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More about “Lower East Side/Little Italy/NoLiTa“, posted with vodpod. View on Flickr for captions.

Oh I love this neighborhood. There is nowhere else I know that has as much to explore as the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Little Italy and NoLiTa are like sweet little cake toppers on this delicious smorgasbord of visual and cultural delight. I went to the Lower East Side for these pictures on February 7, and then I went back today for a spontaneous detour from groceries to Doughnut Plant (if you’re wondering, I got one tres leches in tribute to Spanish Harlem, and one crystallized ginger in tribute to their Chinese New Year special) and I discovered even more here that I didn’t capture weeks ago. Add to this the fact that any neighborhood has a completely different character when covered in mounds of snow, and it was like seeing the LES through new eyes.

On the eve of the Chinese New Year, some sights on my route to the Lower East Side.

Of course on my way to the LES proper, I took a detour down Grand St. to Quickly for my favorite snack, almond bubble tea and those little cream cakes shaped like whatever they’re shaped like (?). The LES is such a fantastical mishmash of cultures – I once toured an old tenement house there from the early days of Ellis Island immigration, and although history isn’t my favorite thing, it was really interesting to learn about poor immigrants’ lives.

Cogs and wheels in public art on the LES.

This neighborhood also has some great public art, notably in the Hispanic area. Avenue C was even given a second name, Loisaida Ave., for the Hispanic pronunciation of “Lower East Side.” I believe the display at left was at ABC No Rio, whose website says, “ABC No Rio is a collectively-run center for art and activism. We are known internationally as a venue for oppositional culture.”

Some other stuff I came across down there were the housing projects mentioned in a book called Small Victories, about a teacher in the slums of the LES in the 80s, which really impacted me; I recommend it to any aspiring teacher. I also came across the Clinton St. Baking Co. (they had a Pancake Month for February, with amazing dishes like the one my suitemate and I got: pancakes with fresh blackberries, pecan streusel and maple butter… HEAVEN), Les Enfants Terribles restaurant (a little pricey but had a great name – “The Terrible Children“), and this fascinating blue building (below).

Bernard Tschumi's blue tower

You can read about the blue tower here; it is an apartment complex (!) designed by Bernard Tschumi, and some of the pictures at that link show some amazing views from the inside looking out. Some people hate it, because it’s a symbol if the gentrification in the LES. But I am really over whining about gentrification, so I like it. Those windows look just as amazing from inside! I saw this work of art from several different vantage points and finally got this amazing shot from Rivington St. and Essex St., or so. I stood on a corner where the building behind me had a neon light saying, “NEVER SLEEP.” It was so New York.

One of the greatest things I happened upon the LES was Café Charbon, which I stumbled upon two years ago on a leisurely walk and adored. But I had never gone back. This is one place I vow to return to even after my appointed Lower East Side day, because it is so adorable and French. I mean, look at this window of (fake) cheese!

Café Charbon's tribute to French cheeses.

But I didn’t stop to eat at Café Charbon because I had already had both lunch and bubble tea/cream cakes, and my mind was set on the highly-anticipated end note of the trip: Rice to Riches. Rice pudding and snark bundled together like you and your favorite blanket on a cold day. I got the hazelnut (tasted a little like plain chocolate, but still good), with whipped cream, but the flavors and topping possibilities are endless (Cinnamon Sling? Fluent in French Toast? Good thing this place is 3 blocks away from my dorm…). I leave you with this delightful image from the inside of Rice to Riches. Now… did I miss anything? 😉

"Eat all you want... you're already fat."

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More about “Upper East Side“, posted with vodpod. View on Flickr to see captions.

The Upper East Side adventure was my first “reserved” neighborhood – Chelsey recently transferred to a school up there, so we figured we’d explore and perhaps find her some new favorite haunts. I’m excited for some of the other neighborhoods I reserved for people; among them are Chinatown and Hamilton Heights.

Classy shopping in the Upper East Side.

On January 30th, I got up to 59th Street a little early and ducked into H&M to see if I could buy a hat, because I had forgotten mine and it was FREEZING! And I had decided to press on even though I realized upon leaving the dorm that it was going to be a bitterly cold day. Sadly, I didn’t find a hat. But I observed some other shoppers loading up on spring gear, which apparently gets sold in January. Practical, except for the part where I want to have winter things available while it’s still winter! N.b. 2/17: Looks like The Sartorialist shares my chagrin.

Gossip Girl

Click for source.

The Upper East Side, despite what you may have gleaned from Gossip Girl, is not all fashion and rich people running about. Or at least it wasn’t at 1 p.m. on a Sunday. I wasn’t particularly interested in recreating any posh vibes from the show, although I enjoy the silliness of GG just like anyone else. I also decided to pass on the Met, because I’ve already been there several times. Don’t let that turn you off though – if you’re new to New York or visiting, it goes without saying that you should take a gander.

Speaking of Gossip Girl, though, if you are interested in popping up to the infamous neighborhood, Jaunted has put together a very comprehensive Gossip Girl map.

Chelsey and I had a nice time catching up and stopping to warm up in random stores, such as Pylones, where they had a squid whisk! Theoretically, there are plenty of interesting things one can make a conscious effort to go do in the UES, but a lot of them involve bars or fine dining or… museums. So we chose to see the more everyday side of this classy neighborhood. This involved me admiring the architecture a lot and wishing I could live in an old brownstone or mansion. We also took a look around Hunter College. The small differences between Hunter and NYU are amazing – I was allowed in without needing to flash my ID at any point. We went on a high floor balcony and weren’t blocked in by alarms and barriers.

UES Building

Someday... this shall be mine...

We had a lovely brunch at the Lexington Candy Shop Luncheonette. I had cinnamon raisin French toast and a vanilla egg cream. If you have never tried an egg cream because of the name, you’re not alone. But it’s actually just flavored syrup (chocolate or otherwise), milk and seltzer. That kind of sounds gross, too, but trust me – it’s not! It was a great place to try something new, in the vein of this whole project. We wandered around some more as the gloomy sky darkened, rounding off the adventure with delicious hot chocolates at another diner.

Now I’m curious… have any of you done or wanted to do a Gossip Girl tour of the UES? I feel that somehow this blog would be more popular if that is what I’d done…

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Wikipedia's map of Manhattan neighborhoods.

I’m sure it seems mysterious that I should arbitrarily decide there are 31 neighborhoods in Manhattan. Indeed, Wikipedia says there are far more! That map has about 55. Now, some of those are literally WAY too small to merit me spending more than five minutes wandering around. I mean, the Diamond District? I’m sure there are some native New Yorkers who don’t even care about that place.

Originally, yes, I was going to combine a bunch of those minuscule neighborhoods and just do the whole shebang. I do like Wikipedia-based formulas, after all. But then I had a genius idea. Here’s how I got it.

Over the holiday season, the Brooklyn Flea Market set up shop in Manhattan, in a space that used to be home to Tower Records. I meandered in one day, looking for gifts, and spied some amazing prints of New York boroughs and neighborhoods by Ork Posters (they do other metropolitan areas too!). With a mixture of selfishness and goodwill, I purchased the map of Manhattan and its neighborhoods for my roommate’s Christmas present. It is a great conversation piece, and it also covers an unfortunate blemish in the plaster where a sticky hook went awry. You see how I am not quite all-benevolent in my gift-giving.

Artisan Map of Manhattan

That thing on the right is a homemade Christmas bow. This color combo not currently available on orkposters.com 😦

The map, although I don’t know if it is to scale, has a far more reasonable depiction of the island’s neighborhoods, and the total clocks in at 31. Here it is, in all its glory (I love it and wish it were mine! Anna deserves it more since she will not be staying in New York after this year). They are, north to south (bold are neighborhoods I have already been to – posts coming soon of course :D):

  1. Inwood
  2. Washington Heights
  3. Hamilton Heights
  4. Morningside Heights
  5. Harlem
  6. East (Spanish) Harlem
  7. Upper West Side
  8. Upper East Side
  9. Yorkville
  10. Clinton
  11. Times Square
  12. Midtown
  13. Hell’s Kitchen
  14. Garment District
  15. Murray Hill
  16. Chelsea
  17. Kips Bay
  18. Gramercy
  19. Stuyvesant Town
  20. West Village
  21. Greenwich Village
  22. East Village
  23. Alphabet City
  24. SoHo (South of Houston St.)
  25. NoLiTa (North of Little Italy)
  26. Lower East Side
  27. Little Italy
  28. TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal)
  29. Chinatown
  30. Battery Park City
  31. Financial District

Please, please, dear filthy-rich citizens of obscure places like Astor Row and jaded folk of Koreatown, excuse my oversight of your home neighborhoods. I am open to considering smaller neighborhoods! The small ones would be pretty easy to include in all this, but unless somebody convinces me, 31 is the number… because I like symmetry. 🙂

Me

alexreverie
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