Returning to New York after a wonderful few days in Vermont and New Hampshire, we were moving in to a hotel in the Upper West Side. That is the Upper Upper West Side, at 107th street.
I was pretty much ready to return home after two weeks full of adventure and amazing memories, but we had a weekend to explore the Upper West Side and Brooklyn. In addition we’d bought tickets for a pre-season Knicks game which my boyfriend was pretty excited about and we planned to visit The Natural History Museum after our failed attempt last Saturday.
Even in Chinatown they have better hotels…
We arrived late Friday after a bit of traffic jam on our way into Manhattan. Reaching our hotel we were met with a pretty hallway and a receptionist who seemed to wish himself anywhere else than in the reception. As we checked in, we noticed a notice in the reception with information of an upcoming visit by the exterminator. What a pleasant bit of info to get. And the polite but disinterested receptionist could not tell us if it was rats, cockroaches, bedbugs or gremlins.
Our room and the hallway were dismal with a dirty brown carpet which covered up holes in the floorboards, a disgusting shared bathroom where no one but the initiated knew how to turn off the shower. While the place was pretty much run down they did offer cable and breakfast, and I can’t help wondering if perhaps the money for the cable could have been used better to repair the floor. To think that we were to spend two nights here.
I missed our clean and simple Chinatown hotel.
A quick day in Brooklyn
Unlike last Saturday when we had originally planned to visit Brooklyn, today offered a beautifully clear blue sky and high temperatures considering we were halfway through October.
With the Knicks game in the evening we only had limited time in Brooklyn and planned to get out of the hotel as soon as humanly possible. Despite having slept well, I was far from happy with the place. Before leaving we decided to try out the breakfast. We were shown down to a dirty basement where massive amounts of four different types of cookies were set out along with coffee. Now as much as I like cookies, in my book they do not count as breakfast, but as desert or candy – perhaps a snack. But not breakfast. However, I stockpiled my pockets with cookies before we got the hell out of there.
We wanted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge by foot, wherefore we took the subway to City Hall. Last time we’d been here it had been cloudy and cold and it was great to get a chance to see it with a blue sky.
The Brooklyn Bridge is iconic and I can’t count the number of crime shows I’ve seen where someone threw themselves off the bridge or was killed on it. And it is a very beautiful bridge. I can definitely understand the hype. However it is also completely blocked by other tourists and some of them are very ignorant of the separation between the bike lane and the walking lane. This in turn makes a lot of bikers both native New Yorkers and tourists yell out. There is very little room for error on the Brooklyn Bridge.
But despite the competition with hundreds of other tourists and the angry salutes by bikers, it was an amazing walk across to Brooklyn. Many of the walkers passing us were covered in pink, all of them walking to raise money and awareness of breast cancer. I liked it. I liked all the pink and that so many where out spending there weekend walking through the streets of New York for a good cause.
Brownstones, Orthodox Jews and Korean food
If Brooklyn was still a city in its own right rather than a borough of New York City, it would be the fourth largest city of the United States in terms of population. As such, a short day would never do the place justice. But, I can proudly state that we did what we could.
We began by walking through the beautiful streets of Brooklyn Heights following the pink ladies, before we found a path which allowed us to cross to the waterfront, where we enjoyed the promenade and the beautiful views of Manhattan. I will never understand why Americans build motorways along the waterfront, destroying the access and hiding the view of the sea from the neighbourhood. I hope that in the years to come and as the Brooklyn Promenade is developed Brooklynites will find a way to redirect the motorway or build it into the ground – and yes I know that is utopia, but they did something similar in Portland, Oregon.
After finally finding a way to cross the motorway at Joralemon Street we zig-zagged Montague Street enjoying more of the charming Brooklyn Heights. We were slowly heading in the direction of Fort Greene Brooklyn Flea, hoping to find a funny little gem to memorise our visit.
When we finally arrived, the flea market wasn’t anything special and quickly left again. I think the dream of returning home with something fun and unique will have to wait until next time we are in the area.
Next up was Williamsburg – that neighbourhood that everyone keeps talking about. But there is a long way from Fort Greene to Williamsburg, much longer than what it looks like on the map.
It was Saturday -Shabbat and before long we’d entered a very Jewish Orthodox neighbourhood, which was obvious from the countless well dressed families out for their Shabbat stroll. The men wore large brimmed and very tall black hats and had magnificently dressed curls and beards. The women were classical yet conservative in their dressing and I’d say even the Parisian women would have to look out for these women looked chic.
The area was as many others we’d seen so far, but it stood out in one major way. All balconies were boarded up with cardboards or wooden planks. In most places it looked like a homemade solution. It is not difficult to figure out that Orthodox Jews are not to keen on showing parts of their private life to the public such as by sun bathing or drinking a cup of coffee on the balcony. In fact it is very hard to see anything through their windows. Not that I tried.
However, it makes the neighbourhood look ruffled and dirty which is quite sad. Moreover, I personally find balconies an absolute plus and the idea that people willingly close off their homes to natural light is impossible for me to comprehend. Where I come from light is a commodity in high demands, because half the year we have nearly none.
By the time we reached Broadway, I was ready to crawl on my knees. My feet were messed up and I felt like I was walking on bare bone. But walking up Broadway with the elevated subway tracks had me quickly forget my feet. This is how I imagined New York. Very similar to how the loop circles Chicago, the elevated subway gives off a futuristic feel. I immediately started looking for Harrison Ford because it seems like we’ve reached the not-so-far-away future of 2019, where blade runners kill off replicants. We’d reached the über hip Williamsburg.
With pained feet we entered the first and best eatery we could find. A small Korean Take-Away which allowed for a few seats at the windows. Oh my, never have I had such great Korean food and never have I been so happy to sit down.
After enjoying our food and resting our feet, we went out to explore the streets of Williamsburg. We got to the waterfront with magnificent views of Midtown Manhattan, and passed community gardens with more hipsters than I saw in my life.
Turning from the waterfront we walked down Bedford Avenue stopping for a coffee at one of those über hip coffee shops – this one with a Swedish touch. I think we both agreed that we would have liked more time to explore Williamsburg, but we had tickets for Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks were meeting The Boston Celtics.
Before coming, I’d spent a good amount of time securing tickets for a basket ball game at Madison Square Garden. I’d researched everything from sites for procuring tickets to seating arrangements.
I must say my research paid out. We had magnificent seats up at 210, row 2. Though we were too far away – as were most – to catch one of the t-shirts being shot off during some of the many breaks. Half the fun was all the in-between events. Cheerleaders, hip dancing groups for kids and the close up on the screens of some of the celebrities placed on the row facing the field. I have no idea who any of them were and it seemed like D-celebrities to me with some guy having a secondary role on Teen Wolf. But they were amazingly self-conscious and playing it off smart. I guess this is the closest they’ll ever come to feeling important.
The game itself did not go well for the Knicks, who were behind most of the match and ended up loosing, but to me it was an amazing experience – apart from having to endure yet another boring hotdog.
Before the match started we had stocked up on Knicks merchandise and both of us in Knicks t-shirts and with a foam finger we felt the part. However, we were far from the only tourists there and more than once did we come across a Danish family. I guess this weekend is the start off of the Autumn holiday back home. Thank goodness we are returning as the rest of Denmark is taking over Manhattan.
A dance good-bye
On our last night in New York and after having watched our first off season NBA game we walked through Hell’s Kitchen towards Columbus Circle from where we took the subway North. We’d not been able to make it to Hell’s Kitchen previously because of that one rainy day which screwed with my tight schedule. So here was our chance. Not that I feel I can say much more than “we walked through”.
I was by all definitions weary and tired after a long but wonderful day in Brooklyn and an evening at Madison Square Garden. I was so absolutely ready to return home.
At Columbus Circle Subway Station, I imagine I was not alone at feeling that the train never came. However, as many others I was caught up in the dramatic dancing of a thin boy dressed in white pants and a red satin shirt. He was literally dancing the night away. It seemed that he’d just stepped off Broadways rendition of Fame.
Around him stood tired New Yorkers, some had placed themselves on the stairs, all of them caught up in the energetic dancing of this thin boy. He seemed a little break from the long haul home, a welcome distraction from the train that didn’t come.
He dazzled me, and I can’t stop thinking about him and his courage to stand on that platform acting out his Michael Jackson fantasies. Who is he? Where does he come from? And why is he here performing to strangers?
As the train drove into the platform, I added my couple of dollars to his basket, hoping that he didn’t need them too much.
I cannot get out of this hotel fast enough. The entire Upper West Side is crawling with rats and we literally saw a girl yesterday who had to scare them away from her front door. They are everywhere! Adding to that we just left our luggage for safe keeping at the hotel in a room with dead cockroaches.
As we walked from the hotel we saw a guy killing something which was moving inside a plastic bag by dropping a brick to it. I say it was a cockroach. My boyfriend says rat. It could have been either.
A Day at the Museum
We’d planned to spend the morning at The Natural History Museum today. We were psyched about the exhibition “Dinosaurs Among Us” as well as the large collection of dinosaur skeletons. But when we arrived and after a short break in line, my boyfriend quickly convinced me that we should buy a ticket for all the exhibitions. We’ve ended up spending the entire day at the museum.
Not only did we see countless dinosaur bones in the permanent Fossil Halls, but we also had a look at the exhibition Dinosaurs Among Us, which explored the evolution of dinosaurs to birds. We explored the Crocs exhibition, with real life crocodiles – though of the smaller variant got lost in the beautiful Human Origins and Cultural Halls as well as the powerful Mammals Halls. Moreover, we got to see a movie about the Arctic as well as search the universe through a showing in the Hayden Planetarium.. And then we ate our last American meal at the award winning food court at the museum. Americans sure know how to create an atmosphere at natural history museums.
After hours of discovery, we returned to the hotel before departing for the airport.
Now having returned, I can’t figure out whether I regret having taken the trip, because while we experienced so much and was so very awed, I feel as if Manhattan is no longer the mysterious place in my mind, but rather a real place with pros and cons, with everyday people and places and streets. All the movies and tv-shows and books loose their mystery and instead become reality.
But I liked New York, and for the vacation itself I am very happy we went.