New York Adventures (#1): Roaming the Upper East Side

Being a tourist for six months gave me a whole new appreciation for New York City. Digesting bite-sized portions of Rome, Florence, Naples, and Barcelona once a week made me realize how much of the city (it is THE city, people, let’s not kid around) I have not explored. New Yorkers have no patience for the throngs of tourists jostling toward the Empire State Building and Times Square. The only thing New Yorkers want to do in their hometown is eat and drink. Food and drink are valid lifestyle choices. My world pretty much revolves around them. But I’m branching out and trying to experience new people, places, and things.

NYC and I are more than casual acquaintances, but not quite friends. Like a drunk girl with a crush, I’m knocking on New York’s door late at night, coyly asking “How do I get to know you better?” New York’s obvious disinterest in me can’t shake my infatuation.

So…off I go, armed with Time Out New York and friend recommendations to see and do. And eat and drink. Always eat and drink.

My first jaunt was on a crisp January Wednesday, shrouded in the scent of decaying Christmas trees forlornly lining the curbs: an appropriately bittersweet aroma for my life’s work. I delved into the Upper East Side.

You know how you go on the Interwebs to look something up, then you click a link and you end up deep in the bottomless rabbit hole of tangential information overload? Well, that’s how I discovered the Midtown Concert Series at Immanuel Lutheran Church on 88th Street and Lexington. Every Wednesday at 1:15pm, world class musicians perform pieces of classical music. For free! Free!

This week the Mozartean Players performed two Haydn Trios. They are serious musicians offering a little lunch-break respite. Despite the fact that I know nothing about classical music and I was the youngest person in the church by fifteen years, I loved the atmosphere of hushed joyfulness defying the mad rushing cacophony of the city. It was a perfect environment to ponder and reflect on a cold winter day. Bonus:  learning about classical music is one of my life goals.

I took a brisk twenty-one block walk to the Frick Collection on 70th Street and 5th Avenue. It was just cold enough to sting my nose, but the sun was shining and I savor a never-traversed walking route. Being an art freak, I don’t know how I’ve never been to the Frick.  I realized in Europe that small collections beat major art museums in quality of experience. The Uffizi, the Vatican Museums, the Metropolitan…they are overwhelming and emotionally draining. I much prefer the Villa Borghese in Rome, the Miro Foundation in Barcelona, and the Frick: they’re smaller, less crowded with obnoxious tourists taking pictures, and provide a sense of accomplishment. These collections take about three hours to fully explore, and no matter how much I geek out on art, that’s my threshold before I’m exhausted, hungry, and cross-eyed.

The Frick focuses mainly on “the Old Masters,” with some truly lovely Vermeers, Rembrandts, and El Grecos.   My personal highlight: an old lady sitting on a couch under a giant Turner painting of Cologne, who took off her shoe and knee-high stocking to show something to her cronies. They were well-dressed, and looked like Upper East Side residents. These were not tourists from Jersey. Surrounded by mind-blowing, priceless paintings, she just had to show off her bunions or something.

I heart New York.

Geek Bonus: museum gift shops are my kryptonite. I impulse bought a set of magnets that display the signatures of 34 famous artists. Jealous?

I'm a gleeful giddy geek!

Finally I met my beautiful, long-lost cousin for dinner at Uskudar Turkish Restaurant on Second Avenue between 73rd and 74th. I am not overly familiar with Turkish cuisine, so I was excited to try something new. I ordered hunkar begendi: lamb served over pureed eggplant. It was seriously good. Thank goodness the boat made me more carnivorous. There as a time in my life when I never would have ordered lamb anything. Good food, good company.

New York City adventure #1: accomplished. I have big things planned for the next few months, but I’m hoping some unanticipated places and foods find me too. Still working on this half-researching, half-going-with-the-flow-serendipity thing.

I’m so grateful to live somewhere stimulating and inspiring. Why don’t you live here?


Categories: New York City, Travel Musings | Leave a comment

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