New York is the most written-about, sung-about, studied, chronicled and filmed city in America — maybe the world — and its stories, monuments and attractions are too numerous to count. So where do you start? Just go for a walk.
Author Layla Schlack Photography Chris Sanders
DAY THREE | Today is a little more laid-back. You start off in nearby Chinatown, which, well, actually is a bit hectic: Stores selling everything from diamonds to fake designer handbags to fish heads line narrow streets, and residents haggle with shop owners on the sidewalk. Underneath it all, you catch a faint garlicky aroma. You follow it and take a seat at Dim Sum Go Go, where the minimal red-and-white décor is a stark contrast to the flurry of activity outside. You nibble on succulent duck dumplings and turnip cakes served in bamboo steamer baskets.
After a post-brunch stroll through the labyrinthine Chinatown streets, you walk north and check into the Maritime Hotel, a historic building in its own right in Chelsea. It was built as the shining, silvery headquarters of the National Maritime Union and has a lot of nautical touches, such as metallic porthole-shaped windows. A nap calls, but having caught the history bug over the previous two days, you decide to take a pleasant walk along 12th Street, heading east, to visit the Strand Book Store. Famous for its 18 miles of books, the Strand opened in 1927 as one of 48 bookstores on what was known as Book Row. Today, it’s the only one left, and its unending sprawl of books and flannel-clad intellectuals endear it to locals. You pick up a copy of E.B. White’s slender classic Here Is New York and take it to a bench in nearby Union Square to relax and read for a while.
You get back to your room at the Maritime just in time to watch the sun set over the Hudson River, and then head for Marble Lane, a trendy, newish steakhouse. You walk past overstuffed metallic chairs in the lobby and take a seat under the hand-blown glass bubbles hanging from the ceiling. As you dig into your prime American kobe steak, you reflect on how funny it is that last year this now well-established restaurant wasn’t even here. Not long ago, in fact, this whole neighborhood was devoted to butchering and packaging meat. It’s always changing, this city, and the ceaseless flow of new people, new buildings and new ideas are what make it such a breathlessly exhilarating place. Calling for another glass of wine, you can’t wait to see what will happen next.
To her mild shame, New York–based writer LAYLA SCHLACK has never been to the top of the Statue of Liberty.