Tired of dispatching yourself halfway across the globe to keep things interesting?
Why not stay a little closer to home this weekend? With most of its inhabitants fleeing anywhere else, and unusually mild temperatures, it seems that New York has a few things to offer this summer and perhaps a little more room to do it in. Even if you’re a local, why not take out the Empire Suite at the Carlyle – where you can play Chopsticks on your very own baby grand as long as you please – and live safely in the knowledge that you’ll never have to go farther than half way up or down the island.
Exit stage left and make a beeline for Central Park to catch one of the first performances of King Lear at the Delacorte this month. John Lithgow plays the grizzled patriarch, and lovely young actress Jessica Collins his favorite daughter Cordelia. Set against this summer’s unpredictable elements, the thunderous production is sure to take you on a whistle stop tour of the entire emotional spectrum.
You may not have much fight left in you, so take yourself back to Bemelman’s and nurse a cold martini before heading back upstairs to catch the spectacular view of the night-time city from your piano bench.
Wake up before the sun has had enough time to heat up the concrete, grab an espresso at Upper East Side mainstay, Via Quadrono, and make your way back to Central Park, heading North West. Once you reach the park’s edge, cross 110th Street in tribute to the late Bobby Womack and continue heading north along Broadway, to Columbia University, where you’ll pass through her large gates onto College Walk. Admire the Low library to your left and the Butler library to your right, and exit onto Amsterdam. The wonderfully imposing Cathedral of St. John The Divine sits perched on a ledge overlooking the gothic Morningside Park, and is a sight to behold both within and without. Its greatest assets, however, is the pair of peacocks (one of which is albino) who roam the grounds (including a biblical garden, the fountain of peace and the honeybee hives) freely and provide hours of magical entertainment.
Leave the peacocks behind and take a short walk to 97th Street between West End Avenue and Broadway. There, on top of a parking garage and hidden in plain sight is the Lotus Garden, a three-decade-old legendary and exquisite community garden tended to by an eclectic and wonderful group of amateur and professional horticulturalists.
Lotus Garden: West 97th Street between Broadway and West End
The sun is high and you have a lot to do, so hail your chariot and make your way downtown—the East Village to be specific— where you’ll skip lunch and go straight for dessert. Two of the best ice cream shops in the city are a few blocks from each other and have figured out things to do to ice cream you may never even have dreamed of.
Since you’ve exerted yourself adequately for the time being, you are permitted a little respite now. Head to MoMA, descending into the catacombs where the cool breeze of its movie theatre will seem almost as enticing as the movie you’re about to watch. Playing this week are two: noire classic The Big Heat and Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Choose which film you’ll see depending on how much time you require to cool down (hint: Barry Lyndon is nearly 100 minutes longer than The Big Heat).
Fortified by great cinema and reinvigorated by the cocoon of air conditioning, head back uptown to catch the small but robust Goya exhibit at the Met. For the first time the four portraits he was commissioned to paint of the Altamira family (including Boy in Red, one of this author’s favorites) are reunited in familial glory. Take in the usual Egyptian, Roman and Greek suspects on your way there.
Finish the day off with a healthy round of oysters and the Grand Central Oyster Bar and wander uptown through the now desolate summer midtown streets for one last round of Chopsticks.