Travel life: visit Brooklyn, New York
- Credit: Julienne Schaer
New York’s current hot spot, Brooklyn has so much to offer the visitor, from fabulous food and shopping to culture and astounding views
Brooklyn, one of New York’s five boroughs, is connected to Manhattan by the mighty Brooklyn Bridge, spanning 1.3 miles across the East River.
On its opening day in 1883, amid much fanfare, more that 150,000 people walked across it. Local residents later suspected that the structure was unsound and rumours continued to spread until the flamboyant Phineas Taylor Barnum – founder of the Barnum and Bailey Circus – guided 21 elephants over it.
Recognised as a National Historic Landmark in 1964, the Brooklyn Bridge continues to be a major tourist attraction.
Today, Brooklyn is in fashion, it’s a ‘go to’ destination for tourism, a focal point for entrepreneurs, digital start-up companies and forward thinkers – and a cool spot for designers and artists.
Keen to experience life in the local community, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment in a classic Victorian brownstone property located in the leafy Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood. Only 2.5 blocks from the subway, this is the perfect spot in the heart of the action offering guests the opportunity to take part in local life, if only for a short time.
The apartment, listed on the Home Away website, is comfortable and spacious and features an enormous kitchen with every appliance including a washing machine and dryer. There is also a garden with a barbeque and garden furniture.
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Rather than utilising my very limited skills in the kitchen, I took a stroll along to Bedford Avenue and popped into a family owned restaurant. Fancy Nancy’s was buzzing with locals, which is always a good sign. I sampled the delicious veggie burger and my chilled glass of Palomino And Pedro Ximenez 2017 enhanced the flavours perfectly.
To stock up on groceries, the Down to Earth Farmer’s Sunday Market on Park Slope’s 4th Street at 5th Avenue is ideal. Crammed with vendors selling a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, baked goods and dairy products, this is a great place to mingle with the locals and to get a true feel for Brooklyn.
For a deeper insight, I headed for the Brooklyn Museum on Eastern Parkway. One of the many collections, Something to say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! runs until 30 June 2019 and features text-based works by local artists, prominently displayed in the museum’s public spaces. Using questions, language and humour, the intention is to encourage dialogue related to local and national issues.
After feasting my eyes on so many treasures, including the Egyptian collection, I headed off to the Norm, the museum’s bustling café, where temptations included a superb Thai curry shrimp soup and more than just a sliver of carrot cake.
For those seeking an authentic American dining experience, Junior’s, which opened in 1950, is located on Flatbush Avenue EXT. The menu features a wide selection of deli-style and traditional sandwiches along with Junior’s famous 10oz char-broiled steak burgers. I opted for the skyscraper deli-style pastrami sandwich and, with a smidgeon of appetite remaining, I just had to try the ‘World’s best cheesecake’, which was everything I expected.
After that guilty pleasure I took a very brisk walk to Prospect Park’s Zoo, which is highly regarded, due to its continuous and successful conservation efforts. Home to more than 600 animals, attractions include Animal Lifestyles with a highly vocal Hamadryas Baboon, a gorgeous Pallas’s Cat and a boisterous group of Geoffrey’s Marmosets. Following the Discovery Trail I was enchanted by the adorable red panda, and in the Hall of Animals I encountered a mean-looking poison dart frog.
Strolling around the nearby Grand Army Plaza, I hailed a yellow taxi in search of a shopping expedition. Brooklyn offers an enticing range of trendy boutiques and huge malls including City Point (entrances on Albee Square West and Flatbush Avenue), which features Century 21, a popular department store crammed with seven floors of designer fashions at discounted prices.
As an unrepentant handbag and shoe addict I succumbed to the temptations of Love Moschino and just had to have a funky pair of boots by Donna Karan. Credit card limit intact, I hurried along to Macy’s, a short walk away on Fulton Street. Laden with bags of goodies, I hopped on the local public bus and made my way to Williamsburg, another popular Brooklyn district, bursting with bars, eateries and entertainment.
I stayed a stone’s throw away at the 23-storey William Vale hotel on North 12th Street. Facilities include New York’s longest outdoor swimming pool, which is perched above the property’s 15,000 square feet rooftop park and offers spectacular views.
Bedrooms are spacious with contemporary furnishings and features including floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies. Leuca, the hotel’s Italian dining venue, serves a great breakfast, including lemon ricotta pancakes, and there’s a wide variety of wood-fired pizzas, pastas and more served day and night.
For a Scandinavian dining experience I headed for Norman, a hop and skip away on Norman Avenue. Popular with locals and out-of-towners, this minimalist warehouse-style restaurant features a long bar and an open kitchen with a bevy of chefs creating some fine dishes.
I ordered a seasonal special; the crispy Farro porridge and wild mushrooms accompanied by a glass of 2016 Sauvignon Blanc.
Another great place to stay is the stylish and contemporary Tillary Hotel on Flatbush Avenue Ext, a short stroll from the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade.
Bedrooms range from a classic king or queen room to suites with ultra-comfortable beds swathed in Frette linens, interactive Smart TV’s and free Wi-Fi.
After breakfast in the hotel’s TRoom Café, which serves products all made in Brooklyn, I set out for a walk across Brooklyn Bridge. As buses and coaches are banned from crossing the bridge, the best option is to follow the pedestrian walkway in the centre of the traffic lanes. It’s surprisingly narrow and on arrival it was clear to me that a lot of people had the same idea at the same time.
But, it was more than worth it as I gazed upon the astounding views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and I recalled Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn’s wonderful song and Frank Sinatra’s soothing voice: ‘Like the folks you meet on, like to plant my feet on, the Brooklyn Bridge, what a lovely view from, Heaven looks at you from, the Brooklyn Bridge.’
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Bluebird, London’s popular and iconic restaurant on Chelsea’s Kings’ Road, has now opened on New York’s Columbus Circle (no. 10, 3rd floor) and offers an all-day lounge, wine bar and brasserie with views overlooking Central Park, bluebirdlondon.nyc.com