Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Autumn Stroll in the City

November 7, 2015

In Riverside Park on Manhattan's upper west side
On Saturday, the weather was overcast and cool, but we had decided in advance to check out the last gasp of fall color in Riverside Park.  The park, which hugs the Hudson River as it runs up the far west side of upper Manhattan has an impressive array of deciduous trees lining its pleasant walkways.  A collection of winding paths and wide, flat promenades (which are unfortunately but understandably popular with the under-ten cycling and scooter set) makes for a satisfying stroll.

Strolling beneath the trees in Riverside Park
Our initial plan had been to take the newly completed 7-line all the way to the end to the Hudson Yards stop, check out the fancy, new station and then walk up the length of the narrow park along the waterfront.  It took us a little longer to get there than anticipated as the line was already closed for track maintenance so early in its young life.  But we eventually arrived via an alternate subway route, beginning our walk at approximately 72nd St.

It was immediately apparent that we missed the peak colors by about a week but our planned route through the park still made for a lovely river-view walk through the fallen leaves.

This alluring river-view soccer field was surprisingly empty
Traipsing through the fallen leaves is a novelty for these California transplants!
As we continued through the park, we approached the National Park Service's General Grant National Memorial, more commonly known as Grant's Tomb.  Not having much interest in historical monuments, I had no idea that this was here and it was quite surprising to happen upon such an imposing and grand monument sitting right upon the quiet streets of Morningside Heights in upper Manhattan!  

On the steps of the impressive General Grant National Memorial, aka Grant's Tomb
We went inside, for just a moment.  It was eerily and uncomfortably quiet inside the dimly lit monument, with it's soaring, beautifully domed ceilings, and we were the only visitors present.  Described as the final resting place of General and President Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant, it is the largest mausoleum in North America and according to the National Park Service website, "represents gratitude for the Civil War Hero who helped preserve the union."  Just inside the front door, I noticed a pair of rangers sitting quietly at a desk off to the side, and I was a bit uncomfortable since I didn't know if we were supposed to pay (subsequent research informs me that this National Parks unit is free of charge).  So after gazing over a polished wood railing at the two giant sarcophagi below, we made an about-face and continued on our way.

Taking a break on the charming national parks-themed mosaic tile bench located outside the General Grant National Memorial. Other sections of the bench were decidedly less charming, inviting passersby to sit on the unclothed, tiled laps of sprawling naked people who looked suspiciously like leering men.  I mean, what???  
Upon leaving Grant's Tomb, we continued on our walk through Harlem, along the pleasant waterfront there, which is still part of Riverside Park.

Fall foliage in Harlem
Harlem's lingering fall foliage made up for the gloomy skies
Eventually, we stumbled upon a sort of strip mall containing a couple of intriguing restaurants that may require future further inspection.  The first was Floridita, a Cuban joint that hosts live music on Fridays.  The interior appeared to be pretty no-frills but the menu posted on the window outside looked good and the all-day happy hour drinks, which included sangria and mojitos, were very happily priced indeed!  And besides, who doesn't love an evening of live Latin music?!  The other restaurant, Dinosaur's BBQ, was located on the opposite corner of the small mall.  Peeking inside briefly, we saw a cozy-enough, pleasantly dimly-lit room and the smoky, meaty aromas emanating from the establishment were tempting enough to add it to my list of restaurants-we-need-to-eat-at.

After our inspection of the Harlem eateries, we crossed back over towards the waterfront.  

Riverside Park in Harlem
When we were within a reasonably close-range view of the George Washington Bridge and the Palisades in New Jersey, we cut eastward, in search of a subway station for our journey homeward.  

The George Washington Bridge, adorned with lovely fall foliage that sadly didn't turn out in this photo
We got a little confused and were having a difficult time locating said subway station.  While it was not part of our intended journey, when we saw Yankee Stadium hulking in the distance, we ended up crossing the river and walking from Harlem over to the Bronx, since we knew there was a subway line there that would take us home. 

Welcome to the Bronx!
Our walk up the Hudson River took us from W. 72nd St. all the way to W. 155th St. - that's 83 blocks!!!  While a bit tiring, it was definitely a pleasant and fun way to spend a Saturday in November.  And somehow we still managed to go out with friends in Queens later that evening for a delicious French meal and several lovely bottles of wine... Life in the Big Apple ain't half bad!

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