Day two in New York started off the best way it possibly could: with a delicious, fresh-out-of-the-oven, soft and chewy bagel from Absolute Bagels on Broadway between W 107th and W 108th.
I had originally intended on having a bagel for breakfast each morning I was in town, from different bagel shops I had found out about, but unfortunately that didn’t happen on day one. I was adamant to not pass up my bagel opportunity on day two.
Absolute Bagels was so conveniently close to the hostel, and on route to where I was heading that day, that it was a no-nonsense choice for my breakfast stop.
When I got there the line was to the door. They had placards up from the various food/travel institutions that had awarded them “best bagel in the city”, including the Zeus of them all, Zagat. This did nothing but add to my excitement.
I didn’t want to look like a tourist, so I carefully scanned the menu before it was my turn to order so I knew exactly what to ask for. If you’ve ever been to a New York local hotspot before, you’d understand my trepidation. There’s no bullshit, you’re in and out, hollering out your order over the counter if need be.
I ended up getting an egg bread bagel with the best blueberry cream cheese I’ve ever had:
Don’t mind the bite marks. After I took a few nibbles, and was immediately sent to bagel heaven, I decided that I had to share the delicious experience with you all. That cream cheese had just the right amount of real blueberries, and it was light and whipped with whole berries. They had so many different flavours of cream cheese it was hard to make a choice, and the best part was it looked like they made all the flavours themselves in-house.
Have you ever seen the TLC show Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker? If you have, do you remember the episode where the contestants are timed while removing all the various baked goods from those rotating, industrial ovens? Well, Absolute Bagels has one of those ovens in their shop. While I was waiting in line I had the chance to watch one of the bakers checking on the bagels inside, catching a glimpse of the dozens of doughy creations as they slowly matured in the oven’s heat. It was glorious.
With my belly full of hot coffee and quite possibly the best egg bread I’d ever put into my mouth, I made my way to my first landmark of the day, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
This was the only church I visited during my trip that didn’t have scaffolding covering the building.
This place is huge, with a park and school attached to its southern wings. I chose not to go inside because I was on such a tight schedule (and I have the tendency to spend a lot of time in churches, looking at all the architectural details), so my goal was to capture its exterior to share with you. The stonework on its facade is quite intricate and beautifully detailed:
Just south of the church is the West 111th Street People’s Garden. The first time I was here a few years ago, I discovered that they had a resident peacock. I was on the hunt for him because from what I remembered he was albino and I wanted a picture, but despite my best efforts, he fooled me and remained hidden (although every now and then I could hear him squawk, as if he was mocking me, silly tourist).
In the centre of the garden is a fantastic, giant sculpture, surrounded by smaller figures depicting scenes from various stories, such as Noah’s Ark and Aesop’s Fables. I love how many animals are stacked on top of each other in the centerpiece, all of which are supported by a monster of a crab at its base.
From the garden it’s just a short walk to the C train station at Columbus Circle, on the very northwestern corner of Central Park. I had originally planned on walking down Central Park West, along the park’s border, but after a day of walking in not-fit-for-walking shoes the day prior, I forfeited and used my MetroCard to catch the subway.
Despite the pain in my knee and my sore feet, I still felt lazy because my first stop was only three stops south of Columbus Circle (although in reality, it was 23 city blocks). I hopped off at W 86th and made my way into the park in order to get a shot of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
It’s not the best picture, but honestly, you can see this scene in pretty much any movie ever made about New York City (or just watch Sex and the City and keep an eye out for the usual backdrop of the ladies’ jogging route).
From the reservoir I made my way back to Central Park West and once again got on the subway, this time going a further two stops until W 72nd. This subway stop brings you to a street-level entrance to the park that has to be one of the most busiest, as just within the gates one will find the John Lennon memorial, Strawberry Fields. Directly across the street from this entrance is also the landmark building The Dakota, Lennon’s last residence and the site of his murder. Yoko Ono still owns a few apartments within the building, and every year on the anniversary of his death (December 8), she lights a single candle in her window in memoriam of her fallen husband.
I had one more area to visit within the park, so from Strawberry Fields I continued on, on foot, following the roads that wind their way through the park’s interior. I’m not going to lie, I sort of got lost at this point. The roads don’t have road signs on them, so I kept on having to ask for directions, despite having a map. It wasn’t until I approached a lady at a kiosk with park maps that I learned how to tell where the hell you were: on each of the light posts along the roads there is a metal plate with a number stamped on them. From what I saw they each had a series of four or so numbers, but the first two numbers indicate the street number itself. Good to know.
I eventually, somehow, after taking a roundabout route, ended up at my destination: Literary Walk. I should mention that at this time it started to rain AND my camera battery started to die.
This part of the park contains statues of three men who have been quite influential in my literary studies: William Shakespeare, Robbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott (or as I called them, one Brit and two Scotsmen).
Despite them not being tombs and are just effigies to these great men, you can’t help but feel in awe as you stand before them. It also felt like Sir Walter Scott was looking me directly in the eye, which somehow emboldened me. Scott wrote Rob Roy, a historical novel about one of my ancient clansmen, Rob Roy MacGregor (actually, here’s a little piece of insight that I don’t think I’ve ever shared: the tartan that I use in my blog’s header is Rob Roy’s).
Call me crazy, call me romantic, call me what you will, but I felt a special sort of kinship towards Scott in that moment. Then it started to rain even harder and I had to get the hell out of there to seek out an umbrella.
I quickly said goodbye to Central Park, exiting onto W 59th Street, and in the fastest speed walk I could muster, I ducked in between rain drops to get to one of my happiest places on earth: FAO Schwarz.