Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 19, 2017
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It takes a Village

Let a New Yorker give you an insider's tour of the city's most approachable neighbourhoods

It's a beautiful winter's day in New York and the streets are teeming with people. In midtown, crowds are dwarfed by buildings that really do look like they're scraping the sky. But in lower Manhattan, three-storey walk-ups and old warehouses bring the perspective down to a more human scale.

Manhattan may be the epitome of the big city, but many of its districts have a real neighbourhood feel. On your next conference weekend, visit New York, not as the city that never sleeps, but as one that you can get into bed with.

Without a doubt, the best way to get to know a neighbourhood is to spend time with a local. Big Apple Greeters (www.bigapplegreeter.org) will pair you up with a native New Yawker. Based on your interests and the neighbourhood you select when you register online, you'll be matched with a volunteer who'll spend a couple of hours showing you a slice of life in the neighbourhood they love. (Be sure to reserve at least three to four weeks in advance.)

Take a bite
Foodies can get acquainted with the city's gastronomical side on a walking -- and eating -- tour with Addie Tomei, founder of Savory Sojourns Culinary Tours (tel: 212-367-0984; www.savorysojourns.com) and mother of Oscar-winner Marisa. Itineraries include the upscale bohemia of Greenwich Village where Bleecker Street is still the heart of the neighbourhood and many shops, like O. Ottomanelli & Sons (285 Bleecker Street) butchers and Murray's Cheese (257 Bleecker Street), have been around since the 1940s.

A tour of the Meatpacking District offers a snapshot of a neighbourhood in transition. Hip restaurants like Pastis (9 Ninth Avenue) and sexy designer clothing shops like Stella McCartney (429 West 14th Street) stand side by side with still-operating meat distributors. At Chelsea Market (75 Ninth Avenue), you'll find plenty of specialty food shops, including the Fat Witch Bakery, devoted exclusively to brownies.

Join Addie or hop on the subway on your own and head to DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in Brooklyn, another rapidly changing area. Chocoholics and fans of Le Cirque's renowned dessert chef Jacques Torres will revel in his new shop, café and chocolate factory Jacques Torres Chocolate (66 Water Street, Brooklyn; tel: 718-875-9772; www.mrchocolate.com). Try the Wicked Hot Chocolate, a thick, spicy version reminiscent of concoctions in the movie Chocolat.

Some of the city's farmers markets still set up their stalls in winter. Union Square Market (East 17th Street & Broadway) is the largest and is open year-round Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Visit the Council on the Environment of New York City (tel: 212-477-3220; www.cenyc.org) website for a complete listing of farmers markets in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as some are closed for the winter.

Needle And Threads
Shopping is New York City's bag. Each neighbourhood has its specialty, whether it's one-of-a-kind threads, designer sample sales or flea markets.

If you want to burn a hole in your pocket, don some comfortable shoes and embark on a walk-and-shop adventure with Shop Gotham (www.shopgotham. com). You'll meet up with fellow spendthrifts in a designated spot then shop till you drop on tours like Manhattan Shopping Landmarks and Chelsea's Flowers and Fleas. Or discover the hidden spots of the Garment District and its legendary sample sales.

Hit Canal Street, Chinatown's main thoroughfare, for great knockoffs. But bear in mind that quality and prices can differ greatly, so shop before you buy to ensure your Gucci watch is still ticking at the end of the weekend. Near Chinatown, Pearl River Mart (477 Broadway) is a modern airy store selling colourful Asian trinkets, clothes, lamps, bags and other eye candy at reasonable prices.

NoLIta -- or North of Little Italy -- has an eclectic mix of mom-and-pop pizzerias and fashion boutiques. Storybook Mott Street is lined with tiny shops selling unusual jewellery, scrumptious bags, original shoes and one-off clothes. Boutiques are run by young streetwise designers who don't open before 11am or noon. Unless you're content to frost up the windowpanes, drop by later in the day or, while you're waiting, stop in at Rice to Riches (37 Spring Street) a space-age rice-pudding parlour with enough flavours to include ones named Chocolate Cherry Crime Scene and Sesame Survivor.

Art across the river
If you've never ventured outside Manhattan, now's your chance to get cosy with Queens. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (33rd Street at Queens Boulevard; tel: 212-708-9400; www.moma.org) has temporarily moved into a former staple factory in Long Island City, Queens until it returns to its permanent address in Manhattan where an extensive expansion is underway.

To get to MoMA QNS, hop on the Queens Artlink (tel: 212-708-9750; www.queensartlink.org), a complimentary weekend shuttle service which connects the Manhattan museum with several of Queens' other artsy attractions: P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center (www.ps1.org), the Noguchi Museum (www.noguchi.org), Socrates Sculpture Park (www.socratessculpturepark.org) and the American Museum of the Moving Image (www.ammi.org).

 

Venues And Menus
The city's events calendar doesn't cool down during the winter. After you've explored a few new neighbourhoods, you can head out to get your fill of culture and revelry.

January 6 to February 29 is the New York City Ballet's (tel: 212-870-5660; www.nycballet.com) winter repertory season. Performances at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Centre include classics like A Midsummer Night's Dream, Chopiniana, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

The Winter Antiques Show (tel: 718-292-7392/5250; www.winterantiquesshow.com) celebrates its 50th season with everything from Art Nouveau to Americana on display at the Seventh Regiment Armory (Park Ave at 67th Street) from January 16 to 25.

Bring in the Year of the Monkey in bustling Chinatown. The pulse of drums and the swirl of paper-dragon puppets will fill the air for the annual Chinese New Year Parade (www.chinatowninfo.com) to be held January 25.

Sample the best the city's talented chefs have to offer during Winter Restaurant Week (www.nycvisit.com), Monday to Friday January 26 to 30 and February 2 to 6. Over 100 restaurants offer three-course lunches for $20 and dinners for $30 (beverages, taxes and gratuities extra). Not sure where to start? Pick up the current Zagat New York City Restaurants Survey (www.zagat.com) which rates close to 2000 eateries and cross-references them by cuisine, location, decor and best buys.

January 28 to February 1, the World Music Institute presents the New York Flamenco Festival (tel: 212-545-7536; www.heartheworld.org/flamencofestival/), four nights of flamenco direct from Spain at the City Centre.

Dog lovers won't want to miss the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (tel: 212-307-7171) at Madison Square Garden. The 128th edition of this venerable event culminates with the Best in Show competition on the evening of February 10.

In the dying days of winter, the annual St Patrick's Day Parade (tel: 718-793-1600) takes over Fifth Avenue (from 44th to 86th Streets, then east to Third Avenue) on March 17. Whether you join in the revelry or just enjoy the spectacle, you're sure to meet a New Yorker or two who's willing to show you around their neighbourhood pubs for the afternoon.

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