Merchant’s House Museum.

The Merchant’s House is one of the few houses built in the 19th century that are still standing in New York City. I was looking for it somewhere towards the end of October eager to experience it and cross it out my 111 places not to miss in New York City list.

The Merchant’s House belonged to a famous merchant and his family. They lived in there all their lives. On the death of the last Treadwell child, the house – whose furnishings had not been changed since the 19th century – was turned in a museum. It is like ethnography of two centuries ago, a time capsule in Downtown Manhattan.

It intrigued me that the house was said to be haunted. It almost made me not want to go in and pull out of the tour even as I was going up the stairs and knocking on the door.

One of the staff opened the door and invited me in. It seemed like I was being invited on a tour of the house of the Adams’ family. I set foot in the house and felt like I was walking down the same fictitious place, waiting for one of the Adams to come at me from behind the door or, better yet, for one of the ghosts said to be roaming the place to do the same thing.

When I got to the ticket office and paid the entrance fee, I thought that I was paying for a trip through hell.

I enjoyed the time spent in the garden, in the kitchen, and in the living room of the house. The scary part was related to experimenting the two adjacent bedrooms on the first floor. Like the rest of the house, these were set up in the style of the 19th and early 20th century retaining their original furniture and furnishings.

Customary of the time was the fact that people who passed away lay in their beds until they were ready to be buried. For this reason, the mortuary scene that had been arranged in one of the bedrooms (and which became apparent only when I turned from the first into the second bedroom), whereby a mannequin represented a dead person and another mannequin the family member who stood by the bed in mourning scared the creeps out of me and immediately pushed me down the stairs.

And out of the house.

Mad Man(hattan) Skies.

Mad Man(hattan) Skies.

One of the best things about Manhattan is the celestial display that goes on above the city. In combination with the flickering lights of its skyscrapers, it makes for a spectacle every dusk and dawn.

My favourite spectacles were the ones above Midtown, as seen from Long Island every evening as I used to take the boat back to South Williamsburg. My other favourite spectacles were the ones outside our apartment in South Williamsburg. It overlooked the East River and boasted views of Downtown New York that “never got old”.

Seeing the sky change every morning and evening felt like there was some sort of celestial lamp out there and nature had the switch on/off/adjust the light button. Every dawn and dusk the light went on and off. Every time it appeared in different colours, shades and through different cloud formations.

Charm Outside the Door.

Charm Outside the Door.

You would think that a city that is known for its skyscrapers and their ability to pierce the sky has little in terms of architectural variety and detail at street level.

Nevertheless, when I started walking down Manhattan (and as I said before), some parts of Brooklyn, I also started noticing small architectural details that give the city extra charm. Some of these are the lamps that adorn the entrances to numerous brownstone houses and apartment buildings – from the Village to the Upper East Side, from Brooklyn across the East River and all the way into Hell’s Kitchen. So colourful, so varied, so architecturally different; so coming from the past and adorning of the present; so charming beyond their functionality. I felt like every little lighthouse was an invitation to a world that had a lot to offer to potential explorers.

 

Magnolia Bakery near Perry Street.

I took two stabs at finding it, because I was stubborn enough to get from Midtown to the Village on foot rather than take the subway.

I believe this is the first shop Magnolia opened in New York. Located in the Village, in an area full of brownstone houses and boutique shops, it must have grown quietly and steadily selling one cake and cupcake at a time.

I first learned about Magnolia Bakery when a friend told me on a previous visit to New York that it had featured in Sex and the City. I had to see it as a fan of the show. With Perry Street, the set of Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment around the corner, it is a treat for anyone who enjoyed the adventures of the New York writer and her friends. So enjoy it I did that late October or November evening, when I went into the shop and bought a slice of chocolate cake. I took it to-go and went and sat on the stairs of one of the brownstones on nearby Perry.

It really was a quiet autumn evening in New York. All by myself, I sat down on the stairs of this brownstone and enjoyed my cake. And I don’t say this a lot, but I felt so New York. (And a little like Carrie Bradshaw in one of her chats with her friends in front of her apartment, just a couple of houses away from where I was sitting).

D.C.: Among the Greats.

The Mall in Washington D.C. has grandeur about it. It comes from the presidential and commemorative monuments that surround it and from the history and legacy that they evoke. There has not been one monument that I have visited and that has not awed me with the power and strength it has to evoke the past and the principles it has been built on. The Americans have done a great job at celebrating their greats and their achievements. There is something to be learned from their success.

It is unfair to pick a favourite out of all the monuments in the area of the Mall. However, I will.

It is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. His statue sits at the centre of the construct. His testament is engraved in the walls. Inside the circular memorial, Thomas Jefferson’s statue and his testament inspire and awe and send you back to the time that the Constitution of the United States of America was created and to the principles and values that inspired it. I felt safe and in good hands. Looking out upon the Mall from inside this space, I felt safe as well.

Maybe this is what a strong past does for the future: it bullet proofs it and makes it safe.

Let’s cross the seas.

Let’s cross the seas.

Sitting on the shore of one of the fjords that are close to Oslo, watching the sea become one with the horizon, it seemed crystal clear why the Vikings set out to explore the seas.

How could you resist not knowing what lies beyond the thin blue line on the horizon?

It is easy when you are in-land to find something to rest your eyes on and aim to reach. There is always a steeple, a hill, a mountain that pierces the horizon and that calls you towards it to explore it.

When you see nothing but sea around you, how could you resist the pull of finding out what lies beyond? What a tantalising pull. Of course the Vikings had to set out at sea. They had to find the next best thing.

 

Once upon a very hot Neapolitan day.

Once upon a very hot Neapolitan day.

Boy, is Naples hot.

In the south of Italy, it boasts summers that are properly hot. The pavement is melting -; you are driving down the street and your car or scooter wheels are gently sinking in the tarmac -; you hydrate and twenty minutes later you have sweated all your hydration -; you are walking down the street and the piles of rubbish they have left outside pizzerias, restaurants and street corners impregnate the air-; hot.

Not the kind of hot you get in London, which sometimes lasts up to a couple of days in the middle of July and appears again for a couple of more days in August hot.

The kind of hot that stays with you each day, every day from the start of June to the end of September. The kind of heat that suffocates you and that sometimes you just wish it would leave you alone.

That is how I felt when, after hours of walking down the streets with the sun blasting full on from above, I found the comfort and the chill of Galleria Umberto I.

I sat under this roof and appreciated that it screened me from the sun.