Urban Oases

The Metropolitan Museum
photo: Greg Miller
Spend the day on a cool white marble patio with walls and floors the color of milk. And dream of Don Pedro Fajardo y Chacón, maybe wearing a little velvet Spanish Renaissance outfit, holding a glass of wine, the color of blood, and drifting through his big 16th-century castle, Velez Blanco, near the southeast coast of Spain. The patio, which was part of the castle, made its way to the Metropolitan Museum (Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street; 212-535-7710; $12 "suggested" donation) years ago and has a balcony for secretly gazing down at mysterious strangers. The room is all Gothic and Spanish-Moorish with 2,000 marble parts carved by northern Italians—you can just hear Don Pedro say, "Work faster, faster, Giorgio and Agostino." (If you do not see Don Pedro when you are there, maybe you will see someone else, though hopefully he won't be wearing a Renaissance hat or anything.) [schlesinger]

The Russian and Turkish Baths, on East 10th Street
photo: Greg Miller
The Russian and Turkish Baths, on East 10th Street

Man's best friends need a respite from the city summer, too. Canines who'd like to take a dip should lead their owners to the Long Meadow Dog Beach in Prospect Park (Upper Pool, near 9th Street entrance, just north of the softball fields; prospectpark.org—click on "activities," then "dog walking"). A small cement ramp slants gently into the cool, tawny water of the pool. A barrier of plastic sheeting placed about 10 feet out keeps pooches from swimming away and getting lost among the rushes and cattails—and probably keeps the flea powder and hairballs from choking the ducks and fish. The only downside is that summer off-leash hours run from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., making wading—but not swimming—the only midday option. Maybe the Parks Department will consider fencing off the area, creating the wet/dry dog run. [adkison]

There's this short story by Stephen King about smokers who, thanks to the specific amount of nicotine they inhale, are able to see the monsters—invisible to everyone else—in our midst. For all the hacking and coughing, I mean bitching and whining, about not being able to light up inside, I'm envisioning the possibilities, the clumps of sidewalk communities. And let's say you're at one of those Second Avenue bars near St. Marks Place; why not walk a block over to the church, and take a choker, I mean breather, on one of the benches, and commiserate with someone cute about having to exit a crowded bar full of obnoxious people? [catucci]

Boy meets grill? In this city? I don't think so. I presume Bobby Flay (who wrote that book on cooking) has a rooftop furnished with noncombustible fixtures and landscaping. Provided your digs aren't quite so cushy, you may find a bit more trouble. But fear not. "Firing" up the Foreman isn't your only hope for charcoal-tinged delights. Beware, fire escapes, however, are not for fires of this kind. So don't try it. Sidewalks are slippery territory, but a hike to the Fire Department Headquarters (9 Metro Tech Center North, Brooklyn) can yield an application and eventual visit by a fire inspector who could grant permission for your stoop-side barbecue. Or you can always light the grill in the park? Legally, the only Manhattan parks left for barbecuing are Inwood Park (Dyckman Ballfields at Dyckman Street and the Hudson River), St. Nicholas Park (St. Nicholas Terrace at St. Nicholas Avenue and West 127th Street), and Ward's Island (the East River and Hell Gate). A hike, maybe, but some have public grills. And the Foreman does require an outlet. For more concrete info, nyc.gov/parks. [snow]

Buses get a bad rap. Yeah, they occasionally take longer to get from A to B, but at least you've got more to look at than Joe Public picking his nose. Besides, what's more comforting then reclined, uninhibited people-watching from a vehicle that you aren't driving? Forgo the pricey red double-decker buses and hop on the M5. From the George Washington Bus terminal (4211 Broadway, 800-221-9903), a two-hour local downtown ride will find you gazing at brownstones in Harlem, the granite columns of Grant's Tomb, bikers meandering through Central Park, tourists at Lincoln Center, students around Columbus Circle, outdoor diners in Chelsea, and village folk near Washington Square Park, where the ride ends. Now all you need is a sunny day and some snacks. [franklin]

Centricity, a reasonably priced, vintage jewel at 63 East 4th Street (212-979-7601) is the mecca to forage if you're desperately seeking a Felicity Shagwell-ish foxy red micromini to top a pair of cork-heeled wedges or a Pucci-print A-line shift, very Señora Madcap. My own cherished find of the century was a demure, biscuit-toned, knee-length, $25 empire waist frock with ruffled cap sleeves. Perfect for slipping summer days into nights just like Sandy, baby, Olivia Newton-John. On weekends, if you wake up chanting that retail therapy is the road to Zen, then just walk east a bit to the sprawling, splashy carnival that is the M.H.C. Flea Market (corner of Avenue A and East 11th Street). Slip dresses swish silkily from hangers, and exquisite, embroidered vintage blousons will have you feeling like a preening heiress. Estate jewelry—the ultimate heirloom chic—can also be bought for a song. Better than yoga to relax you. [rao]

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