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A short, lazy visit to Brooklyn (and Queens)

Brooklyn, New York
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A short, lazy visit to Brooklyn (and Queens)
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This is a second-hand trip report about my adult daughter’s (too) short visit this week - three full days, sandwiched between two half days. It was her first real visit since December 2019. (She did come for Christmas last year, but we basically spent the week cozily quarantining.)

This time, we were out and about, and she got to see & experience the city as it emerges from the pandemic. We did stick pretty close to home for a variety of reasons, so it wasn’t a “typical” tourist visit (no hotel, no shows, ate all our dinners in)…but some of her experiences may be of interest to others - particularly repeat visitors interested in Brooklyn & Queens (we never made it to Manhattan).

Details in the responses…

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Brooklyn, New York
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1. Re: A short, lazy visit to Brooklyn (and Queens)
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Arrived at LGA mid-afternoon Tuesday and must have been living right, because she had great transit karma: the Q70 bus pulled up immediately, as did the F after the short ride to Jackson Heights. Just over an hour after she got off the plane, she was knocking on the door of our apartment in Park Slope.

Our first activity - after the requisite hugs and stashing of bags etc. - was to pick up Citibikes for a ride over the Gowanus Canal, and under the towering Smith-9th station, to the edge of the Carroll Gardens neighborhood. Our specific destination was Cremini’s, a totally charming spot run by a young Italian couple from the region of Le Marche. While I’ve enjoyed dinners there in the past, I like it even better for snacks and aperitifs, which is what we got: specifically, Ascolana olives - stuffed & fried, crazy good - with a glass each of Lacrima wine.

We biked home just as the sun was going down. (I’ll have more to share about Citibikes later - my daughter is an experienced urban cyclist, using Chicago’s bike-share program to commute to her job in the Loop, and she had a few criticisms of Citibike & biking in NYC generally.)

Melbourne, Australia
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2. Re: A short, lazy visit to Brooklyn (and Queens)
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more please.....

Brooklyn, New York
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3. Re: A short, lazy visit to Brooklyn (and Queens)
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Wednesday we spent the morning in Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery. There’s a temporary installation in the cemetery’s historic chapel about loss and grief that was very moving - no spoilers, other than to say that it makes powerful use of light, ritual, music and visitors’ own words.

After lunch at home, we hopped on bikes again to head to the Red Hook neighborhood. We didn’t really have a specific destination…after docking the bikes we walked down Coffey St to Valentino pier to take in the harbor views, then doubled back past the converted warehouses that extend out from the end of Van Dyke St with a vague idea of getting coffee, or maybe something cold to drink, but mainly enjoying peeking into buildings (we saw some very cool high-end furniture being made in one). “Something cold to drink” turned into a couple of beers at Strong Rope, a local microbrewery that unbeknownst to me, opened a huge second location on the Red Hook waterfront over the summer. Evidently they’re thriving in the pandemic. We took our brews (hazy IPA for me, cherry sour for her) outside and drank them at picnic tables looking out at the Statue of Liberty and the ferries criss-crossing the harbor.

A walk along Van Brunt (Red Hook’s main commercial street), a foiled attempt to get chocolate from Raaka (with the pandemic, they’ve reduced their public hours and gone more to online sales), and we were back on Citibikes cruising home - with a quick stop for salami-laced lard bread at Mazzola Bakery, a Carroll Gatdens classic. That bread is a must on every visit.

Dinner was the other food item that’s mandatory on every visit - in almost 10 years, I don’t think she’s ever missed it. That would be dumplings in spicy and sour sauce (actually a broth) from Yun Nan Flavour Garden in Sunset Park’s Chinatown.

We decided against Citibikes in favor of the train this time, walking 8th Av - back to its bustling self during the days but still a bit subdued at night, we found - ducking into a grocery store for some persimmons, checking out the fish markets, and finally heading back to the N train with our precious takeout containers.

Brooklyn, New York
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Thursday was a slow start (for her, anyway; I ran my usual loop of Prospect Park), so it was late morning before we headed out - on Citibikes again. We set a course for Brooklyn Bridge Park, which took us over the Gowanus (again) and through beautiful brownstone streets that would have been easier to admire without all the SUVs double parked in the bike lanes. The park was gorgeous - having watched it evolve over the years, I take a weirdly personal interest in the way the landscape and plantings have come together.

We docked our bikes in Dumbo (between the crowds and the shortage of docks and the &$&! cobblestones that took some doing), then headed for the ferry dock. I have to say the signage is terrible - the ticket machines stand well apart from the actual dock (I wasn’t in the mood to download yet another app), and when a boat pulls up, it’s not entirely clear which one it is. So kudos to the tourists who regularly figure this out - and as always, when in doubt, ask helpful New Yorkers! (Even if the first few responses are “I dunno.”)

What. A. Beautiful. Ride. It was a perfect day, to be sure, but the bridge, shore, and skyline views would be incredible in any weather - and we had the open air deck on top of the boat virtually to ourselves. At one point my daughter turned to me and said, “I can’t believe we’ve never done this before,” and I had to confess that *I’d* never done it before, either. (I’ve taken the ferry to Rockaway but not along the East River.)

We cruised all the way to its last stop, at Hunters Point South (the best views IMO come in the last part of the ride, when the ferry crosses over to 34th St on the Manhattan side and then back to Queens). We walked for a bit along the LIC waterfront, then headed up to Vernon Blvd for some lunch.

Inspired by a recent NYT article that profiled the fast-growing Asian community in LIC, we went to Yumpling, a modern,Taiwan-style snack shop. So good! We shared a rice bowl (choice of white or “forbidden” black rice, we of course got the latter) w a stewed pork belly topping and a spicy fried chicken sandwich (eat your heart out, Popeye’s), plus some lotus root chips, because why not. Also a couple of bubble teas, which - as I’ve noticed increasingly in the new wave of tea shops - were totally customizable. You specify the type of tea, the level of sweetness, the topping/mix-in (traditional tapioca, lychee jellies, don’t-knock-it-until-you’ve-tried-it egg pudding).

We walked back to Brooklyn over the Pulaski Bridge, then wandered a bit through the Greenpoint neighborhood before my daughter informed me she’d had enough of Citibikes for the day, and took the G train home.

Brooklyn, New York
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Hahaha, Jenny, your wish is my command!

Friday morning I had a zoom class, so my daughter limited herself to the immediate neighborhood (to my benefit, as she fetched me a cappuccino from our favorite cafe and, later, patties from a new Haitian snack bar down the street…oxtail for the two of us and smoked herring for my husband, because he’s weird that way).

Our big excursion was to the Brooklyn Museum, where we spent the afternoon. We took Citibikes again, so that she could experience the fun of navigating Grand Army Plaza on a bike (I jest). At the museum, we caught the Obama portraits in their last days in Brooklyn, and loved everything about the exhibit - but especially the reactions of other visitors. Let’s just say it was a crowd-pleaser. Other than that, we focused on the reorganized American galleries and a special exhibit of contemporary art on themes of resistance & resilience.

I wanted my daughter to see how joyful NYC’s open streets are, and Vanderbilt Av - not far from the museum - is one of the best & liveliest. It was just getting set up when we got there, so it wasn’t hard to snag an outdoor table at Alta Calidad for stellar drinks & nibbles. And entertainment, too - in the form of a loud confrontation between a driver and the crew in charge of setting up & protecting the barriers. The driver insisted he had the right to drive on through, the crew was having none of it, tempers flared, fisticuffs nearly erupted, pedestrians & cyclists variously stopped & stared, joined the fray, or just sailed past.

After 20ish minutes, the driver finally backed down and went around the block. “Happens constantly,” our server sighed.

We pedaled home in the most perfect golden light, then set out again (on foot, this time, so we could talk) to pick up Thai food from Boran, one of two truly excellent Thai restaurants within a few blocks of one another in Carroll Gardens. We Citibiked back, food secured in the basket, like amateur deliveristas (except slower).

Brooklyn, New York
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Saturday - her last day, sigh - started with a run in a drizzly Prospect Park, followed by a lunchtime walk through the Fifth Av open street (Saturday’s only at this point, unfortunately), and down into Gowanus. We shared a sandwich from Runner & Stone, which we ate in the delightful Gil Hodges community garden. A stop for gelato on the way back (fig and marron glacé, everyone’s favorite fall flavors, right?), and that was it. Time to go.

With one hitch: shortly after I started to head back from accompanying her to the subway, I got a frantic call that Manhattan-bound trains were skipping our station because of track work, and she was going to have to go in the opposite direction and then double back. Yep, she’d made (and I’d enabled, but come on, a mother can’t be expected to do everything) the rookie mistake of not checking first for weekend service changes.

But it all worked out, she made her flight with time to spare and later that night was sending me voice messages of her cat’s loud & ecstatic purring.

Pittsburgh...
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7. Re: A short, lazy visit to Brooklyn (and Queens)
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A great report. Perhaps the best I've ever read here. Informative. Great descriptions. Charming. Personal. Loving. You have a discerning eye and the ability to communicate clearly what you see and feel. It's a model for what a trip report should be.

New York City, New...
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Amen to that.☺️🌈

Brooklyn, New York
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9. Re: A short, lazy visit to Brooklyn (and Queens)
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Awww, thanks so much, you guys!

I promised to share some additional thoughts on biking in the city, so here they are. As is evident in the report, we used Citibike quite a lot. And as I’ve indicated from time to time on other threads, I’m a big Citibike booster and fan.

So it was a little bit of a shock that my daughter - who, as I said, is an experienced urban cyclist - didn’t fully share my love. Some of her complaints went to Citibike itself, some went to NYC cycling infrastructure & culture, and some were about cycling in a less familiar (or totally unfamiliar) place generally.

Re: Citibike…those bikes are solid and seemingly indestructible and also, unfortunately, clunky and heavy. Pedal-assist ebikes are part of the fleet, but in extremely short supply. In Chicago, she can reliably count on finding an ebike. Here, she had to rely on leg power alone to get those tank-like bikes up the streets that put the “slope” in Park Slope and the “hill” in Boerum Hill…and as flattering as it was to have a 28-year-old marvel at my strength & fitness, it was also a slog for both of us.

Re: cycling culture & infrastructure…my daughter was a bit shocked at the behavior of both motorists (mainly, the ubiquitous double-parking) and other cyclists, who virtually never signal when they’re passing you…something that can be startling at best - and dangerous at worst - on a narrow bike lane.

Re: the experience of cycling in an unfamiliar place…while my daughter knows Brooklyn quite well, she’s never biked it as much as we did on this trip, so doesn’t really know cycling routes. That meant that instead of taking in the surroundings, she felt as though she was in a constant state of high alert.

So while I still think cycling can be a great way to see & experience parts of the city, and Citibike can be a great way to cycle, I’m newly sensitive to the challenges for even experienced cyclists.

Virginia
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10. Re: A short, lazy visit to Brooklyn (and Queens)
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Excellent trip report! Always love reading about Brooklyn. You are far braver than I am - I could not imagine biking in Brooklyn!

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