Looking for a great weekend getaway, right in your own backyard? Take your girlfriends out to brunch, pack a picnic basket for the park, or just shop till you drop on the Upper West Side. Start out on Broadway and make your way towards CPW, hitting Amsterdam, then Columbus Avenue, and finally Central Park.
Between 84th and 83rd Street
Steve Madden’s shoes are they fun, relatively inexpensive, and super sexy.
Check out the $70 cork wedges, the woven leather wooden heeled pumps for $89, and Steven jeweled thong sandals in Cognac for $119. Bring a little French Riviera to Manhattan. My winning pic: the dark wooden stiletto Indian-inspired slides with teal gauze and gold and pearl beading for $99.95. Bollywood move over?
Between 85th and 84th Streets
Opened in 1972, Morris Brothers cater to teenagers?and 20/30 something’s looking for summer beachwear. Taking a trip to the Hamptons? Stock up on tees and tank tops by Sweetees, Juicy, Roxy, Paul Frank, and totes and bags by Puma, Billabong, and Dickies.
Oo lala! A typical French bistrro with a casual feel, French Roast is perfect for a brunch, lunch or an afternoon snack. There’s also a full bar for a Sunday afternoon martini.
I’m not the biggest fan of 9 West, but occasionally they have a moment of genius…this season it’s their 40’s style wedges. They come in black or brown crocodile with snakeskin wedge heels and are a steal at $69.
L’Occitane has 12 stores in Manhattan-which kind of makes them a chain-nevertheless, they rival the Body Shop and Origins in my book. Their moisturizers are thick and long lasting with gorgeous packaging. The lavender and unscented shea hand creams are perfect for throwing in your bag and the Magic Eye balm works like a dream. It brightens your eyes just that little bit, making a long night out disappear in seconds. They also carry product lines featuring the healing properties of almond and olive oil. Their products are packed with organic ingredients and great scents.
Between 83rd and 82nd Streets
Barnes and Noble
Nothing quiets the mind then a stroll through a bookstore. Take a break on your tour and leaf through best sellers, classics, travel books, and enough self-help books to put every therapist in town out of business.
@ 81st Street
If you’re a lover of nail polish and sometimes saving money on manicures and pedicures: a beauty supply store can be your best friend. Essentials has all the new Essie and Opi polish colors. Opi polish is 3 for $18
They also carry Rusk, Bedhead, Phyto, and Back to Basics with their long lasting shampoo fragrances: Green Tea, pomegranate peach, vanilla plum, and the Chamomile Leave-in Conditioner. Leaves your hair smelling great all day. Great for fine hair or conditioning in a crunch-$8.99
The pedicure seats at Pinky are big comfy chairs-the kind you might find in your living room. If you play your cards right, you can get one of 3 chairs in a room, separate from the rest of the salon. The privacy and dimmed lighting make for a great catnap or some serious reading. Pedicure: $31
@ 79th Street
Filene’s has its hit and miss days. But on a good day you might find a Philosophy dress marked down to $70, Michael Kors, BCBG, DKNY City, and C&C California tees at 50-70% off. The designer section also features more expensive designer items for up to $300.
H&H is right around the corner from my gym, an unfortunate turn of events, you can even smell the bagels baking from the workout studios. They make the world’s best bagel. Pure perfection. They don’t do individual servings of cream cheese, but you can buy a small container, get a coffee next door at Zabars and head over to the Central Park or to Riverside Park.
Picnic anyone? This high-end market, opened in 1934, has it all-including an extensive olive bar and an aisle devoted entirely to smoked salmon. Stock up your picnic basket with gourmet cheeses, pate, opera cakes, fresh bread, and head over to Central Park.
77th Street between B’way and Amsterdam
An interesting addition to the UWS, Ashoka is named for the Indian Emperor who, once a fierce warrior, changed his ways and unified his country. Ashoka is owned by Kiran, a lovely woman from India and her husband Andre-from Madagascar. The shop offers unique pieces: African masks admired by the Museum of Natural History, bronze statuettes of various deities priced between $25-$600 depending on the size and material, from bronze to teak. Court scenes, hand painted in watercolors and mounted in gilded frames are $185-$250. In addition, they sell Bindis (bracelets), curtains, halter-tops made in Gujrat, and jewelry from Jaipur-which is called the Pink City of India or the Silver City, known for its silveer and pink sandstone palaces.
Tapestries made by hand by Indian village women sell for $250-$300 and the crowning glory: 2 antique 100 year old skirts that Kiran purchased at a palace auction in India, sell for $225 each. Women originally wore them on their wedding day, with gold threading woven into the fabric. If the bride needed money one day, she could burn the skirts for the gold.
Ashoka offers good conversation and pieces that tell a unique story, adding a touch of the exotic and the spiritual to your home.
@ 77th Street
Buckets is a small flower shop-great for the beginning gardener. Exquisite bouquets are $6.99-$8.99, romantic hanging flower baskets are $35, and they have a small selection of inexpensive flowers for flower boxes or window sills-for your own indoor summer garden.
Allan & Suzi
This 19 year old boutique was the first to combine consignment and new clothing with vintage. Allan & Suzi is a neighborhood favorite, selling to celebs like Kim Basinger, Sean Combs, Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, and Pat Field for the Sex and the City gals. They carry vintage Pucci, new Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahniks at 50-70% off, and consignment pieces by Gautier, Proenza Schuller, Roches, and Roberto Cavalli to name a few. Standouts were a Roche black cocktail dress for $700 and a vintage Badgley Mischka gown. There’s also an Eartha Kit album in the front of the store that has my name on it. Allan started off as a hair dresser, began selling his customer’s clothing, partnered with Suzi and the rest is history. (For the next 3 weekends, Allan is featuring a singer in the window of the shop, singing for patrons and neighborhood folks. Come check it out, shop, and talk to the fabulous Allan.)
Carrying lingerie by Jezebel, Elle MacPherson, Betsey Johnson, and Cosabella, Laina Jane picks pieces that are feminine and subtle. She also carries robes, nightgowns, and Sleeping In PJ bottoms, complete with their own tote bag for $73, great gift ideas.
@ 81 off of Amsterdam
For $ 48 you can get a top-notch hour-long massage. Crunched for time? They offer massage for 10, 20, 30, and 46 minutes. 10 min is $10, 20 is $18, 30 is $26, and 46 is $38. The facilities are modest-nothing fancy here, but for the price and the quality of the massage-you can’t go wrong. (212) 873-2194
Known for its deserts and cakes, Café Lalo is the mother of all French patisseries. Outside, trees lined with small tea lights and baskets of flowers welcome you. Inside, the marble tables, bistro seats, brick wall, French posters, and ample windows create an airy space. The menu is pages long: everything from flakey and not too oily croissants to grilled sandwiches, brunch items, salads, homemade soup, vegetarian selections, and kick butt French coffee. Oo la la.
Le Pain Quotidien
For a vegetarian friendly bakery experience, Le Pain has it covered. Complete with the usual croissants, breads, muffins, and sweets, Le Pain also bakes organic spelt breads, vegan muffins and homemade granola and granola bars. There is table service in the rustic dinning room.
Between 83rd and 82nd Streets
If downtown moved uptown and designed a store, it would be BOC. Large and modern, clothing organized by color, BOC carries designs by Wyeth, Velvet, Rebecca Taylor, Ulla Johnson. My fav’s? The Tracy Reese Slip dress in Mauve crocheted cotton sweater material for $254, Lemon’s sweet green short-sleeved jacket with silver thread woven in for $175, Verne’s red and purple cotton hippie shirt, and Debbie Katz’s peasant skirts that double as halter dresses for $68-in red or purple.
I’ve always loved this store. The prices are high, but so is the quality and craftsmanship. Pondicherri carries comforter covers, curtains, scarves, tablecloths, aromatherapy products, soaps, and wooden crafts. All of their pieces are embroidered or patterned with rich colors and an Indian feel. I found duvets from $150-$176, silk duvets from $270, pillow covers from $20, a wooden Indian hand painted box for $228, and Pacifica soaps.
Pondicherri’s own travel size candles in perfectly subtle scents-strawberry lavender and apple pear, are only $7.
An expensive perennial favorite, Sweet Pea’s mesh and lace lingerie is a girls best secret and their tanks and slips, can sometimes double as tops. This store has all kinds of goodies besides lingerie.
Berkley Girl is the ultimate teen clothing store, catering to the 5-15 set. They carry tees by Juicy, Lemon, Teehee, and others. Prices are $30-$70. A fun store, with flip-flops-especially Diva Bohemia’s new line, key chains, totes, Berkley Girl is every girls dream.
In addition to the many top rated restaurants and bars on the UWS, other attractions are the flea market at 77th and Columbus on Saturdays and Sundays, the Museum of Natural History (CPW/81st), the Guggenheim, The Met and of course Central Park.
After some shopping, take a stroll towards the park down one of the picturesque tree lined side streets and head towards the Reservoir. The trees are in blossom and the view of the city spectacular. A late afternoon breeze and the smell of the water, coupled with the fading sunset, will take you away from the daily grind and renew body, mind, and spirit. There IS life above 14th Street.