attractions, but the sign had been spray painted with graffiti so that we could not read most of it. Along the way, several people were fishing in the river. We passed a few dog walkers, joggers, and bicyclists, but not too many. One woman was playing ball with her enormous dog in the park and from a distance we both wondered if it was a pony – it turned out to be a very large Great Dane. We both peed in a lonely area along the river as the one bathroom we saw was locked.

We were thrilled to see the little red lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge. Roger was intrigued by the lighthouse because his father had taken him there when he was a little boy. My guess is that his father brought him there after the publication in 1942 of the child's story, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegard H. Swift. It's a beautiful area of the Hudson because there are real granite rocks that remind me of the coast of Maine. Everywhere else along the Hudson, the rocks are chopped up and artificial; here they are beautiful and natural and stretch into the water. Of course that is why the lighthouse had been erected originally. It became unnecessary once the bridge was built. We were tempted to keep walking along the shore, but the rocks were still covered with ice, and the path led up above, along the Henry Hudson Parkway, in an elevated area. For a while the train is also elevated and then that runs down below, along the river's edge. We came to where the wall had fallen down on the Parkway a few years ago. The replacement is not as attractive and other areas are netted against the cliff falling down. We saw the entrance to the Cloisters and would have liked to have crossed the parkway to get there, but it definitely did not seem safe as traffic was moving along quite rapidly. Near the Cloisters we saw two gophers running along the rocks and eating green plants on the side of the road. They looked too close to the cars, but they were fairly large so they had obviously survived in that area for some time. I was delighted to see wild mammal life in Manhattan.

On the elevated area, next to the Henry Hudson Parkway, we also stopped to admire the view from a lovely Grecian temple. Unfortunately there was no information on how it got there. Shortly after that we arrived at our goal, Dyckman Street. We found the same restaurant we had visited on our last outing, Mamajuana, and once again had the all you can eat brunch. Following that Roger wanted to investigate the area, go to the Cloisters, and go to the Schomburg Center. I said he had to choose one, because I wanted to go home. He chose the Schomburg Center. I telephoned them to find their address but there was no answer so I told him I feared they were closed. He said he wanted to see the area anyhow. We knew it was on Malcolm X Boulevard and someone in the restaurant had thought 145th Street. We took the number 1 subway down to 145th and then saw an area map that put the Center further east and at 135th street, so we walked there, adding at least two miles to our original walk. Church was just letting out and it was delightful to see so many beautifully dressed people in their Easter bonnets. The Center unfortunately was closed with no indication of when it would be open. So we took the subway home, arriving about 3 in the afternoon.

Each of our ventures was like a mini vacation tour, travel that allowed us to remain close to home and to see Manhattan in a new way. Aside from the area near where we live, it was all new to us. From my point of view, it's satisfying to have our journey completed. However, Roger is already talking about which sections he wants to do again and where else we should go. We are thinking next of walking around Roosevelt Island.


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