I love that New York goes so out of its way to bring elements of rural life into its whirling metropolis. Whenever you look, especially in summer, there is a lush park, bustling farmer’s market, or vibrant street fair to be found, nestled right into those mad-dash streets. My favorite days in this city have been the ones when I stroll down the avenues, walking 50-80 blocks at a time, and just explore the things around me. I had one such excursion up Lexington Avenue this past weekend.
My journey actually started on the West Side, at Gotham West Market’s Blue Bottle Coffee, where I was meeting a friend for a drink. There, we discovered some free post-cards with a post-box and a sign with an offer to mail them for you. One of of my goals for this year is to send more snail-mail, so I really liked the idea. We each mailed a postcard, and I kept a couple more that I feel might have inspired the rest of my day.
Sometimes all you need is a simple reminder.
I hadn’t explored Lexington Avenue in midtown too much at that point, so I decided to walk it. Right at the start of my journey, I discovered a new little Indian clothing store in Murray Hill called “Vintage India“. Most of the items were goods I would never bother buying in the US, since I can find more variety and cheaper prices in India, but the shop was colorful and fragrant and I was drawn in. (Plus it reminded me of a shop that we used to visit in college called Mexicali Blues, so there was a nostalgia factor.) I discovered a bin of $10 paayal (silver tinkling anklets) and was immediately sold.
I had a pair of these when I was younger and I love the idea of wearing them again… nostalgia is clearly a highly effective sales tactic on me.
From there, I kept walking up Lex, right into a street fair. I have been to several street fairs around the city, but I particularly liked this one because there was more than just food. The stalls all around me were selling jewelry, clothing, plants, and carpets – with a bit of imagination I could picture myself in a foreign marketplace, picking up things that I would have described as a child as “treasures”. I gave myself a cash budget for the day, and set off on my street fair adventure.
The first stall I came to had what seemed like hundreds of long, bronze-chained lockets hanging down from its railing.
Something about this feels magical to me… like it belongs in a dusty old antique store out of a novel.
When I looked closer, I realized they were clocks. I chose one with pretty engraving and bought it for $8. I love the look of pendants on long chains, and this piece felt timeless (no pun intended).
A little treasure
As I kept walking, I saw a few stalls with colorful cotton clothing. I am on the look out for comfortable, good quality but affordable harem pants, so I was intrigued. As I looked through the racks at one stall, some beautiful figurines caught my eye. I could instantly tell that they were from South Asia. I spoke to the seller, Anil, who confirmed that he was Nepali.
Anil making a sale to another customer
He showed me the various pieces he had depicting Hindu and Buddhist deities and we talked about his childhood in Darjeeling. In the end, I bought this beautiful Buddhist wall-hanging for $20.
I thought this was Shiva at first, but then Anil told me it is actually a female form of Buddha
Next, I spotted a $3 jewelry stall – how could I resist looking? I found these earrings and this locket amongst all the choices:
A locket and a sweet pair of earrings – 2 for $5 and totally worth it!
Finally, I decided I really wanted to look for something different that I would not normally buy. I had to walk for a bit longer, but I found a man who was selling beautiful plants.
A little bonsai garden in the middle of NYC
I asked him what was required to take care of bonsai (I definitely do not have a green thumb) and how much they cost. I assumed it would be very complicated and expensive. However, the seller explained the care process to me – just submerging the roots in water 2-3 times a week and keeping in indirect sunlight – and sold me this Chinese elm for just $18.
The elm apparently signifies balance and harmony and is supposed to be a good “beginner’s bonsai”.
The seller was so kind that as I was packing up my purchase, he told me to wait and brought me this gorgeous orchid for free (he gave me instructions on taking care of it too, of course!):
First orchid I’ve ever owned… hopefully I can keep it alive!
Days like these make me so happy because I feel like I can have an adventure right in my own city. It makes me want to discover what else New York has to offer and to go and explore other places the same way.
What’s the best adventure you’ve had in your city? How do you like to explore new places?