Exploring New York Weekend

Location | New York City

I’m thinking about starting an explorer’s club where we can be tourists in our own city. There’s so much to learn and see in New York City that I’m amazed that I don’t spend more time walking around and reading books about the rich history of this fantastic city.

This weekend, Oct 10-11th, was Open House New York Weekend. It’s when many not usually open-to-the-public places becomes a big “open house” for free.  There were over a hundred different events and it was a little overwhelming to pick ones that I wanted to attend. Unfortunately I didn’t plan my weekend very well so I only saw 3 sites. At least in the end it became a very eventful and fun weekend.

Saturday began with breakfast at Clinton Street Baking Company (not part of OHNY, but worth speaking about). If you are visiting NY or live in NY you must try Clinton Street Baking Company at least once AND you must get their pancakes. They are my absolute favorite pancakes ever. Although I normally get the banana walnut pancakes, this time was the first time I did not. I ordered the special, which was a waffle with pear and sour cream and wine reduction. Or that’s how I remember the description, although in reality it was a fantastically fluffy waffle with plum coloured pears and a whipped and sweetened sour cream topping that had some spices in it. Delicious! Greg ordered the banana walnut pancakes (I reiterate, my absolute favorite) and Amy ordered the farmer’s plate (yummy, but I still prefer their pancakes and waffles).

Waffle w/ Pear and Sour Cream and Pistachio at Clinton Street Baking Company

Waffle w/ Pear and Sour Cream and Pistachio at Clinton Street Baking Company

After breakfast, we wandered around until it was time for the East Village Walking Tour. The walking tour is sponsored by the Lower East Side History Project, which hosts many other tours if anyone is interested. The tour was led by Andrea Coyle, who, although slightly awkward, was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the East Village.

The tour was 2 hours long, and we actually didn’t do much walking in the first hour. We saw the birthplace of punk rock, the world’s smallest opera house, one of the last remaining cast iron buildings in the E. Village, shop with the best egg cream in Manhattan, spot where Abraham Lincoln’s famous Cooper Union Address earned him the Republican nomination, Warhol’s last residence, and the Merchant House, the last family home to be completely intact from the 19th Century ! I know, information overload right?

Merchant House Museum

Merchant House Museum

If you get the chance, take the tour. The one I took runs every Saturday and Wednesday at noon. If you don’t have time (or can’t), read more about the history of the E. Village at this site. There’s some pretty remarkable stuff.

After the tour I went to Washington Square Park to chill a little bit, but then walked through Washington Mews (my favorite street in New York) to take some pictures. Then a stroll through the Union Square Greenmarket ended my OHNY Weekend Day 1.

Washington Mews

Washington Mews

So then Sunday was day 2. It began early (9:30am) where I arrived at Cafe Pedlar in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. There I had a delicious Stumptown latte, complete with adorable heart shaped foam (European style lattes are THE BEST!). After coffee, was the 11am Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tour. Read about the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tour in my “Underground” post.

When the tour finished, it was already 2 pm. We were supposed to meet Greg’s friend, Robyn Lee (who is also an amazing food blogger and does just about everything that I can only dream of in an awesome career) at the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Unfortunately the tours were booked full, so we decided to head over to the Belltel Lofts. We thought there would be some sort of architecture tour, but instead they sent us to the 19th floor’s roof deck. (The building is really 27 stories high, but the open decks were on the 19th floor). There were some so-so views of Brooklyn, but it was very hard to see the Manhattan due to many high rises blocking the view.

Afterward, I was starving since the only thing I had eaten since 8:30 am was a latte. We ended up at Char No. 4. I had been wanting to go since reading about it on Serious Eats and I became a very very happy camper afterward. For the $16 prix fixe, you get a poached egg, slice of ham, onion and chives potatoes (which were droolworthy amazing), a biscuit with cranberry jam, homemade chunky apple sauce, coffee and juice. YUM! I will post a picture once I get a copy from Greg (he took the pictures of the food).

After eating, it was already 4pm. We decided to head over to the Financial District to the U.S. Custom House. It’s a great looking building. Inside there’s a beautiful rotunda with a very large skylight. The Custom House also houses the National Museum of the American Indian. We walked around for awhile, but the doors closed at 5pm. We then left and I saw the Wall Street Bull for the first time. The last time I went looking for it was in 2007 right before I officially moved to the city and my dad and I wandered around but couldn’t locate it (we didn’t have a map at the time).

U.S. Custom House

U.S. Custom House

Then Greg took me on a mini-tour of the FiDi. I’d never really taken the time to explore it, but since Greg works in the area he actually knew quite a bit (thanks Greg!). We looked at One Broadway, which used to be known as the “International Mercantile Marine Company.” Although now it’s a Citibank (eek!), the building still has the markings of its history. You can still see “First Class” and “Cabin Class” passenger signage over the doorways because the building used to be for receiving passengers.

After that, we took a walk down Stone Street, then to Federal Hall (where George Washington was inaugurated). We sat there for awhile observing all the tourists. Then it was up the street where I spotted… *GASP*… SAD PANDA! Most of you probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but there is this person dressed up in a giant panda costume that frequents the Financial District seeking tips. I’m obsessed with Sad Panda, but so is the Daily Intel Blog from New York Magazine. Anyway, the reason why he is called “Sad Panda” is because he, indeed, looks sad. Spotting him made me really happy and I was lucky enough to get a picture with him! YAY!



Then Greg and I walked without aim. We walked by Century 21, the giant J&R, the Woolworth Building, stopped at Korin (a knife store which closed minutes before we arrived), and then made our way up through TriBeCa. We got sidetracked when we saw this GIANT building with no windows. We found out it was the AT&T Long Lines Building. Apparently it is filled with telecommunications equipment and each floor is 18 feet high. After figuring that one out, we walked through part of Chinatown where there were tons of vendors selling knock-offs on the sidewalk. It was incredibly congested. Then we were in SoHo. We made stops at Muji, CB2, Topshop, UNIQLO and tried Sur la Table and Banana Republic, but they closed.

Then it was up through SoHo, NoHo then back over to the East Village. We made a quick stop at Japanese Premium Beef Company. They only sell premium Washugyu beef (a kobe-like beef).

Finally it was back to Astor Place where Greg proved that the cube could spin… (I didn’t believe him because I’d seen people struggle to push it, but apparently it’s just VERY heavy).

So that ends the day. It was a great weekend to explore New York. Beautiful weather, not too hot and a lot of fun things to do! Hopefully I’ll do more “explore New York” type things in the future so look out for more blog entries if you managed to even finish reading this one!

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10 2009

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