Magazine article The Spectator

Walk on the West Side

Magazine article The Spectator

Walk on the West Side

Article excerpt

When the soul singer Luther Vandross died in July at the age of 54, he lay in state for several days at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel (1076 Madison Avenue).

Gargantuan black men in black suits, white shirts and sunglasses bear-hugged each other mournfully beneath the Chapel's entrance canopy, as security men kept the fans back.

Slightly bemused by all this were the skeletal ladies in long heavy skirts trying to get past security to the bookshop next door, Crawford Doyle Booksellers (1082 Madison Avenue, at 81st Street, 212 289 2345). As Crawford Doyle puts it in their ads, 'Anthony Powell resides here. We seek and sell early editions of distinguished British authors such as Evelyn Waugh, P.G.

Wodehouse, Virginia Woolf, Henry Green and James Lees-Milne.' They also do a good eclectic selection of American books.

Unlikely Luther-Vandross-meetsAnthony-Powell collisions abound in New York. For the most surreal of walks, follow that ribbon of a park, the Hudson River Park, which snakes up the west side of Manhattan, taking in the edge of Greenwich Village, and the old shipping piers of Chelsea, all the way to the Upper West Side.

Go to Battery Gardens, the southernmost tip of the island. Fuel yourself with seafood and wine at the Battery Gardens Restaurant (212 809 5508) with its views across Upper New York Bay to the Statue of Liberty. Then skirt the western edge of the island, keeping the Hudson River to your left. Ferries to Frank Sinatra's birthplace, Hoboken in New Jersey, on the other side of the river, drift by as you make your way north. After about half a mile you will see through a gap in the buildings to your right the great void where the World Trade Center stood. To its right the Deutsche Bank building, wrapped in black crepe, still waits to be demolished. Its structure was endangered but everything else remained intact, down to the omelettes that fleeing workers deserted in the canteen four years ago.

Pushing on up, you pass Trapeze School New York (open to all-comers, with courses in flying trapeze, static trapeze and ropes, Lower West Side, below Canal on West Street between piers 34 and 26, 917 797 1872). No need to take part -- just get great pleasure in watching people fall off into the safety net. Another quarter mile up you'll find free and excellent tennis courts on your right. Americans can be surprisingly and comfortingly bad at tennis. After another quarter of a mile, take a right and plunge through the skyscrapers down West 11th Street. Nicole Kidman has just bought the penthouse flat in the first big glass skyscraper on your right. Sadly the glass is smoked. Three blocks on, the Spotted Pig (314 West 11th Street, 212 620 0393) is an American version of an English pub -- i. e. , much better. The food and wine are excellent, not that much of it makes it past the lips of the clientele. You are now in the natural habitat of the New York stick insect, where the richest, boniest women in the city congregate. The next street south, Perry Street, is where they filmed the external shots of Carrie Bradshaw's house in Sex and the City.

Continue along West 11th Street for three more blocks and you hit the Magnolia Bakery, the cupcake specialists favoured by less bony women and shorthaired men in their forties who have yet to find the right girl. Take a right here down Bleecker Street and you pass a series of boutiques, alternating with restaurants that get better as you head south-east along the street. …

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