For years, I have said that I would never bike around Manhattan. Basically growing up in the borough, I saw just how insane traffic in the city can be, and once I started driving in it myself, I proclaimed all bikers to be crazy.
Then Citi Bikes came to town, and suddenly the idea seemed to intrigue me more than ever before. However, I figured I could use the bikes and ride in the city parks, rather than risk it on the road.
That was until I spent the summer biking through Santiago and Montréal, and suddenly, I found myself with an opportunity to tour through Manhattan with friends. How could I turn it down? The answer was simple: I couldn’t.
Fast forward to a very early, very hungover morning: it was 7am and Mary Anne was raring to go. I, on the other hand, was still collecting memories of how we got to the hotel, realizing it was only three hours prior to this very moment. Still, how could I miss a day of biking and eating my way through the borough? I rested my eyes, gave myself a little pep talk and got ready for the day.
Once outside, I realized just how badly I needed coffee; luckily, our first stop was Abraço Coffee. Here, we met our unofficial guide, Waldo, and took his suggestion by ordering the olive oil cake. I also got myself an iced coffee. It was exactly what I needed for the day, though the hangover was seriously starting to kick in.
Determined to kick the headache and upset stomach, I put it in the back of my mind as we headed to grab our bikes. Waldo had his own, so Mary Anne and I tested out the Citi Bikes. It was also at this moment that I realized I was without a helmet. For years, I had also proclaimed that anyone biking without a helmet was crazy; so, I was breaking two of my rules in one day.
We took our bikes out, adjusted our seats and hopped on, ready to take on the day ahead. I was nervous, of course, but it seemed to run relatively smoothly. Seeing the city by bike was different than I expected and much more calm than I anticipated.
All was going well, until we decided to hop up on the sidewalk to cross over the highway on our way to the park. I ran through a puddle, hit the curb on an angle, and tumbled to the ground. Mary Anne and Waldo came over to me immediately, along with a stranger who offered gauze and band aids for my scraped up knee. Waldo used his water bottle to clean up the cut, I put on my band aid, and hopped back up on my bike. The fall didn’t do much damage, but it certainly shook me up a bit, while also taking my hangover away.
After a bike ride on the East River, we exchanged bikes at another station, as they are supposed to be used at thirty-minute intervals, and headed to our first stop. Waldo’s idea was to collect food from a few of his favorite spots to create a picnic for us at the end of our bike ride.
First up was The Pickle Guys. Here, we feasted our eyes on barrels upon barrels of pickled items. We decided upon turnips and sweet gherkins, both of which I had never had, so continuing with the theme of trying new things whenever I happened to be with Mary Anne.
From there, we walked over to Essex Street Market, and I must say that I was glad to be walking for a bit. As much as I loved biking, my knee was grateful for the rest.
I immediately fell in love with the market. Even though I always make sure to visit markets during my travels, I had never been to this one right in my own backyard; I was thrilled that Waldo introduced us to it.
We picked up some bread and had the intention of picking up cheese, but the shops were closed, as we arrived a bit early. However, this led us to head to another fantastic spot for cheese later on in the ride.
We spent a bit more time on foot, heading first to Katz Delicatessen for a pastrami and brisket on rye sandwich. While I had passed the deli about a million times, I had never actually been inside. I’m so glad we stopped in because not only was the sandwich delicious, but it took me right back to the scene that was filmed here from When Sally Met Harry.
Then, it was on to Russ & Daughters for smoked salmon. I’ll admit that it was hard to pick up all this food and not immediately eat it. Sure, we were saving it for our picnic, but the more we picked up, the more I was getting ready to eat.
Luckily, we wandered around a bit more on foot, which easily distracted me from my increasing hunger. There was lots to see in the neighborhood, and with a break from biking, I could enjoy the scenery without worrying about being run over.
Eventually, we made our way to Astor Wines because we absolutely could not have a picnic without some wine. Here we were provided with many options to choose from, but we decided on a rosé from New York to go along with the local theme.
We hopped back on our bikes and rode over to our last food stop. We still needed cheese, so we made our way to Murray’s Cheese Shop. Here, an adorable and entertaining man, provided each of us with cheese that he felt embodied who we were. I’m not sure exactly what that meant, but after a few samples, we finally decided on three cheeses to take with us.
Then, we took our final, and most terrifying ride over to Battery Park. Having frequented the park in the past, I knew it was the perfect spot to enjoy the beautiful day. That being said, I screamed almost the entire time as we rode in between cars and across the West Side Highway to get there. To say I was excited to ride on the bike path overlooking the Hudson River for a bit is an understatement.
With my stomach rumbling and the hangover finally abating, I was ready to indulge in our picnic spread.
We found the perfect spot, spread out the blanket, opened up on the wine, and dug in while people watching and recounting our day’s experiences. We laughed about my spill and complimented Waldo on his recommendations. It was the perfect way to spend a late summer day, and easily doable for anyone.
Even though getting up that morning was rough, and I almost didn’t make it out the door, I am so glad I did. I may have taken a tumble, but for the experience I had, it was all worth it. Plus, the company was probably the best part of the day.