If this is your first visit to Manahattan then Central Park should not be missed. At almost 3.5 square kilometres or more than 800 acres, days can be spent wandering ‘the lungs’ of New York. With castles, lakes, lochs and more Central Park Tours has you covered with events, bloom schedules and the park’s history. I’ve spent many an afternoon lazing on the lawns, shivering at the lake watching ice skaters or using it as my running track but this time I wanted to explore some of New York’s other parks.
Washington Square Park by NYU has a vibrant dynamic. A jazz trio at one end, a rockabilly duo at the other and speed chess played through out the park. There is plenty of seating so grab a snack, relax and enjoy. The Piano Man of New York is of particular interest. Colin Huggins rolls a baby Grand Piano to many parks in New York but Washington Square Park is a regular. He can be found in Union Square and sometimes in subway stations, no mean feat when a piano can weigh 200kg. Hailing from Decatur Georgia, New York parks became Colin’s venue of choice after hauling a piano from Brooklyn to Union Square and making $200 in an afternoon. He stores 4 pianos in units around the city and employs a piano tuner ensuring the ivories tinkle perfectly on location. His schedule, by his own admission, is irregular so find him on Facebook and he’ll tell you where he’ll play on the day.
From Washington Square Park Chinatown is only a 10 minute walk. Spending time in Chinatown in any city is one of my favourite things. It is said Chinatown Manhattan has the highest concentration of Chinese in the western world and it’s easy to believe when wandering the streets. Walking Mott Street the colours, odours and Chinese dialects made me feel like I was back in ZhongGuo. So when in China, one must eat.
Nom Wah Tea Parlour has been serving dim sum since 1920. Not only is the restaurant famous for longevity, episodes of Law and Order and many movies have been filmed here. Nom Wah is on Doyers Street aka “The Bloody Angle”. One of the only curved streets in Manhattan, it was perfect for street fights in the 30’s due to the bend and the tunnels joining the buildings. The Tong Gangs of Chinatown were partial to using hatchets, hence the term “Hatchet Man”. History aside, the dim sum makes Nom Wah worth visiting. With an ice cold Tsingtao Beer, Pork Sui Mai and Xiao Long Bao in front of me I’m a very happy paraphernalian. Wilson Tang has taken over the management from his father, Wally, who began as a kitchen hand 60 years ago! I can’t see things changing too much.
2 doors away from Nom Wah in the back of a shophouse is a hidden speakeasy. Apothéke, German for Chemist, has bar tenders in lab coats concocting the creative drinks list albeit at a price. There’s no signage except the neon lit “Chemist” in the window but the bouncer’s trained eye on your feet, rejecting anyone in sneakers, may give it away.
Satisfied with dim sum and not requiring a chemist I made my way further south to Water Street and onto South Street Seaport. Adjacent to the Financial District on the East River, South Street Seaport is a development with Pier 17 as it’s anchor. Bars, restaurants, fashion stores, markets and water transport make this a hub for Lower Manhattan residents and retains the aesthetic of this historical trading port. East River and Brooklyn ferries depart from here; helicopter sight seeing and the Governor’s Island ferry departure hall are a short walk away. Governor’s Island opens from May 23rd until September 27th. The 8 minute ferry ride and bicycle rental on arrival are both free and for a lazy day in the sun choose one of the many hammocks to lay in, read a book or gaze at the Statue of Liberty.
Another great vantage point for views of the Statue, Governor’s Island, Brooklyn and New Jersey is Battery Park. We’re coming around the southern tip of Manhattan now and it’s been a while since dim sum so a beer in the sun is in order. After a friendly chat with the bar man at Battery Gardens Restaurant and taking a few photos the park can be followed north where it reaches the Hudson River Greenway, the largest section of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. If you’re up for it, you can walk or cycle the entire perimeter of Manhattan island bar a couple of chopped off corners, on the 51km walk/ cycle path but I only need to get back to the start of the Highline and pick up #missjane for dinner.
The dim sum at lunch had triggered my Asian taste buds and #missjane had a local Thai up her sleeve. Thai Plus has a Thai Mexican twist. Odd perhaps but not once you try the shrimp and jalapeno dumplings. Tom Yum Goong is traditional Thai and the Pad Thai authentic too. The obvious Mexican influence is in the margaritas. Try Jalapeno – Mango, Red Cactus Pear or traditional lime during happy hour for only $6 or $7. Suddenly Thai Mexican doesn’t seem odd at all. Located on 7th Ave at W22nd you can’t miss it, the outside is painted an eye-catching fuchsia and inside the lovely Derek or Angel will have you feeling like a local in no time.
We’ve walked over 20km together today, it didn’t feel like it did it? Walking the streets and parks of Manhattan; another thing we love….