Bronx Day Tour with Tanya
As you guys may have noticed, Tanya and I posted one joint blog yesterday. We were so caught up in catching up in person, that, in order to save time yesterday morning, we did a combined post.
Today, we decided to split up our adventures yesterday between our two blogs - so ABSOLUTELY read more about our Bronx Travels on Tanya's side!!
We started our day bright and early yesterday, as we were scheduled to go on a Catholic Church Tour in the Bronx with Bronx Historical Tours' Director, Alexandra Maruri.
Our timing was impeccable too! After a quickie breakfast at my house, we two cousins headed out into the rain for a 15 mile drive to the Belmont section of the Bronx, aka Little Italy.
In spite of intermittent downpours and the flooding of the Bronx River Parkway (which we avoided!), we arrived on 187th Street and Hugh's Avenue at 9:50am, ten minutes early for our rendez-vous with Alexandra.
It's no secret how much Tanya and I adore the rain and wet weather has never stood in the way of us travel girls touring.
Today was no exception. With our slickers and umbrellas in tow, we made our way through touring two Catholic Churches located in the Bronx.
What a delightful day we had!!
We visited two churches and one 83 year old Ravioli & Egg Noodle store!
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church
187th Street and Belmont Avenue
Alittle history about this magnificent church - The late 1800's and early 1900's saw the arrival of large numbers of immigrants from Italy. Arriving via lower Manhattan, many Italians settled downtown, however, a large number of these made their way north to the Bronx, establishing large Italian communities.
At this time, there existed one Catholic Church located in the Northwest Section of the Bronx on the Grand Concourse and 202nd Street, St. Philip Neri Church, with an Italian-speaking priest to which the newly arriving immigrants of Belmont would travel for Sunday Mass, sacraments and funerals. However, it was a long and difficult trip.
Realizing that a burgeoning Italian neighborhood was evolving, a mission was opened in a store front at 659 E. 187 Street to serve the faithful of Belmont and the first Mass was celebrated on June 13, 1906.
From the store front, a basement Church was built on 187 Street and Belmont Avenue in 1907, and then, ten years later, in 1917, the upper Church was built and dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
This history explains the two dates, prominently featured on the church.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel would become the largest Italian National Parish in the Archdiocese of New York. At the height of its history in the 40's and 50's, more than 40,000 Italians made Our Lady of Mount Carmel their parish.
The inside of the church is just lovely, with its beautiful stained glass windows throughout, painted frescos on the ceiling, and stately marble columns.
Thanks to the commitment and tireless efforts of Our Lady of Mount Carmel's Pastor, Father Jonathan Morris, who, since his arrival in February of 2015, has brought a vibrancy and renewed energy to the church, now in its second century.
Under his direction, the church has undergone much restoration, breathing new life into the beloved church, as well as making necessary modifications to keep up with the neighborhood's changing demographics and serving a whole new wave of latino immigrants arriving from Central and South America.
Combining reverence for the old with the implementation of the new, Fr. Jonathan undertook a major restoration and renovation to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Mount St. Carmel and implementing certain modifications in recognition of a changing neighborhood demographic.
This undertaking included replacing worn out floors, painstakingly matching original Italian marble used to repair church columns, refurbishing ceiling frescos, relocating existing statues of saints within the church and adding much-needed exterior lighting.
Simultaneously, under the new pastor's leadership, new statues of saints, held in high esteem by the new neighborhood immigrants from Mexico and Latin America were added, new paint colors were used to brighten certain interior spaces, such as the baptism area, and purchased a new church organ.
The church also uses new candles that do not emit soot, in order to better preserve the ceiling frescos.
Additionally, Spanish language masses were added to the existing English and Italian ones for more inclusiveness to the members of the community.
Bronx Day Tour with Elisa
Hey there! The kids and I had such a great time visiting with Elisa and the girls. But now we're back at my grandma's house in Queens, NY.
Boy oh boy what a fun and educational day Elisa and I shared yesterday.
With 4 major stops in the Bronx Elisa and I were off and on our way.
*Being that we shared this day experiencing everything together, we have decided to share our experiences with you TOGETHER.
At this point please check out Elisa's column for the inside scoop, plenty of interesting information about Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church - our first stop and the beginning of our tour with Bronx Historical Tour in the Bronx.
I finally got to meet Alex (Alexandra Maruri) who was a great tour guide, knows her history of the Bronx and really showed us around.
Soooo did you notice the Mario Borgatti street sign in the picture up above??
Well there is definitely some Italian American history and Bronx history right there.
From across the street we saw the sign for Ravioli and couldn't resist, we had to step inside.
Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles
The key to my heart, soul and stomach is pasta!
We entered the little shop and were in pasta heaven. Immediately taken by all the varieties.
This pasta shop has been around and a staple in the Bronx and Borgatti’s was opened back in 1935.
5 Generations later and we had the pleasure of chatting with the Great Grandson of Mario Borgatti who had shared some of the history with us and nearly had me drooling when he ran some fresh pasta sheets through the machine and laid them out in front of Elisa and I.
Suppling a number of the local restaurants as well as shipping their fresh pastas around the country.
Locally famed Borgatti's has also been featured on several Food Network TV shows as well as in several magazine articles.
Not only does the market/shop make its long list of fresh pasta and raviolis but the cute little shop also carries Italy imported canned and jarred goods.
You can bet that if we weren't continuing with our tour that we would've picked up a few of the delicacies.
And the tour continued
Next up was Alex taking us to The Grotto...
I honestly had no idea what to expect and after a 7 minute drive over to the Allerton section of the Bronx we had arrived.
As we were pulling up on the street I could see the stone Grottos and began to get excited about getting out of the car and checking this place out!
But lo and behold, the place is now locked up and we could only view through the fence. I for one was certainly quite disappointed.
But the history at this place is remarkable and Elisa has the FULL SCOOP. I've posted some pics for your enjoyment, but do check out Elisa's column for all the information on this little oasis.
St. Lucy's Church
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto
With the rain coming down on and off, we made our way about 5 miles from the Belmont section (and our visit to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Borgatti's Ravioli and Egg Noodles), to St. Lucy's Church, which is home to Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, in the Allerton section of the borough, in the East Bronx.
The atmosphere and mood on this visit was a bit different. Whereas Our Lady of Mount Carmel is located in the very populated and hustle bustle area of Belmont, with its stores, restaurants and cafes, St. Lucy's is situated in a more residential, less congested area.
Parking, as a result, was no problem, and there were no meters to worry about. As we walked up Bronxwood Avenue from our parked car, we approached a tall fence, which enclosed the caves and catacombs on the grounds of the church, behind the infamous Grotto!
Now before going any further, allow me to give a bit of history about St. Lucy's and the Grotto ...
The history of The Grotto dates back to 1937 when it was built under the leadership of Pastor Monsignor Pasquale Lombardo.
After traveling to the famous grotto in Lourdes, France, Monsignor Lombardo set out to build a replica of the Lourdes Grotto on the church grounds of St. Lucy. Lourdes is a French town in the Pyrenean foothills which was home to eighteen sightings of the Virgin Mary beginning with Bernadette Soubirous’ vision on February 11th, 1858.
Monsignor Lombardo's goal was to provide parishioners, as well as visitors, with the spiritual experience of the Lourdes, France Grotto without the transatlantic pilgrimage.
Situated within the churchyard, but clearly visible from the street, Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto is made of stacked stones that form a thirty foot “cave.”
Completed in 1939 at a cost of $10,000, the Grotto has a large two-level catacomb section under and behind it, all filled with statues of saints. Unfortunately, it is rarely open to the public, and the gates were closed an locked during our visit.
As with the original French cave, the water from the waterfall near the Bronx Grotto is said to be holy.
Each Sunday, the bell at St. Lucy’s is rung, creating the same D natural tone as the church in Lourdes, France. The Grotto is open daily, morning to sunset, weather permitting.
During our visit, it started to rain a bit, but, it was still beautiful to behold. There were a handful of visitors who came to collect the holy water. Some came with small containers, others arrived with gallon-sized ones.
We noticed many rosary beads hanging around the Virgin Mary statue, that had apparently been placed there by visitors.
Inside the St. Lucy's, a rather humble and unassuming space is the most gorgeous tile mosaic on the wall closest to the entrance. We were told that it was originally behind the altar, but was subsequently moved to its current location.
As we were exiting the church, the church bells were playing Ave Maria, which was more lovely than I could ever describe.
Attached to the church through a separate entrance is the Hall of Saints and a door and staircase that led up to a small gift shop. Tanya and I enjoyed perusing through the shop, with its many interesting items, including holy water from the Lourdes France Grotto, as well as empty bottles for which to fill with water at St. Lucy's Grotto.
The store manager, Michael was extremely helpful and most knowledgable about the church.
In a word our Bronx Church Tour Day was Divine!!
By this point we were quite starving and headed over to - Mottley Kitchen
I was so hungry that I forgot to take pictures!!
But do check out this related reading:
A Day At Mottley Kitchen in The Bronx with French Photographer Matteo Pellegrinuzzi
This was however our last visit of the day and we were heading back to Garden City. By this time of the day it was surprising that the Traffic wasn't all too bad and the rain had mostly let up.
We arrived back at Elisa's house and my sweet cousin had surprised me with a most lovely gift...You guys all know how much I love surprises!
I'm super thankful and super excited to use this great gift box of goodies!!!
But then the time had come for us to head back to say good bye and head back to my grandma's house.
This little trio was hungry once again and we made one more stop...
White Castle - they actually have vegan sliders!!!
Of which I took a picture of but it seems to have disappeared. UGH
I'm gonna wrap up my side here and catch you guys tomorrow for more.
Ciao 4 Now,
Today we headed to Brooklyn to visit Domino Park - more on that visit tomorrow!!