Part 6 – Brooklyn and the journey home.
Tuesday 5th June 2012
The last day. Sigh. We wake naturally at 5:00am to a lovely sunrise,
...and make coffee. The weather forecast looks pretty good for the morning, and, without being too selfish, we're not too bothered what happens after we're at the airport later!
Showers are quickly taken and we set about packing all our gear back into the small cases. This doesn't take too long, and by 7:15 we have checked out, stored the cases with the porters, and are walking across to Starbucks on 7th Avenue.
We buy breakfast sandwiches/wraps, and coffees, but as there are no free tables we walk down the short distance to Times Square and just manage to get a table here
It's 7:55 when we finish (our last New York breakfast. Sob!) and head across to Grand Central, to use the restrooms and catch a train down to Brooklyn Bridge.
At 8:45 we join the pedestrian walkway across Brooklyn Bridge, in warm sunshine, taking the usual excess of photographs along the way. We are glad that we did not spoil the experience by doing it in the rain yesterday!
We read on another trippie about the phenomena of lovers leaving engraved padlocks attached to the ironwork and notice plenty of examples:
The mile or so to Cadman Plaza takes us 30 minutes or so. Using our New York City Walk cards, we stroll the short distance to Clark Street, and begin our perambulation of Brooklyn Heights.
Brooklyn Heights is one of New York’s most historic and desirable of neighbourhoods, comprising row after row of immaculately maintained townhouses, mostly owned by wealthy financiers who work across the East River on Manhattan Island. It is perhaps less upscale than we had imagined, if anything a bit ‘ordinary’, but none the less charming for that. We walk along Henry Street, to Orange Street, where the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims is situated:
This is famous as the base for preacher Henry Ward Beecher, who spoke out forcefully in favour of women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.
We continue on, along Hicks and Middagh Streets, delighted at the lovely and eclectic mix of pretty cottages and brownstones:
Returning to Clark Street, we follow it to a lovely esplanade, the Fruit Street Sitting Area, where the tree-lined shade of the Heights gives way to stunning views across lower Manhattan:
Returning to the residential neighbourhood we follow Willow Street to a row of Federal-style homes dating from before 1830:
(The pic above is the skylight in the stable tunnel mentioned in the middle photograph)
We make our way down towards Montague Street, enjoying the diversity of architectural styles:
We reach Montague Street, the main commercial hub of The Heights.
It is basically a conventional shopping high street with the usual mix of cafes, retail outlets and chain stores, and possibly a higher than average number of Estate Agents: Entry level for DUMBO or the Heights seems to be around $200,000 for a studio apartment with no views, up to $4 million plus if you desire one of the nearby townhouses to yourself!
The lower end of the street leads into the Fruit Street promenade area again. There is a small monument marking the spot where George Washington had his headquarters during the Revolutionary War battle for Long Island.
Plan A had been to explore Prospect Park, and we head across into Downtown Brooklyn with this in mind.
However, by the time we have visited Barnes & Noble (think Waterstones or WH Smith) to 'borrow' their restrooms, it's past 10:30. We weigh up the distances and time constraints involved and decide that, reluctantly, if we want to see anything of DUMBO, and have lunch, we won't be able to do more than look at the Park entrance before turning round. We head back, through the Heights streets again,
passing this beautifully decorated Fire House:
…and, crossing under Brooklyn Bridge, enter the area known as DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass).
I described this in a previous report, but if you missed it, DUMBO is an arty-crafty community created over the last 30-40 years in the warehouse and factory buildings of a former industrial area. It has a definite charm, and many of the buildings are still industrial, but property prices now run into the millions for duplex apartments and townhouses, so it has certainly moved away from the common folk!
We mooch around the streets and (mostly closed) galleries for the better part of an hour, also taking in a pretty park on the waterfront, with its own beach!
It's 1200 now, and we are both famished. We decide to have a decent meal now, so that we don't need to bother later at the airport (which doesn't work out too well, but I'm getting ahead of myself) and we look for a suitable venue.
The attractive courtyard at the side of 7 Old Fulton looks appealing (albeit empty, this early, although it was mobbed when we walked past on Sunday after our meal at the River Cafe) and we take a table.
The waitress is pleasant, but not from these shores, and her stilted English, combined with my northern UK accent causes some communication problems. The drinks order (Brooklyn Lager & Sauv Blanc) turns out ok, and comes with beautiful, fresh bread served with dips and olives.
However, when 'it' appears, the appetiser is simply that: one appetiser. We had each ordered a Calamari Salad, and the waitress must have thought we were sharing one. Rather than wait for another to be prepared, and having already eaten the bread, we tuck in and split it.
It was delicious.... pity there was only one!
Amanda chose Sautéed Scallops for her main, and I thought I would finish my New York vacation with a final burger, served rare.
Both were perfect. We decline dessert (I'm fancying a Ben & Jerry fix somewhere back towards the hotel) and pay the check - $50 - before setting off on the return leg of Brooklyn Bridge. The weather has slightly improved in the last hour, and sunshine is trying to break through the thicker clouds of earlier: It is a lot busier too!
This one is for the Bon Jovi fans:
We take an express, 5, subway train to Grand Central, exiting through the MetLife Building, and walk up to the Rockefeller Centre, for the last time.
Down into the concourse, for the last time, (don't worry, I'll stop it soon) I seek out Ben & Jerry's and order a "Cookie Dough Ice Cream on a Cookie" Platter, while my sensible wife settles for a Mango & Lemonade Sorbet.
We carry them carefully up into the plaza to enjoy our last midtown treat in the sun. Then we make our last cross-street foot journey to the hotel, arriving at 2:00pm, giving us time to reclaim our bags and visit the restrooms (for the last time) before our pre-booked, Dial7 Towncar arrives at 2:15.
The car is a few minutes early, and although we only paid for a basic sedan, we find we have got a leather 'luxury' upgrade, presumably because all the basic ones were busy elsewhere.
The driver, a quiet and polite east European chap, drives us carefully yet assertively through the heavy traffic. The air-conditioned, leather scented journey takes exactly 1 hour and we arrive at Terminal 7 JFK at 3:15pm. The British Airways self-check-in machines do not recognise our AA flight codes, so we join the line at the desks. This takes just over 30 minutes, and we leave the hall with boarding cards for both flights.
Security next - more or less straight through here - (my first time on a body-scanner, wondering whether they still snigger at hidden piercings - couldn't hear anything!) We restroom and continue into the lounge and shopping area. This is a pleasant space, dedicated to just the one, small terminal, but means that our browsing takes less than 20 minutes, including time for Amanda to choose a new book for the flight. Hmm. Hours to go before boarding... I contemplate buying one of these as a final souvenir...
....but they tell me caustically that it is part of the shop display! I know, when all else fails, let's have a drink!
There's an attractive bar (Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill) with plenty of space at the, er, ...bar, and we take a couple of stools. Security guards make us put them back, and we sit on them instead and order a couple of drinks: Boston Lager for me, Pinot G for Amanda... HOW BIG??
...It's almost as big as my pint! Incidentally, we were both extremely chuffed to be asked for ID, until we saw the bartender ask an obviously 75-year-old guy to show his too! Bah!
Time passes. We order another drink (specifying a smaller measure for Amanda this time!) We seem to be settling in for our first ever 'night out' in an airport! I've certainly spent time in less attractive settings! A couple nearby have ordered a salad (again huge!) and it looks lovely, so we also request one.
At 6.00pm, just as we're starting to forget why we're here, and thinking about ordering more drinks, our flight is called! Oops! We pay the bar check ($67 for 3 beers, virtually a bottle of wine and that huge salad) and head across the few yards to 'our' gate. We are virtually the last passengers to board, and are in our seats for the lon haul back to the UK at 6:35pm. We have two of the 4 seats on the last row (747-400), ideal for the loos behind us, and we won't need to disturb anyone if we get up to wander about.
No more photos I'm afraid. And depression keeps the last bit fairly brief: we take off on time at 7:00pm (or midnight UK time). Amanda gets a couple of hours sleep in 3 or 4 segments (we keep getting interrupted with offers of food, drink etc, and as it's a BA flight, the wine's free!) while I snooze for less than an hour over the flight. I watch a couple of films (Mission Impossible 4 and Sherlock 2) in between a chicken pasta dinner' and a later breakfast pannini. We make good time and touch down at Heathrow at 6:05pm.
It only takes 10 minutes to disembark. There's a rabbit warren of corridors and trams to get us across to our next gate (via another security check) and we board at 7:00am, taking off at 7:40. The final leg to Manchester is pretty uneventful, and mercifully short. We are out of the airport by 8:45 and take the courtesy bus back to the car park, where we discover that we have a flat(ish) tyre! Fortunately there is a garage on Styal Road, where we fill it up and head for home, via Sale where we stop to pick up Ruby (the dog)
That's yer lot folks! We've had a fantastic time in one of our favourite places, making Amanda's 40th as unforgettable as mine was in Florida 8 years ago. Lots of highs, very few lows, and we're itching to go back at the earliest opportunity. Hope you've enjoyed walking along with us over the last 6 days.
Mike & Amanda.