Globe-trotting on a MetroCard

Shop till you drop? No, you won’t drop. It’s all right here.

In the mood now for something sunnier, I head to Mexico to pay my respects to the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose beatific face graces countless items at La Sirena [27 East 3rd Street, 212-780-9113]. I immediately fall for the shop’s huipiles, vibrant, boxy tunics or blouses embroidered with flowers and birds by a women’s collective in Chiapas. Huaraches, frilly dresses, ponchos, handwoven shawls, Day of the Dead jewelry, and—for fun—Mexican wrestling masks and capes are also stocked here, as are sundry items from Guatemala, such as belts and decorative headbands.

To conclude my escapist spree, I wander over to Russia—Leningrad, to be exact, because inside the musty Russian Souvenirs [227 East 14th Street], it seems I’ve gone back in time to the old USSR. The shop is overstuffed with Russian military caps, war medals, nesting dolls, vintage eyeglass frames, jewelry, military trench coats, and rolls of fabric. Alexander Bogatyr, who has owned it for more than 30 years, sees me looking at the necklaces and picks out a thick copper chain.

“Copper is good for circulation!” he proclaims in a thick accent.


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I tell him what I really need is a good winter hat, and so we cautiously maneuver down a narrow aisle to a hat stand, where I try on a jaunty military wedge cap for $60. He holds up a little mirror for me.

“You find this nowhere else in New York,” he says. “Don’t think; just buy!”

He sees me thinking and is clearly disappointed. When I opt for a fake fur hat for $20 instead, he waves the wedge cap at me, “This one looks good on you.” He’s right, of course. And I promise him I’ll return for it soon—on my next trip around the world.

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