Books, beliefs and the grace of old windows

On a New York rainy day, you look for indoor things to do. The streets can get ugly, thanks to the constant dash-and-splash of vehicles and the chronic poking from a million umbrellas.

It’s not hard to find the interior wonders of New York, especially in the old and revered places:

  • I don’t care how e-tastic you are. Nothing is better than a real bookstore or a magnificent library. The Strand is four floors and eight miles of bookshelves. From the half-price bargains in the basement to the rare volumes upstairs, you could (and should) spend most of a day at one of the best independent bookstores in the country. It’s the last survivor of the city’s famous “Book Row,” where once dozens of bookshops and stalls thrived along Fourth Avenue. The Bass family opened the store in 1927, and the family still owns it.
  • And for more literature, there’s no passing up the New York City Public Library’s main branch on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. It’s still as magnificent as ever. Gilded, marbled, hushed, with frescoed ceilings and stately wooden doors leading to research and reading rooms complete with banker’s lamps on the tables, the library houses 15 million books, periodicals, maps, journals, rare works and works of art, as well as classrooms and whole private collections donated in the wills of individual library lovers. There are frequent (and free) public art exhibitions
    You never know what you will see up the next flight of stairs...

    Art on the ceiling, New York Public Library

    and lectures, and it’s no problem to spend several days here.

  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral, just a few blocks from the library, is an attraction no matter what your religion. It can hush you like the library, but for different reasons. A visit to St. Patrick’s quiets the mind and the soul while stunning the eye with its architecture. And a visit during mass will make you stop and listen, even if you don’t participate.
  • Grand Central Station. Those three words fit so well. A Beaux Arts beauty that was nearly destroyed in the name of progress, the main hall seems to go on forever, both outward and upward. The marble floors, dreamy sky landscape on the ceiling and grand double staircases have captivated visitors and photographers for decades, and even hard-core commuters are not immune to the grace and history of this place. Many of those commuters helped to save this landmark when it was threatened with destruction in the late 1960s. And below the main floor, a catacomb of eateries, including the rejuvenated Oyster Bar, where even non-commuters stop in for a dozen Wellfleets, Tomahawks or Hama-Hamas.

There’s nothing like a bad weather day to bring out the best of what’s inside a city.


Grand Central Terminal:

The Strand:

St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

The Public Library:



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4 responses to “Books, beliefs and the grace of old windows

  1. I used to go into New York for business on a weekly basis. I took the train from Connecticut. No matter how busy or tired or late I was, I stopped for a few seconds and just absorbed the beauty of Grand Central Station.

  2. Miss Rigby

    Back in the olden days when I still worked for a living, I kept the phone number for the reference desk at the New York Public Library in my Rolodex (are those even used anymore?). I had occasions to use it, and when I had the answer that nobody else did, my boss thought I was wonderful. I let him think so.

    Been to St. Patrick’s…it knocked the talk outta me!

    Been to Grand Central…I probably looked like the tourist that I was, mouth agape and eyes wide.

    Missed The Strand. Drat.

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