Walking New York

A fat lazy idiot tries to walk every street in Manhattan.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Day 4: Bryant Park, Tudor City, and Some Big Buildings (4.25 miles)

Shorter walk today because I stopped a lot to take pictures and ran out of time. First, the most important thing: the food cart on the southwest corner of 33rd and 6th Ave has the best pretzels ever. I've been eating a lot of street pretzels lately, because I figure the carbs are good fuel for the walking and they're still moderately healthy. Usually, you get a pretzel from the pile sitting on the cart, which have been soaking up air pollution for most of the day and getting attacked by flies. Then you put mustard on it and walk into somebody at a crosswalk, and you end up with a pretzel-shaped mustard stain on your shirt. But the guy at 33rd and 6th (southwest corner, don't forget), has the solution.

I bought a pretzel, expecting one of the ones sitting out. But he opened a drawer from inside the cart and took out a brown paper bag with a pretzel inside. It was already salted and had been sitting in this heating drawer probably all day, which had slowly steamed it into soft amazingness. Anybody who's ever had a hot dog at a baseball game knows that the hot dog buns pulled from the heater drawer under the spinner are the best you can get anywhere. This is the same concept. Then, I asked for mustard and instead of awkwardly coating the pretzel with it, he put some onto a piece of aluminum foil, folded it up, and I had a big, makeshift mustard packet.

I'm sure other carts in the city do this, but so far, all my pretzel experience has been with the rock-hard, germ-infested variety, which are still good when eaten with enough mustard.

So on to the walk. I headed up 6th Ave, which is fairly boring, even with Herald and Greeley Squares. I always consider that area to be like a big suburban mall, with rows and rows of stores like Foot Locker, Wet Seal, and, obviously, Macy's. All they need is a Sunglasses Hut and a Dippin' Dots in the middle of an intersection.

Bryant Park, on the other hand, is very impressive, and probably the cleanest and nicest park in the city, although I still favor Union Square as far as atmosphere goes. My main reason for walking by there today was that somebody sent me this list from AOL Cityguide, celebrating the 10 best public restrooms in the city. Some are obvious, like Lincoln Center, Saks, or the SoHo Grand, but the one that stands out the most is Bryant Park (also the only one with the entrance outside).

I went into the bathroom with my camera, but due to some rightfully concerned patrons, couldn't get a picture in. It was small, but nicely decorated and very clean. I did get a picture of the outside, with an entrance that has a bouquet of flowers and tall mirror.

I stepped into both the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building lobbies, and I'll put some pictures of those into their own posts. The most interesting part of the walk was Tudor City, a three block strip of apartments that's actually elevated over 42nd Street. I couldn't get a picture that really showed this, so I'll try to get one next time I'm over there to finish 42nd, but you walk up a long flight of stairs on 42nd just before 1st Avenue, and suddenly you're in a tiny piece of 1920s New York, with no chain stores, a nice spacious park and playground, and rows of big apartment buildings. 41st and 43rd streets actually ramp up to Tudor City, but 42nd runs underneath it, so you can actually stand on the street and look down over a railing. 43rd Street is another quaint slice of old New York, but with the United Nations building literally towering over the end of it. It's very surreal, and I had no idea it was there. Definitely the best find yet, I would say, and I will get better pictures of it next time. For now, this picture shows pretty well how the old apartment buildings contrast with the super-modern UN. And the best part is that the UN site used to be a slaughterhouse (irony!), so none of the buildings have what would have been an amazing view of the UN and the East River.

Final note: I'm now saving photos at a much bigger size, and although they'll appear the same on the blog, if you click any one of them, they'll open much larger. They're also saved at 50% quality so they load faster, which is why some of them will have a little bit of a blur or digital feel to them.


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