If Manhattan island took my breath away, then Brooklyn stole a tiny piece of my heart. It felt oddly familiar, like a London borough that takes a little more than a trip on the northern line to reach. We stayed in Greenpoint, in the very north of Brooklyn and I felt at home from the moment we turned up at midnight in a yellow taxi from JFK. We stayed in a compact but pretty third floor flat in a red bricked house that looked straight off a screen – stoop and all. It felt safe and exciting all at the same time, completely different but homey.
We started each morning with breakfast somewhere in the local neighbourhood – often bagels at the little grocery store at the end of our street. We spent our days in Manhattan and then our nights back in Brooklyn, starting out in a restaurant and then finishing curled up on the sofa in our apartment to drink more wine and plan our next day of sightseeing.
Everyone in our neighbourhood seemed to have a dog – from little Frenchies to frankly alarmingly large dogs for the size of the apartments in our neighbourhood. One morning, as we headed for the G train, I saw a man open up a small door next to a hardware store and let a massive husky run up the stairs ahead of him. How on earth he was keeping that size of an animal in what was clearly a small apartment was a mystery to me.
On our first morning we headed out and walked miles through Greenpoint, ending up in a small waterside park with a few young mothers with their scooter-wheeling kids. We sat by the edge of the water and saw our first, daylight view of Manhattan in all of the glorious midmorning sunshine.
One night I treated my friend I was travelling with to a belated birthday present – a meal on the veranda of an amazing Mexican restaurant called Alma. We were seated in a corner table with a view of Manhattan waking up as the sun set on a beautifully hot spring evening. Another night we had a meal at a local restaurant run by an in-law of a family friend (you’ve got to work those connections sometimes!) and watched men who looked like Sopranos extras take tables laden with pasta, bread baskets and wine glasses that were never left untouched by red wine.
One morning we walked in the rain to Nassau Avenue station and came across the route of a charity cycle race, with dribbles of wet cyclists wobbling past us. Another morning on Manhattan Avenue we watched fleets of kids whizz to school on scooters.
Every day we walked past the small front gardens of our temporary neighbours. Some were wonderfully kitsch, others dusty and abandoned – some a mix of both, like the front patch of sandy dead grass littered with dusty wooden windmills and faded pinwheels.
I guess the point of this post is not detailed tips for Brooklyn. It’s not a ‘what to do’ or ‘what to see’ post, or a breakdown of all the things we did. It’s simply an ode to my time in Brooklyn, a little love letter to the things I remember amongst all the other snippets of the trip. I loved New York, but my fondest memories are of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and the little home we made on our holiday.