Is there a place that you drive by or walk past regularly, but never get to fully appreciate?
I'd have to name New York City's Bryant Park as that place.
In all the years I worked in the neighborhood, I never had the time to really appreciate the park that was spread out beneath my office windows.
My relationship with Bryant Park was mostly from a bird's eye view…I looked down on it daily from 12 stories above. I could see everything from up high: the carousel, occasional concerts, people sunning themselves on the grass, and the ice rink in winter.
I'd walk through the park often to get from here to there, or go for a business lunch at the Bryant Park Grill on occasion. A few times over the years, on a particularly glorious day, I would hold staff meetings in the park…not all that productive, but a treat! During the holiday season, I'd take a lunch hour to wander through the pop-up shops. And every few months, my office building would have an evacuation drill, which meant we were to leave the building as quickly as possible, and meet in Bryant Park.
Lunch in the park during the work day was a luxury I didn't often indulge in. Whenever I did, it felt like a little mini-vacation. Sitting among the grass and trees, even if surrounded by skyscrapers and pavement, was like a massage for my mind, in the middle of a pressure-filled day.
"Self," I would tell myself, "You must make time to do this more often."
I hardly ever did. But now that I'm not working...
I met some former co-workers in Bryant Park last week for lunch. It was one of those hot and humid days, where one questions their sanity by choosing to sit outside mid-day.
But, it couldn't have been more lovely.
I snagged a table in the shade, and there was a nice breeze. We brown-bagged it, and sat for a long while, surrounded by office workers and tourists just enjoying a beautiful day.
After my friends rushed back to the office, I wandered around for a bit. I never took the time to notice that this relatively small park -- which is the width of two city blocks, and not even an avenue wide -- offered quite a few diversions.
Most people come just to sit, either under the trees, or on the sunny lawn. It's a great spot for people-watching.
There are several cafes and snack stands, and the Bryant Park Grill for a more formal meal.
For the kiddos, an old-fashioned carousel sits on the 40th Street side.
Feel like reading in a quiet spot? Sit in the "reading room" with racks of books and periodicals, yours to borrow. There's even a section with children's books.
On the eastern edge of the park, on the upper terrace grab a table near the Bryant Park piano, and enjoy a serenade with your sandwich.
The best seats in the house on a hot summer day are near the fountain, where you can feel the spray on your face.
The gigantic flower pots were the inspiration for mine at home. I noticed them a few years ago, while walking to work one day.
The park has quite a history. It was a designated public space in 1686. A couple of hundred years later, it was named after William Cullen Bryant, a poet, and dedicated New Yorker, who was a major force in the development of Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I snapped this picture of his statue earlier this spring, which explains the tulips.
Next time you find yourself in New York City on a beautiful day, head over to Bryant Park. It's located on 6th Avenue (aka Avenue of the Americas), between 40th and 42nd Streets.
It's a little oasis in the middle of Manhattan. Tell them Ms. Toody sent you.