Saturday, May 28, 2011

A lady's guide to walking

Walking is, without a doubt, the best way to get about New York.

More so than any other city I know, NY lends itself to being explored on foot. It's nice and flat, the pedestrian crossings are actually pedestrian-friendly, and the grid system makes it super easy to navigate. (Yesterday I was stopped by a woman standing within clear eyeshot of the 33rd and 34th Street signs asking me which way to 35th Street, and I actually thought she was kidding.)

Walking also makes the city seem accessibly small. Which I suppose it is. The usual rule of thumb is 'a block a minute' but my long legged friend Arthuros claims to be able to cover 4 blocks in 3 minutes. I saw that as a challenge, and set out today to get from Rabbit Hutch Towers to the Met in an hour and a half. That's 59 blocks North, and 5 long avenue blocks East of me.

Reader, I did it, there and back, and I have the aching legs to prove it.

I learned some valuable lessons in the process. The big challenge on such a walk is keeping cool. I did not want to meet my favourite New Yorker for a tour of the McQueen exhibit, all clammy and dishevelled. So, here are my four golden rules for staying frosty as you roam Manhattan:

1. Seek shade at all times.
Before 11.30am, stick to the East side of the avenue; after 1.30pm, stick close to the West side. (Going out between 11.30 and 1.30? Get a cab.) Streets are tricky, as they don't get much shade. Look for blocks with construction work going on and get under that scaffolding, where the pavement hasn't seen sun for weeks. It may smell of piss but you will find it to be a cool shady sanctuary you never want to leave.

2. Avoid hot things and sweaty people.
Under no circumstances, when waiting for a light to change, should you stand near large red faced people, or hot dog trucks. Those things are throwing out heat like an Aga. Stand well clear.

3. If you can't be cool, be near coolness.
Your best bet is a shop with aggressive aircon. The stretch of 5th Avenue in the 50sh and 60s has lots of lovely posh stores pumping out cool air in delicious waves every time the door opens. St Patrick's Cathedral is like a magical ice block made of stone. Walk slowly slowly past these cooling opportunities.

4. Wear backsweat-friendly clothes.
This is a tricky one, for fashion retailers don't tend to promote their clothes as backsweat-friendly. But think about it. That hot pink silk top you think of as so cooling? That's going to tell the world you're sweating before you even know it. Reconsider polyester. It may be highly flammable but it does not change colour when it's wet, which makes it your friend in a hot city.


  1. Extremely pleased that it's hot enough to need tips - will be thinking about the old NY wardrobe...