CONDUCTING PRIVATE TOURS IN NEW YORK CITY IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS TO DO AS A GUIDE.
When Diana called and asked if I could conduct a private tour for her and her two teenage daughters, Maria and Isabel, I was more than happy to oblige.
What wouldn’t co-operate was the weather. The prediction was for cold, wind, snow, less than optimal, but they were only in town for a few days, so January 2nd was the day. I picked them up at their East Side hotel near Grand Central Station. The weather, as predicted, was horrible, but I was relieved to see that everyone was dressed appropriately, scarves, hats, gloves, boots. We walked up Lexington Avenue toward s Grand Central Terminal for a brief tour, but Diana had two places on her wish list that she wanted to see. One was Central Park, and the other was the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. After Grand Central we decided to take the Lex up to 77th Street and walk across Central Park.
As we walked the weather turned worse, the wind picked up and fine misty snow was falling, stinging our faces. Diana, Maria and Isabel were more than game, so we continued through the park. There is a magic to the park when it is blanketed with snow, the topography becomes more evident, the trees take on a sculptural quality, and the lawns become playgrounds for sledding kids. Eventually we made our way over to Belvedere Castle, On a sunny day the Castle has spectacular views of the park, you can see Delacorte Theater, the Rambles, and if you’re lucky a hawk or an osprey. We went inside to warm up, and then climbed the narrow winding stone stairs to the roof, were I took took some photographs of the Diana and her bundled up girls. The gusts of icy wind eventually sent us hurrying inside and down the stairs.
By now, a hot chocolate and a snack seemed like an excellent idea, so we walked quickly down through the leafless Rambles, across Oak Bridge, and over to 72nd Street to catch the train up to the Cathedral. We stopped for a bagel and coffee, but Isabel and Maria wanted to sample a real NYC hot dog so we made a pit stop at Gray’s Papaya. The counterman at Gray’s served up two dogs slathered in onions and mustard that seemed to hit the spot. After, we walked across Broadway and took the #1 up to the Cathedral.
The Cathedral of St. John the Devine never ceases to amaze, it’s scale and history, the story of thefire in 2001, the numerology of St John, all are rich topics of discussion, we toured the Chapel of the Tongues in the rear of the church behind the main altar. We tried to hook onto a public tour being conducted by one of the Cathedral’s docents, but we were politely told we could purchase tickets at the visitors window.
Since we had time, our next destination was the campus of Columbia University. In all my years living in NYC I have never been inside Low Library, we all were awed by the Rotunda, a Stanford White gem. The dome is the largest granite roof in the United States. I noticed Diana picking up literature about Columbia, maybe Isabel & Maria will return as undergrads in the not too distant future.
Our last stop was Tom’s Restaurant, we grabbed a booth in the back and had lunch. We had a great time together and as I prepared to leave, we pored over a subway map. I circled places we had visited and made suggestions about other sites they might visit after the tour was over. The wonderful thing about guiding is that you start the day as strangers and end up as friends, and that’s exactly what happened.
Diana wrote a wonderful review of our day together on Trip Advisor, you can read it here.