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A New York Story: The Pursuit of Polka Dots

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Shopping in New York City for polka dotted scarves and cupcake tasting every step of the way

Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street

“So what do you want to do  when you’re here?”  is the question asked by an old friend who is letting me stay on her pullout sofa in New York City for two nights before a conference. We both know talking about what to do in New York City is a formality more or less. After several years of not seeing each other, the easy telepathy isn’t far off, but for now anyway, we email back and forth and talk.

Laura and I first shared a workplace, and being left-handed  and born-around-the-cusp Saggitarians.  We’re both hard working planners, yet a tad impulsive and enjoy pretty things and irony. When we traveled together in Italy a while back, we got most excited over things like how Fra Angelico was canonized for inventing a new shade of azure blue. We also liked how Laura’s husband, Cecil, would suddenly stop in the middle of a piazza, pull out his violin and start playing, and passersby would toss coins in the case. In Florence we happened to walk by a violin-maker’s home. Cecil knocked on the door and we were invited in. A diminutive, elegant man with thoughtful eyes behind round tortoiseshell glasses proudly showed us several of his most prized violins, handling them reverentially as if they were priceless relics found at the local cathedral, while at the same time pleased to allow Cecil to try them.

Almond Croissant at La Bergamote

In other words I’m not sure which of us conceived the idea that spending the day shopping for polka dotted scarves and cupcake tasting would be perfect.

Before we could get to all that she took me to La Bergamote in Chelsea to try the best almond croissant in the city.

“Usually this is the reward,” she tells me. I wander, taking pictures which she tolerates better than most, and when I return she has carefully divided the pre-prize,  decadent with its frangipane center and  abundance of nicely crisped edges.

High Line Park

If we’re going to be eating cupcakes – and now there’s talk of lunch in Chinatown, because that’s where the polka dotted scarves are- we better get moving. So from there we go to the High Line, a new elevated park built around the skeletons of train tracks that were built in the 1930s to lift freight trains off of the streets of Manhattan. We walk south.

Charles Nolan, described as offering fashion for “Holly Go-Lightly Types”. Yes, I’m thinking I should have bought those shoes.

We descend from the High Line into the Meat Packing District. Laura shifts into tour guide mode and points out several landmarks from Sex and the City. We wander in and out of a few shops, trying on shoes in Charles Nolan, because it is too hot to try on anything else.

Cupcake Number One

Eventually we arrive at the original Magnolia Bakery, made famous by the HBO show Sex and the City.  There may have been a cab ride involved. We indulge accordingly, again sharing.

The world can always use a few more polka dots.

Laura feels the presence of polka dots before she sees them.  Apparently a friend of hers, a real live fashionista who works for Bergdorfs or Barneys or something like that buys these things up by the dozen. We negotiate a small haul for $4 each.


Laura chooses the Oriental Garden in Chinatown for lunch, and I don’t see how anything could be any better. Stir Fry Lily Pod with Flowering Chives, Roasted Pork Dumplings and Salt Baked Prawns are brought to the table in waves because Laura knows what she’s doing and I’ll try anything but the jellyfish. We’re in heaven.

Polka dotted scarves in hand we head back uptown. Once there, we have one more important stop. Yes, for more cupcake tasting!

More Cupcakes

This time we stop at Cupcake Cafe on Ninth Avenue. The cool white interior with sprawling marble tables runs counter to this cupcake, compact and dense with rich chocolate buttercream icing.  The purple flower that adorns mine makes me happy. It’s more than I can handle, but I eat it anyway, and the iced tea was amazing, and I’ve never said that before about iced tea.

Polka dotted scarf shopping and searching for cupcakes has exhausted me, but Laura has to buy something on her way back to her apartment to make for dinner the next night for her and Cecil.

She teases me about being a small woman with a very large suitcase, but I will forever get to tease her about this:

Dinner for two, one of whom is a small woman with a very big appetite

Her butcher had to talk her out of getting them cut any thicker!

I knew I need not have worried about what to do in New York City.  Following the lead of an old friend and letting it all unfold made for the best day I could have asked for.

Editor’s note: Added 8/11 – Next time I visit New York City, I’m going to take some of Jessica’s travel tips and do some Chocolate Travel in the Big Apple. I already know Laura will be up for it!

About the author

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at

8 thoughts on “A New York Story: The Pursuit of Polka Dots”

  1. What would the world be without polka dots (scarves, blouses, dresses and… bikinis!!) and Holly Golightyl shoes. Not much fun. I’d go for the almond croissant too. A story to my heart.

  2. Hi Barbara,

    So glad I could help guide a NYC resident to polka dots! Wish I could have met you at SOBcon… what a great experience it was! I appreciate your kind words 🙂


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