Checking out the 'hoods
Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
61Trip End Jun 07, 2010
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Where I stayed
When I arrived, I had a 30 minute palaver just trying to get a metro pass. But at long last I made it onto the metro, and arrived at the hostel safely. I'm staying in Harlem, a predominantly black area so I feel a bit out of place, but once I got in the hostel I was surrounded with French, Russians and other Brits.
Unfortunately I'm sharing a room with a terrible snorer, and someone who had to leave at 4:30am. So I was up and about by 5:15am, planning my day- which I must say, turned out rather well.
I started with a couple of pancakes (provided by the hostel) before setting off to Brooklyn. I wanted to explore some of the other neighbourhoods rather than just going straight to the tourist sites, so thought Brooklyn would be a good place to start. I had a very pleasant stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge (with the best views of the Manhattan skyline, of course) although it was already hot and muggy by 9:30am. I walked through the quiet, leafy streets of Brooklyn Heights, the Kensington & Chelsea of Brooklyn. Apartments here go for well over $1 million. I found this tiny little cafe tucked away and had my second breakfast- great coffee with eggs and soldiers
A few blocks down, the neighbourhood changed into Edgware Road- Lebanese restaurants, unusual shops and a great grocery store run by Algerians who were very generous with their samples of anything I requested J I walked around nearby Cobble Hill, different again with lots of nice restaurants and boutiques, one of which (Re/Dress) was a vintage clothing store specialising in XL sizes. The clothes were all a bit too big but they had shoes in my size! Shoes in my size! The first time in my life I've ever bought a pair of shoes not from a speciality shoe shop. AAAAAAAAAAAND they were $9!! It made my day. I continued the shoe shopping in downtown Brooklyn, which suddenly seemed a lot more urban and busy. One more pair of sandals (my luggage space will thank me for not buying boots).
From there, I caught a bus up to DUMBO- Down Under the Manhattan Brooklyn Bridge area, which is the Spitalfields of the area- lots of art galleries, production companies, loft apartments and quirky gift stores. All built in a lovely brown stone, with cobbled streets scattered here and there. I strolled through the neighbourhood, killing time until my appointment- I’d booked a massage through Groupon (at a big discount) for 2pm- but decided to call in to confirm I had the right day/time at 1:30pm
Still, even that couldn’t spoil my good mood- I went and got an icecream, and sat in Brooklyn Park, overlooking the infamous Brooklyn Bridge/Manhattan skyline. Walking through the local neighbourhood (in search of the subway), I would liken the area to the high-rise council estates of London. People packed in, hanging out on the street, wearing their baggy clothes and caps pulled back. I was certainly felt back in the minority- a feeling that was set to continue in my next neighbourhood- The Bronx.
After getting thoroughly lost on the subway, I eventually made it to The Bronx, where I’d heard about a free cultural tour of the hoods’ art galleries and museums on an old tram trolley- aptly named The Bronx Cultural Trolley. The starting point was Longwood Art Gallery, in a Community College. I love going to art gallery openings! Good art, hobnobbing, free wine and snacks... within minutes 3 people had introduced themselves to me- one asking if I was a recipient of a BRIO award (Bronx Recognises Its Own, the ceremony taking place that night), another saying she recognised me from somewhere and introducing herself (I must look like a local) and a third who was running the trolley (and was delighted I had come to join them especially as I was a visitor!)
Most of the other guests were Bronx locals, so I really felt like I was getting slightly below the surface of the regular tourist activities
Anyway my first stop was this tiny art gallery that had an exhibition of photographs Portraits of The Bronx. What a good introduction! The artist was there, and I had a long chat with one of her friends about his impressions of The Bronx, and where I should go during my stay in NY. Also (added bonus) I got to try traditional Puerto Rican empanadas, shaved ice cones and have another glass of wine! Next was a reading of a one-act, work-in-progress play at the local library, read by 3 really talented actors. We were all riveted for the 45 minutes, and were outraged when it finished- we wanted to know what happened in Act Two! It was such a quirky little thing to go to, I loved it. That was the end of our tour but it was a fantastic evening. I loved hanging out with the locals, and experiencing that different culture. I haven’t felt so out of place visually and culturally since Uganda but that’s a good thing! And I don’t know, it just felt so typically New Yoerk (sic) listening to everyone’s accents, throwing around ‘Aight’s ‘Yo’s and ‘What up’s it was yet another highlight of my stay.