Scouting: Central Park Conservatory Garden

Vanderbilt Gate Central Park Conservatory Garden  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Vanderbilt Gate Central Park Conservatory Garden | Image: Laura Messersmith

One of the best parts about living on the Upper West Side is access to Central Park. I know I've talked about how much I love the park before, but it really is one of my favorite places. I think what makes it so great is how varied it is - woodsy in the Ramble, grassy in the Sheep's Meadow, and manicured in the gardens. There's always something new to see or a different corner to explore.

On a gorgeous late spring day a few weeks ago I took a little stroll across the park and up Fifth Avenue to visit the Central Park Conservatory Garden. This will probably sound ridiculous to non-city dwellers – but across the park and 30 blocks north is not exactly in my backyard. Fun Fact: The Garden's main entrance is through the Vanderbilt Gate, which originally stood before the Vanderbilt mansion at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street so it headed north too.

Central Park Conservatory Garden  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Central Park Conservatory Garden | Image: Laura Messersmith

You all know my love of gardens and this one is laid out in formal beds with a central fountain and a really stunning arbor of wisteria vines – very Game of Thrones. I wandered along the paths testing my knowledge of the plants (moderate), checking out the new plants being laid out by the gardeners, and observing the people sunning themselves on the benches in one of the quietest places in the city.

Next time I go my plan is to bring a book, pick up a cool beverage on the way, and just camp out for an hour or two in this little oasis. It's the perfect destination for the kind of day when you want to wander, but wander to somewhere.

Central Park Conservatory Garden  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Central Park Conservatory Garden | Image: Laura Messersmith

Central Park Conservatory Garden  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Central Park Conservatory Garden | Image: Laura Messersmith

Scouting: Central Park Zoo

Earlier this week I took a little jaunt across the Park to visit the Central Park Zoo. First things first, how cool is it to be able to WALK to the zoo? About 20 minutes after I stepped out the front door I was inside the front gates and strolling through the tropical zone, which is a pretty good place to be on a cold winter day, assuming you like birds. The tropical zone is open air and the birds fly freely through the exhibit. This peacock nearly landed on me while I was there - no joke - so, prepare yourself to be up close and personal!

Peacocking at the Central Park Zoo; Image:  Laura Messersmith

Peacocking at the Central Park Zoo; Image: Laura Messersmith

To me there’s something so wacky and retro about the idea of going to a zoo in the middle of the city. I could picture it in the sequel to The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Or maybe it’s the next stop after Tiffany’s and the Five & Dime on Holly and Paul Baby’s day of trying new things. Think about it. Right now there are thousands of people who have penguins for neighbors. Those penguins have some pretty fancy real estate and the snow monkeys have a great view of the Plaza.

Snow Monkeys at the Central Park Zoo; Image:  Laura Messersmith

Snow Monkeys at the Central Park Zoo; Image: Laura Messersmith

Snow Leopard Cub at Central Park Zoo; Image:  Laura Messersmith

Snow Leopard Cub at Central Park Zoo; Image: Laura Messersmith

Highlights for me were the red pandas - adorable!, the sea lion demonstration, and the snow leopard cubs. What is it about taking pictures of wildlife that makes me channel Austin Powers’s fashion photographer? Check out that attitude on the snow leopard cub - I'm pretty sure this was the female and she was definitely working it. “You’re an animal, baby! Yeah, fierce, baby!” Tyra would be proud.

Naturally, Central Park Zoo is smaller than say the National Zoo in Washington, DC; but I think its small footprint is what makes it so charming. It also means that you can take your time and still see all the exhibits in a few hours rather than committing a full day. And, because it’s so centrally located - no pun intended - it’s possible to be window-shopping on Fifth Ave just a few minutes later. I really enjoyed my visit and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone who wants a little something different on their next trip to the city.

Red Panda at Central Park Zoo; Image:  Laura Messersmith

Red Panda at Central Park Zoo; Image: Laura Messersmith

Penguins at Central Park Zoo; Image:  Laura Messersmith

Penguins at Central Park Zoo; Image: Laura Messersmith

Scarlet Ibis at Central Park Zoo; Image:  Laura Messersmith

Scarlet Ibis at Central Park Zoo; Image: Laura Messersmith

Snow Day

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week begins here in New York in 3 days, but thanks to the snow storm that blew through today, it was a day made for L.L. Bean duck boots and giant roll neck sweaters. Frankly, that's the direction my fashion sense takes anyway regardless of how many inches of wet flakes have fallen.

Since the sidewalks of the UWS are our runway - and Maddie-pup always looks chic in her furs - I bundled up in my long down parka and the two of us trekked over to Central Park to make the most of the snow with some afternoon hijinks. We spent several hours exploring and enjoying the silence that seems to fall over the city when the usual traffic sounds are muffled with snow.

M.P. absolutely looooves the snow and her favorite activities for enjoying it fall into three major categories:

1. Snuffling her nose in it (whatever it is that she smells down there is between her and the snow bank.)
2. Rolling around in it, all the better if it’s the dry fluffy kind.
3. Bounding over drifts to reach a fresh unbroken expanse.
4. Posing as a willing, but not terribly obedient model.

After all that playing and fresh air I now have a very sleepy pup on my hands and we're both happy to be curled up inside. Hope you're staying warm too.

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A Drop of Golden Sun

The sidewalks of the Upper West Side make for great dog-watching. Grab a cup of coffee, camp out on a bench for a few minutes and you’ll see an amazing variety of furry pups pass by. Gigantic great danes, hand-bag sized yorkies, bounding vizslas, stately bulldogs, vigilant terriers, and our golden girl: Maddie, the self-styled mayor of the block.

All Images:  Laura Messersmith

All Images: Laura Messersmith

Maddie-pup’s daily activities break down something like this: 75% brainstorming blog ideas (read: sleeping), 8% warmly greeting every person & dog she meets, 7% soliciting snuggles, 5% monitoring Central Park’s squirrel population, 3% begging for Honey Nut Cheerios, and the remaining 2% mischievously pulling the stuffing out of her toys. Not a bad life, especially when the occasional Shake Shack french fry comes her way from a soft-hearted picnicker.

I’m surprised sometimes by how happy-go-lucky Maddie is, because her days weren’t always so comfortable. Three years ago she was found on streets of Dallas – she had no tags, no microchip, no collar and apparently no owner searching for her.  Blanche DuBois-style she had to rely on the kindness of strangers who, thankfully, delivered her into the care of a local rescue organization.

After we adopted her I realized that offering a home to a dog that needs one is a gift. It’s a gift to the dog, certainly, but Maddie’s presence has been a gift to our family too. She brings a bright spot into every day life and reminds me to enjoy the simple things.

So, I do. I enjoy her inquiring nose over the side of the bed in the morning, her playful prance when she knows it’s time to go for a walk, her soft ears (perfect for stroking.)  I enjoy the gift that is Maddie-pup. Just ask my Instagram feed.

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