The One With The Village Radicals Tour At West Village & Greenwich Village

Christopher Street at West Village

The West Village made a natural starting point for the first of my many walking tours, since I was staying at Chelsea. This was also where the fictional Becky Bloomwood (of the Shopaholic series) lived with her then boyfriend Luke Brandon, and I was eager to experience the bohemian district in all its glory.

Gay Street at West Village

West Village (and its neighbouring Meatpacking District and Greenwich Village is a great place for wandering, and even getting oneself happily lost, as it’s just about the only place in Manhattan that;s not organised in a neat grid, due to its past as a collection of navigational horse paths.

Where Oscar Wilde Bookshop is supposed to be at

My first port of call was the Oscar Wilde Bookshop, which is the last remaining LGBT bookstore in the city. A simple brick townhouse, it has bucked the mainstream by selling queer books and periodicals since 1967. However unbeknown to me, the bookshop has already closes its door in 2009. I walked up and down the street for more than 30 minutes looking for this historic shop before giving up.

Perhaps I should write to Lonely Planet about this.

The Gay Liberation Memorial at Christopher Park

Not far from the quaintly Waverly Street and Gay Street was the Christopher Park. The park was crowded with relaxing baby boomers reading newspapers and homeless bums having a drink (honestly, it was only 11 in the morning) when I visited. Dominating the scene here were two white statues of same-sex couples, symbolising the gay liberisation movement in 1992. A commemorative plaque was erected here to give details to visitors on the birth of gay right movement in the United States.

Stonewall Inn

Right opposite the park was The Stonewall Inn, a legendary gay pub where a clutch of fed-up drag queens rioted for their civil rights in 1969. This is a pub you can’t miss, as the entire shopfront was adorned with so many rainbow flags you care to count. It exudes a certain historical charm that feel modern gay spots are able to emulate.

Lunch at The Garage

After soaking in the gay history this district has to offer, I made a pit stop at The Garage, a restaurant famous for its live jazz performance. However since it was in the middle of the day when I visited, I settled for their popular brunch menu. The spinach & mushroom omelette was beyond delicious. Highly recommended to fill your empty stomach if you are in the area.

Little Red Square at Bleecker Street

Further up from The Garage was the Little Red Square. No, it wasn’t a reference to the Communist. This square was the previous site for Little Red Schoolhouse, founded by Elisabeth Irwin in 1921. The current school is still thriving at a nearby building.

Fat Black Pussycat Site at Minetta Street

From here, I meandered up the Minetta Street, an interesting crooked but short street leading up to the former site of Fat Black Pussycat. The building was interesting but faded in a diminishing glory kind of way. It was also here where Bob Dylan wrote and first performance “Blowin’ in the Wind”.

The Minetta Tavern

ALong MacDougal Street is this corner restaurant called the Minetta Tavern. Although from the outside this historical landmark doesn’t seem that remarkable, apparently the inside was a classy Parisian-like eatery, with portraits of celebrities visited the place over its long course of history.

Cafe Wha? at MacDougal Street

Actually the whole street seems to be filled with historical pubs, cafes and restaurants. Right across from Minetta Tavern was Cafe Wha?, host to various Brazilian performing groups. It was also here where the young Bob Dylan found his first audience.

Cafe Reggio at MacDougal Street

Cafe Reggio, yet another old-time cafe further up the street from Cafe Wha? was outstanding with its green facade and throngs of people waiting for seats. Apparently, its original 1972 owners claimed to be the one who brought in the cappuccino from Italy to the States.

The New York University

By this time I veered away from the course of the Village Radicals walking tour to pay a visit to the various buildings of New York University. Instead of a centralised campus, NYU was a collection buildings across six Manhattan location, and here in West Village various schools were house in buildings both new and old around the Washing Square Park. I was here just to absorb the academia environment… and failed immensely. Probably the class were in session or something, but these buildings, including the famous NYU School of Law was very quiet. Hmmmm.

Washington Square Park

By this time, I was so tired that I literally ready to pop my clog. The entire walk was only 1.5 miles long, but the accumulation of jet lag, lack of sleep and improper bed really got to me. So when I walked further from NYU to reach the immaculate Washington Square Park, my heart lifted with joy at the sight that was about to greet me.

For this, I will let the photos do the talking.

The Arch at Washington Square Park

The famous arch at Washington Square Park.

Street Buskers at Washington Square Park

Excellent street buskers jazz performance. Really, their live show here was of CD-quality.

Sunbathing at Washington Square Park

Throngs of New Yorkers enjoying the first hints of summer.

Vocaholics from the New York University

The Vocaholics, the raddest, grooviest, crazy-go-nuts guys’ a cappella group at NYU did some songs right at the park…

All- Girl Acapella Group from Cornell University at Washington Square Park

… together with this all-girl group hailing from Cornell University. Believe it or not, they did an awesome rendition of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, complete with (somewhat cheesy) choreography. Hah.

After such a long journey, I was ready to head back to hostel for a bit of a sleep-in before my big night out – Mamma Mia!

The entire collection of photos taken during my second day in New York can be found here.

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