By Elissa Gilbert
You walk past palm trees in the sun-filled atrium of the Winter Garden to the entrance of Le District, so visiting the new Francophiliac shop in Battery Park City brought the Riviera to mind more than Paris. The decadence of a French vacation starts as soon as you enter the mini-Eataly-style shop, with le crepes and le patisserie on one side, and a sweet shop with tins of cookies on the other.
A boulangerie offered the usual ham and cheese sandwiches, plus croque monsieurs. Further into the shop is le fromagerie, with a case filled with 200 cheeses, across from the fishmonger, and then the charcuterie and the rotisserie. A wall was lined with French jams and herbed moutardes in pretty jars. Those came from France, though not all items in Le District do. The idea of duck hotdogs and goose sausage seemed French to me, even if the geese came from Indiana.
I was regretfully far too early for the 4pm chocolate mousse bar, too early to settle in at the tiled counter of le Comptoir for a drink, so I bought a fig-and-emmentaler sandwich and bottle of water—Evian, of course. The tables right outside the World Financial Center offered views of yachts and Jersey City in one direction, the Freedom Tower in the other, but I strolled down the Esplanade to a bench with views of France’s other gift to New York, the Statue of Liberty. The bread was deliciously crusty, and I would go back for that, as well as for the pastries I left behind.
Because I didn’t buy any of the tempting pastries this time, my walk down the rest of the esplanade was for pleasure, not to burn calories. Maybe it was so quiet because it was the middle of the weekday, and all of Battery Park City’s residents were at work, but the stroll was uninterrupted serenity, especially compared to West Street a block away. There were moments I walked in sun along the water and moments in shaded glens. One sculpture brought to mind an ancient temple. Further along the walk, a wooden bridge extended over the water, and there was an elegant double curving stairway leading to an elevated view.
Nearer to Battery Park, flowers bloomed, but the path passed by the Museum of Jewish Heritage, subtitled a living memorial to the Holocaust, which was a reminder that not all in the world is beautiful. There were more reminders in Battery Park, where the East Coast Memorial is a massive eagle and eight gray granite slabs listing the names of servicemen who perished in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II; the Korean War Veterans Memorial isn’t far away, and neither is the Sphere, a sculpture that used to sit in the World Trade Center plaza and survived the September 11 attacks.
The damage to the Sphere is visible, but rather than being mournful, its location near the line to visit the Statue of Liberty was a reminder of our survival as much as our loss. A plaque in the sidewalk dedicated the Gardens of Remembrance to those who lost their lives that day. But the plaque also is dedicated to the survivors, and those with hope. The Sea Glass Carousel nearby was still under construction, but later this summer, riders should be able to laugh while they ride fish around under a shell-shaped dome. I didn’t spin in circles, but rounded the tip of the island to find my way to the subway and home.