Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Wonderful Walkabout

Our New York Marathon
Day 6
Saturday, June 4, 2011
We enjoyed our Broadway walking tour with Joyce Gold so much that we decided to do another walk with her today—this time in the West Village.  It was only about a mile from our apartment to the spot where the walk began, and it was a lovely day for walking.   

We got an early start, so we could stop for lunch along the way.  There were many options, but we settled on a tiny place in Greenwich Village called the Risotteria.  Only after we looked at the menu a bit more carefully did we realize that it was a restaurant that specialized in gluten-free pastas, pizzas, breads and pastries.  We thought this was an unusual food niche, until the next day, when the front page of the New York Times Styles section was dominated by an article about how gluten-free dining has become a hot trend, not only among the 1.3% of the population that is gluten-intolerant, but among health craze eaters always on the look-out for another reason to alter their diets.  After trying the gluten-free breadsticks provided for us to munch on while perusing our menus, we opted for tasty paninis that contained our friend gluten.  

After our first tour with Joyce had just seven people, we were amazed to find a crowd of 48, plus two videographers, a still photographer and a sound man all waiting for today’s tour—“The Intimate West Village and its Spectacular Hudson River Park.”  (The camera and sound people were filming for a New York information website planned to launch sometime this summer.)  Joyce asked us if we wanted to join the tour, and Dick expressed concern that we might not be able to hear, due to the size of the crowd.  No problem—Joyce had it covered with a wireless auxiliary speaker that would broadcast near the back of the group.  When she asked for a volunteer to carry the speaker, Dick raised his hand--it turned out he hadn’t heard the question and was just trying to get my attention, but he ended up carrying the speaker anyway, so we heard everything said very well and had a good excuse to hang in the back of the crowd, which is where we usually end up anyway, due to lollygagging about taking pictures.  

The tour was terrific, taking us along historic district streets and past slick new glass high rises that are home to the rich and famous.  On the ground floor of one of those fancy glass boxes we observed with some amusement a place called Slate—an “eco-groovy, fashion-aware, skin-friendly, sort-free laundry” for those whose discriminating tastes preclude the use of a mere laundramat.  We walked past 10 Leroy Street, the row house where the Huxtables lived on “The Cosby Show,” and saw the apartment house portrayed as home to the characters in “Friends.”   The tiny real-life home of Edna St. Vincent Millay was only nine and a half feet wide outside (eight feet wide inside). 

We loved people-watching at the Hudson River Park, where the good weather drew thousands of cyclists, walkers, skate boarders, picnickers and sun bathers (we were surprised to see so many bathing suits in such an urban setting, far from pool or beach).  A group of practitioners of what appeared to be some unusual form of yoga lay on their mats shaking their feet and hands in the air while chanting along with a guru on a loud speaker, attracting a lot of attention from curious passers-by, including us.  

An elementary school was holding a carnival day, and a pretty little residential street was closed off for a street fair.  It seemed that everyone in the Village was celebrating in some way today.   

After our walk, we couldn’t resist a stop for refreshments at Rocco’s Pastry Shop and Espresso Café in Greenwich Village.  Rocco Generosa started working at the Café as a dishwasher in 1956, when he came to New York from Italy at age 17.  He worked his way up to head pastry chef, and eventually bought the café in 1974—living out his version of the American dream shared by so many immigrants living in this neighborhood. 

We walked home by way of Washington Square Park, which was bursting with buskers energetically entertaining the crowds (crowds, crowds, crowds everywhere—how do people who live here stand it?). We spent a long time in the crowd watching these performers, and they collected a big sack full of money before they gave us the grand finale we were waiting for—a running leap over a line-up of women from the audience.  If they hadn’t been so amusing, we might have felt like suckers sitting through a ten minute introduction to a 10 second feature act. 

Brilliant pick-up strategy in Washington Square Park
We enjoyed taking lots of pictures today—here are a few more of our favorites.

Chalk painter in Washington Square Park
Dick just reviewed this post and noted that nine out of the eleven pictures here are mine--possibly a posting record. Hooray for me! (Of course 100% of the post production work is Dick's, so hooray for him, too!)

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