By Richard Levy
What an oasis is to Bedouin tribes of the desert, the High Line is to folks in New York City – without the camels.
Thirty feet in the air, a mile and three-quarters long and built on abandoned, elevated railroad tracks, The High Line is an architectural wonder as it twists and winds above the Meatpacking District on New York’s West Side, running north from 14th Street to 34th Street with an incredible endless gorgeous landscape of thousands of spectacular plants, flowers, trees, shrubs and wild grasses from all over the world.
It’s the best place in New York City to clear your head of stress, anxiety or internal clutter. Its magical vistas make it unable to think about anything else. Gaze to the left and there’s the majestic Hudson with ships drifting slowly down the river. Turn to the right and feast your eyes on a New York City skyline of old tenements contrasting with garish new glass buildings.
The High Line’s most spectacular structure is the futuristic IAC “Sail Building” of dramatically sculptured glass designed by Frank Gehry. (It looks like it’s always moving.)
Walking on the High Line empowers you; it makes you feel invigorated and free. As you float along its length, you’ll be delighted when you see the Empire State Building towering proudly over the randomly placed old and new architecture below. When you get to the end, you’ll want more and turn around and stroll back.
The High Line is a mind-cleansing experience, almost like walking meditation. If you’re having a bad day, just head for the High Line on your lunch hour. When you get back to work you’ll be more productive. Perhaps cancel your shrink appointment and instead take a 50-minute walk on the High Line. You’ll get more out it and you won’t miss your shrink telling you “it’s time to stop.”
The High Line is also a very innovative date. It is romantic, but also an intellectual place and a perfect place for spies to pass secret documents. You can climb down stairs from many locations and wander past colorful restaurants, cafes and shops on the streets below. Take time out and sit on a bench to watch the moving sideshow as hundreds of folks from all over the world float by looking happy and relaxed, almost in a trance, lost in their unique High Line moment. Despite all the people traffic, nobody ever bumps into each other. It’s as if everyone is moving in slow motion.
My favorite restaurant near the High Line is unequivocally Valbella at 13th Street and Ninth Avenue. It has romantic ambience, amazing service and five-star food. To start, you must order their platter of incredible Parmigiano Reggiano. I absolutely loved their South African Jumbo Tiger Shrimp topped with lump crab meat in lemon sauce; a rack of Colorado Lamb pounded, breaded and covered in cheese, lemon and white wine sauce; and Chilean Sea Bass, pan seared with shrimp and clam and house-made tomato sauce. Their decadent desserts include molten lava chocolate cake, homemade Napoleon, delicate puff French pastry and cream enveloped in toasted almonds.
Walking the High Line is a one-of-a-kind magical high unlike any you’ve ever experienced. So be spontaneous, take a day off next week and head for the High Line. It’s like taking a one-day vacation on the longest and most inspirational work of art in the world.
Hastings-on-Hudson resident Richard Levy is a former advertising “Mad Man” creative director and now prolific travel writer. He’s also an inventor of innovative new products and is writing and illustrating a new children’s book. You can contact him at RichardLevyTravelWriter@gmail.com.