Last night I watched You’ve Got Mail, a.k.a my favourite film and the inspiration for me moving to New York, for the first time since I moved here, and was absolutely thrilled by the fact that I recognised the majority of the places featured in it. Set mainly on the streets of the well to do Upper West Side, it’s a fantastic tribute to the glories of New York throughout the seasons, and it brought such joy to my heart to remember that when I first saw this film, I vowed to myself that one day I too would walk those streets, and here I am, that vow fulfilled.
Today I woke up to a warm and sunny city, and decided it was high time I actually went and did a self guided walking tour of Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox’s New York. Armed with my camera, I set off bright and early, catching the 96th street crosstown bus from 2nd avenue all the way across town, through the park and out the other side, over to West End Avenue, from where it is a short walk to Riverside Park. Riverside Park is a beautiful stretch of greenery, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of Central Park, that runs between 72nd to 158th streets on the West Side of Manhattan. It has spectacular views across the Hudson to New Jersey, and though the Henry Hudson Parkway roars along in between the park and the river, it still feels wonderfully peaceful and oasis-like. I hadn’t been over to this part of Manhattan yet, and I could have kicked myself for being so tardy as soon as I entered the Park; it really is stunning, and the 91st Street Garden, where Kathleen and Joe have their happy ending, is truly lovely. Filled with fragrant, colourful summer flowers, it is surrounded by benches where New Yorkers can enjoy a restful sit down and take in the breathtaking views.
I wandered down through the park until I hit 89th street, where I exited, inadvertently walking through a very enthusiastic play rehearsal (oops), saw an impressive war memorial, and then crossed the street and made my way over to West End Avenue, where Kathleen Kelly’s apartment building was. I found the absolutely gorgeous building and stood outside, imagining myself living in there, with those beautiful bookshelves, that lovely bed, the pretty little kitchen….sigh….then carried on walking, to take in Cafe Lalo, on 83rd between Broadway and Amsterdam, where Kathleen waits for Mr NY152, and bumps into Joe Fox instead. This is such a pretty and romantic looking cafe and I am going to go back for a drink at some point in the very near future.
I then continued downtown, to Zabar’s, the famous deli and grocery store, where Kathleen gets stuck with no cash in the cash only line. I popped in, was overwhelmed by the smell of cheese (I am one of the world’s only people, it seems, who cannot bear the taste of cheese unless it’s melted), wished I was rich like the West Siders filling their baskets with delicious pots of olives, vodka sauces, artisanal breads and pastas, heavenly smoked fishes….and left empty handed. It’s not the go-to grocery store for people on intern wages, that’s for sure, but it’s certainly a quintessential New York experience nonetheless! After Zabar’s I took the time to stroll through Verdi Square, which is actually a triangle, and a place I am in all the time, as it is the entrance to the 72nd and Broadway 1,2,3 subway line where I always get off to go to Trader Joe’s, New York’s only decent, affordable supermarket. Verdi Square was the place where Kathleen and Joe go to the farmer’s market (there isn’t one held there now as far as I know), and where they walk past each other holding their Starbucks coffees on their way to work at the beginning of the film. It’s a pretty spot to sit down, but it is at the junction of Broadway and Amsterdam so don’t expect peace and quiet!
After Verdi Square, I had one more stop left on my tour – Kathleen’s book shop, The Shop Around the Corner. This is on 69th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus (or 6th and 7th avenues, for those of you not familiar with the name changes above 59th street) and is now a pretty little cafe. It used to be a cheese and antique shop, apparently, when filming took place, and they put on a false front to dress it up as the gorgeous children’s book shop we know and love from the film. The Shop Around the Corner was, incidentally, modelled on a real New York children’s book shop, Books of Wonder, which is on W18th street and is lovely – well worth a visit if you’re in the city.
It was so wonderful getting to see the actual locations of You’ve Got Mail and explore a new section of the Upper West Side in the process. It reminded me of how big, diverse and stunning this city really is, and how each neighbourhood has its own feel and its own charm. You’ve Got Mail romanticises New York, and deservedly so – it’s a magical city, and I’m so glad I have had the chance to experience it as my home.
ps. The time has come to announce the winners of May Sarton’s The Magnificent Spinster! Interest was so keen that I can’t bear to turn anyone down – I’ll get you all copies! They may not all arrive immediately, as I shall have to stagger the purchases (I’ll buy them used) – unfortunately I’m not made of money! – but I will get all of you who asked a copy within the next month or so to read and then ‘pay it forward’. Send me your addresses please!
p.p.s. for those of you who visited my shop and found it sold out – I have now added more books so go ahead and check out the new selection!