”Once again, I found myself walking down the streets of New York, amazed. All of a sudden, my senses woke up and I felt unexpected sensations. I smelled the scent of flowers and coffee, the sweet taste of strawberry and raspberry. My gaze went to stories made of pencil and crayon, then I heard a light symphony. Looking around, I suddenly realized … I am still in New York”
Follow me in these 5 places discovered by accident, beautiful sensations I hope you will feel too.
1. Natchie art
Where it is: The Empire Stores, 55 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
How to get there: A or C train to High Street – Brooklyn Bridge. F train to York Street
I will never get used to that view, between the Brooklyn and the Manhattan bridges, that leaves me breathless every time.
Dumbo in a sunny day of September.
Walking, by chance, I turn my gaze to a small white and gray colored shop.
A big cat of the same colors is sleeping on the carpet, a piano in the back room.
I feel like entering.
I find myself living, through my eyes, stories of worlds and lives closed into a room, made of pencil and crayon.
Sweet atmosphere, I think.
I don’t know the reason why, but I stop in front of a painting in particular, I can’t stop staring at it.
Nadia is there and says: «It tells a story, the story of how life is uncertain, how it makes us feel small sometimes and how everything can change. Therefore, the only thing we can do is holding the moments we live here and now».
And then I hear, like a fresh breeze in the morning, the notes of In this wonder, a song dedicated to that very picture I am fascinated by.
Nadia, Australian-born, coloring the sounds and listening to the colors, writes the lyrics, composes the music, sings and plays the songs for each of her works.
White background and delicate shades, as simple as the truth.
A magical experience.
Where it is: 17 Cleveland Pl, New York, NY 10012
How to get there: 6 train to Spring St. R or W train to Prince St
Eileen started to make cheesecakes in her small house in 1975 following her mother’s recipe, that she has been using for 43 years. Later, she moved to a small shop in Cleveland Place which, at that time, was a “ghost place”, absent from maps.
People started knocking on their door, so they felt encouraged to open a small kiosk between the Twin Towers, in the World Trade Center, becoming the meeting point for summer afternoons in New York. Everything ended on September 11; the kiosk was destroyed, the business at Cleveland Place collapsed, but Eileen Avezzano didn’t give up and devoted herself to cooking for the rescuers for six months.
Time passed and the place became popular. For this reason, Eileen considers herself a survivor.
For over 30 years, she has maintained a family-run business, with the same confectioners and her two daughters, Holly and Bonnie, grown up in that shop and still continuing to work with their mother, making every cake special.
«Make it beautiful, make it with love: it’s all about family and tradition», she says to her daughters.
The courtesy of the staff, the family portraits on the wall that can be glimpsed from the kitchen. It seems everything but the “classical” New York’s business; here, time has stopped.
No “next”, no rush to move on to the next client because, you know, “time is money”.
I take a step forward to place my order, but I find myself involved in a conversation on how nice it is to take a walk now that the air outside has heated up.
An atmosphere that, unexpectedly, brings me back to that village of 800 inhabitants where I grew up. I feel at home.
Soft and creamy cheesecake with flavors of strawberry and cherry, pineapple and raspberry, chocolate and blueberry.
I step out of the small pastry shop and, to my great surprise, I realize: I am in the center of Manhattan!
Where it is: 4-40 44th Dr, Queens, NY 11101
How to get there: E or M train to Court Square – 23st. G train to Court Square
Hidden behind a wire mesh, after having walked for a while among the trucks in Astoria’s industrial park, on the East River. Just past the fence, you will find long picnic tables and garden umbrellas in an intimate European atmosphere overlooking New York City, among moored boats and the skyline of Manhattan and Roosevelt Island.
You may think: a rare gem.
The owners tell of the first time they saw this place, completely abandoned, there was nothing, and they thought: “It’s the right place!”. I spontaneously ask if they hadn’t been worried that people won’t have found them in a place so hidden. The wife immediately answers: «No. My husband said: “If it’s a happy place, people will find it”.».
They created a place where families could take their babies to have fun, meet other parents, or let the kids meet their friends, to relax enjoying the barbecue and a fresh drink in warm summer days.
They continue telling: «Our customers have come here for years and their kids have grown up playing together.».
Personally, I have found a honest and simple sense of community in this place, that is difficult to find in a city of eight and a half million people.
Forgetting to be in a megalopolis.
Impossible to reach unless someone takes you there, so don’t tell too many people!
Where it is: 32-01 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, NY 11106
How to get there: N or W train to Broadway and 15 minutes walk, or F train to 21st Queensbridge and Q103 bus from 21 Street & 41 Avenue to Vernon Bl/Broadway
Socrates was an abandoned and illegal landfill until 1986, when a group of artists transformed it into an open studio and exhibition space.
The Park is a center of cultural programming, contemporary art exhibitions, multi-disciplinary performances, based on the belief that reclamation, revitalization and creative expression are essential to the survival, humanity and improvement of the urban environment.
Socrates Sculpture Park is an outdoor museum, a public park where artists can create and exhibit sculptures and multimedia art installations.
It has already presented more than one thousand artists on its five waterfront acres through temporary and permanent exhibitions, providing them the financial support, materials, equipment and space necessary to create even large-scale works on the spot, thus becoming the residence of emerging and well-known artists.
Endless initiatives: opera with young actors playing classics such as La Bohème and Rigoletto, jazz concerts, philosophy meetings, yoga, tai chi, capoeira, kayaking and canoeing, outdoor cinema, dance shows and arts education programs for kids.
The park is always open, 365 days a year, from dawn to sunset; the activities are always free and everyone is welcome!
Where it is: 906 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10017
How to get there: E or M train to Lexington Av-53st. 6 train to 51 st
Scents and colors of peonies, buttercups, astilbes, roses, orchids and tulips. A small place with a few little tables surrounded by plants.
Harmony among the flowers and smell of coffee, a soft acoustic music in the background appeases your worries and wakes up your senses, immersed in the greenery.
This little gem of a cafe’, on 2nd avenue, appears as an unexpected oasis in the middle of Midtown Manhattan.
The ideal place to sit down and read a good book, drink a delicious cappuccino or meet a friend to have a chat. Entering Remi: Flower & Coffee is like entering a small park. Enjoying a good cup of coffee, cappuccino or tea, fresh-baked cakes, straight from Brooklyn.
«This place», says Remi, «is the result of the combination of my two passions: flowers and coffee. And it’s important for me to do anything to make people feel welcome and happy.».
On my way out, I notice a little blackboard next to the door, that makes me smile; the chalk writing says: “Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect!”.
Translated by Diletta Quaranta