Exploring the Globe

06/24/2009 4:00 AM |

THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES: South America

You don’t have to travel halfway across the hemisphere to meet a
socialist — we’ve got plenty of them right here in town, though
ours tend to be a bit more fragile and wan than the island conquerors
of yore. Start your journey through our cousin in the Southern
hemisphere via NYC with a visit to The Socialist Party of New
York City’s headquarters (339 Lafayette St) near the Bleecker Street
stop on the 6. Those socialists are always marching against something,
and if not, we’re sure they’ll have plenty of envelopes that need
stuffing to keep you busy.

Once you’ve got your outrage at the Capitalist occupiers going, cool
off with a nice cigar and a visit to Club Macanudo (26 E 63rd
St) Most people associate cigars with the Caribbean, but much of the
world’s tobacco crop is grown in Brazil and parts of Central America.
The club — which requires gentlemen’s shirts to be collared
— offers a menu of over 130 cigars.

Now that you’ve filled your mouth with the sweet flavors of fine
tobacco and anti-capitalist rhetoric, you’re ready to unwind (and lose
your breath) with a bit of Argentine tango. Find out what’s happening
about town by calling the NYC Tango Hotline (212-726-1111) or
visiting Richard Lipkin’s Guide (newyorktango.com). But from the Upper
East Side cigar club, it’s walking distance to hit up some free outdoor
hoofing courtesy Central Park Tango on Saturdays from 6 to 9
p.m. until September, with free beginner’s lessons at 7, which we’re
sure you’ll need.

Now that your bumbling dance moves have helped you work up an
appetite, walk back over to the Upper East Side for supper at
Libertador Parrilla Argentina (1725 Second Ave), an Argentine
steakhouse that serves grass-fed, free-range cattle cuts in a homemade
chimichurri sauce. Or you might try nearby Nina’s (1750 Second Ave), an
Argentine pizzeria. Owned by an Italian-Argentine, the restaurant pays
tribute to the South American country’s sizeable Italian immigrant
population: start with empanadas, move on to a con chorizo pizza
— with Argentine sausage! That’s what she said, or something.

THE GRAND TOUR: Europe

Time was that any cultured person spent some time abroad on the
Continent, soaking up the greatest in human achievement. New York may
not have any of the gilded architecture common to the great European
cities, but it has pilfered plenty of their art. Your first stop, duh,
should be the European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of
Art
(1000 Fifth Ave). It has 2,200 paintings in its collection,
including noted masterpieces from Monet, Cezanne, Vermeer, Van Gogh,
Velazquez, Degas, El Greco, Goya and Van Eyck. You might check out the
sculpture wing as well for the Rodin and Degas works, among others.

But there are plenty of other museums to visit, too, besides that
obvious behemoth. The Morgan Library and Museum (225 Madison
Ave) has over 10,000 drawings spanning the last 600 years, including
works by Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo (but not Donatello,
Splinter or Shredder), as well as Degas, Cezanne and Matisse; it has
the country’s largest selection of Rembrandt etchings, as well as
manuscripts by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Debussy and more, a medieval
manuscripts collection, and handwritten letters by European notables
like Napoleon, Voltaire and Kirsten Dunst Marie Antoinette. The
collection at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Pkwy) ain’t
nothing to sneeze at, either: the European art department has over 600
paintings — including a healthy selection of Impressionists
— as well as thousands of works on paper and an impressive
sculpture collection, which includes 60 Rodins! Take that, Met!

On your way back to the city, stop by Chelsea for dinner. El
Quijote
(226 W 23rd St), sandwiched beneath the Chelsea Hotel,
offers old-fashioned Spanish dining, from paella to lobster and steak.
The staff wears ties; paintings on the walls depict bullfights. You’ll
feel just like an adventuring Hemingway. Or try something more French
with a visit to La Grenouille (3 E 52nd St), known for its
old-fashioned elegance, especially its elaborate floral displays. The
menu includes classic Gallic delicacies like braised duck breast,
oxtail in burgundy and, naturally, frog’s legs. (“Grenouille” means
frog.) The prices are exorbitant, but that’s what Old Europe is really
all about, isn’t it? Money.