Nature and Nurture in da Bronx

©The Open Suitcase LLCConsider this camel’s back broken. The snow that fell Saturday was my last straw. I needed spring and I needed it bad. So I headed to the Bronx.

Stop thinking what you’re thinking. The Bronx is home to the New York Botanical Garden.  Featuring the iconic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Garden is home to all good things flora.  And running now through April 22 is the annual Orchid Show, a dazzling display of common and exotic varieties. The smell alone is worth the $25 admission.

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Pansy orchids echoed the shape and color of spring’s more familiar harbingers and showy corsage orchids attracted crowds of photographers. I particularly enjoyed the muted shades of some of the taupe and mauve specimens. Did you know that the vanilla bean (used to make pure vanilla extract) is the seed pod of the vanilla orchid? Imagine a room that smells like Grandma’s baking but looks like her chintz sofa.

©The Open Suitcase LLC

©The Open Suitcase LLC

©The Open Suitcase LLC

©The Open Suitcase LLC

©The Open Suitcase LLCAnd then there was the Darwin Star. I overheard a few orchidheads whispering about this rare and elusive species and finally located it in the conservatory. Apparently Charles Darwin, after examining a sample of this orchid, insisted that a moth with an extremely long insect tongue must exist in order to pollinate it (think Gene Simmons). Darwin was roundly mocked as no such moth was known to exist in Madagascar, the orchid’s home. Four decades after Darwin’s death, a moth was discovered with brag-worthy proportions supporting the naturalist’s theories.

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After sweating my way through the conservatory’s tropical hothouse, I was looking forward to walking the grounds. To compensate for the lack of natural outdoor interest, the NYBG is hosting an exhibition of large-scale sculptures by the Spanish artist Manolo Valdés. The sculptures are metallic featureless heads with different aerie faerie wreaths. Really quite beautiful and perfect for the gardens.

©The Open Suitcase LLC

©The Open Suitcase LLC

My soul felt nurtured, but my stomach was beginning to get a little restless. Luckily, Arthur Avenue (what many consider to be New York’s real Little Italy) is a stone’s throw from the NYBG.

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First stop was Madonia Bakery for a loaf of seeded Italian bread and some cannoli. I’d completely forgotten it was St. Patty’s Day until I saw the loaves of Irish soda bread. Took two of those too.

Madonia Bakery's Wall of Biscotti

Madonia Bakery’s Wall of Biscotti

Then I ducked into the Arthur Avenue Retail Market. Fordham students dressed like leprechauns were playing green beer pong. I felt a bit like Christopher in the Sopranos episode when he has a near death experience and encounters a bouncer on the other side who tells him he’ll end up in hell, like his father. A bouncer? Apparently hell for an Italian is an Irish bar called The Emerald Piper “where it’s St. Patrick’s Day every day forever.”

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But nothing was bothering David Greco and the gang at Mike’s Deli (Mr. Greco won an eggplant parm throwdown against Bobby Flay). I took home fresh mozzarella, stuffed peppers and a Paula Deen – prosciutto, hot sopressata, radicchio, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and truffle butter on focaccia.

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Other than the action at the bar, the market was quiet and peaceful. On my way out the door I stopped to observe a gentleman rolling cigars by hand. As he picked up each leaf, a fresh wave of earthy scent was released into the air, complimenting the sharp smell of the cheeses hanging nearby.

©The Open Suitcase LLC

©The Open Suitcase LLC

This morning as I write this, it’s snowing again. Bring it on, Mother Nature. It may be winter on the outside, but I’ve got spring inside.

13032_18_1To celebrate the season, I’m running a Rafflecopter giveaway.
The kind folks at eBags have provided a 3-piece set of packing cubes in a great shade of eggplant to help you organize your suitcase for your spring adventures. The contest ends April 2.

33 thoughts on “Nature and Nurture in da Bronx

  1. I absolutely LOVE orchids and those are truly beautiful. It looks like you had a nice day especially when you got to the food shop and that sandwich YUM!!! :D

  2. God- I feel you! So desperate for spring now. What a fab way of beating these never ending winter blues! Your photos are beautiful x

    • Suggestion? I’d park over on Arthur Avenue and eliminate the ridiculous $15 parking charge at the garden and then cut through the Fordham campus. So great that you went to the train show – can’t wait to take my nephews in a couple more years.

  3. What a gorgous post – I missed the NY botanical gardens on my so far one and only visit to NYC – just not enough time. But it’s top of my list for the next visit, along with the Brooklyn botanical gardens and the cloisters! Thanks so much for allowing me to travel there for now! And thank’s so much for stopping by my page at !!

    • It’s what makes NY such a great destination – there are so many layers to explore. Highly recommend the Cloisters – especially when the herb garden’s in full swing. Thanks for the follow.

  4. Pingback: So Long. It’s Been Good to Know Yuh. | The Open Suitcase

  5. Those orchids are incredible, never seen them look that nice. The Garden there is great, would love to see it. Thank you for visiting my website this morning too. You run a great blog! :)

  6. I loved reading this… You’re hilarious. If you like orchids, you should head to Medellín, Colombia in August. They have a stunning orchid festival every year around that time.

  7. Nice! You went there early and the flowers look fresh! I went too early one year, and there weren’t so many blooms out. This year I went almost too late. Next year I should get the timing right …

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