Category Archives: Local Travel

The Strand, Pete’s Tavern, and Memories

My friend, Beth, returned to Lords Valley this week and we decided to drive into New York to go to The Strand Bookstore which boasts 18 miles of books and doesn’t disappoint. Strand_Book_Store031612 It is always a nostalgic trip when I go to The Strand — I remember my father’s friend, Marty, who spent hours browsing the shelves. Sometimes Marty and my father would meet up and inevitably ended up buying something from a street corner vendor or off the back of a truck that never quite lived up to expectations. One such time I remember vividly. They walked into the court (now referred to as a cul-de-sac) in Deepdale (Queens) where our apartment was above the one that Marty shared with Eleanor and their two children, Michael and Michelle. There was a small stoop and, on summer evenings, everyone was outside the apartments either on the stoops or sitting on the benches. The benches were reserved for the adults and the kids generally sat on the stoops when not playing. My father and Marty proudly displayed the first ever transistor radio (at least the first that we had ever seen). However, to get any sound from the radio, there was a series of contortionist-like moves that had to be completed while antenna wire was wrapped around the iron of the stoop railing. I suppose at some point the radios worked, but after a while kids lost interest and we went off to play somewhere, leaving the men to their technological work. What an odd memory because of a visit to a bookstore. 95915501_ed12bc77ff_z

After the bookstore, Rachel, Beth and I went to Pete’s Tavern for lunch. Pete’s is the oldest continuously operating bar and restaurant in New York City. It is the place at which O. Henry was a regular and supposedly wrote some of his best short stories. Maybe even in the booth in which we sat yesterday. The booths are spartan to say the least, very small, wooden pew-like benches, and to say you are close to your food is an understatement. However, the food is outstanding and it is an iconic New York saloon. On occasion I met my father at Pete’s for a drink after work if he was in “the city.” We’d sit at the bar and have a drink and possibly a snack, once in a while having dinner together. Later, after marrying, Adrian, my father and I would occasionally meet at Pete’s. More recently, we were there with Rachel and Michael for a beer before having sushi at the trendy Yama which is nearby and for which you have to wait whether you have a reservation or not!! Pete’s holds a place in my heart as somewhere that has seen generations of my family come and go even if for a moment in its long history. petes-tavern Lunch, by the way, was delicious!

To walk off the wonderful lunch, we went to Barnes and Noble which, in spite of its four floors of terrific choices, doesn’t hold a candle to The Strand in my opinion. Then across the street to the Union Square Market which, in spite of the very cold temperatures, had a nice selection of vendors of organic breads, vegetables, condiments, and plants, not to mention ostrich jerky! All from regional organic farms. Then back to Lords Valley and the snow. What a wonderful way to spend a day for so many reasons. Each time I go into New York City my experience is different for just the reasons I described here. Sometimes it’s bittersweet, sometimes bringing up memories of the past that hadn’t surfaced for a long time, and sometimes to make new memories.

On Vacation! Day 1

photo-1 This is the view from the front lawn of Lynda and Brian’s home in Weaverville, just outside Asheville. Here for four days of catching up, relaxing, shopping, going to the Biltmore House (have never been!!), more shopping, and eating. You might think that taking a vacation is redundant if one is retired, but it’s not. I am free of responsibility for firewood, fires, snowy stairs, an icy driveway, critters roaming around, not to mention shopping and preparing meals. After a harrowing 10-hour drive on Wednesday that took me through dense fog, sunshine, rain, storms, and high winds, I arrived in Weaverville at Lynda’s house welcomed with a glass of red wine. A beautiful dinner followed and we planned our day in Asheville. Sydney and Enzo (pictured here) are getting along well — basically ignoring one another, but happy for one another’s company. photo-6

This morning we planned our attack on Asheville’s shops, first stopping at Tops, which is my go-to shoe store where we tried on pair after pair of shoes, each walking out with a shopping bag and happy with our choices.

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After doing some damage in Tops, we went on to Malaprops, one of the most charming bookstores around. I thought of Allison because of the proliferation of vegan cookbooks and we enjoyed talking with the staff about a couple of titles that we both bought before leaving for Blackbird for lunch. I believe we earned this lunch walking back and forth from the car to feed the meter and then up and down one of Asheville’s famed hills. I must admit I was tempted by the shrimp and grits having blogged about missing southern cooking but settled for a BLT unlike any I’ve had before — maple coated bacon and fried green tomatoes! We had so much fun catching up and we both realized that there is nothing like face to face conversation — while technology is wonderful for keeping in touch and maintaining social interaction, there’s nothing like the real thing. Lynda and I have been friends for 46 years. There is nothing we cannot tell each other and we have shared far more than most friends or, for that matter, most married couples! What a joy to spend unscheduled time with a friend.

Once we were well fed, we moved on to Mast General Store pictured here (with Lynda!). photo-3 Decided that we didn’t need anything there and moved on to pottery shops in Weaverville. My favorite potter, Mangum Pottery, didn’t disappoint. I have many pieces of their pottery — a multigenerational family business. You can tell who made the item by the glaze.

We stopped to pick up food for dinner at Whole Foods and I absolutely had to share this photo. I think it is typical of the attitude in Asheville and Weaverville. It is a lovely thought in a world that seems to be lacking civility sometimes. I was pleasantly surprised by it and it was an end to a perfect day for me.

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Living alone sometimes leaves me wanting for good conversation that is unfettered and uncensored — that you can only have with friends who know you well and have been with you through good and bad. Lynda and I were both single when we met and have remained best of friends through marriage, children, illness, death, moving, starting new lives, and have never wavered in our appreciation of one another. I am a lucky person.

Visiting The Slope

parkslope On Thursday, with the temperatures at 4 below zero in Lords Valley, I drove into Brooklyn to Park Slope to visit Rachel and to return Mason who spent a week with Sydney and me while Rachel and Dave vacationed in San Francisco. Since finding the new/old route over Bear Mountain, it only took me a couple of hours, I waited in my car until alternate side of the street parking allowed me to park right outside Rachel’s door, and had my second visit to Park Slope, a most desirable neighborhood in Brooklyn. It does need to be said that Rachel and Dave live in a fourth floor walk-up that is not quite like the buildings in the photo here, but nonetheless, it’s a fabulous neighborhood.

Park Slope is sometimes called strollerville because of all the young couples raising their families there. It has trendy coffee shops, restaurants, quirky stores, no chain stores in close proximity except for a Barnes and Noble. Everything is uphill in The Slope — thus its name — and it is populated with beautiful Victorian townhouses that are fabulous and fabulously expensive! It’s the neighborhood, Rachel tells me, that makes it not necessarily the apartment building. (As an aside, her apartment is lovely.)

So I began my brief stay in Park Slope needing coffee desperately so we went to DuJour which is very close to the car and apartment since it was extremely cold. dujourDuJour is a small bakery/coffee shop that, like every coffee shop I’ve ever been to in Brooklyn, has internet access, so there were young mothers with babes in arms on their laptops. Everyone seemed to know one another and the counter person played peek-a-boo with the babies while taking our order. Rachel’s hibiscus tea is typical of the types of drinks one gets in The Slope; I had cafĂ© au lait. One thing I really like about Brooklyn coffee houses and restaurants is that they do not ever make you feel rushed. We could have sat there for hours — one of the women sitting near us was obviously conducting business as was a man at a table behind us on his cell phone with his laptop open. Rachel and I caught up, talked about nothing of any importance, and then went to lunch. Eating is clearly a big part of being in The Slope!

stonepark When we entered Stone Park we were greeted by a waiter with a French accent, very gracious. Most of the restaurants on The Slope are small and intimate as was this one. Almost immediately two young women with baby entered and again I was struck by the nature of the neighborhood — one that caters to its residents. Coffee and bagel shops have little street level doors that dogs can use to get water or treats as well as walk-up windows for the dog walkers. The park has a place just for little children and another just for dogs (or both I guess). So many neighborhoods these days try to cater to everyone that they lose the flavor of who lives there and why. Towns seem generic and not individual to their population, but Park Slope is different — it is very much the embodiment of who lives there. After a lovely lunch, I decided to pick up some special coffee for my hosts next week, so we stopped by Cafe Martin.

Please note that Cafe Martin is mar-taan, not Martin! cafemartin Martin serves ridiculously expensive coffee that is amazing and worth every penny. So I bought two pounds, one for each of my hosts this week, and was entitled to a free coffee. The always unsmiling Martin was extremely annoyed when I declined. For those of you who know me, you will be surprised but remember we just came from the lovely lunch! He reluctantly sold me the two pounds of coffee and Rachel and I were on our way. I include his photo here because he struck me as the quintessential Frenchman, nice enough but unsmiling and a bit distracted. cafemartin2

So there you have it — my trip to Park Slope — Rachel and I sat in her apartment for a while chatting and then I left to get home before dark as ice and snow was predicted. You may be asking yourself, what is interesting about this and why should I care? Well…I tell you all of this in some detail to lure you north. My home in the woods is only an hour and a half from New York City and a bit more than that to Brooklyn where you, too, can enjoy The Slope! Tomorrow I’m going to the city again, this time by bus, and will enjoy meeting Michael and Allison for lunch somewhere equally terrific on the west side of Manhattan! Talk about the best of both worlds!