Last week we got our senior MTA Reduced-Fare MetroCards. This is actually a great deal because each bus or subway ride is usually $2.50, but for seniors it is $1.25. For once we were happy to be in that category! We took the subway (10 min walk from our apt) to the Little Italy area for the annual San Gennaro Festival. We had heard from one source that it was a must. One of our guidebooks said it is among the top 10 things in NY NOT to do. Unfortunately, the guidebook was more correct!
We got off on at the Canal Street stop and walked through some of Chinatown to get to the festival. Chinatown is a hectic crazy area full of unfamiliar foods and cheap merchandise. There are women and men hawking goods on the sidewalks and almost grabbing your arms to come and buy original Rolexes and Prada bags. The fish market above looked terrific….a dozen blue crabs for $9 or three good sized lobsters for $19.
Little Italy is a small section of the city that used to be larger but has steadily eroded as Chinatown has grown. The festival consisted of streets blocked off to display the red, green, and white decorations and block after block of pastas, sausage/pepper sandwiches, canolis, and gelato. There was a carnival atmosphere with games of chance and just a tired look to it all. On the other hand, the shops in the area looked fabulous, but many were not open or very hard to get to. I did find my new favorite shoe shop, John Fluevog, and could have bought several things there….on my list to return to another day.
We wandered to a quiet end of the festival area to a street with no booths and sat down on a street bench to have a snack. We were right across from a church and had planned to explore it. A nice-looking man walked over to us and began to chat….he was the priest for the church, the original St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He talked about the history of the area, the importance of the neighborhood, and the church itself (Alec Baldwin was married there a year ago). He told us that few people can afford to live in the neighborhood now as it is so expensive. He showed us a plaque in front of his home/manse commemerating the area which Alec Balwin will unveil this week. We felt so lucky…..it was like having a private tour of the area. We visited the church which was very unassuming but absolutely breathtaking on the inside…one of the lovliest cathedrals we have seen. Note on the photo that services are in English, Spanish, and Chinese! The new St. Patrick’s Cathedral was opened late in the 1800s and took over for this older one. The new one is in our neighborhood and is the largest cathedal in the US, but it is now totally enshrined in scaffolding so not the best place for a visit for a few years.
We walked into SoHo (south of Houston Street…pronounced “How stun”) where some of the best shopping is found in Manhattan….one lovely old building after another of upscale boutiques and art galleries. We were greeted by this Audrey Hepburn street art (see below). We went into Purl SoHo, a lovely knitting shop recommended by Barbara Salisbury….I loved it! It was started by a former editor of Martha Stewart Living and was one of the first shops to gentrify SoHo. Earlier this summer some of my work colleagues had found online a cozy sheep pillow to knit and one ordered the kit. It was from Purl SoHo and there was the finished product on the shelf!
We had a fun outdoor lunch in a little cafe just south of NYU and then walked to the campus. Washington Square Park is the heart of Greenwich Village. On this beautiful fall day it was full of leisurely activities and street musicians. We totally enjoyed listening to a very talented band called the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. We walked across the park to the Washington Mews area of old brick townhouses where several artists have resided such as Edward Hopper, now graduate student housing.
Home again via subway….a great day to get a taste of several NY neighborhoods!!!!!