Friday, May 13, 2011

A Tour of Greenwich Village with Lauren Belfer

Have I mentioned lately how much I love being a book blogger? Of course, I get to read tons of wonderful books and share my thoughts with other readers. And I even get to attend Book Expo America In New York City for a few days each year. But it's the amazing opportunity that came my way last Saturday that has put me over the top! The wonderful folks at Harper Collins asked me if I was interested in going on a walking tour of Greenwich Village with author Lauren Belfer. Do I even need to tell you how excited I was?

It all started last summer when I wrote a gushing review of Ms. Belfer's latest novel A FIERCE RADIANCE. I absolutely adored everything about this historical novel -- from the characters, to the storyline, to the mystery, to the history and factual information, to the time period, and even to the ethical dilemmas that the characters faced. I thought A FIERCE RADIANCE was historical fiction at its best and I immediately knew it would rank right up there as one of my favorite books of 2010!

Fast forward to the present.... To celebrate the release of the paperback edition of A FIERCE RADIANCE, Ms. Belfer decided to put together a walking tour of Greenwich Village for a few of her biggest fans. Greenwich Village holds a very special place in Ms. Belfer's heart and it also happens to be where Claire, the main character in A FIERCE RADIANCE, lived during the 1940s. Ms. Belfer wanted to show us many of the places that appeared in her novel and give us an idea of what 1940s Greenwich Village looked like compared to today.

Needless to say, I was dying to go -- I just had to go. The problem is that I live in Central Pennsylvania, and it's about a three hour car ride from Manhattan. On top of that, I already had plans to go to New York City for a week at the end of May. How was I going to justify both trips? And that's where my awesome husband comes in. When I mentioned this opportunity for the walking tour to him, he said "Well it is Mother's Day weekend. Happy Mother's Day!" So our entire family made the trek to New York so I could go on this tour! He truly is the best (and he even bought me an iPad for Mother's Day in addition to the trip!)

So last Saturday afternoon, Ms. Belfer and her partner, her assistant Adam, Erica and Maya from Harper Collins, Alison from Alison's Book Marks, and I met up outside the gates of Christopher Park in Greenwich Village for our walking tour. As promised, Ms. Belfer took us on a 1 1/2 hour tour of the Village and we got to see lots of places from the novel including Claire's house, the street where her son learned to ride a bike, and the place where she first kissed her love interest. We also saw some gorgeous gardens (right in the middle of the city) as well as some cute cafes and restaurants. Ms. Belfer truly loves Greenwich Village and she's quite the expert about both the present day and 1940s buildings -- she had the cutest little tour guide book from the 1950s. I found the entire tour to be fascinating! And it didn't hurt that the weather was absolutely beautiful (except for a very brief little rain shower.)

Claire's House
The only thing that caused me a little grief that day was when I turned on my camera and discovered that my memory stick was missing. I was a bit disappointed because I didn't manage to capture any good pictures on my phone, but I was having so much fun listening to Ms. Belfer and talking with the other people on the tour that I didn't let it bother me. I even laughed -- kind of. As you can see, my pictures are awful and definitely don't capture the beauty of the buildings and gardens we saw on the tour.

Of course, I loved seeing the places that were mentioned in A FIERCE RADIANCE but there were some other highlights on the tour as well. Ms. Belfer took us by her local independent book store Three Lives & Company and introduced us to the owner. We also were very excited to see that A FIERCE RADIANCE was smack dab in the middle of the front window! In addition, she took us by Varsano's Chocolate where she presented each of us with a goodie bag filled with homemade chocolate. Just to let you know how thoughtful Ms. Belfer is (and she truly is one of the nicest people I've ever met), the chocolates were themed around the 1940s. One of the candies (a dark chocolate with raisins) was made using a mold from that time period, and another candy was a dark chocolate covered biscuit which was a very popular candy from the 1940s. My absolute favorite though, was a caramel covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. Oh my gosh -- this chocolate was by far the best chocolate I've ever tasted!

After our tour was complete, we headed to a brand-new tea shop -- there wasn't even a sign up yet. It was absolutely adorable and I had a very difficult time deciding which tea I wanted to try because they offered every flavor and combination possible. After I decided on a black tea with coconut, we snacked on some tea sandwiches and pastries. It was the absolutely perfect way to end an amazing afternoon!

A huge thanks to Ms. Belfer and Harper Collins for giving me this wonderful opportunity!
A FIERCE RADIANCE is now available in paperback (so there's absolutely no excuse not to add it to your book collection!) It's a fantastic piece of historical fiction and definitely one of my favorite books of the past few years!


Unknown said...

It was such a great day and wonderful meeting you!

The name of the new tea shop was: Bosie's
10 Market Street

SO cute!

(Blogger hates me, so I have to re-write my post)

bermudaonion said...

Your husband is awesome and the walking tour sounds even more awesome! You're going to be an expert on the Village soon!

cindysloveofbooks said...

Julie it sounds like you had a blast. I will have to keep that tea shop in mind for next year.

what a perfect way to spend mother's day.

Beth Hoffman said...

Julie, what a fantastic post! I'm so glad your sweet husband made this happen for you.

Amanda said...

That is so cool!! Thanks for the post!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

WOW! What a wonderful day ... so cool that the sites you saw (and the chocolate you enjoyed) were themed around the time period/setting of A FIERCE RADIANCE.

You're right, now that this is out in paperback, I have no excuse not to pick it up! Thanks for the nudge :)

Beth F said...

What a fantastic day. WOWOWOWOWOWOW. And your husband is truly the best. I am so glad you didn't have to miss out on this wonderful day.

Anonymous said...

Oh man! this looks amazing. There have been a few posts all over the blogging world, recently that have made me miss New York...which I never thought I'd say! Glad you had fun for both of us. ;O)

Unknown said...

I love Greenwhich Village, it's a beautiful area of NYC and one of my favorites. I'm so happy for you that you were able to participate on and enjoy this tour with Lauren Belfer! I've written down the specific places you mentioned and plan to visit them the next time I have a chance to get into the city!I have A Fierce Radiance but haven't yet read it which disappoints me after reading how much you loved it. This post has me excited about reading it and I've moved it up close to the top of my book stack! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What a great opportunity and fun day. I'm a little jealous.
Oh, and now I have a little crush on your husband. Sorry, but it's your fault :)

santafetraveler said...

I just finished A Fierce Radience. I spent a lot of time in the Village growing up in the 50s and lived in the West Village in the 60s. I loved reading about the places I walked in, ate in and shopped recreated in the book. For me that was the best part of the book. It inspired me- I am going to put some of my memories on paper.