SpaHa: Moving Up to the East SideCity Travel, United States — By Amanda P on May 11, 2006 at 9:11 pm
Just six weeks to go between now and D-for-departure day, but we’re already itching to explore parts of the planet that haven’t been covered in Daily Candy and every glossy travel magazine. Surprisingly enough, we discovered such a discretely cool and under-hyped spot right in our very own backyard, y se llama: Spanish Harlem.
True, this was once a neighborhood where nice young ladies were warned not to tread (we haven’t decided if that group includes us). But thanks to some slick real estate brokers who nicknamed it “SpaHa,” and the lure of cheap square footage, it’s become a magnet for young professionals, artists, students (and anyone else who’d rather not pay three Gs for a one bedroom below 96th Street).
Digitals in hand, we ventured north to see what’s been happening since Holly moved out of “El Barrio” a few short months ago. Apparently, in a New York minute, everything can change, because we found luxury high rises going up next to ancient tenement buildings and trendy new restaurants putting down stakes where bodegas and incense shops once dominated.
After meeting up at Eye Spa, the salon where Holly still gets her eyebrows threaded (ouch!) we decidede to weave our way past a street carnival in full swing (complete with whirling teacups, a ferris wheel and low-stakes dice games) on a mission to get lunch from Ginger, an organic Asian restuarant that recently opened on 116th street.
Despite our radiply dropping blood sugar, we kept stopping to take pictures of the random acts of artwork: graffiti decorating the sides of buildings and chalk drawing poetry spilling onto sidewalks. The coolest canvas? “Homage to Picasso,” a riotously red-white-and-blue mural painted by local celebrity artist James de la Vega. It takes up almost the entire side of a building, transforming a boring brick wall into an larger-than-life tribute to another great artist. Not exactly subtle, but then again, neither is the neighborhood.