As a mystery writer, I love hidden things. Hidden motives, hidden clues, hidden treasures. Manhattan has so many secret gems, but three of my favorites are within easy walking distance.
A mesmerizing twenty foot waterfall cascades from the far wall, creating a rushing white noise that blocks out the sounds of the city and creates a sense of serenity. The other walls are covered with dense, green ivy. Honey locust trees provide an overhead canopy for shade in the summer yet allow a dappled golden light to shine through.
It has good, reasonably priced food, including the hot dog that Mr. Paley chose himself. Moveable chairs and tables let visitors be comfortable and have freedom in where they sit. If you want to rest and get away from it all for a little while, this is the place!
2. Afterwards, walk two blocks south on Fifth Avenue to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The largest gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the United States is no secret, but there are so many remarkable details that you may not notice unless you really look.
First, pause at the 20,000 pound bronze doors. Carved in the niches are images of American holy people, including Elizabeth Ann Seaton, the United States’ first saint. Catholics and non-Catholics alike have been known to kiss her cheek, say a quick prayer or make a wish.
Inside, the majesty of the place is overwhelming. But once you catch your breath, look for the St. Michael and St. Louis altar designed by Tiffany and Company and the St. Elizabeth altar designed by Paolo Medici. Track down the Pieta next to The Lady Chapel at the rear of the Cathedral. The statue is three times larger than Michelangelo’s Pieta in Rome.
Now, take a seat in one of the front pews in front of the main altar. Spend some time looking at the massive, solid-bronze baldachin. See if you can identify the saints and their symbols carved into the massive communion rail. And of course, make sure to appreciate the glory of the fabulous Rose window. It’s a masterpiece.
Call me ghoulish, but I am always fascinated by the four pointed hats suspended high above the crypt at the back of the sanctuary. Those cone shaped headpieces are called galeros. They were worn by Cardinals McCloskey, Farley, Hayes, and Spellman who are buried in the crypt below the altar, along with St. Patrick’s other archbishops. You can only get a tour of the crypt by appointment.
3. When you emerge from the soothing semi-darkness of the Cathedral on to Fifth Avenue again, crossover 50th Street and go into Saks Fifth Avenue. On the 8th floor, drool over the designer shoes and then proceed until you find Charbonnel et Walker. You’ll know it by the sparkling crystal chandeliers and the displays of exquisite chocolates.
Take a seat at the bar and admire the glass-covered treats that whiz by on a motorized track. Marvel at the three-foot-tall chocolate fountain. Order a hot chocolate. Revel in the specialness of the tucked away space.
Before you leave, study the cases of silky and delicious chocolates for sale. Some of them are sold in gold wrapping branded with individual letters. Select the ones you want to send a message to someone you love. Scramble the letters and let the fortunate recipient rearrange them to figure out your mysterious sentiment.
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* Photo Credit: Stacy Cohen