Travelogue – Brooklyn, New York
I’ve spent the last few days staying in Brooklyn, at a hotel at the foot of the iconic suspension bridge that connects Brooklyn to Manhattan across the East River. I hadn’t previously spent any real time in Brooklyn, one of New York’s five boroughs, but I did get a little opportunity to explore.
Close up the Brooklyn Bridge is an incredible feat of architecture with it’s immense granite towers and thick steel cables, not to mention its birds-eye views from a span of 1,595 feet. Built in 1883 at a cost of $15m, my hotel room looked out onto it and I found myself just staring at this moving art installation as the sun lit it, the mist hid it, helicopters flew over it, ferries and barges moved underneath it and 120,000 vehicles and 4,000 people criss crossed it on any given day.
The Brooklyn Bridge continues deep into Brooklyn where it almost meets the Manhattan Bridge, which carries trains as well across the East River to Canal Street. This spot where the two lofty bridges pass over is called DUMBO, which only a tourist can find funny.
Short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, this neighbourhood was originally a ferry landing and due to its proximity to the river an industrial warehouse zone even as recent as the late 1980’s. Now of course it is stuffed full of uber expensive residences, cool looking arty places and culinary retreats such as the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and the really good Juliana’s Pizza.
I’m staying at the new eco-conscious and beautifully smelling (walk in the lobby and smell for yourself!) 1 Hotel which sits directly besides the architectural marvel of the Brooklyn Bridge with nothing but a park and the East River in between it and the financial district of Manhattan.
The hotel is steps away from Brooklyn Heights, whose name always brings back childhood memories of the Huxtable household. Bill Cosby now persona non gratis around here and most of America of course. Brooklyn Heights is a historic neighbourhood comprising blocks of picturesque tall and imposing brownstone rowhouses sat proudly on leafy streets.
Walking further beyond here is the very non-descript Downtown area seemingly only occupied by uninspiring big box shopping destinations but then you are into Fort Greene with it’s park at its epicenter and surrounded by family run stores, with an abundance of bakeries and cafes plus weirdly more barbers than looked necessary. Walking south there was a lot more going on in the Prospect Heights area including the huge Brooklyn Art Museum at the top of Flatbush Avenue which extends from the artery of the Manhattan Bridge and flows into Brooklyn’s largest public space Propsect Park, which also includes the Botanical Garden.
Two notable foodie places in Propect Heights are James and Olmsted. I got to both although only ate at James, but later we sat at the bar next to the open kitchen at Olmsted watching chef Greg Baxtrom doing his thing, And I got very close to ordering a second dinner!
Walking back towards the water you will pass the home of the Brooklyn Nets at the vast Barclays Center. NHL Ice hockey team New York Islanders also play here. Atlantic Avenue has more of the high end department stores and plenty of cool looking bars and restaurants, one of which we road tested, Beasts and Bottles. The much talked about Sahadi’s is also here selling every comprehensible jar of food goodies you could ever want.
A taxi ride away is Williamsburg. The once scrappy and hard edged area is now stocked of artisans and bankers and okay, I’ll use it, hipsters. It’s also a restaurant paradise with the famed steak house Peter Luger right next to the Williamsburg Bridge in addition to a whole host of some of the best rated New York restaurants. My recommendation would be Lilia’s though where better home made pasta will be hard to find.
A bit like when a year ago I stayed around the Borough Market, Brooklyn, similiary unrecognizable from a decade or two ago, is also just a bridge and length of a river away from one of the planet’s most famous cities, but I might prefer it.