It was in the making with my Dad, Bob, for about two years: a grand hike on foot from the near-top of Manhattan to the very bottom. There’d been much talk about it but no window of opportunity… until Wednesday, May 31st, the mid-point of my Dad’s visit to my place in Fairfield, CT. We mapped out our route in a couple of hours the day before we set off. We’d not really travel the whole length of the Big Apple, but a good stretch of it from W. 125th in Harlem southeast to E. 7th Street in the Alphabet City neighborhood of the East Village on the lower east side.
The morning arrived, and it was drizzling. This was not a promising start, but I was confident there would be brighter weather waiting to greet us in the hours ahead. So we padded from my Beach Area setting to Fairfield Train Station, and just narrowly missed the train we were shooting to board. However, not a dozen minutes later, another came along and down the tracks we went, to Metro North’s Harlem, 125th Street Station.
A few short blocks walk and we arrived at Sylvia’s, founded by the legendary “Queen of Soul Food,” Sylvia Wood. “Sylvia” also happened to be my Mom’s name. Mom passed almost precisely four years ago. It seemed a fitting place to start.
With home fries, corned beef hash, eggs, biscuits, and good coffee in our bellies, we sidestepped puddles down to E. 103 Street and Fifth Avenue, on the east side of Central Park, to the Museum of the City of New York. This is a great place to visit near the start of any NYC adventure, as you can better appreciate your environment with regard to its history, evolution, and forward direction.
Continuing down Fifth, our next stop was the Guggenheim Museum at E. 88th Street. The spiral-shaped venue contains works by some of the most famous painters and sculptors in history — Picasso, Modigliani, Calder, Renoir, etc. to name a few—and we gaped at it all.
With a hankering for lunch, we paced down Madison Avenue for a bit before deciding the “pay-to-play” was too steep for our liking. We downshifted over to 3rd Avenue and stumbled on Neil’s Coffee Shop, made to order for a nosh of BLT and hot Reuben on Rye sandwiches.
Of course, some liquid dessert was then on order, a pang satisfied by advertising world haunt P.J. Clarke’s, which did us right with a Kolsch and a Brooklyn Lager.
We picked up the march down Third to Hofbrau Bierhaus to honor our German heritage with some half liters of beer and a bratwurst platter with real German potato salad and sauerkraut on the side.
Reflecting back on a moment of personal history—NYC’s great 1977 Blackout, during which we were visiting the city and staying at the Hotel Tudor on E. 42nd Street—we revisited the building, discovering it was now Woodstock Tower private apartments.
We really stretched ourselves then, ambling all the way down to E. 7th, making two stops along that passage: NoRelation Vintage Clothing and Matchmaker Amy Van Doran’s Modern Love Club and art gallery. We recommend both highly. A few zig-zags later and we’d arrived at one of Dad’s old haunts, McSorley’s Old Ale House. We found the trademark sawdust on the floor and the two kinds of beer they offer: light and dark. While tossing-back our beer, we befriended a couple from Lyon, France—Francois and Camille—a friendly pair that countered the gruff, unsociable nature of the bartender whose poor attitude spurred our hasty departure.
From there, it was a short hop east along 7th to Zum Schneider, which had been promoted to me as the place to go for a German experience, for yet another nod to our heritage. Sitting at a people-watching outdoor corner table, we enjoyed a couple rounds of beer, wonderful white asparagus (spargel) wrapped in ham with potatoes and hollandaise sauce, and apfel kuchle with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
As pre-arranged, our final stop was the New York Comedy Club, back up northwards at E. 24th Street, where we took in the 9 p.m. show and about seven comics’ routines, which were a howl.
The home stretch—in Manhattan leastways—was from the Club to Grand Central Station, a 35-block push, then the 12:07 a.m. train back to our Fairfield home base.
150+ blocks; over 16 miles; several beers; much German food; lots of laughs and memories; and a few new friends—mission accomplished. Bucket list scratch-off!