We have been excited to walk the High Line since Jeanne Tucker first told us about it last fall. The High Line is an elevated public park about a mile in length located in the Meatpacking and Chelsea districts.
In its heyday in the 20s and 30s, the area was a bustling center for commerce but also a dangerous area as many were killed by the trains running through the streets. The High Line was constructed to remove trains from streets of the city’s largest industrial area. When trucking began to replace railroad lines, the High Line was discontinued, and the rail line was completely abandoned about 1980. It became a desolate and dilapidated stretch of tracks. It was restored as a park and walkway in 2009 and is now considered to be one of the best attractions in New York.
We took the subway to 14th Street and got off right at Chelsea Market, a block from the High Line. This is a converted warehouse that had been reputed to be one of the best food markets around and we were excited to have lunch there. However, our plans were thwarted as we wound our way through this structure. It consists of one small prepared food shop or restaurant after another and the entire place was jammed with tourists. It had no appeal at all for us, and we were happy to exit and take the stairs up to the High Line.
This was delightful and an example of yet another respite from the intensity of the city. The walkway is planked and the original rails run through it. On each side are dense plantings of grasses and meadow plants interspersed with trees and shrubs native to the area.
The pathway bends and straightens and leads into small niches at different points along the way. The views are spectacular looking west to the Hudson River and east to downtown Manhattan. We could even see the Statue of Liberty from one point.
It was a lovely day and a wonderful place to be.
We left the High Line and walked a couple of blocks to a little French restaurant we had read about called Le Grainne Cafe. It was charming and we enjoyed French onion soup and the best mesculin lettuce salad as well as fresh lemonade. We would happily return here for another meal! We sat right by the window and could watch the people walking by, always a great New York pastime! We had dessert, cupcakes, across the street from Billy’s Bakery, one of the landmarks of Chelsea. We walked along some of the avenues of Chelsea that were full of cute restaurants, florists, and shops. We stopped by the Clement Moore park and mews, areas given to the city by the man who wrote “The Night Before Christmas.” Two rows of stately townhouses gentrify the area, but the surrounding spaces looked a bit seedy to us.
We then spent the afternoon strolling into various Chelsea art galleries. This area has the highest concentration of art galleries in the city…..over 300. A gallery basically consists of a section of a former warehouse that has been partitioned off with new sheetrock and painted white. Skylights are often present, or there are bright lights suspended from the pipes of the ceiling. The floors are concrete, probably the original warehouse floors. Many of the galleries seem to be unmarked from the outside and you just have to walk along a street and pull on a door to see if it actually is a gallery or not. We accidentally ended up in a bizarre clothing store by doing this……all the people in it were about 25 with a lot of piercings, and we saw no shirt less than $425!
As we walked from gallery to gallery we were more and more amazed by what is now, apparently, being recognized as art. We cannot describe it adequately and hope that these photos tell the story.
Our last stop of the day was the Chelsea Hotel, site of many famous writers. It calls itself the “unofficial gathering place of the world’s creatives.” It is known archtecturally for its intricate ironwork. Unfortunately, like many NY icons, it is in the process of rennovation………and it is much needed. The whole place looked to be in a total state of benign neglect and located on a busy avenue by a tattoo parlor and magazine shop.
We had a memorable day for sure, but we were fine with bidding farewell to Chelsea. We took the subway home, stopped in our neighborhood for a take-out pizza, bought a bottle of Malbec at our local wine shop, and came home and collapsed.