Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Walking in New York

Dateline: New York, 7/16/09 - 7/28/09
At home, I usually think of walking as a chore, something I have to do to get my exercise. Even though the weather and the views from our neighborhood are always pleasant, I still have to talk myself into every walk. In New York, though, walking is not a chore, it's a way of life. It's a means of transportation, a way of getting where you want to go. Even when we took the subway, which we did a lot (we got our money's worth out of a two-week unlimited ride MetroCard), there were always walks to and from the subway. And there were stairs to get into and out of the subway stations.

When I'm in New York, I usually don't gain weight even though I eat more than usual, because of all the walking I do. While we were there, an article in the New York Times said that Manhattanites are, on the average, thinner than people who live in other parts of the city, state, and even the country, and walking was the explanation most people gave. I often think I would have had less of a weight problem if I had not moved away from New York.

The apartment we rented this year, on Barrow Street in the West Village, was the best location we've had in the years we've been renting Manhattan apartments, and it was great for walking. The Village is mostly residential, and is quieter than other parts of Manhattan. It has lots of restaurants and interesting shops. Unlike most of Manhattan, which is laid out in a grid of numbered streets and avenues, the Village has lots of winding (sometimes confusing) streets. Somehow, in the Village, West 4th St. manages to intersect West 11th St. and also West 13th St., something that would never happen in the more grid-like parts of Manhattan.

Hudson St. was the main street of our neighborhood, with a post office, lots of restaurants, and a bagel bakery where we shopped for breakfast. D'Agostino's, the grocery store, was two blocks away. At home we always drive to the grocery store, but in New York it's routine to walk, and to carry your groceries home. We were within walking distance of Union Square to the north and SoHo to the south. On one Village walk I discovered a street named after Dave Van Ronk, one of my favorite 60's folksingers. I realized we lived around the corner from new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose Bedford St. condo had been in the news, and one day we walked to see the outside of her building.

At home I would never set off on a 3-mile walk; my usual walking loops through the hills are 1 mile and 1.5 miles. But one day I used Gmaps Pedometer to trace my New York walk, and found that I had walked 3 miles to go to places I was interested in: to the Union Square area to the Lion Brand Yarn Studio (which was closed when I got there); then to Union Square itself to see the farmer's market; a few blocks downtown and east to get a manicure; down University Place to get coffee at Oren's Daily Roast; lunch at the Peanut Butter & Co. Sandwich Shop; then back home. Later that day we visited my mother in Forest Hills, Queens, which involved a subway ride, and walks to and from the subway stations on each end. All in a day's walk in New York.

We also did some New York walking that was less practical and more touristy. I've already posted about walking the High Line, the new park on a former elevated railway line. After a dim sum brunch in Chinatown with our friends Paul and Randi, who had come from the Boston area to attend our party, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and to the now-trendy Brooklyn neighborhood DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). We also walked two stretches of the Hudson River walk, one downtown near our apartment, and the other uptown. (In the uptown segment, we found that most of the path was reserved for bicycles, leaving such a narrow pedestrian path that we couldn't walk 3 abreast, making conversation difficult.)

The touristy walks are okay, but my favorite type of New York walking is either just wandering the streets, going into stores and coffee shops, or walking to get to the places I want to go.


Vivian said...

I so dearly miss the walking and public transit culture in big cities I grew up with. As little kids, I could walk to the neighborhood store, book store, friend's houses, school, all by myself. It's nice to live in a suberb with extra elbow room, tho, something very hard to give up once we get used to.

specialk said...

Max's school is 2.4 miles from home so I usually walk at least 4.8 miles per day. Walking is something I would never trade off for all of the room in the world.

I enjoyed your post!

Melody said...

Fae -- Isn't DUMBO where the drunks and drug addicts used to live in cardboard boxes?

Very nicely written post; you get a nice sense of the Village -- and of you, intrepidly walking it.

Fae said...

Melody, DUMBO may have been that in the past, but now it's gentrified and very trendy! I'm glad you liked the post.