Why the Upper West Side?

“Home to bankers, lawyers, media types, rumpled intellectuals, yuppies and out-of-work actors walking their dogs”.

Does this comment by The New York Times sum up Manhattan’s Upper West Side?

Yes.

And no.

There is certainly a lot more to this iconic residential area of New York City with its affluent, highly livable streets and its cultural and intellectual feel.

We love Manhattan’s Upper West Side as a gentrified oasis, a world away from the bustle of Midtown.

DSCN0578

Brownstone buildings of Manhattan’s Upper West Side

You can revel in its family atmosphere; the number of strollers on its pavements; its greenery; the remaining Mom and Dad shops; and chatter of children boarding yellow school buses.

Sure, a stay in the Upper West Side is not for those on a tight budget.

The neighbourhood is prosperous and expensive and we’ve found that hotel prices are often steep, even by New York City standards.

“If you’ve seen a leafy, residential Manhattan neighborhood depicted on TV or in the movies, there’s a decent chance it was the Upper West Side”. NYCgo.com

To be strictly correct, the Upper West Side lies between Central Park and the Riverside Park –  and between West 59th Street and West 110th Street.

In the distance, you can see the Hudson River and the Washington Bridge.

DSCN0440

New York City school bus

It has the reputation of being New York City’s cultural and intellectual hub, with Columbia University located at the north end of the neighbourhood and the Lincoln Centre  – featuring the New York Philharmonic,  the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet – at the south tip.

However, for us, the appeal is much less highbrow: morning walks, coffee in hand, to Central Park to take in the procession of life; the squirrels; ponds; tennis courts; joggers; people flying kites, taking photographs,throwing frisbees; practicing baseball and preparing for work.

And what a backdrop!

Some of Manhattan’s best known  buildings rise above the park, especially in the upper west.

These include the Eldorado, San Remo, Majestic and Century apartments and the brooding Dakota building, forever known as the spot where John Lennon was murdered in 1980.

The Dakota Building

Dakota building

How to get there:

Take the 1, 2 or 3 trains to various stops along Broadway, or the A, B, C or D trains to various stops along Central Park West.

 

Upper West Side US

Don’t miss this long-running Broadway show

One of the iconic stores in New York City is in its 83rd year of operating in Manhattan’s stately upper west side.

Zebars is a New York institution: a legendary appetizing and Jewish soul food shop at the corner of 80th Street and 2245 Broadway – and a feature of scores of television shows and movies.

The store is a favourite haunt of ours when in NYC, especially the mind-blowing tea and coffee section, which is the equal of anything we’ve seen at Harrods of London and other similar high profile shops.

DSCN0575.jpg

Copyright Memorable Destination 2013

In New York City, it all started in 1934, when Louis Zabar, an arrival from what is now Ukraine, left his market stall in Brooklyn to establish a smoked-fish department inside a supermarket on Broadway near 80th Street.

Largely on the strength of its smoked salmon and a housewares section added in the 1970’s, Zabars steadily became a culinary magnet.

In the 1960’s, Zabars became well known for its Brie cheese; in the ’70’s it brought New Yorkers sun-dried tomatoes and gnocchi, and the following decade it became involved in a price battle with the speciality section of department store, Macys, for caviar.

This has gone down in New York folklore as the ‘Great Caviar War’.

On our last visit, we asked whether there had been a winner of the caviar standoff – and were told in no uncertain fashion that Zabars had emerged victorious and the real housewives of New York City had benefitted.

Zebars was also at the forefront of the trend toward drip coffee makers and by the 1970’s it was one of the biggest supermarkets in Manhattan.

coffee_8_coffee

Photo courtesy Zabars

Today, the gourmet store is one of the best known commercial landmarks of the Upper West Side and, as well as tea and coffee, it is known for its selection of bagels, smoked fish, olives, and cheeses.

Zebars appeared in the film, Banksy Does New York and was mentioned in the film You’ve Got Mail.

ourstore_store.jpg

It has also been mentioned in the TV series V and episodes of Northern Exposure; Will & Grace; Dream On; The Green Inferno; How I Met Your Mother; Mad About You; Friends; Sex and the City; Broad City; The Nanny; Seinfeld; The West Wing; Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; 30 Rock; The Daily Show; Hart of Dixie; Castle; Pardon the Interruption; Law & Order; and Gossip Girl.

Manhattan’s Upper West Side is an affluent, mainly residential area that has the reputation of being New York City’s cultural and intellectual hub.

Upper West Side US

Some Time In New York City

Face drained of colour, voice wavering.

I remember my colleague’s words as if it was yesterday.

“John Lennon is dead.

“Murdered”.

Me with a blank stare. Say again!

“Shot”.

IMG_0080

That was 37 years ago, on December 8, 1980, but how clearly I recall how I felt.

Sad obviously – Lennon was only 40 and had so much more to give.

Unease that an idealism and hope had so easily been snatched away. The ugliness of violence had, once again, swiftly and abruptly triumphed.

So much for ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘All you Need is Love’.

And, for probably the first time, I was forced to think about my own mortality.

Growing up with the Beatles, it was easy to convince yourself that the beat would go on.

That confidence, bred of the 60’s, had been ritually killed – and suddenly middle age was no longer something to be ignored.IMG_1405

And, finally, there was anger.

It took me a long time to forgive New York City. I’ll never forgive Mark Chapman, the killer.

Many years later, our daughter, Bree, took Sue and I to the Dakota building in Manhattan’s stylish Upper West Side, to see the area, outside the gates, where Lennon was felled.

What irony! What contrast!

A place of such infamy amid the undeniable beauty of the North German Renaissance building.

The Dakota is a magnificent structure in a city bursting with life.IMG_1400

Later, we crossed into Central Park and stood quietly at the Imagine memorial in Strawberry Fields.

It was also a place of contradictions. Someone playing a guitar in the background and softly singing Beatles tunes, while tourists trampled across the memorial to pose for photographs.

In the 37 years since Lennon’s assassination, his name and music has become a byword for healing of sorrow.

Only last month, the sounds of ‘Imagine’ gave a particular poignancy to public vigils in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.

Pause briefly today to remember what we had – and lost.

Features travel